I never knew very much about the dust bowl beyond what I learned by reading the Grapes of Wrath in High School (still have to loop back and read that) and a bit more in A.P. US History. So this book was a real eye opener for me. I never understood just how much humankind was at fault, and how quickly it all happened.
Egan has a great map in the front of the book showing the extent of the dust bowl, involving the states of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas. He walks you through the history of this area from the times before the dirty thirties. For thousands of years, a stable grassland ecosystem had thrived in this dry region, with buffalo and antelope thriving on an ocean of plant matter. With the arrival of horses in the late 1600s, the Comanches ruled this plain, thriving on an ocean of buffalo. Then in the mid 1800s, white buffalo hunters came and decimated the buffalo herds and sent the natives to reservations. But white cattle ranchers soon filled the void, replacing the mighty wild herbivores with their domesticated cousins, and the ecosystem at least could function in a similar manner as before. Then came WWI and a huge boom in beef prices, followed by an inevitable crash, leaving behind many financially ruined ranches.
The next void-fillers were farmers. They came from all over the U.S. as well as Europe lured by cheap land (via the Homestead Act) and promises of a better life. While the area was known to be very dry, shaky science (e.g. "water follows the plow") and unscrupulous marketing by various land speculators helped confuse the issue for potential farmers. The combination of a few unusually wet years, Russian wheat with low water needs, and new technology such as the use of windmills to pump water from deep wells that tapped the massive Ogallala Aquifer meant that there actually was enough water to produce great crops. City folk ("suitcase farmers") would come in, buy land, plant it, leave town and come back to harvest, the potential for profit was so great... for a brief time.
Ranchers were dismayed to see so much grassland being plowed under and warned that problems would follow. Then came a drought and a lull in prices. Much of the plowed land was left in dirt. That dirt, which had been held down by grasses since the ice age, was now exposed to the wind. And thus was born the dust bowl.
Most of Egan's book is devoted to the stories of those who lived through the dustbowl, and the horrible conditions they were forced to endure. It is a very personal sort of history, filled with hopes, dreams and love, and despair, sickness, and death. He also chronicles how our government tried to mitigate this catastrophe, and what has happened to the land and the inhabitants of the dust bowl.
This book is a must read.
This book is really four seperate short stories about Jody, a young boy growing up in the Monterey Valley early in the 20th century. He lives on a small ranch with his father, mother, and a ranch hand, Billy Buck. In the first story, Jody is given a red pony by his stern father, Carl Tifflin. Sadly, the pony dies. The rest of the stories explore other themes of family and rural life, and growing up.
This is the most comprehensive history book I have ever read, of any kind. Weighing in at almost 700 pages, this book takes you from the landing of Columbus all the way through the War on Terror. But this is American history from a different perspective than usually provided. It is history from the point of view (or at least with a point of concern) of natives, slaves, feminists, workers, soldiers, revolutionaries and malcontents, the poor, sick and huddled masses. It is a history that questions great men, great corporations and great wars instead of exalting them.
I read the Hobbit to the girls over the last month or two. They really enjoyed it, but one thing I noticed is that towards the end (when they reach lake town) the style of language gets more advanced, more like what you find in the Lord of the Rings. And the battle sequence at the end was not very interesting to my girls... so overall thier attention waned towards the end. But I still loved it through and through.
I listened to this excellent Ken Burns / Geoffrey Ward documentary on World War II in the car over the last few weeks. It does an excellent job of giving big picture and overarching plot, and diving into personal details and specific stories as well. The narrator has a very solumn and respectful voice but also brings the tension and excitement this story deserves. I am so amazed by the American heroes of WWII.
I watched this last night. I don't have much time to write about it, but I thought it was fantastic. I watched all the original Star Treks when I was 7 and 8 years old, and many times after that. I think they did a decent job honoring the original concepts and characters (McCoy was spot on) while giving it a fresh spin. They managed to give Kirk's Earth a very near-future feel, not too far out except the space ships and aliens. Though I really wanted to know why Uhura ordered so many drinks (do they come in mini shot glasses in the future?). The Romulan ship was so awesome and the Enterprise got a good update while still being pretty much the same ship.
I was, with everyone, annoyed at the "Siberius" vs. "Tiberius" business, however, perhaps they can fudge this by saying it was the alternate timeline that made the difference. Although "Siberius" is not a real name, and "Tiberius" is... Oh well.
I think they also did a great job engineering an alternate plot line for future movies. Although for all the time traveling in previous shows and movies they always manage to avoid altering their present timeframe, so to have them end up in an alternate future is a change of tradition. I can't wait for the next one in this line, I wonder what they'll call it? I also loved how the end looped back to the series with the original theme music and Spock doing the intro.
This is a fantastic book. For whatever reason, I never read it in Junior or High School when it is apparently customary for people to read Jack London. But I've always wanted to.
This book was not what I expected but still it was pretty good. I really do agree with his thesis that these are the greatest generation of Americans. To pull themselves out of the depression and build an enormous fleet of ships and planes, and train a giant number of men and women, and then take on two fanatic forces bent on taking over the world-- pretty amazing stuff. And then they went on to build the American infrastructure we still are working with today. We owe them so much.
I have to say the writing was not the best, and I would have liked more time spent covering the war years. Still, this is a must read.
I have been listening to this lecture series on CD in the car for the past year or so, as I come across them at the library. It is a 48 lecture series from the Teaching Company divided into 4 bundles of 6 CD's each. The lecturer is Thomas Noble, a professor from Notre Dame. He covers 4,600 years of the history of 'the west' from the Sumerians all the way to the age of European exploration. And he does so in a very engaging way. He has a very good technique of zooming in and out from important individuals and mundane details of life, all the way out to the grand trajectories of history. A mind boggling mastery of the material is evident, and I feel like he could teach a 480 lecture series on this topic and still have plenty left to talk about. Still, he knows just what details to pull out and which to gloss over.
The biggest impression this series has left me with is that there is nothing new under the sun. Even as we've gone from primitive agrarian days with tribal cultures, all the way through empire and monarchy to present day democracy and technology, people have behaved in very consistent ways. So many of the sequences of history have a spooky familiar feeling to them, echoing circumstances today.
I really wish I could hear a version of this lecture series created 400 years from now, focusing on the current time period.
Nineteen Eighty-Four, written in 1949, is set in the fictional future nation of Oceana (composed of Britain, the US, and Africa). Oceana is brutally controlled by a very heavy handed government, led by a mythical figure 'Big Brother'. Constant surveillance and propaganda through the 'telescreen' allows the government to monitor not just actions but even emotions.
The novel follows Winston, a worker at the 'Ministry of Truth', where he works on falsifying records. He begins to question the principles of 'Ingsoc' ('English Socialism', the guiding principal of Oceana) and eventually meets a fellow discontent, Julia. They have a secret affair (sexuality is all but forbidden), and things begin to get very tricky from there...
This completes my reading of what I have gathered are the three great dystopian novels (in English at least), 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', 'Fahrenheit 451', and 'Brave New World'. They all have similar themes of a dictatorial, socialistic government dismantling what it means to be human. In all three, the concepts of sexuality and family are distorted. In all three, pervasive surveillance and/or propaganda media enforce the expectations of the government and change the nature of the human mind. In all three, learning and thought are discouraged or prohibited.
There are some significant differences between them, but I am a bit disappointed not to have seen more diversity between them. They all come from a time when democracy was being pitted against various degrees of totalitarianism, in the forms of communism and fascism. They show great concern about the power of government, and rightly so. Still, I think I should read some cyberpunk dystopias now, which tend to focus on the opposite end of the spectrum, where government has little role and things are run under corporate anarchy. Some strange mixture of the two extremes seems to be what we find here in the actual future...
In this book, Karen Armstrong examines the role of myth thinking in human culture from prehistoric days until the present. She argues that myth plays a crucial role in human life and that modern societies discard myth at their own peril.
This book seems to re-hash many ideas from other books by Karen Armstrong, but in a less compelling or interesting way. I would recommend any other of her books, but not this one.
Here's what I want out of technology like this:
We all get tons of paper through the mail, at work, and from other
transactions. A lot of it heads straight to the recycle bin or
shredder. Some of it needs to be filed away for later use. But some
of it is in a gray category-- do I need it or not? Inevitably such
documents end up in stacks or in a drawer or cabinet somewhere, and
might be impossible to locate if it ever was needed. What a waste.
So, I want a machine that is a combination scanner, search-appliance
and shredder. Then, when I received some document I am not sure if I
need or not, I could:
1) Stick it in this appliance
2) The document is scanned and OCR'd, and the text therein is indexed
3) The original is shredded
4) Now I can search all my previously scanned and shredded documents
from my computer
Wouldn't that be great?
At least until people stop insisting on providing paper documents for
P.S. A funny story is that we have signed up for all electronic
banking with one of our financial institutions. So, we periodically
get email statements. We also get a piece of mail from them every
month notifying us that we are in the "all-electronic" program and
therefore should get our statements online. We have called several
times to try to get them to quit sending mail altogether, but so far
that hasn't helped...
This World War One novel exposes the brutality of that war. You follow young German soldier Paul Braumer as he endures the hardships and terror of the battlefront. It is extremely detailed and gruesome. I found the use of present tense a bit distracting but in the end it might bring the action closer to the reader. All in all, I can absolutely understand why this has become a worldwide classic. Anyone interested in understanding war should read this great novel.