Posts Tagged ‘books’

No Cure For My Tree-Killing Ways

Posted: September 9, 2011 in Fun, Hobbies, Life
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I am a collector of books. Not anything so grand as a “book collector”, which implies a charming old fogey with taste and discernment and possibly a natty old sweater with leather patches at the elbows and a visible revulsion for lowly paperbacks; no, for me, book hoarder might be closer to the mark, and paperbacks make up the bulk of the titles.

I remember fondly the two shelves that held the entire personal library of my childhood. When you factor in the detail that the bottom shelf was almost entirely filled by the Britannica Junior Encyclopǽdia set (with the bright red binding that at first glance made you think you had a set of large-print hymnals), you quickly realize that I owned virtually no books at all. But where my personal library was slim, the Flint Public Library was a gateway to every book in the world.

These days I estimate my shelves hold over 500 books. And a few hundred of those I’ve read twice or more. And while I love having them around, they aren’t what most would call display-worthy. And I no longer have enough shelf space on which to shelve them. I know I ought to purge, but I am reluctant.

Seth Godin recently blogged about the 400 paperback books he uncovered while cleaning his basement:

“The magic of books, something I haven’t found in blog posts, jewel boxes, tweets or old TV Guides, is that they perfectly encapsulate an idea. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. And they have a cover, something that wraps it all together.

Maybe I’m a fogie, but I have trouble visualizing a pile (or a wallful) of Kindle ebooks. I’m going to miss that.”

When he says he’s “going to miss that,” Mr. Godin implies that despite their magic, he will no longer have paperback books, and has said in many other forums that book printing is becoming anachronistic. I imagine I could learn to enjoy having a large library in e-book form, but will likely never completely rid myself of “dead-tree” books. I would miss them far more than Mr. Godin. There’s a tactile aspect to a favorite book that isn’t replicable.

Once or twice I’ve been caught in the act of smelling a book – inhaling deeply with it pressed up against my face. It’s a little silly, sure; but I love the smell of books. They are not all the same, either. Sometimes the scent makes me think of a coloring book, or of the glossy pages of a textbook or magazine. Once or twice I find one that smells like the Children’s Bible I had long ago. Sometimes the smell will remind me of an era, sometimes of a particular childhood book. Stuart Little always smelled like the wet canvas from the tent in my backyard that summer when I was ten, and I get excited to find another book with that exact same scent. Some smell like a phone book (now that’s anachronistic).

How is Kindle supposed to produce that? Isn’t that worth keeping? Of course it is. While I think e-books will continue to become more and more popular, the old-fashioned kind of book will not likely disappear. A real paperback means something that a digital reader does not. Which is probably why I have too many books, too few vacant shelves and the occasional paper cut on my nose.

What do books mean to you? Are there aspects to “dead-tree” books that prevent you from going whole hog on the e-book revolution? Say so in the comments below!


Happy Half Year

Posted: July 6, 2011 in Growth
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Everyone gets so excited about January 1, setting goals and listing their resolutions. I admit, it is helpful to have a solid line of demarcation, but who says it has to be at year’s end? Why not the exact midway-point between one year’s end and the next – say, July 1?

There are gobs of topics and news items that have popped up since last I wrote, and even a couple of goals accomplished since the year began. Which leads to another idea – if a goal is reached before the year ends, why not redirect my efforts towards a new goal? More on that soon. Meanwhile, here are a few new things this year that may appear in upcoming posts:

  • Softball – second season
  • Hiatus from DYB10Y
  • 50 books in 2011 (did this last year, too)
  • 50 beers in 2011, and Summit’s 100 Draught Passport program
  • Buick purchase
  • Kid off to college
  • Map-Cat close (turrns out the ones who needed it failed to understand that they needed it)
  • Telework pitch – fail?
  • New boss with big ideas of his own – but facing similar obstacles as mine
  • Warrior Dash! (goal reached!)
  • Inspired by 4HWW, frustrated by those who would never get it
  • Sunday DVD classes grow
  • Minimalist goals / mindset for minimalist home life
  • New kitchen, dining area, rugs
  • Golf with Paul
  • Subversive website launch for the boss
  • And probably much more that I can’t remember just now…

So it seems that I ought to have a lot that prevents me from claiming writer’s block.

As for my half-year’s resolutions, I have chosen this blog as a venue for acheiving this goal: 50 posts in 2011! Wonder how many “50”s I can hit this year…

And how many things should be on my list to STOP doing (that’s right, Blockbuster movies-by-mail, I’m talking to you!)



Imagine a world where the word “fire” was never a word, and no other word had ever been invented to describe the concept of a fire – in fact, inventing that word was somehow abhorrent, even criminal. How would you even begin to rescue people from a burning building? How would you alert them to the danger? Could you even direct rescue workers to extinguish it, if you can’t say what it is they need to look for?

The first task taken to eliminate a threat is to define the threat. This is an impossible task if you are restricted, due to a flawed political-correctness taboo, from using factual and clear language in your definition. Our country is becoming more and more restricted in this way, for either fear or fairness, and the resulting inaction against such an obvious threat is causing many of us to become very alarmed. The Fight of Our Lives, the new book written by Bill Bennett and Seth Leibsohn, tackles both the taboo and the threat that the taboo obscures.

The Fight of Our Lives is no-punches-pulled look at the war against Islamic terrorism. It has a lot of frightening statistics, quotes and information (and proofs against an immense amount of disinformation), all of it publicly available but almost never compiled into one package. By amassing this information and condensing it into this small book, these authors have tried to alert their readers to the patterns, the outline and the sheer size of the threat of terrorism we still face. The most striking indictments are the words of the Muslim leaders themselves.

It reads very much unlike Bill Bennett’s history primers and almanacs, and anyone who has heard Seth Leibsohn speak will recognize his voice throughout. But that could be because this is not a history text, although there is a ton of well-footnoted history. This is analysis, commentary, opinion and debate. They’ve taken the rubber tip of political correctness off the research scalpel to effectively analyze the subject of radical Islamic terrorism. But even as uncomfortable as it might be to speak plainly on this topic, this is not an indictment of a people of faith; it is a clear and unambiguous analysis of the many facets within modern Islam.

What to do with that info? Those who most need to learn this are unwilling to do so. Those who most need to know this are actively trying to prevent such discussions from taking place. They are leveling the charge of bigotry on anyone undertaking a fair examination of the subject, they are automatically asserting that the victims are the aggressors and the aggressors are the victims, they are ignoring the inflammatory words of the Muslim community and they are presuming that the targets of terrorism asked for it and deserve it. The rest of us are weary trying to get them to see reason.

So perhaps this book was written so that we who understand that we are at war will have the words to explain our concerns, our intentions and ultimately our votes. It’s encouraging when someone tells you that when you see a fire you can yell, “Fire!” The good news is that, in this analysis, our country has not yet passed the point of no return.

My 2010 Bookshelf

Posted: December 31, 2010 in Hobbies

I didn’t realize how big this list was going to be – that’s a lot of reading!

If I’d had to guess, I would have put the number of books at about half this many, especially considering how much “other” reading I did (I read pages and pages of bloggers and columnists in 2010.) Of all these books, only 7 were “re-reads”, and fewer than 6 got a negative review from me. Not included here are the 4 books I started and disliked so much that I just never finished them.

This list is in chronological order from January to December.

“The Shipping News” by Annie Proulx
“Timepiece” by Brian Ball
“Anthology” by Piers Anthony
“Good to Great” by Jim Collins
“Importance of Being Ernest” by Oscar Wilde
“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman"The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman
“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey
“Race Against Time” by Piers Anthony
“The Accidental Tourist” by Anne Tyler
“Beat to Quarters” by C.S Forester
“Ship of the Line “ by C.S Forester
“Flying Colours” by C.S Forester
“The Tomb” by Paul Wilson
“Cathedral” by Nelson DeMille"A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson
“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson
“The Third Option” by Vince Flynn
“Separation of Power “ by Vince Flynn
“Executive Power “ by Vince Flynn
“Memorial Day “ by Vince Flynn
“A Life on the Road” by Charles Kuralt
“Listening to the Language of the Bible” by Lois Tverberg
“One Anothering (Vol 1)” by Richard C. Meyer
“Slapstick” by Kurt Vonnegut
“Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grill” by Steven Brust
“Partners in Crime” by Agatha Christie
“Linchpin” by Seth Godin
“On The Beach” by Nevil Shute
“Corrie Ten Boom; Her Life, Her Faith” by Carole C. Carlson
“The Horse Whisperer” by Nicholas Evans
“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
“Goodbye Mr. Chips” by Hilton James
“The Natural” by Bernard Malamud"The 4-Hour Workweek" by Tim Ferriss
“The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss
“Sam Walton: Made in America” by Sam Walton
“Up the Down Staircase” by Bel Kaufman
“A Hangman’s Dozen” by Alfred Hitchcock
“The Roots of Obama’s Rage” by Dinesh D’Souza
“Call of the Wild” by Jack London
“Makers” by Cory Doctorow
“The Illuminati” by Larry Burkett
“Red Dwarf” by Grant Naylor
“Better Than Life” by Grant Naylor
“Backwards” by Rob Grant
“Last Human” by Doug Naylor
“Seabiscuit: An American Legend” by Laura Hillenbrand
“Ill Wind” by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason
“The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” by Benjamin Franklin

This article is part of a five-part series. See Part 1 here.

How Immigration Used to Work

I am shocked and embarrassed to note that I never wrapped up what was turning into a fairly sharp series of blog articles. So, it seems that before I begin contributing again to this blog in the New Year, I need to take care of some housekeeping: Part 5 – How Immigration Used to Work.

Levin asserts that, contrary to the arguments posed by the left, the immigrant of the twenty-first century is cut from a different cloth. His motives and ambitions are not the same. The left insists that to restrict the immigrant’s entry is entirely racist, and is a denigration of America’s diverse heritage. Further, that America is dependent on its immigrant population, and the natural born Americans are inferior in virtue and shallower in faith.

Our “melting pot” was indeed a tribute to massive and diverse immigration. What was different about those primarily European immigrants? There are many differences, a few majors being: historically, these immigrants were predominantly skilled laborers; they were leaving their homeland to become fully American, throwing off any allegiance to their former nation; they arrived on our shores expecting to put themselves fully and completely under the rule of law, and in return gain the full protections outlined in the Constitution. This has changed in outrageous ways: Juan Hernandez, in an ABC interview in 2001 while serving as the Hispanic outreach director for the Mexican president, said, “I want the third generation, the seventh generation, I want them all to think ‘Mexico first.’”

Assimilation is always a touchy subject, because in this PC-charged age to advocate assimilation is to disparage the immigrant’s culture and race. But why has assimilation, which once seemed to occur naturally, become an odd exception? Levin’s answer is that where previous waves of immigration had easily defined starts and ends, “the current influx is not a wave but an ongoing tsunami that began more than forty years ago and… is likely to continue in the decades ahead.” Our country has no time to absorb the current residents before more follow on their heels.

Going back to the PC idea that cultural purism is an admirable and morally superior trait in our immigrants, much of that stems from the idea that there is no “pure American” culture of which they could become a part, or that American culture is inferior to those of other nations and is therefore not worthy of protection. Historically, however, becoming an American had a larger meaning beyond the location of your home; when people became Americans, it was an identifier that encompassed all the rights and privileges spelled out in our founding documents. It raised them up to a higher status than they held in their homelands. This is still the case today – but once here, they are treated as if retaining the purity of their original culture is of highest import and will achieve the same results for America as the melting pot of old.

Levin taught me something about the 14th Amendment and a common misinterpretation of it – namely, that any child born within the borders of the US, regardless of the nationality of the child’s parents, is automatically a US citizen. Sometimes the things you assume to be fact turn out to be based on nothing more than movie lore, I guess. Turns out that the purpose of this amendment was to grant citizenship to the emancipated slaves. “All persons, born or naturalized in the United States,” says the Amendment, “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” Under any logical definition, an illegal alien is not subject to the jurisdiction of the US. If you grant citizenship to any baby born here, children of foreign diplomats would become US citizens – but they don’t, because that’s not how it works.

Surprising statistics of this chapter (some taken from a 2004 estimate by the Pew Hispanic Center):
* 1 in 8 US residents is an immigrant, and 1/3 of them are here illegally
* 9% of Mexico’s population was living in the US
* 57% of all illegal immigrants are Mexican
* 55% of all Mexicans living in the US are here illegally

The left is determined to push us towards a one-world government. The recent climate conference in Copenhagen was evidence of that, as well as the relationship President Obama is fomenting with the UN. By destroying the concepts we hold about immigration and transforming the laws to align with them, they erode the sovereignty of our country. (I would be interested to see how many registered voters can tell you why US sovereignty is still important.) Hopefully there can be a real debate on immigration that doesn’t degenerate into claims of racism, xenophobia, bigotry and prejudice. I fear that as long as the subject remains on a political stage, it can’t make any progress at all.

Part 1: World Opinion and American Exceptionalism
Part 2: Economic Intervention
Part 3: The Linguistic Psy-War Tactics of Liberals
Part 4: Overpopulation and the Green Movement

This article is part of a five-part series. See Part 1 here.

Overpopulation and the Green Movement
I remember my first Earth Day. My first grade teacher was a hippie (he looked an awful lot like Jim Henson) and my third grade teacher was a flower child. When I was nine years old, the idea of air pollution was so scary that I thought it would be a good idea to practice holding my breath. By the time I was eleven, I was convinced that our oceans, rivers and streams would be so choked with sludge that no fish would ever survive and we were going to run out of drinking water. Litterbugs became pariahs. By the time I was in high school, aerosols had been banned and everyone was convinced that smog was eventually going to blot out the sun, causing a new ice age.

When I was 25, I realized that no one was talking about these things much, anymore. It made me wonder if someone was benefiting from having people so stirred up with alarm about scary environmental crises they couldn’t really do anything about, things that weren’t real after all. (Cough, cough, global warming, cough.)

I was around and vaguely remember how worried people got back in the 1970s about overcrowding and unsustainable population growth. I’ve read science fiction stories based in a future where humankind had been forced to colonize the stars because of Earth’s exponential population growth. Levin wrote in his chapter On Enviro Statism about the ecosystem planning and the environmentalists concerns about suburban sprawl, and it reminded me of those days gone by:

But just how problematic is suburban sprawl or, for that matter, development generally? In 2002, the Heritage Foundation’s Dr. Ronald D. Utt examined the federal government’s land use surveys and concluded, “[A]fter nearly 400 years of unmanaged development and rabbit-like population growth, somewhere between 3.4 percent and 5.2 percent of land in the continental United States has been consumed…”

But what of the heavily urbanized states, which include several of the original colonies? Utt looked at them as well. “In both New York and Virginia, which were settled in the early 1600s, nearly 90 percent of the land is still undeveloped, while in Pennsylvania the share is over 85 percent, and in Maryland it is over 80 percent. In contrast, both New Jersey and Rhode Island’s developed shares hover at around one-third of the available land – some of the highest shares in the nation but still leaving both states with about two-thirds of their land undeveloped or in agricultural use.”

My thought was a snarky, “Oh yeah, I forgot to worry about that overpopulation stuff.”

Part 1: World Opinion and American Exceptionalism
Part 2: Economic Intervention
Part 3: The Linguistic Psy-War Tactics of Liberals
Part 5: How Immigration Used to Work

This article is part of a five-part series. See Part 1 here.

The Linguistic Psy-War Tactics of Liberals
For months now I’ve been collecting articles and opinion pieces about the Orwellian practice of co-opting a positive word or phrase in order to repackage distasteful, criminal, unpopular or abhorrent ideas. It’s an article just waiting to be written.

In that vein, my interest in political wordplay was set off by this quote. It doesn’t really belong to Levin, but in the chapter called On the Free Market he lifts it from Friedrich Hayek’s book The Road to Serfdom (Levin was making a different point than I am, so I won’t dwell on it to deeply):

To allay… suspicions and to harness to its cart the strongest of all political motives – the craving for freedom – socialists began increasingly to make use of the promise of a “new freedom”… the word “freedom” was subjected to a subtle change in meaning. The word had formerly meant freedom from coercion, from the arbitrary power of other men. Now it was made to mean freedom from necessity… Freedom in this sense is, of course, merely another name for power or wealth. The demand for the new freedom was thus only another name for the old demand for a redistribution of wealth.

We are seeing many, many examples of word games like this in the last four months. Massive unchecked spending is “investing in the future”. The Fairness Doctrine, which eliminates the fairness of airwave access based on public demand, would unfairly regulate radio station content (eliminating conservative talk-radio) but virtually ignore liberal television networks and newspapers. Terrorist attacks are now man-caused disasters. Sending money to people who don’t pay taxes is a tax cut. Finding room to cut one half of one percent of the spending in your newly quadrupled budget is fiscal responsibility. And just when “liberal” has become a dirty word again, they’ve begun referring to themselves as “progressives”… again. Like someone who owns only two pair of jeans, they apparently wear one while the other is being cleaned.

Time magazine wrote about how marvelous it was that Obama used behavioral psychologists to market himself during the campaign, and that many of them are now serving in his administrations. They have been very busy incorporating market-tested focus-group approved phraseology. Orwell would surely have called them the Ministry of Clarity – meaning of course, the exact opposite.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s alarming that these ideas are so bad that we have to be tricked into buying this bill of goods? The very idea of behavioral psychologists shaping policy messages is not “impressively modern”, as Time would have us believe. It’s frighteningly manipulative.

Part 1: World Opinion and American Exceptionalism
Part 2: Economic Intervention
Part 4: Overpopulation and the Green Movement