Saturday, August 12, 2017

Steve Kardian on Teaching The New Superpower for Women (Trusting Their Intuition, Predicting Dangerous Situations and Defending Themselves from the Unthinkable)

Steve Kardian talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, The New Superpower for Women: Trust Your Intuition, Predict Dangerous Situations and Defend Yourself from the Unthinkable.



“Educate yourself, empower yourself.” ~Steve Kardian

Steve has had a career in law enforcement for thirty years, covering such beats as homicide, investigation, bribery, fraud and organized crime and has been teaching safety and personal defense as well. Steve’s main emphasis with self-defense and safety is to create instructors, traveling around the world and to various organizations, both civilian and military, to do so, and the book is based on his teachings on personal defense to women. Steve points out that self-defense is the last resort, and he works to empower women with the knowledge necessary to empower themselves, with such knowledge including social situations and creating a blueprint to react to crises.

Steve notes that, in the United States, one in five women will be violated during her lifetime, and while this statistic holds in colleges, he notes that less than five percent of the women who are so violated in college will ever report the incident to the police, because the college they attend prefer to protect their brand rather than their students.

Steve refers to the Grayston-Stein study of 1981, when cameras took footage of people on a New York city street over a period of time, and when the footage was shown to incarcerated criminals the latter consistently picked the same people as soft targets by taking note of such things as the latter’s gait, stride and posture, amongst others. He remarks that situational awareness is necessary to helping avert an attack, with intuition playing a big part. He also notes that walking properly is a deterrent, and that putting the potential attacker on notice, sometimes by simply almost looking right at him, reduces the chances of being attacked by around 70%. And if a criminal accosts a woman, her best option is to hold her hands up while stepping back and shout “Back off!” to attract the attention of everyone else around, thus raising the concern, in the criminal’s mind, of either getting hurt or getting caught, both of which are things he wants to avoid. He also notes that one should scan, giving the example of looking left and right when entering and leaving a building, as well as immediately ascertaining where the exits of a particular place are. He also recommends that people believe their eyes and ears to help them stay out of trouble, and avoid being in large crowds.

Stalking is a major concern, and Steve notes that, ten years ago, there were around a million incidents of stalking, whereas today there are seven to eight million stalking incidents, with the increase being due to the availability of the Internet. He notes that a lot of popular apps reveal the location of the owner of the smartphone, which enables such stalking, and to counter this Steve recommends turning off the location services in apps as well as the location services in photos, as these can be geo-tagged.

Steve remarks that a “blitz” is an attack that comes out of nowhere, and that it takes a half second to four seconds to figure out what is going on. Steve remarks that, when one’s heartbeat reaches 115 beats a minute, the fine motor skills diminish, and that a lot of techniques taught in martial arts break down at a range between 115 to 145 beats per minute. Above 145 beats per minute, only gross motor skills are left functioning, and it would be best to employ these during the time of actual conflict. Taking control of one’s responses relies upon creating and following a blueprint, which is a plan of action that can be put immediately in effect, as Steve notes that the adrenaline rush lasts only ten seconds, and after this an adrenal dump takes place and the person is then exhausted.

Steve remarks that there is only one chapter on self-defense in The New Superpower for Women, as he focuses on enabling women to deal with the predator and the survivor, which is something a lot of self-defense instructors have little practical knowledge of - practical knowledge which Steve, after thirty years of experience, has a lot of.

Steve remarks that creating a blueprint is key to surviving a crisis situation. The blueprint is essentially thinking through the steps one would need to take if one encountered a crisis situation, and the example Steve gave was that of someone alone in their apartment or dormitory, with someone trying to break in. He remarks that that person needs to take the time to visualize oneself taking the actions necessary, such as grabbing a cell phone, calling the police, getting to a safe place and physically securing it and giving out all of the detailed and specific instructions necessary for the police to get to one’s place.

Where weapons are concerned, Steve remarks that, if these are carried, one must become familiar with handling and using it.

Purchase from Amazon: The New Superpower for Women: Trust Your Intuition, Predict Dangerous Situations and Defend Yourself from the Unthinkable by Steve Kardian

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Michelle Janning Teaches Living Life in Neither Extreme

Michelle Janning talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Between: Living Life in Neither Extreme.



“Humor helps a lot.” ~Michelle Janning

Michelle is a professor of sociology who has been writing on topics related to sociology for some 20 years. Between is a collection of essays, which usually started out as blogs, which reflected her sociological observations of events in everyday life. The genesis of her book was in 2013, when she found herself in a challenging situation that she realized was actually interesting. She sat down, during the spring of that year, to write out the titles of some 50 blog posts which she wanted to write, and she later did write out some of these, some of which also became included into Between. Her constraints was that she could only do five minutes’ worth of research on each essay and that the essay would be written out in one sitting.

Michelle notes that her essays are easy reads, with the longest of her essays is around a thousand words. She thus jokingly refers to her book as “a daily devotional, but without the Bible.” Her book speaks about the various boundaries that roles play in life as well as the complexities in what can be viewed as extreme viewpoints, so it could appeal to different kinds of people, particularly given that various sections of the book deal with different aspects of life. Her favorite topic is family, as that is where the core of her passion lies, while politics was the topic she found the most challenging to write about, particularly as it is a challenging issue at the present time.

Michelle notes that extremes can be states that people can oscillate between or not being sure about something, or as vantage points which are both visible to the person, who takes a middle path. Extremes can thus be a misrepresentation of how our minds might work, with the example given being that of a working mother, where being a mother and being a paid employee are regarded as being on the opposite ends of the same spectrum, as managing both at the same time is challenging. Michelle also gave the example of childhood and adulthood, in that these are seen as two totally different aspects, whereas there is actually some overlapping between these states of life. She notes that the information people presently receive from news and social media feeds limit people’s views due to oversimplification.

Where the human tendency to simplify and classify is concerned, Michelle notes that sociologists need to define groups to to get to an understanding of where inequalities might lie, as well as to enable individuals to understand that they are not alone, as there are others who think like them or who have undergone the same experiences as they did. She then remarked that the downside is overgeneralization, where individual stories are missed because of the focus on the group. Michelle also notes that some people don’t fit entirely into a single category, such as those who don’t consider themselves to be entirely of one gender over the other.

Michelle notes that sociology doesn’t just describe what goes on but also looks to the future, so that whatever needs to be remedied can be remedied so that a particular problem doesn’t remain as such in the future. She remarks that sociologists take the very mundane and “make it weird,” going into detail about the why of those mundane activities, and that sociology is more needed than ever, as people are misunderstanding other groups of people and the world, making claims based on misinformation and snap judgements. Michelle emphasizes that understanding others and other groups builds empathy, which is lacking at present, and sociology can help with that.

Michelle notes that she’s still growing as a sociologist, and that she, like everyone else, is a work in progress.

Purchase from Amazon: Between: Living Life in Neither Extreme by Michelle Janning

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sarah Perry on Releasing the Essex Serpent Legend and Book

Sarah Perry talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, The Essex Serpent.



“I had a lot of rejection and I had a lot of failure, but I carried on.” ~Sarah Perry

Sarah was born in Essex, which is a county around thirty miles from London and which is a place is full of myths, legends and history. While she wanted to become a novelist, her path to becoming one wasn’t a short or easy one, as she first became a civil servant after graduation. She got “miserable” after a time and returned to school to get her degree in Master of Arts, during which time she wrote out her first novel. She then went on to get a Ph.D, and her first novel, After Me Comes the Flood, came out in 2014, with The Essex Serpent, her second novel, coming out two years later.

Sarah admits that she didn’t know what she was doing when she wrote After Me Comes the Flood, comparing the experience to having one’s teeth pulled out and returned again. Her experience with writing The Essex Serpent was a lot easier, as she was able to get three or four of the main characters and the main plotline set out during 45 minutes of a car ride with her husband. The novel is based on a legend of a mysterious beast / monstrous serpent which terrorized Essex villages, and she decided to place it in the Victorian era, as this was a time of scientific discovery and social turbulence.

Sarah noted that people today tend to think of the Victorian Age as being ancient and quaint, but in reality, by the 1890s, England was already modern, with the London Underground already having been in operation for thirty years, anaesthesia was given for dental work and to pregnant women for delivering babies, the Embankment in London was lit up with electric lights and there was a lot of social and intellectual ideas that were coming into play, such as feminism and the ideas of Marx and Engels. Sarah wanted to show the Victorians to be as progressive as they were, instead of the image that is commonly attributed to them. She already had some grounding of the Victorian Era and researched to ensure the correctness of the ideas she had on the era, and made sure that she researched only enough to make sure the characters and era rang true, one example of which was watching YouTube videos of surgery to make the doctor character come true.

Sarah acknowledges that her characters come to mind as strongly as if she knew them very well, and that the relationships amongst the characters is something that she is more involved in creating, as she is interested in the nature of intimacy, friendship and attachment. She created the character of Francis, which is the son of the main female character, would be characterized as autistic today, to see how people would react to him before a time when autism was a recognized condition as well as for people to think about their own behavior. Sarah also wrote her main female characters, Cora and Martha, to correct the misconceptions people today have about women in the Victorian era, pointing out that women were active in politics and social justice, math, science and medicine by the time of the novel’s period setting. She pointed out that Victorian age lots of women were interested in Marx and Engels because the philosophies of the latter two attempted to create equality in society, which women subscribed to, as they weren’t socially equal to men.

The village in The Essex Serpent is a fictional amalgamation of several Essex locations, and Sarah created it to be a character on its own, with a sense of eeriness to it. Sarah also wanted to highlight the interaction between conventional religious and scientific beliefs, and the conflict between the two is something that is still going on today. That said, she created the character of the religious vicar not as a two-dimensional caricature but as a real person who is aware of what is going on in the larger world.

Sarah acknowledges that she is interested in a lot of things and that she puts some of these in her books, and that people who are interested in these same things - such as medical science, socialism, the natural world, relationships, the Victorian age - can find these in The Essex Serpent. She remarks that her first novel was rejected by 19 publishers, which goes against the impression that successful novelists have always been successful novelists. As she tells audiences in literary festivals, “If you’re a writer and you’re getting knocked back, told you’re not good enough, well, so was I.”

Purchase from Amazon: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Monday, July 17, 2017

Heath Fogg Davis Asks: Does Gender Matter?

Heath Fogg Davis talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter?



“I think everybody has a right to self-determination, including sex identity.” ~Heath Fogg Davis

Heath is a professor who teaches at Temple University in Philadelphia who teaches courses related to social identity and anti-discrimination law, looking into policies intended to counter discrimination. Lately, he has been focusing on gender identity and how this relates with racial and class identity. He considers himself to be an activist who works on gender and civil rights in Philadelphia as well as throughout the United States and also does consulting work with businesses and other organizations, helping the latter frame their gender policies to make them inclusive for all gender identities. Heath also remarks that he is a trans man, which makes him somewhat invested in these issues.

For Heath, the question, “Does gender matter?” isn’t a rhetorical one. He notes that the assumption that gender matters is incorporated into everything from gender markers in legal documents to the way rest rooms are designed. While Heath remarks that gender does matter socially, based on his research, Heath’s answer to that question is “No,” where administrative policies are concerned. Heath notes that writing the book was fun to write, particularly when it came to the concerns raised by the subject matter as well as how to write the book in a way that it would be accessible to the average person. He remarks that a lot of people do want to do right by others, such as trans people, and thus hopes that his book opens up a discussion on, and provides some answers to, transgender issues.

LGBT, according to Heath, stands for “Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender,” and sometimes, at present, Q for “Queer” and I for “Intersex” are sometimes added at the end of that term. LGBTQ is thus an umbrella term designed to cover a wide spectrum of individuals who don’t identify under the classic genders of male and female. Transsexuals are individuals who identify differently from the gender noted to them at birth, such as male-assigned individuals who identify as female and vice versa. He notes that the physiological features by which gender is defined don’t always necessarily fit in with the standard definitions, and that carries into the way these individuals carry themselves in society. Heath admits that he isn’t an expert on biology, but remarks that he views sexuality as a scale, rather than two entirely separate categories.

Heath uses the use of public bathrooms as an example that most people are likely to relate to, where impact is concerned. He notes that those who do not conform to the usual standards of male or female get hassled when using, or attempting to use, such facilities, with potentially embarrassing consequences for the person involved. Heath thus argues that public bathrooms should be designed in a way that protects people’s privacy while avoiding gender identity discrimination. He notes that people who view such issues and scenarios dismiss these as trivial matters can say that because they haven’t experienced discrimination in that way. Heath mentions that there are various organizations presently working to expand gender identity so that sex-discrimination laws don’t just cover women being discriminated against by men or vice versa.

Heath remarks that thinking about these kinds of discrimination can negatively affect the great majority, those who identify with the traditional gender models. One example is a man changing his infant daughter’s diapers in the men’s public restroom, which presently violates the rules of the use of such facilities, while another example would be a female teacher needing to bring her male charge into the women’s public restroom so he could relieve himself. The same issues also apply, Heath notes, to caretakers of the elderly or the disabled.

Heath remarks that, with the companies he works with, he first creates a gender audit using the same worksheets and questions that he includes in the book. Some of the issues covered are the corporate dress code policy, which is based on traditional gender models, and while Heath admits that, while some of these changes might appear radical, in the end, nobody gets disadvantaged and everybody benefits.

To someone who is inquiring into gender issues, Heath says for them to not assume what an individual’s gender identity is or what the gender pronoun to use on them is. He also recommends that people ask about the relevance of gender and how important it really is during the point of contact. Heath acknowledges that he is an optimist with regards to these issues, saying that he wants to demystify some of these through the book, which he hopes would be would open up a conversation on gender issues.

Purchase from Amazon: Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter? by Heath Fogg Davis

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Onoso Imoagene Reveals How Second-Generation Nigerians Find Their Identity in the U.S. and Britain


Onoso Imoagene talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Beyond Expectations: Second-Generation Nigerians in the United States and Britain.



“There is more that unites us than divides us.” ~Onoso Imoagene

Onoso is a Nigerian who emigrated to the United States in 2001, when she won the Diversity Visa Lottery Program and the green card that went with that. She went to the United Kingdom for about a year to pursue her studies, and got her Ph.D. in Sociology from Harvard. Beyond Expectations is about the adult children of Nigerian immigrants, and is intended to highlight how diverse the black population is in the United States and Great Britain, as those outside that population regard the black population as homogenous in nature. The book also covers the interplay of the various black groups amongst each other, and while the research was academic in nature it is readable to the average person.

Onoso admits that it took her around nine years to publish the book, and some of the impetus came from her realization that non-black researchers regarded certain groups of the black population, such as Caribbeans, as suitable substitutes for other groups of the black population, such as those from Africa. The true impetus came when she came across a study that compared how well white children and black immigrant children did, economically and socially, compared to their parents, which made Onoso think of seeing how well second-generation Nigerian immigrants did compared to their parents.

Nigeria, located in Africa, is the most populous black nation in the world, with 180 million people, and its best resources are petroleum. There are three major ethnic groups and over two hundred forty minority ethnic groups, each with their own languages, and to ensure commonality the official language is English. Onoso remarks that Nigerians who live in Nigeria identify more with their ethnic and religious group than with their nation, but Nigerians who emigrate subsequently identify with their nation more.

Onoso remarked that first-generation Nigerian immigrants (on which she is doing research) face the challenge of what it is to be regarded as a “black person,” with the discrimination attendant to such a label thereof. She noted that everyone from where the immigrants come from come is black, which is why they refer to each other in terms of ethnic membership, and culture shock is likewise a challenge they face.

With regard to second-generation Nigerians, Onoso notes that these “choose ethnicity while negotiating race,” which means that they hold a Nigerian-centered identity and values while realizing that they aren’t as competent in the mother language or as steeped in the cultural practices of their parents. Second-generation Nigerians are thus “ethnic hybrids” who borrow from the cultures they have inherited and now live in, but as they are integrated into the societies their parents emigrated to, this is more of a choice rather than a resistance to the culture and society of the land they were born in. They also don’t tend to distance themselves from others of African descent, but they do face the challenge of being discriminated against because they are black.

Onoso remarked that second-generation Nigerians in the United States reported being discriminated against by other African-Americans whose families had lived in the United States for generations, having slurs thrown at them by these. She also noted that second-generation Nigerians in Great Britain received the same kind of discrimination from Jamaicans, and that this kind of discrimination made second-generation Nigerians create their own particular identity, one different from other black societies. Onoso also noted that relations with Caribbeans were warmer, because of their people’s commonality of experiencing immigration and diaspora. Onoso also noted a difference in outlook between second-generation Nigerians in Great Britain and those in the United States, as those in Great Britain, for the most part, don’t regard themselves as British, while those in the United States regard themselves as Americans.

Onoso remarks that the conflict experienced by immigrants, where reconciling the culture of their parents and the culture of their adoptive homeland are concerned, is common to all. She also advises that the children of such immigrants should be exposed to the culture of their grandparents and notes that the different sectors of the black population have their own strengths.

Purchase from Amazon: Beyond Expectations: Second-Generation Nigerians in the United States and Britain by Onoso Imoagene


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Michelle Deen on Rethinking Family Values, Moral Politics and the Culture War (Saving America's Grace)

Michelle Deen talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about her book, Saving America’s Grace: Rethinking Family Values, Moral Politics and the Culture War.



“Democracy requires a high level of moral character.” ~Michelle Deen

Michelle is a marriage and family therapist who specializes in human development and family relations, as she was interested in how families influence emotional and psychological development. The book discusses the breakdown of character in families, culture and politics as well as how to turn this breakdown around, which Michelle notes will likely take generations. She had initially thought about writing the book during the George W. Bush campaign run against John Kerry, in 2004, when “family values” rhetoric was used to make families fearful about where America’s culture and country were heading, rhetoric which Michelle found to be misleading. She didn’t write it then, but when the US presidential campaign of 2016 rolled around, Michelle realized that a conversation about culture and morality was still relevant, hence her eventually writing the book.

Michelle’s viewpoint comes from decades of working with families for nearly three decades, where she saw that the image a family projected had no correlation with how healthy the relationships were amongst its members and how sound the environment was for raising children. She had interacted with troubled teenagers who came from families which projected an image of traditional stability, teenagers who were, by their actions, essentially screaming for help, and when the family was brought together Michelle realized that the problems weren’t with the children alone but ran through the family. This made her realize that there was a lot of focus on how a family was supposed to look, and this made her inquire into the function of the family, which included the quality of the interpersonal relationships within it.

Michelle notes that “family values” is associated with a family comprised of a mother, a father and the children, with the father in charge, where children obey and everything is black and white - the so-called “Biblical” type of family which, Michelle notes, wasn’t the norm even during Biblical times. She remarks that patriarchal values have fallen “by the wayside” over the past decades, with some positive results being women being able to own their own credit cards and to live their lives the way they choose, spousal abuse being recognized as a concern and divorce becoming acceptable.

Michelle remarks that the “traditional” family is no longer the norm, and the values that should be adhered to in a family should be reassessed, with the objective of raising children who are self-sufficient, solid in who they are, of good character and capable of becoming good citizens. In this vein, Michelle remarks that, rather than raise “obedient” children, families should raise children who have are cooperative and who have a solid enough sense of themselves and their own internal moral compass to stand up to what they see as not being right, as “obedient” children do what they’re told to stay out of trouble. She notes that children fundamentally desire love, acknowledgement and appreciation from their parents, and gives an example of an authoritative parent being able to set the rules and consequences without needing to whip out a belt to enforce obedience, rather than being a parent who attempts to become the child’s friend as a way to compensate for any real or imagined wrongs the parent might have committed against the child.

Michelle remarks that the present situation in politics doesn’t just stem from Donald Trump, whose behavior on the campaign trail she found “shocking.” She opined that politics has been lacking in moral character for a long time and that money and backdoor agreements have essentially undermined morality in that realm. Michelle notes that politicians should be examples of morality, making decisions that are in the best interest of their people and their country, but this falls by the wayside because of the need to get reelected. She points out that, in order to self-govern (which is the essence of a democracy), people need a sense of doing right by others, which is called “virtue,” which is something that Michelle believes has been lost.

The phrase “Culture War” began as rhetoric in the mid-1980s, which came from the Republican Party and the religious right and which was an attempt to “straighten out” American culture by legislating Biblical principles to keep everyone and everything in place. Michelle notes that America is a democracy, rather than a theocracy, and such wouldn’t work. In response to “cultural war,” Michelle states that a “cultural evolution” is needed, so that people can evolve spiritually, by focusing on religion as tool intended to enable a person to become a better human being.

Michelle notes that a lot of cultural norms are abnormal but are so widespread they seem normal, and gives the example that most Americans are presently more interested in the brand of bag owned by well-known social media celebrities than they are with the people who are killed in the wars that the United States fights. She notes that people have lost track about what’s right and what’s not.

Michelle’s website is michelledeen.com.

Purchase from Amazon: Saving America’s Grace: Rethinking Family Values, Moral Politics and the Culture War by Michelle Deen


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Adrian Owen on The Gray Zone, the Boundary Between Life & Death

Adrian Owen talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by alvinwriter.com about his book, Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death.



“We know you’re there.” ~Adrian Owen

Adrian Owen is a professor of neuroscience who is involved in cognitive neuroscience, which deals with brain scanning technology. He got his start in exploring what he called “the Gray Zone” when a former partner of his had a brain aneurysm which turned her into a mental vegetable. This started him on the decades-long journey of exploring a mental area that is between full awareness and total lack of awareness - the so-called “Gray Zone” - using the brain scanning technology. Going under anesthesia is another example of someone entering the gray zone, and such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke or being deprived of oxygen could result in people staying in the gray zone.

Adrian remarks that exploration of what it’s like to be in the gray zone is still ongoing, but he gave some examples of patients who had been in the gray zone. He notes that such people were aware of what had been going on around them while they were lying down on their beds, trapped in their unmoving bodies, and also mentioned that some patients who are in the gray zone were “satisfied” with their lives and didn’t want to die. Adrian also gave the additional example of people who went under anaesthesia reporting about being aware of what was being done. He also remarked that, while patients can experience frustration at being ignored, some of those who have come out of the gray zone report having experiences that they liked while they were in such a state.

Magnetic resonance imagery is a tool Adrian uses to communicate with patients in the gray zone, by reading the patient’s brain as it reacts to questions, using predetermined responses. If, for example, a patient is told to wave his arms, a part of the brain will activate, and if the patient is told to do another activity another part of the brain will activate. These signals, which are checked again and again to make sure these are intentional instead of random, are then used as signals which can be used to communicate. The main method of getting information is essentially asking the patient to answer “yes” or “no,” and then drilling down into more detail with more “yes” or “no” questions.

Adrian notes that understanding that people in the gray zone may have more awareness than had been previously thought, and that, as such, we have a responsibility to understand what is going on. The level of awareness patients have while in the gray zone raises some potential ethical concerns, as they will have their opinions which must be taken note of, just like with any conscious patient, including whether or not they wanted to live or die. As his former partner said, after she got out of the gray zone: “The day you scanned me, I went from being a body to a person again.”

Adrian intends the book for everyone and is full of stories of people who are or were in the Gray Zone who have revealed their experience while in it. He describes Into the Gray Zone as a “scientific adventure story,” where it’s about the process of doing science and its impact on people’s lives. Adrian’s website, intothegrayzone.com, has more information on the gray zone as well as contains some videos done about the research Adrian has done over the past twenty years.

Purchase from Amazon: Into the Gray Zone: A Neuroscientist Explores the Border Between Life and Death by Adrian Owen