Has technology taken away the art of getting lost?

Tech is changing the way we use maps and get to our destination. Are we better off?

The first time I was part of a cross-country drive was in a '78 Oldsmobile station wagon, often from the rear-seat vantage point looking backward out on the open road. It was 1980, the family trekking from our Billings, Montana home to sunny Southern California. I still remember so many anachronistic details: Billy Joel's The Stranger on 8-track, ashtrays in the armrests, and a glove box stuffed with fold-out gas station maps. The very maps that, once unsheathed, would never return to their original rectangular origin, and were known to drive anally-retentive drivers to the brink of madness.

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10 Ways to Become Self-Sufficient Before the Doomsday Clock Hits Midnight

"It is now two minutes to midnight"

In 1947, following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a group of atomic scientists created the Doomsday Clock.

The clock represents how close we are to a hypothetical global catastrophe as determined by the members of the Science and Security Board, the group that publishes the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

"Midnight" is when the nuclear armageddon hits and the minutes leading up to midnight symbolizes how close we are to it. Theoretically, of course. The largest time period came in 1991 at seventeen minutes, the shortest is two minutes, in 1953 (when the Soviet Union exploded its first hydrogen bomb), and as of late January, 2018.

Here are a few choice excerpts from a recent post "It's now two minutes to midnight:"

In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II.

The greatest risks last year arose in the nuclear realm. North Korea's nuclear weapons program made remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks to North Korea itself, other countries in the region, and the United States. Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions by both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.

To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger—and its immediacy.

The Doomsday Clock is in a lot of ways, a gimmick. Midnight is a metaphor, minutes aren't actual measurements of time, and there isn't even an actual clock. However, the premise is based on the expertise of atomic scientists, so the clock has gravitas in ways apocalyptic preachers don't. As Popular Science writer Rachel Feltman puts it, the Doomsday Clock is neither art or science, it's in the middle.

In that spirit, let's split the difference between going full off-the-grid ""prepper," and whistling past the nuclear graveyard. At two minutes to midnight, it's important to at least know where the late-night snacks are being stored. Here are ten easy ways to become more self-sufficient in the event of… Well, it's good to be self-sufficient no matter what, right?

1.) Green Up Your Thumbs:

Gardens don't require big backyards. You can grow fruits and veggies anywhere. Window boxes work so long as there's water, soil, and sunlight. Make sure the box is deep enough for 7-inches of potting soil and an inch of water on top with holes in the bottom for drainage to preserve the roots. Particularly sunny spots are great for cherry tomatoes, small peppers, beans, strawberries, short carrots, and mini squash. Lettuce, spinach, chard, and cabbage can flourish in shadier confines. Use organic fertilizer throughout the season and water frequently, more that you think in the hot summer months.

2.) Trade Your Lawn Mower for Salad Tongs:

The well-manicured lawn is a staple of American homes, which is silly, because it could be a giant salad. Edible lawns are a way to have greens for weeks while helping the environment by using way less water. There are all manner of herbs, plants, shrubs, leaves, and even weeds to fortify your body if say zombies come knocking. Lawns aren't natural, gardens are. Here's a starter kit on your way to a lush thick yard of eerily-named roughage like Creeping Rosemary and Lamb's Quarters.

Instead of a lawn, try a vegetable gardenPhoto by Kenan Kitchen

3.) Become an Apiculturist:

No, you won't need to go to a fancy school, all you need to do is learn how to get a buzz on. Apiculture is the technical term for beekeeping, which is inexpensive, doesn't take a lot of time or space, and provides beeswax for candles and delicious honey that doesn't require any processing for consumption. There are cave drawings of honey going back to 6,000 B.C. so trust the little workaholics for survival. All you need is a few healthy hives. Here's a handy-dandy how-to guide to building your own Langstroth Hive from Bee Culture magazine. Will you get stung? Definitely. But bee venom builds up an immunity to stings, so it's a win-win.

4.) Rain on Your Parade:

Rain barrels collect and store runoff from a roof through the gutter. It's a great way to water your edible lawn in the dry months. It can be a basic plastic cistern, or a huge tank that stores enough water for months on end. Great for washing, flushing, watering, and rinsing. Drinking water is even a possibility if you put in a proper filtration system, it depends on the levels of air pollution in your area.

5.) Fire Away:

When it goes down, you're going to need fire for warmth, cooking, and boiling the rain water you've collected. Here's a basic method to start a fire without matches. First, you need to collect tinder (small, dry, flammable material), kindling (a little bigger organic material like wood chips or twigs), and firewood (self-explanatory.) Get a hard piece of wood as a fireboard, make a notch in it with a knife, and put a two-foot stick in the notch. Rapidly twist the stick in your palms. It's sweaty tiresome work, but it will produce enough friction to start smoking and generate tiny embers, which will get the tinder lit. Blow on the fire, add kindling, and then firewood. If this way is too difficult, keep a condom in your pocket. Fill it with water and use it like a magnifying glass. C'mon baby, light my fire indeed.

6.) Stay Fresh and So Clean:

Doomsday may lead to a dirty wars spanning the globe, but you don't need to be dirty to fight in them. Making a simple soap at home is a lot easier than one might think, here's a recipe from DIY Natural that only calls for three types of oil, lye, and cold water. (Lye is no joke, use the utmost precaution.) Soapmaking also offers a perfect way to use leftover herbs and honey in the name of smelling nice.

Soap making is skill you'll need to keep clean Photo by Jennifer Burk

7.) Get Coop-ed Up:

A home-raised chicken offers a lot: Truly tasty eggs, nutrient-rich manure for vegetable gardens, a personal bug and worm exterminator, a recycler of biodegradable garbage, and a goofy friend to entertain the kids. Backyard (or rooftop) chicken coops are popular among adherents to the "eat local" movement, even in densely packed New York City. Chickens need about 3-4-feet of space each, so the smaller the quarters the fewer chickens you'll want to keep, but once you buy or build a coop with a roost, run, and nesting area, the upkeep isn't any more time-consuming than a garden. Make sure to check local laws --cock-a-doodling-roosters are often a no-go-- and win over your neighbors with the best bunker omelettes around.

8.) Harness the Sun:

The power grid could go down but there's no way to block out the sun...Yet. A small home solar kit can be of great use in doses, keeping the lights on during the blackout periods. A writer at EarthEasy built a DIY system with four components (a solar panel, a charge controller, two 6-volt golf cart batteries, and a small inverter) for under $1,000. It powers his laptop, a freezer, a cordless drill, and even an iPod. Being off-the-grid doesn't mean you can't get down. In a broad everyday sense, adding solar power to your home's daily energy requirements will save money in the long run. Use this solar calculator to see how you could add a few dollars to the "Emergency Coffee Can Fund," which you totally have, right?

9.) Pack Your Bag:

The "Bug Out Bag" (or "BOB" if you're in a hurry) is a kit with the proper supplies to survive for 72-hours following a disaster. The staples of the BOB are: Water, purification tablets, food like MRE's or energy bars, cash, flashlight, firestarter, waterproof clothes, a tent, a sleeping bag, medical records, a Swiss Army Knife, etc. You get the point. The basic BOB is for three days, but if it really is armageddon, you might want to pack a bag like this former counterintelligence special agent. He could take on midnight no problem.

10.) Downsize, Downsize, Downsize:

If you're at home, open a closet, any closet, and make a mental note of what you actually use or need in certain situations. If you hate to part with things and need some prodding, here's a handy checklist of crap you can lose. Being self-sufficient doesn't just mean being able to stalk and kill your own dinner, in fact for most of us urban-suburban-ites its doesn't mean that at all. It means living smarter and simpler, so if it is the end of the world as we know it, we'll all feel fine.

Investing 101: How to get started on the stock market

Investing on the stock market can be intimidating, but we're here to help

Millennials don't trust the stock market.

That is the finding from the most recent Merrill Edge Report, which found 66% of Millennials trusted their savings accounts would be reliable in 20 years. In contrast, 71% Gen-Xers trust in their 401(k), while 54% of Baby Boomers believe in their pension. Generationally, it makes sense. Rock-solid pensions of the distant past were a foolproof reward for a life's work. The rise of the stock market from the 1980s-2000s made the same 401(k) seem like a safe profitable bet. And, the financial crisis of 2008–spurred on by massive institutional fraud rewarded with federal taxpayer bailouts—combined with years of stagnant wage growth, ever-increasing income inequality, and ever-higher cost-of-living expenses, means younger workers trust their saving accounts and nothing else. Can you blame them?

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The Move to Ban Homework and Why it Matters

Opponents say too much homework is killing children's free time and adding unnecessary stress. But is there any evidence to support this?

As the 2017-18 school year heads into the home stretch, kids everywhere yearn for the glorious days and nights free of the dreaded "H-word."

The end of the school year means No. More. Homework.

Summer means freedom from completing assignments on the couch- unless you happen to be one of the 20,000 elementary school students in Florida's Marion County public school district because you never had any in the first place. This year, superintendent Heidi Maier did away with traditional homework in favor of having kids read on their own. Marion County wasn't alone either; other schools doing away with homework can be found in Vermont, Montreal, Virginia, and Texas. In Spain, students went on strike to reclaim their weekend free time from those dastardly textbooks.

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Transportation Update: Is Train Travel Safe in the US?

This may surprise you, but train wrecks are actually more common than many people realize.

In late January, an Amtrak train ferrying a large group of Republican lawmakers, staff, and family - including House Speaker Paul Ryan - from Washington to White Sulphur Springs collided with a garbage truck in Crozet, Virginia. The train was traveling at roughly 60 mph when the engineer pulled the emergency brake, but it was too late. The driver was ejected from the truck and killed. The crash came on the heels of deadly Amtrak crashes in North Carolina, Washington, and South Carolina. In 2017, there were more than 2,100 crashes at public and private U.S. railroad crossings, killing 274 and injuring 807.

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Is Cursive Handwriting Disappearing from our Culture?

DIY: Do we need to teach kids cursive anymore or is it becoming a thing of the past?

It's been a long time since I was a grade school student (COUGH--late70searly80s--COUGH), but it boggles my mind how different classwork is today for our second-grade daughter. Techniques are so much better in terms of teaching kids' skills and strategies, instead of the rote "repetition and memorization" of my youth. I'm glad kids will never again know the tedium of pulling out a Big Chief tablet and taking dictation day-after-day-after-day. It's all in the name of competing in the global 21st-century economy, but there's one old school skill no longer taught (at least in my daughter's Brooklyn public school) that I have definite mixed feelings about. As she said to me the other day after I wrote something down for her, "Dad, I can't read this, it's in script." Or as we called it back at Kate Fratt Catholic, cursive.

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A brief history of American credit unions and banks

Do you understand the difference between a credit union and a bank?

Big banks and social responsibility don't typically go hand-in-hand, but there is a bedrock financial institution that was formed wholly out of a noble ethos. The brutal winter of 1846-47 led to widespread famine, so Friedrich Raiffeisen, a rural German mayor, set up a system in which wealthier citizens put cash into a fund used to buy grain to be loaned to those suffering from the famine. This, in turn, led to a community bakery. The "bread society" project worked. When the famine ended, the less fortunate paid back the benefators in cash. Raiffeisen would expand on his largesse with an "aid society" that provided low-interest loans to farmers to get around the common usurary practices, and set up a charity for abandoned children. Eventually, in 1864, Raiffeisen established the first rural cooperative lending institution, in effect, creating the first credit union.

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