All posts filed under: Practical Skills

Light Infantry Tactics: For Small Teams (Christopher Larsen)

In these latter days, many people in flyover country have been preparing for the Apocalypse. This is not the Apocalypse of St. John, depicted memorably, if flatly and with bad theology, in the Left Behind series of books. No, this is a secular apocalypse, driven by many different fears. These range from the semi-reasonable (pandemics leading to social breakdown) to the stupid (the magnetic poles flipping and leading to something or other). But in all cases, the fears drive a significant number of people, commonly known as “preppers,” to prepare, for something wicked this way comes. And of those preparations, some of the most common are military preparations.

Deep Survival (Laurence Gonzales)

I read Laurence Gonzales’ “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, And Why” as a counterpoint to Amanda Ripley’s “The Unthinkable.” Both are survivor books, very different in their approach, but with significant conclusions in common. Gonzales focuses more on accidents: unexpected twists that challenge people in stressful situations they chose to put themselves in, primarily wilderness and sporting recreational activities. Gonzales focuses little on true disasters, where our daily lives are suddenly interrupted by a wholly unexpected catastrophic and immediately life threatening event from which we must escape; Ripley focuses on true disasters. Gonzales focuses a lot on scientific, technical biological explanations; Ripley talks a lot about pseudo-scientific evolutionary biology. Gonzales is a more florid writer on a semi-autobiographical quest following a life of adventure; Ripley is a straightforward young writer trying to analyze what others do.

Wiring Simplified: Based on the 2014 National Electrical Code (H.P. Richter et al.)

I have gradually come to realize the limitations of the Internet for providing information on technical subjects. Yes, a vast volume of information is available for free. But there is so much chaff that often it is hard to find accurate answers. When and if you do find accurate answers, they are surrounded by a cloud of invasive ads and other devices meant to distract you, which have the effect of making it difficult to view and comprehend the information as a whole (not to mention the constant temptation to lose focus and check out something else on the Internet). And searching online for something even moderately complex frequently creates a bias towards focusing on the easy answer, since that’s the answer that’s going to be simple to find, and find repeatedly. Maybe on page 20 of the results you’ll find a passing reference to a less easy answer—and then find that more details are behind a paywall.

Welder’s Handbook (Richard Finch)

“Welder’s Handbook” is a good introductory text to basic welding. Yes, it does not have an endless amount of detail on most welding processes. And yes, in order to actually weld, you’ll have to actually weld. But reading this book first, and then getting basic instruction from someone who knows how to perform the type of welding you’re interested in, will get you off the ground very effectively.

Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun (Paul Barrett)

“Glock” is that rarest of beasts—a mainstream writing in which the author makes zero errors about guns, and takes almost no political positions with respect to guns. This is the most neutral book on the topic I have ever seen, which is surprising given that the author, Paul Barrett, worked and works for the violently and maliciously anti-gun Michael Bloomberg. It is not true, as several other reviewers claim, that “Glock” is pro-gun control. It is a history book, not a book of politics, or, for that matter, a technical book on Glock handguns.

Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected (Rory Miller)

While “Facing Violence” is an interesting book, it seems to me its practical usefulness is limited. It will probably help, to some extent, in “Preparing For the Unexpected.” But the reader shouldn’t get overconfident as a result. It’s like being an armchair general—there is nothing inherently wrong with analyzing things from the comfort of your chair, but it’s not the same thing as, and does not prepare you for, actually being a general. Same here. Moreover, the book is dated by its complete omission of the defensive use of firearms, in these days of widespread citizen carry.

The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist (Michael Phillips)

“The Apple Grower” is an excellent book, but not one for the casual apple grower. That doesn’t mean that another, simpler book would be better for the casual apple grower. Rather, it appears to me (very much a non-expert) that apple growing isn’t possible to do casually, so “casual apple grower” is a very small group, consisting of those who pick a few apples of varying quality from their trees and let the rest drop. So, if you’re like me, and planning on planting and maintaining ten or twenty apple trees for my family’s own personal use, this book shows you very well how to do that. But it doesn’t make it sound easy.

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock (Harvey Ussery)

This may be the best “how to” book I have ever read, at least for manual work. Yes, I haven’t even started raising chickens (yet), so my base of knowledge for that praise is small. And yes, the book I read before this was the not-good “Keeping Chickens With Ashley English,” so after that, anything would seem good. But for a combination of clarity, useful information, complete coverage, and a coherent but rational philosophy, I don’t think you can beat this book.

The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm (Lewis Dartnell)

“The Knowledge” is meant as an assist to the human race. But to properly aid the human race, in a post-apocalypse future, two things are required. One is technical knowledge. The other is an understanding of the human race. Lewis Dartnell here offers technical knowledge, but he limits it to knowledge useful for “peaceful coexistence.” Given that violence is an inherent part of humans, which Dartnell seems to not understand, that limitation sharply diminishes the usefulness of his book.