Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Best of Intentions

And their alternates...

In 2012 I planned to read 40 books.  I read 39, but not all were those I had aspired to complete.

Three of the my unplanned reads were textbooks for classes I was asked to lead this summer.  There was also more science fiction and horror than I'd planned.  I'm coming to remember that some bracing fiction is a fine way to cleanse the palate between the heavy stuff.  Otherwise, I mostly skipped some history, psychology, and religion books in order to read different volumes on religion and more science.

Time to plan for 2013.  If I skip television and cut back on my Netflix perhaps I can read 52...

The books I meant to read in 2012, but didn’t:

The books I meant to read in 2012, and did:

Books I did not plan to read in 2012, but did:

A View to a Chill

Bowhunting in North Dakota in late December is for serious nutters...

Happy coincidences on the Gregorian calendar allowed me to turn three days of paid time off into an 11 day vacation at the close of 2012. Our man in North Dakota, Tim Overmoen, had a large buck prowling his river bottom hunting ground.  So far as anyone knew he had not fallen to a rifle bullet or a muzzleloader sabot during the earlier gun seasons.  A last minute archery hunt was mounted.   California hunting buddy, Greg Clemmer, had to beg off at the last minute.  Seems a nasty sore throat and fever settled into pneumonia, so he spent the last week on the hunting season sprawled on his sofa.  Slacker.  
The Winter Solstice observed, the Mayan new year ignored, and Christmas Eve festivities executed, on Christmas Day I drove by myself to my Aunt Phyllis' farm a few miles west of Hillsboro, North Dakota.  Phyllis spends her winters in town these days so I had the place all to myself.  I didn't have my license yet so I spent the afternoon on a ridge above the Tim's segment of the Goose River conducting a recce.  

Did I mention the temperature?  Highs were in the oughts and teens all week, so sitting in the open or using my climbing tree stand was not an option.  I used a pop-up portable blind and a small propane heater to create a wee little cube of tolerable that measured five feet on a side.  The heater worked better when I wrapped it in a space blanket. 

I played the wind as best I could, choosing three different spots as warranted.  In the space of six days I encountered as few as four and as many as two dozen deer, but all were does and fawns.  I could have put a stalk on several of them but I was there for bucks.  I saw two bucks, but not necessarily the buck, and neither graced me with a shot.

In my down time I slept in, finished reading Boneshaker and Cairns, started reading Humans and The Moral Animal.  On my drive to and from ND and during slow afternoons in the blind I caught up on my backlog of podcasts, mostly from Gresham College, the LSE, and the RSA.  On Saturday Auntie and I drove to Grand Forks to see Les Miserables and have a spot of supper.

Alone on the farm where I spent the happiest days of my childhood and where I collected many fine hunting stories as an adult, I realized that a place - even this place - is but a canvas upon which people in relationship, family, and community create cherished memories. 

On the Monday of New Year's Eve the high was expected to be only zero degrees (yes, Fahrenheit) - too cold even for this nutter - so I packed my kit, loaded the truck, and drove back to Minneapolis, looking for home. 

David B. Williams Has a Very Special Way of Looking at the World

Starting with just a pile of rocks...

Cairns: Messengers in Stone, is one seriously clever, entertaining, and informative book.  As author David B. Williams examines the natural and unnatural history of cairns, the people who make and use them, the stones they're made of and how they age, and what grows upon and around them, he treats the reader to a rich and involving story that in less capable hands might have been merely a disordered midden of cocktail party trivia.

Across nine chapters, a variety of brief guest essays, and a collection of simple illustrations, Williams touches in useful detail upon topics as varied as anthropology, archeology, astronomy, biology, burial practices, cannibalism, carbon dating and other dating techniques, chemistry, communication, cosmology, ecology, engineering, ethnology, folklore, geocaching, geography, geology, governments, hiking, history, language, lead poisoning, legend, lichenometry, linguistics, mountaineering, mythology, Neolithic hunting practices, paleoanthropology, physics, polar exploration, political history, religion, shamanism, sheep herding, sociology, tool making, tourism, and volcanology. Along the way, Williams makes a powerful yet credible supposition: that cairns - being deliberately assembled way-finding aids - represent not only human tool-making, but also a very early example of human symbolic communication.

If any of these many perspectives on the natural world and human history interest you then you will enjoy this book. 

My copy of Cairns: Messengers in Stone, was a Good Reads First Reads Giveaway.