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Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Weapon of Mass Destruction?

As  revealed in a recent post, two of our male grandchildren from a warm State visited chilly Minnesota for a week. During one of our many outings, 4th grader Leonard revealed he was especially interested in rocks. Seems as though, I  told him, I happened to personally know an expert on the subject, my friend Gary, a.k.a. Mr. Science who taught Geology and Earth Science.
Of course, Gary was a collector of not only lots of rock but Indian artifacts as well. Walking our GSD Lily that afternoon, Leonard had found an interesting rock which he thought had a fossil embedded. Mr. Science identified it as Chert. Chert is a microcrystalline or cryptocrystalline sedimentary rock material composed of silicon dioxide (SiO2). It occurs as nodules, concretionary masses, and as layered deposits. Chert breaks with a conchoidal fracture, often producing very sharp edges. Early people took advantage of how chert breaks and used it to fashion cutting tools and weapons. The name "flint" is also used for this material. Gary presented Leonard with a genuine arrowhead from his own collection.      
A few years earlier I had taken a somewhat larger role in instructing younger family members in Indian lore.  Showing Leonard some native wildflowers in my garden, we happened upon Canadian Bloodroot.  Naturally, an inevitable question arose. The sap of this beautiful spring wildflower was indeed red. Unfortunately upon showing the evidence I daubed some on the Grandchild while sharing a few stories of the warriors of the  Lakota Nation. It seems at least one female member of the family did not appreciate me "indoctrinating innocent youth in warlike virtues".  Indeed, I was properly chastised but one must admit they are beautiful flowers....:)


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Greater Journey - Americans In Paris

The weather here in Bluff Country has been quite unpredictable for days. With temperatures fluctuating wildly from one day to the next, one day I'm outside and the next in my "winter" mode. What that means is lots of arm chair sitting/snoozing, bird feeder watching, some soup making  and reading.

Now to the reading part. Mr McCullough has done it again. Two Pulitzer prizes ( for John Adams and Truman) along with numerous other award winning best sellers and a Presidential Medal of Freedom apparently weren’t enough. Recently, I ran across  a  recycle at the Goodwill store where my spouse hangs out occasionally. It was  The Greater Journey: Americans In Paris. The theme of this book might be summed up by  the authors statement that "not all pioneers went West." These were the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians architects and others who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work. Most had never left home, never experienced a different culture. They achieved so much for themselves and their country,  profoundly altering  American history and culture
These "pioneers"   included (just to name drop a little) :
Oliver Wendel Holmes - Doctor, Poet.
Charles Sumner - Abolitionist, Senator
James Fenimore Cooper - Author
Samuel F.B. Morse - Painter, Inventor
Emma Willard - Educator, Author
Nathaniel Hawthorne - Author
Elizabeth Blackwell - 1st female Doctor
Ralph Waldo Emerson - Author
Louis Gottschalt - Pianist
George Healy - Portraitist
Mark Twain - Author
Henry James - Author
Harriet Beecher Stowe - Author
Elihu Washburne - Ambassador
August Saint Gaudens - Sculptor
Mary Cassel - Painter
John Singer Sarget - Painter
American no longer needed to only look to Europe for guidance in all things....
Over one hundred years later America has another gifted artist. Historian/biographer David McCullough. He knows how to tell a really good story.

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@Barrie Summy

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Customer Support!

Oh sure. It's been a crummy day already. A State of Minnesota Department farmed out  Customer Service to a business in Denver, Colorado......ugly. :(

My all time unfavorite (besides the usual annoyances) was the time I bought a new computer which didn't work.  I called help and talked to "Fred" who happened to live in India and spoke the King's English. After an hour or so of trying to get my new computer to open he admitted it didn't work and he would send me another new one.  He needed my address. I gave him our P.O. Box Number. " I need your physical address," he stated.  The conversation which ensued for over an hour consisted of me trying to explain the meaning of Box Number and him demanding something called a physical address. Finally, understanding his problem I told him that Fillmore County, Minnesota was probably the last place on planet earth that didn't have street addressess....

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Murder Room

Yes occasionally I do go slumming and read a thriller/mystery type fiction or nonfiction. Here's an oldie but goodie from the library or your ereader....  The Murder Room is about the Vidocq Society  a members-only crime-solving club that meets on the third Thursday of every month in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Vidocq Society is named for Eugène François Vidocq, the ground-breaking nineteenth century French detective who helped police by using the psychology of the criminal to solve "cold case" homicides. Vidocq was a former criminal himself, and used his knowledge of the criminal mind to look at murder from the psychological perspective of the perpetrator. At meetings, Vidocq Society Members (VSMs) listen to local law enforcement officials from around the world who bring in cold cases for review.
VSMs are forensic professionals; current and former FBI profilers, homicide investigators, scientists, psychologists, prosecutors and coroners who use their experience to provide justice for investigations that have gone cold. Members are selected by committee invitation only, pay a $100 annual fee, and commit to attend at least one meeting per year.
The Society was formed in 1990 by William Fleisher, Richard Walter, and Frank Bender. It solved its first case in 1991, clearing an innocent man of involvement in the murder of Huey Cox.
Vidocq will only consider cases that meet certain requirements: they must be unsolved deaths more than two years old, the victims cannot have been involved in criminal activity such as prostitution or drug dealing, and the case must be formally presented to them by the appropriate law enforcement agency. The Society does not charge for its services, and pays for the travel expenses of the law enforcement agents who come to present cases.
The Society was featured in several cases of America's Most Wanted TV series, and was also a plot point in the finale of the 2007–08 season of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2010 it became the subject of a book, The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo.

While reading the book is not for the faint hearted, I found it quite interesting. The clues of numerous horrific and unsolved murders are not skipped over. Still it gave me some insight into the subject that frightens and frustrates people when murderers appear to get away with their crimes. The new forensics popularized in many recent televisions programs. The subtitle of The Murder Room is The Heirs Of Sherlock Holmes Gather To Solve The World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases. The reference to Sherlock Holmes is appropriate indeed.

Finally, like many of the cases references in this book, the details are scattered and seemingly unorganized. In a word the book needs some serious editing. The author skipped between cases with other topics in between. It all made for interesting but somewhat confusing reading.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Deer Hunting With Jesus Rereviewed

I wrote this review in March of 2009 as an introduction to my new second blog Troutbirder II. I recall finding the book interesting and unsettling.  Around that time a friend had accused me of fomenting "class warfare" by my pro labor union comments.  I responded by referring to "famous" social scientist Paris Hilton having pointed out the war was over.  "We won" she said.  I feared she might be right. I needed more information...... so the picked up Deer Hunting With Jesus.

My take on March 17, 2009
"If you are comfortable with all your political, social and cultural assumptions:
DON'T READ THIS BOOK. It's very upsetting.
If you attack people who suggest that the income differential between those who shower before they go to work and those who shower afterwards has increased
enormously in recent decades by accusing them of "class warfare:"
DON'T READ THIS BOOK. You won't like what you find out.
If you think all blue collar working class people are stupid and worse:
DON'T READ THIS BOOK. If you do you might be shocked.
If you get upset because their are "Reagan Democrats," Limbaugh "dittoheads,"
"Armed Old Testament Evangelicals," and "My Country Right or Wrong Superpatriots."
DON'T READ THIS BOOK. It won't make you happy to find out why they exist."

March 9, 2017  A Second Look
Deer Hunting with Jesus    -  Dispatches' From the Class War  

From the church where his brother preaches in tongues to the Rubbermaid plant that employs half his hometown, Bageant uncovers harsh lessons about how liberals failed the people who do society's grunt work, as well as fight our wars, and wind up with nothing to show for it.  They're bitter as hell, but they "vote Republican because no liberal voice...that speaks the rock-bottom, undeniable truth, ever enters their lives."
Bageant's dead serious and damned funny, as he despairs over his benighted brethren but loves them fiercely and wants justice for them. This book is a fantastically readable explanation of why working-class America has given up on liberalism. Winning it back, Bageant writes, means liberals "are going to have to pick up this piece of roadkill with our bare hands."
Looking back on my first review I can't say we weren't warned.  Instead we lost focus and the result was Trumpism with Trump as President. God help the U.S.A.

Of course, the situation has gotten a lot worse since the book was published.  Miss Hilton's team hasn't won but is winning.  Bill Clinton had it right those decades ago..."It's the economy stupid."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Patriarch

The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
By David Nasaw

“I cannot impress upon you strongly enough my complete lack of confidence in the entire [British] conduct of this war. I was delighted to see that the president said he was not going to enter the war because to enter this war, imagining for a minute that the English have anything to offer in the line of leadership or productive capacity in industry that could be of the slightest value to us, would be a complete misapprehension.”   With those words the Joe Kennedy reveals for the umpteenth time his misjudgments about Great Britains capacity to resist Hitlers European conquests.  The how and the why of this appeasement is one of the many facets of this brilliant, compelling book

Kennedy is not without many critics and untrue libels. He and his family had more than a few friends and hero worshipers.  I hoped in reading this giganticus of a book to find the truth. David Nasaw  promises his readers to excise anything that could not be confirmed by primary sources and that the Kennedy family allowed unlimited access to family archives.  I believe this to be true. The result is riveting and striking to say the least.

This book covers the first half of the twentieth century from the inside out.  Joe Kennedy was personally involved in virtually all the history of his time. His isolationism was deep and yet commonplace.  A lot of Americans, notably aviator Charles Lindbergh, wanted to keep America out of another European war. But Kennedy’s relentless drive to appease — indeed, reward — tyranny was monomaniacal, preposterous and dangerous. In his view, Hitler was really just another businessman with whom a deal could be struck. Here his business genius impelled him in a direction that would have led to hell.Does this reflect the seeming approach of the present conman in the White House.  Perhaps…..

The best and most interesting part of this book is family because that's what drove this man the most.  In business, in being a father, government official, a Hollywood insider, and man about town.  Yes, I can sum it all up this way-  real historical biography that’s utterly fascinating.

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@Barrie Summy

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Hidden Figures

Ignorance is not bliss and Mrs. T and I came out of Mayo Clinic after 2 ½ days  better informed if not blissful.  That took us to our favorite Chinese buffet and a movie.  Again after the movie we felt much better informed about an important part of American history.  The Space Race, though we didn’t feel blissful about it either…..
 Hidden Figures is not a blissful  kind of film: It’s a story of brilliance, but not of ego. It’s a story of struggle and willpower, but not of individual glory. Set in 1960s Virginia, the film centers on three pioneering African American women whose calculations for NASA were integral to several historic space missions, including John Glenn’s successful orbit of the Earth. These women—Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan—were superlative mathematicians and engineers despite starting their careers in segregation-era America and facing discrimination at home, at school, and at work.

 Just the fact that our collective culture highlights virtually zip about this platoon of brilliant, dedicated, overworked, under-appreciated, and until recently, never celebrated African-American women who functioned as NASA’s “living computers” to make it possible for Alan Shepherd, Gus Grissom and John Glenn to become national heroes is as humiliating as it is mind-boggling. This is
especially for those of us who grew up witnessing the birth, trials and eventual triumph of our Gemini and Apollo Space Programs.    Yes, Hidden Figures is well worth seeing…..:)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I Could Tell You Stories

Full disclosure requires that while I never met America’s premier memoirist Patricia Hampl  personally , my reading of her books tells me we grew up on the East Side in St. Paul about the same time, my parents knew and patronized her parents florist shop, we both attended the University of Minnesota (where she later taught) and we’re familiar with the hospital where I was born and she cared for her mother.  For more background and a previous review of her book The Florists  Daughter   click on

In I Could Tell You Stories – Sojourns in the Land of Memory Patricia Hampl has written a thoughtful, original study of memoir, both in reflections on her own life and on the works of other notable memoirists over almost two thousand years—including  Saint Augustine, Anne Frank, Edith Stein (a convert from Judaism to Catholicism, who became a martyr under the Nazis), Sylvia Plath, and Walt Whitman. In this era of titillating  memoir as melodrama, Hampl has restored the form to something provocative and serious, at the same time writing a highly readable series of linked essays in which she probes issues of morality and truth and the historical importance of the recorded life. The prose, reflecting Hampl the poet, sings as she meditates.

This book is for writers and thinkers of any genre.  She provides us with a collection of essays which reveal how the even most mundane aspects of life’s experiences can allow us to write thoughtfully and well. This is a profound book as the author shares insights into the views of writers she admires.  She reaches across history, philosophy, poetry, and religion to connect with memory.   For anyone aspiring to the writer’s calling…. This book is a good place to start.




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@Barrie Summy

Monday, January 9, 2017

Last Child In The Woods

The book is Last Child In The Woods by Richard Louv. The subtitle is Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Louv has two grown sons. He writes in concluding his book: "I feel a sense of pride and relief that they have grown well, and a deep grief that my years as a parent of young children is over, except in memory. And I am thankful. The time I spent with my children in nature are among my most meaningful memories - and I hope theirs."
I felt very close to those words when I read them. Our two sons grew to manhood in the seventies and eighties. I had grown up a city boy. Yet then, we could bike out to visit our country cousins, played mostly unsupervised with the neighborhood kids in the parks, on a cliff overlooking the city of St. Paul and fished in the Mississippi. Our boys grew up in the rural area of southeastern Minnesota where I taught school. They worked on a neighbors farm in their teens, hunted,  fished, went camping and canoeing in the Boundary Waters Wilderness. These were all combined with success in academics, music, and sports activities.

Our boys trapping muskrats

Our son Tony working  a picked cornfield after football practice.

The reasons why so many of todays children have been divorced from unsupervised play in a natural setting are many. Our own experience in watching children grow up in todays world would reveal many of them. From fear of "strangers" and nature itself, to TV & video games, legal fears, and other social and cultural changes have all contributed to a new world for growing up.

Louv details and cites much of the scientific research that reveals new insights into the positive effects that childrens contact with the natural world can have on their development. This shows up in many ways, including intelligence, self-confidence and creativity. He also provides information on groups ranging from parents, churches, schools and communities that are trying to reverse the tide. Along with this are many concrete suggestions as to what parents can do as well.

I would highly recommend this book. Today children and grandchildren are learning about the Amazon rainforest, gulf oil spills, global warming etc. in school. That's fine. They are likely not to know about the life in a local creek, frogs and trees, birds and even where milk comes from..... It's time to change that.
Here, our granddaughter, a recent kindergarten graduate, is getting a lesson in freshwater invertebrates from her dad.

And with her older brother, got to meet Angel, one of the star eagles, at the National Eagle Center

Within the restructions of big city life they do get to go camping and for hikes in the Arizona deserts &Mountains. There mom and dad are doing their best.