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Think the Government is Ready for the Next Pandemic?

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The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis My rating: 4 of 5 stars I thought this book was very well written. Like any good story, I found it difficult to put down. It was very frustrating to see yet another venerable institution, the CDC, laid bare. If you a fan of big government (though some elements of the private for-profit sector do not fare well in this story either) you're going to be saddened to see how dysfunctional so many layers of government, not just federal, can be. "Political cover" is often more important than public health. Political appointees are selected for reason other than competence, and these appointees cannot be made to look bad, even though they are useless and not contributing to the solution. The sheer cowardice of our political class is depressing. Fortunately, there are some very smart people in the world who can get the right things done View all my reviews

Book Review: The Survival of the Bark Canoe by John McPhee

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The Survival of the Bark Canoe by John McPhee My rating: 4 of 5 stars A friend recommended I read this book. At first I was apprehensive. I'm into boats, but really big ones - not canoes! I previously read McPhee's Looking for a Ship and really liked it. So, of course, I would give this book a chance. I'm glad I did. McPhee tells us about Henri Vaillancourt, builder of birch bark canoes, who lives near where I lived for a short time in New Hampshire (wish I had known he was so close when I lived there!). McPhee describes a vision of craftsmanship that is so appealing in today's time. Vaillancourt uses no power tools, uses traditional materials (no nails, no rivets) and takes the time to do it right. In today's high speed world, that is quite refreshing. As in the previous McPhee book I read, McPhee excels at describing a journey. He takes a canoe trip in northern Maine with Vaillancourt and others and it's a great story all by itself! Thanks to R.G. Ziemer (

Morton Arboretum

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I took a little walk around the Morton Arboretum today. It was cloudy; it rained a bit. I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Nature Hates Us

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The stink bugs are back this year. We had hardly any last year and today they have appeared in fairly large numbers on the screen porch, so far only on the outside thank goodness.  Besides being ugly they are really bad for the crops around us (corn and soybeans mostly). I was hoping some bird took a liking to them, or maybe something else drove them away. Looks like that was just wishful thinking.

Book Review: How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

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How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell My rating: 2 of 5 stars You can sum up this book in a tweet: Put down the phone; turn off the computer. Pay attention to the physical (nature, people, and in her case - birds) all around you, right there in your own backyard. Accomplishing this requires a significant application of discipline, a point that she mentions but spends too little time exploring. I felt there were too many tangents that strayed away from the point: resisting the attention economy. View all my reviews

September 4, 2021: Pictures

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Book Review: Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America

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Republic of Detours: How the New Deal Paid Broke Writers to Rediscover America by Scott Borchert My rating: 4 of 5 stars The book is about the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s - early 1940s. It was a program designed to employ thousands of unemployed writers during the Depression. The project's mission was to write guidebooks for each of the 48 states. Of course, agreement on what constituted a guidebook was only one of the initial problems. This is a fascinating story, well written, and it will talk about writers that became quite famous. Of course, conservatives hated it. Congressional Republicans put together a commission to ferret out communists from the WPA, but took a special interest in the writers project. There were communist party members writing these guides, but little ended up in the books the FWP published. The book touches on some of the attitudes toward minorities and immigrants held by conservatives then. An advantage to reading history is to see that things