Sunday, May 29, 2011

Children of Blood and Brain

I've got at least four things I need to write about, but first...

Athens and Bruno and his crew have been a blast. Good people and good fighters, mostly from an MMA background-- and these guys love to wrestle. Enough of them working high-risk professions that we have a common language even though we didn't, for the most part, have a common language.

But it has been four hard days-- if I wasn't training I was hiking around Athens or being stuffed with fantastic food. Asleep late, up early. It has been great, but it will be good to wing it on home. Really missing my K.

The ideas I need to write about (placed here for reference so I don't forget later):
1) One of the students went into full trance in the Plastic Mind exercise. Some interesting observations and ties in well with some mystical practices.
2) "I'd rather be tried by twelve than carried by six" and specifically why it is a nonsensical platitude.
3) Turning into a fortune cookie.
4) "Is there a curriculum for this?"

Okay, now to the thought about children of blood and brain.

If you don't have children, you at least have been a child. Almost all biology and all of mammalian history has been about children. Your children are more like you than a stranger's child. In any given population, some traits work better than others. Those with the good traits have more children and slowly, ever so slowly, the species drifts to look more like the successful ones.

(Nota bene: One of the things people screw up is trying to bring the teleological fallacy into this, assuming a plan or assigning personal values to a natural process. Sure, being smart and strong and fast are good things, from our point of view. But if you are smart and strong and fast and opt to have only two children and your neighbor is a vile, lazy slug but has fathered fourteen illegitimate children, nature is valuing what he has, not what you have, not what you might think nature should value. And this process never stops.)

So we have children of our blood and we are children of someone else's blood.

But we also have ideas and we teach. The ideas are children of our brain, or rather a form of what the old naturalists called the 'germ' (like sperm and ova or pollen or seed). Spreading the germ transforms all of your students and many of your friends into your children. Progeny, rather.

There are a lot of parallels between ideas and genes, or children and students. Some ideas die out, others thrive. Some spawn a huge number of variations and create a complex web, others are monolithic and simple. The ideas that survive aren't necessarily the best by our human standards (of course we all believe that our ideas are the best or we would change them. Really sure we would. Sigh). And ideas, and those who hold them, will battle for survival.

A powerful idea can create millions of children, for good or bad. Shakespeare's words have spawned immense creativity. Or go back sixty years to find a demagogue who started a war and slaughtered millions.

I see another pattern here, and I see it in teaching and parenting both. Some people raise their children to be good children. To know their place as children: "You'll always be my baby." It makes them manageable and a comfort, and sometimes it seems a very healthy, safe and pleasant way to grow up. But teaching a child to be a good child is very different than teaching them to be a good adult. "You won't be a little kid forever. You need to learn how to handle this."

Teaching the way I do makes sense to me. In the last two days I've been called LSD ("That Elements drill changed our minds, for Kostas it was just like beer but for Thanasis and me it was like LSD.") Lucifer ("Not in the bad way, like the devil. He also brought the light.") And a contagion (I'm pretty sure that was a mistranslation and he meant "affected," not "infected" but it was funny anyway.) I think it is hitting some people hard because in this context they are used to being taught like children-- doing what they're told, cautioned not to break anything...and careful not to get their feet wet.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Good Question

It's almost 1 AM here. For some reason, the TV turned itself on at midnight. I'm feeling entirely too refreshed for four hours of sleep after 30+ awake. If you have no sleep cycle and regularly go for long periods without sleep, take a nap, and do it again...there is no real difference between jet lag and the normal state of exhaustion.

The signing went well. Just under forty people, including a few who drifted by, heard parts of the talk and stayed until the end. Then good talks and food at the nearby McMenamin's pub with a few friends.

One of the attendants asked a good question. It's one of those questions that has real depth into some of the underlying issues. The hypothetical: You're traveling out of country, taking pictures. You find yourself triangulated by three people who want your camera and money. What do you do? How do you prepare?

The rote answer is that you give it to them. Which is fine, I don't have a problem with that answer... but it's important that you understand why that is the reflex answer for most instructors, NOT what most people actually do, and the dynamics that underlie the answers that exist, the options that are seen, and the answer that is chosen.

I see six potential responses: To acquiesce, to run, to bargain, to struggle, to fight or to destroy.

1) Acquiesce is what most instructors would advocate, and in many situations it would be the safest thing. In much of the world, violent crimes are investigated more thoroughly than non-violent crimes. Killing tourists drives away tourists. Because the set-up described has all the ear marks of resource predation, it is probably safe to give up the goods... but every situation is different, every place is different.

There is an ego cost to acquiescing as well, and that ego cost drives many of the other options. Being mugged is just resources, on one level, but there is a dominance aspect. Many people, especially young men will feel like they should fight or they aren't men at all.

2) Running- If you're quick, not over-burdened, not cut off (and sometimes even if you are) and there is a safe place nearby (lights and people, generally) a sudden sprint can be a good option. The key is that sudden part. The bad guys expect a little hesitation as you decide if there is enough risk to keep you submissive. They might even expect backing away (and so it is likely, if they are experienced that there will be one behind you)... but taking off like a jack-rabbit with no hesitation usually buys a second of surprise. You might even be able to go through the people cutting you off. Few people do this, but it is on the table.

3) Bargaining is not about stuff. It is about ego. "Okay, I can't fight all three of you, so let me just give the camera and my cash. I need my passport..." This is one of the methods used so that it feels like you have some power in the situation. The power is actually an illusion, but some will let you keep a token if the threats are feeling generous. Not because you had a chance if it came to a fight. There is a similar dynamic in some sex crimes where the victim draws a line, sometimes a non-sensical line (actual example, a woman terribly assaulted and abused but she refused to 'talk dirty') to maintain some dignity.

It can work, or, if you either are disrespectful or the threats are NOT feeling generous, they can throw in a beating to teach you a lesson.

4) Struggling. This happens, for some reason. A bad guy grabs a woman's purse or a tourist's camera and the victim holds on to it, refusing to give it up, but also refusing to do any damage to the attacker-- They death grip on the camera strap but don't bite or punch or kick. Maybe it's instinct. Maybe it works sometimes, it's possible it could draw enough attention to make the bad guy run (witnesses are bad.) But in most cases, it just forces the bad guy or guys to use violence. The snatch becomes a beating. I'm not sure (pretty confident, but not sure) that this is another ego thing, your limbic system trying to prevent you from the "I shoulda done sumthin" blues of merely acquiescing.

5) Fighting. This is the overly-confident alpha male approach and what every teenager fantasizing (and, I suspect, many martial arts and self-defense aficionados) think they will or should do. Make 'em pay. Give 'em a good fight. Stand up, be a man. Sometimes it even works. You hit one or two of them or you get lucky, or you don't go down easy and they may decide the price is too high and scurry away, which will nicely reinforce the tough guy image. It's rare, though. Most three-on-ones, they just beat you down. With weapons (this is cultural, a lot of places in a mugging, the weapon is implied, not shown. It may not be there.) there is almost no chance.

6) Destroy. This goes back to flipping the switch and qualitative differences. Very few people just run. That's what makes the tactic so effective. Even fewer can just explode into violence. Destroying is not the same as fighting. You explode while the threats are expecting you to think, vacillate or agree. You do fast, extreme violence. It is not fighting. You don't defend yourself in anyway, confidant that your attacks will give them no time to react.

It can work. If it is not a simple mugging over stuff but, say, a group taking a hostage for later filming of a beheading, it is one of the few things (along with running) that has any chance at all. At the minimum, with this level of aggression and mindset, you will force the threats to make a choice: they can run or they can kill you then and there. You allow nothing else to work.

It's an alien mindset and there are more people who believe they could do it if necessary than actually can. Many, probably, that will think this is just like #5, fighting, only harder and more serious. It is nothing like fighting. It is slaughtering. And if you go there, you will kill or cripple someone... For a camera.

This is why the question was hard to answer completely in a short session. It's also an example of why prescriptive answers set students up for failure. If I tell him, "Just give up the camera, you'll be okay" that might be the right answer, 70% of the time. But if he is sure it is the right answer, he quits looking for all the little clues that this one is different.

I (or any other instructor) won't be there if he needs to make the decision. We won't see what he sees. He need to show what to look for, not tell what to do.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Busy Season Begins

The signing at Powell's in Beaverton tomorrow (my very first) is at 1900.  Hope to see some of you there.  We'll see if my voice still gets squeaky when I read in public.

Then hopping a plane to Athens (Greece, not Georgia) the next morning.

Back for a breather and then Seattle, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.  You have no idea how much mowing and yard work this is getting me out of.

It's not up on the webpage yet (see the link off to the side) but Toronto has confirmed that they have a space for three separate classes, so Logic of Violence Friday June 10th; the two day Ambushes and Thugs seminar over the weekend of June 11-12; and Conflict Communications Monday the 13th.  That should be severe information overload for anyone who makes all three.  Montreal is working on the possibility of ConCom as well.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Thoughts From Saturday

Two people playing and talking- large male, small female:
Woman: You're intimidating.  I feel like I can't do anything.
Man: Not true.  You're a much better martial artist than me.  You have more moves, you move better and you're crisper.
Woman: But if you decided to take me out, there's nothing I could do...
Man (dumps her quickly, double leg takedown): Decision stick.

So, first thought:  Gender, size and skill aside, making decisions will always overcome weighing options.  The decision stick is faster than the decision tree.  Moving beats thinking about moving.  Later, the woman described the man as "implacable" which ties in with something E and I were talking about last night.  Skill levels, strength, speed and size are all quantitative differences.  The more you have, the more the odds shift in you favor.

Making decisions is a qualitative difference from weighing options.  Moving and thinking are qualitative differences.  So are fighting and hunting (or social and asocial violence, if you're just catching up on the language.)  Skilled fighters and skilled killers are not at different levels of skill, they aren't even playing the same game.

That was the first thought, not really new, but this is something I keep trying to say in new ways because it seems that this thought brings up a lot of resistance and ego-defense.

The second thought is about gender, and this is something we will hit heavily in the "Logic of Violence" seminar.  There are a limited number of very specific types of violence.  Many of the most dangerous are predatory.  When the people in the class do their self analysis most fit male martial artists (who don't go clubbing, get drunk, go regularly to unfamiliar cultures or have old enemies) are not at risk for much.  What they are at risk for, especially if they do go to places of drunken revelry, is largely social: low stakes and easy to avoid.

The women, on the other hand, are at risk for more things, a wider variety of things and the types of violence with the highest stakes.  No one is going to pick a former bouncer and Muay Thai fighter with a shaved head out of the crowd and decide to lure him to a secluded place for an act of sexual violence and murder.  Victims are chosen for safety.

People forget that their world is not the world.  Men teaching self-defense, even with a lot of real-life experience, sometimes forget how limited their experience is.  If you have thrown a hundred people out of bars, 100% of your experience is with drunk young men challenging with a dominance display.  It is easy to come to believe that your 100% must at least relate to 90% of the world's experience. Surely...

Gender.  Women are attacked differently and for different reasons than men.  They are even intimidated differently.  The average women can be knocked flat with a single blow from a fairly athletic men.  Women know this.  Athletic men teaching self-defense tend, it seems, to forget.  When a guy gets knocked down, we don't like it, but it has happened before-- playing football or rough-housing as kids.

When a woman gets knocked down it is often new, a blatant expression of power she can't match and with an emotional element men rarely grasp.  You knock me down, I'm a guy.  This is now a contest.  The message is, "This is what I've got.  What have you got?"

You knock down a woman, it is a stark affirmation of something she knows: men are powerful.  The message received is not about a contest.  It is about worth and power and inconsequence.

Are the messages true?  Doesn't matter, because they are often received, true or not.  When you are teaching self-defense to women it is not merely a matter of overcoming a 5-to-1 power deficit and a 3-to-1 size deficit as Teja points out.  It also happens in a sometimes crippling psychological milieu.  You can't ignore that.

In sparring and drills, I watch big people ramp back on strength so that they play skill against skill with the other students.  It's very natural, but it's not true.  There is a piece missing.  That piece has to be brought out occasionally and looked at.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cold Math: Epipheny

Yesterday in Everett was very good.  John had a great venue, the mix of skills and intensity was wonderful.  Several previous attendees and some new blood.  Sore muscles, rug burns... some of the best things in life.

With a few exceptions, I stayed away from the dark stuff.  Yesterday was about fun and movement and efficiency.  We played at mass brawls and (almost) everyone learned and extrapolated the lesson of the baby drill.  Score!  And I saw something I have been trying to put into words for a long time.

It is some pretty cold math.

People, generally, are very inefficient fighters.  Contestants regularly go two-minute rounds in any full-contact combat sport you care to name yet, hospitalizations are rare.  Deaths are very rare,  and these are skilled fighters in excellent condition.

On the other hand, people can be extremely efficient killers.  The longest stage in butchering an 800 pound steer or 200 pound hog is watching it bleed out.  There is no ritual when you butcher meat.  You don't take time to bow in, you don't get angry.  There is no fight.

People can apply this skill and mindset to other people.  Some can, anyway.  It becomes very efficient.  It doesn't have to be just killing, either. It's a tiny switch in mindset to simply knock down a threat and cuff him while he is still waiting for the fight.  We can do it.  We don't.  We are so conditioned-- biologically, socially and through training-- to fight, to struggle, to turn any face to face struggle with each other into a dominance game with rules we are not even aware of...

(The tempting tangent, here is to go into how completely unprepared skilled fighters are when they meet a casual killer, but that's not the point.)

The one-step drill has to be done slowly to be safe.  I want good power generation, good targeting.  Each moment or action should be a cold assessment of the most efficient option.  I want people to practice or at least think of skills closer to butchering than to fighting.  Each action should be intended to incapacitate the threat or put the threat in a position to incapacitate.  I want them going slowly enough that they can stay (safely) in the cold, killing mindset when all of their instincts are pushing them to fight, to contest.

It's hard to go slow, and always a few people ramp it up.  Usually no one gets hurt and I usually just tell them to slow down, remind them that the drill isn't a fight simulation, it's about learning to see and encourage them to slow down and see...

"...always a few people ramp it up.  Usually no one gets hurt..." That clicked, yesterday.  Finally, and I feel like an idiot for not figuring the words out sooner.

Here's the deal, and herein is the cold math:  If you are ramping it up, if you are putting energy into a system designed to hurt people and no one is getting hurt, the energy is being dissipated, wasted in some way.  In other words, if you are training to injure people (which is the essence of martial arts) and you practice with speed and power in sparring and no one gets hurt you are being inefficient.  There is no way to put ten times the energy (effort, power, speed) into the system (sparring) and get the same results (no injuries) unless you also drop the efficiency by a full factor.

It is completely subconscious, for most people.  I caught myself tensing up punching someone I didn't want to hurt a while ago.  A subconscious inefficiency I hadn't felt in years... and also the first time I'd fought within my own tribe in years.

This post will bring up all kinds of resistance.  We all do things that feel stronger that makes us less efficient, but we all deny it.  You only really have to look at the threat displays versus the pre-assault indicators to see it in others, though.  All the 'big, red, loud' pattern of a threat display makes for a vulnerable, exposed, weak and telegraphing fighter... but we are programmed to feel and sometimes see stupid rage as strength.

Thanks to the crew who showed up yesterday, I think I finally found the words.

Monday, May 16, 2011


After three autovetter failures the fourth installment in the blog series is up on Smashwords. Kami did an outstanding job on the cover.

"Facing Violence" appears to be doing well, as near as you can tell from its Amazon ranking which has stayed under 10k for eleven days and counting.

Combative Poetry

Lots of things coming together that feel important.  Some from the book, some from talking to E, some old mysteries.

I think more and more that 'art' in combative or martial arts is probably the right word.  It is and must be a creative, spontaneous process.  The logical part of the brain, the one that tries to remember what you were taught or what you 'should' do is too slow.  But so is the creative part, if it is bounded.  If you come up with an idea but reject it because the idea isn't good enough, that is also too slow to work.  Probably slower than relying on memory and certainly closer to a freeze.

With my family I sometimes do extemporaneous rhyme.  Usually at the Fessic level (Princess Bride reference), just trying to think up every word that rhymes with one that catches my attention and maybe keep them in a sentence.  It's not a sonnet by any means, but it is poetry-without-thought.  Reciting poetry takes a hesitation, and you must have the right poetry memorized for the occasion. Spontaneously composing good poetry is hard... and it rarely is or sounds spontaneous.  It takes time.

You can get better at it, but the key is practicing spontaneity, not studying poetry.
Am I the only one that sees the correlation here with survival fighting?

Kids do poetry naturally.  Show them rhyme and alliteration and rhythm and they will have fun.  They will play with words and make up songs.  (When my daughter was five years old and very angry at the entire adult world she made up a lovely and disturbing ballad called, "I Ran Away From Home and Got Raised by Some Cougars." No adults survived the whole song.)  They don't start losing talent until someone tells them there is such a thing and that there are good and bad rhymes and that (and this is subtle but it is always there) they will be judged.  That's when kids quit making up their own songs.  That's when they tell themselves that they aren't fill-in-the-blank.  Talented.  Smart. Creative.

This ties in so hugely with the 'Permission' aspect of self-defense.

Some, a very few, don't care what other people think.  It's very hard to truly fall into that camp without being an ass. (Damn, I went judgmental.)  A slightly larger number realize that no one can judge us unless we let them.  You can tell me that you think something I did was incorrect, but if it worked your judgment doesn't mean a lot to me.

Training for spontaneity isn't hard.  And you will come up with things that are better than anything you were taught, since they will come from who you are.  And it can be faster than responding from any other complex part of your brain.

We go around and around about what can really be taught.  Appropriate and graded ruthlessness.  The instinct to attack when under attack.  Unfreezing.  The will to recover and fight when you are pretty much finished. Taking pain and even injury as a data point, ignoring the emotional element... and spontaneity.

Realistically, I know that most high-end operators are identified in selection, not forged in training.  Some of these abilities I have seen trained and most grow to some extent over time, but always by being in the company of a group who showed the traits.

But, in martial arts, there may be a problem with the student population.  Kids lose their creativity when they realize they will be judged.  It's a defense mechanism.  But it is one of many possible defense mechanisms.

Another is to memorize well and seek out a group where the standards are clear.  To work hard at conforming to what the teacher wants.  To be an obedient student.
I think that will work better at a recital than playing the dozens.

A contrast- where these kinds of thinking lead:
In "Meditations on Violence" I wrote: "... if you are scheduled to fight a world champion heavyweight boxer on Thursday, you shoot him on Tuesday."

As opposed to, "If I had a fight to the death next week I would practice my forms every day."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Yes and No People

I'm in the middle of reading a fascinating book.  Full review when I finish.

In one section, the author states that there are 'Yes' people and there are 'No" people, and that 'Yes' people are rewarded by the adventures they have and 'No' people are rewarded by the security they bring into their lives.

So much in that little statement.  He writes that there are many more 'No' people, and you see this soooo much: people who have always wanted to write a book but never got around to it, people who go to the same vacation spot every year, people who hate a job and stick with it.  It's natural, organisms tend toward homeostasis.  "The over-grazed pasture here is my ancestral homeland, we will not leave for those green hills..."

There are always a few who take challenges, a few 'Yes' people, and they drag civilization along behind them, otherwise our species would have died an embarrassing, boring, entropy death long ago.  And there are always 'No' people who specialize in trying to rein in and control the 'Yes' people.

Looking at my writing and things I sound, martially, like a 'No' person.  Everything is presented as a tool to come home safe, to keep my homeostasis.  But it is a big element of the 'Yes' part of my life as well.  I intend to go into unsafe places.  That's not "No' person behavior.   I need the tools to come home.

So here's the thing we maybe all need to think about with our martial arts training.
Why do we do it?
Do we do it so we can then take risks with better chances?
Or do we train so that we get that feeling, but then never actually take the risks.  Does MA help us (me, you) become a more effective 'Yes' person?  Or just give us a beard we can hide behind and pretend to be explorers while never actually taking the risks?

And that's just in application.  In training, do we give over our agency to someone with a title so we don't have to think for ourselves?  Avoid training with strangers or new ideas to maintain our level of comfort?  Accept that our instructor's superior years of training in some way requires us to act and think like dutiful children instead of men and women?

Or do we brawl and challenge and play?  Look for things so different that they will shift everything we thought we knew?  Try to find those edges of fear and exhaustion where the world changes?

In the end, is your training about being comfortable?  Or being incredible?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bone and Muscle

Deep water and shallow water as well. The Beaverton seminar was small, but went well. A really wide mix of skills and, as always, there are a number of things I consider basic that we didn't touch.

A lot of my purpose in teaching the way I do is to, as Joe Lewis says, "Lead them to the deep water." Until you complicate it, the physical stuff is easy. Striking two people while doing a back flip is probably hard and somewhat complex...but knocking someone on his ass isn't complex. Not unless your internal "what if monkey" gets involved. There are few things more natural and intuitive to an organism than delivering kinetic energy.

I consider that shallow water stuff, and people do need some training in it. But spending years in the wading pool doesn't prepare you for the deep end...and, to stretch the metaphor too far, many people work really hard to convince themselves that their little wading pool is the ocean. Power generation is easy. Power generation with compromised structure and injured (which, unless you are the bad guy, is the normal starting place in an assault) is a different skill.

Fighting well when you have psyched yourself up for a match is different than fighting well surprised and scared...and that is different than fighting after you have been crushed and humiliated and all you have left is a life that may or may not be worth living. I spend a lot of time on context and a little time on emotion. Partially because they are important but even more because so few people really look at them and they affect everything else.

One of the rank beginners asked a question. There is simply no way to move or stand where you are safe. Multiple targets are always exposed and every motion exposes more. If the threat has the power or a weapon, the human body is all target. He wanted to know how to defend his vulnerabilities.

I paused for a second because the question was so backward... and then we played with it. It's not about your vulnerabilities (much) it's about the threat's capabilities. He is composed of bone and meat. Any way that he stands, each motion creates and eliminates specific vectors. His weight is on his right foot? He can't kick right without shifting. Leaning away? His lead hand is weak but his rear, especially if his spine is twisted, is loaded.

Once you read the opponent, you know how he can hurt you. His options are limited. You don't need to defend everything, only what he can hurt. It's one of the reasons I prefer infighting is that people are easier and faster to read by touch than by sight, but the principle really doesn't change.

Things change by history. This isn't deep-water stuff for me. I don't think I learned it my first day of martial arts, but certainly in the first year and probably the first month. It's a basic. Getting the question from a beginner was okay... but I also got a 'thanks' e-mail from someone else at the seminar who considered this the big take-away. Not sure how I feel about that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Was Mean

One of my pet peeves is bad science. I'm not just talking ignorant science, where people with no background or training parrot back opinions that they don't really understand. That's just the tribal brain pretending to be logical.

I'm annoyed by bad science. Poorly designed experiments. Bad survey design. Ignorance of the process of science.

For example, in an upper-level psych class in college, our textbook had an experiment. In an effort to find where thirst was detected in the body, the experimenters injected hypertonic saline solution into the hepatic portal vein (liver) and the jugular vein (neck) to see if thirst was detected in the liver or the brain.

Can you believe that? Someone (I assume a student) designed and proposed an experiment; that was reviewed by the instructor; that was reviewed by at least one committee (ethics). It was performed, written up and submitted for publication. There it was peer-reviewed and published. Then someone decided it was really cool and found its way into a college textbook.

No one, evidently, in that long, involved process knew that veins move blood towards the heart. Away from the organ. All that they measured was which would make the hypertonicity go systemic faster.

Last night I got a call:
"I'd like to ask you a few questions for a survey. What region are you in?"
"You called me. How can you not know what region I'm in?"
"Are you in Washington State?"
"If you knew, why did you ask?"
"What is your opinion on the changes to the health care law?"
"Federal or State?"
"Excuse me?"
"Are you talking about the changes to federal laws or the changes to state laws? They both changed last year, right?"
"I... I don't know."
"How can you not know? You're trying to conduct a poll on a law and you don't know which law?
"The survey form doesn't say."
"Well, since I don't know what you're talking about and neither do you, I don't think I can help you. Good bye."

Okay, it was a little mean and maybe a little funny, but it also was wrong and infuriating. The only valid data possible from this survey is measuring the emotional reaction of people who don't know what they are talking about. Nothing else, because by the nature of it, no one COULD know what they are talking about.

What's your opinion on Blixismaciousness?

But this survey was designed and paid for and someone is going to use the data generated. Use it for what? Not to change the unknown and possibly imaginary health law. At least I don't think so. More likely to tell people what other people think: "80% of the people agree on "X" what is the matter with you?" "Over half the people surveyed in your district don't support your position, Senator." "Our survey indicates that people think this is a serious problem, so we need more funding."

If I hadn't hung up, I probably could have figured out what the survey was designed to elicit (and only really good surveys are neutral). Most people have never even seen a neutral survey. Either by design-- which seems quite common now-- or by subconscious bias in the designer, most surveys and many experiments are targeted at a specific result.

And there's some guilt in this mix of feelings as well. When everyone refuses to play the stupid game it only leaves the ones unable to see the stupid game still playing. Do they then wind up driving policy?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

"Facing Violence"

The new book ships in less than two weeks, if my math is correct. I should be able to bring a few to Athens at the end of the month. My publisher has express mailed me the first two off the press and they should be here, oh, about now. That's cigar worthy.

I'm not sure what it means, but on pre-orders alone, "Facing Violence" is currently ranked #7858 on Amazon out of more than eight million books. According to the secret author page, it hit a high rank of #5748 Wednesday.

Those are numbers. My assessment, as the author, is that "Meditations on Violence" was more personal and visceral than "Facing Violence" but that "Facing Violence" is infinitely more practical and useful. In the end, as always, the readers will decide.