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Entertainment Options During Hard Times

Copyright April 2, 2014 by Robert Wayne Atkins, P.E.
All Rights Reserved.


During a serious long-term hard times tragedy event you will probably discover that each day will consist of one of the following two activities:
  1. During good weather you will begin work at sunrise and you will work until it is too dark to see at the end of the day. You will stop to eat when you get hungry but there will be so much work that absolutely must be done that you will not be able to just sit down and do nothing for a hour or so during the day.

  2. During bad weather you will not be able to work outdoors. On these days you will do any household chores that need to be done indoors. But you will probably discover that you have a reasonable amount of free time and you will want to do something to relax and enjoy yourself.
If you have had a steady job for most of your adult life then you may not believe that you can become seriously bored and depressed if you are forced to stay home all day. However, if you have been without a job at least once during your life then you already understand the psychological impact of "cabin fever."

The purpose of this article is to review several entertainment options that can help minimize the impact of cabin fever. Some of the following options require electricity and some do not.
  1. Tablet or iPad.
  2. Portable Laptop Notebook Computer with a DVD Player.
  3. Television, Movies, and a DVD Player.
  4. Radio (music, news, and weather).
  5. Board Games.
  6. Deck of Playing Cards.
  7. Five Ordinary Six-Sided Dice.
  8. Paperback Novels.

Tablet or iPad

Tablets are very popular in the year 2014. They range in price from approximately $100 to $700. Their internal memory is usually between 8GB to 64GB. Their touch screen keyboard is okay for small amounts of typing but the keyboard is not practical if you need to type a lot. Tablets will allow a person to connect to the internet, to use email, to read books, to play games, and to watch movies. The display screen is between 7 to 10 inches and the maximum sound is relatively low. One or two people could watch and enjoy a movie on a tablet but three or more people would probably not enjoy the experience.

Portable Laptop Notebook Computer with a DVD Player

Most portable laptop notebook computers have 500 GB of internal memory, but they range between 128 GB to 1,000 GB. Their screens are usually between 12 to 17 inches, they have good speakers, they have a standard keyboard for typing, they have USB ports, and they range in price from approximately $250 to $800. They are basically a one person machine but several people could easily watch and enjoy a movie that was being displayed on a screen that was 14 inches or larger.

Therefore a portable computer would be a very nice item to have during a long-term hard times tragedy event if your local utility network is still supplying electricity, or if you have a solar power generator. If you don't have access to electricity then you may be able to charge your computer battery at places that offer free WiFi service along with a wall outlet that you can plug your computer into. Your local public library may still offer these services for free if you sign up for a free library card.

A portable computer would allow you to play your favorite games and it would allow you to watch your favorite movies. If your computer has a DVD drive then you could watch any movie in your DVD collection. If you have a digital movie account then you could watch any digital movie that was in your account. However, during a serious hard times event you may not be able to watch a movie on-demand for a variety of reasons. However, if you previously downloaded your digital movies onto the hard drive of your portable computer then you could watch one of those movies whenever you had a fully charged laptop battery. The best time to download your digital movies is before a hard times event makes them unavailable for download. Because digital movies require some of your hard disk space, you may need to strategically select your favorite movies and then download them and save them on your hard drive.

Television, Movies, and a DVD Player

If you have access to electricity then watching television will be an option. However, if you are having financial challenges then you may not have access to cable or satellite television. In this situation it would be really nice if you had a television, a DVD player (or a Blu-ray disc player), and a collection of movies.

On the other hand, if you are in the middle of a serious long-term hard times event, then electricity may not be available at your location, or you may not be able to afford the electric bill. In this situation you could still watch television if you had a solar panel and a deep cycle battery. More information about producing your own electricity is on my website here.

If you are producing your own electricity, or if you are having financial challenges and you must be very, very careful about how much electricity you use, then the following information may be very useful to you.

A new LED television would allow you to watch any movie in your DVD movie collection. Televisions are currently available that use the following technologies:
  1. Type of Display:
    • Liquid Crystal Display (LCD): The liquid is trapped between two plates and it is activated by electricity. However, the LCD display does not produce any light and it needs a separate light source. The most common light source is a fluorescent lamp.
    • Light Emitting Diode (LED): This is an LCD display with a series of LEDs that light up the screen. The screens are brighter than a standard LCD screen that uses a fluorescent lamp. LED displays also have very, very low power requirements.

  2. Refresh rates: 60 is normal. The refresh rate is the number of times per second that the image is refreshed on the display screen.

  3. Resolution: 720 and 1080 are both good resolutions. Generally 720 provides good images of fast action movie sequences. 1080 provides the best image detail of close up shots of slow moving actors.
LED Television with DVD Player If you are in the market for a new television, or if you are considering the purchase of a backup television for a serious long-term hard times event, then you may wish to consider a television with a 24, 28, or 32 inch screen that uses LED technology and that has an internal DVD player. You can also plug an external DVD or Blu-ray disc player into one of these televisions. These televisions are rated at using between $5 to $7 of electricity per year, if you pay approximately 11 cents per kWh, and you watch the television 5 hours every day.

A 24 inch LED television requires approximately 55 watts (0.055 kWh) of power to watch a two-hour DVD movie. A 32 inch LED television requires approximately 90 watts (0.090 kWh) of power to watch a two-hour DVD movie.

For example, if you had a 100 watt solar panel then the solar panel may operate at 80% efficiency during the day due to the occasional clouds that may block the sun. This means it would store about 80 watts of power in a deep cycle battery every hour. After about 41 minutes you would have enough power saved to watch a two-hour movie on a 24 inch LED screen. After about 68 minutes you would have enough power saved to watch a two-hour movie on a 32 inch LED screen. And an entire family could comfortably watch and enjoy the movie on either a 24 or 32 inch LED screen. (Note: For approximately the same total amount of electrical power, a family could watch three movies on a 24 inch television or two movies on a 32 inch television.)

A 24 inch LED television cost about $180 and a 32 inch LED television costs about $300. They do not consume very much power, they are relatively small (flat), and they do not weigh very much. Therefore an LED television would be a practical item to take with you if you had to abandon your home.

If you have DVD movies or Blu-ray disc movies then you should consider removing them from their original plastic storage cases and putting them inside a portable storage case that is designed for discs. This would allow you to easily take your entire movie collection (and your music collection) with you if you had to abandon your home.


If you don't have access to any type of electricity then watching television would not be an option.

However, if you have a battery operated radio, some rechargeable batteries, and a solar battery charger, then listening to your favorite music would be an option. You could listen to the news from around the world if you had a shortwave radio. More information about shortwave radios is here.

Nine Mens Morris

Board Games

Some board games require an investment in the game itself, such as Monopoly, or Life, or Candy Land. If you already have these types of board games then you will probably discover that you and your children will be playing them more frequently when there is no electricity. However, children do enjoy variety. A nice collection of approximately 35 Ancient Board Games and Solitaire Games From Around the World is on my website here.

Some of the games on my website have been around for several thousand years. But most of them have been forgotten because most game manufacturers prefer to produce and sell their own copyrighted games because they yield a higher profit margin than a public domain game.

Five Ordinary Six-Sided Dice

Five DIce One or two dice would allow you to play some board games that use dice to determine the number of spaces a player can move on his or her turn.

A set of five ordinary six-sided dice would allow you to play a variety of dice games, such as Yacht.

Instructions for the dice game of Yacht may be downloaded from the following web site: http://boardgames.about.com/od/yacht/a/yacht_rules.htm

A Deck of 52 Playing Cards

Cards An ordinary deck of 52 playing cards can be used to play hundreds of card games and solitaire games, including Hearts, Spades, Rummy, Bridge, Go Fish, War, and Old Maid (after you temporarily remove three of the queens from the deck). A simple three dollar investment in a quality deck of 52 playing cards could provide hundreds of hours of entertainment each year for one person, or for two people, or for your entire family.

The cheaper playing cards are usually not plastic coated. This means they have a tendency to stick together and they more easily acquire stains and rough edges and bent corners. Therefore I personally would prefer to have one quality deck of plastic coated playing cards than two cheap decks because the quality deck of cards will easily outlast two cheap decks of playing cards.

I suggest you purchase cards with a generic back design instead of a design that includes gambling symbols, or gambling words, or the Bicycle brand because it shows an unclothed person riding a bicycle.

If you have a deck of 52 plastic coated playing cards, and some books on card games and solitaire card games, then you and your family will be able to entertain yourselves for hours.

Some good card games books are the following:
  1. Official Rules of Card Games, Morehead, 1996, 327 Pages.

  2. New Complete Hoyle Revised, Hardbound, 1991, 720 Pages.

  3. The Complete Book of Solitaire and Patience Games, 225 Games, Morehead, 1983, 192 Pages.
If you enjoy card games then you should also consider purchasing a deck of "Uno" playing cards.

Paperback Novels

The great thing about paperback novels is that they work just fine when there is no electricity.

Each person in your family can select a different type of paperback novel based on what they find to be enjoyable. The average person will not truly appreciate the value of a paperback novel until they are in the middle of a serious long-term hard times tragedy event. At that time the entertainment value of paperback novels will become obvious to almost everyone. Therefore before the hard times become really serious it would probably be a good idea to invest in some gently used paperback novels.

A gently used paperback novel is one that has been read by someone else but it is still in like new condition, except you can tell it has been read. It will not have any writing or stains on its pages and the cover will be in excellent condition. It will not have a musty or bad smell, such as what typically happens to a paperback novel if it has been read by someone who smokes.

You can usually find gently used paperback novels selling for about 25 cents each at the Thrift Stores in your area, or at Yard Sales or Garage Sales in your area. In most cases you will not be able to find a good price on used paperback novels at a "Used Book Store" because that store depends on the profit from their book sales as their only source of income.

In order to provide some variety you should consider purchasing gently used paperback novels in a variety of different literature categories. It is okay to purchase the majority of your books in the category you like best. But as time passes you will occasionally want to read something different to provide some entertainment variety. The only categories I suggest that you avoid are horror novels and romance novels. Both of these categories can influence the thinking of younger readers and lead them down a path they should not go.

I suggest you consider purchasing paperback novels in all the following areas:
  1. Adventure, a broad category that includes spy novels and authors such as Jack London.

  2. Best Sellers, such as previous New York Times Best Sellers.

  3. Children's Books, such as comic books or children's fairy tales or children's stories. I strongly recommend the following "hard cover" children's books:
    • The Children's Treasury: Best Loved Stories and Poems From Around the World, First Glance Books, 63 Different Stories and Poems, 1987, 388 Pages.
    • Walt Disney's Story Land: 55 Favorite Stories, Golden Book, 1974 or 1991 edition, 320 Pages.

  4. The Classics, such as "Tom Sawyer" or "The Secret Garden" or "The Swiss Family Robinson."

  5. Historical Fiction, such as medieval times or a story about the 1800s.

  6. Fiction, a broad category that includes almost everything except true biographies.

  7. Mystery Classics, such as those written by Agatha Christie, or Rex Stout, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

  8. Science Fiction, any type of story that takes place in the distant future or is based on magic.

  9. Short Stories, a collection of short stories by the same author or by different authors.

  10. Western Classics, such as those written by Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey, Max Brand, or Luke Short.


During a serious long-term hard times event you may not have as many entertainment options as you had during normal times. For example, eating at a nice restaurant or going to a movie theater may not be feasible for a variety of reasons. But entertainment will still be important in order to help you take your mind off the depressing situations that you may be confronted with on a daily basis. It would be nice in a situation such as this if you had a reasonable variety of entertainment options to select from. The entertainment options mentioned above are ones that would be practical during a serious long-term hard times event. They are also relatively portable which means you could take them with you if you had to abandon your current residence for some reason.


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Grandpappy's e-mail address is: RobertWayneAtkins@hotmail.com