Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Never-Ending Story

The transition from cabin in the woods to perfect little house continues to continue...

There is still plenty of work to do in 2017:

  • Implement a more cost effective heating solution
  • Repair the driveway
  • Rebuild the steps from the drive to the lower yard
  • Finish sanding, caulking, and painting the exterior
  • Paint the front door
  • Continue landscaping
  • Plant more cover for the fences
  • Replace hopelessly stunted trees
  • Remodel bathroom (more on this later)
  • Expand the flagstone treatment in front of the fireplace
  • Replace carpet
  • Buy a garage

2017 Goodreads Resolution

A few more books, a little less screen time...

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. In progress [16]

Death's End, by Cixin Liu. In progress [15]

The Crash Detectives: Investigating the World's Most Mysterious Air Disasters, by Christine Negroni. Negroni offers a credible theory about the disappearance of Malaysia Air 370 by folding in the fascinating and sobering details of at least a dozen other air disasters and near disasters that have occurred since the dawn of the age of flight. [14]

Deep Time, by David Darling. [13] 

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. [12]

Ancient Ruins and Rock Art of the Southwest, by David Grant Noble. Those who know me understand that sussing out what humankind was up to in the pre-historic period is my thing.  David Noble's book came highly recommended by another amateur enthusiast who works a V-Bar-V petroglyph heritage site.  It does not disappoint, offering succinct directions, useful descriptions, and thoughtful analysis of "ruins and rock art" found in my neighborhood.  [11]

Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, by John G. Neihardt. "Black Elk Speaks" tells the story of an Oglala holy man and his Lakota people who lived through the worst of the American Indian Wars, from the Fetterman Fight to the Little Big Horn to the Wounded Knee Massacre. This book has long been on my "To Read" list (and my bookshelf), but when Joseph Campbell spoke highly of it in "The Inner Reaches of Outer Space" I bumped it to the top of my list. As I enter the autumn of my life I have been encountering books I should have read in my youth. This is one of those. [10]

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, by Joseph Campbell. This collection of essays and lectures by Jospeh Campbell has been on my "To Read" shelf for quite some time, but Mortimer Adler took such exception to it in his "Truth in Religion" I had to see what all the fuss was about. Turns out Adler was upset with about one page of the 148 that make up "The Inner Reaches of Outer Space." I don't disagree with the views Campbell expressed on that page and the rest of the book is a heady melange of psychology, mythology, religion, art, and literature. Certainly not Campbell's most accessible work, but worth reading. [9]

Sinagua Sunwatchers, Kenneth J. Zoll. Of the thousand some petroglyphs discerned on the rock panels at V Bar V Heritage Site located along Beaver Creek in the Verde Valley, many correlate to midday shadows cast by two rock gnomens during the equinoxes and solstices and at other calendrical events throughout the year. "Sinagua Sunwatchers", by Kenneth J. Zoll, lays out the details patiently in methodical detail. [7]

Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth, by Mortimer Adler. The late Mortimer J. Adler reminds his reader, "De gustibus non disputandum: about matters of taste, there is no disputing. De veritate disputandum est: about matters of truth, we should engage in dispute..." And dispute he does. Adler's Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth (1990) is chewy, spirited, and oddly argumentative (Adler had some strange beef with Joseph Campbell, who approached religion as misunderstood mythology). A thought-provoking, challenging, and ultimately useful read. [7]

The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, by Andre Comte-Sponville. My, what a fine "little book" this one is! Comte-Sponville reminds us that the search for meaning has long been - and will forever continues to be - conducted by the non-believer and the non-religious as well as the theist. He reminds the theist that atheism need not equal nihilism while reminding the atheist that non-belief need not entail fatalism. I plan to make gifts of this rich little volume to my favorite evangelical, my favorite Marxist, and many of the others I also love in between. I'll be reading "The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality" again. [6]

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Omar Khayyam. As with many volumes I finally have made time to read I wish that I'd read this many years ago. It stands as a worthy companion to the works of Rumi, Ecclesiastes, and the Tao Te Ching. [5]

Flintknapping: Making & Understanding Stone Tools, by John C. Whitaker. A rich resource for those who want to make stone tools or just understand their place in pre-history. [4]

An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything, by Randal Rauser and Justin Schieber. [3] A worthy effort by two evenly matched opponents, yet more enjoyable than most such exchanges in that authors Rauser and Schieber obviously respect each other. Not sure they got to choose their title. Schieber was called upon to defend the implications of a materialism I'm not sure he holds, while Rauser defended a God of the Philosophers (bare theism) rather than the trinitarian~monotheism of biblical Christianity. I'd buy a sequel, but next time I'd hold out for paper rather than use the Kindle app on my smartphone again.

Hiking the Southwest's Geology: Four Corners Region, by Ralph Lee Hopkins. [2] A marvelous and easily accessible guide to all the many features of the primordial past that lie beneath our feet and entertain our eyes with scenic vistas. This is one of our "Go-To" books we use to plan our road trips across the southwest. Highly recommended!

Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It, by Julia Keller. [1]  A social history about the man and his times, the application of patent law, the rise of industrialization, the internecine machinations of weapons procurement by the American military establishment, and the role of military technology applied to the acquisition and defense of empire. Regrettably, this book contains very details about the innovative gun itself, its evolutions, or its re-adoption in modernized form in the Jet Age. Not what I expected.

Let's read 48 books in 52 weeks...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Stories of Your Life and Others

Whip smart, wickedly imaginative, and viciously clever...

I bought Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang to read the short story upon which the screenplay for the film Arrival was based.  It was well worth it for that reason alone, but there are other stories in this collection which are even better.  If you enjoy science fiction, speculative fiction, or just plan fiction, give it a try.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Tower of Babel

What if the story had played out differently?

11 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there 
3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. 
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. 
5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 
6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. 
8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 
9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. 
Genesis 11:1-9
What if Yahweh had not been threatened by human striving?  What if He had let us build a tower to heaven?  What might He have taught us?  Read Ted Chiang's Story of Babylon in Stories of Your Life and Others and find out.  Clever and satisfying stuff.