It might surprise you that even as prepared as I am, I too have room for self-improvement. Maybe it wouldn't surprise you, but in any case, this is the week we all pretend to commit ourselves to one thing or another, and if we're even on track come 1/2/2011 it's considered a success. Anyone who's sticking to their resolutions a month from now will seem like a loser - not because they are a loser, just because their success makes the rest of us look bad, so we all act like it's not cool, thus becoming cooler ourselves by comparison. It's a great system, isn't it?
If you want to improve your odds of surviving a zombie apocalypse, the things you can do now are largely the same things you might do anyway - get healthy, learn skills.
Having a healthy body improves your survival in countless ways. Most people resolve to "lose xx lbs" or just to "lose weight" in general, mostly because so many of us are overweight to start with. This could be an advantage, in specific situations, where having a little fat on us will give us a bit of nutritional cushioning (no fat pun intended) should food be scarce. But being a smaller size and weight makes it both easier to run and to hide; having stronger muscles, another element of a healthy body, serves the fortify part of our Zombie Survival Triforce.
So eat less, and exercise more. Regular running will help build your endurance, which is going to be a good thing, I promise; long-distance walking would also be a wonderful addition, if you have the time. If you do nothing else, at least run around your neighborhood from time to time or hit the treadmill at the gym.
You'll also want to get rid of things that are holding your health back. Things like drugs, smoking, or other unhealthy addictions. It's self-destructive behavior. If you disagree (I know you smokers will), follow my logic for a moment.
Today, you're sitting there, doing whatever you're doing. Let's say you're smoking pot. Right now, it seems like a great use of your time. You're probably right, since your time probably isn't worth a lot anyway. And it's harmless enough, right? Pot doesn't give you cancer like cigarettes do, right? Well, I don't know many medical studies, but I'm pretty sure that inhaling smoke is bad for you, and I doubt very much that it matters where the smoke comes from. It's not air, and lungs like air and generally dislike things that are not air.
It might not hurt you today, but imagine doing it in a world full of zombies. Sure, on one hand, it seems like it would be an even better idea - if you were motivated to smoke before the Zombie Apocalypse, how much more so after? But it's no longer a question of cancer or prison time (depending on what you're on), it's a question of being found and eaten alive by terrors beyond your imagination.
Smoke makes a trail that rises into the air. It disperses, but the smell lingers. Your smoke can be seen. Your tobacco can be smelled. Your butts can leave a trail. Being high will slow your reactions and help you make stupid decisions. These side effects of your habit will kill you faster than any disease it might lead to.
So quit already. It's not as hard as being eaten alive by zombies. I promise.
If everything else were to be taken from you (and it probably will be), knowledge will remain in your brain. At least, so long as your brain functions like it should. If you know how to survive with nothing but your skin, you can survive just about anything that leaves you alive.
Learning, then, may in fact be the most useful thing you can do to prepare for the Apocalypse. You never know what might come your way, so try and know a little bit about as much as you can. Here's some topics to focus on, though:
Bear Grylls gets snickers bars from his camera crew. You will not have that support, so do not rely on his tactics. I saw that idiot swim through a sub-zero stream in Iceland, thinking that the hot springs he could see would be tolerably cold to actually swim in to restore his body heat. He was wrong, and if it were real, he'd probably have died, as likely as not. Any normal person would probably have died sooner, in the water or on the bank. So... learn for real, from more reliable sources. Books, books, books! There's mountains of literature on this subject, not to mention real training from real professionals, though that will cost more.
Anything with engines:
There's going to be so many cars laying around, it might occasionally be easier to steal a new car rather than fixing the one you have. Learn to jump-start, hot-wire, and generally move anything with wheels and an engine. There's also going to be times when taking a new car isn't an option, so learn to do the things that you're currently paying other people to do, like changing oil, tires, that sort of thing. Learn to drive a stick-shift, also; you think you have a choice now, and you do; your choice will be gone in the future, though, you know? This is one of those things where having knowledge increases your options, and thus your survival.
Making things you can buy:
I have an entire book about how to build almost any kind (that is, non-electric kinds) of household item out of logs using only an axe. All you really need, at the core of it, is a few techniques and some basic principles of architecture and design. With that little bit of knowledge, I could, if necessary, build a house and everything inside (it would take freakin' forever, but it would be perfectly possible). That's the sort of knowledge that might come in very handy later on. When there's no more factories making things, we'll have to make our own things. People who know how to actually do that will be in good shape.
Killing and eating wild animals is a great way to get valuable proteins and essential nutrients. Knowing how to properly skin, clean, and butcher an animal is a valuable skill.
Killing humans and humanoid undead will also be useful, so learning a martial art will be to your benefit. I personally have strong doubts about any "martial art" that feels the need to assure you that it is a viable fighting form and not an exercise or a style of dance. If it's only able to fight someone else who only able to fight the same way, it's not really fighting. So... buh-bye, 40% of so-called martial arts. Anything that includes forms for the use of clubs, blades, or other weapons, as well as a comprehensive vocabulary of empty-handed attacks and defenses. Remember, though, that running away is more likely to save you from a zombie than attacking it; you can always attack if it starts to catch up, but you open yourself to infection if you expose yourself to its attacks. That's why it's so great to know how to fight without being hurt.
Guns and gun care:
Learn to shoot straight, and how to take care of as many kinds of weapon as possible. Learn where you can usually find the switch that makes an automatic gun semi-automatic; if nothing else, learn how to clean the bore and click on the safety. A poorly maintained gun is more dangerous to the person holding it than to the person it's pointed at, so if you can't do that for yourself you'll be better off with no gun at all. Different weapons shoot differently, so make lots of friends at the firing range, and trade off weapons for target practice. They'll probably talk about how learning to shoot taught them personal discipline. Discipline-schmisipline, I say; learning to shoot will teach you how to survive when shooting is necessary for survival. If you didn't have discipline to start with, there's not enough hope for you to matter. Life requires discipline, never mind shooting a gun.
I talk to my shooting buddies about surviving the zombie apocalypse. I have high hopes for some of them.
I've mentioned our Armed Forces at least once before, and I think it's good to mention them here again for one reason: the training available to these men and women covers many of the topics I mention here and much more. If you're really, really serious about surviving not only the ZA but anything and everything that could ever possibly happen, get yourself enlisted somewhere. Uncle Sam wants survivors, and he's gotten darn good at making them over the years. You hear a lot about soldiers being killed, but that's because they choose to put themselves at risk in our place; without them, we'd all be screwed in a way no one, even crazy people, would ever want to be. Their survival rate is a hell of a lot better than ours would be, positions reversed, and they generally manage to do something positive at the same time.
So thanks and muchas gracias to everyone out there putting our tax money to useful work. And to the rest of you: soldiers have the best chance of setting up a refugee camp post-apocalypse, and chances are good that it'll be better than the one in 28 Days Later. Give up some respect here, because they might end up saving you in a much more personal way one day.
Next week, next year, we'll be on to a new topic. The holidays are over, so we'll be getting back to the nitty-gritty of post-apocalyptic survival. It's going to suck (the apocalypse, that is, not the blog... I hope?)