Friday, May 27, 2016

The Friday Find: For Father

Father's Day is on the horizon. When The Husband and I were visiting my dad's favorite Smithsonian museum, I had the chance to pick-up a Father's Day present for him. That inspired me to search the Smithsonian's online store for other gifts for pops. There are many awesome things available but, this week, I would like to suggest this hand-carved, wooden book/tablet stand.

You can find this online at the Smithsonian store website.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Variations on a Theme: Rain

DC has been nothing but gray and rainy this spring. We've gone weeks (weeks!) without seeing the sun. While summer is starting to peek out from behind the clouds, all of the precipitation inspired me to make a list about rain and water. Perhaps you'll pick up one of these titles on your next rainy day...

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History
Cynthia Barnett

It is the subject of countless poems and paintings; the top of the weather report; the source of the world's water. Yet this is the first book to tell the story of rain. Cynthia Barnett's Rain begins four billion years ago with the torrents that filled the oceans, and builds to the storms of climate change. It weaves together science—the true shape of a raindrop, the mysteries of frog and fish rains—with the human story of our ambition to control rain, from ancient rain dances to the 2,203 miles of levees that attempt to straitjacket the Mississippi River. It offers a glimpse of our "founding forecaster," Thomas Jefferson, who measured every drizzle long before modern meteorology. Two centuries later, rainy skies would help inspire Morrissey’s mopes and Kurt Cobain’s grunge. Rain is also a travelogue, taking readers to Scotland to tell the surprising story of the mackintosh raincoat, and to India, where villagers extract the scent of rain from the monsoon-drenched earth and turn it into perfume. Now, after thousands of years spent praying for rain or worshiping it; burning witches at the stake to stop rain or sacrificing small children to bring it; mocking rain with irrigated agriculture and cities built in floodplains; even trying to blast rain out of the sky with mortars meant for war, humanity has finally managed to change the rain. Only not in ways we intended. As climate change upends rainfall patterns and unleashes increasingly severe storms and drought, Barnett shows rain to be a unifying force in a fractured world. Too much and not nearly enough, rain is a conversation we share, and this is a book for everyone who has ever experienced it.

Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle
Miranda Paul

This spare, poetic picture book follows a group of kids as they move through all the different phases of the water cycle. From rain to fog to snow to mist, talented author Miranda Paul and the always remarkable Jason Chin (Redwoods, Coral Reefs, Island, Gravity) combine to create a beautiful and informative journey in this innovative nonfiction picture book that will leave you thirsty for more.

Let There Be Water: Israel's Solution for a Water Starved World
Seth M. Siegel

As every day brings urgent reports of growing water shortages around the world, there is no time to lose in the search for solutions. The US government predicts that forty of our fifty states-and sixty percent of the earth's land surface-will soon face alarming gaps between available water and the growing demand for it. Without action, food prices will rise, economic growth will slow, and political instability is likely to follow. Let There Be Water illustrates how Israel can serve as a model for the US and countries everywhere by showing how to blunt the worst of the coming water calamities.
Even with sixty percent of its country a desert, not only doesn't Israel have a water problem; it has an abundance of water. Israel even supplies water to its neighbors-the Palestinians and the Kingdom of Jordan-every day. Based on meticulous research and hundreds of interviews, Let There Be Water reveals the methods and techniques of the often off-beat inventors who enabled Israel to lead the world in cutting-edge water technology.

Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water
Peter H. Gleick

Peter Gleick knows water. A world-renowned scientist and freshwater expert, Gleick is a MacArthur Foundation "genius," and according to the BBC, an environmental visionary. And he drinks from the tap. Why don’t the rest of us? Bottled and Sold shows how water went from being a free natural resource to one of the most successful commercial products of the last one hundred years—and why we are poorer for it. It’s a big story and water is big business. Every second of every day in the United States, a thousand people buy a plastic bottle of water, and every second of every day a thousand more throw one of those bottles away. That adds up to more than thirty billion bottles a year and tens of billions of dollars of sales. Are there legitimate reasons to buy all those bottles? With a scientist’s eye and a natural storyteller’s wit, Gleick investigates whether industry claims about the relative safety, convenience, and taste of bottled versus tap hold water. And he exposes the true reasons we’ve turned to the bottle, from fearmongering by business interests and our own vanity to the breakdown of public systems and global inequities. "Designer" H2O may be laughable, but the debate over commodifying water is deadly serious. It comes down to society’s choices about human rights, the role of government and free markets, the importance of being "green," and fundamental values. Gleick gets to the heart of the bottled water craze, exploring what it means for us to bottle and sell our most basic necessity.

The Johnstown Flood
David McCullough

At the end of the nineteenth century, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, was a booming coal-and-steel town filled with hardworking families striving for a piece of the nation’s burgeoning industrial prosperity. In the mountains above Johnstown, an old earth dam had been hastily rebuilt to create a lake for an exclusive summer resort patronized by the tycoons of that same industrial prosperity, among them Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Mellon. Despite repeated warnings of possible danger, nothing was done about the dam. Then came May 31, 1889, when the dam burst, sending a wall of water thundering down the mountain, smashing through Johnstown, and killing more than 2,000 people. It was a tragedy that became a national scandal. Graced by David McCullough’s remarkable gift for writing richly textured, sympathetic social history, The Johnstown Flood is an absorbing, classic portrait of life in nineteenth-century America, of overweening confidence, of energy, and of tragedy. It also offers a powerful historical lesson for our century and all times: the danger of assuming that because people are in positions of responsibility they are necessarily behaving responsibly.

Peter Spier

This wordless picture book captures the beauty and wonder of a brother and sister's joyous experiences in the rain. Come along as they explore their neighborhood, splash through puddles, see where the animals hide, and make footprints in the mud. From the first small drops of rain to the clear blue sky of a bright new morning, Peter Spier's Rain will delight parents and children again and again. 

Other Rain Titles
Aqua Shock - Susan J. Marks
The Big Thirst - Charles Fishman
Come On, Rain - Karen Hesse
Storm Surge - Adam Sobel
The Umbrella Unfurled - Nigel Rodgers
The West Without Water - B. Lynn Ingram

Links and Stuff: May 26, 2016

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why I Love... Snatching Reading Time

Sometimes you don't have the time to read for hours or even halves of hours on end. Sometimes you only get a few minutes here and there. Or just here cause you're too busy to find time there. I've lucked out lately that changes in my life (coughreadingfewernewsblogscough) have led me to have more reading time, but I still love snatching minutes of reading time here and there.

I almost always have a book or magazine on me or, failing that, my phone. I love being able to cram in two or three minutes of reading when I find a moment. These snatches usually occur while I am in transit - riding the metro, stuck in a slow elevator, on the longest escalator ever, etc. They also happen when I'm waiting - for my lunch to reheat in the microwave, when I'm meeting someone, waiting for some sort of service, etc. It's not a ton of time, but it's the perfect amount to catch up on something.

These minutes don't allow for immersive reading, but sometimes they're the best I can manage. The brief reading lulls also help me get through reading slumps, when nothing seems to be hitting the spot. I'd rather get at least a few pages of reading done than sit around waiting for the mood to strike.

Some reading is better than no reading in my book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book 14: The Purity Myth

TITLE: The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women
AUTHOR: Jessica Valenti
STARTED: May 12, 2016
FINISHED: May 22, 2016
PAGES: 263
GENRE: Non-Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: There is a moral panic in America over young women's sexuality - and it's entirely misplaced.

SUMMARY:[From BN] The United States is obsessed with virginity — from the media to schools to government agencies. In The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti argues that the country’s intense focus on chastity is damaging to young women. Through in-depth cultural and social analysis, Valenti reveals that powerful messaging on both extremes — ranging from abstinence-only curriculum to "Girls Gone Wild" infomercials — place a young woman's worth entirely on her sexuality. Morals are therefore linked purely to sexual behavior, rather than values like honesty, kindness, and altruism. Valenti sheds light on the value — and hypocrisy — around the notion that girls remain virgins until they’re married by putting into context the historical question of purity, modern abstinence-only education, pornography, and public punishments for those who dare to have sex. The Purity Myth presents a revolutionary argument that girls and women are overly valued for their sexuality, as well as solutions for a future without a damaging emphasis on virginity.

THOUGHTS: This book is essentially a college thesis. It's fact-filled with a logically planned argument and uses emotionally-packed stories for maximum oomph. It also includes some commentary in the form of fantastic snarky footnotes. While this writing style was not my favorite, I think Valenti does a phenomenal job of explaining why and arguing how the concept of virginity is a damaging social construct. I am in full agreement with Valenti's case and the argument she makes. I started this book knowing that I would scoff at the examples of virginity culture that Valenti uses. Sometimes I even snorted in derision. I basically read this book to feel vindicated about my feelings on this issue, so this review is definitely biased in favor of Valenti. I wish this book was required reading, because too often we let existing cultural norms just "be" when they should be challenged. It's hard to change a millennium of thinking overnight, but Valenti's book offers a good and well-argued start.

RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

YouTube Tuesday: Outdoors

Monday, May 23, 2016

Reading in the Wild

On Friday, The Husband and I were enjoying dinner at a local establishment when we encountered a lady who is now, in my imagination, my newest best friend.

We were almost done with dinner when this tres chic looking older lady grabbed a spot at the bar. She arrived alone and ordered dinner and a glass of red wine. When her dinner arrived, she took an ebook out of her bag and used the cover to prop it up so she could eat and read at the same time. I must give this lady bonus points for ordering an adult grilled cheese. (I call it adult because it comes with bacon. Bacon makes everything better.)

When I told The Husband that this woman was now my hero, he snapped a quick photo of her reading set-up for me. Now I have something to emulate.

Thank you random lady! You made my Friday night and I think you're totally awesome.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

What I Read This Week: May 22, 2016

I had so many meetings this week that I forgot what day it was on more than one occasion. I hate it when that happens. On the upside, I also got to spend time with several friends I've not seen in awhile.
  • Work
  • Magazines
    • Good Housekeeping, June 2016 - When the cover promised to be all about color, I was expecting more than 6 pages of material. While said pages were lovely to behold, the small size was disappointing. On the other hand, the article on summer reading recommendations was much longer than I thought it would be. I love reading about new titles. 
    • Food Network, June 2016 - I normally jump for joy when summer food issues arrive. Sadly, we no longer have easy access to a grill, so those recipes are lost on me these days. Boo! At least I still have access to a freezer so I can try out some of those delicious looking ice cream sandwiches. 
  • Books
    • I am in love with every argument in Valenti's The Purity Myth but it does tend to read like a college paper. It's better than any college paper I ever wrote, but it still gives off that vibe. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Friday Find: Sweet Sweet Smell

If you love the smell of old books, you may be interested in this new perfume. The makers say: "The Dead Writers Perfume® blend evokes the feeling of sitting in an old library chair paging through yellowed copies of Hemingway, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Poe, and more. Suitable for either sex, Dead Writers makes you want to put on a kettle of black tea and curl up with your favorite book. This perfume contains black tea, vetiver, clove, musk, vanilla, heliotrope, and tobacco."

Hat tip to Gentleman M for directing me to this. You can buy a bottle or two from Sweet Tea Apothecary.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Links and Stuff: May 19, 2016

Library of Congress Rotunda