In the course of everyday life at PopSci, I find myself pleasingly well equipped for disaster to strike. Here's the stuff I'm glad is lying around my apartment.
Weaponized Unbreakable Umbrella: I love This umbrella, which has a shaft of rigid steel. On my walk to the office today I, not it, was the weak link as rainy storm winds blasted through midtown. Really the umbrella's designed to be wielded in self-defense against an attacker on the street, but nobody seemed inclined to fight me this morning. New Yorkers really pull together in a crisis.
Hario Skerton: Wasn't there a Twilight Zone
episode in which a guy had pounds and pounds of fantastic shade-grown coffee beans and no electric grinder? I'm prepared -- the Hario, which uses ceramic burrs for a perfect (and adjustable) grind, is hand-operated, so even in a grievous natural disaster I can have my morning coffee, after mere minutes of menial cranking.
Ready-to-eat potatoes: If the power goes out and stays out for days and I run out of all my fresh foods and canned foods and pickled foods, I can always fall back on these potatoes. They will never go bad. (They will also never taste very good.)
I've been reviewing and spending too much time thinking about gadgets for years now, so all my concerns are gadget-related. Here's how I'm planning on making it through.
Kindle Paperwhite: In my regular life I actually prefer to use a Kindle with buttons--I am very pro-Kindle-button--but given the high possibility of a power outage, the Paperwhite is the one I made sure to charge. It's a Kindle, which means I have a few dozen books on it, waiting to be read, but the frontlight means I'll be able to read without having to worry about flashlights or candlelights. And given the crazy, month-long battery life, if the battery dies before my power comes back, I'll almost certainly have bigger problems than a dead ebook reader.
Jawbone Jambox: Battery-powered. Battery lasts for up to ten hours. Sounds awesome. Loud enough to fill a room, or drown out the crazy wind outside. Works with any gadget I have that plays audio, either via Bluetooth or with a standard 3.5mm (headphone) cable. Jambox rules.
External chargers: In case the power goes out, I want to have a way to charge up my stuff. I've got a few different options here. I have a small external battery pack with a USB port--mine's made by a company called Zagg. It's only got 3,100mAh, which'll charge a smartphone about two times. A better option might be something like this New Trent charger, which has an absurd 12,000 mAh, and will charge even a power-hungry iPad 3.
I've also got a Joos Orange, which holds 5,400 mAh but which I really like because it's solar powered, and, if I'd thought ahead, I'd have snagged our BioLite Campstove back from Elbert, who reviewed it a few weeks ago. Those both provide power with unlimited sources of energy; the BioLite only needs some wood and the Joos only needs some sunlight.
Lots of wine: In search of an alcohol that requires neither mixer nor refrigeration, my roommates and I landed on wine. This is important. Also we have bourbon.
Say what you will about the "pervert files" Boy Scouts scandal, but their two-word motto--"be prepared"--is a powerful code to live by. Here's my low-tech approach to getting it done during Hurricane Sandy.
Bathtub: When water treatment plants falter, this is the smartest thing you'll have done during your storm prep. Dozens of gallons of treated water filled into a well-cleaned porcelain receptacle can keep you alive for weeks and spare you the precious use of a propane gas camping stove. A couple drops of bleach may not taste good but can safeguard the shelf life of your liquid bounty.
Tupperware: Fill as many of these with tap water and cram then into your freezer in the days leading up to the storm. When the power fails for a couple days, your food won't.
Booze: Research suggests the most valuable commodity during the end times, besides fresh water, is liquor. Higher-proof varieties are highly flammable and can help sterilize wounds. Stock up, my friends.
I've got some small, nifty external chargers for my computers and phone, but the one tool I adore is my little hand-crank-powered weather radio and flashlight from Eton. I have the FRX2, which you can power via solar or human-power. It receives the official National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration weather stations in addition to the usual AM/FM dial, can dump power to whatever you want via USB and--most importantly--it glows in the dark.
I don't give a damn about gadgets or other frippery -- I stockpile classic gear that one might find in an Army-Navy surplus store. I just want things that work and materials that facilitate the most fun for the most people.
Hand crank radio: I made sure to unearth my hand-crank radio that was given to me as a present by my ever-prepared parents. I kind of wish they'd also send me a couple of their awesome oil-powered hurricane lamps, but I imagine those wouldn't ship very well. Instead, I will make do with flashlights and candles.
Brokers gin: You never know when you might be cut off from civilization, and I'll be damned if I get scurvy if that happens. But limes are boring by themselves, so I bought one of the great mid-range gins on the market. We'll be drinking lavender gimlets come hell or high water.
Homebrew supplies: The bottles of homebrew went into the fridge for thirst-quenching purposes, and the five-gallon bottling buckets (usually stored in the closet when not in active use) are currently doubling as potable water reservoirs.
My friends -- some of whom had to evacuate their own homes -- and I will spend the evening drinking beer or cocktails, listening to Iron Maiden and Jawbreaker LPs on the hi-fi, and waiting for the inevitable apocalypse.
Note: Martha is the proprietor of the BeerSci column. Obviously.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.