Saturday, March 16, 2013

Reading List Update

This is another reading list update. I start this months ago and am determined to catch it up tonight. I've read some good books and some not-so-good.

I wanted another Farley Mowat book and something a little outside my usual reading. I glanced at two books for about ten seconds and bought them. Lost in the Barrens turned out to be a surprise. When I got home I started flipping through it and discovered it was written for ages twelve and up -- a book for young teenaged boys! I was hesitant but decided to give it a chance and read it quickly. It was enjoyable easy reading which brought back memories of books I read over 50 years ago. But I think I'll be more cautious about future purchases. The second book was The Boat Who Wouldn't Float. Pure pleasure to read.

An impulse buy was a Zane Grey book copyrighted 1917. Mr. Grey used to travel the area around Flagstaff. An historical hotel in town in which the author stayed when in Flagstaff has an upper room named the Zane Grey room. In my early teens I went through a western period and read several novels but can't remember the titles and authors. Grey may have been among those I read. Anyway, I picked up The Man of the Forest. I expected bad guys, cattle, horses, battles and campfires. What I got was a romance novel! I read fast and resorted to my high school technique when forced to read something uninteresting. I read the middle paragraph on each page. Basically, good guy meets pretty girl who is about to lose the ranch to bad guy, good guy intervenes, saves ranch and gets girl. No more Zane Grey for me. Never.

The German Navy in World War Two by Edward P. Von der Porten was a dry history book. The writing wasn't great but the perspective was interesting.

Last spring in a used book store in La Jolla, California I found Reflections From the North Country by Sigurd F. Olson. A series of soothing peaceful images in words with nostaligc drawings.

Oliver Sacks is always a good bet for a good book. Fascinating describes Seeing Voices: A Journey into the World of the Deaf. Neurology, language and a different perspective of the world combined in one small book.  Parts of the book are academic but reading about the experience of being deaf and concepts of language make it an excellent choice. After reading this book I thought the impossible -- If I were a young person about to become a father I'd be researching sign language to teach to my infant.

Julie and I read four excellent books while driving. The first was The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. A co-worker recommened the book and I would recommend it also. Good writing style, interesting subject, well researched, attention holding. This book went into the keep stack.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina was fascinating. I heard Medina speak at a conference in Nashville last March which led to the purchase. The book was so interesting it led us to buy Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five. There are no children or grandchildren in my future but Medina's style and knowledge are too good to resist. Both books are worth the cost and the time. Unfortunately we didn't get to finish Brain Rules for Baby. Julie gave it to her daughter.

A conversation with a physical therapist led to a casual mention of The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds. This is another book I recommend. There were some sections where the focus is on serious competitive athletes but most of the book was easily applicable to a guy in the last half of his seventh decade -- or a younger lady who reads to him.

Paul Fussells book Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War wasn't about WWII but was about social, civilian, political and literary issues influenced by the war. When I start to think I've read almost every perspective I find a good book like this and my interest is increased.

History was a bore in high school but that changed by the time I was thirty-five. The Human Story: Our History from the Stone Age to Today by James C. Davis discussed major events in world history without an unwarranted focus on western civilization. Before I finished I was considering looking for a book on Chinese history. A good book though I disagree with some of his opinions in the last chapter.

Vintage Sacks, another Oliver Sacks book, is a group of articles a few of which I had read years ago. The articles new to me were enjoyable.

I found This Land of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Imperils Home, Work, Politics, and Faith by Robert E. Hall  in a bookstore in Amarillo last November. Good subject, lots of supporting evidence, a little too wordy.

Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel L. Everett is a mix of biography and linguistics. Enjoyable but not memorable other then the biographical part.

Social Intelligence: The Revolutionary New Science of Human Relationships by Daniel Goldman. Julie and I read this book while commuting. When we finished I loaned it to a co-worker.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. This wasn't my first Haidt book and hopefully won't be my last. Get the book. Read it.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea... - A Compendium of Great Historical Fiascoes
by William R. Forstchen and Bill Fawcett. This history book was light, entertaining bedtime reading. It left me wanting more stories.

Voices of D-Day - The Store of the Allied Invasion Told by Those Who Were There by Ronald J. Drez. Oral histories always have a quality that seems real. I wish the book has been longer, much longer.
Letters on an Elk Hunt: By a Woman Homesteader
was the second book authored by Elinore Pruitt Stewart. This book written in 1914 is somewhat outside my normal range of materials. It was enjoyable especially in light of the author's biography.

Lords of Sipan - A True Story of Pre-Inca Tombs, Archaeology, and Crime by Sidney D. Kirkpatrick. I was looking for another archaeology boook and this didn't seem like a good candidate. I began browsing it with a cup of coffee. By the time the coffee was finished I was intrigued and bought it.

Currently for my personal reading I have the following four books in progress.

The Medic - Life and Death in the Last Days of World War II by Leo Litwak. This is a short bare bones book that cuts out the non-essential parts that are included in so many accounts of WWII experiences.

The Ominvore's Delimma: A Natural History of Four Meals
by Michael Pollan. For the last few years I had intended to read this book. I saw a used copy and grabbed it. Glad I did.

Soil Science Simplified - Fourth Edition by Helmut Kohnke and D. P. Franzmeier. I've browsed this book but haven't started reading it yet. I ordered it and once I received it I realized it wasn't quite which I anticipated but appears to be well worth reading.

Teaming with Microbes - The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. This is another book I ordered. I've started it and it appears more than I expected.

Somehow I heard about Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss and went in search of it. Julie and I are driving to Texas tomorrow. This is the book we'll read aloud on the trip.

I think that completes my reading list. I need to add these to the sidebar but that will wait for another time.

Monday, January 07, 2013


Julie and I had a TV that wouldn't die. It was the old tube style that was large and heavy. The picture wasn't the best and the sound was far from good. Giving up hope of it's demise in our lifetimes we chose to purchase a flat panel. We discussed what to do with the old television and decided to recycle it.

We tied up the power cord, placed the manual and remote control in a zip lock bag, took it to the end of our dirt road and placed it neatly by the mail boxes. Someone took it as we anticipated.

Over the years there have been several items recycled this way -- bicycles, furniture, tools and other items. The most unexpected was an auto.

I was going to work one morning and saw a compact car parked in the middle of the road with a sign on the driver's side window. Curiosity caused to me to stop. The note read "Free car, runs good, keys are in the ignition and the signed title is on the seat." It appeared to be in good shape. When I got home that evening it was gone.

Unfortunately, not everything is recycled. Someone placed a reclining love seat well behind the mail boxes where it is out of the way and, thankfully, mostly out of sight. It had seen it's life and had some frayed cloth covering. That was several months ago and it's still there. The sun, rain, snow and wind have done a good job of reclaiming the materials and it is quickly becoming a skeleton. I go to the land fill once a year. On my next trip I plan on adding the load.

Sunday, January 06, 2013


All moments  are beautiful but some are exceptional. Last October as I drove to work I had a truly exceptional moment of beauty.

I was about 4 miles from home when I crested a hill and saw a double rainbow that was arching over the road in a perfect half circle. I was driving west and the sun which was just above the horizon behind me  was coloring everything under deep gray clouds.  I came to the edge of a rain shower that was wetting the   landscape and causing it to reflect the sunshine. Rabbit bush was in bloom and both sides of the road were lined with brilliant yellow.

It was a moment that would fade quickly as the sun climbed and the rain clouds moved east. I pulled to the side of the road and took several photos before the intensity of the colors began to fade.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Two Sun Room Favorites

Favourites seem to come and go. At the moment two of my favourites are a Spider Plant and a Split Leaf Philodendron.

The Spider Plant was a gift from neighbors. Actually, it was a gift I requested. They have a Spider Plant and I asked for a start. Late last summer they dropped off a small plant. I repotted it and before long it began growing and putting out runners. When summer ended I moved it into the sun room and it continued to grow. Soon I plan on rooting two runners.

Spider Plant

The Split Leaf Philodendron was also a gift. Another neighbour was moving and didn't have room for the plant.  It's so large I was uncertain but decided to try it. We placed in in a window between the kitchen and the sun room where the leaves reach out toward the window. It continues to grow new leaves and anchor roots. It appears healthy than when we first received it.

Split Leaf Philodendron

Friday, January 04, 2013

First Rose

In August I took twelve small cuttings from roses planted in front of an old stone house on campus. The house was scheduled for demolition after I and my co-workers moved to new offices.

I took the cuttings, moistened them and put them in a plastic bag until I could get them home. Later that evening I trimmed each side of the cut end, dipped them in rooting hormone, put then in small pots containing a mix of peat, perlite and vermiculte. After watering the mix I placed clear plastic bags over the pots to retain moisture. I kept the pots on our north facing deck in a bright area out of direct sunlight.

When I saw signs of new growth I removed the plastic bags and monitored the moisture daily until cold weather when I moved them into the greenhouse. I lost only one cutting that never rooted.

For a short period of time I had an infection of thrips that I treated with a water hosing outside and periodic spraying with neem oil.

Not long ago I noticed a bud on one of the plants. It has opened and looks healthy.

I shared offices in the building with six co-workers. In the spring I'll divide the roses among this group so each of of will have one or two roses.