Sunday, 29 July 2012

Ricochet's Zombie-Proof Roman Villa-Inspired House Plan

The law of averages dictates that out there are people who are - to a greater or lesser degree - planning their dream house designs based on how zombie-proof said houses may be.

I personally have been considering this sort of thing ever since, I saw the movie Jurassic Park and realised how easy it would be for velociraptors to smash their way into the family house through the huge windows which grace every room, and eat my entire family*.

There are some existing house designs that you could opt for without drawing the suspicions of the council or the concern of your neighbours, such as the classic 'Queenslander'.

The Queenslander could definitely be a strong contender as long as you had a way to destroy the staircase safely, made sure that you had access to water and enough food stockpiled or a safe way to exit and enter the house without making yourself a snack or inviting observant zombies or human raiders back into your home.
The height would give some peace of mind as long as the stability of the foundations was assured and fire wasn't too much of a risk**.

But personally I like the idea of thick strong walls on the ground***, surrounding you and protecting fertile soil where you can grow vegetables and keep animals to help sustain you.
For that reason my preference would be for a modified enclosed Roman villa-style building.

To make this design more zombie-proof you would of course minimise the windows on the outer wall of the structure, and make sure that those that remained were small-framed and high-set to allow light and air where appropriate but no physical ingress.

The main door would be heavy, outward opening (so that pressure applied from the outside wouldn't open it) and easy to bolt and bar with both a thick wooden outer door and a heavy metal lattice portcullis as an inner door. If the outer door is breached the portcullis should hold back intruders whilst allowing you to kill and reduce them, hopefully driving them back long enough to secure the outer perimeter if safe.

The walls would be thick, both for protection and to muffle the moans of the undead which would cause psychological distress over time.

The roofs would be broad and set up with water collection/storage and solar panels.

The central space would be set up to allow the growing of fruit and vegetables and the keeping of chickens for eggs and meat, and goats for milk if space and arrangements allow.

A well to complement the collected water would be a wonderful addition for peace of mind.

The four corners could be adapted to each host a high observation tower to let sentries keep an eye on how things were going, man radios if available and possibly communicate with other survivors by means of shining lights or using mirrors to flash Morse code messages, use weapons if needs be.

The plentiful rooms would allow multipurpose areas: sleeping areas that could be transformed to living areas during the day, food storage and preparation, laundry areas, work and manufacturing areas.

If practical underground rooms could be included and used for storage and would be more appropriate for peaceful and safe sleeping areas.

And I guess I would explain all of this to the council and my architect as an attempt to get on Grand Designs Australia and hope that they buy it and don't have me put away in a mental asylum.
I expect it'll help if I don't actually indicate where gun turrets should be mounted on the towers.

And all I need to do to make this a reality is get rich enough to build this place whilst also making time to learn how to manage a garden, keep livestock, preserve foods, shoot and maintain firearms and make sure that none of the people who I plan to invite to join me in my lovely villa are the type to crack, throw the gates open and go running screaming into a horde because they can't take it any more****.

*I was a pretty mercenary child. I had calculated my chances of being able to save anyone seeing as the velociraptors would have access to every part of the house simultaneously thanks to all the windows, realised they were so low as to be negligible and had decided that my best bet would be to scramble into the top of my built-in-robe shelves, try and kick my way into the roof-space and then lie their with my fingers crammed into my ears trying not to listen to the sounds of my family being rent asunder.
Velociraptors are a lot faster and smarter than zombies, what other options did I have?

**Honestly if zombies overrun Australia, a pressing concern along with being eaten alive would be the bushfires that would likely break out and sweep across the country unchecked, burning out survivors and foodstuffs but hopefully crisping the hell out of a large percentage of the undead at the same time.

***And not having to worry about a sea of the undead swaying and moaning below you as you slept, constantly dreaming of the floor giving way and dropping you into their waiting arms...

****Or the type who will decide the zombies are a judgement from God and that we either deserve this because we've brought it upon ourselves OR that the zombies will only eat the unrighteous and that this is a test.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Truth Written In Sinew and Bone

I'm not one of the first people you would have expected to have survived the outbreak.

I'm not an athlete or a doctor or a soldier or a survivalist or even a gamer who has spent enough time joking about these things to have some practical plans or skills laid by.

I'm a physiotherapist.

I have a BAppSci (Physio), a PGDipRehabStudies and an MSport Physio.

Try telling anyone that these days and having them care.

Before all this happened I spent my life dealing with sports injuries, lifestyle injuries and people with physical disabilities or congenital conditions that meant that moving normally had never been an option, at least not without help and coaching.

So when things went crazy it was just a combination of luck and being a running enthusiast that kept me alive long enough to work out what was going on and then long enough after that to really believe it.

After that... Well, my skills have come in surprisingly handy in trading with other survivors. You wouldn't believe the amount of people who are willing to feed you if you can help fix their bung knee or ease their wrenched back and increase their chances of living past the next dicey situation.

It's not easy though, treating people in this new landscape.

Things I would usually have been able to spend months correcting slowly and advocating rest periods and gentle exercise for, I either have to push through in a matter of days or leave as they are, instead giving the patients a few tricks to help alleviate the symptoms and some exercises that will hopefully strengthen and correct muscle movement or skeletal alignment over time. If they live long enough and have the luxury to perform them.

Unless they're part of a collective which is willing and strong enough to feed and fend for the person recovering for long enough to get things right, the quick fix is the only fix that wouldn't actually be a death sentence.

By doing this I know I'm ensuring that they're going to have problems in the long run, but if I treat them properly then they'll be too sore or weakened to survive the short term.

It hurts my professional pride to send them out into the world knowing that they're going to carry these burdens for the rest of their lives but there isn't much room for pride these days, at least not as a practitioner.

The other way my training has come in handy is almost too bizarre but thinking back, I think it's the only reason I've made it this far.

I know the undead don't feel pain. They can keep coming at you with broken bones, trailing organs, gaping head wounds and all the rest but you'd be surprised by how much who they were in life still shows in how they move now. And how helpful that can be.

You're hiding in an alley, peeking out to see if it's safe to dash across the road to your next patch of shelter or to wherever you're going foraging for supplies, and you see what's left of a woman lurching and swaying down the street.
She's barely clothed, certainly not wearing shoes and from what's left of her muscle tone you'd be justified in guessing she's in good physical shape and could probably move fast enough to be a serious danger to you.
If you didn't know what to look for.
Despite her immunity to pain and fatigue... Well, in layman's terms, 20 odd years of wearing high heels have shortened her calf muscles and tendons to a point where it's amazing that she's able to walk in this state. Without the agility and compensatory balance she could have mustered in life, this one can only move so fast without face-planting, giving you plenty of time to cross the distance.

More than once when being pursued I've heard tendons or ligaments pop when put under strain they don't have the integrity or strength to endure, leaving their former owners partially immobilised but no less hungry.

I never thought the day would come that I would be grateful for the prevalence of poor posture and sedentary lifestyles that affected our country.

Being able to spot long-time back injury sufferers, those who have scoliosis, those with recurring sports injuries, those with slipped or compressed discs means survival.
It means knowing which parts of a group to dodge around, which ones could be used as shields from the others who were faster and stronger, giving you long enough to get away after they've collided with each other.
It also means being able to see that one good blow to a knee or a hip could leave one of them broken enough to let you get away or time enough to end them for good.
You have no idea how hard it is as a health professional to swing that bat the first time, aiming for a weakness that all your instincts have been trained to protect but what choice do I have?

And seeing someone walk, someone who in life would never have been able to take a single step due to the pain that would cause them...
It's a miracle so terrible that the first time I saw it I threw up until I burst a blood vessel in my eye.

I think my lowest point came when I'd been alone for a few weeks and I came across what used to be a young girl, maybe 15.
She'd obviously liked sports in life but I could see that her core muscles weren't engaging which was making her slower and weaker than you'd expect someone of her age to be.
I'd been scavenging some firewood when she found me and of course I started to run away.
She followed me, naturally.
And I started - God I feel so stupid - I started running in a zig zag pattern, just slow enough to get her to change direction with me.
I did this every day for two weeks, telling myself I was just going back for more firewood and tinned goods.
Then I started leading her underneath fallen branches or the hoods of flipped cars that had come to rest on other crashed cars, getting her to crouch and bend.
Over and over again.
And it worked, it had an effect, every day she got a little stronger, her movements a little smoother, and I was so proud of myself!
Until she almost caught me.
I still have the shirt with the hole in the sleeve. Thank Christ for quick reflexes.

A lot of survivors talk about the 'make or break point'.
The point where you finally realise what is going on, all the veils fall away and you look it straight in the face.
You could have kept yourself alive and healthy for MONTHS, have your 'make or break point' sprung on you, and it's anyone's guess as to whether you'll pull yourself together and move on or just fall apart.
That was mine.

I am not a healer any more. I can't be.
My skills are now a commodity, not a calling.
And unless the cavalry comes roaring over the hill one day, that's the way things are going to stay.

I'm not sure how much longer my luck is going to hold out, how long I'll be able to find food and dodge swarms, but whilst I can I'm going to make the most of it.

Enjoy what joys life still has to offer while I can bring myself to see them, do the good I still can, and just keep breathing.

I hope you do too, whoever you are.

And for the love of all that is holy, take care of your knees.

Saturday, 14 July 2012



Alrighty then.

My friend has had her baby!

I didn't get to witness the (terrifying) miracle of birth as, despite being two weeks overdue and the doctors giving some medical encouragement, baby had not descended (ie, headed towards the main gates) and due to his apparent size the doctors recommended a Caesarean.

I did however get to witness part of the miracle of labour and yeah, it looks kind of uncomfortable.

Back to the baby!

As predicted by every single ultrasound they've had, it's a boy!

He weighed in at 10 lb 4 oz*!

Don't ask me why but babies is one thing where our metric measuring country uses pounds and ounces to give weights. Maybe because it makes it easier for people of earlier generations** to go 'woooh, that's a big lad!' without having to reach for the calculator.

Mum and bub are both doing well, even if Mum is a bit sore in the midsection from being opened up .

Given he's so brawny you're not as worried about accidentally breaking him as you*** are with the really itty bitty bubs and I've got to have a few holds.

It is still really REALLY weird to think of my friend as being a mother, a sentiment she whole-heartedly shares, but she and her fella are doing so well with him already. It's all adoring stares and goo-goo eyes and kisses over there.

She'll be in the hospital a few days more whilst they make sure she's recovering from surgery OK and that she is managing to insert Tab A into Slot B successfully****.

We're off to buy the happy family some little gifts and do some sneaky housework for them whilst we're at their house under the camouflage of the legitimate purpose of feeding their pets.

It's weird to think that everything is going to change now, exciting too.

*4.66 kg!

**Yes, Australia used to use the Imperial system. We swapped over somewhere between the start of the 1970s and the end of the 1980s.

***Well, me...

****Tab A is her nipple! Slot B is the baby's mouth!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Speed Bumps

I haven't thought of it as a case of 'better the devil you know' because I've always understood that to be referring to being in a cruddy situation but being afraid that leaving it might land you in something worse.
Complacency may have the same effect though.
Things are OK so change isn't at the top of the list of things to do.

There's stuff I want to learn, goals I want to achieve, and whilst I've been moving towards them, I never feel that I've made as much progress as I'd like in the time since I set those goals.

For instance, I've been a bit bored at work for a while now but my searching for a new job has been sporadic because:
  1. I'm not quite sure what I want to do next,
  2. getting a new job will probably involve the added complication of moving because I don't live anywhere particularly central, and
  3. even though I'm a bit bored, my life isn't bad.
I'm making enough money, my place is OK, I see a decent amount of my friends and family, I've been able to travel etc etc etc.

The thing is, even though I'm having a decent enough time, you've only got so many years in your life and I've been in my current job for five years. That's a few more years than you want to devote to 'things are going OK' unless you've achieved a few more things.

I want that 'what if I cock up!?' nervous excitement of starting a new job.
I want to meet new people.
I want to live in different places.
I want to try new things.

I can visualise all this happening easily enough but when I do it's always 'in the future' and after five years of the present, I'm having to put a boot up my own bum to remind myself that the future doesn't just happen by itself.

I'm not planning to quit my job and just run out into the world, hoping that something will fall into my lap but I am going to make more of a concentrated effort to start things moving.

I'll start with what I'm good at - making lists - and then move onto what I'm determined to be better at - making decisions.

I don't want another five years to pass and to still be sitting here going 'but things are OK'.

This Akimbo comic nails the feeling pretty well (click for bigness). 

Disclaimer: I know the argument in this comic really only applies to people who are lucky enough to have certain opportunities and circumstances and can't be smugly held up to people who are living in poverty and struggling to survive and feed their families.

Akimbo Comics