Monday, November 23, 2015

Jesus is the Question

Book: Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered
Author: Martin R Copenhaver
Edition: eBook on Nook
Read: November 23, 2015
131 pages
Genre:  Christian, Religion
Rated: 2 1/2  out of 5

The idea behind this book is that Jesus asks more questions than he answers, so we should take a look at what those questions are and get a better understanding of Jesus and what he taught as well as how he taught. Along the way, you get to understand the power of forcing people to answer questions and getting them to think.

Does Copenhaver accomplish what he sets out to do? Yes in that at the Introduction he shows us how Jesus taught. But then afterwards he falls into the role of a Bible teacher rather than letting the questions of Jesus talk for Him. That is until the last chapter where he lets the questions roll and you get the flood of the effect of His questions.Each chapter between break down the questions into categories which Copenhaver then talks about what Jesus is trying to get across. So to me, it would have been a more effective book to be asking questions about Jesus questions than trying to answer them for us.


Book References:
  • John Dear: The Questions of Jesus: Challenging Ourselves to Discover Life's Great Answers
  • Carol Anderson with Peter: Knowing Jesus in Your Life
  •  James Alison: Knowing Jesus
  • Debbie Blue: Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible
  • Samuel Wells: Power and Passion: Six Characters in Search of Resurrection
  • James Martin: Jesus: A Pilgrimage
  • Cynthia Bourgeault: The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity
  • Thomas Merton: Opening the Bible
  • NT Wright: Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did and Why He Matters
  • Rowan Williams: The Dwelling of the Light: Praying with Icons of Christ
  • Ernesto Cardenal: The Gospel in Solentiname
  •  Luke Timothy Johnson: Living Jesus: Learning the Heart of the Gospel

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: I have been hanging out with Jesus for a long time.
  • Last Line: Do you love me?
Table of Contents:
  • Foreword by Lauren F. Winner / xi
  • Introduction: So Many Questions / xvii
  • Chapter 1: Questions About Longing / 1
    • “What are you looking for?”
    • “Who are you looking for?”
  • Chapter 2: A Question About Compassion / 13
    • “Do you see this woman?”
  • Chapter 3: A Question About Identity / 25
    • “What is your name?”
  • Chapter 4: Questions About Faith and Doubt / 35
    • “Where is your faith?”
    • “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
    • “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
  • Chapter 5: Questions About Worry / 45
    • “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”
    • “Why do you worry about clothing?”
    • “If God so clothes the grass of the field, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
  • Chapter 6: Questions About the Reach of Love / 55
    • “Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?”
    • “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?”
    • “If you do good only to those who do good to you what credit is that to you?”
  • Chapter 7: Questions About Healing / 65
    • “Do you want to get well?”
    • “What do you want me to do for you?
    • “How long has this been going on?”
  • Chapter 8: A Question About Abundance / 75
    • “How much bread do you have?”
  • Chapter 9: The Questions Jesus Answers / 87
  • Chapter 10: Questions About Who Jesus Is / 99
    • “Who do people say that I am?”
    • “Who do you say that I am?”
  • Chapter 11: A Question from the Cross / 109
    • “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
  • Chapter 12: Questions from the Risen Christ / 119
    • “What are you talking about as you walk along?”
    • “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
    • “Do you have anything to eat?”
    • “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? Do you love me? Do you love me?”
    • “Who are you looking for?”
  • Chapter 13: All Those Questions / 129
  • Notes / 143
  • Readers Guide / 145
  • For Further Reading / 161


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pope Joan

Book: Pope Joan
Author:Donna Woolfolk Cross
Read:November 22, 2015
410 pages
Genre:  Fiction-History
Rated: 2 1/2  out of 5

This is a fictional biography of a female Pope. It starts from her birth around 830-840 in a Frankish town-France or Germany, close enough to the coast to be worried about Norwegian invaders. While her father was Christian and missionary, her mother was a pagan. the home life instilled a great deal of fear and apprehension from the irrationality and brutal nature of her father.

But education comes to the rescue. Joan has an insatiable appetite and curiosity. So she clandestinely has her older brother teacher her reading and writing.  Her older brother dies and her younger brother John is expected to take over. But he is not very studious. So when a Greek teacher comes through, he is cajoled to teaching him, but he also teacher Joan. After awhile, he is forced away, and the younger brother is sent off to a school, which Joan runs away to.

While brilliant, Joan is not accepted at the school, being the only female in a male schola. But she meets a man 15 years her senior, Gerold. It is at his house where she stays with him, his wife and two daughters. She excels here despite the harassment. She is emotionally attached to her benefactor and feels loved there. That is until Gerold is sent away on a mission his wife decided that Joan is getting to close to her husband. So she arranges a wedding. The Vikings attack Dorstadt on her wedding day, burning the city, killing almost all, including John. But Joan some how manages to hide.

Because her brother is dead, she assumes her brothers identity and becomes a novice at Fulda monastery. Here she manages both to be in trouble and to become very proficient in the healing arts. Enough so that she attracts the brother who is in charge and he takes her under his wing. She prospers beyond her mentor until one day she too becomes sick. Rather than risk discovery, she runs off and finds herself being cared for by someone she had saved from starvation. She is discovered to be a female, but is not "out'd".

Rome is her next stop. There she is able to practice her healing science and be able to study in obscurity. That is until someone in the Vatican-or what would be the Vatican-hears about her. She comes and heals the Pope. From there he gets more and more access to the Pope. There is palace intrigue and Joan gets thrown into prison because of a made up affair. A new people arises and defends Rome against invaders. But he is murdered and a new Pope is selected. This would be Joan.

Joan, still a man, rules the church justly of course and makes reform. That is until Gerold and her decide to leave Rome when Joan becomes pregnant. But Gerold is murdered during an Easter time parade. When Joan tries to come to his rescue, she gives birth, revealing her secret. She dies a short time later after being removed as Pope.

The final chapter has Joan being dead and one of the power brokers writing the history of the Popes. She is conveniently left out, except for one manuscript which a friend of Joan copies. Joan is placed in the correct biography.

Taught by Aesculapius to appreciate clarity and style, Joan never considered the question of whether Homer's poetry was acceptable in terms of Christian doctrine; God was in it because it was beautiful. (Chp 5) While some follow a strict if it is not in Scripture then it is not from God, I think that CS Lewis had a better view of things. That is all beauty, whether in nature in stone, or in word has its origins in God. Who else could it come from? Sometimes that beauty is disguised or just a faint reflection, tinged with the ugliness of the world, it still is part of Him. Isn't that what God saw when we sent his Son? That faint spark of Himself in us?

At times it seems like Cross likes to show how bad Christians are, or how much Christianity has in debit to pagans. Such as she talks about Thursday really being Thor's Day. Most of these are very minor and are more pin pricks. Just an indication of Cross' attitude towards the things she writes about.

When Joan becomes John, she becomes a male except in body. Cross continues to call Joan her, even though she uses John to identify her. This mixing of genders can be confusing in places, but for the most part it helps keep track of when Cross is talking about Joan and when she is talking about someone else in this male society.

The amount of last minute saves in the book gives it an air of contrived plot. You have the scholar who saves herself from a Viking intrusion, a healer who floats unconscious to the one person who would be sympathetic to her, you have a married man fall in love with her, and the list goes on. But that is no more than most novels which try to force a reader into a direction. But then that raises the question, is Cross trying to write a good story, or a best selling one or forcing a point?

Sometimes we are all caught up in our own self to see how foolish the thought is. Sergius condemned John/Joan to prison because of a supposed affair. But when Sergius found out the Joan was set up, he thought that the hand of God was against him because of this and he was to be annihilated because of this act. Joan points out that there are easier ways for God to take a person out than to destroy a whole city.  This is a good thing to remember-God can use a scalpel rather than an axe to remove sin.

Joan calls Pope Leo a true spiritual leader. What made him that? According to Cross it is because he was a man of drive and energy and enormous strength of will. This would be in contrast with the more mystical who seems to think being a spiritual leader is one who is more humble and willing to be a servant to all.

Through out the book there is 20th century values inserted into a 9th century piece. Such as towards the last, Gerold is talking to Joan towards the last of the book. He has realized Joan was not killed or taken away by the Vikings. As he talks, he says things like he was going to divorce his wife so she could remarry. In a brief looking through of things, I suspect this is more of a 20th century talk than a 9th century. Even though there is a mixture of acceptance of divorce among the pagans of the area, it was increasingly difficult to get a divorce through the church.

Or Joan says to Gerold, You always were my protector. I think this is taken more like a friend to a friend. But considering it was given in terms of Joan and Gerold about to run away, it may also be a strong female swooning under the influence of a knight. Seems out of character for someone who has made a whole life out of not being claimed by a man.

Probably the one thing more is that this book could not have been written in a culture where morals mattered. From the start, Joan masquerading as a man, instead of being a woman and excelling? She had an example in St Catherine of a women excelling in the church. Then having an affair while Pope. How does one reconcile that with the moralness the Pope is to exhibit. Isn't that the contrast which Cross was going for? That you had a Pope disguised as a man being on a higher moral plain. But yet, she yields to lust.  What kind of Pope does Cross want Joan to be?

I distrust historical fiction and this book is a good example of why. Donna Woolfolk Cross writes about a character in the 9th century which may or may not have existed. Builds up the person as a real person and then inserts all sorts of 20th century values into the the piece. This has the reader thinking in terms of this is how the events happened, how the attitudes were. Even a book group which I am in which consists of many people I respect could not not keep from acting like Cross' portrayal was how it happened.

Having started this with a rant against historical fiction, I will also say that Cross does write enjoyably. She has done a good deal of research on the events of the period and weaves the events fairly accurately into her story-from what I can tell as I have not really studied this era of history. The characters are developed well enough so that I was rooting for Joan throughout the story.

But at the end of reading this story I was stuck between liking how Cross' writing, but having the feeling I was reading a cross between a female Indiana Jones character and a romance novel, albeit an intelligent one. So I was stuck with not really liking this book.

New Words:
  • Lots of Latin, which Cross usually provides a translation. I am assuming it is the correct translation. In any event it is what Cross wants us to understand the translation should be for the purposes of the book.

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: It was the twenty-eight day of Wintarmanoth in the year of our Lord 814, the harshest winter in living memory.
  • Last Line: Requiesce in pace, Johanna Bapissa


OSHER Book Group questions, probably from LitLovers

1. Donna Woolfolk Cross wrote the story of Pope Joan as a work of fiction. Do you think there really was a Pope Joan?
2. How important is it that Pope Joan actually existed? Are there lessons to be learned from this story whether it's true or not? What do you think those lessons are?
3. One reviewer said, "After finishing Donna Cross' novelization of Joan's life, one may want her to be a real person, only because it is so gratifying to read about those rare heroes whose strength of vision enables them to ignore the almost overpowering messages of their own historical periods." In contrast, a professor of history said, "I think we shouldn't even think about [Pope Joan] at all. It's bunk." Referring to Joan's pregnancy, the professor also said, "The whole point of the story is 'If you let a woman in as pope, she'll goof up.' The story was invented for the purpose of saying, 'Women can't be trusted.'" Which interpretation do you agree with? Why?
4. Many priests and nuns, in recent years, have urged the Vatican to ease restrictions on how far women may advance in the Church hierarchy. Women, they say, should be allowed to be ordained as priests. What are the implications of Pope Joan's story with regard to the limitations placed on women by the Church?
5. One reviewer wrote, "Pope Joan—is a reminder that some things never change, only the stage and the players do." Although the position of women in society haschanged dramatically since the middle ages, do you feel there are similarities between the way women live in various societies today and the way they lived in society then?
6. According to the author, Joan's story was universally known and accepted until the seventeenth century. Why do you think that changed?
7. Why do you think medieval society considered it unnatural and a sin for women to educate themselves or be educated?
8. Why might medieval society have believed so strongly that education hampered a woman's ability to bear children? What purpose might that belief have served?
9. One reviewer wrote, "Joan's ascendancy might not have been unusual in political spheres—many females in ancient and medieval times attained absolute or shared power. Joan earned disapproval because her intelligence and competence challenged prevailing male opinion that women lacked the ability for scholarly or clerical pursuits." Were there other females of ancient or medieval times who challenged this prevailing opinion? Do their stories give you insight into Joan's?
10. What other strong female characters have you encountered in books? What are the similarities and differences between those characters and Joan?
11. Did Joan make the right choice at that moment when she decided to disguise herself as her dead brother following the Viking attack? What would her life have been like had she chosen differently?
12. What do we learn about medieval medicine, and the logic of the learned medieval mind, in Pope Joan?
13. What happens to Joan when she tries to improve the lives of women and the poor? Why do you think Church and civic leaders were so resistant to such improvements?
14. Discuss the inner conflicts Joan faces—between the pagan beliefs taught by her mother and the Christian beliefs she learns from religious instructors; between her mind and her heart; between faith and doubt. How do these conflicts affect the decisions she makes? Does she ever truly resolve those inner conflicts?
15. Do you think Joan's secret would ever have been discovered had she not miscarried during the Papal procession or had she not become pregnant?
16. According to one reviewer, "Joan has the kind of vices—stubbornness and outspokenness, for example—that turn out to be virtues." Do you agree? If so, why? If not, why not?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Up and Down California

Book:  Up and Down California: The Journal of William H. Brewer, 1860-1864
Author: William H. Brewer
Edition: eBook, scanned copy from Yosemite Library
Read: August 21, 2014
672 pages
Rated: 3 out of 5

This journal is really a series of letters to friends who were located in the eastern United States while Brewer was in California doing the Whitney survey. Brewer was the second in command of the 
“California State Geological Survey, and in reality was the chief of those who did the actual traveling through out the state. He started his travels in 1860 and completed it in 1865, going from Los Angeles in the south to Mt Shasta in the north. From San Francisco in the west to Washoe, Nevada in the east. He provides brief descriptions of the places he been too-more of his travels than the places.

In the Introductory biography, it is said that you will not find any hearsay. All of his publications were based upon observation. His notebooks corresponded to his writings, the only thing the writings did was to clothe the statistics with description.

But that is not to say that Brewer is without a sense of humor, you just have to look for it. He relays a few practical jokes played during the party's travels. Also some humorous insights. Some of this is used to skewer the State politicians of his time. Such as when he has not been paid for over a year and he and Dr Whitney have paid for the expenses of the Survey with their own money. Brewer notes that the politicians have no problem finding money for themselves, even during times when tight.

While it is easy to think that California being so far west was not affected by Civil War issues. But it is worthwhile remembering that Brewer is a Northerner landing in San Francisco the day Lincoln was elected. The first area which Brewer visited was Los Angeles. Here the question was should Southern California be considered a separate Southern state or part of California. Brewer exhibits his bias on this question by pointing out that the treaty with Mexico called for any Mexican in California when it became part of the Union to be considered an American citizen. Mexico regarded Indians, blacks, whites and Latinos all as citizens. There are smatterings of talk of the Secessionists and the Unionists. At one point he talks of camping in a Secessionist field while having a Union flag flying from their tents.

He makes his observation on page 86 There is a very strong Union sentiment prevailing here, although the governor is Secession, and there are thousands of desperadoes who would rejoice to do anything for a general row, out of which they could pocket spoils; yet the state is overwhelmingly Union. Later on he goes  on with concerns that even though there is popular sentiment for the Union amongst the populist, among the state politicians there is strong sentiment for secession. Also see his thoughts at the end of Book 4, Chp 4 where he talks some on the Secessionists, and what he feels is their generally corrupt ways.

The War played itself out in California in a lot of other ways. Around Lone Pine you have the Alabama Hills and and area where Kearsarge is a prominent name-Kearsarge was a name of a Union ship.

You hear about the Wild West. But at least I did not understand what that really meant until I read this book. Right from the get-go, Brewer talks about what the normal protection he usually carries: a Bowie knife and a navy revolver. But at camp they have carbines and rifles. Was this really needed? When they land at Los Angeles, there is 50 to 60 murders a year. This is out of a population of 4,000 people. This is just for the first two weeks of his visit to California. There is many other stories throughout the book which illustrate how this plays out in 1860,

The enormity of Brewer's project comes home to him. He had climbed up an area north west of Los Angeles, alone. He is a couple thousand feet up and sees sea shells. He ponders how long ago this ancient shore was by the ocean. It is here he realizes if he is just starting out on this survey of California, what else will this State bring to him? There is not despair, but awe.

“No place but California can produce such groups. (96) Brewer not only measured California, he also observed its people. He saw a true melting pot where somehow Mexicans, Chinese, Germans, English, French and a score of others somehow were able to make a go of things together. Not saying he did not observe problems, but that they lived side by side without  fighting constantly.  An Easter Sunday worship service exemplifies it.

He also meets plenty of individuals. Some them friendly, a few unsavory, but almost all interesting. He talks about this hermit hunter in Northern California, a good shot and hospitable old man with quite a history, More is his name. As a conclusion, he says, He is one of those erratic characters with which this state abounds. (268)

He also talks about the Indians of California. He thinks in terms of them being savages. But he also thinks of them terms of them being human beings. He talks about the inhuman treatment the Digger Indians received at the hands of the miners. Later on he observes a funeral of a Digger Indian. He thinks the ritual with the dancing and hopping is somewhat barbaric. But he turns around and wonders about how we observe a person's passing.

In case you think Brewer is somebody who smears others, he also looks at his own kind and sees an equal amount of distress in them. When a ship he was on strikes a rock, several men become panicked and try to be the first on the life rafts. Brewer's comment is: I really felt ashamed for my sex, for manhood, when I saw what arrant cowards some of the men were. About two-thirds were as cool as if nothing had happened, but some of the remainder showed a cowardice most disgraceful. (Book

 the wife pro tem of two or three miners. (95). Such an interesting term. The wife for the moment, rotating between several miners. Sort of makes it like the women has a job as a substitute wife.

Wherever Brewer met a woman, he generally gave an estimate on the physical attractiveness of the person. I am not sure if this was for the benefits his friends or if he just had that kind of streak in him. There does not seem to be any indication he chased after them, just an appreciation of their appearance.  Such as The Misses Walkinshaw were even more lovely and agreeable than usual. We had a pleasant time. Book II, Chapter 4. It is more just interesting to see his thoughts in that direction. As a note: right before he obtained his position with the Survey, he lost both his wife and daughter.

This Spanish grant land-title system is one of the great drawbacks of this country. One man will make an immense fortune from that ranch, but the public suffers. Book II, Chp 4 The problem which Brewer sees is that you have these vast tracts of land which are in the hands of a few families. This hampers the ability for the State to accommodate the influx of people. Usually the ranchoes which were developed from the land grants were the best parts of land in the state for mineral and grazing.

In places, Brewer can be a good story teller. He tells of stepping on a rattlesnake, but not getting bitten. Then killing it. Later on after beheading it, he is struck by its body. There was fright from that. But he notes that much more was made of getting a skunk away from camp. Book II, Chp 4

Brewer notes in several places a phenomenon he observed. When he is sleeping inside, like in the cities, he catches cold. But if he is outside, even in the rain, he remains well.

Brewer's position was mostly the operations and science manager for the Survey. As such, he was the man in the field while Whitney was the political man. Brewer was involved with trying to maintain the fiscal solvency of the survey so he had connections with the politicians of the day. In his letter/journal he says the work is in advance of the intelligence of the state, and is, therefore, not appreciated; and, a more potent one, that several prominent politicians have hoped to use the Survey for personal, private speculations in mining matters and have failed—they will oppose us. (Book III, chp 7) He has a pretty low opinion of California politics of the time. I wonder what he would think of today's politics? What he observes then is similar today. Unless there is an immediate payoff, we do not want to spend for something which will bring benefit 10-50 years in the future.

In Book 4, Chp 5 he talks about the toll roads. He talks about how the State of California spent $100,000 to build a road over the Sierra's south of Tahoe. When silver and other metals proved to have some value, the mining companies improved the road and started charging tolls.  These rights were "sold" by the legislature, not necessarily to the public good.

Earthquakes. These mysterious quakings and throes of Mother Earth affected me as no other phenomenon of nature ever did. (Book III, Chp 7) Sounds so understated for earthquakes.

A good description of a mining town in Book 4, Chp 5 where he talks about Silver mountain:  Silver Mountain (town) is a good illustration of a  new  mining town. We arrive by trail, for the wagon road is left many miles back. As we descend the canyon from the summit, suddenly a bright new town bursts into view. There are perhaps forty houses, all new (but a few weeks old) and as bright as  new, fresh lumber, which but a month or two ago was in the trees, can make them. This log shanty has a sign up, “Variety Store”; the next, a board shanty the size of a hogpen, is “Wholesale & Retail Grocery”; that shanty without a window, with a canvas door, has a large sign of “Law Office”; and so on to the end. The best hotel has not yet got up its sign, and the “Restaurant and Lodgings” are without a roof as yet, but shingles are fast being made. On the south of the town rises the bold, rugged Silver Mountain, over eleven thousand feet altitude; on the north a rugged mountain over ten thousand feet. Over three hundred claims are being “prospected.” “Tunnels” and “drifts” are being run, shafts being sunk, and every few minutes the booming sound of a blast comes on the ear like a distant leisurely bombardment

  Brewer was a man of his times. While he believed in the Union cause, he also had the attitude of a white man concerning other races. Such as in Book 4, Chp 8 he notes there was a lot of intermarrying between Indians and white men, resulting in mixed races. He then talks about What is to become of these half-breeds, and what their situation is to be in the future society of various parts of this country, is a serious problem. It is a good American doctrine that a man not entirely white has few rights or privileges that a pure white is bound to respect, and as abuse and wrong has thus far failed to civilize and raise the Indian, it is, indeed, a serious problem. I think he was right in that as we approach change in a society, we need to understand what this change means-I do not think he was right concerning the rights of non-whites. As a society, we are marching head long into gay rights and abortion. How will this change our society in 50 years.? Will we be thinking this is the right road or say, what were they thinking in 2015?

Some things are pretty cyclical. Such as drought. In 1864 Calif suffered through a terrible drought. Brewer talks about the ranch as San Luis-currently where the reservoir is-which had over a thousand head of cattle. He had to sell all of them-no water or feed. Have we learnt anything once then?

The soldiers brought back a lot of newspapers from the camp at Fort Miller—papers from the East, from various parts of this state—old many of them, but very acceptable.  Yesterday, after washing my clothes, I spent the rest of the day in reading. There is a sort of fascination in reading about what is going on in the busy world without, in the noisy marts of trade and commerce, in society and politics, in the busy strife of war, of brilliant parties and gay festivities, and sad battles, and tumultuous debate, while we are here in these distant mountain solitudes, alike away from the society and the strife of the world.  Book 5, Chp 3

Talking about Nevada becoming a state: It has just been made a state, but I see no elements here to make a state. It has mines of some marvelous richness, but it has nothing else, nothing to call people here to live and found homes. Every man of any culture hopes to make his fortune here, but to enjoy it in more favored lands. The climate is bad, water bad, land a desert, and the population floating.  Book 5, Chp 4. Being a Californian, I sort of endorse his view of Nevada.

Up and Down California is a series of letters written to family and friends by William Brewer while he was on the California State Geological Survey, from 1860 through 1865. This was the Whitney Survey which gave the first good natural resources description of California. As a book or literature, it is dry. But when read as a honest and personal travel journal, you can imagine yourself traveling this state.

Reading the journal for good writing, there are several of his contemporaries which do better such as King. But for a straightforward account of the Whitney Survey and the times, this is pretty good.

New Words:

  • compendious (11):  containing or presenting the essential facts of something in a comprehensive but concise way.
  • Californian sabboth (34): cards, songs, whiskey
  • alpengluhen (54): (alpine glow)-is an optical phenomenon in which a horizontal red glowing band is observed on the horizon opposite to the sun. This effect occurs when the Sun is just below the horizon. Alpenglow is easiest to observe when mountains are illuminated but can also be observed when the sky is illuminated through backscattering.
  • Panoli (60): a village in the Ankleshwar Tehsil of Bharuch district in the Indian state of Gujarat
  • Guirado (71): 
  • Sancha (80): The woman that your man is cheating on you with. 
  • vivaparoa  (89): the tule perch is found in freshwater habitats
  • Palaver (97): prolonged and idle discussion.
  • California gallop (101): 
  • misanthropic (78): disliking humankind and avoiding human society
  • Asphaltum (84):  asphalt
  • Billed shirt (85): 
  • Palmetto (86): meaning "little palm"
  • expatiated (94): speak or write at length or in detail
  • arabesque (Book II, chp 4): an ornamental design consisting of intertwined flowing lines, originally found in Arabic or Moorish decoration
  • desideratum (Book II, chp 5): something that is needed or wanted.
  • anthracite (book II,chp 5): a hard, compact variety of coal that has a high luster. It has the highest carbon content, the fewest impurities, and the highest calorific content of all types of coal, which also include bituminous coal and lignite.
  • Bituminous (Book II, chp 5):  coal or black coal is a relatively soft coal containing a tarlike substance called bitumen. It is of higher quality than lignite coal but of poorer quality than anthracite. Formation is usually the result of high pressure being exerted on lignite
  • palliated (Book II, chp 5): make (a disease or its symptoms) less severe or unpleasant without removing the cause.
  • meerschaum (Book III, chp 2): a German word meaning sea foam. The geologist knows the light, porous Meerschaum as hydrous magnesium silicate. The pipe smoker knows it as the perfect material for providing a cool, dry, flavorful smoke.
  • pommeling (Book III, chp 6): The upper front part of a saddle; a saddlebow.
  • jocosely (Book III, chp 6): given to or characterized by joking; jesting; humorous; playful:
  • peregrinationsy (Book III, chp 7):travel from one place to another, especially on foot.

Book References:
  • The Metallic Wealth of the United States”, by Josiah Dwight Whitney
  • Geogolgy by Josiah Dwight Whitney
  • Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada” by Clarence King
  • The Yosemite Guidebook
  • Bleak House
  • Mountains of California by John Muir
  • Steep Trails by John Muir

Good Quotes:

  • First Line: I SHALL sail at noon tomorrow, and drop a line before starting. 
  • Last Line: I trust you have had as much pleasure in reading as I have in writing them.
  •   It is glorious to watch  the stars and moon before going to sleep, but unpoetical to turn in the night and bring yourself in contact with a portion of the blanket soaked with dew, and ugh, how cold! But I have always slept gloriously in the open air, whenever I have tried it.  Book I, Chp 6
  • We are doing and reaping as monarchists have often told us we would do—put designing, immoral, wicked, and reckless men in office until they robbed us of our glory, corrupted the masses, and broke us in pieces for their gain. Book I, Chp 6
  • Ah! camp is the place to sleep—sweet sleep—refreshing sleep. There is no canopy like the tent, or the canopy of Heaven, no bed so sweet as the bosom of Mother Earth. Book II, Chapter 1
  • It is only in a Roman church that one sees such a picturesque mingling of races, so typical of Christian brotherhood. Book II, Chp 1
  • one’s fear could not always be controlled by one’s reason. Book II, chp 4, Footnote 8
  • How I enjoyed those hours of solitude, so far from men, such a picturesque spot! Near me the grand forests, behind me the lovely valleys below, before me the grand old peak, its outlines so beautifully cut against the intensely blue sky. I gazed on it for hours, as I lay there, not with the awe that I did two days ago, but with even more admiration.  Book III, chp 5
  • You at home little know the blessed charm that letters can have, their true value to the person that wanders, homeless and desolate, especially when his bed is the ground and his canopy the sky, and when all he holds dear is so far away.  Book 4, Chp 7
  • the miner leaves only desolation in his track, and everywhere here he has left his traces.    Book 4, Chpt 7
Table of Contents:
Preface by Russell H. Chittenden     vii
Illustrations     xi
Introduction     xv

BOOK I—1860-1861
I.     To California via Panama     3
II.     Los Angeles and Environs     11
III.     More of Southern California     29
IV.     Starting Northward     43
V.     Santa Barbara     55
VI.     The Coast Road     73
VII.     Salinas Valley and Monterey     91

BOOK II—1861
I.     An Interlude     117
II.     New Idria     135
III.     New Almaden     149
IV.     Approaching the Bay     169
V.     The Mount Diablo Range     191
VI.     Napa Valley and the Geysers     213

I.     The Rainy Season     241
II.     Tamalpais and Diablo     255
III.     The Diablo Range South     275
IV.     Up the Sacramento River     291
V.     Mount Shasta     309
VI.     West and East of the Sacramento River     325
VII.     Closing the Year—A Miscellany     347

BOOK IV—1863
I.     In and about San Francisco     365
II.     Tejon—Tehachapi—Walker’s Pass     375
III.     The Big Trees—Yosemite—Tuolumne Meadows     397
IV.     Mono Lake—AurorA—Sonora Pass     415
V.     To Carson Pass and Lake Tahoe     429
VI.     The Northern Mines and Lassen’s Peak     451
VII.     Siskiyou     471
VIII.     Crescent City and San Francisco     489

BOOK V—1864
I.     San Joaquin Valley—Giant Sequoias     505
II.     The High Sierra of Kings River     517
III.     Owens Valley and the San Joaquin Sierra     533
IV.     The Washoe Mines     551
V.     Homeward Bound—Nicaragua     561

Itinerary     571
Index     589


      Danger! and Other Stories

      Book: Danger! and Other Stories
      Author:Arthur Conan Doyle
      Edition: read on Google Play Book from Gutenberg
      Read: November 10, 2015
      165 pages
      Genre:  Fiction
      Rated: 2 out of 5

      A collection of short stories with no apparent theme.


      Danger! Being the Log of Captain John Sirius
      This is the most famous of the stories and about the only good one of the bunch. This is the reason why I read the book. In reading the book Dead Wake about the Lustania tragedy, Eric Larson mentioned this short story. In it, Doyle predicts the type of submarine warfare which might be successful-attacking the supply and passenger ships heading to England. Reality mimicked the story.

      one cannot live under artificial conditions and yet act as if they were natural ones. This is a lesson which we must all learn.  Our situations change and we do not remain the same. It is a rare person who remains unchanged despite all which occurs to them.

      More foresight, Johnny, and less party politics—that is my lesson to you. This is something which we could use now. Our political parties think they are more important than the nation. That could spell the end of our nation if we do not wake up. They are playing in the big leagues, but they are acting like minor league players.

      War is too big a thing to leave room for personal ill-feeling, but it must be remorseless all the same. War is not a time for personal vendettas. It is to be won without much blood being shed.
      "One Crowded Hour"
      This is the other story which may be worth reading. It talks about a series of robbery along a lonely highway. All but one were fakes. The robber tells the story to a friend whom he robbed and lets him judge it the robbery was appropriate.

      The author of Sherlock Homes let me down.  There is one, maybe two, good stories in this collection of short stories. The Danger! story should be read and pondered about what weaknesses a strong nation has and how we can be destroyed. The rest of the book can be ignored.


      New Words:
      • phaeton (The Fall of Lord Barrymore): a form of sporty open carriage popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. With the advent of the automobile, the term was adapted to open touring cars,
      • potations (The Fall of Lord Barrymore): the action of drinking something, especially alcohol.
      • Vauxhall (The Fall of Lord Barrymore): a mixed commercial and residential district of central London in the London Borough of Lambeth. Vauxhall formed part of Surrey until 1889 when the County of London was created.
      • Tinman (The Fall of Lord Barrymore): a maker of or worker in tinplate
      • aeronaut (The Horror of the Heights): 
      • tourbillon  (The Horror of the Heights):  
      • Mannheim glass  (The Horror of the Heights): 
      • vol-plané  (The Horror of the Heights):  
      • Mort (Borrowed Scenes): 
      • Ria  (Borrowed Scenes):  
      • Challenge (Borrowed Scenes):

      Good Quotes:
      • First Line:   The Title story of this volume was written about eighteen months before the outbreak of the war, and was intended to direct public attention to the great danger which threatened this country.
      • Last Line:  “Never mind, we’ve had a jolly good Indian game,” said Laddie, as the sound of a distant bell called them all to the nursery tea.
      • War is not a big game, my English friends. It is a desperate business to gain the upper hand, and one must use one’s brain in order to find the weak spot of one’s enemy.    (Danger! Being the Log of Captain John Sirius)
      • Common sense should have told her that her enemy will play the game that suits them best—that they will not inquire what they may do, but they will do it first and talk about it afterwards. (Danger! Being the Log of Captain John Sirius)
      • a country is in an artificial and dangerous condition if she does not produce within her own borders sufficient food to at least keep life in her population.
        (Danger! Being the Log of Captain John Sirius)

      Table of Contents:
      • "Danger! Being the Log of Captain John Sirius"
      • "One Crowded Hour"
      • "A Point of View"
      • "The Fall of Lord Barrymore"
      • "The Horror of the Heights"
      • "Borrowed Scenes"
      • "The Surgeon of Gaster Fell"
      • "How It Happened"
      • "The Prisoner's Defence"
      • "Three of Them"


      Sunday, November 8, 2015

      A Passion for Stewardship

      Book: A Passion for Stewardship: The Legacy of a Generation
      Author: Richard A Johanson
      Read:November 8, 2015
      159 pages
      Genre:  History, Fiction, Fiction-History, Biography, Science
      Rated: 3  out of 5

      This is a quasi auto-biography of Richard Johanson, a local Fresno businessman. He traces his life story as a child of the Central Valley, Then how the military service during World War II helped to development and prepare him for the rest of his life. Johanson talks about how the various virtues instilled in him during his childhood has governed his life. Consequently even when it would have been beneficial to bend those values on occasion, he has resisted. This has provided him a reputation where people have relied on him and his word.

      He credits his elementary school time as when he got indoctrinated with the meaning of family values. (23) This is telling about where we need to concentrate on when we want to change the world. Not as adults, but as children we need to understand how to act. closeness of our family and the inherent love and wisdom of my mom and pop gave us wealth.(26) This is a theme he returns to over and over again, such as We had the love and security of our parents and each other. (32)

      The Great Depression formed an ethos of self-reliance, before the government help programs came into being. It also taught him a since of frugality. But I had the impression that it was more the Marines which transformed him into a disciplined young man. (41)

      Yet, he would go on and get a BA. In looking back he says that characteristic that I and so many others like myself took away from this period of our lives, it was an awareness that relevancy is the key component to education. (72) He really does not elaborate on this, but I am thinking that the relevancy he is talking about may be two-fold. First, the person must have his abilities sharpened by his education. It does no good to educate a person for college if the person does not have an aptitude for studying. Secondly, the skills and knowledge must be appropriate to the world he lives in. It does no good to be teaching how to use an abacus when the company the person works for uses computers.

      Principal: Workplace stress should be kept away from home. The home is a place of refuge. (103) This is harder and harder to be able to do, especially as you move up. But the home should be a refuge.

      Living a life consistent with your own standards of personal conduct. These standards should be high. (105)

      Trucking industry success: balance between freight available and trucks to haul it. (106)

      Integrity is not know until you go and test it. It is only a wishfulness if you have not stood the fire.

      Everyone should devout a portion of his or her resources to public service. (116) Johanson has and continues to serve on many boards. At one point he was on the Board of Trustees of the school district I worked for. As a man of integrity, he is much sought after.

      We are part of a community. It has always been my belief that no one walks alone through this life. (119) We all need help to get our goals accomplished. Conversely, others can tear us down. In reality, can tend to draw those who hold similar values. It is important to choose our companions to have similar values.

      The books starts pretty slowly as Johanson talks about his early life. While there is no big earth shaking thoughts which he shares here, you start to get an understanding about how a life gets developed through a series of events rather than a sudden epiphany. As such, this is an important part of the book which I wish Johanson had made more connections with his adult life. As he grows into manhood and experiences World War II, he sees and experiences things which further propels him into the man of the community. He sees how the Chinese Nationalists are poorly governed, given a certain bit of moral weight to the Mao and his communists. He sees how being a man of integrity is important.

      As an employee, he realizes that companies make promises which they hope to keep, but a companies integrity can be undermined by trying to having to pursue financial goals, or through mis-management. Consequently, Johanson started his own company with the idea that with his experience, a company could succeed, but as long as it has integrity, respects its customers, and expresses gratitude for the people around it which helps it to succeed. That in essence is the books theme.

      At the end of the book, he has twelve principles which he has used, none profound, none going to make you rich quick, but  ones which will help you be content with the life you have lead. These principles is what the author hopes you take away from this book.

      Notes from my book group:
      From the Fresno Food Exp web page: In 1971 Richard Johanson – a World War II veteran and author of “A Passion for Stewardship” and “Just a Thought” – founded Johanson Transportation Service (JTS) in Fresno, California after managing a local transportation brokerage company for 15 years. Starting with a staff of four employees in a small rented office at a local truck stop, JTS has grown to 86 employees operating from six offices in four states. Johanson ushered in a higher standard of service and ethical principles to the logistics industry, which continues to drive their customer service philosophy today, setting them apart in the logistics industry. In fact, JTS received the 2013 Fresno Better Business Bureau Ethics Award for Marketplace Excellence for their commitment to ethical business practices in operations and for the manner in which they serve their staff and customers. 

      But in reading his book, you understand that he is much more than that. His upbringing, family and early adult experiences formed him.  He worked his way up with integrity, through his time at Sun-Maid, California Trucking Exchange and Johansen Transportation Solutions. During his work life and his retirement, he has been a person in the community. He has served in numerous capacities his community, a small sample includes: Fresno Business Council, Fresno Chamber of Commerce, 5 Fresno Unified Bond Campaigns, as well as being on the school board.

      His company, Johanson Transportation Services (JTS) statement includes a mission statement of  is to provide Justified Timely Solutions-note the initials-and its core values:
      • Experience
      • Integrity
      • Gratitude
      • Respect
      This reflects what his book is about and what I feel like he is trying to convey to us.


      Talk a little bit about why you wrote this book. What were you seeking to convey to us, your readers, about stewardship?

      After Brokaw wrote about The Greatest Generation, Johanson was asked to give his take on the times and what was the result. This is Johanson's personal response. He was uncomfortable writing this book because it could be too much like he was tooting his own horn.

      You have a rich statement about the closeness of our family and the inherent love and wisdom of my mom and pop gave us wealth. Can you talk a bit more about your upbringing, particularly the effects of coming from a close family?

      In his upbringing, corporal punishment was not the general tactic. Verbal chastisement was enough.

      Way after the book was written, we had the episodes with Ferguson, Mi and several other places. But you talk about the Hawaiian Islands as a place free from bigotry. This seemed to attract loyalty among a population which you would assume had divided loyalty. You credit this experience as a means of leavening peoples conceptions of races. Can you talk more how this experience has influenced you and in what ways it affected your public life back here in Fresno?

      Also your time in China showed the impact of a corrupt government. Fresno has had a checked history from back in the days of Mayor Lyons to more current corruption, such as Operation Rezone. This obviously had impact on you in ways such as the  Fresno Business Council. What do you see today as the biggest need in Fresno concerning good governance? Is arrogance, ignorance and intolerance still roots of our local political problems? (85)

      Openness and transparency of why decisions are being made.

      How can our education system become more relevant to our youth? (72)

      Are you still frugal? In what ways? (74)

      Can you elaborate on the statement few people are successful unless a lot of others want them to be.? (107)

      Throughout the book, you stress the need to maintain high standards of personal conduct. This was the reason for leaving California Trucking Exchange. For the last 26 years you have been "retired".  How do you living out these standards today?

      You envision a cooperative model between public service agencies rather than a competitive one. What does it take to make this happen? Will it happen?

      Johanson referenced the book Children of the Dustbowl by Jerry Stanley
      Failure is part of life

      Good Quotes:
      • First Line: We live in rapidly changing, rootless times with a backdrop of anxiety and even dread about the future.
      • Last Line: May we always recognize that our earthly and spiritual needs are inseparable.
      •  Happiness lies in the reflections of simple things. (23)
      • Be sure you are really ready to get to work - don't accept tasks which you are not prepared to handle. (69)
      • ... there is no more important facet of community stewardship than being a good steward to those one hold most dear. (84)
      • Is there a greater happiness than the joy of being genuinely thankful? (110)
      Table of Contents:
      • Chapter I - 1925 to 1942
      • Chapter II -World War II 1942 to 1946
      • Chapter III -1946 To 1971
      • Chapter IV -Birthing a Business
      • Chapter V -Sharing Values
      • Chapter VI -Passing the Torch
      • Epilogue


      Friday, November 6, 2015

      When Someone Dies in California

      Book: When Someone Dies in California
      Author: Amelia E Pohl and Bruce A Feder
      Edition:Hardback from the Fresno County Library
      Read:November 6, 2015
      250 pages
      Genre:  Estate Planning
      Rated: 3  out of 5

      This was the second book I looked at while  looking for guidance on doing making sure I was doing things right after my father's death. The first was When Someone Dies, similar title, different book. When Someone Dies in California walks you through a the steps to take from a little before the time of death till you are well on the road to closing out the estate. The good part of this book is that it cites where to find the pertinent information in the Probate Code of California-there are different books for other states. The language is more technical than I would have liked, but it is not bad-someplace between the layman and the lawyer. The edition which I read, it was written in the mid-2000's. There is a note in the book which indicates the publish will be updating the book each year.