Friday, January 22, 2010

Daemon, by Daniel Suarez

I do one of two things on airplanes: read magazines or read books. For the latter, this one was just perfect -- it completely fit within my flight and kept my interest.

The story line: a multi-player online game developer distributes a program across the internet to affect people's actions after his death from brain cancer. Key characters include the bold but unfortunate police officer, the brilliant NSA scientist, two genius hackers, one evil and one good (but with a checkered past), and a mysterious and possibly naughty government agent / assassin. Stir ingredients, but don't over mix them, and saute on low heat for 617 pages.

By the end of the book it was clear that there would be a sequel, which I see has been published -- and is now on my reading list.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How to Survive the Most Critical 5 Seconds of Your Life, by Tim Larkin

This is a tough book to read -- not that it is poorly written, far from it. Rather because of the subject matter. This book is about violence; it is somewhat graphic and definitely disturbing.

The essence of the text is, if you are in a situation where a criminal will apply violence to you, then you must choose: either to apply violence to him, or to be a victim.

The author differentiates anti-social situations (e.g., when a drunk at the bar hassles you, the easiest solution is to walk away, avoiding confrontation) from asocial situations (e.g., when the criminal has a knife to your neck, and you have to decide if you will fight, perhaps literally for your life).

As I've mentioned before, sane people in the USA prefer to not think about such things. Larkin quotes Jeff Cooper early on:
"...many men who are not cowards are simply unprepared for acts of human savagery. They have not thought about it (incredible as this may appear to anyone who reads the papers or listens to the news) and they just don't know what to do. When they look right into the face of depravity and violence they are astonished and confounded."
Larkin also touches on the Virginia Tech situation, about which I've also commented in the past, asking, why didn't any group of students swarm Seung Hui Cho, even when he stopped to reload? This is a (sad) commentary on our readiness as a nation to protect ourselves in general, the culture of political correctness swirled with litigation-as-a-way-of-life.

As an (is this controversial?) aside, this culture of acquiescence is why the USA is today ill-suited to deal effectively with terrorism. Maybe that's why terrorism protection theater at our airports continues to suffice to appease the masses, or at least the politicians.

But Larkin's book isn't really about theory or politics or philosophy; it is about deciding if violence is a realistic choice for you in dangerous situations.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Pocket Field Dressing Guide, by Andrew Harris

Not that useful; but if each typo were replaced by an additional diagram, might be worth the price. The author clearly doesn't live in the southern US, as he repeatedly points out the importance of speed when the temperature is above 45° Fahrenheit; sigh.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Just 2 Seconds, by Gavin de Becker

This is an excellent, albeit niche, text; unlike de Becker's prior book, which addressed a broad civilian market, this one is meant for the personal protection professional.

Dave Grossman addresses a general audience topic in Appendix 12, where he points out that most Americans are sheep. What does he mean by that?

We're trained to not think about defending ourselves. We're trained to think that those who do worry about such things are a bit off. We're trained to think that nice, liberal thinking folks who drive Prius cars are somehow immune to the violence of the world.

One example of this is the zero-tolerance of violence in schools -- a fine notion, except for how it applies to self-defense situations. If a child is attacked, shouldn't we want her to fight back, without worry about being expelled as part of a politically correct policy? (I've written about this before.) In fact I advocate a response to force which is slightly disproportionate -- make it just a bit more uncomfortable for the attacker, so they never consider you as a target again.

Another example is the reaction I sometimes get about some of the books I read about handguns; in the USA today, folks who (legally) carry handguns are considered fringe, even nut cases, especially by folks who live on the coasts (NY and California). (Sorry about that generalization people, but you know it is true).

But these same people will conscientiously ensure their smoke alarms work in case of a fire, and will only buy vehicles that have plenty of air bags in case of a crash -- as we should. So, why not be prepared in case of a violent attack -- as we should?

Law enforcement is not (per case law) responsible to protect you, only to investigate afterward, unless they accidentally are in the right place at the right time and do the right thing (and they have immunity from liability if they do not).

Firefighters show up when the flames are enveloping the building, and EMTs show up after the car's hit the tree. That's why you want smoke detectors and airbags and such.

That's why some folks carry handguns or mace or stun guns, learn martial arts techniques, and the like. It really isn't so crazy to act counter to popular culture.

Back to Grossman's sheep analogy. He says there are also wolves. (Think bad guys.) Wolves prey upon sheep. And then, there are sheepdogs. They attack wolves who threaten the flock.

Usually we think of sheepdogs as representing our military and law enforcement professionals. But sheepdogs also represent those of us who refuse to be sheep.

Grossman writes, "[Sheep's] only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, 'Do you have any idea how hard it would be ... if your loved ones [were] attacked ... and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?'" [p626]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me, by Howie Mandel

This book was a failure for me -- in that I couldn't get past page 29. Just too bleak. I'm sure this book is quite helpful for many people; I'm just not one of them.

Now I feel doubly guilty: that I gave up so quickly on this book, and that my empathy to folks with a variety of disorders might be lacking.

My rationalization on the second concern: empathy isn't lacking, I just don't want to read about this topic.

Just like some folks probably don't want to read about how to field dress a deer.

Field Dressing & Butchering Deer, by Monte Burch

This is as clear a treatment of the subject matter as you might want; plenty of diagrams, plenty of detail, at least to get you started. On the other hand, this book might also convince you that -- if you do eat animal flesh -- the butcher shop is so very much less hassle!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Deer Hunting 101, by David Pruet

This is a very good, very introductory, very brief view of deer hunting. Remember, hunting is a vital part of a good conservation program to help wildlife flourish (well, not the ones you successfully hunt, but you can eat those, and help their peers have more to eat themselves, and / or do less damage to crops, fauna, etc.).

Arguing with Idiots, by Glenn Beck

I happened upon this book by accident; it is my spouse's, but any book in sight is fair game in my view. I wasn't sure what to expect: Beck is demonized by the left as a nut-case, and I don't have any real experience of his views. To my surprise, I find my self agreeing with everything he has to say.

Beck does a great job of pointing out the insanity of the nanny state, where the combination of inane legislation and the fear of litigation causes people to abandon common sense for their own protection. Even worse, to abandon common decency because to act on the public's behalf is a significant risk these days.

I particularly liked his chapter on the Second Amendment. Beck points out:
  1. We oughtn't be confused by the preamble, which mentions a militia (which at the time consisted of the whole set of able bodied men). Notice, for example, that Congress has the power "to promote the Progess of Science and the useful Arts" by enacting copyright and patent laws. That doesn't mean that every copyrighted work must promote scientific progress and useful arts, because we don't limit copyright and patent protection only to things that so promote. [p38]

  2. The point of the Second Amendment is, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Why is this less important than the First Amendment, "the right of the people peaceably to assemble," or the Fourth, "the right of the people to be secure... against unreasonable searches and seizures," or any other Constitutional guaranty?

  3. And many other points that are too numerous and common-sense obvious for me to even type here, although it seems that most Democratic politicians are comfortable rejecting this Amendment and most of the media salutes in the brainwashing of the day.
The chapter on teachers' unions was similarly great. Actually, all the chapters were great.

Beck may be a nut-case, but he's a libertarian, common sense nut-case, and those are the kind that I relate to best.

The Professional, by Robert B. Parker

If you've read Parker's Spenser novels before, this is just another in the series. If not, don't start with this one; it is a trifle. Parker's earlier books had elements of plot and suspense, both lacking in this one.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Strain, by Guillermo Del Toro

This is a combination vampire - biological disease - horror - action novel. I didn't know until after finishing the book that this one is the first of a trilogy.

I'd say it was two-thirds good, one-third crummy. The crummy part is the low credibility scenarios (yes, even in the context of a vampire horror novel).

How to Build a Business Warren Buffett Would Buy, by Jeff Benedict

This is the story of the furniture and electronics store RC Willey and how Bill Child grew it into a huge success, culminating in its acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway.

It isn't easy to make a business biography interesting, but Jeff Benedict pulled it off with excellence.

The bottom line to the story is to work very hard, bring joy to your clients, act always and only with integrity, be open to change, take some risks, and avoid debt. Easy to list, difficult to do.

Thanks for the book, Phyllis.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

American on Purpose, by Craig Ferguson

I was skeptical before reading this, but since my spouse, who was going to read it, was away, I took a shot at it. To my surprise, it was well written, interesting, and completely worth reading.

Realize though, it is an autobiography of an alcoholic, and not a comedy: my one and only chuckly came at page 251.

Wild Hog Hunting, by Craig Marquette

I was generally satisfied with this book and learned quite a bit. The section on field dressing was, however, ridiculous -- a separate text on this topic is essential for anyone who needs the knowledge, as the one page description in Marquette's book just doesn't cut it. So to speak. But otherwise worth reading. I may have to try out Marquette's competition just for the comparison.