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'Wild West' mentality lingers in modern populations of US mountain regions (phys.org)
190 points by dnetesn 52 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 293 comments

In many parts of the United States when you call 911, you're lucky if anyone shows up within an hour. It's a couple hours to get to a Wal-Mart or a store. It's difficult to get anyone to drive 40 minutes outside the nearest town and navigate unmarked dirt roads to do basic plumbing or home repairs.

As a result, people have to learn to repair things, make things, use a gun, do first aid, lay shingles, hang drywall, pour concrete, solder pipe, weld, change oil, replace an alternator, lay PVC pipe, etc.

People in the community learn emergency medicine and how to manage a structure or brush fire by volunteering with the local volunteer fire/EMS, because that's the only show in town.

Roads wash out in the rainy season, so 4x4 is an absolute necessity. People learn to gauge sand you can drive through in 2x4, sand you can drive through in 4x4 and sand you just can't drive through by eyeballing it.

I grew up in a very remote part of the California desert and everyone was like that. It's just what you have to do to get by because you keep finding yourself in situations where you need to call on these types of skills, and if you're living out there you have a lot of free time without interruption or distraction to learn the skills. Lots of people moved out from the city, and over the years they picked up a lot of those skills and became extremely self-sufficient.

Although the story and your account are United States centric, I live pretty remote British Columbia, Canada and the same mentality, personalty types exists here as well. As the crow flies, I am less then 300KM to downtown Vancouver yet a trip to the closest town center for supplies is a 10 hour round trip in the truck and that is on a good day. I do not leave the house without chainsaw, firearm and various other sundry gear and items as i may have to sleep in the wilderness overnight or repair my truck on the side of a dirt road.

I do all our property maintenance and repairs etc., even if I could convince a 'professional' to come out this way, the expense would be anywhere from 3X to 10X for the same job in town.

Self reliance and self-sufficiency are not new, trendy traits, it is a necessity for survival that has always been that way and it will probably never change for the people living in this part of the world.

I have family in BC less than 125 Km from Vancouver, but that is still 10 hours and a ferry trip... if the one and only road is open. That is the reality of life in mountains. There is only ever the one road. Even famous places like Whistler: one road.

How do you use the internet? Do you have a phone signal?

I live in a similar way in Canada, and I run long range ubiquiti radios (~12km) to nearest small town. get 150-200mbps and since I have battery backup + generator, usually the only reason it goes down is if the ISP router dies. I get ~1 bar of LTE that flickers to 3g, but with wifi calling it's not an issue. In addition to changing my own alternator, I run a small ISP for my neighbours :)

I'd like to know more about how you arranged this. In that small town, it sounds like you have some sort of connection to an ISP. Do you lease space on a tower to do that? Do you have a friend with an office nearby, and you connect there somehow? Is the ISP friendly and willing to set this up with you?

I have a 30m tower, and at the town I have a friend with a good connection. I rent roof space and pay half the bill. ISP is ok since it's a business plan, and both of us are using it for mainly business — it's similar to a shared office that provides internet from their perspective.

Wow I didn't even know about these radios and how reasonably priced they are for the range!

You might also be surprised to know that microwave is faster than fiber. Not necessarily more reliable, mind you, but faster.

There's a reason all of the HFT folks are using microwaves.

Only if by 'faster' you are referring exclusively to latency. In some situations (not all) you can achieve slightly better latency with wireless than fiber, but for raw throughout nothing compares to light in glass.

Where can I learn more specifics about configuring/deploying a similar setup? Thanks.

I run a website about this kind of thing. You might find this page useful: https://startyourownisp.com/posts/backhaul-picker/

Nice, this is exactly the kind of practical guide and reference material I was looking for!

There are open comprehensive resources like the open book "WiFi networking in the developing world" [1] which seem pertinent here even though we're talking about North America. :P

[1]: http://wndw.net/book.html

Also very curious also. At ~12km I would think it would require some specialized microwave testing equipment to get the alignment right.

12km isn't too bad actually for alignment unless you're using really high frequency (>10Ghz) equipment. Even then though you probably don't need specialized equipment other than maybe binoculars and a voltmeter[1]. I've taught beginners to align 24ghz radios at 12km by hand.

[1]The voltmeter is for quick feedback on the signal level as you aim. Many high-capacity wireless radios have a connection point on the back that will adjust voltage to match the current receive signal level (measured in dBm). That's usually the fastest way to watch the signal level as you aim, especially if you're hanging off a tower while you do it.

I spend a lot of downtime in what I thought was a very remote area of the Rockies. I learned many neighbors have been doing satellite Internet for years, though. Recently I started getting very good cell phone service, too. No other utilities, hardly accessible during the winter - but I can still check Hacker News.

My guess and not to answer for OP, but hughesnet or some type of satellite based internet. I know people who live far from broadband and cable and they all use hughesnet or something similar.

There is no cell reception, we have satellite, the ISP here in Canada is called Xplornet, which I believe uses Hughesnet. Download speed is pretty good, streaming services typically work fine with SD, voice comms. can be a bit of pain with the 700ms latency. Since covid-19 with many more people working from home etc. I have noticed a significant drop in bandwidth and how spikey latency can get at times.

I would guess satellite. I've lived in remote places before (but it was only 20 minutes to a big city mall, so not nearly as remote as described) and that is what I used. It was okay for most things, but the 600ms ping time to anything else sometimes was noticeable.

I was wondering the same thing.

Where are you? Gold Bridge?

Close! We a fair bit further North. I would consider Gold Bridge the southern most parts of the Chilcotin, whereas we live more in the middle of Chilcotin. Without giving it away, if you look up Chilko Lake it is a reasonably short drive away.

Yeah that is really far out there. I'm guessing the closest real town or city for shopping is Lillooet? 5 hours to get there and 5 hours to get back...

  For us, Williams Lake is the closest town with supplies. We travel in a generally northerly direction via various 'tracks' to we turn onto Chilko Lake Road, which ends up on Tatlayoko Lake road, which will in turn lead to Hwy 20. From there, it is all paved to Williams Lake.  

  Distance wise is not obscene but the 'tracks' i refer to can be a pain to maintain due to wash out and tree blow down etc. If that is the case it can significantly add to travel times. Winter can be good and bad depending on amount of snow or icy conditions etc. Typically, up until about January, winter driving is actually easier IMHO, as all the potholes/ditches are filled out.  We use heavy duty chains on the tires if it gets too slippery and/or too much snow, this can make for a really long drive due to having to travel much slower with chains on.

What do you do for an ISP out there? I'm guessing a small consumer-grade Ku or Ka band VSAT. Or do you have a local WISP?

You are correct.

There is no cell reception, we have satellite, the ISP here in Canada is called Xplornet, which I believe uses Hughesnet. Download speed is pretty good, streaming services typically work fine with SD, voice comms. can be a bit of pain with the 700ms latency. Since covid-19 with many more people working from home etc. I have noticed a significant drop in bandwidth and how spikey latency can get at times

My nephew lives in a very isolated rural area on the east coast and I think you're overselling the "people in the community learn emergency medicine" part - he has no idea how to handle much more than stopping bleeding for a cut (his answer to any size cut is to slather it with antibiotic ointment, which the doctors then have to scrub out before they can suture) or maybe stabilizing a broken leg enough to move someone to the pickup truck.

Likewise, while he does repair things, I wouldn't say they are done well -- his electrical panel is a mess, I spent a couple weekends trying to help bring things up to code (and I'm not even an electrician), like replacing taped hand-twisted wire splices with junction boxes - the tape was melted on one of them from overheating.

He does own an impressive set of guns, but his car has a hole in it after accidentally shooting it while cleaning a loaded gun, so gun safety is not his strong suit.

He has a 4WD, but it's been a 2WD for the past couple years because he can't afford the parts needed to fix it, he cruises junkyards when he can to try to find what he needs.

His closest neighbor is a half mile away and lives in a glorified shed where the water comes in on a hose and electricity comes from a generator when he can afford to fuel it.

I can believe that there are well trained survival handymen out there who are well equipped to survive on their own, but I doubt that most isolated rural people are that well trained.

He did romanticize the whole situation. The situation he's talking about could easily be the rural south or Appalachia. As someone from one of those areas, let me assure you, the "ruggedness" isn't beautiful, it's because there is a lack of service. And the ruggedness shows on the people and their homes.

I grew up in Alaska, and I think I disagree in a philosophical sense.

There's a lot of stuff hacked together in ways experts in the relevant fields would certainly not find beautiful. Expanding foam is probably not in the toolkit of very many master architects; most people have never read an electrical code (and in many places, there's no entity imposing one); many boats, snowmobiles, and other vehicles have been adapted in ways that would make the engineers who designed them want a drink or three.

Most of it works though, like that shell script you hacked together as a teenager from random mailing list archives to automate some task that still needs automating 15 years later. It works and it enables people to do things they could not otherwise do (the economics to support the relevant professional services wouldn't work). I see a beauty in that.

There is beauty in a utility shell script. But I guarantee you, no one in this forum wants to work at an org or in a society where everything is a mishmash of shell-scripts. It's sometimes nicer to have things that scale and are standardized across the board.

No doubt. Rural life does not scale past a certain point, which is why cities exist.

Just as long as the romance is tempered with the reality of the occasional house-fire.

It is, but those usually stem from the need for heat in the extreme cold, which is often achieved by the old fashioned method of burning wood in a stove.

Most wood stove fires aren't directly because of the stove, but people who have gone years and years without ever cleaning their chimney or try to slow burn lots of shit wood like pine. And when the chimney builds up with tons of creosote it can then catch on fire and burn inside the chimney, seriously overheating it and causing a fire.

Speaking of pine, it's harder and harder to find decent firewood that isn't mixed with pine. We mostly cut our own from felled trees on the lot, of which there is no shortage, but sometimes it's handy to buy the odd cord and boy has the quality gone downhill.

Yep, I live in the Rockies and it's all we have here. Everybody in the mountains are burning pine. Just season it the best you can. Burning wood is also the main way to go because gas is too cost prohibitive up here.

I'm curious to understand why gas is prohibitive in the Rockies, if you don't mind. It's (at least, it seems to be) so ubiquitous in the Sierra's (where I am right now) that I kind of assumed it was like this every where in the mountains today.

I genuinely enjoyed your story about your nephew, but it's bit like telling an anecdote about an incompetent engineer and then saying there isn't a large number of engineers that are good at solving problems.

The funny thing is that I grew up in London, then lived in Cambridge, Heidelberg, Seattle and Philadelphia - 55+ years of thoroughly urban living. 18 months ago I moved to a place where your opening sentence applies broadly.

Yet somehow, I still learned how to do most of the things you list in your second paragraph before I got here.

And I have neighbors here who are completely clueless about most of those things. They survive, in some cases, by cultivating long term relationships with the right people.

I think you have to be careful with the correlation/causatio n issue when making points like this.

Pretty much the same, I can re-wire a house (factory actually though it's been a long time since I trained as an industrial sparks), plaster, do basic joinery, plumbing, tiling, engine/motorcycle maintenance (I do my motorcycle and rebuilt scramblers when I was a kid), weld (not done it for a long time but it'd come back), sheet metal work etc all to a reasonable or better standard.

I've never lived out in the country, always in or on the edges of towns, 80% of anything is been willing to give it a go, the other 20% is been willing to learn from fucking it up the first time.

I genuinely don't understand people who aren't willing to learn this stuff even if they pay someone else to do it down the line (which makes sense sometimes).

I know people my age who can't rewire a plug which is frankly embarrassing.

> A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. (Time enough for Love - Heinlein)

> I genuinely don't understand people who aren't willing to learn this stuff even if they pay someone else to do it

As a rich guy I knew used to say, do what you do best, and give away all the rest.

I spent my 30s doing all the things you mentioned and more. There was some joy in it, I will admit, but I am vastly less wealthy than if I had focused on my consulting business and learned how to negotiate and supervise the outsourcing of those tasks.

I know a lot of 'do it yourself' types and none of them are wealthy. I know a lot of wealthy people and none of them are 'do it yourself' types. It sucks to admit it, because there is a lot of 'manliness' associated with self-reliance, but it is often a foolish pursuit. Comparative advantage is real and you can use it to get ahead in life.

I think you are conflating things. The idea I see behind most self-reliance is that it significantly reduces the amount of wealth needed to accomplish everyday tasks. Following that, you wouldn't see much of a need for those do-it-yourself types to accumulate wealth just for the sake of doing so.

> you wouldn't see much of a need for those do-it-yourself types to accumulate wealth just for the sake of doing so.

Exactly this.

Money is a way to get other people to do things for you.

If you are happier doing the things yourself, the money doesn't have much use.

At a certain point, gaining more wealth just doesn't matter.

Yeah I noticed this. There are lots of kids or people who feel redundant and empty because whatever they want to do they can just buy it or hire someone else to do it for them. No need to do anything yourself but it also means nobody needs you which means people don't see anything in you other than your money.

The only way you can liberate yourself from this is by getting your hands dirty yourself.

Or by taking pride in the work you do to earn the money.

I really don't think one precludes the other.

You can take pride in the work you get paid for and the work you do outside of work just the same.

Some things have economies of scale. I could in theory dig minerals out of the ground, refine and distill them, and do the chemistry required to turn them into antibiotics... but that'd be about a million times more expensive (in bootstrapping monetary cost and labor) than just getting together with a bunch of people to found an oil refinery and a drug factory.

If only we didn't live in a world of property taxes...

Wealth should not be sneered at. Wealth buys a new well for your farm. Wealth buys you tools to expand your capabilities. Wealth allows you to exploit the capabilities of society to accomplish things beyond yourself. Do you want to preserve gun or property rights so you can continue to live a self-reliant lifestyle? That takes wealth(or you can cop-out and let other people do it for you).

I am well aware of the saying "sell your time to buy the time that other people sold", but that cynically omits the benefits of comparative advantage. Most HN readers time is far more valuable than a plumber or carpenter.

> Most HN readers time is far more valuable than a plumber or carpenter.

Are you sure about that? A good plumber, here in Seattle, can cost $300/hour.

Depends on how many hours you can work, though, and how many hours you're not getting paid for.

That's extremely rare in Seattle, maybe for overnight emergency, and that "hour" includes drive/admin time and overhead costs.


I think part of the problem is we’ve confused (and society has disproportionately valued) what is valuable to the economy vs what is valuable to society.

I think it was Penn Jillette who basically said we should most value those who we’d want around in the apocalypse. Farmers, doctors, mechanics would all be worth more than a financier. Maybe the irony is that in the coming decades they will have their comeuppance if their jobs are least likely to be automated away

David Graeber (RIP) and others would seriously question whether the financier even does anything for the economy, let alone society.

A financier works to efficiently allocate resources in the economy, which is very valuable.

Right, valuable to the economy. But my original point is that “what is valuable to the economy” and “what is valuable to society” may be divergent

I think the argument is they provide liquidity to an economy, but I’m not sure how that it translated to a value assessment

On one end of the spectrum, they make capital available to businesses in order for them to bootstrap and expand. They pick winners and losers and make decisions that significantly alter the course of economic development.

On the other end of the spectrum, they gamble on tulips. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

There's everything in-between. Factor in the universal human tendency for self-delusion, and you got tulip pushers who think they are moving the pillars of world.

The counter argument (Mariana Mazzucato in particular) is that they extract value rather than create value, and this, like all other value extraction, is a net harm.

If you want to apply a respect/disrespect lens, "I could do that" is the disrespectful position.

The respectful position is "this isn't my speciality, it's yours, tell me what you need and I'll get out of the way."

"The time it would take me to acquire your skills is more valuable than what you'd charge to fix my problem" is acknowledging the plumber's value, not diminishing it.

Is it your position that plumbers charge low rates just to be nice

You seem to be protecting a lot into a simple price comparison.

You're not being snarky. Seems pretty on the mark.

I can afford to pay others to help, but at the same time I know how to do myself 90% of what I need. That means I can fix something that breaks at midnight and have a professional do a permanent fix, if needed, in the morning. I can also fix by motorcycle or mountain bike when it breaks in the middle of the mountains 20 miles from the closest village, calling for help is many times not an option due to lack of phone signal. Yes, it is nice to do only what you do best, but it's not a good idea to be ignorant of skills that may be essential sometimes.

If I didn't do it myself, it wouldn't be done. Not everyone has the option of hiring everything done.

If you have nothing better to do with your time then go ahead! It can be a fine choice in many situations. For many HN types whose time is far more valuable than many tradespeople, it is a financially reckless choice.

I haven't seen skilled tradespeople that charge less than me. Sure you can hire people with zero qualifications for less than your salary but they will usually do a worse job.

> I know a lot of 'do it yourself' types and none of them are wealthy.

You have to do the math on this carefully though.

A lot of people think like this. I get paid $200 an hour, my electrician gets paid $100 an hour, therefore I should pay my electrician $100 and use the time I saved to make $200. But plenty of those jobs don't actually take an hour, even though that's the minimum billing time. So when they take ten minutes, you've got to pay the electrician $600 before you save enough time to make $200 yourself.

Then you've got a transaction costs problem. You called the plumber, but now you've got to let them in, explain the problem, review the invoice, submit payment. It could take the same amount of time as doing it yourself. It could take longer.

Then you've got a knowledge problem. If you take the time to understand how things work then you see warning signs, so you fix things while they're still a $5 problem instead of not understanding that it will turn into a $5000 problem. Or in reverse, not realizing that the person you're paying for services is charging you $5000 for something that could still be fixed for $5.

Then you've got a tax problem. You thought you were "making" $200, but actually half of that is going to taxes, whereas 100% of the money you're spending is actually getting spent.

The result is that the person who works more and pays for everything instead of doing it themselves has a higher annual income on paper, but less actual disposable income because they lose more than that to taxes and costs, and less free time because they're actually working more in reality.

> A lot of people think like this. I get paid $200 an hour, my electrician gets paid $100 an hour, therefore I should pay my electrician $100 and use the time I saved to make $200.

The flaw of course is that $200 is not opportunity cost. Your time is only worth money if you’d otherwise be working. So when I get home from my 9-5 job where I make a fixed salary, and fix my faucet, that job just got done for free. There was no opportunity cost because I don’t get paid hourly and was already done with work for the day.

I’m a rather extreme DIYer, and I can confidently say I would not live the lifestyle I do if I paid people to repair my car, build my furniture, cook my food, mow my lawn, do all my home improvements, plumbing, electrical work, fix my electronics. All that labor adds up, especially in the expensive Bay Area. If you take what you’d otherwise spend on all that, starting say age 20, and instead put it into your retirement account you could probably retire 5-10 years early.

Specialization is the nature of capitalism so what you say is true. However, not everybody has the aim to optimize "getting ahead in life" in terms of accumulating the most material wealth. A propos of the linked article, I know people in the high desert former-frontier whose ideal retirement is running a lodge or campground, constantly working as a general handyman. To them, that hits on many of the things necessary to find fulfillment: creativity, mastery, autonomy, purpose. They'd rather be put to pasture than trade that for some exorbitantly paying SV gig.

And they'll say that until that wealth could have done something useful for them, like defend their freedoms from encroachment or promote causes they find valuable.

Wealth is worth far more than fancy cars and fine clothing. I couldn't give a shit about expensive material possessions but I think that only an utter fool would disavow themselves of wealth. Don't be conned into thinking wealth is synonymous with frivolous, ostentatious displays and vanity.

You hit the nail on the head. Wealth isn’t about loving green pieces of paper. It’s about the freedom it provides. But from his place, he’s already doing exactly what he wants. There’s literally nothing he wants more than what he has. Now maybe that would change if his health is constrained, but as it stands he spends everyday exactly how he would spend his weekends if he was working at a 9-5.

That freedom of time is all that money can ultimately provide in the best sense. However, amassing wealth by moving away from that is definitely counter-productive. Wealth is just a means to an end; if the end is already at hand it provides little to no marginal utility.

>80% of anything is been willing to give it a go, the other 20% is been willing to learn from fucking it up the first time.

Them's the old rules. New rules: 45% of it is being willing to give it a go, 65% of it is knowing how to find the right YouTube video to watch so you don't fuck it up.


Oh man, YouTube is such a godsend when it comes to learning so many things but it also promotes terrible behavior for those looking to monetize information that would be better served up as plain text. Anything physical, such as learning an exercise or doing a car repair falls into the former category. On the other hand, there is a lot of very good talking head content that could be served up as plain text. Instead it’s gated in the form of video purely for YouTube monetization. I would gladly pay money for quality transcripts if that was an option.

A lot of the useful "how-to" content on youtube is created by people wanting to make a buck from creating the videos.

The first 10% is knowing what is dangerous enough that you need to look up how to do is safely first. I've worked on high voltage electronics - I'm still here because I knew to figure out safety first.

Same with gas (not petrol), it's the one thing in my house I absolutely would not under any circumstances touch.

Electricity I understand and how to work safely with it, water is the same (and the outcome isn't likely to kill you) but gas, gas will blow out the walls.

It's remarkable how safe we made it actually when you think about it but all of those lessons where often learnt in blood and strife.

Gas is crazy. The only time I needed to have gas pipes rerouted, it needed a change before the meter and the shut-off valve. So the gas company guys started the work ... by cutting a live gas pipe, intentionally lighting the leaking gas on fire, and welding a connection while the not-yet-welded hole was acting as a small flamethrower. Apparently that's considered safe to do with low-pressure small diameter pipes, but it seemed absolutely, totally insane.

burning gas never builds up to explosive concentrations, so it is what they do. I've heard other stories. A friend of mine cut a gas main digging, and when he called emergency they told him he should have lit a match instantly, it is too late now just evacuate the neighborhood. (the gas company was mad until he pointed out the gas main markings a safe distance away from where he was digging)

Nah you look for the youtube video after you've fucked it up.

Honestly though YouTube and the patient people who set out to show you how to do something is great (particulary the creators), it is an amazing resource for that.

Parent knows that

That's why it takes 110% of the time.

That Heinlein quote is nice, but also a little absurd.

I can change a wall outlet or a light switch, but if I'm rewiring my house, I'm calling my brother-in-law, the electrician, just like he calls me when he wants a trumpet player. (And if he wants a guitar player, he calls my brother, not me.)

Specialization is for people in communities, which we all are whether we want to admit it or not.

Building a moral philosophy around a fiction author who didn't even follow his own advice is absurd.

> I genuinely don't understand people who aren't willing to learn this stuff even if they pay someone else to do it down the line (which makes sense sometimes).

Eh, I've only got so many hours on the planet, I've got a lot more spare money than spare time. I'd really rather just pay someone to fix it and spend my time doing something more fun.

I don't know. Just buying something is usually boring and makes you feel powerless.

It's not always a matter of willingness. Many people didn't have opportunities early in life to learn these skills, and as older adults they probably don't have the free time.

True plus modern urban living means people don't have sheds/garages both of which I had access to growing up with a lot of the tools as well.

> I know people my age who can't rewire a plug which is frankly embarrassing.

I’m sure there’s a country / culture factor there, but that’s rather condescending. I’m in my thirties, and there isn’t a single place I’ve lived in as an adult where it would have been OK for me to mess with the electricity, plumbing, or even paint the walls.

Putting a new plug on your kettle is allowed in all 50 states and most if not all of western Europe.

I misunderstood then - I interpreted the parent as being about the wall socket, because I wasn't aware that rewiring the actual plug was a thing you could do (or that these things ever failed, in fact).

I guess I'm a double embarrassment then!

You're not an embarrassment. Different people know different things.

Rewiring a plug is an extremely rare need..2

I was completely flummoxed when I went away to college and found I was the only person in my entire dormitory with a screwdriver, pliers, or a hammer. Nobody else was able to put together the end table they'd bought, hang a picture, etc. I was mystified that anyone would go to live somewhere for a 9 month stretch, full time, and not bring a screwdriver (or a first aid kit). Likewise the many people who didn't bring curtains or even a bowl or mug (the college had sent every incoming student a list of suggested items to bring, including window measurements). Forget the people who couldn't wash their own clothes. Some people are just raised to be useless human beings.

> They survive, in some cases, by cultivating long term relationships with the right people.

This is also a survival skill. There's no necessity to cultivate this in a middle-class urban environment when you can just call somebody.

If I fix the car or computer for the old retired farmer down the road, but then bags and boxes of fresh, homegrown vegetable regularly appear on my porch, then that works out quite nicely, actually.

Last night I was on my way home on a relatively remote stretch in eastern Idaho that's 30 minutes from the nearest EMS and came upon a head on collision that just happened. Several others not involved surrounded the scene pretty quickly and started assessing the injured. I literally finished my Wilderness First Aid certification Saturday afternoon.

>> 30 minutes from the nearest EMS

In even the most developed inner cities of the US, a 30-minute response time is not unusual. A car crash with injuries, blood on the street, would certainly be top of the 911 priority list other factors like traffic often mean delays.

"In July 2019, it took the NYPD more than 20 minutes on average to respond to all of its 911 calls. This July, it was about 18 minutes."


So, part of that is that even when an ambulance gets there, what happens next?

The nearest hospital in rural areas is guaranteed to not be even a level II trauma center. So it takes 30 minutes for an ambulance to get on-scene, then maybe it's an hour drive to a trauma center (optimistic), or they're going to need to get a helicopter, which can easily be another 40 minutes of waiting.

That urban EMS crew might be shooting to load-and-go with the patient inside of ten minutes. That means even with 20-min response time they can deliver the patient to a trauma center within an hour. Out in the boondocks, the golden hour is laughable.


> So, part of that is that even when an ambulance gets there, what happens next? […] Out in the boondocks, the golden hour is laughable.

In the province in Ontario, where we have a few density populated communities often surrounded by large stretches of wilderness, folks are transported by helicopter in emergencies:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_ambulance

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_medical_services

* https://sunnybrook.ca/content/?page=rooftop-helipad

If you look at the list of heliports in the province, you'll see quite a number of them are at hospitals:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Heliports_in_Ontario

Including ones, like St. Mike's and Sick Kids, in high density areas where they're often at the top of high-rise towers:

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OtDwkg-jGI

There are also non-emergency patient transportation services:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ornge

We have air ambulances in the US. With it being the US and the community being largely rural and poor, it's more economic to die than be flown to help. Most families can't swing a $40,000 cost for a life flight, and insurance in some cases won't cover it.


Weird, the article talks about air ambulances being billed as out of network. I thought that after Obamacare passed insurance companies were required to treat all emergency care as if it were in-network. Does that not apply to transportation? Or are helicopters being used in situations that insurance doesn't think are emergencies?

The point is that nobody knows the answer to this. Good luck fighting the insurance company in court.

In Ontario (and Canada) the majority of healthcare costs are done via taxes through our single-payer systems (health is provincial jurisdiction, hence plural; though there are federal equalization payments).

That's fine. Just don't tell them you're poor until after the flight.

That depends on the nature of the ambulance service. In the US/Canada, ambulances cover basic stabilization and transport the nearest trauma center. We in NA have a culture whereby minimally-equipped ambulances are tasked to deliver patients to hospitals asap. That approach isn't universal, nor is it necessarily the best. In France, some ambulances bring docs with them to do things beside the road that in the US would only be attempted at a trauma center. That could mean stopping the ambulance by the road so the doc can work. Helicopters also act differently, often taking the patient not to the nearest hospital but to the one that is best equipped for the case (ie the one with an MRI for suspected stroke).

My first time through first aid training was just after princess Diana died. The trainers from the local level one hospital were convinced that if the accident had happened in the US she would have lived. They even had a local case of a very similar accident just a month before where those involved lived, in large part because it wasn't on doctor in the ambulance trying to do things it was over a dozen doctors specializing in different things working on their part at the same time.

Of course the point of all the above is call 911 (or the local emergency number) ASAP, the faster you can get experts involved the better.

There are plenty of stories/opinions one way or the other. What occasionally comes up are situations where doctors unexpectedly arrive at accident scenes, take over, and apply procedures that the ambulance crews are totally untrained for.

"Dr. Mark Forrest knew he had to act fast to save the life of a man he watched go into cardiac arrest after a motorcycle accident — so he opened up the man's chest right there on the road and brought him back from the dead."


Which is great if you have the right training for what is needed. If you are a great heart surgeon and arrive at the scene of a stroke you don't have the right training to do anything useful other than basic first aid.

That’s a fascinating story. I wonder what procedure was actually performed.

I'd guess this is a case where the average (especially arithmetic mean) is misleading. suppose a hypothetical fire department gets four 911 calls in a day. three are for life threatening traffic accidents, and they get a vehicle on-scene in six minutes. the last call was for a cat stuck in a tree. the cat isn't going anywhere, so they take an hour to get there. they responded pretty quickly to the most serious calls, but their average response time for the day was about 20 minutes. a single outlier for a low priority situation can severely skew the arithmetic mean.

I can't find a specific breakdown of time differentials between the two groups of calls, but dispatch times should be separated between 'Code 3' dispatch, which is lights and sirens for an immediate threat to life and limb, and 'Code 2' dispatch, which is no lights and sirens.

That's a bit misleading: FDNY's average end-to-end response time for something like a vehicle accident is just about nine minutes based on recent data.

That's from the moment you finish dialing 911 until the point where the fire truck/ambulance arrives, and includes the time that you spend talking to the 911 operator etc.

There are several “times” in a 911 call FYI, it’s not always clear what ones are being used for response time, which is better reported as a median as well.

1. Call time - at 9am Joe calls 911 and reports their cat has fell out of a tree.

2. Dispatch Queue Time - ideally, at 905am or quickly after the call to 911 time, Dispatcher puts this call into the stack for the police officer that works on Joes beat (let’s say normally that is Officer111). This is accompanied by a call out over the radio to Officer111 to see what he’s doing.

3. Officer acknowledge time - usually along with the radio call-out from dispatch, 905am, the event record for Joe and his cat appear on the screen for all the officers in the district. Let’s say Officer111 is at a car crash, and cannot respond. The event record is still on all Officer screens, and Dispatch asks one of the district officers to go help Joe and his fallen cat. Nearby Officer112 “accepts” the call (via radio and on their laptop). It is 906am when Officer112 accepts the task. He is are now enroute (at 906am)

4. Arrival time - it takes Officer112 14 minutes to get to the scene because it is not his beat and he was in traffic. He pulls up at 920am.

5. Clear time - at 930am, the cat is taken off in an ambulance, and Officer112 tells dispatch over the radio to clear him off the fallen cat call.

Dispatch delay - diff between call recieved and being put into the queue

Response time - time from Officer acknowledgement in the queue to arrival time. In some cases it will be recorded with a timestamp when Officer says enroute.

Cleared time - arrival to clear.

My point is the response time is often tricker than it seems. May be straightforward in this case, but mainly wanted to point it out for other readers.

problem is after some accidents seconds are counting. In some cases they have less than a minute from the time of the accident (not finish dialing 911) to get a transfusion started. Such cases currently all die, but the medical knowledge of how to save them exists just not a means to apply it in time.

Also, for what it's worth, we have really good helicopter support in this region too. Both medical transport as well as short haul / wilderness extraction. So response can be a lot faster if necessary.

Helicopters are tricky things. They move very quickly but from call to helicopter taking off can often be a long time. Even in the military/coast guard context, the process of authorizing a flight, turning a helicopter on, and actually getting the thing in the air can easily take 30+ minutes.

I was told once when doing a WFA practicum that if search and rescue were called it would take several hours before I could expect to see a helicopter or have a team at the trailhead. This is mostly because it's a volunteer organization and whoever is at the phone doing dispatch has to call people and get them to go from where they're at to the headquarters to get gear, and then from there to wherever they're needed. Because of typical weather conditions in Washington it's also not unusual for the helicopter to not be able to take off or search. So a medical emergency on a day hike or climb could easily turn into a frantic overnight in the backcountry.

So you have to be able to control arterial bleeds and take care of lots of stuff that in the city you may not need to worry about because an ambulance will be there in 30 minutes.

That probably depends on the team and the level of resources. I'm on my local SAR team and we can generally have the first hasty team at the trailhead in less than an hour assuming good coordinates and details on the situation. But I think wilderness SAR in general is assumed to be a long process of getting to the ambulance at the trailhead.

In the pacific northwest, helicopters are almost never used for searching. The are just too expensive/dangerous and often useless as they cannot see through fog/cloud/trees etc. Everyone heading into that backcountry should be prepared to spend a night or two in the woods. That doesn't mean hauling a tent but it does mean hauling some warm rain gear, a proper flashlight (not a cellphone) boots and some basic first aid training.

Yeah this was my point.They do have a helicopter at the Snohomish County SAR but they advised us that we shouldn't count on it and that we especially shouldn't count on it being sortied very quickly relative to a suburban ambulance service. I think that's one of the reasons cited for Emergency Shelter being part of the 10 Essentials. If you have to do extensive first aid or one of your party is incapacitated you will probably be overnighting in the backcountry here even if you're on a day hike or climb.

Are those helicopers lacking IR capability? They should have it, and that should work in most conditions.

Even in perfect weather at popular locations not far from major services. At Eagle Creek in Oregon a hiker ran past me headed to the trailhead (no cell coverage) at around 2pm after a hiker fell into a ravine at Seven Mile Falls. While there were multiple doctors who happened to be hiking, the rescue crew and paramedics didn't arrive until after 10pm.

Yes for sure. Not that it makes a difference, but this is due to 30 minutes of travel at 60ish mph. No traffic delays.

Highly recommend you keep going with it when time allows. I got my wEMT license a few years back and although it's lapsed now it was a really fun and educating experience. For those who don't have one near them I recommend SOLO school in new england -> https://soloschools.com/

Those wilderness medicine classes are awesome. Highly recommend keeping going for Wilderness First Responder. It's really, really fun.

For sure. I'm looking in to a WFR that can be done on nights and weekends instead of 2 weeks off work.

In Bay Area:


My memory is that there are classes with two all-day weekends and evenings during week. But I can't find the detailed schedule. So ~10 days.

Nice. Yes, it's 80 hours.

My family in Southern Idaho are a good 30 min from the nearest EMS, and probably 45-60 from a major hospital.

Pretty normal stuff out in the sticks.

There's a town in Alaska where you need to have your appendix removed in order to live there because the nearest hospital is 625 miles away.


>" There's a town in Alaska where you need to have your appendix removed in order to live there because the nearest hospital is 625 miles away."

Your link talks about Antarctica, not Alaska.

I'm pretty sure you can learn to remove your own appendix, how hard can it be?

If memory serves, the policy mandating the removal of the appendix before travel to Antarctica was born after the sole physician living there had no other choice than to perform an appendectomy on himself.

Wikipedia: The operation started at 02:00 local time on 1 May with the help of a driver and meteorologist, who provided instruments and held a mirror so Rogozov could observe areas not directly visible. Rogozov lay in a semi-reclining position, half-turned to his left side. A solution of 0.5% novocaine was used for local anesthesia of the abdominal wall. Rogozov made a 10–12 cm incision of the abdominal wall, but while opening the peritoneum he accidentally cut the cecum and had to suture it. Then he exposed the appendix. According to his report, the appendix was found to have a dark stain at its base, and Rogozov estimated it would have burst within a day. The appendix was resected and antibiotics were applied directly into the peritoneal cavity. General weakness and nausea developed about 30–40 minutes after the start of the operation so that short pauses for rest were repeatedly needed after that. By about 04:00 the operation was complete.

I know you're joking, but someone has actually done that: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/03/antar...

You mean Antarctica.

But it is a fascinating story, thank you for bringing it up!

The linked article is about a town in Antarctica, not Alaska.

> In many parts of the United States when you call 911, you're lucky if anyone shows up within an hour. It's a couple hours to get to a Wal-Mart or a store. It's difficult to get anyone to drive 40 minutes outside the nearest town and navigate unmarked dirt roads to do basic plumbing or home repairs.

That's pretty far out; I think that's pretty extreme. At least in Idaho/WA IMO (different geography and settlement pattern, prolly). But your point is still valid for the bulk of rural US - you just gotta know how to deal, because the cavalry is a ways out and expensive.

I'm thinking California East of the Sierras. Mono County, Inyo County, San Bernardino County, slivers of Riverside County, and Imperial County.

If you're in Amargosa, Shoshone, Tecopa, Wonder Valley, Lanfair Valley, Kelso, Amboy, Cadiz, Fenner, etc., it's a long way off from anything.

Pop open Gooogle maps and try to find the nearest dispatch location for an ambulance to Fenner, and then put that into perspective with the amount of traffic on the I-40 corridor. CHP can call an airship, but I've seen burn patients sit dying for an hour while waiting for a helicopter to become available for dispatch.

I invite you to visit Northern Michigan! This world exists only 7 hours, by car, north of Chicago, a metro area with something like 9.5 million people. Hardly 'pretty far out' in my opinion. Growing up I had to call EMS a few times for various things, if you're not directly in town or on a tourist road, one can expect some seriously long waits. Washed out 2 track during a light rain isn't exactly something an ambulance move quickly on.

People adapt to their environments, if you have to fix your car in the country, you learn to fix your car. If you have to fix your car in the city, you learn to schmooze the repair guy into giving you a better deal.

We have a homestead in NE WA we are developing, a few weeks ago, for the first time ever, I called 911 because of a potentially dangerous laceration. We have a full first aid kit with plenty of "stop the bleed" stuff but I didn't want to take any chances. So because the bleeding was controlled we waited for the EMTs.

It took 25 minutes for the EMTs to arrive. But that is because the nearest EMT team was not on another call. Otherwise, it could have take 45-60 minutes to get a team from the next nearest town/county.

Later that day on the way home to Seattle we stopped at an urgent care to get stitches for $175.

Though, I am seriously thinking about getting an AED to keep out there.

One of the posters above mentioned Wilderness First Aid, which is a great course. Wilderness First Responder goes more above-and-beyond and includes things like relocating a dislocated kneecap or shoulder, splinting, bandaging, administering injections, wound care, clearing a spine, identifying brain swelling from a head injury, etc.

You can do it in a week, living on-site.

Edit: There's also a component on helicopter operations, such as laying out a landing site for when things get really spicy.

Yeah, that's one of those remoter areas! No doubt about it. If you need an AED, definitely get it.

Another important factor is not just distance geography, but the population density's impact on taxes and funding for Police/EMS/Fire. Maybe from a geo perspective someone can get there faster, but if there are only a couple "someones" and they are already dealing with something else...

Statistically, less people, fewer emergencies, but that's not much comfort when you're the one having a statistically unlikely emergency!

1,000% this. I worked on ambulances in a fairly urban area, and even there the number of times we were at 'level zero,' or no available units for dispatch was unsettling to say the least.

I lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains for a while and had a tolerable commute into San Jose. A 911 call would yield a response no sooner than 30 minutes. So, not very far out at all, but definitely a set of circumstances that encouraged self-reliance.

> In many parts of the United States when you call 911, you're lucky if anyone shows up within an hour.

And not necessarily only rural parts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPNK0VspQ0M

Can anecdotally confirm. Sometimes it quite annoys me that those personality traits are so embedded in myself though, because it seems to constantly be a headbutting of cultures that so many Americans on the coastal big cities just don't get or approve of, and love to condescendingly talk about that kind of personality as lesser or barbarous in some way.

I love the mountains and freedom they offered me, the lessons they taught me, and the beauty and solitude from an exhausting world they provided. After the war when I became an atheist, I would tell others in the community when they asked me to go to church that the mountains are my church.

All that said, I doubt it will last. There is a huge influx of people (not just retirees, but refugees from the coastal cities) who would be considered rich into mountain communities, driving out the locals by prices and changing the demographic hugely. I keep a close eye on land for sale and land parcels that used to be huge are starting to be divided into 5 acre parcels and sold off... I can already see the distant future of this, turning mountain towns into you have to be rich towns like Aspen, and it makes me very sad.

I can't wait till we have independent space travel, which is when I believe the frontier spirit will be reborn again. Humanity will need it then again! Alas, I probably won't live that long.

>"headbutting of cultures that so many Americans on the coastal big cities just don't get or approve of, and love to condescendingly talk about that kind of personality as lesser or barbarous in some way."

This cultural divide has deep roots in the power struggle that was created when the people who settled the Appalachian's figured out that converting fields of corn into distilled bottles of whisky was far more profitable since it could travel infinitely farther without spoilage along the trade routes.

They were "dirt poor" prior to this because they could generate fresh produce that had a limited scope and value on the market.

That's when the war on stills began and there was a very thorough campaign of misinformation about how "dumb hillbillies" were going to blow themselves up/make everyone blind trying to operate a simple still.

It was really about the potential shift in economic power if that region was able to leverage vast lands for growing and creating highly profitable alcohol that could be sold across the country.

That campaign/lobby was so effective that it still resonates to this day.

That's an interesting take I hadn't really thought of before. Do you have any book or reading recommendations on the topic?

"Albion's Seed" by David Hackett Fischer was the foundation of the Appalachian studies course I took a couple decades ago. Basically you had the old Tidewater aristocracy, the Puritans who supplanted them as the intellectual elite from the Revolution to the Civil War, and the Scots Irish who were kicked from the border marches to Ireland to America to Appalachia. Explains a lot of the class and religious differences that are still apparent in the red/blue divide.

If you're interested about the booze side of things, I recommend "The Alcoholic Republic" https://www.amazon.com/Alcoholic-Republic-American-Tradition...

Not the GP and I don't have any book recommendations but, at least as a starting point, it begins with the history of the Whiskey Rebellion.

This is happening where I live. Previously huge tracks of mountain and forest are slowly being cut up. However, it's the rich newcomers that are selfish with their land. When we were children we had ATVs/dirtbikes and could put in hundred miles a day of riding. Now many trails have gates and no trespassing signs. Used to be a sense of shared commonwealth amongst connected properties. Now, it's the "privatization" of nature and it sucks. I miss the old days.

Also, totally get the condescension you speak of. "Oh. You do your own <plumbing,welding,lawn, automotive,...>! How quaint."

Where do these parcel divisions get recorded exactly? I thought it would be a really fascinating open data source record to capture all the timelines of land being divvied up and sold and when houses get built through some map timelapse videos.

Unfortunately it depends on the state, and some states don't have electronic records of these sorts of things. There exists a whole subculture of people, some for research and some for profit motives, who stalk the dark halls of records buildings to glean that info. Other states however, I think you could probably manage that.

Counter-point: ATVs and dirtbikes are noisy and tear up terrain and don't belong in "nature" aka the private property of people that don't want to hear them or see their tracks.

My eyes are wide open. I agree with private property. But we're not talking backyards and prestine grasslands. These are remote rocky old mining trails, logging trails, and train tracks. I ain't saying there is any easy solution. I just miss riding like I used to be able.

> Sometimes it quite annoys me that those personality traits are so embedded in myself though, because it seems to constantly be a headbutting of cultures that so many Americans on the coastal big cities just don't get or approve of, and love to condescendingly talk about that kind of personality as lesser or barbarous in some way.

"rugged individualists" always seem to care a lot about how they are viewed by "coastal elites". We'd all be a lot happier if we cared less about how we are viewed by others.

It's not just about caring how I am viewed for no reason, it's that I have to deal with the culutural differences daily both professionally and personally, but mostly professionally. I keep my politics etc to myself in the workplace, but the coastal elites seem to want to shove theirs down everyones throats, even in the workplace, which is very jarring. It's one of the same reasons I fled the bible belt and went to DC for a while (only to find I disliked the east coast), but to see the similarities in dogmatism and tribalism between the bible belt and the coastal elites is... informative.

I keep having this semi-irrational fear that the SV startup I work for will found out I'm not "one of them" and fire me for cultural differences.

And these fears are not unfounded. For example, the 12 year old Colorado student suspended from school because of a toy gun being seen on Zoom. And that was just a toy...

Firearms are just one such cultural flashpoint, where "don't ask don't tell" is really the only modus operandi for those surviving inside the SV monoculture.


Based on your tone, it sure sounds like you care what they think.

I really don't but whatever

It begins to matter more when “coastal elites” don’t just view “rugged individualists” a certain way, but also wish to exert power/influence over them via policy.

Middle America (probably more accurate to say rural) non elites wish to exert just as much, if not more power over others via restricting individual’s choices of what they can consume or do with their body.

Flip side of the coin: we'd all be a lot happier if we didn't view others with disrespect.

Disrespect comes form ignorance so that's another one we should ought to look out for

> said, I doubt it will last. There is a huge influx of people (not just retirees, but refugees from the coastal cities) who would be considered rich into mountain communities, driving out the locals by prices and changing the demographic hugely. I keep a close eye on land for sale and land parcels that used to be huge are starting to be divided into 5 acre parcels and sold off... I can already see the distant future of this, turning mountain towns into you have to be rich towns like Aspen, and it makes me very sad.

I wouldn't worry too much about a large influx of people, there's more than enough land to accommodate the little influx - there aren't quite so many people who move up into the mountains and those can make a decent community and a healthy local economy. You can even migrate further into the wilderness, yes it sucks that you are forced to but there's a silver lining to all this.

Same here. I moved to eastern Idaho 3 years ago from a lifetime in northern Ohio (born and raised). Oddly I immediately felt more at home here and still do. It just fits me and seems to be the opposite of the industrial / Motor City region of the Midwest. Of course, the coastal elitism that you're referring to is aimed at Midwesterners too, but I think my clash was with the collectivism of the unionized blue collar culture.

One aspect that I can see being particularly troublesome is the "closely guarding their resources and distrusting strangers." I'm sure those traits were developed with good reason, but it can make forming relationships very difficult with the kind of personality that is by nature welcoming and trusting. While I would never describe that mindset as barbaric, it is true that I would like to see societies move toward an ideal where trust and generosity are the norm.

That’s the one constant with population growth. The remote parts of the world won’t be so remote as time goes on.

On your point about space travel, it doesn’t even have to be that far. The moon or mars aren’t that terribly far on conventional rockets. If we could terraform mars for our arrival, though, that would be cool. Maybe this unlocks another explosion of population growth, similar to the industrial revolution and improvements in medicine?

The early settlers of North American were in some sense selected by personality. It must have taken a certain sort of risk-taking personality to give up everything and climb aboard a crowded rickety passenger ship for a month-long journey to a vast and mostly uninhabited land. The people who arrived in America and decided to take it one step further by moving away from the crowded cities of the east into the vast and dangerous interior of the continent must have been a special breed.

You can still see some of these early mountain towns today--some are practically unchanged from what they looked like 100 years ago.

>> the crowded cities of the east into the vast and dangerous interior of the continent must have been a special breed.

The cities were not what we would call safe. If you are living in total poverty inside a city without access to any real services, that empty field doesn't seem so bad. The "free land" thing was also a plus. Rather than risk-takers, they were more akin to desperate opportunists.

Well the coastal cities at least had a steady source of food for the poor as long as they were willing to dig for it [0].

[0]: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/oysters-new-york-city-...

You can trace the famines and wars in Europe between 1700 and 1900 by going to any town and finding the "X national historic center" and looking when the town was founded. People didn't just leave their family and friends in Europe for the fun of it. Most left because life was downright deadly back home and so staying was not an option no matter what they went into.

Getting to America was no easy. Families of 5 kids would leave, 2 would die on the way (if you got a cold on board the sailors would throw you overboard to ensure it didn't spread), then a third would be sold as an indentured servant (only slightly better than a slave, and it would only last 7 years - but no way to contact them after the 7 years were up). Then you have to find a place to live...

> if you got a cold on board the sailors would throw you overboard to ensure it didn't spread)

Curious, do you have a source for this?

Great question, no.

We know that a large number of families left Europe with more kids than they arrived with, and disease was a problem. But I'm not enough of a historian to know how to find a source for any of that.

So I moved to Calgary, AB, Canada around 2000 along with a huge number of other Canadians and people from around the world primarily as economic migrants. The city has changed dramatically since then but I noticed that it attracted a lot of people with a similar pioneer style attitude; you had to be willing to move far away from your family mostly for your job, and the companies here had a very western "DIY" approach as well as something to prove to the more established Eastern "genteel". Some of this is gone now but many people and organizations still display it regularly.

I lived in Calgary around 2008 for a while (and have had family there from the 70's until around 2012), and I know the attitude you're talking about.

But I have to say—I saw a lot of posturing that way more than real pioneering mindset. Calgary has been a very developed city for a long time, and no stranger to the exact same comforts and luxuries they associate with the other out east. I didn't encounter the DIY approach you did. Most were contented to take large payouts from the oil industry and its waterfall spending and take that as validation. I grew up with tales from family members who moved there about how adventurous they were and described themselves as "mavericks" while reality was a lot of three-martini lunches in upscale restaurants. I saw more of an enterprising, DIY spirit in people working in the film industry here in Toronto than I did in Calgary. (And that's not me praising Toronto). Being of ... "lower means" in Calgary isn't as fun. Hell, if I hadn't made friends with some bartenders I might not have been able to get out for a few beers as often when it was ~$8-$10 a pint back then. And then there's NE Calgary... of which Fubar† is not an entirely exaggerated depiction in my experience. Then again, that character is pretty much the same as my experience growing up in rural Ontario.

I say that with a kind heart because I met some great people while I lived there, and I miss the place. Calgary is a great town, but I just didn't see what you described there. I saw shadows of it at best—mostly in murals and ornate cowboy hats. Though—I do appreciate the pride in it.

Now, people from outside the city—that's a bit different. One funny story about that: I had a buddy/coworker from Pincher Creek who'd fed himself during college in Lethbridge by hunting a couple of bucks with his friends and getting steaks and sausages made up, and froze them for the year (because I'm pretty sure the only other grocery they bought was bad whiskey and a lot of beer). Smart guy, too. He could have got along anywhere. Maybe he is now. Not sure where he's at.

† the films

As someone who has lived in Calgary, I'd chuckle if anyone claimed to be a maverick or rugged for living there. It's a city of over 1M, which puts it in the top 5 cities in Canada by population. And it's relatively wealthy.

That's like someone from New York moving to Denver and claiming they're rugged individualists.

Your American example is exactly what occurred. Working for Gulf/Shell, downtown real-estate holders, and Cooper factory owners in Toronto, moved to Calgary to continue at Gulf/Shell. Claimed to be mavericks.

One had their trials and strengths moving from Derry, NI during the troubles but mavericks they were not!

Moving across the country ain't what it used to be--now pretty much anyone with money for an airplane ticket can do it with little to no risk. Calgary is a very cosmopolitan and modern city today, but I imagine it was pretty wild pre-1900. Alberta is still in its early stages of development, so you can definitely still find pockets of the Western mentality left

>> Alberta is still in its early stages of development

WTF? Early stages? The highways have been paved. The electrical lines have been run. Modern military bases. Highspeed internet. Cellphone coverage. Universal healthcare. Universities. Alberta is well past the "early stages" of development.

Half the province is still uninhabited wilderness. The parts that are developed are rapidly expanding--certainly nowhere near what they will be 50 or 100 years from now. Compared to Europe or China there is still a lot of room for growth

>> "...is still uninhabited wilderness."

Again, lots of people don't see that sort of development as inevitable. There is even a movement in Alberta specifically to return land from a developed to a more natural wild state, particularly the tar sands. Alberta is is not "still uninhabited", rather other parts of the planet still have yet to protect their wild areas. "Development" and progress can mean reducing human impact on the land.

I guess you could look at it in a relative sense. Compared to Beijing, it could be argued that Los Angeles is in the early stages of development.

"Early" suggests a timeline, a progression from one state to another. Most people in alberta would probably take offense to the suggestion they are somehow 'behind' Beijing. They in many ways see their economic and societal development as far 'ahead' of Beijing.

The history of modern Alberta doesn't go back much further than about 150-200 years. When you compare it with all the civilizations that have been around for hundreds or thousands of years it is certainly still in its early stages.

the vast and dangerous interior of the continent

Sounds romantic but is it the truth? I understand that immigration was spearheaded by entrepreneurs who published guides to the new land and advertised in the homeland. You can see some of the spirit in foreign graduate students - they follow recommendations and usually have a very good idea what they are getting themselves into.

You better believe the interior was dangerous before railroads and highways and air conditioning, especially the mountains and deserts of the American southwest. It's only comparatively recently that many of these places have been able to support large populations

> You better believe the interior was dangerous before railroads and highways and air conditioning, especially the mountains and deserts of the American southwest. It's only comparatively recently that many of these places have been able to support large populations

Very. In fact many books about the rise of new migrants into the Mid-west are documented with immense amounts of violence at the hands of native plain tribes, specifically the Comanche [1] who were no joke the most well refined killing force on horseback on Earth not seen since the Mongolians in their peak.

It a really fascinating, and bloody history. I live in Colorado, which is where the Arapahoe tribe was centered and much is named after them to this day. After I arrived I looked into who they were and what they did which was marked with a before-and-after with an alliance with the Lakota, Dakota, and Cheyenne tribes who only together were able to push the Comanche back to the Southern Plains as the Comanche did not care who they raided and everything was fair game.

Its pretty insane to think that not that long ago this mainly raiding nomadic tribe had the influence they did on this continent, and many Western settlers were lured into the Midwest/South only to suffer a hapless fate as so many and were captured, killed, raped, enslaved. And acted as a sort of buffer kill zone while settlement further south in Texas was taking place.

While I'm not trying to marginalize the plight of Native Americans, I even actively directly helped them with my fintech startup as my co-founder made it a priority to do so, I cannot help but think that this current political atmosphere has been very ignorant view on just what exactly was taking place as Western migration was taking place, and the amount of countless stories of barbaric violence that will never be told because no one lived to tell about it.

It doesn't justify the violence that has come since from Westerners, but it also should be noted that the thing we should be against is institutionalized violence and not just hyper-focus on those acts of a certain racial/ethnic group in Society but ask how we got here and what to do about it moving forward.

1: https://www.npr.org/2011/05/20/136438816/the-rise-and-fall-o...

> and many Western settlers were lured into the Midwest/South only to suffer a hapless fate as so many and were captured, killed, raped, enslaved.

lured? The natives ( comanche, lakota, dakota, cheyenne, etc ) didn't want western "settlers" on their land. Especially since the midwest and southwest natives already knew about the genocide committed against the natives along the east coast by the "settlers".

> It doesn't justify the violence that has come since from Westerners

Violence? It's called genocide/extermination. Lets not mince words here.

Just remember that most "history" books, even those recommended by joe rogan, are highly biased and tend to paint a highly subjective "story". Also, there is incentive to "hype" things for a targeted audience.

While driving recently through Eastern Oregon, I was absolutely flabbergasted by the landscapes. It was like the surface of another planet. Miles and miles, hours and hours of arid, dry, dirt landscapes. Nearly formless except for the rolling, dark mounds of earth.

For much of the trip there wasn't even speed signs posted, let alone cell phone service. The temperature was over 100 degrees outside. More than a few times I wondered what might happen if we ran out of gas

I have a lot of respect for our early pioneers. People were definitely made of a different material back then. Your whole life packed up in a wagon, and it's do or die.

>> who published guides to the new land and advertised in the homeland.

Most of which were full of lies and criminal exaggerations. That's why "Springfield" is the most popular town name in the US. What else would a new farmer want more than a field with its own water supply?

Don't forget the very first settlers were native american people as we call them today in the us. It's interesting to think about their views of today's self-reliance culture. I don't know what they are.

My recollection of that book is that it doesn't really cover the settling of the west, and is more focused on the earlier arrivals who spread out to cover the land between (say) the Atlantic and the Mississippi.

Relevant to this subthread, not necessarily the whole article. Parent poster was commenting about people who "give up everything and climb aboard a crowded rickety passenger ship for a month-long journey". That's the settlers in the East (many of whose descendants eventually moved west).

> The people who arrived in America and decided to take it one step further by moving away from the crowded cities of the east into the vast and dangerous interior of the continent must have been a special breed.

The consequences of this are not always 'positive' as the book Fantasyland argues:

> In this sweeping, eloquent history of America, Kurt Andersen shows that what’s happening in our country today—this post-factual, “fake news” moment we’re all living through—is not something new, but rather the ultimate expression of our national character. America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by hucksters and their suckers. Fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA.

> Over the course of five centuries—from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P. T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything-goes, wild-and-crazy sixties, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials—our love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we've never fully acknowledged. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams and epic fantasies—every citizen was free to believe absolutely anything, or to pretend to be absolutely anybody. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchens, Andersen explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails.

* https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35171984-fantasyland

An hour-long talk by the author:

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRqDzEOJImw

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Andersen

I have read that one of the strong selection factors for the settling of the west was the ability to survive beaver fever (giardiasis). Some have speculated that this may have correlations with personality traits.

It's very frustrating that it's a blanket attitude that doesn't respond to context. There are vanishingly few people in the United States for whom a fixed frontier mindset makes sense, yet many people cling to frontier logic even when they live and spend the vast majority of their time in cities and towns that have modern amenities and professional police, fire, and EMS services. If people aren't flexible enough to adapt their thinking to whatever situation they're in, then we would be so much better off with a fixed, uniform urban mindset than a frontier one. But I think many people's idea of an alternative "urban mindset" is a caricature of effete helplessness, like the Eloi in the Time Machine (or worse and more racist images.)

>The early settlers of North American were in some sense selected by personality. It must have taken a certain sort of risk-taking personality to give up everything and climb aboard a crowded rickety passenger ship for a month-long journey to a vast and mostly uninhabited land.

Many early settlers were criminals. I wonder if that personality selection shines through.


Keep in mind also that "criminal" meant something a bit different in colonial times than it does today.

It meant something more violent then today.

Yeah, like “poor”. Oh, wait...

Being a criminal, especially in times when many crimes were punishable by death, it also requires a risk-taking personality, so GP's point still stands.

50,000-120,000 might be small enough of a selection to be difficult to detect in a population of 2.5 million in 1776 when transportation ended.

> However, "openness to experience" is much higher, and the most pronounced personality trait in mountain dwellers.

> "Openness is a strong predictor of residential mobility," said Götz. "A willingness to move your life in pursuit of goals such as economic affluence and personal freedom drove many original North American frontier settlers."

> those who left their early mountain home are still consistently less agreeable, conscientious and extravert, although no such effects were observed for neuroticism and openness.

I have difficulty reconciling these statements.

- mountain dwellers have higher openness to experience

- openness to experience is a predictor for residential mobility

- but the people who move away from mountain regions _don't_ have higher openness to experience (but stay disagreeable, unconscientious and introverted)?

I would have expected the selection bias to show up in the other direction: I would expect the people who stay put to have lower openness to experience, and the people who move to have higher openness to experience.

Absolutely. You'd expect mountain people to be conservative.

They can't afford to take more risks.

Not sure if you'd expect liberal people to seed the place and conservative genetics to evolve.

Or conservative genetics to seed the place and stay strong.

> Now, well into the 21st century, researchers led by the University of Cambridge have detected remnants of the pioneer personality in US populations of once inhospitable mountainous territory, particularly in the Midwest.

As a person who was born and raised in the Midwest[1], just where are these mountainous regions they speak of in the Midwest? There's the black hills[2] and that's pretty much it. I wonder what definition of the Midwest the University of Cambridge is using, cause it sounds like they are talking about the intermountain west[3], not the midwest.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midwestern_United_States

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Hills

[3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermountain_West

As someone who lives in this "Intermountain West", I've never heard of the "Intermountain West" term before your post. It seems like a term that someone came up with, but it's never caught on.

I've typically heard of us referred to as the Western US (as opposed to the West Coast).

I hadn't heard of the term either until moving to Utah, I noticed quite a few orgs/business with the term intermountain in it, like intermountain healthcare. But when I was living in the midwest we just referred to the mountain region as "out west".

I'm from Utah, my parents ran a business with the word 'intermountain' in it but I remember thinking it was a strange word. And (aside from intermountain healthcare, which I doubt I would have remembered without your comment) I don't think it's a word I've heard or seen used otherwise.

As someone who lives in this "Intermountain West", I've never heard of the "Intermountain West" term before your post

I'm not from the area, but once I started visiting and doing business in Utah, I found it was pretty common. Once I became familiar with it, I noticed it more and more.

I am most familiar with this term in the context of detailed weather forecast discussions.

Maybe that's why I've heard the term so much recently as I just started getting into weather, and weather forecasting, particularly snow.

I could see it as East of the Sierras in California continuing across the midwest. The economic and cultural differences crossing from the western coastal strip in California to east of the Sierras are mind-boggling.

The term is used for regional sporting organizations.

They could be referring to some like Appalachia too? That does include the bottom of Ohio near the WV / KY / PA borders (where I grew). I'd believe that these rural places could have the "pioneer personality" they're describing.

How about the Ozarks? They may not be the most visually impressive mountains, but I would at least consider the St. Francois Mountains in southern Missouri to be part of the Midwest.

The Ozarks are awesome but I wouldn't consider them mountains just big hills. The St Francois mountains for example are only 1700 feet above sea level. Minnesota also has many points above 2000 feet that are awesome but again I wouldn't consider them Mountains either. There's no official definition of a mountain however so its all in the eye of the beholder.

The Ozarks extend into Arkansas, and I would say that's sort of where the south meets the Midwest. The people from the Ozarks, from my touring of the area in Arkansas, with the strong folk music tradition and the diet, remind me more of Appalachia than out West.

i would consider all of the ozarks part of the south, splitting missouri roughly in half between south and midwest. eastern oklahoma and even (rural) eastern texas is more south than southwest too.

That’s because our ancestors came from Appalachia - and before that, from the Shenandoah Valley, and before that, from Scotland.

It’s interesting to me to look around and see so much of my local culture influenced by our largely shared Scottish ancestry while simultaneously realizing that so few people here really know much about it.

The Appalachian mountains are present in Southeastern Ohio. The hollers don't just magically appear when you cross the river over from Marietta to Parkersburg.

It sounds like they're talking about the Rockies to me as well. I think the thought is perhaps everything between California and Oklahoma = Midwest.

>perhaps everything between California and Oklahoma = Midwest

If you're right and that's the definition some people use, I'm not surprised they're confused. Considering I see most people using "midwest" referring to places like Ohio and Michigan.

I've always preferred "Great Plains" when trying to describe my general location to folks online. You say "I live in the midwest" and everyone seems to assume you're in Ohio or Indiana or thereabouts. Nope, I'm in South Dakota. America's a big place, y'all. The middle of Colorado is where I draw the line - west of there you're not Midwest or Great Plains, you're in The West.

Yeah I try to avoid "midwest" at all, except when being vague is a goal. The distinction between "Great Lakes" & "Great Plains" seems quite useful both geographically and culturally and "midwest" seems to just splotch right over that boundary.

I agree with your western boundary, though I'd probably just call it "The Rockies" myself, and let Nevadans and Utahns get absorbed either into "West Coast" or "Southwest" as they personally desire.

This system does create some problems for e.g. Missouri & Arkansas, which are in the confluence of 3-4 other regions, and you have to accept that Pennsylvania and New York get cut in half, but it's what my brain has settled on.

Utah is not West Coast. As rosseloh said, it's the West. (And I agree - I draw the line at Denver.)

I don't agree with "Midwest" where people place it on the east side, though. Take Pittsburgh, for instance. Look at a map, people. It's not "west", and it's not even "mid". It's East. "Mid" starts at Chicago.

(Pittsburgh was once midwest, but it's not 1870 any more.)

Culturally though, The Pittsburgh area (as resident of 10+ years) is caught between the East / Midwest, but the rural areas North and West feel solidly in the Midwest culture to me. Very different from all parts East.

That's fair. And rural Indiana or Ohio feels similar to rural Iowa. So... there's geography, and there's culture. Geographically, the term feels wrong to me for someplace that far east, but culturally, maybe it still fits.

I think the term "midwest" came from back when "West" meant "west" of the Mississippi. Ohio, is definitely not East, and definitely not West, but is pretty mid-west from that perspective.

You could say anything between the Great Divide and the Eastern divide is "midwest" and nobody would look at you funny.


That heuristic works right up to the second you find yourself south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Sounds about right, and I've corrected that same error in Europeans before. That's the kind of error someone with a limited understanding of American history or culture would make. It's an easy mistake to make, looking at a map and knowing the name without knowing about the Northwest Ordinance

That pretty much sums up the quality of any of the thousands of attempts by British people to dissect and understand the United States.

See also: Almost every single BBC News report ever filed.

Pretty sure 'midwest' has taken over as a more polite version of 'flyover country' in the minds of many in our more uhh elite institutions.

I'm sure we're not worth distinguishing. Outside of the cities, we're all just barbarian backwaters.

It's from a UK institution. I'd be surprised if the average member of that institution could distinguish US cities either. I assure you that people in coastal US cities are fully capable of distinguishing the mountainy place where there's legal weed from the flat place where there's corn. As a former midwesterner though, wouldn't feel confident about assuring you of anything more than that. Except during election season. For like 3 weeks everyone suddenly becomes an expert on Iowa and Ohio.

An old but relevant meme titled "how non-Americans see america":


That's completely inaccurate!

There's also Seattle, a wet place filled with radio psychiatrists.

And the place down the bottom where they make meth in big underground factories.

That's about it though.

(Being serious, I think it's probably a bit less of a thing nowadays, but when I was a kid my impression of the US was very much that it was ~three cities plus a scary bit in the south somewhere).

Good points, and that meme is far too real.

Its more fun rolling as a barb anyways.

Yeah the problem with that is all the rich people seem to have plenty of time on their hands to tell you how to live your life.

Yeah but the best part of being a mountain barbarian or a midwesterner is you get to ignore them while you live rent free in their heads.

The problem with ignoring them is that left to their own devices they'll outlaw your way of life directly or indirectly.

Besides the fact that the University of Cambridge is in England, the whole story is about distinguishing a personality difference among those who live at higher elevations. Furthermore, the assessment it makes is largely positive.

The actual results of the study should be considered separable from the criticism of the linked article's geographic nomenclature, which is the target of the parent's critique, and which I extended with my snark. While I did miss the university behind the article, the article indicated an international team of researchers, including at least one American.

This reads like the scientific version of a stereotype.

Maybe kind of interesting, but extremely prone to misinterpetation, over-generalization, and potentially prejudice.

Stereotype Accuracy is One of the Largest and Most Replicable Effects in All of Social Psychology:


The issue with stereotypes is the same issue with comparing IQs between subsets of the population: averages do not work when its one individual applying it to another individual. Variance is very high with humans, and the idea that your Uncle Joe thinks his black friend has a big dick because of the stereotype is idiotic.

The contrary is equally plausible: that we might dismiss a scientifically-justified generalization about a group of people as a stereotype.

Conclusions should take additional care, but populations are different in important ways.

Also known as a "just so story." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-so_story

I agree -- they might be onto something here, but you have to be careful or your reasoning can be misled.

Most non-spiteful stereotypes have some truth to them.

I think the caveat may not even be needed. [Many] stereotypes have some truth to them.

Yes, but I find the ones that aren't clearly condescending/antagonistic tend to be a lot more accurate. Ones like "women can't drive" aren't coming purely from a place of earnest observation, but from a desire to other and mock another demographic. That makes them suspect, because you know the originators of the stereotype were going out of their way to find something bad.

Certainly prone to those kinds of things, but I think there are interesting questions that can only be answered by this kind of analysis. (For example, it seems plausibly related to why American gun culture is so much stronger and more popular than in other countries, even those with comparably permissive gun ownership laws.)

I'm skepical of putting a scientific veneer over such analysis. If that's the point you'd like to make, go ahead and make it, but leave science out of it.

I'm not sure what you mean. Why shouldn't the methods of science be used to tackle these kinds of questions?

Because they lead to a false sense of certainty and inappropriately appeal to authority.

These questions are complex. The premises and framing are critical. The surrounding evidence that's not measured is probably much more important than whatever the scientist is able to actually measure.

All living beings, including humans, are a mix of strengths and weaknesses in careful balance. If a martian scientist were to look at humans they would probably say something like:

"Not very strong, not very fast, eats a lot, no armor, horns, or poison. Can't fly. We predict that wolves will hunt them to extinction in a few decades."

But obviously the martians didn't measure our brains. Evolution of living beings tends to create these exceptions that throw off simpistic analysis.

What are you forgetting to measure that will completely throw off your conclusions?

The scientific article summarised in this piece is clear about this. The effect size is quantified. It’s not fake science to look at small effects.

> It should be noted that the magnitude of the effects is generally quite small and the overall explanatory power of the models is modest. However, complex psychological phenomena, such as personality, are likely to be influenced by hundreds, if not thousands, of factors, so small effects are to be expected especially when examined in the uncontrolled context of real-world settings ... our research shows that an increase of one standard deviation in mountainousness is associated with a change of approximately 1% in personality, which may seem insignificant. However, when scaled to hundreds of thousands of people, such an increase would translate into substantial changes ...

They should. But often, you instead get "fake science": a badly-designed study that is followed by inadequate statistical analysis that just happens to confirm the investigator's pre-existing biases. That approach shouldn't be used to investigate anything. Nor should the conclusions be regarded as scientific.

It almost reads like an onion article.

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