Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Deep Survival, a partial book review

As a young nipper, I was a voracious reader.  In fact, honesty compels me to admit that I was beyond voracious, I was an indiscriminate, mega-reader.  I could read and assimilate material very, very quickly.

You know that guy (the asshole) who was flipping a coin twenty minutes into the hour long test to mop up the last few questions....that was me.

Things have changed.  I am more demanding.  Perhaps it is that I sense that I am a mortal and have a limited number of heartbeats left.  I want the remaining time to count.

I find it impossible to stay with a book that is average or less.

Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales

This is a partial book review because I am on page 109.  I am not finished with this book and I already want to share.  It is that good.

This is a WOW book.

He writes about how our brain is wired: Emotion vs. Intellect.

He writes about evolution.

He writes about perception and systems.

He writes about humor.

He writes about people that, but for the grace of God, could have been me.

Samples: should come as no surprise that, in many cases, basic survival mechanisms, which have been hardwired into us and sculpted by experience, turn out to be not only the most powerful motivators of behavior but to operate at their peak efficiency out of reach of the conscious decision-making powers, which makes it easy for reason to be overwhelmed.  Once emotional reaction is underway, there can be overwhelming impulse to act.  (Underlining by ERJ)

...the main difficulty with neophytes who go into the wilderness: We face the same challenges the experts face.  Nature doesn't adjust to our level of skill.

Most people operate in an environment of such low risk that action, inaction, or the vicissitudes of brains have few consequences...Mistakes spend themselves harmlessly and die out unnoticed instead of growing out of control.

The word "experienced" often refers to somebody who's gotten away with doing the wrong thing more frequently than we have.

As James Gleick writes in Chaos, "Strange things happen near the boundaries."

It is typical of the best survivors that, despite his injuries, Hillman was surrounded, as the Tao Te Ching puts it, "with a bulwark of compassion."

Perrow's Normal a work of seminal importance because of its unusual thesis...efforts to make systems safer, especially by technical means, made the systems more complex and therefore more prone to accidents.

(People, led by their prior observations) believe that the orderly behavior they see is the only possible state of the system.  Then, at the critical boundaries in time and space, the components and forces interact in unexpected ways with catastrophic results.

If your time is limited, then read Chapter Five and Six.  Mr Gonzales is an accomplished writer.  He does a superb job of leading with actual events and then using them to illustrate some aspect of HOW the disaster came to be.



  1. Nature is absolutely indifferent to us. Nature doesn't care if we live or die. She just doesn't care. She treats us with benign indifference. If we make it, good. If we don't, we're protein for the flies and the ants.

  2. There are at least four populations of people.
    1.) Darwin award candidates. If Mother Nature does not get them, traffic or cirrhosis will.
    2.) Willful stupidity. They will open their refrigerator in the power outage because the light in the refrigerator never goes out.
    3.) Intellectually overprepared but not tested. There is a lady in Eaton Rapids who runs the Eaton Rapids Virtual Garden on Facebook. As near as I can figure, she grows rice cakes and tofu....which some people consider to be virtually food.
    4.) Those who test their equipment and knowledge. These are the people who can pitch their tent in the dark, start a fire on a misty day, gut a deer, make pancakes over an open fire. We also tend to tell outstanding stories.