Author Topic: What have you read lately?  (Read 59693 times)

mamselle

  • Use your wit and intelligence to figure out how to be kinder
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7793
  • Wondering, Wandering Sr. Member
  • CHE Posts: 4,618
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #900 on: July 05, 2022, 07:54:26 AM »
Ha!

ILL as a verb.

;--》

M.
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Reprove not a scorner, lest they hate thee: rebuke the wise, and they will love thee.

Give instruction to the wise, and they will be yet wiser: teach the just, and they will increase in learning.

apl68

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3215
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #901 on: July 05, 2022, 08:06:48 AM »
Lost Cities and Vanished Civilizations, by Robert Silverberg.  Though he's best known for his science fiction, Silverberg wrote quite a bit of nonfiction in the 1960s and early 1970s.  It mostly seems to have been potboiler general-interest work.  This early '60s effort has chapters on Pompeii, Troy, Knossos, Babylon, Chichen Itza, and Ankor.  Each accessibly and concisely tells how trailblazing archaeologists rediscovered these places, deciphered their written records, and developed theories and speculation regarding their histories. 

I first ran across this in paperback as a kid, a little while before Indiana Jones came along and made archaeology cool.  This is one of several books that I recall doing much to spark my lifetime interest in history (Which led to that failed bid to become a professional historian).  Reading through it now, I find that it holds up better than I would have thought.  Silverberg does a pretty fair job of getting across what was then known and believed to have been known about these cultures.  Of course, archaeology has moved on a long way in the past 60 years.  This makes me want to refresh my knowledge about more recent developments in the study of Pompeii, Troy, etc.

Silverberg ends with the observation that the future great archaeologists of the '80s and '90s are no doubt in school right now, developing an early interest in past civilizations the way Schliemann and others did in their day.  Silverberg the science fiction writer also can't help speculating about the upcoming exploration of neighboring planets Mars and Venus.  Who, he wonders, will be the Schliemann of Mars?  Sad to say that within just a few years early deep space probes to Mars and Venus would indicate strongly that there would never be one.  Our neighboring planets are just too environmentally hostile to have ever boasted civilizations of their own.
When the Son of Man judges, he will say to some, Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.
For I was hungry and you fed me, a stranger and you took me in, sick and in prison and you visited me. 
If you did this for the least of my brothers, you have done it for me

apl68

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3215
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #902 on: July 05, 2022, 08:10:29 AM »
Ha!

ILL as a verb.

;--》

M.

Verbs are action words, and some years of working in an ILL department at an R1 university taught me that an ILL department is nothing if not busy.  It wasn't unusual for us to get over 200 borrowing requests in one day.  Running up and down fetching ILL materials from our eight-story main library and the branches around campus helped me to be in the best shape I've ever been in.
When the Son of Man judges, he will say to some, Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.
For I was hungry and you fed me, a stranger and you took me in, sick and in prison and you visited me. 
If you did this for the least of my brothers, you have done it for me

mamselle

  • Use your wit and intelligence to figure out how to be kinder
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7793
  • Wondering, Wandering Sr. Member
  • CHE Posts: 4,618
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #903 on: July 05, 2022, 08:17:42 AM »
Yes, I briefly ran the microfilm/fiche department at a university library on a short-term basis, before digitized scans existed or were much-used (early 90s).

We had cabinets and cabinets full of a national database of ephemera on file, and were asked to fill many ILL orders because it was simpler to pull up those already-created images and print them directly, rather than have someone stand and scan an article or object.

Kept my student interns active, for sure.

M.
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Reprove not a scorner, lest they hate thee: rebuke the wise, and they will love thee.

Give instruction to the wise, and they will be yet wiser: teach the just, and they will increase in learning.

apl68

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3215
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #904 on: July 05, 2022, 08:41:29 AM »
Yes, I briefly ran the microfilm/fiche department at a university library on a short-term basis, before digitized scans existed or were much-used (early 90s).

We had cabinets and cabinets full of a national database of ephemera on file, and were asked to fill many ILL orders because it was simpler to pull up those already-created images and print them directly, rather than have someone stand and scan an article or object.

Kept my student interns active, for sure.

M.

That's actually how I was introduced to ILL work.  I started out working part-time in the microfilm/video/anything-else-that-wasn't-a-book department in our library.  As the senior student worker, I was the one who had to pull and print off any ILLs involving microforms.  When I washed out of the PhD program, they turned my part-time position into full-time by taking me on at ILL as well.  I divided my days between the media center and ILL from that time on.  It gave me an unusually wide variety of experience at a library where most positions were highly specialized.  That variety of experience stood me in good stead when I got to move to the directorship of a small-town public library.
When the Son of Man judges, he will say to some, Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.
For I was hungry and you fed me, a stranger and you took me in, sick and in prison and you visited me. 
If you did this for the least of my brothers, you have done it for me

apl68

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3215
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #905 on: July 08, 2022, 10:41:31 AM »
Hoover Dam:  An American Adventure, by Joseph E. Stevens.  In 1931 the U.S. government began work on an unprecedentedly huge concrete dam across the Colorado River near Las Vegas.  It was one of the most ambitious and complex engineering projects ever undertaken.  The builders had to construct roads in remote and rugged terrain.  They had to build huge tunneling rigs called "jumbos"--early forerunners of today's hi-tech boring machines--to excavate three miles of huge tunnels to divert the river flow.  They had to build a huge cofferdam upstream.  They built a whole town from scratch to house workers and their families.  All this was before work could begin on the actual dam!  The dam itself required the building of huge on-site concrete plants and foundries, and the creation of a complicated network of overhead tram lines and tracks to move workers and materials around the site efficiently.

Stevens gives detailed descriptions of each stage of construction.  He also tells how six major building contractors came together to form a consortium big enough to do the job; how thousands of workers and their families poured into the region from all over the Depression-stricken U.S.; how the worksite and the town built to support it were run; and how numerous managers and administrators representing many companies, communities, agencies, and interests surmounted challenges and battled over jurisdictional matters.

Then there were the labor issues.  The "Six Companies" paid fairly good wages by 1930s standards, fed the workers well, and provided them with accommodations and medical care.  They also tried to claw back as much of the wages as possible through company stores and high prices for cheaply-built lodgings.  Speed of construction was prioritized over safety to the point of causing dozens of preventable deaths, although some of the 96 deaths on the site were probably inevitable.  Six Companies sometimes resorted to underhanded methods, including alleged jury fixing, to keep injured workers from winning suits against them.  Attempts at labor organization foundered when the loony left IWW--not for the first time in its history--came barnstorming into town with such extreme rhetoric and tactics that they put off many workers and played right into management's hands.  Later efforts by more moderate union organizers were just beginning to bear fruit when the project finished.  At least future federal works projects would be much better regulated.

Stevens provides a very vivid picture of an immense undertaking that seeks to be fair and sympathetic to all involved, even people who weren't always very sympathetic.  He ends by describing the whole project as an achievement to celebrate, with a celebratory poem by May Sarton having the last word.
When the Son of Man judges, he will say to some, Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.
For I was hungry and you fed me, a stranger and you took me in, sick and in prison and you visited me. 
If you did this for the least of my brothers, you have done it for me

apl68

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3215
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #906 on: July 08, 2022, 11:20:04 AM »
Colossus:  The Turbulent, Thrilling Saga of the Building of Hoover Dam, by Michael Hiltzik.  Hiltzik covers much the same vast stretch of ground as in the Stevens book above.  The emphases are different.  Although Hiltzik's treatment of the actual construction is quite good as far as it goes, he devotes far less space to it than Stevens, in preference to a far more in-depth treatment of the decades-long political and economic background to the grand Colorado River management plan of which Hoover Dam was the centerpiece.  He also covers the same labor matters and other human interest stories, but with sometimes different perspectives.  It's interesting to see how two equally good and well-researched writers can produce accounts of the same events that complement each other so well.

It's also interesting to see the difference that 22 years makes.  Stevens, writing in 1988, tells a conscientious warts-and-all account of the Hoover Dam project and its personalities, and ultimately finds it a cause for celebration.  Hiltzik can't help admiring the engineering achievement, and ends by noting that those who worked on the project by and large took great pride in helping to make history.  But, writing at a time when it was becoming clear that global warming and worsening droughts are making unsustainable the vast farmlands and cities that Hoover Dam was built to make possible, he can't help questioning whether the massive utilization of the Colorado River's resources to carve cities out of the desert was really a good idea in hindsight.

What would a book on Hoover Dam published today look like?  I have a sinking feeling that it would take a relentlessly prosecutorial tone, representing the whole project as an immense capitalist/colonialist conspiracy against all that is decent and good, no doubt traceable all the way back to the evils of 1619.  In other words, not so much warts-and-all as all warts.  Which doesn't really seem fair.  The great era of western dam building is indeed looking more and more like a terrible series of mistakes, but we're making these judgements with generations' worth of hindsight to go on.
When the Son of Man judges, he will say to some, Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.
For I was hungry and you fed me, a stranger and you took me in, sick and in prison and you visited me. 
If you did this for the least of my brothers, you have done it for me

mamselle

  • Use your wit and intelligence to figure out how to be kinder
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7793
  • Wondering, Wandering Sr. Member
  • CHE Posts: 4,618
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #907 on: July 08, 2022, 04:32:34 PM »
Or, possibly, generations of ignored foresight?

I don't know enough to know about this in particular, but I do know other kinds of projects are often put through despite strong indicators of their potential for falibility and failure even as they're being touted for the heroic projects they're promised to become.

The other kinds of books might be out there, or not, I also don't know about that; it might indeed make an interesting reading quest.

A quick search revealed a discussion of these 3 dam removal projects, along with their substantiating theoretics:

   https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-2-march-april/green-life/3-dam-detonation-videos-prove-going-green-blowing   

Glen Canyon (our family visited that area in the 1970s):

   https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/160411-klamath-glen-canyon-dam-removal-video-anniversary

And from the BBC, on an international and historical scale:

   https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51459930 

I could even see an interdisciplinary class on something like that; it would involve engineering, ecology, sociology (there are towns displaced by dams, like this one:

   https://newengland.com/today/living/new-england-history/lost-towns-quabbin-reservoir/#:~:text=The%20four%20lost%20towns%20of,life%20that%20they%20once%20supported.

...and economics as well as agrarian land management and animal husbandry dimensions to be studied.

Hmmmm....interesting topic, indeed.

But I'd agree, one wants a balanced approach to any such study.

M.
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Reprove not a scorner, lest they hate thee: rebuke the wise, and they will love thee.

Give instruction to the wise, and they will be yet wiser: teach the just, and they will increase in learning.

apl68

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3215
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #908 on: July 09, 2022, 06:20:21 AM »
Or, possibly, generations of ignored foresight?

I don't know enough to know about this in particular, but I do know other kinds of projects are often put through despite strong indicators of their potential for falibility and failure even as they're being touted for the heroic projects they're promised to become.

The other kinds of books might be out there, or not, I also don't know about that; it might indeed make an interesting reading quest.

A quick search revealed a discussion of these 3 dam removal projects, along with their substantiating theoretics:

   https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-2-march-april/green-life/3-dam-detonation-videos-prove-going-green-blowing   

Glen Canyon (our family visited that area in the 1970s):

   https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/160411-klamath-glen-canyon-dam-removal-video-anniversary

And from the BBC, on an international and historical scale:

   https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51459930 

I could even see an interdisciplinary class on something like that; it would involve engineering, ecology, sociology (there are towns displaced by dams, like this one:

   https://newengland.com/today/living/new-england-history/lost-towns-quabbin-reservoir/#:~:text=The%20four%20lost%20towns%20of,life%20that%20they%20once%20supported.

...and economics as well as agrarian land management and animal husbandry dimensions to be studied.

Hmmmm....interesting topic, indeed.

But I'd agree, one wants a balanced approach to any such study.

M.

Cadillac Desert, by Marc Reisner, is a good study of dam-building mania and its unintended consequences.  It's where I first became interested in the topic of water and river management. 
When the Son of Man judges, he will say to some, Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.
For I was hungry and you fed me, a stranger and you took me in, sick and in prison and you visited me. 
If you did this for the least of my brothers, you have done it for me

apl68

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3215
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #909 on: July 22, 2022, 10:41:19 AM »
Cults:  Inside the World's Most Notorious Groups and Understanding the People Who Join Them, by Max Cutler.  We just got this in at our library.  It's a look at such infamous leaders as Charles Manson, Jim Jones, and David Koresh, and the groups that they started.  Each chapter gives a kind of potted history of each guru's early life, career, and downfall.  Some of these figures, such as Credonia Mwerinde, aren't as well known.  Most have had any number of books written about them already, so true-crime fans who are into reading about cults might not learn anything new.  For somebody like me who hasn't read a great deal on the subject, it's pretty informative.

Although Cutler doesn't sensationalize his subjects, the stories here are so horrible that they can be hard to read through.  These criminal cult leaders mostly lived lives of such gross dysfunction that it's hard to see why anybody would so much as consent to spend any time in their presence--and yet others trusted their whole lives to them.  Cutler tries to look into the psychology of why people would turn to such leaders.  I tend to think that G.K. Chesterton had something there when he said, "The nineteenth century decided to have no religious authority.  The twentieth century seems disposed to have any religious authority."  And the twenty-first century, in this as in so much else, is the twentieth century on steroids.

The stories of these destructive leaders are a good source of reflection on what, and what not, to look for in trustworthy spiritual leaders, so this unpleasant read wasn't a waste of time.
When the Son of Man judges, he will say to some, Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.
For I was hungry and you fed me, a stranger and you took me in, sick and in prison and you visited me. 
If you did this for the least of my brothers, you have done it for me

mamselle

  • Use your wit and intelligence to figure out how to be kinder
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7793
  • Wondering, Wandering Sr. Member
  • CHE Posts: 4,618
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #910 on: July 22, 2022, 11:09:09 AM »
I've known three people who were in cults while I knew them.

One, a once-popular acquaintance from high school, was convinced she was on the right path, wouldn't listen to alternatives or answer thoughtful questions. I don't know where she ended up.

Another, my older younger brother, has bounced from group to group most of his adult life. He ends up finding something objectionable, leaves, and starts over somewhere else...leaving, in some cases, his living quarters, possessions, furniture, etc. behind. He, too, won't discuss options; my sister is better able to converse with him than I am. He tries to pull me into convoluted theological discussions that he would lose if I really let loose on his lack of logic, but I've held back because he's pretty fragile, doesn't seem like he'd do well if I showed him how he was wrong.

Another, long ago, came to my door to try to convert me. He was himself confused, uncertain and a bit wild-eyed. I ended up de-converting him and helping him find a homeless shelter so he could get away from the cult, which was making him beg for donations and then taking them all. He visited the church I was attending at the time, a couple times, then disappeared. I don't know what he ended up doing, either.

For a couple of years, I was in a campus fellowship that might have had a few cult-like tendencies, but we talked things out whenever they surfaced, and I think we mostly managed to stay sane. I moved away, stayed in touch for awhile, and recently heard back from a couple of other folks who had also left, and stayed in and out of touch. They had a more negative response than I did to it, but we've all moved on to more stable situations.

The thing I learned most from the group I was in, that I hadn't gotten from any of the churches I'd been in, was how to live in community. The thing I had to leave behind when I left was their ideas about married females submitting to their male spouses.

That doesn't work very well if the male is abusive, as I quickly discovered.

M.
Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Reprove not a scorner, lest they hate thee: rebuke the wise, and they will love thee.

Give instruction to the wise, and they will be yet wiser: teach the just, and they will increase in learning.

hmaria1609

  • Senior Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 796
  • CHE Posts: 560
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #911 on: July 22, 2022, 07:09:19 PM »
From the library: Switchboard Soldiers by Jennifer Chiaverini
New novel about the women who worked in the US Army Signal Corps during WWI.

FishProf

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1740
  • Haphazard
  • CHE Posts: 3,914
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #912 on: July 23, 2022, 06:45:14 PM »
I finished reading The Chronicles of Prydain* to Smolt.  She actually lost interest about midway through the last book.  I consider it a poor man's Tolkein, with many of the same plot beats, although there are some novelties.  It is a Celtic-based world (e.g. Taliesin, the High Druid, is in it) and it is overall worth reading, but it is early young-adult level.

It also wraps up too neatly, there are too many Deus ex machina moments, and too much of the background history and culture is lacking to really feel like a complete world.  I wish I had read it when I was younger (I would have enjoyed it more in my Dragonriders of Pern days).

If you want a quality audiobook rendition, the one narrated by James Langdon does a great job on the accents and the character voices (esp Gurgi and Princess Eilonwy).

*The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Lyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King.
And how is that working out for you?

mamselle

  • Use your wit and intelligence to figure out how to be kinder
  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7793
  • Wondering, Wandering Sr. Member
  • CHE Posts: 4,618
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #913 on: July 23, 2022, 10:59:57 PM »
I discovered the Taran and Eillonwy series in sixth grade, bought and read them all (in paperback). Still have them.

The thing about that series was that it was really, really early for a series with a mouthy, bratty, bright female character who was allowed to be right and lead and win battles. I have tried to live after her pattern.

You're probably right about the 'deus ex machina' events, but to me, that was a part of the magic.

I didn't--couldn't--read Tolkien for probably 10 years after that, and at times I found it so convoluted and thick with descriptive passages that I had to put it down--could only take it on in small doses.

And his female characters, where they exist--don't fare nearly so well, either.

Alexander did some other books worth reading for younger readers, as well. One group--which gets a bit formulaic, but is still fun--is a fantasy travel series of geeky 19th c. kids from Philadelphia.

Smolt might enjoy one or two of those.

M.



Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Reprove not a scorner, lest they hate thee: rebuke the wise, and they will love thee.

Give instruction to the wise, and they will be yet wiser: teach the just, and they will increase in learning.

ergative

  • Distinguished Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1212
  • CHE Posts: 1949
Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #914 on: July 24, 2022, 02:33:34 AM »
Those YA fantasy books really need to be read as a child, I've found, to hit properly. I'd heard such fabulously positive things about Garth Nix that I read the entire Lirael trilogy. It was... fine. Perfectly ok. Nothing special. I could see that there were some evocative components that might have been enchanting to a younger reader, but to me, at 30+, meh.

The exception to this rule, of course, is the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C Wrede, everything in the Tortall universe by Tamora Pierce, and John Bellairs mysteries (before he died and the name was taken over by a different writer). Those are outstanding stories, and the fact that I read them all when I was a child is not in the slightest bit related to this claim.