Nuclear Gift Ideas

Stickying this for a bit, as it’s nearly Christmas again.  I hope this helps someone!

I’ve had an interest in nuclear war and bombs for a while now (purely theoretical, of course), and with Christmas coming up, I thought it might be useful to collect some of the more interesting books, movies, and knick-knacks I’ve come across that might be of interest to you or anyone you know who’s as fascinating by the thermonuclear as I am.


Dr. StrangeloveDoctor Strange, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is probably the best known movie about nuclear war.  It’s one of my favorites.  Darkly humorous, Peter Sellers and Stanley Kubrick make this movie something special.  Back when I worked at a summer camp, the teacher showed the students this film, and the TA and I spent the class in the back laughing.  Unfortunately, the students didn’t seem to enjoy it quite as much.

On the Beach and Fail-Safe are too more movies from the same era, but without the humor.  They’re a bit grim, but they’re both excellent.


There’s a lot of books to choose from, and unfortunately, I’m not an expert, but I’ll try to provide some that I’ve either read and enjoyed or had recommended to me.

Raven Rock examines various government plans from the Cold War for surviving a nuclear war.  And I really do mean government.  There wasn’t much focus on civilian survival after the first few decades, as it was realized there just wasn’t much that could be done.  It’s a little depressing, imagining what would happen in the event of a nuclear war, but honestly, how poorly most of the plans go when actually tried out gives me a little hope that our leaders wouldn’t want to go through with a nuclear war and risk their own lives.

Red Cloud at Dawn looks at the Soviets’ race towards getting their own nuclear weapons after the USA’s successful efforts.

The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis, One Minute to Midnight, and Essence of Decision both look at the Cuban Missile Crisis, probably the closest we ever came to a nuclear world war.

Nuclear War Survival Skills purports to give you advice on surviving a nuclear exchange, including constructing a fallout shelter, keeping your water safe, and preparing yourself mentally.

Doomsday Men: The Real Dr Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon is about the search for ever more destruction weapons during the Cold War.

A Short History of Nuclear Folly details various accidents and irresponsible uses of nuclear technology, such as Teller’s plan to use nuclear bombs to create harbors in Alaska.

Henry Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War discussed how a nuclear war can be fought and what sort of consequences we can expect.  Can civilization survive a nuclear war?  How long will it take to recover?  Probably not the cheeriest book, but it is interesting.

100 Suns, by Michael Light, is a photobook documenting nuclear tests.  I personally find something beautiful in images of mushroom clouds and nuclear explosions, so if you know anyone else who does, this might be a good gift for them, or an interesting conversation starter of a coffee table book.


DefconDefcon is heavily inspired by the movie Wargames.  You play as one of five regions and spend DEFCONs 5 through 2 setting up your forces, positions your fleets and bombers, and gaining intelligence before you reach DEFCON 1 and begin launching nukes.  It’s a fun game with an awesome aesthetic, and it has a free demo, so you can try it out before buying it. Continue reading

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Best Plants for Air Filtering

I came across this guide to the best plants for improving air quality in your home.  Normally, I wouldn’t really put much stock in it, but the data comes from an older NASA study, so that piqued my interest.  I’ll probably go get a florist’s chrysanthemum or a peace lily next chance I get.  The only downside is the recommendation for one plant per 100 square feet, which seems…excessive?  20 plants in my house seems like a lot to me.  I’d be interested in knowing the diminishing returns per plant.

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New Project

I’m starting a new blog called Dictatoria.  I’ll be collecting interesting anecdotes about dictators, with a focus on the 20th century.  Come check it out!

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Polynesian City Builder

One thing I dislike about city builders is that you eventually reach a point where the lack of a struggle reduces my engagement.  In games like Tropico 5 and Banished, and even grand strategy games like Rome: Total War, once my town/empire is large and growing and prosperous, and the difficulty is decreased, I’m not as interested.  Tropico ameliorates this by tending to have short missions instead of long campaigns, and Banished is helped by the fact that death is constantly stalking you, and even the biggest town can have a famine strike with little warning, but even so, having a lot of infrastructure built up definitely helps.

I recently starting playing Valhalla Hills, and so far, it has the opposite problem.  You only spend a short time on each island, which means that as soon as your small settlement gets big enough, you’re onto the next one.  There are two things that keep me from really enjoying it, though.  First is that there’s no continuity between islands.  Your dwarves even drop their tools, apparently, because they don’t take them with them.  There’s no point doing better than necessary, because it won’t matter in the long run.

Secondly, what your actual objective is, usually to defeat a handful of monsters guarding the island and the portal to the next island, is completely out of proportion to the amount of work required to get there.  I need to chop trees and turn them into planks and build stonemasons and armories to get the weapons so my eight guys can butcher them, but in the meantime they want bread and beer and fish and meat, and I need my hunter to get leather and it all just feels superfluous.  Whenever I unlock a new building, I didn’t think, “Oh boy, a new toy!”  I thought, “Oh crap, more shit to deal with.”

What I was thinking of was a city builder with that same sort of island progression, but with more continuity.  I was thinking you’d play as Polynesian settlers, island-hopping across the Pacific.  At each island you would arrive, build, thrive, and then when the time comes, send out settlers to a new island.  But each time you go out, you’d be able to take the best of the old island with you, choosing the most skilled settlers, taking the best crops and livestock, sailing in the best ships, enjoying the advantages of everything that you developed before.  Ideally there’d be a genetics system, so you could even try to set up a little eugenics program, leaving behind everyone you don’t want on the old island, taking the best with you.

I think it would prevent success fatigue from setting in, while still providing enough of an incentive to success that doing well on one island wouldn’t feel pointless.  Plus, you could take your time before setting out an expedition, perhaps setting out explorers to find the best islands, so when you left would be up to you.  I would want some sort of mechanic to eventually strongly encourage you to leave.  Maybe if population density gets too high, you start having Malthusian disasters of disease and famine, or people just start getting overcrowded and violent.  I wouldn’t want to force it.  I’d just want things to get worse and harder to deal with over time until it’s a better idea to leave while you can, before you start to lose the benefits of your current island.

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The Night Sky

I came across an interesting site the other day, and wanted to share.  The Night Sky lets you create a map of the stars on a particular date and in a particular location, with different options, like color and constellations.  It’s neat, and it looks like a great gift.  I’ve already ordered one.  I hope the recipient likes it!

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I know I’ve been quiet lately.  I recently got a new job, so I’ve been settling into that.  Better commute, better pay, better boss.  It’s great so far, and I think it’ll only get better!  I’m wicked excited for it!  Wish me luck!

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Weird Search Terms 2016

It’s always interesting to see the various search terms that bring people to my blog.  Most are pretty comprehensible.  I get why someone searching for “radio yerevan jokes” finds their way here, for instance.  But sometimes there are bizarre ones, and I don’t know why they were searching for them or why they found my blog when they did so.  Inspired by -S, I’ve decided to share some of the more…interesting search terms of 2016.  And to avoid prolixity, I’m just going to skip all but the most unusual penis related search terms.

  1. “chances of women finding 8.5 inch penis”  I’m keeping this one just because I like the way they phrased it.  Like, they don’t want to know the probability of someone having an 8.5 inch penis.  They want to know the odds of actually finding one in the wild.  How likely am I to find such a majestic penile specimen?  How hard must I work, how far must I travel, how many dicks must I examine before I can find one?
  2. “why would a woman fuck a knife”  I, uh, don’t know?  Why would she?  I hope they found a satisfying answer.
  3. “ancient warriors hot wife’s fucking all spartan”  I have no idea what they were even going for here.  It looks like they’re curious about an ancient warrior’s hot wife who fucked everyone in Sparta, but I’m not confident in my interpretation.  Any ideas?
  4. “how to make someone act like spartan women”  This one is actually interesting, even though I’m not sure what the actual goal is.  Do they intend to train someone to act like a Spartan woman?  I’m definitely pro-athletics and such, but I feel like the open marriage nature of Sparta and emphasis on childbirth as a woman’s primary purpose would, combined, turn off most people.  I guess there’s some small subsection of the population who’s up for it, though.
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Ides of March Morbidity

During the holiday season, I got to thinking about nativities, and what other holidays could possible have that sort of decoration, with all the little statuettes assembled to form a scene.  My favorite pieces of artwork tend to be tangible pieces, like statues, so I really like the art of nativities, but I’m an atheist, so I don’t have any desire to actually own or display one.

The first holiday that came to mind was the Ides of March, with Julius Caesar’s assassination.  I think it’d be neat to have a little miniature senate, with a small statue of Pompey for everything to happen under, and then a collection of statuettes depicting Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, and the other senators involved in the assassination.

Maybe it’s just because I’m both morbid and a history fan, but I’d like it.  What do you think?

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