Archive: Surviving Absurdity

Or: How to Make a $1,500 Sandwich

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: everyone has, um, a (sandwich) price.


McCoy: In the Kitchen

Me...thinking 'bout making a rich sandwich

Have you ever made food from scratch? If you said yes, you're probably thinking of cooking bread from flour and yeast and so on.

You probably aren't thinking of growing the wheat, harvesting it, milling it, and all that jazz. One guy in Minnesota, however, decided to actually cook a chicken sandwich from scratch. It took him six months and cost him $1,500.

Little bit ridiculous, right? We’ve evolved our modern society toward specialization in order to reduce the workload on people and prevent us from having to do such outrageous things.

The most interesting aspect of this is, of course, the salt: the guy from Minnesota had to fly to the West Coast to harvest his salt. If he wanted to be a purist, he would have needed to either walk all the way to the ocean or build his own airplane from scratch.

Obviously, that’s too much work for a YouTube video.

If he wanted to be even more of a purist, he would have needed to build all his tools himself. No stove; rather, an open fire. And no metal pot; he would have needed to fashion his own cookware instead. You can see how quick the absurdity things would’ve gotten.

So where am I going with all this?

A McCoy Sandwich

I made me a sandwich…for $3.45

Believe it or not, I wanted to talk about survivalists. The typical survivalist strategy is to master a certain number of survival skills and to accumulate massive amounts of resources for survival purposes.

The missing ingredients? Almost everything, really. Our society has accumulated unbelievably huge quantities of knowledge dedicated toward merely keeping civilization running, mostly in the form of working professionals.

If someone were to make all of society's doctors disappear, we wouldn't be able to just set a bunch of people to the books and expect them to become doctors in a decade or so. Civilization reconstruction is a problem of a magnitude more significant than assembling a sandwich from scratch.

Any society emerging from survivalists in the wake of the collapse of civilization is going to be fairly primitive, by necessity.

And just to reassure Maggie and the kids and my gaggle of grandkids: I'm not investing in survivalist gear. Modern civilization is pretty durable. Gambling on it failing seems like way too much of a sucker bet to me.

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: The Diesel Blues

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy turns the simple (chart) into the profound. Oh, and there's George Foreman, too.

Click HERE to fuel your day.

Archives: Games People Play

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: are we gaming the system? Nope, it's gaming us.


Do I look like I'm playing games?

When I was a little kid, I hated board games. Absolutely did not like them. Especially Monopoly.

Risk I could tolerate about once or twice a year. Chess and checkers I could tolerate. That was the extent of the games we had (so maybe my choices were too limited). On rare occasions, I'd get to try a game someone else owned, but there weren't a lot out there (so maybe I come from a place where people didn’t play board games).

Things stick with us. These days, I’m surprised every time I see someone's board game collection (so maybe everyone’s not like me).

We're in a veritable board game renaissance right now. Most estimates put the number published each year in the thousands.

Of course, a huge chunk of these games are still terrible. Many are incredibly complicated and take hours—or even days—to play. Which, I suppose, is just fine for those with that kind of free time, but most of us don't have such free time. Other games are spat out quickly…or are just mediocre rip-offs of another game.

Bored.

Bored.

Still, and muffling my rant just a bit, there are probably a gaggle of good new games published every year.

I’ve picked up a few over the years that I've grown to like, mostly for my kids and grandkids. My favorite is one I bought for my grandkids: Master Labyrinth. I still drag it out whenever they come over, and I'm probably more excited to play it than they are.

While I was reading about board games, I decided to hunt down the oldest.

Senet, Backgammon, and The Royal Game of Ur are more than 4,000 years old. Go is about 2,500 years old, and Parcheesi is nearly 2,000. Tafl, a Viking ancestor of chess, is some 1,600 years old.

Yes. Humans have been playing games for fun for a long, long time. For better or worse. Mostly worse, I say.

This isn't just an old man rambling on and on about board games. Because I refuse to admit to being old…until I retire.

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Industrial Disruption

This week my friend The Yard Ramp Guy describes a possible disruption to his own disrupting ways.

Click HERE to get disrupted.

Archive: Roads as History

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: roads are literally, yes, a roadmap of history.


McCoy Fields Roads

Paved with (Good?) Intentions

I write a lot about roads on this blog. The Yard Ramp Guy must think I'm a bit obsessed (though he’d probably phrase it differently).

The study of roads is the study of history. Countless historical events, from the outcomes of wars to international trade, and from religious expansion to the maintenance of nations: they all rely on roads.

Incan roads—not the most extensive network of ancient roads but one of the most technologically impressive—were earthquake-proof with incredibly durable suspension bridges. Roman roads have been receiving acclaim for millennia now, and many are still in use.

Which brings us to ancient Chinese roads.

Under the Qin Dynasty (circa 220 BC), Chinese road networks were considerably more extensive than their Roman contemporaries. One, the Ancient Road of Mules and Horses, was created in 214 BC by an advancing army of the Qin. The Emperor marched a half-million strong army in a straight line on one of his wars of conquest, crushing the earth in its path. They later covered the road in slate, and it remained in use for 2,000 years afterward without changing routes.

Walking up a golden ramp. Kind of.

Walking up a golden ramp. Kind of.

Road maintenance was key in holding onto territory in China. Later dynasties, like the Han, went to great pains to maintain this and other roads, building hostels and post offices along their lengths. Another Qin road was immensely long, built to service border forts along a huge wall that predated the Great Wall.

My favorite ancient road of all, though, is the Stone Cattle Road. One of the ancestors of the First Qin Emperor wanted to conquer the nearby Shu kingdom to the south, over the Qinling Mountains. He had his sculptors and artisans carve five life-sized stone cows and decorate their tails and hindquarters with gold.

When the king of Shu received news of them, he asked the Qin king to send him a herd. The Qin king claimed that he would need a gallery road (built of wooden planks imbedded in the sides of cliffs) across the mountains to move the cows. The Shu king not only permitted it; he also helped fund the construction.

Yes, we know how this story develops: The first thing the Qin king brought over wasn't a herd of gold-depositing cattle. He brought an army.

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Business Advantages

This week my friend The Yard Ramp Guy shows how buying his inventory can save you money.

Click HERE for his simple suggestions to make that happen.

Archives: Living Bridges

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: if only our own infrastructure were as strong and natural as living bridges.


I've blogged a lot about bridges, I know (Sir Bridges Blog-a-Lot, eh?) but I haven't yet explored living bridges.

Meghalaya, a state in north-eastern India, is one of the wettest places in the world, getting close to 500 inches of rainfall a year. Almost three-quarters of the state is forested. One of the indigenous tribes living there, the War-Khasi, build living foot bridges from the roots of the Ficus elastica — a variety of rubber tree.

thebridgePhoto by Arshiya Urveeja Bose [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

To grow the bridges, the Khasis create root guidance systems out of halved and hollowed betel nut trunks. The roots are channeled to the other side of the river, where they are allowed to bury themselves in the soil on that side.

The bridges take 10 to 15 years to grow strong enough for regular use; once they do, they last incredible amounts of time with no maintenance: since they're still growing, they actually continue to grow stronger and stronger over time. Some of the older bridges are five centuries old. Many of the older, stronger bridges can support 50 or more people at once.

mfthought

Sometimes I think about crossing a bridge.

The most famous of the bridges, the Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge, is actually two of those bridges, with one stacked directly over the other. Local dedication to the art has kept the bridges alive and prevented them from being replaced with steel. (Steel, frankly—and with all respect to those dealing with, ahem, yard ramps—doesn't have anything near the lifespan of the root bridges and aren't nearly as sturdy.)

The root bridges aren't the only living bridges around. In the Iya Valley in Japan, there are bridges woven out of living wisteria vines. They're much less common, and only three remain. They're built by growing immense lengths of wisteria on each side of the river before weaving them together—a process that must be repeated once every three years.

These wisteria bridges are much less sturdy than the Khasi root bridges, with wooden planks spaced over seven inches apart, and they apparently shake wildly while you're on them. By all accounts, these things are terrifying to cross, which makes sense: they’re widely thought to have been designed originally for defense. The original bridges didn't even have railings.

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Industrial Protection

This week my friend The Yard Ramp Guy makes a compelling case for worker safety.

Click HERE to peruse his perspective on proper planning.