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Archive for February, 2009

More Bryson!

I am still somewhat wound up over my recent renewed interest in reading.  I reported in my last blog, of the circumstances that led up to this.  Because I enjoyed the book by Bill Bryson, and some of you also, were reading that book, and others of you had enjoyed other books by Bryson, I recently went to our public library to find more that I might read.  Of course I have already mentioned the problem I have with reading books, that I just can’t stay awake.  Never a fast reader, except perhaps during those periods during my education, by assignment or while seeking a degree.  I did enjoy History and Political Science as a student and teacher and the substantial reading that was involved.  However, for the past 30 years, there has been little accomplishment in book reading, even as I was occasionally urged by family and friends to read this or that.  Thanks again, Tim and or Merry for introducing me to the Bryson offerings, and to Julie for her suggested Internet pieces.

I do not want to exclude the fact that there are thousands of other good authors and interesting subjects out there to explore.  However, I may not get to them.  You shouldn’t press your luck with new book gifts or suggested reading.  For now, I am having too much fun with Bill.  The library revealed so many Bryson books that surely they will last me until my demise.  At 79, any extension of that event could be chancy at best.  The 250-300 pagers will be the favored selections, but I have already brought home a 900 plus pager which was mentioned as an enjoyable read by Grandson, Joel.  You all, no doubt, will be waiting with baited breath, to see if I am able to return it to the library in the specified lending time.

Bryson is primarily a travel author with travels and books from throughout the world.  However, it is his humor that I enjoy, but if one is not careful, they might broaden their knowledge about the designated subject.  His science endeavor, A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING, surely will not be filled with the humor that I have found in LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID, and A SUNBURNED COUNTRY, but who knows.  What little progress I have made in the 900 page History of nearly everything has been quite cleverly written and actually has enlightened me on subjects of interest in such a way as never before.  I have enjoyed the Science Channel’s studies of the origins of the universe and the two compliment each other.

Provided you are not put off by a modest amount of profanity and crude graphic description,  and I don’t think anyone I know is likely to be offended, I do believe one can gather a great deal of enjoyment from the Bill Bryson books.  I’ll try not to bring up the subject again.

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Happy Birthday, dear daughter Julie.  What a month February is for our family.  So many birthdays.  It is not very nice of me to remind you that you are now half-a-hundred.   Does it feel like you have now lived 21 percent of the period from our nations founding in 1776 until now?  I think I did the math correctly.  Of course that makes me well over 3/4 of a hundred and having  lived over 1/3 of the time from 1776 if I did.   I just thought some of these facts surely could in some way be linked to your diligent genealogy studies.

Anyway, I can’t produce the outstanding tributes to ones birthday that you have been so successful in offering, but I do wish you a Happy Birthday and we love you very much.   I’m not too clever with the photo’s and such.  All I have, are  probably ones you have supplied me.  I especially like this one.

julie-1961

Happy Birthday and thanks for all you do for us

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I recently was privileged to celebrate my 79th birthday.  Goodness, that in itself is privilege enough, but I was honored to have my daughter and son-in-law spend a few most enjoyable days with us.  My son and his wife were not able to be here but did send a gift of a book which I have found to be thoroughly enjoyable.

Now, I am not illiterate, but just don’t read many books.  Newspapers I read, magazines I try to read, and I search and read lots of things on the computer except when dozing off to sleep.  Books, no matter how interested I am, never get beyond three to a few more pages before I begin to nod.

My wife insists that I have no sense of humor, and I agree that we seldom find the same things that we think are humorous.  However, I have been fully captivated and have found this book of which I speak to be absolutely hilarious.  This is a must read.  At least for anyone born in the 50’s or before.  Now, it may have more comical effect for males rather than females, for those who have lived in Des Moines (or at least the state of Iowa) rather than elsewhere, but I think anyone and everyone would enjoy the book, even my sophisticated grandchildren who were neither born in the 50’s nor lived in Iowa.  I would concede however, that not having lived during that era, would diminish the appreciation of “THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID.”

I began reading on Friday, and continued the brief periods of reading interlaced with nodding, dozing, and napping until completing the book early Sunday evening.  Also, to relax the developing eye strain, I would watch TV sports or news and then work soduko puzzles for awhile.  After all, we are talking 268 pages of paperback here.  Don’t ask me how I could be laughing so hard until my eyes watered, and then fall asleep, but that’s how it works. 

Bill Bryson is the author.  His father was Bill Bryson Sr. who was a very long time sports writer for the Des Moines Register and Tribune whom I read for many years before his death.  His mother also worked long time, for the R&T as well, as the home furnishings editor.  Thus, young Bill, with an older brother and sister,  was left to his own devices for much of his pre-adult years.  This is not unlike my own childhood, and the fact that nearly all of his recollection of the city of Des Moines and the state of Iowa are known to me, may make the details special to me.

There are sentences after sentences of hilarity in which I could barely contain myself.  Of the 14 chapters, probably 10 will keep one heartily laughing.  Then there are a few chapters, on more of a serious nature to describe disconcerting politics of the period.  Of course there is always other unpleasantness as well, and the final chapter is almost a bit sad.  One should be aware that the book contains some rather raucus description and that there is irreverance as well.  One may observe the love and respect he has for his parents, while also offering ridicule and disrespect as well.  Haven’t we all been there?

I always hated having to write book reviews, but here I am suggesting that you stop whatever you are doing and find this book.  Honest to God, you will laugh and enjoy.  http://www.randomhouse.com/features/billbryson/flat/home.php

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It turns out that there are still good people around.   Another ugly news story took a “good feelin’ ” turn in today’s local newspaper.   A  rural elderly lady could no longer afford an automobile and the costs that go with ownership.  She did however, still posses a horse and buggy which she has been using for transportation and the hauling of groceries and other needed farm and home supplies.  Our weather has been cold and icy and her trips of several miles have been a hardship.

A few days ago, after shopping for groceries, livestock feed, and other needed supplies, she and a friend  headed for home. Two young boys jumped out from hidden bushes and spooked the horse.  Horse, buggy, lady and friend all were upended in a snow filled ditch, with all the newly purchased items scattered and sliding all over the ice covered ground.   The boys naturally ran away.  Concerned motorists stopped to help care for the occupants of the buggy and calm the horse.  Fortunately, there were no serious injuries and the salvageable groceries and supplies were gathered.  The damaged buggy was placed in a nearby storage facility and arrangements made to transport the horse back to the farm.  Helpful neighbors provided a ride for the lady and her passenger to their respective farm homes.

The next day she arranged a ride back to town, only to find the buggy missing.  The police were notified and thus the story appeared in the local paper.   Good wife and I were perplexed.   Who. how, and why would anyone steal a damaged buggy? 

Today’s paper reported happily, that good Samaritans in the neighborhood of the accident,  had the buggy removed to a repair facility and had hoped to surprise the lady.  Thus the mystery was solved and a very happy and grateful lady exclaimed that the world was good after all.  Yes, the horse is fine too.

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Way too early to tell, and we ought not be judging just yet.  This is mainly for Ali who asked what I thought about President Obama after the first couple of weeks, but anyone else who happens by is more than welcome.  Since nearly all issues including our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have become subservient to the efforts to solve the economic problems, there seems to be little else of concern for most.

My previous blog indicated that I felt President Obama was our best hope to engage dialogue, link oppositions, practice gainful diplomacy, etc.  That didn’t mean that he would necessarily be successful.  He is trying, but probably understands all too well after two weeks that, “it aint gonna be easy.”  The “feel good” period is over.

Obviously President Obama inherits a ton of problems, but that is what got him elected.  The principle anchor preventing the ship from moving forward is Congress and “guvment” as it has evolved.  And here I go.

Remember Reagan’s statement that, “government can’t solve the problem, it is the problem.”  Well maybe so, and I would go one step farther and add that the “people” may well be the problem.  We simply have not demanded more character and good behavior from our elected and appointed government officials.  Congress had less public approval than President Bush, yet incumbents everywhere won re-election.  I strongly believe that our political system with its Republican and Democrat leadership is broken and probably can’t be fixed, or at least won’t be fixed.  One would think that the Republican party would never recover after the botched years of control and the opportunity they had to lead effectively.  However I believe the Democrats will again open the door for them after a given period.

We all know by now, the ridiculous greed and recklessness by Wall Street financial and banking interests.  We expect responsible regulatory control but have not demanded it.  Obama, and I believe McCain as well, said most of the right things in identifying the problem but may be powerless to correct the problem of money, lobbyists, and the buying of government favors.  We now say Wall Street must be held accountable.  What’s wrong with holding Congress accountable?  And let’s throw in state legislatures, city & county governments and let’s add teachers and government workers, as well.

Last Fall, your brother and my grandson Joel, when all of this economic “bail out” fiasco started, asked about the emergency weekend 800 billion bill that just had to be acted on within hours or the world would end.  We had no idea, that was only the tip of the iceberg and the Titanic was about to strike it.  Joel had very legitimate concerns and I truly wish others with a vote had shown as much diligence in their study of the problem.  McCain was ridiculed for suspending his campaign to study the issue.  I thought that was the only responsible action he and Obama as well, should take.  Unfortunately, they didn’t demand more accountability, and we have had numerous changes since until we are out in space.  President Obama now has to be the rudder to get us back on course.  Tough with Democrats allowing little Republican input.  Tough with Republican refusal to support any proposal without their input.  The President, while enjoying immense popularity is getting criticism from the extreme left who was instrumental in his election victory.  The criticism from the Limbaughs and the far right was expected.  I have been impressed with his efforts to bring the two sides together.  For me, the middle way is the only way.  Democrats and the liberal media want to blame Bush and the Republicans for all that’s wrong, but we have seen little Democrat support for any Republican Administration even though they too were elected by the people.

As for, “how’s he doing so far?”  I have generally approved of his cabinet choices.  I like his style and demeanor.  I am disturbed by the fact that at least three of the appointments have had tax problems or acceptance of questionable political favors.  Can you imagine the voices from the Democrats and the media had a Republican nominee made this mistake.  I am afraid it portends to the same old system, Democrat or Republican.  I did not approve of some of his friends prior to his election.  The present stimulus bill is loaded with pork or content that is not apropos to vitalizing the economy.  McCain promised to veto every measure deemed pork.  Obama should do the same until Congress gets the message.  McCain probably wouldn’t have done it and Obama probably won’t either, because of those darned political considerations.  President Obama is my President and the best man for our times.  I will support him until I no longer can.  Two weeks is an awfully short time, but I like him and what he is trying to accomplish.  As I write, the President has just nominated Republican Senator Judd Gregg to be Commerce Secretary.  Another good move.

Ali, now you know why it is not a good idea to ask me what I think and why it is probably a good idea for me not to blog often.  Good luck and better weather at N.U.  Love to all my family members wherever you are.

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