Friday, April 20, 2012

Mark Your Calendar: Library Program, Doomsday

On Thursday April 26, visiting professor Dr. Quetzil Castañeda will visit the library to show clips from his award-winning documentary film, Incidents of Travel in Chichen Itzá, and speak about the Maya 2012 calendar, including the 5,125 yr. long cycle and the end of a "world age."  I'm excited to hear his scholarly take on this end-of-the-world theory, and it's put me in a reflective mood about my own emergency preparedness.

I grew up in a family that lived and breathed the edict to “be prepared!”  My three brothers are Eagle Scouts.  We had a shelter custom-built in our basement to store a year’s worth of food for seven.  Yet it wasn’t until grad school that one of my professors finally put the fear of god in me.  “What are y'all going to eat during the next disaster?” she demanded as we covered the emergency preparedness segment of her Organizational Management syllabus.  “You sure can’t wait until afterwards to get prepared.”  Then she told us all to get guns.

Literally since that day, my husband and I have been on our path to emergency preparedness.  If you’re interested in making your own kit, I suggest checking out the Center for Disease Control (CDC), FEMA, and several religious organizations, many of which have great emergency preparedness resources.  There’s even an excellent US Army Survival Manual that’s been floating around the internet.  Any way you slice it, your survival kit should cover these seven essential categories:


3 day minimum supply of 1 purified gallon per day per person


3 day minimum supply of non-perishable high-energy food.  Longer term stores of rice, beans, freeze-dried fruits and veggies, seeds

first aid

bandages, antiseptic, antibiotics, ibuprofen, etc.


hand-crank radio / flashlight, camp-stove, matches, multi-tool, hatchet, utility knife, compass, whistle, generator, duct tape, etc. And sure, even a gun.

clothing / bedding / sanitation

sleeping bags, space blankets, toiletries, one change of clothes per person

important family documents

wills, deeds, insurance policies, birth / marriage / death certificates, photo identification, bank account numbers

special items

travel games, book of poems, very long novels (one per person)...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crazy Good

Last week while I was in line for coffee, I got asked if I was a psychopath.

This wasn’t because I look psychopathic (I hope), but because I was carrying a copy of Jon Ronson’s newest book, The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, under my arm. It’s my favorite book of the moment, and the one I’m going to badger everyone I know to read.

I’ve been a huge fan of Jon Ronson’s since I first encountered his non-fiction book, The Men Who Stare at Goats, in a used book store in Burlington, VT, circa 2007. The Men Who Stare At Goats is loosely about U.S. Army officers who try to harness psychic energy in an attempt to disintegrate live goats, and since its publication in 2004, it’s been turned into a film starring George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Bridges, and Ronson has been invited as a regular contributor to NPR’s This American Life.

Ronson’s forte is weird fringe journalism, wherein he investigates psychic and paranormal military ops, extraterrestrial theories, Roswell type stuff, and now, psychopathy. But the thing that makes him so much more than a run of the mill conspiracy theorist is his knack for serious journalistic endeavors: how did our psy-ops military culture lead up to Abu Graib? How foolproof is the rubric we use to label people psychopaths? And should we be more concerned about the psychopaths who are in prison, or the ones who are running the world’s biggest corporations?

From the Stockwell Strangler to former Sunbeam CEO Al Dunlap, Jon Ronson sets out on a quest to understand the nature of psychopathy and power. (According to the Bob Hare, creator of the Psychopathy Checklist Revised, at least 4% of our world leaders meet the minimum qualifications of psychopathy!) Ronson’s anecdotes are witty and revelatory, and will make you feel a little like you are able to identify the psychopaths in your own life. But at the heart of his investigation, Jon Ronson unveils his own unsettling hypothesis about our culture’s fascination with madness, and why we’re all sort-of comforted by those pill-popping personalities we see on reality TV.

And if nothing else, The Psychopath Test is a fabulous conversation starter. I suggest you take it with you next time you go for coffee. You might get asked if you’re a psychopath.

Rachel - Programs