Archive for December, 2008
It was a very good year for reading although in retrospect several of the books I most enjoyed had sobering themes. I tortured myself by reading several longish tomes on the Bush administration and one on the Bush family history. Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power (Fred Kaplan) is a sobering narrative on how a few key ideologies (and powerful ideologues) drove Mr. Bush into one pitfall after another. It’s frightening, really, how so few individuals can virtually control the destiny of an entire nation overcoming the countering influences of all other government institutions and the will of the citizens. Fiasco, The American Military Adventure in Iraq (Thomas Ricks) details the stunning American missteps in the ill-fated military adventure in Iraq. Many of the key players in both books are the same. Ricks points out the terrible consequences of U.S. leaders’ arrogance and simplistic world-view (not to mention their profound ignorance of history).
Prior to these in-depth accounts, I got through Kevin Phillips’ American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, an intriguing history of the Family Bush from the late 19th-century Walker and Bush ancestors through the presidency of George W. It’s a compelling narrative of family ties to military industries, oil and Yale going back well over one hundred years. Amid those relationships one finds the origins of today’s close ties to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon and Halliburton. I could only wonder as I read how a nation’s foreign policy could be so heavily influenced by generation after generation of a single family.
I’m just now finishing Naomi Klein‘s controversial The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. The work is a detailed critique of Milton Friedman‘s free market economic theories and, more importantly, their implications on U.S. foreign policy. I approached this book with caution given the diverse opinions of reviewers but I must say it does help explain large-scale socio-political events like the repressive overthrows in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay in the 1970?s. As well, the book is prescient in light of the U.S. government’s efforts to privatize vast segments of governmental functions and the collapse of the global financial infrastructure.
During our trip to New Mexico in May we visited the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos and I picked up Brotherhood of the Bomb : The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller (Gregg Herken) a superbly well-written and enthralling history of the development of the atomic bomb. It’s a fascinating account of the big egos, challenging science and complex history of the period from the final years of WWII through the death of Teller in 2003.
I didn’t totally ignore my penchant for medical works. My favorite for 2008 was How Doctors Think (Jerome Groopman). It’s unnerving, although obvious I suppose, to know that doctors have the same foibles as the rest of us and can have a bad day just like you or I can. The book will change how you approach your next visit to the doctor’s office.
Last Christmas Trisha gave me Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy–Until You’re 80 and Beyond. This slight, folksy volume reminded me of all those obvious things you should be doing to keep yourself going and inspired us to sign up for the local fitness club for the year. I don’t know if I’ll make it to 80 but I’m sure feeling a lot better (mentally and physically) with regular trips to the gym.
I sped through a handful of other books this past year and have become somewhat addicted to online news from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Yahoo News. It will be interesting to see where serendipity takes me in 2009.
Today began much like each of the past eight or so days… clearing areas in the back yard for the birds and ducks to feed. The scenery is indeed lovely but it’s snowing again and there really is sufficient white stuff at this point. More isn’t adding to the beauty. But we’re settled in for the day: reading, listening to new music, cataloging stamps and eventually baking cookies and preparing a traditional Christmas dinner of turkey, yams, and green bean casserole.
Today’s forecast called for another one to three inches of snow. Well, so far we’ve recorded six inches and it still looks like a blizzard outside. We’ve reached that serious winter conundrum we occasionally encountered back in Michigan… there’s nowhere to put the snow any more. And we just had our roads cleared yesterday. The weather guys keep saying this is supposed to turn to rain–not soon enough. We ventured out in the evening for a Christmas Eve dinner at the Salish Lodge with a table overlooking Snoqualmie Falls.
I’ve put together a little collection of winter photos over the past week or so.
Watch the mini slides below or click on the link above to go to our collection of photo albums.
We’re having little sympathy watching scenes of winter storms in the Midwest and East. Most of that weather started here and overnight we got the winds and snow the forecasters had warned about. The snow began to fall around 4:00, the wind gradually increased and by 11:30 the power went out. I heard the wind howling and shaking the trees all night. The weather service says winds hit 70 mph over night. Trisha and I dug out in the morning to make a spot to feed the birds and ducks and huddled around the fireplace until electricity was restored just before noon. By then the temperature inside was down to 55 degrees. It was the third time I cleared the driveway in the past six days. It supposed to stay cold with additional snow showers daily through Christmas Day. Two elk have breached the vinyl fence and the north-west corner of the property and I made repairs and stacked dead trees in that area to dissuade them. We’ll see if it works.
It was a spectacular winter day, cold, calm and sunny. The weather gave us a chance to shovel the almost foot a accumulated snow from the driveway and sidewalks and clear a section of the backyard for the ducks and birds. We also loaded up on groceries and batteries in preparation for a predicted storm on Saturday. The Weather Service is warning of hurricane force winds and another eight inches of snow and cautioning to be prepared for prolonged power outages. We’ve learned to take these things seriously after the eight days without electricity the area endured in December 2006.
I had a vacation day today and Trisha worked at home again, a wise choice given the terrible traffic conditions from the overnight snowfall across the whole area. Conveniently, the clear day allowed for highways to be cleared out so we were able to make the trip into Seattle for an evening performance of the Messiah at Benaroya Hall. We enjoyed the music and choral pieces while some of the soloist sections were less interesting.
We both worked from home yesterday after getting a couple of inches of wet snow over night. There were a few additional snow squals throughout the day but nothing like the dire forecasts. But today we were greeted with a fresh 6-8 inches and it’s been snowing on and off all day. Trisha has been busy keeping the ducks fed.
Christmas lights on the house just don’t do much for me until there’s a blanket of snow. This year the timing is perfect. It looks like we’ll have enough of the white stuff and cold temperatures to last through Christmas Day. If I have to miss golf at least I can enjoy the holidays lights.
We braved the Seattle traffic and brisk temperatures and were rewarded with a wonderful performance by Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster. We arrived in time for a leisurely beef stew dinner at Puck’s cafe just outside the concert hall and a little Bailey’s on the rocks to boot. We’ve seen Ms. MacMaster before and she was terrific as always. Her energy (including some impressive dancing) was all the more remarkable given that she’s due to give birth to her third child in February. In addition, the accompanying band was also superb, especially piano player Mac Morin and the extraordinary fourteen year old cellist, Nathaniel Smith. I can’t wait to see her again.
We’re having some true winter weather here much like winters back in Michigan. The high temperature today was just 27 degrees with wind chill registering around 17. The forecast is for the very cold weather to persist for a week or so. The Seattle Times reports it could be the coldest week in over forty years.