Wednesday, April 21. 2010
To get the money to improve their lives, they come from the all across Mexico trying to cross the border into the USA to get jobs that no American will do. They do it for low pay, long hours and no benefits.
However, they are stopped at the US/Mexico border. So they enter illegally via The Devil’s Highway. This is the title of the book by Luis Alberto Urrea. The Devil's Highway is deserts and mountains in southern Arizona where no one lives. This well researched book is the saga of 26 Mexicans crossing illegally to find that job to improve their life. The book details the lives of the 14 that died while trying, the survivors, the coyote "business", the coyote guide who is in prison for murder of the those who died in the attempt, the US Border Patrol and all the other government agencies on both sides of the border that are involved in the effort to slow those looking for a way to better their lives.
The American consumer is used to cheap. Especially food. Agriculture is where most of the illegal aliens find jobs. They arrive at the job at six in the morning, do physically challenging work and work long hours with no benefits. This is not a job that Americans want. However, there are many Americans who want to stop the job seekers at the border. Why. The media talks about the very small percentage of those illegals that take advantage of the US social systems or commit crimes.
It's too bad that the media doesn't spend as much time talking about all those miserable jobs the illegals do or what they actually contribute to the US economy. They pay sales tax on everything they buy. Many even contribute to social security and can never collect a dime. Could be a good way to keep the system solvent for a few more years.
Using the agriculture industry as an example…. Is there a solution. Sure. Will the American consumer like the solution. No. The result will be more expensive food. When the agriculture worker gets better wages, better working conditions, better housing for the temporary workers and benefits, the price that consumer pays goes up. There will be picket lines at the grocery stores. Government and industry doesn't like that. Nothing changes.
An alternate solution to expensive food would be to import it from China. Sure. Like that is a good idea. Then I have to wonder why we import food from China since the USA is supposedly feeding the world. But that is another issue.
This makes my head hurt. Time to get out and do some exploring....
Friday, January 29. 2010
That is the title of the book by Jason Kersten.
Art Williams is the person and the subject of the book. Deserted by a father and growing up in the worst of Chicago's crime ridden neighborhoods, the intelligent Williams learns how to and then creates what he views as "art" -- a counterfeit copy of money. The bogus money is in demand and through Art's connections, the book reveals the methods for counterfeit money distribution throughout the world. Over a fourteen year period, Williams had printed multi millions worth of phony money. It is greed and counterfeit knowledge that lead to recidivism and Williams was no exception.
The seamy side of Williams growing up in a dysfunctional family and world of crime is told in brutal honesty. The author also weaves facts into the book about the design and manufacture of paper money and the roll of the Secret Service in the ever vigilant watch for counterfeit money.
The book is a page turner as there seemed to be a glimmer of hope that Art Williams could take his intelligence and skills to get out of "making money" and turn it to mainstream methods to earn a living. It was only hope.
Friday, November 20. 2009
As a toddler growing up on a farm in Wisconsin in the 1940s, food was grown, harvested and sometimes the food was butchered. An early recollection is of the hog carcass hanging from rafters of one of the farm buildings. Not too many days later, parts of that hog were hanging in the smoke house – 4 foot by 8 foot building constructed of tin. No doubt it was ham, bacon and sausage.
As I grew older, the hog or yearling steer was taken to the nearby butcher in the village of Morrison. Once butchered, without a freezer at home, the meat was stored at a locker plant in another nearby village – Wayside or Lark. The butchering of chickens continued to be done at home. In late summer, every week or two, fifteen to twenty roosters were butchered. Chopping off the heads, removing feathers, cutting open, removing guts, chilling in cold water and eventually freezing. Soon the dinner menu would include chicken hearts and gizzards. Gizzards are chewy and have flavor.
Speaking of flavor. Those were the days when chickens had flavor – they were free range eating bugs and green plants. Not anymore. Today the chicken needs lots of spice and then deep fry just to give it flavor.
I grew up with a close relationship to the food that was eaten, the milk, the eggs, the garden produce and the apple trees. That relationship included the animals that were destined to become the meat for our meals.
Those are the memories that came back as I read Jonathon Safran Doer’s Eating Animals. The book addresses the subject of where the grocery store meats come from – the factory farms. Eating Animals details how factory farm animals are raised and how they die. It does not make for easy reading. There were times that I had to put the book aside to read something less disturbing.
The author depicts a pretty dismal picture of how factory farming treats animals – from birth to death and your table. We all make choices in our eating habits. It is Foer’s hope that when making those meat choices that the consumer knows how the meat was raised and how it was butchered. His intent and hope is for the consumer to vote with their grocery dollars.
I am mostly a vegetarian (for the past two years) with an occasional meat meal. After reading Foer's Eating Animals, I will certainly have to rethink my few meat purchases a bit more fully.
For a summary of Foer's thoughts and the core of his book, Foer has two opinion pieces at CNN -- First piece. Second piece.
Monday, August 10. 2009
Subtitled "The Day The World Exploded August 27, 1883"
A well told story of the science of volcanoes, geology, plate tectonics and the unusual location where they all meet in Indonesia. The history of the book includes Dutch colonization and the spice producing plantations that is the wealth of those islands in Indonesia. In 1883, Krakatoa exploded and the effects were felt as far away as France and the ensuing tsunami killed close to 40,000 people. Shortly after Krakatoa's eruption, the violence and killings began as fundamentalist Muslims expressed their anti-Western sentiments about the colonists in their midst.
Sunday, August 9. 2009
This is surely a definitive biography of the boy Samuel Clemens to the adult writer Mark Twain. At times the life of Mark Twain reads like fictionalized history as he lives in historic times through the Civil War, Reconstruction, Industrial Age and Robber Barons. Not only does his life span historic times, his life crosses paths with many notables of those times from Ulysses S. Grant to Winston Churchill among many others. Powers makes the complex Twain come alive along with his faults and gifts.
For me, reading Twain's more famous books has always been a pleasure. Now it may be time to look at some of his lesser known works with Twain's usual satiric humor of the human race and mankind.
Thursday, July 9. 2009
Being a Man ... in the Lousy Modern World by Robert Twigger
This philosophical analysis of man's place in the world and relationship to other humans – relatives, friends, strangers -- is discussed with humor and wisdom. The pivot of the book is that there are no male rites of passage (ROP) in today's culture. The closest to such a rite is graduation from some school – certainly not a physical rite of passage.
Twigger describes the past ROP or male challenges as the following:
1. Kill a man or dangerous beast.
2. To stare down danger coolly and with aplomb, avoiding the flinch reaction.
3. To endure great pain and privation.
4. To achieve great mastery at some rudimentary still: marksmanship, weapon making, wood carving, wrestling.
With no ROPs defined in the modern world, today's male creates an ROP to fit himself. Proving himself to his fellow (mostly) men.
After long discussions throughout the book, there is no solution. There is also no going back to tribal ROPs. So to adapt to the challenge of living today, the male ROP would now include the following:
1. Choose danger over safety
2. Choose exteriority over interiority
3. Choose pain over comfort
4. Choose self-reliance over helplessness
The book is written on a time line over a 24 hour period of every day life as he and his wife anticipate the birth of their first child. Interspersed with the comments of daily living and thoughts, Twigger reflects on his personal life of trying to prove himself. His frequent reflections also bring Hemingway into the discussion as a male who seemed to be trying to prove something.
Great thought provoking book about the male in today's "modern world".
Wednesday, July 8. 2009
Subtitled: A Practical Guide to Harnessing Our Innate Capacity for Healing and Health
Evolution has done a great job to prepare this human body to exist in this world. Over many hundreds of generations, some humans have been able to adapt to the stresses of living better than others. Those that do, survive to reproduce to have children who carry the genes of the more successful members of the group.
The details are in the book, but some of MY conclusions from reading the book:
-- Omnivore and low carb diet
-- No supplements needed
-- Healthy weight and exercise
-- Feed a cold, starve a fever
-- Challenge the immune system – get dirty
-- Your (very large) liver evolved to counter moderate amounts of toxins
-- Get vitamin D through half hour of sun three times a week
-- Genetics is a crap shoot – doesn't always come up aces
Finally... Don't believe those ads for products that address the latest deficiency of the human body to cope.
Saturday, July 4. 2009
Book: "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall
Subtitled "A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen".
The essence of the book is that evolution created humans as runners. Created as runners in bare feet -- not bound up in expensive shoes with arch supports and impact absorbing gels.
Podiatrists, marathon runners, doctors and scientists from many practices, ultra-runners, Nike shoe engineers are just some of the sources for the research of this book.
Then there is the most unusual (and real) person in Caballo Blanco who provides the glue to tie this whole book together.
During the author's research, in addition to Caballo Blanco, he meets many unusual characters and runners. Some of those end up in the great "ultra race" with the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico where the spectator crowd is the entire local village. The author makes the ultra race the culmination of the book and presents it in a play by play fashion that makes it a page turner to the end.
If you are a runner or walker or would just like to go barefoot, you will enjoy the book and...
You will pitch those expensive tennis shoes and get cheap shoes so your (whole foot) feet can feel the earth. All you need is a protective layer between your feet and the earth to enjoy a good run.
For me.... Never been interested in running. Love walking. However, the author found in his research that most of us don't know how to run since we have run in shoes for most of our lives. Learning how to run in bare feet will change all that. We will run very differently with our feet actually feeling the surface. I will probably remain a walker. However, my plan is to pitch the expensive shoes in favor of an inexpensive protective layer between my foot and the walking surface.
Note: To learn more about ultra runners or bare foot runners, search the net for those terms.
Monday, June 15. 2009
Subtitled: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog
Definitely a five star read.... A biography of Merle. A love story of man and dog. It's more than that. Add sociology, history and training of dogs and humans in small doses, and the book becomes an education of how to raise a dog. That along with Kerasote interpreting Merle's barks, tail wags makes this book a page turner. Laughter. Tears. Joy. A little education. It's all there in this remarkable book.
Admission.... I'm not much of a dog person. No doubt, Merle could easily change that impartiality.
Tuesday, May 19. 2009
When I posted a book review of Selkirk's Island, Greg of a Vagabonding Life recommended reading about Tom Neale's book An Island To Oneself. Originally printed in 1968, a used paper back was available at Amazon for $150. That wasn't going to happen.
However, that didn't stop the search. A search of the internet and I found the book An Island To Oneself at Jane Resture's Oceania. After downloading it, it was formatted to read on the Sony eBook Reader.
The book is about Tom Neale's decision to go to the island of Suvarov in the Cook Islands. The island is off the shipping lanes and 200 miles distant from the nearest inhabited island. His first stay was for just under two years and later returned for another period of almost four years. Considering this was a purposeful decision in the 1950s it is even more amazing before satellite phones.
Neale tells the entire story in a detail that keeps you living with him as he builds, gardens, raises chickens, fishes and kills wild boars. It was a most civilized existence including his insistence of an afternoon tea time -- as long as his tea supplies held out.
Once on the island there is no way to call for help or minister during sickness or keep the chickens alive. That requires an exceptional dose of self confidence. In addition, I believe one's mental health would suffer living alone without other human interaction. Samuel Johnson said it better: "Solitude is dangerous to reason."
Loved the book, but I couldn't do what Neale did.
Thanks go to Greg for the recommendation. (Following Greg finds him currently on an Indonesian island.)
Tuesday, May 5. 2009
This well researched book describes the world – family, community, education, travels – in which Thoreau lived. That world influenced the philosopher and author and is reflected in his writings. Sullivan parses the words of Walden and other writings within the context of Thoreau's voluminous diaries. This material shows that Thoreau was not a recluse or anti-social. He was an active member of his community, lectured, held office, involved with family and friends, and worked at the family's pencil manufacturing business. Sullivan points out that Thoreau's intent in Walden and his other writings was to change the world – not ignore it.
A confession.... Since I've never read the entire Walden book, perhaps Sullivan's book becomes a "college outline series" to continue that non-reading. In spite of the easy way out, I downloaded Walden from the internet (Gutenberg.com) and started to read it once again.
Sunday, May 3. 2009
After burning out in the upward mobile career in a large corporation and eventually selling his own business, the author embarks on this lifelong dream journey on a motorcycle. As a motorcycle gear head, he travels from upstate New York across to the west coast and up to Alaska and returns home.
He relishes and relates the pleasures of the ride and the mechanical comparisons of the alternative motorcycles. Belonging to the culture of motorcycle riders, he is met frequently by other riders who stop to compare notes and ask about his journey.
Camping frequently in designated campgrounds with facilities, he has the opportunity to meet other travelers from the US and the world. His observations and wry comments about his restaurant meals, people conversations, the world through which he travels and his past corporate life are filled with an unusual wisdom.
That wisdom was found in several quotable lines. An example: referring to stuff and the ads for stuff, this should be the personal philosophy for much of the indebted world: "I knew that to see without desire is the key to happiness."
Tuesday, April 28. 2009
Cold Beers and Crocodiles by Roff Smith....Subtitled A Bicycle Journey into Australia.... After almost 20 years in Australia, the transplanted New Englander decided to check out his adopted country in a most intimate way – via a bicycle. After 10,000 miles and ten months around the continent he returns to Sydney with a better of understanding of the country and the variety of peoples who populate it. In his travels, Smith meets all kinds and personalities – from the aboriginal population, several generational Australians to the more recent transplants from England or the USA.
Riding bicycle demands liquids – especially crossing the deserts of Western Australia. Beer is sometimes the only solution.
Always attracted to Australian travel, this is another.
Greater Nowheres by Dave Finkelstein and Jack London....Subtitled Wanderings Across the Outback, originally written in 1988, this re-release of the book is another approach to traveling Australia. The travel writer authors with very different personalities take a four drive vehicle to cover their journeys mostly across the northern part of Australia. They visit some of the same small towns that Roff Smith did on his journeys 15 later and not much has changed in that time.
If and when I decide to take that journey to revisit Australia, it surely will not be in an RV across the northern part of Australia. It would not be an enjoyable experience. Leave the driving to the bus driver.
Smile When You're Lying by Chuck Thompson....Subtitled Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer. With some autobiographical material, the author entertains the reader with humor and maniac tirades about what is usually presented as travel information. After reading Thompson's book, I realized why I couldn't read travel magazines – there is no adventure. No surprise. That is the way the magazines want it. They are out to sell a product; only positive words and descriptions are allowed.
Bad Trips – A sometimes terrifying, sometimes hilarious collection of writing on the perils of the road. Edited by Keath Fraser... This is a collection of short pieces from travel writers and a bad experience from their travels. Some of the pieces came from the fiction of some travel writers. Since I was already familiar with many of the authors, I didn't find anything particularly attractive about the book or the selections. It did provide a few more authors to add to my list of travel writers when looking for books.
Just noted the "hilarious" in the subtitle -- don't remember any of that.
Thursday, April 9. 2009
Recently read book: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
After checking with some researchers' happiness data bases, Weiner heads off to visit some of the countries that are at the top and those that are at the bottom of those lists.
After his travels, he admits he is a fool for even trying to summarize. Weiner's conclusion: “Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.” Wealthy countries are not the happiest. Poorest countries aren't all unhappy. Why the inconsistency. Weiner quotes a happiness researcher, “There's more than one path to happiness.”
Weiner's book is funny and his wry observations make an easy and enjoyable read about what makes people happy – or not.
Of course, as I read the book, the self analysis happens. Am I happy. The answer is YES. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rank myself a 9.
Using Weiner's summary as a guide: Money is sufficient. Family and friends are where I meet them. A beautiful home or stuff will not own me. Balance allows me to accept life as it comes. Beaches are not my thing – except for a sunset or sunrise. Trust and gratitude come easily.
It seemed appropriate to include a smiley face with this post. Did you ever wonder where it first appeared. Easy enough to do.... Just do an internet search with “who invented the smiley face”.
Tuesday, February 17. 2009
'An Accidental Memoir' is humorous, confessional, a travel experience and the recalling history of the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial”. As the great-great-grandson of Darwin, Chapman travels to Tennessee to report on changes and opinions in 75 years after the “Scopes Monkey Trial”. His discovery is that not much has changed, but in the process he learns more about himself.
This self discovery results in his new religion:
“It will be taught that there are three circles of responsibility, each of which must be satisfied if you are to live a full and happy life.”
“The first is responsibility to yourself. This is not selfishness, but a simple and practical matter... understand what you cannot do without....”
“ The second circle is responsibility you have to those who you know, starting with your immediate family and friends, but expanding out to people you deal with at work, in shops, on the phone....”
“Last, and most important, is the third circle. This is your responsibility to the world beyond your own experience.....To care for [that stranger is] to confirm humanity in its grandest sense.”
That new religion reminds me of a philosophical line (thanks to JJ) that I use from time to time: Live life. Love life. Live love.
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