Sunday, March 28, 2010

How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It by James Wesley, Rawles

What a fascinating book! In three hundred clearly written pages Rawles (no, I don’t know why the comma appears in his name, but he’s consistent about it) tells us how to survive and thrive after a total social collapse. He covers water, fuel, transportation, food, medical necessities, communications, security, and so on. Depending on how likely you believe social collapse to be Rawles is either a prescient sage or a paranoid wack-job.

For example, he advises everyone to move out of the cities and live in secrecy in armed, fortified compounds with hundreds or thousands of pounds of foodstuffs, batteries, supplies, ammunition, etc. Now, if most of us were to follow this advice society would cease to function, and we’d all be considered to have gone off the deep end. On the other hand, if widespread EMP devastation suddenly killed the power grid and social order dissolved, those who had taken Rawles’s advice would suddenly be the smart ones. All a matter of your perspective.

I learned a lot from this book, almost none of which I expect to ever need. So, Rawles, I hope you’re wrong, but I appreciate you arming me with a little knowledge that just might come in handy some terrible day WTSHTF.
Ending Violence Quickly: A Professional’s Guide to Ending Violence Quickly by Marc MacYoung

Mark “Animal” McYoung. “On how bouncers, bodyguards, and other security professionals handle ugly situations.” Probably not wrong, but so badly written as to be ridiculous. The guy quotes Robert Jordan, in a section on tactics, for Chrissakes. This book is two-hundred and fifty pages of bravado and juvenile writing with a few useful diagrams on how various take down principles.

Unfortunately, so much of what Mr. MacYoung is trying to explain is marred by poor illustration and prose so tangled that it regularly loses track of whatever point it was trying to make that the book as a whole is not all that informative. If I were to try to summarize:

1. Best to neutralize the situation before it escalates into the realm of physical violence.
2. If it gets to violence, you need to end a fight in three moves or less.
3. Break the threat’s attitude using pain to shock them out of their aggressive posture.
4. Drop them to the ground.
5. Make it clear that further resistance or aggression will result in far worse pain or injury.

These principles probably work pretty well for most bouncers. So in the immortal words of The Dude, “You’re not wrong, Marc. You just come across as an illiterate asshole.”

I’ve got a couple more books on the topic to get through, but so far the genre seems to be mightily short on capable writers.

Distributed Game Development: Harnessing Global Talent to Create Winning Games by Tim Fields

Is this a shameless plug for my own work? Not sure. But I just got the first copy of my book on Game Development from the publisher and read through it last night and this morning.

It is now available on Amazon...
Or you can check out my website on the topic here: –

It had been three or four months or so since I’d read any of what I’d written. After about the fifth draft you can get pretty tired of a topic. But in looking at it now, I’m pretty happy with the book as a whole. It seems skinnier than it did when working on it; barely more than a pamphlet. But when I compare it in girth to some of the other software books on my shelf, Peopleware, or Dynamics of Software Development, for example, it holds up pretty well. I’m happy with the writing; the tone succeeds at being conversational and still serious, informational without being (I hope) too pedantic.

The contributors all deserve a huge thanks, especially Robyn Wallace and Phil Wattenbarger, whose interviews come across as being mightily insightful.

Overall, I’m happy with the way the book turned out. In rereading sections, I still agree with what I had to say about the topics, and I DO believe that the book would be quite helpful to a number of producers, EPs, and junior BizDev people out there. So I hope in some small way I’ve contributed something to the industry.

But the next book will be fiction. 

Meditations on Violence by Sgt. Rory Miller

Sgt. Miller is a martial arts expert and a former prison guard. He’s both trained and experienced in the application of personal violence in real world context. (At least, to the degree that prison is part of the real world.) In this short memoir and instructional guide, he focuses on some of the deltas between the idealized training that many martial artists receive and the realities of violent interpersonal conflict. The book is about two hundred pages long and covers a lot of practical ground (where violence occurs, what it’s like when it does, what types of people commit violent crimes, how you can deal with the threat, etc.)

Mr. Miller is convincing in some areas, and comes across as a self-aggrandizing blowhard in a few others. The writing is uneven. (No suprise from a prison guard rather than a professional writer) and Mr. Miller comes across as either arrogant or flaky on some occasions (I suppose his profession might engender a certain stance of arrogance in order to succeed, and a lifelong devotion to martial arts has certainly made some people flaky before). The book also is in desperate need of a good editor; much of this feels like a first draft that went straight to print.

Some of his observations are quite interesting. A chapter of the different types of hostage situations that occur and how to deal with them (as one of the hostages) was quite interesting. A section on "places where violence occurs" was equally interesting, and probably right on. Then he went on to describe in 4 broad categories the types of violent criminals that populate jails. His chapter on "predators & process predators" was chilling. Made me get up and check the alarm twice last night. Lots of it is common sense stuff, but lots of it is also analysis of crime statistics and reports which is interesting. Makes me think that I should pick up a used textbook from a basic course on criminology, and I’ve already ordered a few additional books on violence and its resolution. We’ll see how others who have explored this topic compare.

I'm going to train with Sgt. Miller next weekend, so it'll be interesting to see what he's like in person.

As a followup: In person, I found Rory Miller to be an engaging speaker with a down-to-earth demeanor. His lecture covered much of the material in this book, and provided a preview of his next book, which I'll certainly read.
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Still awesome.

On Writing by Stephen King
Still a great refresher on what matters about writing.

My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler

Chelsea is a ho. She does everyone. She’s proud of it. And that’s cool. In this book, she chronicles her bedroom adventures and one night stands with a surprising lack of lurid detail, instead choosing to focus on the comedic antics to which her promiscuous lifestyle lends itself.

A friend of the Professor’s sent her this one (eyebrow raised), and I picked it up while on a phone call recently to see what it was about. Read through it in a couple of days. Chelsea entertains with her foolishness, her alcoholism, and her quasi-dysfunctional family. But it’s not smart or really that funny. Sex & The City explored these waters with far more ability, insight, and wit years ago.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

PS: I cannot believe that this is in the top 10 of the NYT Best Seller’s List.

The Curmedgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law by Mark Herrmann

The Professor’s new employers gave her this book when she started. I picked it up off the kitchen table and ended up reading it this weekend. Herrmann, a self styled curmudgeon is an veteran lawyer. He gives practical advice to new initiates at major law firms in how to build their careers, impress their bosses, not piss off their clients, and so on. The slim volume is a collection of twelve chapters. It’s quick to read and gives some good insight into the real life problems and trials of being a young associate.
Time for more updates!

This time it's from a sunny afternoon in Houston, Texas!