"This Little Light of Mine"

With nearly two more months to go, this fall/winter season has already been filled with more sadness than many could have imagined.  Out of control wildfires that then precipitated giant mudslides, left many homeless, their entire family history burned or washed away.  Extreme cold temperatures in many areas brought everything from annoying difficulties to death. Inane violence to innocent people occurs regularly. Stories of abuse, physical and mental, fill the airwaves, predators indiscriminately exploiting adults as well as our children.  We’ve dealt with power failures that caused transportation hubs throughout the world to temporarily collapse and governments, shut down because of the child-like bickering and theatrics of those who were elected to work for the people and not, their political party.

            Darkness falls early, sucking away the warmth that light brings.  The winter darkness embraces fear, desolation, and loneliness. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the month with the most average number of deaths in the US is January, followed by December, February and then March.  Obviously, not all these deaths are seasonally related, but when you consider home fires from faulty heating or electrical systems, auto related accidents as well as colds and flu, the chances of dying does seem to increase.  Add to that the number of elderly and homeless who simply pass away from lack of adequate heat or heart attack victims who overexert themselves shoveling snow. 

One of the best “survival” techniques for getting through this time of the year with at least an ounce of sanity is optimism.  Yes, the sun will come out tomorrow.  We may not see it through the rain and sleet, but the sun is definitely still out there.  Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, reminds us that yes, today the darkness will fall, but tomorrow will be a tiny bit lighter and the day after that, lighter still.  Soon the sun will warm the earth and new life will spring forth.   All we’ve got to do is focus on the light and not get sucked into the darkness.  While we wait for that big ball in the sky to do its thing, let’ see if we can spread a little sunshine of our own.  “I’m gonna let it shine.”

Volume #2 of Survive Live Well and Wisely will be out shortly on Kindle with articles dealing with winter and how best to get through it safely and suggestions for getting a head start on spring.





Bad as usual about putting up a new blog, I figured it was time to give everyone an update on projects coming out and some that are still in the works.  As with most writing projects, if it’s out it’s out and if it’s in the works, we’ll lie about the arrival date until it’s out.

Survivalist #35 is in the works.  Michael has some major decisions to make that will affect his family, his country and possibly the entire world.  Whatever his decisions, Michael has his elite rag-tag posse to watch his six.  Paul has become the Alpha in the Rourke family, responsible for all their safety.  When, or if John Thomas Rourke returns, will leadership get in the way of centuries old friendship?  Let’s not forget the aliens! Are they good? Bad? Or both?

America Undead by Phil Elmore is based on a story Jerry and I did quite a while ago.  Blood and guts, politics and romance, combined with sword wielding vampires attempting to take over the United States and replace the Constitution with Sharia Law.  Just when we thought we had enough blood suckers in Washington!    Go to the What’s New page to read more about it.  Available on Amazon.

Survive! Live Well and Wisely is a quarterly anthology aimed to help you live better, spend less and to give you some advice on day to day projects.  Volume One covers everything from building a forge, wayfinding, skill bartering and choosing a defensive knife to correct storage of frozen food, working out,  and shopping outside the big box stores. There is a section especially for readers who want to contribute their hacks for living well and we encourage suggestions for future articles. Written by those who have been there and done it. Check out the cover on the What’s New page.  Available on Kindle.

Survive! Live Well and Wisely Volume Two is in the works and covers winter survival, growing food the second time around, computer security, etc.  Look for it around the beginning of the year.

Survive! The Disaster, Crisis and Emergency Handbook by Jerry Ahern covers what to do when the SHTF.  He covers what to do during and after all major disasters and most importantly, what can be done to plan ahead to keep you and your family safe.  The book covers disaster planning, food and water safety as well as how best to protect you and your family from those who may wish you harm.  Available from Amazon.

The Rourke Chronicles Vol 2: Demons & Monsters should be coming out shortly.  This volume details with the adventures of the Rourke clan through the eyes of Paul Rubenstein. That is, until he closes his eyes to sleep the long deep sleep inside the Retreat, not knowing for sure what will await them in the future, assuming there is a future.

Camp Zero Book 2: Ice Fall by Sean Ellis brings the kids back to the Rourke Survival Academy. Instead of the rather benign weather encountered at Camp Zero, this time the Rourkes and their fellow students learn to survive frigid conditions at Camp Sub Zero, located in Greenland, which has become more harsh and desolated than ever before in history.  Their food supplies are trashed and communications sabotaged. Mutant creatures reside in the tunnels of an abandoned missile base where they discover what may be the Aryan Grail.  The weather goes from bad to worse and they need to find a way to evacuate, but now they are being stalked by other creatures, armed with assault rifles.  Still in the works.

Also, check out The Library at the End of the World podcasts, hosted by survival/prepper expert, Jim Cobb. He discusses everything from books to survival tips and all things that make him happy – the end of the world, disaster movies and post-apocalyptic scenarios, etc.  Jim spends part of his podcasts interviewing authors who have written books influencing this genre.  A new podcast is available every Friday at  Fun and informative!

Hope all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving next week have a safe holiday.  While enjoying food and family, please stop to appreciate those who will be spending the day at hospitals, fire and police stations and various emergency facilities.  Also remember those who might be feeding and giving support to those families in the community who depend on others for a warm meal and a helping hand. 

Thank you all for your support and continued interest in Ahern books.  Sharon





I watched the end of Independence Day the other evening. I’ve seen the movie at least twenty times and I still get all verklempt when they defeat the aliens. (Sorry if this spoils the ending for the two of you who haven’t seen it yet.) What happened?  Jerry and I saw this 1996 movie the first time in a theater where there was a packed crowd.  When the president gave his speech before taking off with the rag-tag bunch of civilian flyers, the world’s last resort, the audience cheered and applauded.  When victory was established the audience went wild and stood up and cheered.  Some actually cried. A feel-good movie that showed the best of people regardless of their color, religion or sexual orientation; where they came from didn’t matter, that they all came together, did.

People in this country are going crazy!  Nothing seems to be good anymore; everything is bad or causing emotional upheaval to someone’s psyche and the only way things will be fixed is to remove these bad things from our sight and memory.  Statues and memorials related to long deceased, slave holding individuals are under fire. Some groups want the names of schools to be changed, street signs, etc.  Did you hear about the USC mascot?  Their mascot is a white horse named Traveler which, spelled with an additional l, is the same name as Robert E. Lee’s horse.  How about the nerve of Hobby Lobby, selling fake raw cotton! How many enslaved people toiled in fake cotton fields, picking that stuff? Where is this going to end; or will it ever?   

During the buildup to World War Two, German shepherd breeders changed the name of the dogs to Alsatians because of anti-German sentiment.  In a more relatable era for some, the late 1940s and 1950s, Americans lost their livelihood, friends and their good name just because they “might” be a Communist sympathizer since they were seen talking to or at the same social function as an alleged Communist.  Can you remember the uproar caused when ISIS started destroying mosques and ancient statues in Iraq and Syria just a short time ago? It seemed that the entire world was shocked.  ISIS claimed that they were only doing it to cleanse the area of idolatry, reinstating monotheism. Some found it interesting though, that what artifacts were not destroyed, were instead looted, and sold to further their own group’s activities.

The ancient Egyptians were notorious for removing names from all their records of pharaohs that fell from favor, defacing their statues, even tearing them down.  The Romans were into this also.  Both cultures considered names very important and to be lost to the annals of history was a terrible punishment.  Even some unpopular Catholic Popes disappeared from official church records in the same manner. 

You have to be able to know the past in order to understand the present.  The world has always been inhabited by both saints and sinners; some would insist, more sinners.  We must remember that life is not lived entirely in black and white.  What saint has lived without a least a few spots of gray clouding an otherwise faultless existence?  What sinner never felt a spark of compassion toward another individual?

Should I feel guilt because my ancestors came from Germany?  Think of all the deaths caused by Germany’s lust for expansion.  But, didn’t a German also give us a printed Bible and Silent Night? The Spanish Conquistadors killed and pillaged entire civilizations across most parts of the world, in their lust for gold, land and trade routes, spreading infectious diseases along the way.  Spain also gave us Picasso, Don Quixote, foosball and sherry.  George Washington was indeed a slave owner.  He was known for his compassion and his willingness to consider the ideas and opinions of others, regardless of their station in life.  He fought to give us a nation to call our own at the cost of his personal life and health.

Maybe instead of finding fault with the past which we can’t change, we should look to ourselves to see how we will be perceived by future generations.  Will we be known as the ones who found a way of uniting a diverse population or the ones who tore us apart?  Maybe still, we will not be mentioned at all because we’ve become just useless information.

BTW:  I attended a large, annual Fall Festival last weekend.  It was held on the site of a former campground used by both the Creek and Cherokee.  Back in the seventeen hundreds it was declared a no-kill zone by both tribes, which included hunting the local fauna. It later became a white settlement, the location of the first church in the county, etc.  Later still, the property housed a grist mill and cotton gin.  In modern times, historical buildings, such as churches, log cabins, barns, a smokehouse and even a privy have been donated and moved to the area so people can see firsthand how others lived before today’s modern conveniences.  More land was acquired and through the hard work and devotion of many volunteers, the park is now a place to go for a family day of picnicking, water play and fun.

Beside the usual arts and craft booths, food trucks and demonstrations of “what life was like before electricity,” there were scheduled Civil War battle enactments.  Men on horseback, many more on foot, showed the large crowds gathered how the battles were fought; smoke bellowing from the cannon and the muskets the men carried, and bodies falling upon pre-determined spots on the ground.  We saw no protest signs nor heard cries of dissent.  We stood and watched history.





Our first car as a couple was a nineteen sixty-four Nash Rambler that we bought from my sister and brother-in-law.  We made monthly payments and, as a wedding present, they let us slide on the final payment.  Maybe we should have tied the knot sooner although I don’t know how far their generosity would have gone.  It was an aqua blue and white box with wheels but it served its purpose, getting us around town safely.  I took public transportation to my job in downtown Chicago and Jerry had the Rambler all to himself.  I still didn’t know how to drive anyway.  My family didn’t own a car and public transportation was readily available.
The Rambler was still running by the time our three year anniversary approached but was having some serious problems that were costing us time and money.  On the day of our anniversary Jerry, after going through the local classifieds, found a vehicle that he was sure would be perfect for us and on the way to a dinner appointment with his parents, we stopped to take a quick look at it.  It was a used, white Volvo 1800S sports car just like the one Roger Moore drove in The Saint television show, a show Jerry was a huge fan of.
You guessed right if you figured we bought it.  After a ten minute lesson from the salesman on how to drive a manual transmission, we lurched out of the lot and sped across town to our already way late dinner, praying for continuous green lights and, when we did occasionally have to stop, praying that he could get the damn thing in gear before we started a riot of angry motorists trying to get around us.
We finally made it to the restaurant without any damage to the Volvo and only severe nerve damage to ourselves.  We looked; I’m sure, like members of an Olympic rowing team who had tried hard not to come in last place, exhausted, disheveled and perspiring like wet pigs. His parents were pissed off at having to wait so long but I think his dad was secretly envious of our purchase.  His mother thought we had gone crazy and for once, I had to agree with her.  We also had to deal with the fact that we still had to get it home that night.
We got to our place late that evening after a few more trials and errors, some more dangerous than others and some noisier, especially while trying to get the stick in the correct notch. We were now living in our four story walk up which was situated in a suburb that did not allow overnight parking.  We had a spot we paid for a few blocks away for the Rambler to be legally parked but until we could rent out another space, the Volvo would get towed away unless we called the police and tell them where, why and how long they were going to have to ignore our vehicle.  
We set up for a nice spot in a tire store parking lot next to where the Rambler spent its nights until we got it sold.  A few months later, after a snow storm, we walked to the lot to retrieve our vehicle and found out that it had been damaged by a snow plow.  A white, low slung sports car does not do well when challenged by a plow on an early, overcast snowy morning.
The Volvo was only a two-seater but with a hump behind the bucket seats, we occasionally, were able to jam upwards of four adults or nine juveniles all in uncomfortable and physically challenging positions behind us.
 After spending a huge fortune each month on repairs and constant tune ups to keep our Volvo mechanic in the lifestyle he had chosen for himself and his family, we finally had to let her go and replace her with something more sensible and cost effective.  Enter the orange Volkswagen Squareback!  At least we didn’t have to worry about snow hiding it; we did have to avoid parking too close to fruit stands.




Don't let him get away!I remember years ago when Steve Martin admitted he believed robots were stealing his luggage. Up until that time, most of us would have been too embarrassed to agree with him but not anymore.  In 2016, airlines mishandled 21.8 million bags at a cost of 2.3 billion dollars in reimbursements to passengers.  Now putting that in perspective, passengers paid the airlines 4.2 billion dollars in baggage fees – this is based on the twenty-five largest US airlines -- to transport their belongings to their correct destinations.  The vast majority of the bags went missing during layovers when they had to be taken off one plane and deposited into the cargo compartment of another.  Hmm.

The above figures seem huge but, the amount of lost or misplaced luggage has gone down dramatically over the last few years.  Airline agencies insist that it’s because of new tracking systems now in place that keep a better eye on wandering bags.  I tend to think there is more to it than that.  My theory is that those bag stealing robots that have been hanging around airports have found better employment.

Back around 400 BC, Archytas built a wooden bird that he powered using steam.  The bird could fly for short distances until the steam ran out but, it made enough of an impression to go down in history as the first known robot.  My first inkling of what a robot should be was Robby the Robot, big, fat and usually friendly, unlike Gort who was big and scary.  Then the day came when I watched Fritz Lang’s1927 movie, Metropolis, featuring “the Machinenmensch.”  She was one of the first robots ever depicted on film and should have had enough influence on us to never want to create any others like her, but of course, we kept going forward, producing robots that would make our lives easier and get the job done on time.

The 1960s saw the beginnings of the industrial robotic age when General Motors included a unit capable of lifting hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and then stacking them. From then on there was nothing stopping the future.  Robots, although still not physically resembling humans, took over many of the dangerous, dirty and low-end tasks supposedly allowing us more freedom to take on more difficult endeavors, more suited to our intellect.

Even more sophisticated robots have become part of our lives, driving automobiles, flying airplanes – the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Global Hawk flew over the Pacific Ocean from Edwards Air Force Base in California to RAAF Base Edinburgh in Southern Australia in twenty-two hours – and even joining the astronauts up on the Space Station.  Robots play a big part in the manufacturing process and in laboratory research and even perform surgery with skill and precision beyond human capability.  What about the robot telemarketers that tie up your phones lines and make you feel stupid when you think you’re talking to a person.  We can’t forget that tiny, hard working Roomba that is capable of multi-tasking, cleaning your floors while entertaining small children and animals.

Many of those airport robots that were hanging around baggage areas and lounges have left the area entirely  Instead of selling the contents of your luggage they found better gigs elsewhere.  According to a Bank of America study, by 2025 robots will be performing 45 percent of manufacturing tasks, given that the prices of robots and computers are falling.  Costs have declined by 27 percent over the past decade and are expected to drop by another 22 percent in the next decade.  With the bottom line being profitability, employers will have little choice when it comes to hiring.

Customer service jobs will be performed by pleasant, clean and always cheerful automatons as well as positions requiring accounting and statistical analysis.  Models with the perfect face and figure will always be on call to take to the runway and umpires will be able to call a ball in or out without his Seeing Eye dog.  Soon, luggage will remain in the belly of that big metal bird, to be reunited with its rightful owner and the new cry that will be heard across the universe will be that robots are stealing my JOB!


BTW     Years ago when we lived in Chicago, I wanted to buy a toy robot for our son.  Trekking downtown, I entered the holy grail of toy departments at Marshall Field and Company.  I purchased the robot and we all had a fun time playing on the kitchen floor, Jason laughing when the dogs would either run from it or try to attack it.  It survived many battles and I still have the thing but, I took the batteries out after I found my purse missing.

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