Friday, July 27, 2007

Two old men looking back at life

I have just completed an interesting reading experience. Two books I was reading appeared to complement each other in so many ways that I read a couple of chapters of one and then a couple in the other.

On the surface they appear to be very different.

Out Stealing Horses: A Novel by Norwegian author Per Petterson, takes place mostly near Oslo and other locations on the border to Sweden.

Garlic Is Life: A Memoir With Recipes by a former English professor turned farmer, Chester Aaron, is non-fiction autobiographical account about farming 30 or more different kinds of garlic 100 miles north of Berkely, California.

But there are so many similarities it is uncanny.

Both are written in the first person in beautiful, engaging prose. (Horses is so well translated that you don't notice that it was written in another language, except for the occasional Norwegian place names.)

Both utilize many flashbacks to childhood, Petterson's Trond mostly to 1948 in alternate chapters, Chester to the 30's in Pennsylvania.

Both have moved to the country to start over after losing their wives: Chester after a devastating divorce, Trond after a horrendous car accident.

Both recall strong relations to difficult fathers, who continue to influence the way they try to create new lives as 70-something "old men." (Their mothers are lurking in the background.) Both fathers are still lurking to show how to do practical things on their farms.

For both books the natural settings (fields, woods and ocean for Chester, forest, meadows and river for Trond) and the weather (wind, rain, and yes, also the sun) provide more than just the setting.

Trond's dog Lyra and Chester's cat Sadie are their constant companions, while sheep, horses, gophers and other creatures also play important roles.

Crops play important roles (garlic, of course, and fruit trees for Chester, trees for Trond.)

Neighbors and other humans provide insight and sometimes help, but occasionally are more of an irritant to their daily lives alone on their farms - although Garlic ends with a wedding!

But only Garlic provides you with numerous recipes for strange garlics, including 2 desserts!

I hope you enjoy them, too!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Scientific Integrity

The Union of Concerned Scientists ran a cartoon contest recently. This is the winner - by Jesse Springer of Eugene, Oregon.

There have been a number of people who for some reason or other have been trying to discredit science, whether for strange religious reasons about evolution, and energy companies and their buddies in our present government about climate change and othr environmental issues. This is, of course, where scientif integrity really concerns me. I think the winning picture is the one I voted for. It sure tells it all.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Michael Moore is Right

The scene
A friend of mine, Karen, was out riding her motorcycle in January out to Anza Borrego in the desert to enjoy the warmth of the sun, together with her husband Stu and some of their friends.

Unfortunately, the trip ended in a disaster, which you can read about on her blog Michael Moore is Right. It turned out that their health insurance MEGA was a fraud, and they were billed as "cash patients!" If you know of others with health insurance problems like this, please send them to her blog and ask them to write comments. That would be very comforting.

There is a real health insurance problem in this country for people who don't have an employer, not because they're not working, but because they are SELF-employed!

Karen is doing a great job documenting their problems. She's a great writer. (I met her taking technical writing courses, but she decided she'd prefer the active life working with her house-painter husband.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Live Earth in Upland, CA

Live Earth in Upland, CA
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.
There were other ways to experience the Live Earth concerts 7/7/07.
MoveOn organized house parties, and we were delighted that there was one in Upland.

Mind you, we spent most of the time enjoying meeting new like-minded people from our town (where we thought were were pretty alone in these interests) and watching MoveOn's Town Hall videos of Democratic Candidates' views on the environment.

I also wanted to point out a five-part series by Bill Chameides from Environmental Defense called How We Know Humans Cause Global Warming, and another report, from Greenpeace, called Energy [R]evolution (a 92 page PDF.)