September 15, 2009

A Peek at Oil and Survival

Pee coil.Peak Oil Survival: Preparation for Life after Gridcrash by Aric McBay (The Lyons Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1-59228-127-5)

This book was written by: Aric McBay, an author, webmaster, and survivalist who expects worldwide oil reserves to be depleted in the immediate future, bringing civilization to a halt and ending the world as we know it. "I believe that this rapid collapse is probably the 'best-case scenario' for the planet.[....] I'm planning for an optimistic scenario that involves near-term, rapid industrial collapse"(p.xx). Mr. McBay writes that because of his misgivings about technology's effects on the environment, "these concerns led me to search for the deeper roots of our current problems, and for deeper solutions, which I eventually found in a critique of civilization"(p.xvii). Mr. McBay does not identify himself as a communist, but "the techniques chosen [for this book] tend to make societies more egalitarian and to distribute resources and power more fairly"(p.xxi).

What is in this book: Descriptions of ways you can eke out a living in the blighted wasteland of deprivation that is a world without oil. Chapters cover finding and sterilizing water, cooling and cooking food, latrines, and lighting and heat. Mr. McBay tries to put a brave face on things, claiming that for some of these survival methods "their use is creative and fulfilling, rather than repetitive"(p.xxi), and "we could even thrive in the face of industrial collapse"(p.84). However, you'll still be spending three hours trying to cook lentils in a haybox (p.58), going to bed when the sun sets because "compared to modern paraffin (petroleum-derived) candles, tallow candles smell bad, sputter and drip, produce sooty smoke, don't burn for very long, and melt easily at a low temperature"(p.79), and scavenging for nutrients in your own poop. "Many soils have already been mined of nutrients, and they can benefit from the nutrients present in feces. Besides, for many people during industrial collapse, the only source of animal manure for gardening may be their own"(p.33).

This diagram from p.67 shows how plastic bags make everything taste better.What is not in this book: Information on hunting, survival medicine, or good substitutes for some of the currently available necessities that will become scarce in a post-petroleum world. Interestingly enough, while Mr. McBay states in the introduction that "a technique that allows a 1,000-square-foot garden to meet food needs would generally be preferred to a 1,500-square-foot garden that yields the same amount of food, since the smaller garden leaves more room for wilderness"(p.xxi), the book does not discuss gardening techniques in any detail.
Mr. McBay has also neglected to provide instructions for building the weaponry you'll need to raid other survivors for their now priceless, petroleum-based, and life-giving plastics. For example, you can use them to store water, and "large, plastic barrels, such as ones used to import pickles for restaurants, are a good option"(p.26). Plastic can also collect water if you dig a hole and "place a clear plastic sheet over the hole with a weight, such as a stone, in the middle and additional weighting along the edges of the hole. The water that evaporates out of the soil will condense and drip into the container"(p.12). And you can use plastic for cooking with solar heat. "If you place a black pot in a clear plastic bag […] you will have better heat retention"(p.67). Mr. McBay cautions that burning plastic is dangerous and bad for the environment, but not until after he suggests that "melting shopping bags with a flame will yield an improvised hot glue or makeshift caulking"(p.87).
Mr. McBay guides readers to websites for additional survival information, which manages to save paper and reduce the book's impact on the environment while still keeping the information readily accessible after the oil apocalypse.
Notably absent from either the book or the websites is a good list of positions to choose from when you finally decide to curl up and die.

Would you recommend this book to Alfred E. Neuman? Yes. Because we're doomed, and there's nothing to be done about it. "The problems we face are not superficial. They are not caused by the kind of car you or I drive, by whether we buy recycled paper or not, by which politician we vote for, or where we work. [...] We can't solve the problems we face by simply changing those personal choices"(p.xv), so why bother? "We can't all spend as much time as we'd like camping in the forest, growing gardens, taking wilderness first-aid classes, or learning other survival skills to prepare for the collapse"(p.xix), but it doesn't matter because "to be completely self-sufficient would be very difficult, time-consuming, improbable, and generally lonely"(p.84). What, me worry?

Would you recommend this book to that pretentious college student who thinks that half a semester of Intro to Philosophy has made him a deep thinker? Yes. Mr. McBay has provided that guy with some superb examples of the existential paradoxes that plague modern man:

"We are left in something of a catch-22. We know that in a post-collapse context, our well-being will depend on the well-being of the natural world, since we will once again be directly dependent on the ecological communities in our area. Most of us are currently dependent on industrial civilization for the material basis of our day-to-day lives. And yet, in the long term, every day that industrial civilization continues is another day that global warming worsens, that more rivers are dammed, depleted, or poisoned, that more fish are removed from the oceans, and that more forests are cut down."(p.xvii)

It's like a Catch-22, Morton's Fork, and Hobson's Choice all rolled into one giant grab bag of misapplied terminology!

Note the foam insulation--which should be widely available post-crash--that this diagram from p.46 suggests you use for your root cellar.What was interesting about this book? Taking a dump after the end of civilization is a complicated proposition, and for good reason. "Assume that one person will excrete about 1.4 cubic feet (.04m3) of solids per year"(p.31) Fortunately, Mr. McBay offers advice and instructions for convenient, sanitary latrines that can be used by the whole family. And "if small children are afraid of falling into the hole, you can make a covering for the hole, with a smaller hole within it, or simply make a second, appropriately sized hole in the floor"(p.31). If you find the idea of a child-swallowing crap hole to be even more terrifying than gridcrash, you have the option of using a composting toilet. Some people report problems with urine in their composting toilets causing unpleasant smells , but "most people I know who use composting toilets simply add their urine (diluted with at least 3 to 6 parts of water) to their garden or orchard"(p.35, parentheses in source). Just don't ask what you can substitute for toilet paper.

Digg this Stumble Upon Toolbar

September 1, 2009

Sealing Deals with Dudes

A great start for women who want men to tell them what to do for the rest of their lives.Closing the Deal: Two Married Guys Take You from Single Miss to Wedded Bliss by Richard Kirshenbaum and Daniel Rosenberg with cartoons by Marisa Acocella Marchetto (William Morrow, 2005, ISBN: 0-06-059009-2)

This book was written by: Richard Kirshenbaum, who is co-chairman of an advertising agency, and Daniel Rosenberg, who is a film studio executive and producer. They are "just regular guys who know what speaks to other regular guys"(p.x), because "our opinions have been formed by years in fraternities, locker rooms, and of course, bachelor parties, and we can say with some accuracy that we know what men are thinking"(p.113). They also point out that "the very fact that we're not therapists, relationship counselors, doctors, or women makes us uniquely eligible to share insights that really matter"(p.x).

This book was endorsed by: Hillary Swank, who says on the back cover that "I don't know how I ever closed the deal without Closing the Deal." Ms. Swank filed for divorce in 2006.

What is in this book: A battle marriage marketing plan. "Just as an architect has a blueprint or a writer has an outline, you can create your very own marriage marketing plan [...] We'll reveal the subtleties of marriage maneuvering, thus helping you to ultimately hone your marriage marketing skills"(p.21, emphasis the authors'). This may seem cold and calculating, but "the man you get into bed with, the guy you want to father your children is, when it comes to closing the deal, the Opponent"(p.22). "While you may think that our use of the word maneuvering indicates that we're advocating subterfuge, we're not"(p.27, emphasis the authors'), although they do warn that "if you have a reputation from your vast past sexual experiences and something catches up with you, remember the following three words: deny, deny, deny"(p.119, emphasis the authors'). Mr. Kirshenbaum and Mr. Rosenberg acknowledge that "marketing marriage and yourself isn't fun, but in some ways it's a necessary evil. Like big business, it's hard work and requires practiced finesse"(p.40). Luckily, you can start at any time. "Whether you've been together for a while or are just starting to date, it's never too late to micromanage how you relay any information"(p.107).

A soul patch? Really? She can do better.What is not in this book: Unnecessarily complex language. The authors keep the tone conversational, noting that if you're serious about finding a husband, "we need to spend time discussing your monthly hormonal hoedown"(p.73). They also try to see the bright side in every situation, like the way that men expect women to resemble their mothers as they age. "If your mother weighs in at 290, tell him how she goes up a bra size every few years"(p.37). And when it comes to grooming your private area, "these days not a lot of men are hunters and they don't seek out the heavy bush"(p.45).

Would you recommend this book to that single coworker of yours who is just a shade past her prime—will it keep her from becoming a crazy old cat lady? No, I would recommend that she stock up on TV dinners and slankets, because it's too late for her to avoid dying alone and unloved. If she's lucky, her body will be found before the cats have had much time to gnaw on it.

Would you recommend this book to George Clooney? I would, because his character, Dr. Doug Ross, is responsible for my misunderstanding of how easy it is to get married. Dr. Ross explicitly stated that the first date is when you get a kiss goodnight, the second is when you get invited inside, and the third is when you "close the deal." This book makes closing the deal seem much more complicated, but maybe everything is simpler when you're George Clooney.

Sprechen sie Sassy?What is interesting about this book? The Bizarro-universe logic that governs the male mind. In addition to thinking of your prospective groom as an opponent, a number of other rules of engagement that you should follow run counter to common sense. "It's always important to give him the impression that, like a stock, you're selling high"(p.29), but savvy traders dump a stock that is selling high.
Nowhere in this book is the chaotic, up-is-down, black-is-white logic of the male mind illustrated more clearly than in the chapter covering "the bluff." It's a bluff because it's "the act of breaking up with your boyfriend who won't commit, yet keeping the door open should he change his mind"(p.229). "We have to stress that this doesn't mean giving ultimatums. Ultimatums are aggressive and have a tendency to put men on the defensive"(p.139). However, "bluffing is different because it's pushing the negotiation to a head: Either you're getting married or you're out of there. And you have to mean it!"(p.133) It's important to understand that the bluff is not about whether or not you'll leave him—you will. The bluff is about whether you're worth fighting for. You may not be. "Nothing will be clearer to you if soon after your bluff the locksmith van pulls up as you load your suitcase into the cab: You didn't have a winning hand"(p.134).

Digg this Stumble Upon Toolbar

Read more reviews...