Monday, September 28, 2009

Pilates for Weight Loss: the Fast and Effective Way to Shed Weight and Change Your Body Shape for Good

by Lynne Robinson

Thumbs up.

Ms Robinson, co-founder and director of UK based Body Control Pilates Education, has put together this book of, well, pilates education.

Robinson's introduction starts with a history of pilates and describes the various benefits it can render. She includes information on body weight and muscle mass, and gives formulas for determining ones ideal weight.

She continues with a section on what she considers the foundational exercises of the pilates exercise method. From there she goes into the exercises specific to weight loss and increasing muscle mass and therefore metabolism. She has two chapters of suggested workouts for various goals and suggestions for exercising away from home.

The final section is on lifestyle choices and tips for making the most of ones exercise in order to increase health and well-being.

The book is chock full of photos and clear and specific, descriptive language. It is difficult to learn exercises from a book, but Ms Robinson puts in a valiant effort that will probably be successful for some learners.

Summers with the Bears: Six Seasons inthe North Woods

by Jack Becklund

Thumbs Up.

Becklund tells the story of how he and his wife fed and befriended, for six summers, the bears in their yard in Northern Minnesota. This is not a scientific or sociological tale. Mr Becklund and his wife love animals and started feeding birds and other small animals in their yard, and when t he bears started coming to eat, too, making frineds with them was just a natural progression.

There are levels at which befriending a wild animal bothers me, but it was a sweet story, well told.

Rescuing Sprite: A Dog Lover's Story of Joy and Anguish

by Mark Levin.

One thumb up, One Thumb Down.

Let me start by saying that I am not an animal lover. I did not grow up in a home with pets. although I would have liked to have a pet while growing up, the primary ideas with which I came into adulthood was that pets ought to be outside; they cost money to feed; and they are not people.

That said, I can kind of...maybe...if I use all my mental capacity...imagine...the feelings the author describes with regard to his animals.

In the context of a memorial to Sprite, a dog the Levin family adopted from an animal shelter, Mr Levin tells of his childhood pets; his current pet, Pepsi; and then the two years his family had with Sprite.

Whether because of the emotion with which Mr Levin is writing, or because the subject matter is so different from his academic writings, the language is somewhat stilted. The narrative is in places terse and the segues are not smooth.

Even so, I enjoyed reading about the personal life of a man I have come to admire. The glimpses into his family life and friendships, and into his law and radio occupations were fun to read.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Fair Bear Share

by Stuart J. Murphy

Thumbs up.

This cute book is part of a teaching series by Stuart J. Murphy called MathStart. In this book, Murphy tells the story of a Mama bear who wants to make a pie for her four cubs. But she needs their help gathering berries, nuts and seeds.

As the cubs bring in each item they've harvested, Mama bear helps the cubs count their own things. She has them put the items in piles of tens and ones, and then helps them total the harvest. The counting of each "crop" they bring in increases in difficulty until Mama gently guides them through the process of re-grouping, or carrying, of extra groups of ten.

The illustrations by John Speirs are appealing and engaging. He manages to show each seed, and berry, and group of ten, and so on, in such a way as to make the concepts understandable to young children.

My 9 and 11 year olds could easily read it alone, and although they both already understand the math concepts being taught, they still appreciated its visual portrayal. My 6 and 7 year old were very engaged and I could see the continuous "light bulbs" gong on. My 4 year old enjoyed the story pictures, and she and helped to count the harvest.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Black Like Me

by John Howard Green

Thumbs Up.

Author John Howard Green, is a researcher studying the plight of the southern black population in 1959. He decides, in order to get a truer idea of what black people experience, to medically dye his skin and live among the black population in New Orleans. The book is his journal during that time.

This book, like Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, tells the travesty of Black and White race relations in America prior to the civil rights movement. It's important to remember and be reminded of where we as a nation have come from and the strides we've made. It's easy for me, having been raised in a mostly color-blind home, to be naive about what things were really like for the African American populace in some parts of America fifty years ago.

String Games

by Richard Darsie

Ten Thumbs Up.

This little book is similar to the Klutz books that used to be very popular (and perhaps still are) for visually teaching kids a skill such as crochet or not tying or juggling.

String Games is a covered spiral bound book with a box inside which holds three colorful loops of various lengths. There are step-by-step instructions along with photos for string games such as Cat's Cradle and Jacob's Ladder.

The book contains instructions for 24 string games for both one and two persons! I had no idea there were that many. They are presented by category with each category arranged from the most basic to most complex. Each game has it's difficulty clearly labeled at the beginning.

One bonus that really adds interest for me is that Mr. Darsie includes for each string game a brief description of the game's origins. It really is fascinating.

Waiting for Columbus

by Thomas Trofimuk

Thumbs up.

I give this book a thumbs up, but with a caveat that I'll address later.

Mr Trofimuk spins a tale of mystery and intrigue; love and pain. He tells the story of a person who thinks he is Christopher Columbus. Consuela, a nurse at the Sevilla Institute for the Mentally Ill, is trying to help Mr. Columbus find his way back to reality. Mr. Columbus gradually tells Consuela his story, which we hear in snippets. Trofimuk bases the man's tale on the biography of the real Christopher Columbus with occasional lapses by the patient into modern situations, such as when he tells of looking for his parking place or answering a phone.

We also follow the tale of the the Interpol detective, Emile Germain, who is healing from his own traumatic experience while searching for a missing person who was last seen in Spain. Hmm, convenient.

The book is rich in sensual experience. I mean that in the truest sense of the the word "sensual," as in "appealing to the senses." Many times I could almost smell the air; taste the food or wine; hear the music or street noises.

The author uses metaphor generously, but in a pretty way, not contrived or forced. The language is often very poetic, as when the detective, Emile, momentarily recalls the playful personality of the car-rental woman. He "presses the button on the door panel and the window opens. He lets the car-rental woman slip out the window and into the hot day."

The complaint I have with the book is one common to most contemporary novels. Too much, too graphically described male/female interaction stuff. Although much of it in this book is cloaked in metaphor reminiscent of the Biblical Song of Solomon, none of it is necessary to the story line, almost all of it is between unmarried persons, and on at least two occasions does Mr. Trofimuk cross the line into graphic description. And, well, the author's great descriptive talents...let's just say he doesn't leave them behind for these parts.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Myth of Multitasking: How "Doing It All" Gets Nothing Done

by Dave Crenshaw

Thumbs up.

Some people will not like this book stylistically. Mr. Crenshaw uses an allegory of a small business owner meeting with a fictional consultant, to make his points. For me it made the book easier to read (I didn't fall asleep every few paragraphs). And perhaps it made the philosophies of Mr. Crenshaw more memorable. I haven't forgotten them yet, but then, it's only been a few hours since I finished it.

Mr Crenshaw's basic premise is this: Many people think they are good multitaskers. But they aren't. They may be better than others at an inefficient system of managing time and work. Crenshaw uses the term switchtasking to describe what most of us do when we think we are multitasking. Switchtasking, according to Crenshaw's definition, is being involved with one task, being interrupted or interrupting ourselves and then immediately getting back on task until the next interruption. But each of these interruptions costs us time and energy.

A true situation of someone accomplishing more than one thing at once is when one requires no concentration, such as watching TV while eating. This he refers to as background tasking. Because only one task requires intellectual effort, the other can occur in the background of our brains.

After convincing the reader that multitasking is, in fact, a myth, Crenshaw goes on to give tools and advice for dealing with the interruptions we all have in our lives. He includes worksheets such as those to help determine where one is inadvertently multitasking and which chronic interruptions warrant their own time slot.

The argument makes sense. It is easily presented. It is a fast read that I can imagine would help some people in their professional lives.

I have a hard time thinking of ways it could help a full time, stay-at-home, homeschool mom. There are many things demanding a parent's time that cannot be schedule into a certain time slot. "It's not your turn to soil your diaper yet, Jimmy." or "You'll have to hold off on that skinned knee, Susan, I'm helping Fred with his school right now."

One point Crenshaw made, however, is worth noting. When we think we are having a conversation and yet trying to keep our brain on what we are doing, we will do neither the conversation nor the task well. Which can easily cross the line into rudeness. In my own life, I know I often continue reading a recipe or correcting a paper or whatever while trying to answer a child's (or even husband's) questions. It never goes well. I will have to be more conscious of stopping the first thing before attempting to listen.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Among The Bears: Raising Orphan Cubs in the Wild

by Benjamin Kilham

Thumbs up.

Mr. Kilham, a registered wildlife rehabilitator, is asked to raise a pair of bear cubs. Although he knows they would die if left in the wild, he is somewhat apprehensive to undertake this challenge. Raising bear cubs is an eighteen month obligation and the success rate for returning cubs raised in captivity is not high. With this in mind, Kilham decides to attempt a less traditional approach. His goal is to keep them as much in the wild as possible during this process.

Although I've not finished the book, it appears that Mr.Kelham was successful at his task.  So much so, in fact, that he is called upon repeatedly in the coming years to work his magic on other orphaned cubs and comes to be considered the expert at this variety of wildlife rehabilitation.

Mr. Kelham is dyslectic and explains in his preface how that affected his life and why, therefore he had to work with a professional writer to make this book a reality. He mentions his dyslexia periodically throughout the body of the work also. It is usually in the context of why he chose certain things in his life and how he overcame various obstacles. This could be a good example for others who struggle with learning and and other disabilities.

One thing that stands out in this book is Mr. Kelham's humility with regard to the behaviors and personalities of his bears. He makes a point of admitting constantly throughout the book how little we understand about how animals accomplish certain things and why they engage in certain behaviors. He is very careful not to engage in anthropomorphism. (I had only a vague idea of what this word means until recently. Apparently is refers to the attributing human personalities thought processes to animal behavior.) This stands in marked contrast to my previous book.

All in all, so far, the story is well told and draws the reader along to learn what happens next with the cubs.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Beast in the Garden

by David Baron

Thumbs up.

In spite of the fact that Mr Baron definitely carries contemporary Darwinist presuppositions, I really loved this book. Mr. Baron starts his account by leading the reader along with searchers as they discover the remains of Scott Lancaster. Eighteen year old Lancaster, of Idaho Falls, CO, was brutally killed by a cougar within a few hundred yards of his high school during school hours.

Baron then backs up and tells the history of nearby Bolder, CO, and how the particular societal attitudes and ensuing legal decisions of this small city eventually lead to the habituation of the area cougars to humans. Does that sound very exciting? It really was. Baron's talented writing style took me to visit families who loved natured and built lovely homes in the hills outside of Bolder. I visited animal lovers who enjoyed watching the deer in their urban yards. I felt the nervous awe when people started seeing cougars in their neighborhoods.

I could empathize with the local official who, after area pets started disappearing, thought the cougar behavior was changing, and that these cougars were likely to endanger humans eventually. I could hear this man's frustration when the rest of the people in his department continually claimed that cougars were no threat to humans.

And I could even understand the position the various government agencies chose to take in being hands-off. The City of Bolder had created the situation by their "we want to live with nature" policies. Baron relates an episode of a problem cougar over whose presence and actions the locals were becoming vocal in their desire to have this animal taken care of. When one of the local citizens finally hired a lion guide to help dispose of the animal, the city was outraged.

The evolutionary views of Mr. Baron, however, were somewhat hard for me to hear over and over and over and over. He uses a specific vocabulary, whether intentionally or just as a result of his presuppositions. When people hunt, for instance they are persecuting animals. When a problem animal has to be eliminated, it's life is taken. And when said problem animal is eliminated, it is an act of vengeance.

Hunters are all wanton killers. And government management efforts cater to these same wanton killers (oh, sportsmen).

This kind of phraseology at times felt like a continual assault as I read Baron's book. I definitely would not be able to read this if I was overly sensitive to the opinion of people such as Baron toward people such as I. I definitely felt like Mr. Baron would have considered me a less enlightened person for holding on to the view that God indeed put man over creation to use and, yes, even dominate.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Chosen

by Chaim Potok

In Progress. Thumbs up.

Mr. Potok uses the friendship between two Jewish boys growing up in Brooklyn during final years of WWII and following to teach the history of Judaism.

So far it's a heartwarming, compelling tale and I'm learning many things I did not know.

Ranger's Apprentice: The Siege of Macindaw: Book 6

by John Flanagan

Thumbs up.

I love The Ranger's Apprentice series. Mr. Flanagan once again spins an exciting tale of adventure. Good versus evil.

In The Siege of Macindaw, Flanagan again deals with emotional challenges. He shows the results of poor decision making on one's future. His heroes portray the meaning of true friendship, even in the face of various pressures from other people.

This sixth book has a little more "love story" than the others. As an adult, I found this aspect a bit silly, but it could perhaps be a teaching tool for young adults dealing with boy-girl relationships. A parent could discuss with a younger reader some of the things the characters involved say and do.

Woodsburner: A Novel by John Pipkin

by John Pipkin

Thumbs down.

A fictional account of the day Henry David Thoreau accidentally burned down a chunk of Concord Woods. Pipkin tries to use the quirks of fictional characters against which to compare and contrast Thoreau's philosophy. It kind of falls flat.

That coupled with the fact that most of the main characters and several minor ones have these blaring deviancies in their personalities. I don't need to read about the perversions of fictional nineteenth century personalities.

Also, I couldn't help getting the impression that Pipkin was trying to show that even old-fashioned people, and people of of faith especially, were all perverts. Maybe he was trying to define deviancy downward; or to defend the acceptance of various perversionsin our day by showing that perversity, itself, is universal throughout history. Which it is, of course, in our sinful condition. But not to the extent Pipkin's characters portray.

Conscience of a Conservative

by Barry Goldwater

Thumbs Up.

I loved this book. Light political theory and philosophy. A fast read. This was written in 1960, but definitely filled with the same wisdom that is at the foundation of the modern conservative movement.

Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith

by William F. Buckley Jr.

Thumbs up. In Progress.

But I can already tell you it's a thumbs up. I was leary to request it, assuming Buckley to have a stiff writing style. But the narrative flows well. The story is compelling. Although the Buckley family was wealthy and grew up unlike anyone with whom I have have ever had immediate contact, the commonality of the human experience comes through. And by telling his own story, Buckley is able to address deeper philosophical and religious ideas in a thought-provoking way.

The Founders' View of the Right to Bear Arms: A Definitive History of the Second Amendment

by David Young

In Progress

Mr. Young states at the beginning of this book that he started his research thinking he knew the background and purpose of the second amendment and also the errors of those who think otherwise. But that his research brought him to yet a third opinion.

But I haven't read far enough to find out how he would define his starting position and it's opposite.

The book had to go back to the library, but I was interested enough that I will probably re-request it at some point.

My Father the Spy: An Investigative Memoir

by John H. Richardson

In progress.

I picked this one up second hand. Since it does not have a due date, it is currently sitting on the back burner.

Mr. Richardson tells about growing up with only a skeletal knowledge of who his father truly was.