Wednesday, November 29, 2006

a little history of Florida

Like the Michener book on Texas I read in August, this book starts at about 500 years ago. The story is told, however, by a native north-Floridian at the time of the 2001 "hanging-chad" incident in Florida's capital.

Like one of the reviews that is on the page for this book, it tells a history of not only Florida, but of her own family as well. So, there is history on aborigines vs Europeans as well as "slice-of-life" history of an old-South family in a part of Florida that is a little bit more like Georgia to the north than the rest of Florida.

I found the aboriginal history to be an ok starting place for where I'd want to go to get better information. There were many tribes of "American Indians" as well as an aboriginal Cuban influence.

When the Europeans started wanting to colonize, there were battles between the French and Spanish, as well as the challenges for those who came from non-tropics dealing with tropical weather.

One thing I found particularly interesting (it hadn't occurred to me before) is that, since Florida is such a great place to have zoos, with wildlife that is native to all parts of the globe (except, perhaps, polar bears and penguins), that when one of the many hurricanes comes around, the wildlife in Florida gets an influx of all kinds of weird species. It appears that no one knows what is native and what is not.

Which brings me to a thought that was not discussed in the book. There is a lot of consternation these days over saving the Manatees.

This gentle beast is not too smart and apparently gets run over by motorboats very easily. It's endangered, I believe.

manatee picture

Well, a casual argument that I've heard when visiting Florida is that Manatees are not native anyway, so why worry; also, they eat all this native grass that messes up the ecosystem. But the other side of the argument says no, the grass is not native and cleaning it up helps the ecosystem.

But I digress. The book was worth reading. I really did not know anything about Florida except that I'd lived there (Orlando) for 6 months 20 years ago, it's flat and warm (with great waterways, including an ocean!), and has Disney and many other tourist areas.

I feel a little wiser now, when considering moving my family there. There are a lot of warts that come with the state. For instance, I read in the book it was late in understanding the need for civil rights among all Americans; still struggles today to get with the program.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini

In October, I went to the first of a series of lectures being held by renound authors. The October lecture was given by Amy Tan. In preparation, I wanted to make sure I read one of her books. I hadn't read anything of hers before.

I chose The Hundred Secret Senses.

I am glad I chose this one. What she said in her lecture was very much part of this book. I could tell that her philosopies were very much like those of the American sister (the protagonist).

The general story involves two girls/women (they're half-sisters) of Chinese descent, and the story starts somewhere in the US (California, maybe?). There is an awful wrong that the American sister does to the Chinese sister when they are kids. When they are adults they end up in China, and there is much that the American sister learns while they are there.

I recommend this book for women. There is another book, The Kite Runner, that had the same flavor, that may have more universal appeal.

The Kite Runner is about a kid growing up in Afghanistan in the 60s or something where one fanatic group, then another, invaded and ruined life for the people who were living there. Basically created anarchy somewhat similar to the anarchy that reigns in Iraq today. I hear that it's getting better? (but I digress . . .)

The kid does something awful to his best friend, and his Dad escape Afghanistan and go to live in California. Everything happens in California, I guess. There are stories about culture shifts, adapting, etc.

The reason I compare these two books is because they both discuss confusion surrounding different cultures, plus there is a deep regret that the protagonist in each story has about a wrong they caused in someone who was very important to them.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I was reading one of my many email newsletters today and saw the best picture of a tree. It inspired me to go searching for a tree in Yahoo. Here's one that was very cool:

picture broken for now - in the meantime, take a look at the search link

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Speaking of Faith radio show

This is a radio show I like to listen to every once and a while. A variety of religious topics is discussed, relating the topics to events that are happening today.

So I was happy to see a description of it on Yahoo!Picks. I recommend using the podcast option. I'm not a real fan of sitting and listening, unless I'm in the car. So I put the show on my iPod and listen if I'm taking a walk or something.

Speaking of Faith

screenshotIn this country, some people see religion as a debate between those who despise the theory of evolution and those who think God is a four-letter word. But Speaking of Faith, "public radio's conversation about religion, meaning, ethics, and ideas," takes a much-needed, more-nuanced approach. Hosted by Krista Tippett, who received a Masters of Divinity at Yale, the series ranges far and wide in examining different aspects of spirituality. While hot-button issues like gay marriage, religious fundamentalism, and "The Da Vinci Code" are not spared, the show also explores less-traveled areas like the challenge war poses to core religious tenets and the history of doubt. The program's archive goes back to 2001. Download each show in MP3 format, listen to it with RealPlayer, or subscribe to a podcast. And find yourself, possibly, thinking and speaking of faith with a broader perspective. (in Religion & Spirituality)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Leonardo da Vinci's Animated Illustrations

From: Yahoo! Picks

Leonardo da Vinci's Animated Illustrations

screenshotForget da Vinci's code, his notebooks are mind-boggling enough. And now that the Victoria and Albert Museum has translated nine of his drawings into mini-movies for a major exhibit of his books, the animated results are nearly divine. A human heart throbs, a church rises from the ground, and a beam of light moves slowly across a man's face. But if you only have a few moments, don't miss:

  • "Human figures in motion"—grown men hammer, dig, jump, kneel, and sprint off the page.
  • "Warfare"—Leonardo's thoughts on the "mechanization of war" were almost spookily ahead of their time. In this short, an armored tank rolls ominously across a modern-day battlefield.
  • "Anatomy of a bird's wing"—an avian limb morphs into a human arm, which sprouts a man-made "flying machine." When we think that the amazing Mr. da Vinci thought of this sometime between 1480 and 1519, our heads start to spin.
(in Visual Arts)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

don't wanna vote dumb

I have not been keeping up with politician's views lately, except for what they're putting into their TV ads.

Given the reliability of the above source of information, I've been looking around to see if I can find a source of objective information on each of the offices that I need to vote for. So far I've found the following:

If you've found any, I'll be interested in looking.

(added 11/3/06): Utne's Guide to Voter's Guides