Showing posts from August, 2014

Advertisements during the Pope’s Funeral

Václav Havel, Washington, April 9, 2005Yesterday I watched the pope’s [John Paul II] funeral on television. It was a grand and moving spectacle. I knew the pope, and I’d even dare say that we were friends, and perhaps for that very reason I was incapable of experiencing any great sorrow at his death. The thing is, I had a visceral feeling that, with great peace in his soul, he was departing for a place he knew he was going to, a good place. But America is a rather odd country. It’s very religious, and at the same time it allows the broadcast of the pope’s funeral to be interrupted by advertisements, many of which were the direct embodiment of what he had criticized for his entire life. I found it truly hard to understand, and it made me more and more uncomfortable, until I finally switched the television off.To the Castle and Back, Václav Havel, translated from the Czech by Paul Wilson, 2007, p. 20

My Final Ride by LeAnn Bednar

I thought I'd have to push myself to read this book about a Teton Valley man's ride along the Great Western Trail after he's diagnosed with cancer. I was wrong, though. I found it fascinating. Written in first-person by Chuck Christensen's daughter from his journals, newspaper articles, and interviews with people who rode with him, it's a day-by-day account of his two-part journey. Part one is from Teton Valley, Idaho to the Mexico border and part two is from Teton Valley to the Canada border a couple of years later. About halfway through the book, I suddenly realized that I know one of his daughters and a couple of his grandkids and I've met his wife a few times, which made the book even more enjoyable. I'm pretty sure I know others of his relatives, but the family trees in these parts, while well-known to the locals, are confusing and complex and have taken me years to even begin to understand and remember. But even before I recognized the connection, I…

The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley

Even though we home school, I found a lot of fascinating stuff in this book that looks at public education in the U.S. and in three countries whose 15-year-olds test much higher than ours do: South Korea, Finland, and Poland. Some things that matter: rigor, high expectations, well-trained teachers. Some things that don't matter so much: money, high-tech gadgetry, sports programs. There's much more to it than that, of course. The tone is hopeful and doesn't condemn American education, just gives some good ideas. And even though the three featured countries test high, the author shows the limitations of their schools, as well. (South Korea is particularly ... uh, interesting. Yes, let's go with that adjective.) That's a pretty lame summary, but I loved this book and highly recommend it to everyone. By the way, at least 2/3 of my kids said to me while I was reading this, "Oh, you're reading a book about us!" They are so funny.

Plovdiv, Bulgaria Memorial complex Hillock of fraternity

Plovdiv was a Thracian city before it became a Greek city around 340 BC. (See the Wikipedia Plovdiv page for more history.) There is an impressive Communist-era concrete monument in Plovdiv which I only saw a few weeks before we moved away. I went will Lillian and Seth. The OpenBuildings page on Memorial complex Hillock of fraternity describes it this way:The “Hillock of fraternity” monument symbolizes a Thracian hillock. It reminds of a stone wreath from above. A 90m long sculpture composition inside the monument is dedicated to the Liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule, the The Unification of Bulgaria, the Bulgarian partisan movement and “the victory of socialism” in 1944. Bones of partisans from Plovdiv region were placed inside the memorial complex, once it was finished. It was inaugurated on 9 September 1974 by the party leader Todor Zhivkov in honor of the 30th anniversary of the “socialist revolution” in Bulgaria. There were plans to connect the “Hillock of fraternity” memor…

The Age of Discretion by Simone de Beauvoir

Is there such a thing as a "long story"? Because this seems like one. My experience reading it was a little odd. I had never read anything by Simone de Beauvoir and this was in a collection we've had on our shelves for many years. I read about half of it and found myself annoyed with the protagonist, who seemed spoiled, whiney, and a brat, even though she's a mature, successful, happily married literature professor. So I put it down for quite a while, several months. Unfortunately, it's pretty common for me to put books aside these days. Some I end up finishing eventually and others not. But they all stay on my bedside table for months, just in case I get the urge to return to one of them. Yesterday morning, I thought I'd give the woman another chance (the character in the story, not necessarily Simone de Beauvoir). And unexpectedly, I could suddenly relate to her. The first part of the story, the part I read several months ago, is about how disappointed and…

Wind River Range Little Seneca Lake

This past Friday and Saturday, Jacob and I backpacked in Wyoming's Wind River Range. It took 2.5 hours to drive from our house to the Elkhart Park Pole Creek trail head, near Pinedale, Wyoming. On the way in we went via Photographers Point, which has amazing views of a lake and the mountains to the north. We hiked 10.5 miles on Friday to Little Seneca Lake and camped there, at probably the only place it was possible to camp since it was so rocky. The next day on the way out we took an alternate route and went past Sweeney Lakes and Miller Lake, which made the trip out about 11 miles.It was beautiful, with mild temperatures and a few brief rain showers on Friday. We encountered a lot of people on the trail (we counted 104 people on Friday and 56 on Saturday), but we still sometimes went an hour or two without seeing any other people and it didn't feel crowded. The trails were in good shape, and our map (Wind River Range North from Beartooth Publishing) and the occasional signs …