Thursday, December 12, 2013
Friday, April 09, 2010
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Friday, March 07, 2008
by Mary Morris
"The River Queen" is a travel narrative set on the author's 3 week adventure on a houseboat travelling south on the Mississippi River and for a short period on the Missouri River.
Morris hitched a ride with two guys, strangers named Tom and Jerry (you heard right) on a classic, battered and malfunctioning houseboat. The boat was slow and expensive to move along the river due to the huge V8 engines and the price of gasoline. There was no functioning shower and Tom has to sleep on the upper deck, on an air mattress, under the stars.
The other passenger was Tom's chiuaua (Mexican dog - sp?) named Samantha. The adventure was compelling enough for a book, but shared the storyline with the author's coming to grips with her father's death - although he was a few years over 100 when he died. Honestly he didn't sound like a wonderful father - he screamed a lot, criticised, was anxious and didn't care a whole lot for his wife, but Morris adored him anyway.
I felt sympathy for Morris in her midlife anxieties her need to understand her past in order to cope with the here, now and future. The trip turned into an elixir and medicine for her mind, along with understanding her father and his anxieties a bit more during the journey. Luckily, Tom and Jerry, kept the book lighthearted and afloat with their their humor personal quirks or else the book would've sank in doldrums of depressions and seriousness.
It was an interesting and good read, but some readers may be tempted to put the book down - don't because the ending is steeped in life lesson and reflections we all have had in life.
by Jonis Agee
"Taking the Wall" is a collection of short stories set in the southern United States revolving around the blue collar world of NASCAR racing and its wannabes.
Until reading "Taking the Wall" I was of the notion that it was not possible to write something thoughtful, intriguing and at times, beautiful, about NASCAR ad its subculture.
Agee, in this collection of stories, writes about the lives of regular people surrounding sack car racing. Her style is very easy, romantic and freeflowing. She doesn't lead you on with cheap expectations in her story lines. You tend to sympathize with the imperfect characters because you see your imperfections mirrored in the characters, You are brought down to earth. Every reader has had a dark period in life, a struggle or difficult periods in general.
The most poignant story named "You Know I Am Lying" shines through among the collection. It tells of a man coming home to his family's multi-generational farm house that he has sold after his parents have passed. He recollects the memories of the place, while telling the story of how he was alienated from the farm with his fascination with the automobile and racing.
This is truly a working class book with the literary sense of a classic to be read by anyone and everyone - as a matter of fact a motor head may not enjoy the book quite as much as a "latte liberal." Strange world...... Great read!!!
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
by Gerard Donovan
It may sound cheesy, but yes, I read this book because the author and I share the same last name. I am glad I read the book because it was well worth the read.
Sunless is a complicated story of a boy named Jimmy who grows up in the near future in an America that is anxiety-ridden due to the scare from terrorism. The terror alerts seem to be the scare tactics designed to keep the nation addicted to pharmaceutical anti-anxiety drugs.
Sunless (what Jimmy calls himself) is the main character who losses his father from an unnamed, but treatable, illness. His father lost his life from the lack of health insurance. He also gets rejected for a possible life-saving clinical trial. Before the loss of his father, Sunless' mother has a stillborn child - Sunless' brother. The stillborn death of his brother haunts him for the rest of his life. The loss depresses Sunless' mother, Mary, and she goes on medication, leaving her in a stupor for the rest of Sunless' childhood.
In his teens Sunless starts popping prescription drugs from his mothers stash and the story takes some psychedelic and fateful turns from then on.
Donovan's style is abstract and cloudy. You don't, as a reader, have to see through the clouds and fill your own images, such as peoples faces and particular settings. Details are not built for the reader. This style of writing makes the story more personal. Much of the imagery goes off on wild drug induced tangents where quirkiness pervades the prose.
Sunless is a quick read, but pulls you in as you try and cheerleader for Sunless to get through his childhood unscathed.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Over the Hills:
A Midlife Escape Across America by Bicycle
by David Lamb
This book shared similarities with “Walking to Vermont” (see my January 11, 2006 post) in that the author was beyond middle age and spent a lot of time reflecting on his life and achievements. Both were journalists – LA Times and NY Times. Both were very mature in their writing. Both were merely in the same physical condition. Both met up with old friends along the way. Both had a knee ailment. Both had doubts about making it and were told they were nuts by friends. Both made it! I enjoyed both books, but “Walking to Vermont” was more interesting.
Lamb took the Trans Am route across the lower states ( URL here ) where he met many characters who were generally quite friendly and helpful. The rural characters tend to be quite charismatic in their own way. In Alabama two toothless and intimidating grimy young men befriended Lamb and helped him across a dangerous bridge with heavy traffic and then disappeared into the hills.
The book was full of well-researched bicycling history which was downright fascinating. He points out many times how bicycling changed the face of the United States and was influential in the Women’s Liberation Movement, establishing a better transportation infrastructure and before the auto provided a means of transportation and economic gains for the country. These facts lend the idea that cycling has gone full circle within the one and a quarter century since the “safety” bicycle came into full production.
The trip was rather uneventful, which we surprisingly wonder how the book is even not dull, but Lamb in fills with so much info that you get lost and sidetracked when the focus isn’t on the personal story of riding across the country.
The inspiration of his journey is due to his age. If a man over 50 can bike across the country in a couple of months, it can be accomplished by mostly anyone capable of climbing aboard a touring bike. Character and stamina are both built along the way.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Danger and Survival in the North Woods
"He stumbles through the woods like a somnambulist. He is devastated. He is trying to remove himself, trying to bring himself awake, but he's beyond conscious thought. He is tired, and he tries to focus on his mission - to find someplace to hide, someplace to sleep, someplace safe, out of the weather, out of the cold.
But he is cold. He can feel it as he walks. His legs are still wet and stiff and his feet are numb. His brain isn't functioning. It is as though the freezing water has reached around his cerebral cortex and deadened it with an icy grip." p. 140 Lost in the Wild
Griffith researched his subjects well. Giving an accurate second-hand account of survival stories takes a decent amount of labor - and to do it well - takes some skill and creativity.
Griffith gives an account of two seperate survival struggles of two young males, with two different sets of outdoor experience who get lost in the North Woods of the Bounday Waters Canoe and Wildreness Area (BWCWA) of Minnesota and the Quetico Park of Manitoba, Canada.
The two stories overlap by chapter in the book which allows the reader to compare and contrast the two stories - the novice who makes all kinds of mistakes and the expert outdoorsman who thinks clearly and posseses strength of character. Miraculassly both young men make it out alive.
The book was inciteful and well written. The reader will walk away with the stories vivid in their mind as if the reader was part of the story in some way. The stories were exciting and gripping.
Anyone who plans to daypack or overnight pack in the Boundary Waters needs to read this book...it may save your life!!!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Mom came in and woke me up by turning on my light. She liked to do that early in the morning to wake me up. Usually she would spurt out “WILLIE, time for school,” while she put my clothes away into my closet and dresser and I would roll over and snooze some more until the last possible minute to get out of bed. Then I would rush around to get to school.
This day was different. The light flicked on. Instead of telling me it was time for school, my Mom was pulling things out of my closet. It wasn’t morning either. It was nighttime. It was late at night - the night before the funeral. Mom was asking me if I had anything Pat could wear. I had two identical sweaters. One sweater was white and black and one sweater was blue and black. Selfishly, I thought that I didn’t want him, or anyone, wearing my sweaters. I worked hard for those sweaters and bought them at my own accord. Why couldn't she just buy something for Pat to wear? Why should I give up my favorite sweater?
To this day it haunts me to see my brother lying in a coffin and wearing my favorite sweater for eternity. We were nearly the same size and it didn’t bother me when he wore my clothes while he was alive. Sometimes he would ask me ahead of time if hen could borrow my clothes, and other times he would just go into my closet and find something that he liked.
He worked hard for his money. He spend most of it on liquor and hard drugs. But he had a addiction disease and I was sympathetic to his place in the world. He would work a hard nightshift at the concrete plant in Bethel and ride his ten speed four or five miles home across hills and on busy morning streets. He would be so exhausted that he would fall onto his bed and collapse into sleep fully clothed and lying on his stomach.
I would picture him riding home as fast as he could with the wantonness of a crazy person to get his sleep. All around him was the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with the sun coming up and the misty coolness and quiet that, to this day, I long for. For him, it was simply getting home to his bed. Everything around him was a blur. All he could think of was that bed in his tiny blue wood-paneled room with a half-view of the back porch and the little brick pump house.
I can still see him there with his work jeans, crusty concreted boots on and his dirty blue pocket t-short sprawled halfway across the bed – his arms spread and hugging his pillow like a kid hugs his teddy bear and two legs spread and one leg hanging off the side of the bed at the knee.
I look down on my rumpled always slightly dirty brother lying in the clean white-laced and open coffin, his mustache combed, and his face cherry red from the exhaust fumes. he is wearung my favorite black and white sweater topping his "Wrangler” work jeans. My Mom said that because he liked to smoke his Marlboro’s so much that she put a pack of smokes and a lighter in his jeans. I remember thinking abut the cigarettes and the lighter while I looked at his expressionless face with those sleeping eyes. I know he had his crusty concrete blonde leather boots on. I looked at him and studied his face. I wanted to touch him, but I was deathly afraid of dead bodies. I wanted to hug him, like he wanted me to hug him, two weeks before when he told me that he was going to kill himself. But I couldn't. I didnt know what to do. I tuned to my Mom and gave her an awkward hug and cried. I didn't really cry, I wailed like the "baby of the family."
My Mom always called me her baby. After all I was the baby of the family. The label was endearing. More endearing, of course, than the other nickname - the "mistake." I wasn't actually supposed to happen. My Mother tried to abort me. It was a year before Roe V. Wade so she tried to strain herself by lifting the bumper of the car (still attached) in an effort to have a miscarriage. That is where my unborn brother/sister went. There was supposed to be a baby between me and Tom, but I never met my other sibling. He or she didn't survive my Mom's other attempt at self-inflicted abortion. That kid went down the toilet, or so goes the story.
My Mom was very open about the fact that she miscarried a baby. She told the story often, probably out of guilt, or ignorance - one will never really know. But according to Mom she was out chopping wood, got stomach pains, went inside to the bathroom and had a miscarrage right there on the toilet. So instead of ladeling the poor blob out of the toilet, she flushed it down.
It was always a story I repeated because it gave my Mom an appearance of toughness. What other kid could say that their Mom was bold enough to chop wood while preganant, have a miscarriage and flush it down the toilet with a nanchalant flush of that chrome handle? What she failed to tell me was that it was planned.
At 35 I learned that I was nearly a victim of the flush. After many months of self-pity and confusion about what my relationship to my Mom should be, I came to grips with the fact that I was here and I don't know enough about my Mom's situation in 1970 to pass judgement. I did know that she lived with three kids in a trailer and was married to a drunken, violent and emotionally distraught man who happened to be my Dad. Then my opinion changed from anger to pity. Only I didn't know who to pity more - my flushed sibling, or my abused Mom.
A couple of weeks before the dat Pat killed himself, Pat admitted his plot to me and me only, with no details, after he showed me the set of aluminum wheels he stole for me. He stashed the wheels away in the chicken shed. He really wanted me to thank him and appreciate what he had done for me, but instead I scolded him and told him that I wasn’t going to accept stolen wheels, no matter how cool they were. I didn’t even know if they would fit on my Mustang.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Read the full story at:
My kids playing by the peaceful Mississippi River
Friday, April 06, 2007
Stephen M. Meyer
What is the human without the Wild? Meyer presumes the end of natural selection and justifiably claims that for many many decades humans have changed the act of selection to human selection. It is our hand that determines the populace of individuals in an ecosystem - both intentionally and unintentionally.
This book was like a 97 page gasp. It is like someone telling you that your neighborhood is burning and it will never be the same and within the flames lie your beloved two cats and a dog and the deer, fox and squirrels that you watch every morning. The whole of the idea of what Meyer has to say puts butterflies in my stomach.
Meyer tells us that it would be wise to forget about saving the charismatic species like the panda, mountain gorilla California condor. The focus should be the whole ecosystem. The reason being is that these charismatic fauna and flora are doomed to begin with. It is merely an act of feel-good action for our own psyche.
Meyer tells us that we need to look at our own behavior and modify it drastically. He doesn't call for empty public policy and for more corporate environmental lobby, but a dumping of billions over the next twenty years into studying and classifying ecosystems. On the one hand he lauds the management of Nature as human selections, but on the other hand calls for a drastic step-up in management and study. This would-be irony makes a lot of sense if the end of the wild is real. There is no room, literally, for "nature to take its course" without human intervention, which is the definition of human selection.
If human selection is the contemporary process by which to make the most of our Earth and its various habitats, we should do it correctly. We may have to spend time mixing various sub populations for a stronger gene pool, cull weedy species, and construct larger and healthier wildlife corridors. We need to be consistent and smart about it.
Meyer doesn't state this in "the End of the Wild," but I think that there is a presumption that we are a weedy species that is out of control.
This book should be read by anyone and everyone...especially our youth. At 97 pages (it took me an hour to read) this could be part of assigned reading for many school-age groups.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
The Classic Guide to Canoe Technique
The first item to compliment regarding North American Canoe Country is the wonderful illustrations in the 1992 softcover copy. The illustrations are by Les Kouba. The canoeing scenes depicted in woodcuts are vivid and dramatic and even solemn when needed.
Rutstrum seems to be a very methodical person with an emotional streak - methodical when speaking of technique and emotional when lavishing on the adventure, spirit and peacefulness of the paddlers' life.
Personally, I enjoyed both method and emotion. The book would be a better read with more of a focus on the emotional and romantic aspects of canoeing. Paddling technique is quite artistic and timeless as Rutstrum exquisitely lays out for the reader. I certainly will be a much better paddler in the long term with North American Canoe Country under my belt. What really makes this book a classic are lines like these where Rutstrum tells how he feels about paddling and whats sparks his romance with the sport:
"As you settle into the smooth, quiet rhythm of this stroke, you dare not even whisper. To call your partner's attention to a caribou camouflaged against a rocky background beyond the point , or a flock of young merganser ducks hugging the shore current, you rock the canoe gently. A short while back you altered your conduct for wilderness society. In time, the orderly, respectful protocol of the wilderness will come as naturally as breathing., and only then you will be accepted into the silent forest mansions."
Bounday Waters shoreline from the canoe
"In the lone journey you live closer to the nerve ends of feeling, where subjective response to the world around you becomes complete - objective response having been lost in the very intimacy of your natural existence. With companions, you saw the world with the eyes of aliens seeking novelty. Alone, you become a part of that phenomenon which was novelty, an integration that only the lone traveler ever experiences."
I think that what Rutstrum describes I have felt on day-long rides on my road bike through the mountains and valleys of Central Pennsylvania. When you are alone you notice things more distinctly because you are relying on your own senses judgement. Exploring new roads is more exciting and adventureous. I miss those days. Those experiences are remiss in suburba...unfortunately.
North American Canoe Country is an easy read, fun, and has a variety of subject material to keep you interested. If you don't have much time and are not interested in technigue, read the chapter on the strories of real-life adventurers by canoe. They are worth the read and are inspiring.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Evening in March
My wife and I decided that we were going to travel to Oregon, Portland in particular, in an effort to narrow down our choices of where we should be living. We enjoyed our stay. We drove around Mt. Hood and retuned to Portland along the Columbia River Gorge from Hood River to Portland. Gorgeous!
Then we decided to drive south to Eugene, and west to the coast, north along the coast and east back to Portland. Wow, what a drive!
Eugene was a very livable and laid back town and the coastal towns were spectacular. The kids spent some time on the beach (yes, its not all rocks).
Portland was a great town, but very confusing to drive in, especially because the signage is quite poor...unlike the anal Minnesotans (thats is actually a compliment because it pays to be anal in infrastructure) who think and plan and think and plan. March in Portland was lush. Even though there were only buds on the deciduous trees, roses, clematis, daffodils and a host of other spring flowering plants were blooming everywhere. The rain felt good and seems natural there, where it is not uncommmon to find roofs covered with thick green moss. Green green green was everywhere!
We liked a little area known as Multnomah Village, where it once was suburbia, but later became swallowed up into urbania. It had quaint shops and nicely maintained, but modest homes. The Village was close to the sizeable and lush Tyrone State Park located inside City limits. I worry that by the time we actually get there we will be priced out of the area. I am anxious to visit the area again, and hopefully the next time will be to settle!
Friday, March 16, 2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
By Jack London
Unfortunately for Jack London, his novels and short stories were written and published during the period of dime store novels of westerns and other regionalist fiction. Unlike dime store novels, London's stories were literary masterpieces who told of the raw aspects of life, broken down to the most primitive aspects of humanity. London wrote about such things as life and death, racial discrimination and the basic instincts of humankind.
In "The Sun-Dog Trail," (to be continued)
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Documentary Motion Picture
Grizzly Man is a documentary about the 13 summers Timothy Treadwell spent with the grizzly bears in Katmai National Park in Alaska. Shocking footage of Treadwell walking amongst the brown bears and patting a full-grown grizzly on the nose is truly amazing and truly irresponsible. The immensity of these animals and their ferocity is nothing to take lightly. The natives of the region for some 7 thousand years have warned of crossing the invisible line between these wonderful creatures and the human world. Besides the lack of respect for their role in Nature, the acclimation of these creatures to humans is a massive threat, not only to the bears themselves, but to innocent humans who accidentally encounter bears and do not have the understanding of their behaviors that Treadwell had. This looseness lead to Treadwell's own horrific death where he and his girlfriend were actually partially eaten by a late-season and hungry bear who wasn't interested in Treadwell as a curiosity, but as something to curb its own appetite and store enough calories to make it through a hibernation period.
With all that said, there is a deeper and more human aspect to what happened that lead to Treadwell's death. Although Treadwell was only 46 at his death (49 today), his situation was one of what many GenXer's and probably GenYer's feel in this this world of technology and isolation. Many of us ask "what happened to the natural world?" And "why are we so detached from it?" Couple this restlessness with alcohol, drugs and guilt and there is a recipe for many more Timothy Treadwells in the world. Treadwell found a way out of his pain from isolation and alcohol abuse. For him it was bears. For me it was my wife and kids. My obsession with protecting my kids and my own created world ultimately may lead to a similar destruction of the very world I am protecting for myself. Similarly, Timothy Treadwell latched onto the foxes and bears and created a world where he felt safe and where he felt he finally belonged. Although my kids won't eat me, as the grizzly that lead to Treadwell's demise, my life hangs in a similar balance. Love, emotion and attachment need to be tempered. Kids need strength in character from the adults in their life, but they do not need to be pressured. Like bears, kids need their own territory where they can lead their own life and learn life lessons. Bears cannot protect themselves from poachers, and maybe that is where a paternal role, similar to Treadwell's, may lie for people and the protection of bears. Children cannot protect themselves from immoral humans, but parents can teach caution for protection - and morality for a greater society.
Its true that we no longer fear wilderness, but there are many sacred aspects of wilderness and Nature that deserve respect. Tempered kindness and proactive thoughtfullness may eventually lead to protecting aspects of wild Nature and preserve our own society as well.
The film shows treadwell progressing from Nature lover to a militant-of-kindness whose evil foes were the Park Service, poachers and the "people world." He saw himself as morphing into a grizzly. It is all-to-abvious that this man's world revolved around his own problems and the bears and Alaska were his obsession, only second to himself. Alcoholics don't simply quit obsessions, they just go from one obsession to another and (hopefully not) revolve back around to alcohol. It would've been wonderful to see Timothy Treadwell champion his cause and preserve his bears, but his path was chosen through ignorance and emotion.
I envy the fact that Treadwell lived his dream in the most inconcieveably beautiful land on Earth and spent years in a world he created, and has gone emotionally and physically where very few people have gone - into the world of the grizzly bear.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Thursday, November 30, 2006
By Roderick Nash
Halfway through “Wilderness and the American Mind” I felt the need to go to the front cover and underline the word “mind.” Truly what Nash so straightforwardly and academically outlines in his predictable well-structured and footnoted style, is the mind of America regarding wilderness from the colonial to the pre-Rachel Carson era (post Aldo Leopold).
Most remarkably, wilderness is still (yes, even today) the binding in the American book. It is the glue that holds us together psychologically and gives us a sense of morality and American pride. It is our conscience and one of our unique features of America – both physically and mentally.
Nash points out that Joseph Wood Krutch stated in 1958 that “the wilderness and the idea of wildness is one of the permanent homes of the human spirit.” It is the idea, or the spirit of wildness, that is truly American. You don’t need to go to into the wilderness to experience something that is innate to your native psyche.
What is that “idea” of wilderness? Wilderness is freedom of expression, liberty and democracy. Robert Underwood Johnson perceived the wilderness “idea” as the embattlement of ruthless exploitation (Nash 158) where the land has survived consumption by commercial and social interests. Today, it might even be the land that survives recreational exploitation from ATV’s, snowmobiles and 4x4’s with the beauty and solitude still remaining.
When that idea is lost is when the land will be lost or destroyed. We hear the cries of the wildlife advocates for the large charismatic land animals, like grizzly bears, jaguars, pandas and mountain gorillas. We hear the warnings of environmentalists and marine scientists about the loss of diversity and indidual numbers of fish and marine mammals, such as the right whale, and fish, such as the shark and tuna. What we fail to ponder is what our moral compass will read, or diminish altogether, when we have lost these creatures or even the loss of the solitude of wilderness altogether. The idea that land and species keep us physically and mentally aware of our conscience, when those things are lost, will render our sensibilities morally inept. What will we have to strive for when that idea is lost? And where will we go to in our dreams and in our waking hour for relief and for philosophical and natural beauty and solitude?
John Muir defines the natural world in spiritual terms – Christian terms for that matter. What he lacked in religiosity he made up for in spirituality. For Muir the cathedral was the giant rock outcrops and crags that stood and weathered the wonderful thunderous storms and bright piercing life-giving sun. His spirituality melted into these feelings and images.
(to be continued)
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
By Seth Rowe - Sun Newspapers(Created: Wednesday, November 1, 2006 10:57 PM CST)
Will Donovan III (left) has made the curbside air cleaner for his son, second-grader Thatcher Donovan, at Aquila Primary Center. Will Donovan led a campaign to retrofit buses to cut down on exhaust. (Craig Lassig/Sun Newspapers)
After becoming concerned about emissions from area industrial operations, St. Louis Park resident Will Donovan III became acutely aware of pollution right outside his son's school.Donovan educated himself on environmental health issues as a resident of the South Oak Hill Neighborhood south of Highway 7 and west of Louisiana Avenue. McGarvey Coffee and Northland Products are located near his home."We're an old industrial city," Donovan said. "We're breathing all that stuff in."While picking up his then kindergarten-age son from school in St. Louis Park, he perceived another potential health threat when he noticed buses idling outside the school."I walked by a kid sitting in the grass and a bus was sitting there and an exhaust pipe was practically blowing in their face," he said.He worried that bus exhaust could trigger an asthma attack in a child and also about potential long-term effects on children. He recalled smelling fumes inside his own school bus as a kid."It was just hell on the inside of that bus," he said of his childhood bus. "The fumes were just terrible."He later learned about Project Green Fleet, an initiative that funds bus retrofits designed to reduce diesel pollution substantially."I realized this was a win-win for everybody," he said.The St. Louis Park school district and St. Louis Park Transportation, a private company that operates school buses in the city, were both receptive to the idea, said Bill Droessler, director for Clean Air Minnesota, the non-profit that organized Project Green Fleet."I think it's a great thing for the environment, to try to do our part to cut down on diesel emissions," said Tom Burr, manager of St. Louis Park Transportation.His company will retrofit 20 buses built between 1996 and 2003 while two smaller bus companies that operate out of the same location will receive emissions filters for 11 additional buses.Like Burr, Superintendent Debra Bowers said she welcomed the changes."It's an effort to make our buses safer and cleaner for our community," she said at an Oct. 23 school board meeting.The retrofits should cut down emissions on the St. Louis Park buses by about 40-50 percent, Droessler said. The equipment is funded largely by donations from corporations and foundations. Bus companies are only responsible for the cost of replacing filters, an expense that Burr described as minimal.Project Green Fleet has funded retrofits in seven Minnesota districts, Droessler said."One of the unique things in St. Louis Park is it's the first one that's kind of been that grassroots of an action," he said.In other districts, the organization has contacted school districts directly or districts have come to them.The filters will bring the buses closer to new federal standards going into effect in 2007 for new diesel engines, Droessler said. In many states, government agencies have mandated that older buses receive the equipment. However, all retrofits in Minnesota are voluntary because the Twin Cities metro is one of the few metropolitan areas in the country that meets federal pollution standards.Nevertheless, the area is in danger of violating standards relating to ground level ozone and fine particulate matter, Droessler said. And while the emissions coming from diesel engines is not high as a percentage of pollution in the area, the fine particles from diesel engines can enter the people's lungs and bloodstream relatively easily - a fact that led to Clean Air Minnesota's emphasis on reducing diesel emissions. Studies have found that the amount of pollution inside buses can be as much as five times as high as in outside air, according to the Project Green Fleet Web site, www.projectgreenfleet.org.By the end of November, the St. Louis Park project should be complete, Droessler said. The work won't affect bus service, Burr said.Donovan said he is pleased that the school district agreed to support the project."I'm really glad they're doing this - it's a great thing," he said. "It's just incredible what we breathe that we don't realize we're breathing."
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
How Humans Shaped the North Woods
By Jeff Forester
Excerpts from Chapter 4 "Lumberjack Life"
"But while each horse in a livery got its own stall, in a lumber camp the men slept two to a bunk....Daylight cascaded in from numerous chinks between the log walls, and beams of light stabbed into the room from holes in the roof(p.70)."
"The companies forbid thermometers so jacks could not complain that is was too cold to work...Lumber camps were like loose confederations of fiefdoms, and as the jacks passed from one realm to the next they had to serve different masters and abide different rules (p.68)."
"Logging was harc work, dangerous and demanding. But the rules established to maintain control of hundreds of men living in close quarters were perhaps more tormenting than the labor (p.68)."
Excerpt from Chapter 3 "The Cut Increases"
Weyerhauser had almost exclusive control of logging operations on the Chippewa, St. Croix, and Upper Mississippi Rivers, and area containing some of the richest pineries left in the world. He woned timberlands, mills, transportation networks, and retail outlets, making the Weyerhauser companies the most econimically integrated organisation in the Upper Midwest and allowing him to set the price for lumber from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains (p.63)."
Monday, May 01, 2006
On (Not) Getting By in America
By Barbara Ehrenreich
My Mom has been a low-wage cashier in various local grocery stores for her whole adult life. Since childhood I have pondered why she didn't change jobs or seek a higher wage.
Barbara Ehrenreich wrote "Nickel and Dimed" to expose the foray of the low-wage working poor in today's America. She did this by leaving her comfy upper-middle class life as a well educated (PhD in Biology) writer and joined the low-wage workforce for a sojourn of many months.
Ehrenreich first worked as a waitress in Key West, then as a housekeeper with the corporate "Merry Maids" franchise in Maine and finally as a Wal-Mart employee in my very own Minneapolis (she turned down a higher payng job selling plumbing supplies at Menard's).
Because my Mom has been a cashier for so long and I know what it means to live week-to-week, I already go out of my way to be gacious and kind to even the most forlorn cashier. Ehrenreich depicts the working poor from inside the workplace, where they are starved, tired and emotionally battered automatons for our modern corporate slavedrivers.
A most troubling scene was Ehrenreich's account of a co-worker at Merry Maid's who has fallen and twisted her ankle while leaving a jobsite. The woman refused to go to the hospital because she feared her boss and feared the cost of not having health insurance. Worst of all was missing a days work, which probably meant going without food. This is the "team" of maids who literally couldn't scrape together two dollars amongst each other.
Everyone should take the time to read "Nickel and Dimed" especially every elected official of every federal, state and local municipal government, along with the management of every large corporation in America and abroad.
I would recommend reading this book alongside Upton Sinclair's great American novel, "The Jungle."
A Housekeeper's Curious Adventures
By Louise Rafkin
Rafkin, even after pursuing a Masters in English, chose housecleaning as her profession. The book "Other People's Dirt" is an amalgam of stories from her days pre-housecleaning that lead her down the path of cleanliness, to her days of housecleaning and finally to her days of spiritually coming to grips with her chosen prfession.
Housecleaning lead her around the world, from Europe to Asia and back home again. She even hd a stint with a corporate houseclaning agency (much the same as Ehrenreich in "Nickel and Dimed") that payed incredibly low wages and expected extremely difficult and lonely working conditions.
During her shrt time with the corporate maids franchise she was chosen to clean the house of a very scholarly and wealthy professor. While dusting his bookshelves she came across a book she had read previously that contained an explanation of the working conditions of the poor. The book was socialist in nature and outlined the housekeeping industry. Rafkin decided to take the book and confront the professor about his hypocrisy with little success.
I found it impressive that Rafkin could be so upbeat about such a lowly job, in most people's eyes. It was illuminating and a fun book to read.
PS: I recently saw a TV commercial (the only one I have ever seen) for Merry Maids. The maids portayed in the commercial were attracive white women, which is NOT how Rafkin or Ehrenreich described their coworkers.