No Snark Sunday: Smallpocalypse Now


Like any good geek I was raised on a diet of post-apocalypse fiction. Books, movies and TV featured endless scenarios of how civilization would collapse and the sheer breadth and novelty of the scenarios presented was stunning. Sure, you had plenty of nuclear war (these were the 70’s and 80’s after all) but also plagues from meteorites, alien invasion, “rouge planets” coming too close to Earth’s orbit, carnivorous plants called “triffods” and apes. Can’t forget the apes.

Anyone else seeing a 50 Shades of Grey/ Planet of the Apes crossover?

Anyone else seeing a 50 Shades of Grey/ Planet of the Apes crossover?

In the 90’s and beyond we added rogue artificial intelligence, nanotechnology run amok, global climate change and eventually a bunch of writers who just went “fuck it” and wrote post-apocalypse stories without even telling you how the “post” part actually goes down. It’s that common an idea now, like vampires and love at first sight: things that never happen in the real word but we just accept in stories because they hold slots in our collective imagination.

It’s a great storytelling convenience, having society fail. You get to test the characters, bringing out their worst and best qualities, satirize specific elements of the culture and if you get to film or videogames there are all kinds of cool visual elements. Nothing says “Apocalypse” like filthy children huddling under a Taylor Swift concert marquee sign eating roasted rats on a skewer. SOCIAL COMMENTARY EVERYBODS!!!

He's a ZOMBIE taking a SELFIE get it!?!!

He’s a ZOMBIE taking a SELFIE get it!?!!

Sorry, folks. Society won’t collapse

As much as I love this trope and have written a few stories in it myself, I’m here to tell you it ain’t gonna happen. Not in that way. And our addiction to what is only a storytelling convention is making it harder for us to actually prepare for the likely outcomes we’re going to face in the next few years.

Instead of armed gorillas (yes, spelled correctly) and dudes in leather stealing gasoline, what we’re going to face is not the wholesale disruption of our society with a massive collapse of the government and national/global social support infrastructure. Instead we’re going to be looking at occasional interruptions of key systems for up to weeks at a time. It’s going to make it inconvenient and sometimes dangerous to live as we’re forced to put up wave after wave of  breaks in things like commerce, both our private and larger economy (LOTs of people are not getting paid right now), education and just daily life making it hard to get shit done. It will be especially challenging to meet metrics accounting for the fact that the measured region was managing some kind of localized collapse of a key system or systems. Example: How does a school district closed for a week explain their reduced scores on national standardized tests?

We have to get used to this and prepare for it, but not like the “buy gold and survival seeds” idiots want us to.  First, though, let’s take as sec to Clamsplain why we’re particularly vulnerable right now:

We’ve done some stupid shit

Our use of fossil fuels has basically given a double-cappuccino with a Redbull chaser to the climate. There is no debate about global climate change, temperatures are rising globally. Simple measurements tell us this. The problem is people think heat translates to “hotness.” No. Not always. “Heat” is actually a crappy term, what we’re getting from the sun is energy which can mean rising temperatures, but not always. Think of it as fuel to existing systems first and you better see how it powers whatever climactic conditions are going down at the time. It’s a strong possibility the outsized storms we’re seeing lately are a result of unusual amounts of energy from the warmer ocean, but there have been no peer-reviewed papers proving this yet. No doubt though, climate change is powering climactic extremes all over the globe.

This is especially crappy now because since the Second World War we’ve been terrible about updating our infrastructure. It’s much easier to be the politician who brought a new subway station to Sommerville, an obviously real thing people can see and stand at and makes their lives easier in a tangible way, rather than being the one who proposed the bill sinking 300 million into infrastructure improvements to just keep it running as is. My contractor friends call this “hate checks.” Homeowners despise paying for roofs, sills and upgrading electrical systems but they love a bathroom a deck or a kitchen. But somebody’s gotta drop the cash to keep the house standing.

We automated everything. Where there were once big, metal, steampunky valve wheels and big-ass steel flow control systems run by human beings now there are electric pumps run by remote control systems. I’m not one to complain, I’ve made a good living at various times installing these systems, but it’s shocking how many critical operations are now run by computers. It’s not just water and sewer, it’s electricity itself, data and phone, refrigeration systems even vehicles, medical, retail and banking. The big metal wheels are gone, the one’s you could just climb down a hatch and turn if things got bad.

Obligatory steampunk image

Obligatory steampunk image

But it all won’t crash everywhere and at the same time

And this is the important part. It’s not all going down at once and certainly not permanently. We might lose roads and not power, or water but not Internet. We might lose cell networks to hackers but nothing else. All that interconnectedness will cause weird problems too.  Did you know ATMs won’t work without GPS? That modern cars can be remotely hacked? That your prescriptions live in the cloud and not on a server at CVS? It’s not going to be simple or even possible to plan for.

But, again, it’s not all going down at once and certainly not everywhere. There are things that will work, but we’ve got to learn to become flexible and creative and to rely on each other more. We’ve got to get better at getting the same outcome a bunch of different ways. We can’t forget the old techniques and we’ve got to prep.

Oh Lordy, those preppers…

This guy is dependent on gasoline, statins, regular dialysis and cool ranch Doritos. On his own I give him an hour to live in a real crisis.

This guy is dependent on gasoline, statins, regular dialysis and cool ranch Doritos. On his own I give him an hour to live in a real crisis.

Those prepping shows display the worst kinds of idiots. They are so getting ready for the wrong stuff and all of them are doing the one thing that is certain to spell their doom: isolating themselves from other people who can help. And they are collecting all the wrong gear. Here is a short list of things you don’t need when the smallpocalypse comes:

  • Survival seeds- We’re talking about a couple of weeks here. Good luck growing sorgum in that amount of time
  • Dehydrated food- Military rations? Really? You heard of Ramen?
  • Huge knives- All these idiots carry huge fucking knives and companies sell them as “survival knives” even though I have one of those Leatherman tools with about 60 more “survival” functions, most importantly opening beers.
  • Guns, crossbows, etc.- You know what will happen if you break out the guns when the power goes out? The police, though strained at the moment, will eventually come arrest you and take you to jail. Guns are the worst kinds of stupidity at times of real crisis. They do nothing but make the paranoid more so and normal citizens, many with key skills like medical training, get away from the nuts with guns and refuse to engage with them.
  • Gold- What the fuck is the deal with gold? Like, in a mild interruption like the one we’re talking about normal money still works, in a big collapse it’s useless unless you can suddenly eat bullion.

What you do need:

Here are the real things we should all have to face the coming interruptions:

When you search "friends, apocalypse" this comes up. I love you, Google.

When you search “friends, apocalypse” this comes up. I love you, Google.

  • Friends and family- The likelihood you will survive something difficult, from an illness to the apocalypse, is directly proportional to how many people there are out there who will willingly take care of you. Not being an asshole really matters when the chips are down so don’t be one.
  • A self-reliant attitude- Locales where they know how to make shit work even under difficult conditions are going to do better than places where people just call up dudes with trucks for all their mechanical needs.  Know how to tie knots, make fires, cook outdoors and make basic repairs.
  • Redundant systems- have more than one way to heat your place, communicate, get information and transport yourself. SIDE NOTE: Gasoline powered generators suck. Don’t bother. You become a slave to sourcing gasoline at that point. If you have a car, just charge up your phones and things in there, or get a converter to power a light or charge a few batteries. 
  • A weeks worth of food, medicine and other supplies- don’t forget the pets
  • Bleach- You can do amazing things with bleach. You can purify water, clean wounds (highly dilute wash), sterilize dishes and cutlery and keep your oxfords sparkling for that denying-the-apocalypse crispness ensuring your neighbors will put you in charge of the food rationing committee.

I have a lot of data on this, back in a hard drive somewhere I have the outline for a book called “The Lazy Man’s Guide to the Apocalypse” which I may dig back out and put some more flesh on this summer, given my work schedule doesn’t continue to be upended by hurrizards.

But the thing I want to keep hammering on is that the very most important resource is people. We can get through anything together, we’re smarter and far more highly resourced as a group than we ever can be as individuals or small bands of camo-clad paranoiacs.

Unless it’s zombies. Then it’s every man for himself.

100 Words for Snow

You may have heard that the Inuit (Eskimos) have over a hundred words for snow. That’s actually one of those bullshit myths everyone perpetuates because it seems true and makes a point we don’t know how to express otherwise. It’s sort of like saying “The best defense is a good offense” when you want to be a dick about something, but with full knowledge that the best defense is actually filling your house with really big spiders. No one is fucking with that shit.

Yes, but how many words for "adorbs"?

Yes, but how many words for “adorbs”?

Yet though nowhere near a hundred, northern natives do have numerous distinct terms for the fluffy stuff. They call snow on the ground “aput” for instance which is different from “piqsirpoq” or drifting snow which can compile into a “qimuqsuq” or snowdrift. It’s not unlike the rich variety of scratch tickets available in our beloved Gloucester, with each having a slight yet important distinction in that some some feature professional wrestlers and others glittery shamrocks.

As a public service The Clam offers up some new winter-related terms that we might better deal with the onslaught of rough weather to come. Please feel free to add your own in the comments.

Crystal Canyon What many driveways and secondary roads have become. “Be careful turning up here, Hon. It’s a total crystal canyon and nobody’s gonna be able to see you coming.”

Carsophogas The chrysalis-like covering of a vehicle not been shoveled out for several storms. “I’d lend you my copy of ‘Out on a Limb, the Shirley MacLaine Story’ but it’s buried out in my carsophogas.”

Fullery The kind of snow that becomes ugly and useless but won’t go away even long after it should be gone. “There’s still a giant fullery over by Market Basket no one seems to know how to get rid of.”  [this is a Gloucester-specific joke, outsiders]

Pigloo What your place becomes after you’ve been trapped inside for a long period with no trash collection. “I’d have you guys over for hot chocolate, but the house is a pigloo right now.”

Three Doug Night This rarely used winter-specific term is unique to the polysexual community and is best left unexplained.

Edward Snowed-in When you’ve been cooped-up inside on the Internet and you start snooping on ex lovers, revealing their current lives to mutual friends. “Yeah, I was poking around while Edward Snowed-In and found out Megan ended up marrying that creepy adjunct professor we had for organic chemistry.”

Wipealanche When you are just trying to turn the freaking car on so it warms up, but you don’t want to get inside yet because it’s not cleared off, so you leave the door half open while sitting on the seat with one butt-cheek and turn the key. Of course the last person in the car (not you, heavens no) left the wipers on and they automatically engage with the ignition, pushing the whole windshield of snow down all over you and then into the panel that controls the electric windows and doors. “AHHHH FUCK! WIPEALANCHE!!!!”

Fro-post Compost that has become frozen and is building-up out back. “Dude, are these buckets full of fro-post? That shit’s going to be nasty come Spring!”

Eskimotivator That one person who forces you to go out and enjoy the wintry landscape no matter what. “I wanted to just finish binge watching Firefly, but Muffy eskimotivated me to go snowshoeing with her.”

Olafs To chuckle when another is inadvertently covered in snow. “We were eating at Papa Gino’s when Brandon went outside to vape. The snow on the roof let go and he was completely covered with that glowing blue thing sticking out of his mouth. He looked like a snowman from the future. Man did we have some olafs at that.”

E.L.S.A. An acronym used to explain diminished standardized test scores notable from extended school closures. E.L.S.A. stands for the “Extreme Length School Abandonment”of  districts forced to “Let it Go” during the 2015 winter session. “Oh, that dip Commissioner? That’s where our district had the ELSA and 2/3 of our kids essentially went feral by the time we got them back”

Krist-offed Heading off to work having cleared your property only to find upon return the town has plowed you back in with a crusty massive bank of compacted snow and ice making it impossible to get in. “I was so kristoffed when I got home I had to climb in through the downstairs bathroom window.”




Best Of Police Logs


Not this one.

Not this one.

“A Grove Street man was reported dumping cat litter onto Grove Street from a second-floor apartment. When officers spoke to him at 11 a.m. Wednesday, the man agreed to stop dumping the litter in the street and instead throw it into a garbage bag.”

“A 21-year-old Gloucester man who was subdued by pepper spray after allegedly assaulting three police officers and a taxicab driver over the weekend while wearing only his underwear is facing multiple charges.”

“Gloucester police arrested a man in connection with a past assault during which the victim said he lost his front tooth, which was found on the ground afterward. The victim told police that the incident occurred on Rogers Street after a “difference of opinion.” “(The victim’s) mouth was bloody and had an apparent missing front tooth that he was able to find on the ground,” the police report states. “He also reported that a few other teeth were loose enough to move around with his tongue.”

“A disturbance reported at a Washington Street restaurant at 7:03 p.m. Thursday turned out to be a man talking loudly on his cell phone “trying to get someone to pay for his food,” according to police.”

“Police responded to a disturbance at a restaurant on Main Street at 12:45 p.m. Saturday. An officer on the scene reported that there was a “man face down in (a) pizza pie.”

somehow relevant.

somehow relevant.


Apparently, a patron of the Minglewood bar on Rogers Street was “making fun of” another man for wearing overalls, prompting the fight. Police responded to around 4:30 p.m. for an apparent fight. Upon arrival, Officer David D’Angelo spoke with a man who “had dried blood on his face,” according to D’Angelo’s report. This man said he had been punched in the face twice by the man wearing overalls after the two “exchanged words and profanities.” D’Angelo then caught up with the other man involved, who said the other was “making fun of him for wearing overalls.” The bartender on scene told police that the man not wearing overalls approached the overall wearer “aggressively, using threatening language.” He apparently got close to the overall wearer and that’s when he was allegedly punched.”

“Police responded to Goodwin Road for a resident reporting that a neighbor was throwing potatoes at his house. Upon arrival, the resident said “that it had been an ongoing problem as his house has been bombarded with potatoes in the past.” The resident added that it appeared to be three youths throwing the tuberous crop this time. Police went over to the neighbor’s house and the residents said “it would not happen again.”

A Gloucester man may have been seen stumbling down Pleasant Street on Thursday, but he was certainly able to run when police asked to speak with him, leading to his arrest on an active warrant.

A Gloucester Snow Journal: Observations from Beneath 60 Inches by Adam Kuhlmann

[Today’s Guest Blogger is Adam Kuhlmann, who has previously written other amazing guest pieces like Wanton Seagulls and Other Enduring Charms of Good Harbor and A Survival Guide to Running in Gloucester.]


While no one would ever mistake me for a tough guy, I like to think of myself as not altogether delicate. I take my whiskey neat. I run for long distances. I teach seventh grade, and in eleven years in the classroom I’ve used only one sick day—this despite the fact that, as far as disease vectors go, middle school children are second only to Victorian-era water pumps. But I have a confession, one that would shame my German forebears, who fought in foxholes and worked the railroads and engaged in all sorts of genuine hard-assery. The recent stretch of frigid temperatures and unrelenting snowfall has left me broken.

Yes, I mean physically. Last week, after a particularly grueling session with the snow shovel, I found that an obscure muscle in my left buttock had seized up. Apparently, this muscle is attached to other fibers and tendons in the leg and low back, which triggered a cascade of painful spasms. By the time I sought the comfort of my bed that night, I was forced to scrabble through my apartment on all fours. My wife told me that, stripped to my underwear, I looked like Gollum, a creature whose Vitamin D levels also matched my own. The next morning, for the first time in my life, I made an appointment with a massage therapist. She was a pleasant young woman—strong of grip and briskly competent, but not especially tactful. While she kneaded my ass like a 2-lb French boule, I asked her whether she’d tended to many other injured snow shovelers. “Oh, yes,” she laughed. Then, a beat later, she added, “But they were all quite a bit older than you.”

The Arctic weather has also taken a psychic toll. I’m an outdoors person. Generally, I approach winter as an opportunity to ensconce myself in down and roam about on snowshoes or cross-country skis. So when school is cancelled and I get trapped in a house that—with drifts gradually eclipsing the windows—has become a claustrophobic den of ice, I grow a little antsy. I can only read for so long. Cleaning the house proves a better distraction, but I’m not sure the wall plates of my electrical outlets need more than two coats of polish. When the storms finally break, I emerge like a hibernating bear, gulping fresh air and squinting at the dazzling whiteness of the world. Yet as much as I’d like to plunge into the muffled trails of Ravenswood or Dogtown, there is scarcely enough time to clear the driveway and wait in line at Market Basket before the next storm strikes. If winter is indeed an old man, why doesn’t he need a longer refractory period?

Here I am complaining about being cooped up, and I don’t even have kids. Yesterday, as I panted against my snow shovel, I watched a fellow my age trundle down the street carrying a toddler in his arms. Following at his heels were what appeared to be three pastel-colored trash bags—but what, upon closer inspection, turned out to be additional children under the age of eight. My God, I thought. This man had been responsible not only for feeding and cleaning his brood, but also for entertaining them—indoors—for three straight days. Sure, the first grader can be assigned to monitor carbon monoxide levels in the basement, but how do you occupy a four-year-old for that long?

Yet the mental strain is more than mere cabin fever. My brain is not its normal, free-ranging self. Just as mounds of snow have encroached on our roadways, giving streets the feel of a luge track, I have grown narrow in my interests and outlook. All I think about is snow. The browser history on my laptop is clogged with weather sites—and not just the typical clips from, in which paunchy white guys straddle plow mounds to add visual interest to their shouty reporting. I’m talking about esoteric shit from NOAA. One of my favorites, titled “Probabilistic Winter Precipitation Guidance,” allows me to watch colorful blobs of data crawl over maps of New England—and to remember why AP Statistics handed my ass to me in a wicker basket. In the evenings, I try to set aside the charts and graphs and relax with a glass of wine. But my thoughts curdle with anxiety as I await a call from my principal, bearing the fate of tomorrow’s school day. When the phone does ring, his recorded voice sounds tired, defeated. Primed by my hours of statistical study, I can’t help but compute the exact likelihood that he is currently fielding an irate call from a parent desperate to be rid of her children.

After several iterations of this same routine, I’ve found that commiserating with others does offer some relief. Yesterday, I helped a friend to excavate her heating vents, conveniently located at ground level. As we waded to our navels in one particularly majestic drift, she shouted to me above the swirling wind, “What about Canadians? Is this just their life?” “I guess so,” I said, my mouth filling with needles of snow. But Canadians signed up for this. Knowing it was a devil’s bargain, they accepted brutal winters in exchange for immaculately kept public spaces and deeply polite neighbors. Gloucesterites have signed no such contract. Yes, I know it’s the North. And, yes, I know there are plenty of perks to living here—among them, beaches, art, food, and the old-timer who looks like Santa. But the plagues of empty nip bottles and dysfunctional urban planning should be more than enough to keep from spoiling us. We don’t need 70 inches of snow to justify our charmed existence.

So, considering the unfairness of it all, I’ve been pretty impressed by our city’s resilience. Of course, there have been acts of wanton dickishness, like the private contractor who plows the snow from the driveway across the street directly into my own. But, for the most part, I have witnessed patience, generosity, and good cheer. I have a neighbor named Gary who owns a candy-apple red riding snowblower. It is the size of an industrial corn harvester, and where he stores it is a complete mystery. Wearing a smart matching red snowsuit and knit cap, he works his way from house to house, aiding the shovelers in their efforts. At first, the self-reliant side of me got a little puckered by Gary’s altruism, and I would try to finish before he pulled up alongside my place, flashing a grin beneath his trim, unironic mustache. But lately I’ve taken to sleeping in and flagging him down like those little guys standing by the gates at the airport.

I’ve also been impressed by the creativity of other neighbors, such as the gentleman in the adjacent house who has elected to clear his driveway with nothing more than the spade and pickaxe of your average gold prospector. Another resourceful fellow uses his battered Dodge truck. It’s not that the vehicle is fitted with a plow. Rather, he simply guns the engine until the cumulative heat of friction and exhaust melts the surrounding snow. Then, he slams the truck repeatedly forward and reverse, creating an ever-widening aperture. After an hour or so, he has successfully extricated himself, and he can proceed to Flanagan’s for more diesel.

More than anything, it’s this can-do Gloucester spirit that has ushered me through the darkest moments. Well, that and Maker’s Mark. And ibuprofen. But while I can’t claim to welcome the weatherman’s announcement that—unbelievably—more snow is on the way, neither do I feel irrevocably compelled to sink an icicle into his heart. Like me, he seems pretty tired. Alongside the burden of giving everyone around Boston the bad news, he probably has his own driveway to shovel.

Ayn Rand Dead in Gloucester Snowstorm

Rand, smoking

Rand, smoking

110 year old philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand perished in a snowstorm that covered much of the Northeast this week. Thought to have died in 1982, it was revealed she simply faked her own death to avoid paying debts on the successful treatment of her lung cancer which ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, her being philisopically opposed to Medicare.

Having escaped to East Gloucester to live under an assumed name, she was known for loudly rejecting help from neighbors. “Do not condescend to me with charity,” she shouted at Bob D’Palazola who just recently tried to remove snow from her driveway with his snowblower as he had for many elderly neighbors on the street.

“I thought she was nuts,” said the plumber and good Samaritan, “Considering how much she smokes there is no way she should be out there shoveling herself. I tried to get her reconsider but she started yelling about how indebtedness corrupting the fiber of the soul of man and I’m like screw it, Ill just go do my brother-in-laws house.”

D'Palazola after giving up on the "Batshit crazy Russian lady" as he called her.

D’Palazola after giving up on the woman he correctly referred to as a “Batshit crazy Russian lady”.

Other neighbors were shunned by the centenarian objectivist when they attempted to bring gifts of fresh baked cinnamon buns and hot cocoa during a “senior wellness check” organized by residents. Mary Ellen Katzen, a local volunteer, claimed to have been berated at Rand’s door. “She started yelling about how the strong owe nothing to the weak and I was just like, ‘have some cinnamon buns’ but she  batted them away told me to blow them into brass coins and spread them at the winds for the poor of spirit. What does that even mean?”

Rand’s long and eventful life was ended by an hit-and-run with a snowplow as she attempted to shuffle down to the Richdale for cigarettes. The as-yet-unidentified truck most likely belonged to an unlicensed plow company and was reported by witnesses to have a Gadsden flag sticker on the back windshield.

Also an out of date inspection sticker

Also an out of date inspection sticker


Rand is survived by several hundred thousand lonely men in fedoras.