Head in the Cloud

Head in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look UpHead in the Cloud: Why Knowing Things Still Matters When Facts Are So Easy to Look Up by William Poundstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While this book was not a page-turner, it was interesting enough that I finished it by reading a few pages every night. The author is a statistician and poll taker whose premise is that people who know more make more money, are happier, are more likely to succeed, etc. By using random questions in large samples of people, he is able to compare their answers with other seemingly unrelated facts about their lives. It is an interesting way to statistically confirm what we probably already infer.

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The Long Summer

The Long Summer: How Climate Changed CivilizationThe Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization by Brian M. Fagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We are intrinsically enmeshed with the weather.

This book takes us on a trip through the history of the world through the eyes of everyman. It is an amazing journey. It compels us to live with humans starting with the Cro-Magnons of 18,000 years ago as they emerged from their caves to hunt beasts and gather wild berries. We follow our ancestors through the Ice Age, through climate warming and cooling, through droughts and deluges, as they encountered abundance and starvation, as they moved with the changes, developed houses, villages and cities. This is not an imaginary journey. It is documented with astonishing accuracy from ice core samples taken from Greenland to the Antarctic, pollen samples, artifacts, tree rings, isotopes found in bones and teeth, from every facet on scientific study.

The scope of this book does not lend itself to a quick read. A few pages a night left my mind reeling. But I looked forward to continuing this slow trek through time night after night. It has made me more human. The world has been shaped by the weather. And it will continue to be. How will it affect future generations? I would love to arrange for a visit in 1,000 or 10,000 years to see.

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American Mojo: Lost and Found

American Mojo: Lost and FoundAmerican Mojo: Lost and Found by Peter D. Kiernan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This journey starts at the opposite pole of the political rhetoric besieging us today. It explores every aspect of today’s middle class without partisanship and with a depth of economic insight and education that has left me giddy. Kiernan looks at the whole scene like a visitor from space might view it, focusing on and exploring interactions that have stretched my vision both nationally and internationally and pulled my focus in many directions. His knowledge sometimes made my brain reel. I could only fully digest a few pages a day. But I could not stop reading and I was compelled to pick up where I had left off on the following day. Occasionally his prose overwhelmed his erudition but, like a challenging college course, I found this book both stimulating and fascinating.

Walking the Woods and the Water

Walking the Woods and the Water: In  Patrick Leigh Fermor's footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden HornWalking the Woods and the Water: In Patrick Leigh Fermor’s footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden Horn by Nick Hunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a trek! I followed the footsteps every bit of the way across territory with familiar names which I was surprised to find I knew little about. Part travelogue, part introspection, part history, the route was sometimes rough both literally and “literately” . I occasionally got lost in a sea of words as Nick got lost in a morass of explanations with words that eluded me. But we kept on together and the trip was more than worth it. Like the walk itself, I took it in small pieces with occasional rest stops, after which I was more than eager to get back on the road.

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photo of Mary Lou Taylor

Bringing Home the Moon

We all have much to learn. Always with a twinkle in her eyes, Mary Lou Taylor helps us do this and much more in her latest book of poetry, Bringing Home the Moon.

Long ago, but not far away at Monta Vista High School, I found myself in front of classes of high school students. Next door was another teacher, Mary Lou. I learned more from her, and from my students than they did from me. We have now been friends now for decades. Her new book captures her life and ours.

…”We don’ talk, my father and I content together at this ungodly hour….”, or “… Selling the house. Buying a new one…”.

She reflects on our history—“The Valley of Heart’s Delight” and “Heart’s Delight Turns Silicon”, the place we both still live. And even on “Driving Bohlman Road’, the challenging road to our house.

She explores the globe and beyond—“Drinks after Dinner, Osaka”, and even the universe ”…Christa McAuliffe, scheduled to be the first teacher in space, looks upward to gaze at the face of the sky.”

She probes the inner thoughts we all have.

It is well worth traveling these hundred pages with Mary Lou. She is all of us. She will help you find your voice.

Blogging U: Day 1 – “What is Veiling?”

Cover of book What is Veiling?I just signed up for Blogging U sponsored by WordPress.com. This is a four week course with daily assignments to help people find their voice for writing on their blogs. Since I have a blog and am also setting up a couple of websites for groups who are also looking at ways to post their information, I thought it might be a good idea to see what I could learn.

This is the first assignment. It is to do free writing for twenty minutes without anything particular in mind to get loosened up. So here goes.

I am going to start out with a book I am currently reading. I am about done with it and would like to post a good review on GoodReads. The book is titled What is Veiling? By Sahar Amer. It is a wonderfully eye-opening look at the varied ways in which Muslim women wear, or do not wear, a veil. As a westerner, I like many others, have little knowledge of this long-standing custom that has come under such scrutiny in the last few decades. I know the custom is somehow associated with the Muslim religion, but until I read this book, I had no idea how it has evolved and changed over the centuries. When I stop to think about it, it is not so foreign. Until the last few decades Catholic nuns have followed the custom too. I have even thought about how practical it would be on bad hair days.

The term veiling is a general term that has many nuances and many differing ways of manifesting itself. The book includes a glossary of many terms that are used for different ways of veiling, often varying by country, class, and social status, that may include anything from robes and face veils that completely cover the body, to a scarf draped over the hair. And it is done by women for many different reasons, from piety to taking a stand for liberating women to dress as they would like to.

As a result of reading this book, which is thorough, non-judgmental, and presented by a woman who is both Muslim and a scholar, I have learned much and am fascinated to learn more from Muslim women I encounter. They, like the rest of us, are concerned about the same things we all face. I would definitely recommend this book as a good read indeed.

I had no idea what I would write about when I started this about twenty minutes ago. And I am going to post this unedited, which is not what I usually do. I usually start this way, let an article sit a day or two and go back and try to tighten it up. But this is fun! Hope you look up the book.