Well, I went into this book hoping to find out why the states' borders have some of the funny twists and turns they do. And as far as that goes, it liWell, I went into this book hoping to find out why the states' borders have some of the funny twists and turns they do. And as far as that goes, it lived up to my expectations.
This kind of stuff fascinates me. Pretty much anything to do with American history commands my attention. And sure enough, everything you could want to know about the states and how they got carved out is all in here. The drawing of the Mason-Dixon line ... attitudes toward future states post-Revolution ... surveying mistakes (some of which were fixed and some of which weren't) ... how things like slavery and gold and access to waterways affected borders and state sizes ... even little tidbits about border skirmishes. Being from Michigan, I knew all about the Toledo "War" and the ensuing gift of the Upper Peninsula, but I wasn't aware that other states had their own dust-ups about where to draw their borders.
Each state's entry will take you only five to 10 minutes to read, so it's an easy book to tackle. But oh, is the writing dull. Dreadfully dull. And repetitive. You might as well be reading a Wikipedia entry, just with better grammar and (as far as I can tell) more reliable sourcing. But if you can get past that, you'll have yourself a nice little encyclopedic reference covering a swath of American history that no one else has probably thought to document all in one place....more
The George Clooney movie "Leatherheads" was based on this true story of the nascent days of pro football. I'm as much a football historian as I am a fThe George Clooney movie "Leatherheads" was based on this true story of the nascent days of pro football. I'm as much a football historian as I am a fan, so I love stories like this. It's hard to look at the billion-dollar industry the NFL has become and imagine that it once existed as a minor diversion in small Midwestern cities -- places like Green Bay were once the rule, not the exception -- while most people looked at it scornfully and didn't even consider it a "real" sport. College ball was king in those days. Teams struggled to scrape up enough ticket revenue to even pay the players back then. If it weren't for hotshot former college players like Ernie Nevers (and Red Grange, and Johnny Blood) coming along to give pro ball some credibility, the NFL may never have survived. That's the premise of this book, and it's a convincing story, even if the narration is kind of bland, relying on a recitation of the facts and figures from each season more than on colorful anecdotes about the fascinating characters who played ball in those days. That's the only failing of this book, but it's still a compelling peek into the pioneering era of pro football in America....more
Tara Brach leads a weekly meditation class in the metro D.C. area, and I've been to several of them. Her sessions inspire just as much calm and assureTara Brach leads a weekly meditation class in the metro D.C. area, and I've been to several of them. Her sessions inspire just as much calm and assuredness as this book does. Tara is sort of like the anti-Dr. Phil. Instead of screaming at you about what an idiot you are, Tara puts a comforting arm around you, like an old friend, and using a combination of psychological techniques and a gentle form of Theravada Buddhism, she shows us how we can stop living with doubt, regret, and fear and lead a happy, fulfilled life, with a clarity of mind that we can then use to reach out to others who are mired in the same delusions we once were. Me, I'm still working on all of this, but Tara offers you the tools to help you get to a better place, if you're only willing to make the effort.
Some might argue that Tara's approach is too lightweight. Fair enough. It's not for everybody. I'm sure some people WANT Dr. Phil to smack them around. Different personalities need different approaches. Tara fills an important need for those who appreciate a gentler approach to getting themselves whipped into psychic shape....more
Decent, but not great, overview of a sport that's more complex than it looks at first glance. The book is a little sparse on explaining penalties, forDecent, but not great, overview of a sport that's more complex than it looks at first glance. The book is a little sparse on explaining penalties, for one thing. The title also isn't clear -- this is about rugby union exclusively, and there's not even a mention that rugby league exists as a separate code. Not a bad book to have at your side while you're watching a match, but don't expect to learn much more than the bare basics....more
As this gem of a book points out, "Buddhism without beliefs" is a redundancy. Batchelor cuts to the heart of what sets Buddhism apart from other worldAs this gem of a book points out, "Buddhism without beliefs" is a redundancy. Batchelor cuts to the heart of what sets Buddhism apart from other world religious traditions: It encourages practitioners to question, to penetrate, to rigorously examine everything -- even the Buddha's teachings themselves -- and not to take things on blind faith. In other words, just because a religious leader hands you a doctrine and tells you to believe in something, that isn't good enough. The goal of Buddhism, after all, is to slice through our daily illusions and see the world as it really is, not as we want or hope it to be. We can even take this approach toward such Buddhist cornerstones as karma and rebirth. Batchelor recommends an agnostic but open approach toward the concept of literal reincarnation, for example. That seems to be a healthy approach.
It's also an important message to convey as Buddhism tries to take a foothold here in the skeptical West, where casual observers might see Buddhism as esoteric or exotic. Buddhism has indeed accumulated many practices and rituals -- and even unfounded beliefs and speculations -- in the centuries since it left India, and Batchelor asks us to look through those trappings to return to the kernel of Buddhist teaching. Anything else threatens to sway us from the Path and throw us into the world of clinging to illusions. A fine job.