Daily Archives: March 18, 2010

Own two feet – American edition

Last year, Peter tried an experiment called “Operation Two Feet” in which in which he attempted to reduce his reliance on automobiles.  He started his project in September which was great for him (being South of the equator).  I was both inspired and jealous and so had to wait through the long, cold winter to take my shot at something similar.

So, taking advantage of a nice, early spring week I decided to try to bike to work at least once a week between now and when the weather gets too cold.  The bike ride is about 12 miles each way and took me about 70 minutes to complete.  Virtually the entire trip is done on a newly refurbished bike path along an old canal system.

I’m figuring each days travel will save about a gallon of gas which at today’s prices is about $2.60.  Given that I had to buy a rack and saddle system to carry my stuff for $80 that means I’ll have to bike for 31 weeks before this thing pays off.  Not exactly a road to riches…


Each day I do this I’m getting almost 2 hours of exercise more than I otherwise would (the bike riding replaces a 30-40 minute run)

I get to listen to much more in the way of podcasts/audiobooks than I otherwise would (the time otherwise would have been spent on sleeping – about 30 minutes- and wasting time watching morning TV)

There’s no way to put a price on those things but I’d certainly give them a financial value more than 0.


Meme mashup – Hitler and Trolololo edition

I have no idea how to tag this…

Zombies revisited

Back in September I wrote about a study by researchers at Carelton University about humanity’s chances in the event of a zombie uprising.  Those Canucks were pretty pessimistic about our chances and basically said that if we wanted any hope we’d need to move fast and not get too worked up over collateral damage.

Well, Blake over at the Tortosie’s Lens is having none of that and argues that humanity, in fact, might survive just fine.

If you ask me, though, the Ottawa team’s model leaves something more profound out the equation: human capacity for ex-post organization and response. When accounting for these things, I can find scenarios of large initial zombie outbreaks that, when followed by quick adoption of strong anti-zombie defense policies may help pockets, or even large fractions of civilization to ward off the impending doom of mass zombie infection! How exciting!

He’s even got a video explaining his theory (it’ll be the best 5 minutes of geekness you’ll spend today, trust me):

This has spawned a bunch of additional commentary rounded up by Dan Drezner over at Foreign Policy (nice work if you can get it).

But that’s not the end of the debate.  Rossman says any model needs to include the inevitable temptation for someone to sabotage the survivor community.

Thus you’d have to add another parameter, which is the probability in any given period that some jackass sabotages the defensive perimeter, steals the battle bus, etc. If such sabotage eliminates or even appreciably reduces the “safe area” efficacy then human survival in the “safe areas” is contingent on the act of sabotage not occurring. If we assume that p(sabotage) is 1% in any given month, then the probability of sabotage occurring at least once over the course of two years is 1-.99^24, which works out to 21%. That’s not bad, but if we assume a p(sabotage) per month of at least 2.9% then there’s a better than even chance that we’re fucked.

Drezner then brings it all home to imagine how our bureaucratic interests might end up being our worst enemies in the fight against the zombies:

If bureaucratic conflicts and organizational pathologies hamper effective counter-terrorism policies, imagine the effect they would have on anti-zombie policies.  The bureaucratic turf wars would be significant.  Quelling the rise of the undead would require significant interagency coordination.  In the United States, one could easily envisage major roles for the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Transportation, and Health and Human Services.  This does not include autonomous or semi-autonomous agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control, and the myriad intelligence agencies.

And you thought you just needed a shotgun and a chainsaw…