Ted Koppel: Lights Out

In this tour de force of investigative reporting, Ted Koppel reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is shockingly unprepared.
 
Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before. 

It isn’t just a scenario. A well-designed attack on just one of the nation’s three electric power grids could cripple much of our infrastructure—and in the age of cyberwarfare, a laptop has become the only necessary weapon. Several nations hostile to the United States could launch such an assault at any time. In fact, as a former chief scientist of the NSA reveals, China and Russia have already penetrated the grid. And a cybersecurity advisor to President Obama believes that independent actors—from “hacktivists” to terrorists—have the capability as well. “It’s not a question of if,” says Centcom Commander General Lloyd Austin, “it’s a question of when.” 

And yet, as Koppel makes clear, the federal government, while well prepared for natural disasters, has no plan for the aftermath of an attack on the power grid.  The current Secretary of Homeland Security suggests keeping a battery-powered radio.

In the absence of a government plan, some individuals and communities have taken matters into their own hands. Among the nation’s estimated three million “preppers,” we meet one whose doomsday retreat includes a newly excavated three-acre lake, stocked with fish, and a Wyoming homesteader so self-sufficient that he crafted the thousands of adobe bricks in his house by hand. We also see the unrivaled disaster preparedness of the Mormon church, with its enormous storehouses, high-tech dairies, orchards, and proprietary trucking company – the fruits of a long tradition of anticipating the worst. But how, Koppel asks, will ordinary civilians survive?

With urgency and authority, one of our most renowned journalists examines a threat unique to our time and evaluates potential ways to prepare for a catastrophe that is all but inevitable.

Every book sounds good on late night talk shows. It’s the host’s job to provide enough witty banter to make the book sound exciting and accessible to everyone. There’s a reason it’s called “The Colbert Bump.”

However, I quickly learned that Lights Out was not written for me. It’s probably extremely well-researched, informative–even interesting. I just couldn’t get into it. It just went over my head from the very beginning. You really need to have a solid foundation in military structures and acronyms to get more than 20 pages in. After that you start to lose the thread quickly. I had zero idea of what he was talking about.

I’ll put this on my shelf, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see my husband pick it up eventually. He’s way more into military nonfiction than I am, and I know he was interested in Koppel’s Colbert interview too. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get further into this, it sounded like an interesting (albeit terrifying) theory.

This book was provided by Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing for an unbiased review. This post does contain affiliate links.

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The Prince

The Prince is a classic book that explores the attainment, maintenance, and utilization of political power in the western world. Machiavelli wrote The Prince to demonstrate his skill in the art of the state, presenting advice on how a prince might acquire and hold power. Machiavelli defended the notion of rule by force rather than by law. Accordingly, The Prince seems to rationalize a number of actions done solely to perpetuate power. It is an examination of power-its attainment, development, and successful use.

Machiavelli always shows up on strong lists of books you must read. Any collegiate list of repute will have The Prince prominently displayed. I always assumed it was a novel akin to Tolstoy–something political, long, and aristocratic. But fiction, nonetheless.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Prince is essentially Medieval Poli-Sci. It isn’t so much a book about one particular prince, as it is about how to BE one. And not even just any old, run-of-the-mill “my daddy was king and now I am king too,” but how to be royalty if you were once a common citizen.

Read this book! Become a PRINCE YOURSELF!

Makes you wonder who Stephen Colbert was in 1500, marketing this stuff. Donald Trump would have eaten it up.

Jokes aside, I didn’t really see today’s modern applications to this and why it is on so many need-to-read lists. But then, I’m not running for political office or running a Fortune 500 company. I suppose I’m not exactly the target market for an old Italian manual on hostile takeovers.

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The Sleep Revolution

We are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis, writes Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post. And this has profound consequences – on our health, our job performance, our relationships and our happiness. What is needed, she boldly asserts, is nothing short of a sleep revolution.  Only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives.

In The Sleep Revolution, Arianna shows how our cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted compromises our health and our decision-making and undermines our work lives, our personal lives — and even our sex lives. She explores all the latest science on what exactly is going on while we sleep and dream.  She takes on the dangerous sleeping pill industry, and all the ways our addiction to technology disrupts our sleep. She also offers a range of recommendations and tips from leading scientists on how we can get better and more restorative sleep, and harness its incredible power.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an author work so hard to get me to put my book down (and electronics, and everything else), and go to sleep. But that is exactly what Arianna Huffington wants me to do. Ironically, this hasn’t been a good sleep week for me–but normally, I’m a pretty strong sleeper. My husband, however, is not. Neither is my best friend. So when I heard about Huffington’s book on Late Show with Stephen Colbert, I thought it would be an interesting read.

The first part of this book is just going to piss off a lot of you. “I know I need to sleep more, Arianna. Ambien is the freakin’ devil and where the hell did all these shoes come from? But I’ve been living with insomnia for years. You’re preachin’ to the choir here!” I could hear my friend’s arguments all the way through it. Because it is perfectly grand to suggest all these things while you sleep 8 hours a night, but try telling an insomniac to give up their sleeping pills and see how it goes. They KNOW they need more sleep. They KNOW the medication is causing them to do all kinds of crazy things. It doesn’t make them any less exhausted.

The second half of the book does give some tips, but again…it’s very much “this works for some people, but you have to find your own thing.” You can’t really go into The Sleep Revolution expecting a self-help magic trick to get better sleep. Instead, Huffington uses her journalism skills to collect research and quotes from scientists and successful sleepers to form the basis of her own hypothesis into what makes for a good night’s rest. Turn off your cell phone, eat right, and just make yourself do it.

Can I say it works? I don’t know–I’ve never had a problem with sleeping 99% of the time, so I’ve not really ever been on the other side of the line. It does seem a little patronizing to me, though.

The writing is excellent, and the book itself is interesting. I mean, it’s Arianna Huffington. I wouldn’t expect anything less. I’m unsure about the theory, but her journalism is top notch as usual. There’s a reason Huffington Post rose so quickly to the top of online media. She is supreme at what she does. If you’re interested in this topic at all, I’d pick it up. I’d be super interested to know if any of you have tried Arianna’s suggestions, and if they work. Let me know!

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Blogging for Books and Harmony provided a copy for an unbiased review.

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What Personality Type Are You?

The Hubs and I have become pretty big fans of the new Late Night with Stephen Colbert. Recently, he did a blurb on personality types as a way to point out the difference between his old Comedy Central character and the “real deal” Colbert.

This got us talking:  What are OUR personality types?

I had taken the test several months ago, when my sister was doing them for her job. I am an INFJ:  Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, Judging. “The Advocate.”

But Hubs hadn’t taken one in years, and couldn’t remember the results. So I sent him to 16personalities.com to take the quiz. No surprise to either one of us…he’s an ISTJ. Introversion (although he was pretty middle ground, more ambivert), Sensing, Thinking, Judging. “The Logistician.”

Of course, I don’t need a personality test to know that my very Type-A, retail manager husband is an extremely deliberate rule follower who sees the world as black and white with no gray areas. However, I think that knowing where each of us fall on the Myers-Briggs matrix is a valuable thing to understand. I wish more businesses and schools used it, to be honest.

Learning about your personality type can help break down certain pieces of your life that you previously hadn’t considered before. For example, today I read this on my file:

Their passion, poor patience for routine maintenance, tendency to present themselves as an ideal, and extreme privacy tend to leave INFJs with few options for letting off steam. People with this personality type are likely to exhaust themselves in short order if they don’t find a way to balance their ideals with the realities of day-to-day living.

Knowing this about myself is key to understanding the very nature of my anxieties. I melt myself down so often because of my severe introversion and the lack of my capacity for just…everything. Up until recently I’ve tried to keep up with EVERYTHING myself and when I had my breakdown, it all had to stop. Now, it’s like I’m working on a depleted battery. Very rarely do I have a full charge anymore. So now I know I have to limit what I do, and minimize the stressors I take on.

There’s a flipside to this as well–get to know the personality types of those close to you. By knowing the types of your partner, your best friend, your family members, even your boss/coworkers if your company uses Myers-Briggs, you can learn how to interact with them more effectively. Politics has always been a terrible conversation for The Hubs and I, and his personality profile really illustrates why. It says specifically that he does not sway his opinion, and he looks only at facts, not empathy. I am logical, but I look at the human side too. Not a very good combination when looking at social justice issues. We should probably just steer clear, huh? (It doesn’t help that we are at opposite ends of the seesaw politically, too.)

That’s just one example, though. Sit down tonight and go through your personality profile on 16personalities.com. You might be interested in what you find out! Getting to know yourself is certainly helpful for your mental health!

 

Disclaimer:  I’m not sponsored by 16personalities.com. It’s just a great resource for Myers-Briggs profiles. There are lots of sites that provide the quiz, if you have one that you prefer.