Special Announcement!!!!

The Library is hosting Laurence Gonzales again!  Come and hear about his new book.

Laurence Gonzales Reads

Saturday, January 17, 4 pm, Community Meeting Room, Main Library

Come meet journalist and author Laurence Gonzales as he reads from his latest book Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival.  Described by the Boston Globe as a “painstakingly researched… white-knuckle read,” Flight 232 offers a unique 360-degree reconstruction of the crash while showing the triumph of heroism over catastrophe and of human ingenuity over technological breakdown.  Following his reading, Mr. Gonzales will take questions and also sigh copies of Flight 232 which are available for purchase courtesy of Bookends & Beginnings.

Laurence Gonzales is the author of numerous books including the bestseller Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why and its sequel Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience.  His many honors include two National Magazine Awards and the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists.  He lives in Evanston.

Everyone is welcome, but please register online or by calling (847) 448-8620.



I just wanted to send out a MASSIVE thank you to Laurence Gonzales for joining us last night.  I’ve gotten numerous compliments on how incredible he was and I couldn’t agree more.  It was a truly interesting evening thanks to him.

With that said, I look forward to possibly new members (and my faithful regulars) joining me next month to resume our regular discussions.

Reminder about tonight

Just a reminder (as if you’ve forgotten) we will be joined by author Laurence Gonzales tonight!  This also means we will be in a bigger room to accommodate the amount of people that might show up to meet our author.  So, I’ll see you tonight at 7:00 in the Community Meeting Room on the 1st Floor at the Main Library.


P.S. There will be snacks 🙂

Bucking the System: an Interview with Laurence Gonzales


Author: Heidi Smith

Journalist and author Laurence Gonzales has been studying accidents and their roots in human behavior for more than 35 years, culminating in the 2003 publication of Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. Part adventure-story, part scientific treatise, Deep Survival looks at what separates the quick from the dead and how we can foster those characteristics within ourselves. Gonzales’ next book, Vortex, will examine why smart people do stupid things. We got his take on global warming, preparedness and denial.

Bucking the System - Interview with Laurence Gonzales

SC: In Deep Survival, you talked about taking a realistic look at what’s going on in an emergency rather than going into a state of denial or becoming so paralyzed and overwhelmed by the situation that you don’t do anything. What are your thoughts on that relative to global warming?

LG: I address that in my new book. One time I went away to a medieval village in Europe, a little tiny place on the island of Majorca, far up in the mountains, with no electricity, a stone house, very primitive. In order to get food, you had to walk to the market and back. The market was all tables with stuff that had been laid out, fish that had just been caught, or olives that had just been picked. So I got used to this way of living. I came back finally after a month or two, and we immediately went to get some food because there was nothing at the house. We went to the supermarket and we both just stood there gaping like “What is this? Where’s the food?”

The American economy is predicated on our willingness to exercise a kind of voluntary stupidity.

It was so different, it was so shocking, because it was all packaging, and it was kind of a revelation. It was like “Wow. We don’t really sell food, we don’t really buy food in this country, we buy packaging.” Then, by a process of extension, I began to see this insane system that we live in. All the most expensive and manufacturing intensive things that I’ve just bought go immediately into trash, or the recycling. So there I am, enacting a system whereby I’m essentially an agent of garbage. If I stopped doing that, if we all stopped doing that, the system would stop.

This system assembled itself because of the way we do things that we’re rewarded for in the short term, without really thinking about what it means in the long term. But once you start viewing your real job in this system as what it truly is – every time you walk out with a couple of garbage bags full of this manufactured stuff that you’ve purchased now that you’re throwing away within perhaps hours or days of when you bought it, you realize what a messed up system it is.

Bucking the System - Interview with Laurence Gonzales

So where does that lead us? All of this stuff that human effort has made in our culture is now getting taken away, dumped in a heap at the edge of town, completely useless. So all this wonderful human ability is going into this process, and we are agents of the process. Once you start thinking that way, it really begins to affect how we feel about our behavior, and we start to look for ways to not be quite so ridiculous.

SC: In terms of denial, there are two issues here. There’s mitigation and there’s also the issue of adaptation. When it comes to global warming, what is it in us that doesn’t want to see the problem?

LG: It really comes down to the simplest seeming principles of how mammalian emotional systems work, ours included. It’s a system that starts, probably before you’re born, and it develops a model for the world. It develops these models that say, “This behavior is good because I get rewarded for it, and this behavior is bad, because I get punished for it. So I will constantly move towards the things I get rewarded for, and I will move away from the things I get punished for, and as you grow up into the world, you continuously create these models that essentially dictate how you make decisions about your behavior.

If there is a real fire, you want to be sure you’re the person standing on the street, not the person staying inside because you practiced staying inside during fire alarms.

So now you create a world, over a fairly short period of time in evolutionary terms, an environment, essentially, that’s stripped of all the predators. It has the appearance of being stripped of all the dangers, too. The kinds of dangers, and even the kinds of rewards that the system was designed to relate to, are gone.

Now you’re in this environment where all of your rewards come from things like, “I’m going to go to the grocery store and get a pretty package that says Cheerios on it, and that’s going to be my breakfast.” You don’t want to have to create a whole new system of rewards for yourself to make your life satisfying. You don’t voluntarily go out and find punishments for your behavior. That’s not how the system works.

So you’re being rewarded essentially for something that’s destructive. The system still works, so intellectually you may be able to comprehend this, but the intellect is not very strong when it comes to competing with the emotions.

SC: Then there’s also the piece that it’s creating a threat, but the threat is not –

LG: It’s invisible.

SC: It’s not immediately perceived, and so, regardless of how much science gets presented, there’s not the immediate impetus to act.

LG: That’s correct. Yeah, it’s not associated with something tangible.

SC: I’d like to look at the whole think, analyze and plan step from your book and how that would relate to a long-term threat.

LG: Part of the point is that we’ve created a culture for ourselves that, at least throughout my life time, has made it not only unnecessary to think, but has made it actually a detriment to the system to think. The American economy is predicated on our willingness to exercise a kind of voluntary stupidity. Our time is so worthless and our intellect is so useless in the system that essentially it just needs to be immobilized so that it doesn’t work.

As we grew up in this culture, what we learn is that we really don’t HAVE to do anything. Things are done for us. In fact, since my childhood, which was in the ‘50s, it’s gotten more and more that way. Things became completely automated in my lifetime. It’s cleverness, it’s technology. On the other hand, this kind of progress, if you want to call it that, begins to take us more and more out of the loop, so we have to do less and less. The less you have to do, the less you have to think, the more incapable of doing and thinking you become. I’m not saying this is a conspiracy, I’m just saying this is an unintended side effect of this culture.

We’ve gotten more and more away from being critical and analytical. The system counts on you to be uncritical and unthinking, or else you would never put up with the bullshit that’s in the system. So that’s why, to think, analyze and plan, we really have to work against what our culture encourages us to do.

We don’t really sell food, we don’t really buy food in this country, we buy packaging.

SC: Okay. And what would that look like?

LG: We begin to look at the culture as what it is. Most of the things in our culture are first of all useless, and secondly, dangerous, and don’t really have anything to do with our survival, or perhaps our getting smarter, or doing things better. They are essentially distractions meant to get us from purchase to purchase so that the system keeps going.

Packaged food is just one example. But so much of what we experience in our culture is, if not directly useless, at least a point along that engineered uselessness that we live with so much.

It doesn’t mean that we have to reject all our culture. It just means that it’s a good idea to be aware of, what are you doing, why are you doing this, what are you doing with this product, why do you want it, what do you intend to accomplish, how is this making your life better, or the lives of others better? Is this the agency of some good at all, or is it just like what you do ‘cause you can’t figure out what else to do? That kind of analytical thinking is very rare in our culture.

SC: It’s also a distinction between what you need and what you want, and our culture is really focused on what you want, whereas survival is really focused on what you need.

LG: It’s a completely different way of thinking. Part of this is changing your point of view on things. Because until you change your point of view, nothing new will get in.

SC: The last piece is really about taking decisive action. One aspect of that is setting these small, attainable goals and breaking it down into a way that’s manageable. Can you talk about that in terms of survival and global warming?

LG: I have two grown daughters, and when they were little, we traveled a lot together. Whenever we were in a hotel and the fire alarm went off, we would leave the building. We’d put on our robes and go down these stairs and be standing out in the street in the cold when the fire department came and said, “It’s a false alarm.” I said to the girls, “You do what you practice doing. This is why we’re doing this. If there is a real fire, you want to be sure you’re the person standing on the street, not the person staying inside because you practiced staying inside during fire alarms.”

So this is a basic element of thinking that I try to teach as I go around the country talking to people. I say, “Bureaucracy is bad. Not for all the reasons that you hear, like inefficiency or corruption. Bureaucracy is bad because it makes you practice nonsense, and if you practice nonsense you will be in a position of behaving nonsensically, and someday, that’ll kill you.”

Whatever action you’re going to take, you’re going to aim at retraining your way of behaving. In terms of small ways of doing this, if you live in a place like New Orleans, or the coast of Florida, where you’re subject to get flooded out by storms, you have to really kind of question your entire underlying way of life, and wonder why you’re doing it. Why did you put yourself in harm’s way? The answer goes back to question number one, which is, it rewards you in the short term. It does not reward you in the long term.

It is entirely within the realm of possibility that our giant growing agricultural area in this country that we use to grow all of our food could fall apart under the stress of climate change.

You have to, at the very least, start thinking about well, since the climate has already changed, and since these storms are getting bigger and bigger, I have to have a plan. If I’m not actually going to sell my house and move somewhere safer, then I have to have a plan for how I’m going to survive the next storm that comes, because it will come.

That, for example, is one way of looking at our lives. What is the Achilles’ heel in my life, and how should I be thinking about it? What’s the worst thing that can happen here in my little part of the world?

Bucking the System - Interview with Laurence Gonzales

SC: Realistically assessing where you are.

LG: Like, did you move to a beautiful new house on a mountaintop in rural California, where it just so happens that you’re surrounded by pine forest that has a tendency to burn? What am I doing here in the middle of this tinderbox?

By it’s very nature, climate change is unpredictable, and we’re in for some big surprises, and they’re apt to be nasty surprises. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that our giant growing agricultural area in this country that we use to grow all of our food could fall apart under the stress of climate change. For example, two-thirds of the fruit, vegetables and nuts that we consume in this country are grown in California. If California has a water catastrophe, which many people believe is very possible, that could drastically influence what happens there.

Bureaucracy is bad. Not for all the reasons that you hear, like inefficiency or corruption. Bureaucracy is bad because it makes you practice nonsense, and if you practice nonsense you will be in a position of behaving nonsensically, and someday, that’ll kill you.

It’s almost certain that food systems some place in the world will collapse as a result of climate change. We don’t know where yet, but somewhere. You’re going to see things like war happen over food, essentially, and probably over water. So there are things like that to consider, too.

– See more at: http://www.superconsciousness.com/topics/society/bucking-system#sthash.melWQaFg.dpuf

Lisette duPré Briege

Check out Lisette’s Blog

On October 4, 2009, while our 9 and 12 year old children played in the basement of our ranch home, my husband of 21 years walked into the bedroom, declared his love for me and shot me in the chest. Running past him I was shot again. As I ran from the house, trying to scream to our children to get out and call 911, he shot me in the back, then turned the gun on himself.  By the grace of God I am a survivor. We are survivors.

I was preparing to leave a marriage of increasing abuse and control. The closer that day came, the more abusive he grew.  I never imagined his emotional abuse could escalate into physical violence.  I never imagined he was capable of it, nor did I understand leaving is the most dangerous time for domestic violence victims.  I did not ‘self-identify’ as a domestic violence victim.

Sadly virtually everyone knows someone who is or has been in an abusive relationship; a sister, mother, daughter, cousin, aunt, friend, neighbor or co-worker.  If they don’t, they will one day.  It is my hope that readers will be inspired to understand the complexity of abuse, and support these women.  For those who are currently in it I hope to encourage you to leave fear, be a survivor too, and reclaim your life that is waiting to be lived.

Patricia van Tighem

Patricia Van Tighem, 47; Wrote Book About Near-Fatal Grizzly Mauling


December 25, 2005|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Patricia Anne Van Tighem, who was almost mauled to death by a grizzly 22 years ago but survived to write a harrowing memoir about the brutal assault and her struggle to cope with it, has died. She was 47.

The lasting psychological and physical effects of the attack she chronicled in “The Bear’s Embrace” led to Van Tighem’s suicide Dec. 14 in a hotel room in Kelowna, Canada, her family said.

“What we keep reflecting on is not why she died when she did but how she lasted this long,” said her brother, Kevin. “She’d had countless surgeries, chronic pain and major episodes of post-traumatic stress.”

In 1983, Van Tighem was hiking with her husband, Trevor Janz, in the Canadian Rockies near Montana when a grizzly protecting her cubs and an autumn meal pounced on Janz.

With staccato sentence fragments, Van Tighem recounted in her 2000 book the horror of watching the bear savage her husband: “Two more steps forward. I stop. A bear? From the side. Light brown. A hump. A dish-shaped face. A grizzly. Charging. And Trevor. Fast. He half turns away. The bear’s on him, its jaws closing around his thigh, bringing him down.”

When she climbed a tree to try to get away, the grizzly clambered after her. The bear swatted her down and began inflicting the damage from which Van Tighem would never recover.

“Crunch of my bones,” she wrote. “Slurps. Heavy animal breathing. Thick animal smell. No pain. So fast. Jaws around my head. Not aggressive. Just chewing, like a dog with a bone.”

Two hikers stumbled upon the couple and helped them to a hospital, where each spouse was desperate to find out how the other was doing.

“Trevor finally just … bellowed, ‘Trish, how are you?’ ” Van Tighem said in a 2003 documentary on Canadian television. “And apparently, I yelled back, ‘I’ve had better days.’ … The whole emergency staff had a good laugh at that one.”

Her facial injuries were extensive. The left side of her face was nearly destroyed, her cheekbone absent, her left eye blind, the eyelids gone. The back of her scalp was missing. “I feel sick to my stomach,” she wrote about looking in the hospital mirror. “What I see isn’t even me.”

Her husband’s injuries were not as disfiguring. The third-year medical student’s jaw and nose had been broken but his spirit was still intact.

“I was young and wild, and I thought … lightning never strikes anywhere in the same place twice. I’m virtually immortal now, and isn’t it great to be alive?” Janz, now a doctor, recalled in the documentary.

Remembering Patricia van Tighem

Debbie Kiley

Lost at Sea

The November/December 2001 Adventure’s “Land of the Lost” explores the art and science of survival. Online, a sailor offers her gripping tale of a sinking yacht, deaths by shark bite, and, finally, rescue.

image: Sailor Debbie Kiley
Sailor Debbie Kiley

In 1982, at 24 and with a Whitbread Round the World regatta under her belt, sailor Debbie Kiley boarded a 58-foot (18-meter) sailing yacht in Maine for a routine delivery to Florida.

After a stopover in Annapolis, Maryland, the weather quickly worsened—60-knot winds whipping up 40-foot (12-meter) waves. In the course of the next three days the crew lost their boat, survived 18 hours of treading water, lost two crew members to sharks and another to injuries sustained in the sinking, and suffered hallucinations from severe dehydration and hypothermia (as detailed in Kiley’s book, Untamed Seas).

Here Kiley recounts how she and one other crew member survived—and how the others did not.


There were five of us in all: John Lippoth, the skipper, and his girlfriend, Meg Mooney; Mark Adams; Brad Cavanaugh; and me. Brad, the person I knew best on the boat, was a very competent sailor. Mark was a competent sailor, but a bit of a wild man and a drinker, which proved to be a problem. John had done a lot of sailing, but he was also a big drinker, and his girlfriend was only a fair-weather sailor.


When we left the harbor the weather report was clear, but after the second day it began to deteriorate. We kept getting faxes that the weather was fine, but by the evening of the second day we had 35-foot (11-meter) seas with winds gusting to 60 knots. Before the boat sank, the seas were up to 45 feet (14 meters) and the winds were a sustained 70 knots, gusting to 90.

It was a frightening situation, because John, Mark, and Meg were down below drinking while Brad and I were on watch. We were on the helm for close to 11 hours—a long, long time in those conditions.

After some time the other three were finally sober enough to stand their watch. When Meg came up she was immediately thrown across the cockpit and hurt her back. It really freaked John out, so he called the Coast Guard. They said we needed to wait to see how the storm would shake out, and they would get some weather information to us.

Every hour on the hour we talked to the Coast Guard and finally they decided they were going to send two ships out to help us until a cutter could get to us. With that in mind we let our guard down a bit and let John and Mark take the watch.

The next thing I remember was Brad dragging me out of my berth, shouting, “C’mon. We’re going. We’ve got to go now!” I thought the Coast Guard was there. When I jumped out of my bunk I hit knee-high water, and it was rising.

As I swam through the main salon of the boat I noticed water cascading down from the window, and Mark was on a settee with water dumping on him. As it turned out, Mark and John had lashed the steering wheel, gone below, and gone back to sleep. I got up on deck and there was nothing but these huge, tumultuous, crazy seas—no ships in sight.

Mark untied the life raft, and it immediately blew away. We had an inflatable Zodiac boat on deck, and Brad managed to untie it, but when it popped off the last cleat, the rope sliced into his arm.

We all managed to make it to the Zodiac, but Meg got caught in the rigging on her way there. She had lacerations—almost to the bone—on her legs and her body. As the yacht sank we tried to overturn the Zodiac and get in it, but every time we did that a wave would come and blow it back over, scattering us everywhere.


For 18 hours we treaded water and held on to the Zodiac. Every so often a big wave or a big gust of wind would blow the raft over.

Meanwhile, Meg couldn’t breathe or tread water very well, so we rigged a system—almost like a human net—so Meg could crawl on top to rest. We alternated throughout the night. It helped to preserve body heat. Even though the water in the Gulf Stream was 76 degrees (24 degrees Celsius), the air temperature was only 40 degrees (5 degrees Celsius).

By the next morning John was having heart pains. The weather had slightly improved, and we made an attempt to right the Zodiac. We got blown over a few more times but finally got it upright.

John got in first, then we lifted Meg in. We were amazed at Meg’s wounds—they were horrible. Brad got in. Mark and I were still hanging on to the sides, and he kept telling me to quick kicking him. I wasn’t.

I looked under the water only to see sharks everywhere. Once we got into the Zodiac, sharks surfaced around us. Why they didn’t attack before, I don’t know. From that moment on they stayed with us.

We saw a couple of ships pass, but they couldn’t see us.


By the third day things were bad, and the crew was starting to fall apart. Meg was dying of blood poisoning; Mark was belligerent. Delusions were setting in because of dehydration and hypothermia.

On the night of the third day, Mark and John drank saltwater, so by the fourth day they were raging nuts. John thought he saw land. We were more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) offshore.

Then, John jumped into the water and swam out a few yards. We heard a loud scream and he disappeared.

By this time Meg had red streaks running up past her groin. She lay down and was almost catatonic.

Mark got really mad and said he was going to go over the side to warm up. Just about the time he went into the water, Brad caught a little fish. We were engrossed in trying to eat the fish when Mark disappeared.

We felt a thud against the Zodiac, and then there was a frenzy under the boat.


So Mark’s overboard and the sharks are eating him underneath the raft. Meg’s dying, it’s the middle of the night, and it’s the first night that the stars are out. It was just very haunting. That is the only time in my life I felt like I was just walking down that fine line of sanity.

Meg died the fourth night. She went into a very weird state. She spoke in what I suppose I’d call tongues—a very clear and concise language. It was bizarre. And then she just died.

I don’t really know what happened to Brad and I at this point, but it was almost as if our brains told us that we couldn’t take it mentally anymore, and we shut down.

The next thing I knew we woke up, the sun had risen, and Meg’s body was in rigor mortis, awash on the bottom of the boat. We buried her at sea.

We had all this slush in the bottom of the boat from rotten seaweed, urine, and the pus from Meg’s wounds. We turned the boat over and washed it out. Then Brad couldn’t get back in the boat because he was too weak. It took 30 minutes to get him back in.


I kept thinking that the sharks were going to come back, so I urged Brad to hurry up. He was so angry with me. I was trying to apologize, and he had a far-off look on his face like he was never going to talk to me again. Then he said, “Look. There’s a ship.” My first thought was, Don’t get excited. We had seen ships before. But this time it was apparent that they had seen us.

The swells were huge. The freighter made two passes, and finally, when they got close enough, they threw out two long lines.

I jumped overboard but missed the line. Then they threw a life ring with another line. Brad jumped over and grabbed the life ring.

Brad was through the life ring and he was holding me, but every time we got close to the boat we would get sucked under this huge freighter. We would wash up underneath, and the barnacles would take the hide off of our bodies. Then we’d come back up for air and get sucked under again.

Our biggest thought was that we had survived for four days in a raft and now we’re going to die. Finally we managed to get on board the freighter, which turned out to be Russian, and they dropped us off with the Coast Guard.

I still speak about it all the time. I had my misgivings about the trip all along. Every day I am reminded of it. It doesn’t haunt me like it did, but it reminds me how incredibly lucky I am to be here.

—Deborah Scaling Kiley (as told to Kate Cheney)