Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another Reading List

I've lost  -- or failed to keep -- notes about the books I've read over the last two years. Here's an incomplete list in random order of those that I remember.
  • The Brain Has a Mind of Its Own: Insights from a Practicing Neurologist - Richard Restak, MD
  • 11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944 - Stanley Weintraub
  • The Silent Service - William C. Chambliss
  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life - Bill  Bryson
  • The Omnivore's Dilemna: A Natural History of Four Meals - Michael Pollan
  • This Land of Strangers: The Relationship Crisis That Imperils Home, Work, Politics, and Faith - Robert E. Hall
  • The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values - Same Harris
  • Woodbine Red Leader: A P-51 Mustang Ace in the Mediterranean Theater - George Loving
  • Nonviolence - Twenty-five Lessons from the History of a Dangerous Idea - Mark Kurlansky
  • A History of Pi - Petr Beckmann
  • Ten Discoveries That Rewrote History - Patrick Hunt
  • Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries - Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Cosmos - Carl Sagan

Sunday, January 04, 2015

This Year - Finally!

This is the year that I'll complete a dream of ten years. Landscaping!

Nine years ago I contracted a woman who lives in Flagstaff to advise me on landscaping. She is the author of multiple books and is an encyclopedia of knowledge. The day before our appointment she phoned and canceled. In hindsight this was fortuitous since it was a premature start on my part.

Over the last nine years I completed the master gardener program, took classes at the community college on rain water harvesting and passive solar design, built a greenhouse, gathered materials, experimented with some plants and tested some ideas. I've learned more from failures than successes.

Last year I built a wood shed and garage, designed and finished a stone patio, graded part of the yard, constructed some terraces and buried water lines for an irrigation system. The other major task was installation of a solid metal fence.

Gardening Fence

The fence serves multiple purposes. It extends into the ground and (after the gates are built) will keep animals out of the yard. Several years ago I planted a cactus in the yard. One day I noticed something had eaten most of the cactus. The next day I discovered the rest had been eaten and the roots had been dug out of the ground and consumed. While sitting on the deck in the dark I've had animals come onto the deck to eat potted plants.

In the photo above the top of a mound of soil is visible beyond the fence. Since the native soil is poor I bought the largest truck load of amended soil I could locate. In planting areas I'll replace the soil with this amened soil and add additional amendments.

Before planting I'll finish the irrigation system. I am harvesting irrigation water from the garage roof but need more collection area.  I have materials to construct a collector uphill from the yard.

I have the greenhouse ready for plantings, three compost piles, a supply of worm castings and a setup for compost tea. In the garden I have shrubs, flowers and tubers to transplant in the yard.

This week I've been going through catalogs to create orders for seeds and plants. I'll place orders within the next two weeks.

Everything is ready. This will be the summer!

Sunday, December 28, 2014


I had another birthday and have begun my sixty-ninth year.  I need to begin thinking about retirement.

Several years ago my supervisor and I made an agreement that we would retire at the same time. Her work environment changed and she chose to retire last August. She phoned last week and said she misses work.

Julie worked half-time for several years before being asked to work full time. She agreed but that lasted about six months. Her work environment changed also and a second grandchild was about to become a reality. She retired. Within a few weeks she returned to work temporarily for a short period to help the department during a transition time. She doesn't miss work and knows she made the right decision.

Recently I was given two requests and didn't have a clue as to how to fulfill them. I began researching options, testing solutions and within a week had both requests finished. I had several really good days in a row and thought about how much I would miss the challenge if I retired.

I read some research that for every year worked past retirement age a person reduces their risk of dementia by 6.3 percent. A good reason to continue working at a job I enjoy.

Last week Julie read an article to me. The author had worked for the Washington Post before retiring. He made some bad choices coupled with risky investments and he is now living at the poverty level in subsidized housing. Continuing to save rather than spending retirement funds is another good reason to continue working.
However, the reality is that all things end. I've got to think about setting a firm date but I think I'll procrastinate for a few months longer. Life is good at work and at home so there's no rush.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Blog Revival

Friday morning, December 26, 2014. I've taken the first steps to revive my blog. After an hour of searching and various attempts I found a way to reset my password and login. I cleaned up spam comments and checked a few blogs I used to read. All are inactive.

I'm going to do two things. First, I want to do some research to learn the health of blogging. Has it been replaced by Facebook and other options? Second, I intend on coming up with a plan for the future of this blog. I've missed it and regret not keeping it active.

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.