Saturday, December 24, 2011

Walk the Land by Judith Galblum Pex

book cover

Walk the Land:
My Journey on Foot through Israel
by Judith Galblum Pex

ISBN-13: 9780975961957
Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Cladach Publishing
Released: July 28, 2007

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Come with John and Judy Pex as they hike the 600-mile Israel National Trail from the Egyptian to the Lebanese borders. During 42 days of trekking through spectacular scenery, Arab towns and villages, past Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian holy sites, they discover:
  • Sights seldom seen by tourists
  • Physical challenges and spiritual tests
  • Cultural encounters and historical insights
  • Lessons about peace, faith, and endurance.

Included are 16 pages of color photos of scenes from the Trail

My Review:
Walk the Land describes the travels of a middle aged couple as they hike the Israel Trail from the south of Israel to the north. It's not a hiking guide--the author didn't directly talk about what to bring or give hiking tips, though some of that information can be gleaned from the narrative. And while you can pick up information about what the land looks like and what hiking it is like, the narrative really focused on relationships.

She talked about how the lessons she learned on the trail were related to her walk with Christ. She talked about the various people they met on the trail and what they talked with them about (which was mainly about the upcoming trail and the fact that the author and her husband believe in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah). And she talked about the challenges of hiking with her husband--since they have very different personalities--and how it strengthened their relationship.

Overall, I found the book interesting and worth reading, though I'd been hoping for a more detailed description of the land. I'd recommend this book to those interested in the culture, the places, and the people of Israel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt from Chapter One.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes by David Acord

book cover

Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes
by David Acord

ISBN-13: 9780399536984
Trade Paperback: 186 pages
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Released: November 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle funneled much of his real-life genius-and the brilliance of others around him-into Sherlock Holmes, creating a character greater than the sum of his parts. In this quirky and intriguing look at the traits that made Sherlock Holmes successful, David Acord explores how to unleash our own genius.

Not only does Acord give unique insights into the character of Sherlock Holmes and his creator, but you'll also discover:

  • How to cultivate a passion for definite and exact knowledge that will help you achieve your goals faster than you thought possible
  • Why focusing on the little things is one of the most overlooked keys to success
  • The value to knowing what other people don't know
  • Why you should step up and take credit (death to modesty!)
  • The importance of admiring your enemy
  • Why we should all have friends in low places

My Review:
Success Secrets of Sherlock Holmes is a quick read. I've read most of the Sherlock Holmes stories, so I thought I'd enjoy this book. I had expected a humorous book with some good advice woven in, but the author is serious in his admiration of a fictional character and in his belief that mimicking Holmes will gain you success.

Much of the advice was pretty basic (to me), like learn more about your field of study, do things you have a passion for, specialize, and pay attention to detail. But other advice, like taking everything to the extreme and becoming obsessed with your work to the point that you enjoy nothing else isn't exactly healthy advice. You'll end up just like Sherlock Holmes: a lonely man with few friends and with some dangerous habits.

The book also pointed out some biographical details about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the real life people he based Holmes on, but I already knew most of that from the brief biography I read at the front of the 'Sherlock Holmes collection' books that I own.

You don't need to have read a single Holmes story to understand this book, but I think I would have enjoyed re-reading a Sherlock Holmes story more than reading about them (which takes up a lot of the space in this book).

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
In the very first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet (1887), Arthur Conan Doyle introduced readers to the master detective in a highly unusual manner. When the story begins, John Watson has just been released from the British army after serving in Afghanistan and India. He finds himself in London, desperately in need of a cheap place to live. He happens to run into an old army buddy, Stamford, who works at a local hospital. Luckily, Stamford knows someone who is looking for a roommate to go halves with him on a very nice apartment.

There's just one problem, Stamford tells his friend. This man, a fellow named Sherlock, is a little...odd. He works in the hospital's chemical laboratory and spends his days pursuing "out-of-the-way knowledge."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ascent from Darkness by Michael Leehan

book cover

Ascent from Darkness:
How Satan's Soldier Became God's Warrior
by Michael Leehan

ISBN-13: 9780849947032
Trade Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: Oct. 4, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher that was requested through Booksneeze.

Book Description from Booksneeze:
A life of difficulty and disappointment set 33-year old Michael Leehan up for the worst decision of his life—to make a deal with the Devil to follow and serve him. Practicing the dark arts that include ritualistic cuttings and blood sacrifices, while fine tuning his manipulation and control skills, Michael launched into a twenty year downward spiral that included job loss and detachment from loved ones, and even jail time.

But God had another plan that included a group of Christian men to love him and pray for him—even when it became evident his assignment from Satan was to kill their pastor, Craig Groeschel.

The life Michael Leehan lives today is an incredible testimony of the transforming power of God's mercy and grace, but is also a wakeup call to the church to be fully aware of the spiritual war that is going on all around them, and to the ultimate battle for their souls.

"I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:18

My Review:
Ascent from Darkness is a memoir of a man who made a pact with Satan to serve him and who found that pact destroying his life. Still, Michael was afraid of giving up the power he thought his pact gave him, and he wasn't initially interested in surrendering to a God he'd been angry at since childhood. And Satan wasn't about to let Michael go serve his enemy.

It's a compelling story. Michael managed to describe the emotional and life-changing impact of his actions without getting into gory details about Satanic practices. In fact, he's very vague about many of the rituals he did (which I think was very wise for multiple reasons--for example, you can't learn how to do a satanist ritual by reading this book. And the book would have been much darker).

If you have a hard time believing in real, evil spiritual forces, you'll probably have a hard time believing this book. If you think everything bad has a demon behind it that needs to be cast out, you'll probably be disappointed. While Michael makes it clear that spiritual forces are all around us, what he describes is very in line with what the Bible teaches about angels, fallen angels, and how Christ can free those who surrender to Him.

I think this book is important for Christians to read because most don't really think about the spiritual battles being fought around them. Also, Michael talked about how, as a satanist, he'd go into churches and quote Scripture in ways to mislead Christians or try to disrupt Bible Studies by bringing up controversial subjects or by seducing the women. He pointed out something that has long concerned me: how churches tend to get people to say "the sinners prayer" and baptized but then don't make a point of mentoring them in the faith. This leaves new believers vulnerable to lies about God.

This is an excellent book, and I'd highly recommend it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt from chapter one.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Geology Book by Dr. John D. Morris

book cover

The Geology Book
by Dr. John D. Morris

ISBN-13: 9780890512814
Hardback: 80 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: 2000, 2007

Source: Bought from a local Christian bookstore.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Rocks firmly anchored to the ground and rocks floating through space fascinate us. Jewelry, houses, and roads are just some of the ways we use what has been made from geologic processes to advance civilization. Whether scrambling over a rocky beach, or gazing at spectacular meteor showers, we can't get enough of geology!

The Geology Book will teach you:
  • What really carved the Grand Canyon.
  • How thick the Earth's crust is.
  • The varied features of the Earth's surface - from plains to peaks.
  • How sedimentary deposition occurs through water, wind, and ice.
  • Effects of erosion.
  • Ways in which sediments become sedimentary rock.
  • Fossilization and the age of the dinosaurs.
  • The powerful effects of volcanic activity.
  • Continental drift theory.
  • Radioisotope and carbon dating.
  • Geologic processes of the past.
Our planet is a most suitable home. Its practical benefits are also enhanced by the sheer beauty of rolling hills, solitary plains, churning seas and rivers, and majestic mountains - all set in place by processes that are relevant to today's entire population of this spinning rock we call home.

My Review:
The Geology Book is a nonfiction book about geology and how the rock formations we see around us came to be. The author assumed that he had a Christian audience and occasionally spoke in terms of "God created" and the like. He clearly explained each topic and defined the few scientific terms in the text (though there's also a glossary in the back).

There were full color pictures and illustrations. In the back, there's a 12 by 24 inch pull-out full-color poster titled "When the Earth Moves" with pictures from the book. I think 11-year-olds on up can easily understand the information in this book.

The introduction claims that the book will compare gradualism to catastrophic explanations for geological formations, but the author does so only in a very subtle way. I liked how it was handled, but I expected a more obvious comparison after reading the introduction. Overall, I'd recommend this book to children who are interested in learning more about geology from a scientist with a Christian perspective.

Chapter 1 explained the layers of Earth (crust, mantle, etc.). Chapter 2 described the rock types (igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic). Chapter 3 talked about the earth surface (plains, plateaus, mountains, erosional features like canyons). Chapter 4 described geological processes and rates (erosion, deposition, fossilization, volcanism, deformation of rocks, formation of metamorphic rocks, radioisotope decay and dating, etc.).

Chapter 5 discussed several ways to date the age of the earth (erosion, chemicals in the ocean, sediments in ocean, atmosphere, magnetic field). Chapter 6 covered the great geologic events of the past (Creation, Flood, Ice Age). Chapter 7 answered ten common questions (how was the Grand Canyon formed?, what causes the geysers in Yellowstone Park?, etc.). Chapter 8 discussed what the Bible says about what the future Earth will be like.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Take a look inside the book.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hope Meadows by Wes Smith

book cover

Hope Meadows:
Real-Life Stories of Healing and Caring from an Inspiring Community
by Wes Smith

ISBN-13: 9780425178409
Hardcover: 210 pages
Publisher: Berkley
Released: April 28th 2001

Source: From my grandmother's personal library.

Book Description from Book Cover (modified):
With its tree-shaded streets, Hope Meadows looks like any suburban neighborhood where children of all colors ride bicycles, and where an equally diverse mix of adults sit sentry in lawn chairs. Not visible are the tormented histories haunting the children at play, or what brought them to this little village of big miracles and opportunity to finally understand the joys of a normal childhood.

Built on an abandoned Illinois Air Force base, Hope Meadows is the brainchild of sociologist Brenda Eheart, who envisioned the community as a solution to the problem of revolving-door foster care. Here are children who are considered "unadoptable" by the foster system--often because of behavioral problems--are given the chance to thrive in permanent homes.

At Hope Meadows, seniors find a renewed sense of purpose as foster grandparents. At Hope Meadows, the meaning of community is rediscovered and redefined as a network of caring relationships built upon a shared mission: piecing shattered childhoods back together again. With stirring photographs an inspirational stories of emotional and spiritual healing, this book is a tribute to a town built from the heart up.

My Review:
Hope Meadows is a compilation of biographies about the residents of Hope Meadows. The author explained how the whole idea started (the biography of the founder) and then did the biographies of various families living there--the foster parents, children and grandparents. We learn what the adult's lives were like before Hope Meadows, what brought them there, and about the children in their care.

There were brown-and-white pictures of the various people in the book. The stories were interesting, and, overall, I'd recommend this book to those interested in the foster care system, troubled kids, or stories of adoption.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Buggies, Blizzards, and Babies by Cora Frear Hawkins

book cover

Buggies, Blizzards, and Babies
by Cora Frear Hawkins

ISBN: 0-8138-0395-0
Hardback: 220 pages
Publisher: Iowa State University Press
Released: 1971

Source: From library book sale.

Book Description from Book Cover:
Fresh out of medical school at the State University of Iowa, the young and dedicated Dr. Edwin D. Frear set out in 1882 to brave the hardships, struggles, and challenges that characterized the life and practice of the country doctor. His practice took him first to Salix and then to Sloan, two small towns set in the wide-open prairie of northwest Iowa. In later years he taught at the medical college and practiced in Sioux City.

As a child the author often accompanied her father on his medical calls; as she grew older she was able to assist him in his office. This book is largely an account of her recollections of him and his work, with additional material obtained from his diary and other personal and general sources. While some details have been changed, every incident described is based on an actual experience of the doctor or his family.

Capturing a bit of old Americana, Cora Frear Hawkins takes the reader back to the turn of the century - to the favorite old horse and buggy and the first automobiles and rural telephones. Through prairie blizzards and floods, in quarantines and the lighthearted antics of the doctor's children, you will delight in the adventures of a pioneer doctor's life.

My Review:
Buggies, Blizzards, and Babies is a memoir about a doctor (as told by his daughter) who lived in a small town in Iowa around 1900 AD. She tells stories of how things were done and what life (and country doctoring) was like. It's like the "Little House on the Prairie" series, but, while the stories are entertaining, it's more what adults would find funny rather than kids. A different, small black-and-white photo of the family was at the start each chapter. Overall, I'd recommend this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Sue Frear, dozing in a rocker by the kitchen stove, was aroused by the sound of the wind whistling around the chimney. She drew her grey shawl more closely about her shoulders and went to the window. Cupping her hands, she shaded her eyes against the reflection of lamplight on the glass, but try as she might she could see no light other than her own in the little Iowa village.

It was late. She looked hopefully for some sign that the snowstorm was subsiding, but it seemed rather to be increasing in fury as the wind whirled clouds of fine snowflakes past the house and down the dark street. She strained to see further, but she could see only her own shadow quivering in the patch of light on the shifting snow and the dim outline of the house across the street where the drifts were piling halfway to the eaves.

But Sue's thoughts were less on her neighbors in the town than on a farmhouse ten miles away, nestled in the edge of the hills, where a young mother fought for her life and that of her unborn child. And somewhere on the bleak prairie that lay between, its once lush grasses now buried under a heavy white blanket, Sue's doctor husband, Edwin, battled the stinging cold and wind in the darkness, trying to reach the young wife before it was too late.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Weather Book by Michael Oard

book cover

The Weather Book
by Michael Oard

ISBN-13: 9780890512111
Hardback: 80 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: 1997, 2006

Source: Bought from a local Christian bookstore.

Book Description from Back Cover:
The earth was created to be the dwelling place of man. It is a complex world and its weather patterns affect our lives every day. Whether you live near the equator, a polar region, or somewhere in between, knowledge of the weather is important.

The Weather Book will teach you:

  • Why our exact distance from the sun allows life on earth.
  • How the weather on the other side of the earth affects you.
  • How clouds form and how to identify the different types.
  • What the difference is between a cold and warm front.
  • Why you can often see lighting long before you can hear thunder.
  • How to build your own weather station.
  • How to survive in dangerous weather.
  • What the greenhouse effect and the ozone hole are.
  • What Noah's flood and the Ice Age have in common.
  • How weatherpersons forecast hurricanes and tornadoes.
  • How to read a weather map.
  • What our responsibility is to the environment.

Learning about the weather is fun! It will change the way you look at the clouds in the sky. You'll have more of an understanding about what is going on miles above your head. And when you hear a weather report on television, you'll understand so much more about the world around you!

About the Author:
Michael Oard was a meteorologist with the National Weather Frozen in Time Service beginning in 1973 and lead forecaster in Great Falls, Montana.

My Review:
The Weather Book is a nonfiction book about various types of weather and what causes that weather to occur. The author assumed that he had a Christian audience and spoke frequently in terms of "God created." He clearly explained each topic and defined the few scientific terms in the text (though there's also a glossary in the back). I think 11-year-olds on up can easily understand the information in this book.

There were full color pictures and illustrations. In the back, there's a 12 by 24 inch pull-out full-color poster with pictures from the book. Overall, I'd recommend this book to children and adults who are interested in learning more about the weather and the forces that cause the weather.

Chapter 1 explained how the earth shows special design by God. Chapter 2 talked about climate zones, what causes weather, weather trivia (hottest, wettest, etc.), how to read a weather map (like those printed in a newspaper), the jet stream, and El Nino. Chapter 3 explained the water cycle, cloud types, the elevation of those clouds, warm fronts, cold fronts, fog, and the dew point.

Chapter 4 talked about thunderstorms and lightening. Chapter 5 talked about hail and wind damage. Chapter 6 talked about hurricanes. Chapter 7 talked about winter storms. Chapter 8 talked about St. Elmo's Fire, Foehn winds, the lake effect, and ball lightening.

Chapter 9 talked about the clues to the earth's climate in the past--including the ice age--and how Noah's Flood explains the Ice Age better than secular explanations. Chapter 10 talked about the climate in the future, including global warming and the ozone layer. Chapter 11 talked about various weather instruments (thermometers, weather balloon, cloud photography, etc.) as well as how a child can make a weather vane, barometer, rain gauge, and do a condensation experiment. Chapter 12 talked about how Christians ought to relate to the environment.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
God used His infinite wisdom to create this earth. From the smallest to the largest feature of creation, He displays His intelligence, love, and careful attention to detail.

God placed the moon 240,000 miles (384,000 km) away from the earth--exactly the right distance to cause small tides in the ocean. If the moon were a little closer, it would cause severe tides and flooding. If it were only 50,000 miles (80,000 km) away instead of 240,000 miles, the tides would cover most of the continents twice a day. If the moon were farther away, much of the ocean would become heavily polluted. Tides mix the ocean water. The mixing helps to keep the oceans fresh by exposing more of the water to sunlight and by dispersing pollution. The amount of water in the ocean is important as well, because the oceans are large enough to dilute pollution.

Did you know that the sun is 400 times the size of the moon, and its distance is 400 times the distance of the moon from the earth? That is why the sun and moon, the greater and lesser lights of Genesis 1:16, look the same size in the sky.

The earth spins on its axis at just the right speed--once around every day. If it spun slower, the light side would be too hot for life and the dark side would be too cold. If the earth spun any faster it would cause fierce winds to blow.

If the earth's tilt were smaller, the higher latitudes would be too cold and an ice age would develop. If the tilt were greater, surface temperatures would fluctuate wildly, more so than today, making the climate more unstable. The tilt gives us our summer growing season. God has provided a time for us to grow our food everywhere on earth, except for the North and South Poles.

God placed just the right amount of water vapor and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Our ocean is the right size to maintain the proper balance of water vapor in the atmosphere. These gases cause the earth to act like a giant greenhouse. If there were much less of these gases, the earth would be too cold.

Take a look inside the book.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Crocheting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti

book cover

Crocheting in Plain English, Second Edition
by Maggie Righetti

ISBN-13: 9780312353544
Trade Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Released: Dec. 2008

Source: Borrowed from the library.

Book Description from Back Cover:
The definitive classic on crocheting for years, the first edition of Crocheting in Plain English equipped readers with easy-to-follow, friendly advice on creating their dream crochets. A lifelong crocheting teacher and designer, Maggie Righetti offered both basic principles and step-by-step instructions to get crocheters started and to perfect their techniques.

In this latest edition, completely updated and revised for today’s crocheter, Righetti dispenses more of her invaluable wisdom, covering virtually everything you need to know about crochet, including:

* Selecting threads and yarns
* Determining gauge
* Working with the right tools
* How to interpret patterns and instructions
* Increasing and decreasing stitches
* How to fix mistakes
* Basic stitches (chain, double, treble, slip)
* Sixteen different fabric pattern stitches
* Assembling the finished product
* How to block, clean, and care for crocheted articles
* And much, much more!

Each technique is illustrated with clear drawings, charts, or photos. Complete with a new introduction and a detailed glossary of crochet terms, Crocheting in Plain English is one sourcebook no crocheter should do without.

My Review:
Crocheting in Plain English gives in-depth instruction on how to crochet. The author assumes you're an absolute beginner, but this book is also useful for beginners in general and people who have taught themselves to crochet.

Actually, this book almost has too much information for the absolute beginner. When I read the first few chapters, I had never bought yarn or any of the equipment. I was hoping to save time and money by getting it right the first time. I was almost overwhelmed by the depth of information she gave. Yet she sometimes didn't give enough information when I really wanted more (like she said she found one general type of hook better than another, but she didn't really say why). After working with several types of yarns and hooks, I understood that whole section, but it wasn't clear until then. And I did end up having to buy another set of hooks (Susan Bates hooks) to replace the Boye hooks I'd initially bought.

I also found it a bit ironic that she (very poetically) stated that you must hold the hook and yarn in a certain way--and I already knew from watching a few YouTube videos that not everyone did it that way--yet later, when teaching stitches, she was very "do whatever works for you" in attitude.

Overall, though, I found this book to be very useful and instructive. I think it's main strengths are teaching you to read patterns, teaching you to understand how various "fancy stitches" are put together so you can "mix and match" to make your own, and helping you understand how to create your own project patterns. I had problems figuring out three of the non-basic stitches (due to either a poor illustration, an error in the pattern diagram, or her using a term that she usually used to mean something else), but I did eventually figure them all out.

The book covered:
Chapter 1 - The history of crochet.

Chapter 2 - Being honest with yourself when picking projects.

Chapter 3 - Choosing threads and yarns (sizing, quality, finishes, and color & dye lot).

Chapter 4 - Choosing crochet hooks (parts of, shapes, material made of, and sizes).

Chapter 5 - How to determine gauge for a printed-instruction project.

Chapter 6 - Introduction to reading patterns.

Chapter 7 - Other supplies (bag, scissors, yarn needles, tape measure, ring markers, etc.).

Chapter 8 - Basics: how to hold the hook, make a slip loop, and crochet left- or right-handed.

Chapter 9 - Chain Stitch (how to do it and the pattern abbreviation)

Chapter 10 - Single Crochet Stitch (American) (how to do it, what it's good for, and the pattern abbreviation)

Chapter 11 - Half-Double Crochet Stitch

Chapter 12 - Double Crochet Stitch

Chapter 13 - Treble Crochet Stitch & longer stitches

Chapter 14 - Slip Stitch

Chapter 15 - Several ways to add new yarn/change colors.

Chapter 16 - Increasing (several methods)

Chapter 17 - Decreasing (several methods), Puff Stitch

Chapter 18 - You don't have to work through both loops, you don't have to put your hook in the next stitch, and several other variations. Making a circle. Crab stitch. Crossed stitches. Picots. Popcorn stitch.

Chapter 19 - How to improvise and invent.

Chapter 20 - Several ways to fix mistakes.

Chapter 21 - Fancy stitches: mesh fabrics, filet crochet, open V, simple double crochet shells (2 ways), combining a shell and V (2 ways), ripple afghan stitch, fishnet, arch stitch, herringbone, diagonal popcorns, lover's knots, spiderweb, up-and-down stitch, my lady's fan, and Queen Anne's lace.

Chapter 22 - Making medallions and Motifs: Black-Eyed Susans, Granny Squares, Spiral Pinwheel Hexagon, Irish Rose Square with Picots, Pineapple in Square, and circular flower motif.

Chapter 23 - How to add lace edgings to linens. Edging patterns: picoted double crochet shells, morning sunrise, handmade rickrack, lovely lace, festive fans, pineapples, and violets.

Chapter 24 - Crocheted decorations: cabbage rose, pansy, double daisy, chrysanthemum, 5-point star, 4-leafed clover, and butterfly.

Chapter 25 - How to do multicolor jacquard crochet patterns. Patterns: balloons, never-ending triangles, and plaids.

Chapter 26 - Several methods of joining several-piece projects together.

Chapter 27 - Decorative finishing touches: how to make fringe, tassels, pom-poms, twisted monk's cord, crocheted cord, and yarn buttons (round or flat).

Chapter 28 - How to store and wash crocheted objects.

Chapter 29 - Project: Sampler Scarf

Chapter 30 - Project: Easiest Sweater

Chapter 31 - Projects: Table/Tray Mat, Treble Crocheted Striped Afghan, Raglan Baby Sweater, and Baby Bonnet.

Glossary, Common Symbols chart, Suggested Websites, Index

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Elizabethan Sea Dogs by William Wood

book cover

Elizabethan Sea Dogs
by William Wood

Hardback: 260 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Released: 1918

Source: Bought at library book sale.

Book Description, my take:
Written in 1918 and a part of the Yale Chronicles of America series, this book takes a look at the development of England's navy from King Henry VIII to the death of Queen Elizabeth, notable seamen during this time, and England's attempts to colonize North America up until 1618.

Elizabethan Sea Dogs is a history of how England's fleet went from insignificant to ruling the seas and their activities in the New World from King Henry VIII's reign to the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign. The book contained some quotes from various sea journals of the explorers and quotes from some sea songs. Overall, the book was easy to read and fairly interesting. I'd recommend the recent re-release of this "classic" to those who enjoy reading about the English navy.

Chapter 1 talked about the voyages of exploration of John Cabot and his family. Chapter 2 talked about how King Henry VIII strengthened England's naval power. Chapter 3 talked about William Hawkins (1530) and the life of a sailor at that time. Chapter 4 talked about what life was like under Queen Elizabeth (mainly the political, economic, and business practices). Chapter 5 talked about John Hawkins three voyages from 1562-1567.

Chapter 6 talked about Francis Drake's treasure hunt (1564-1573). Chapter 7 talked about Francis Drake's sailing completely around the world (1577-1581). Chapter 8 talked about Francis Drake's sailing to New Spain to damage and plunder Spain's towns there (1582-1587). Chapter 9 talked about Francis Drake, etc., against the Spanish Armada (1588). Chapter 10 talked about Francis Drake's Lisbon Expedition (1589) and Richard Grenville's famous "the one and the fifty-three" battle (1591).

Chapter 11 talked about Sir Walter Raleigh and England's various attempts to colonize North America (1577-1618; Sir Humprey Gilbert to James Smith). Chapter 12 talked about Drake's last voyage and death (1589-1596). The Appendix explained more about the development of the various types of ships used during this time period and how the navy had worked before then.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Taught Myself Crochet kit

book cover

I Taught Myself Crochet kit
by Boye

Paperback: 32 pages
Released: 2010

Source: Bought at Walmart.

Kit Description from Back Cover (slightly modified):
Even beginners can crochet beautiful things.

Kit includes:
  • Complete instructional DVD
  • Special section of tips and techniques for left-handers
  • Boye crochet hooks, sizes F, G, H, I, K
  • Afghan hook, size I
  • Plastic tapestry Yarn needles
  • Stitch marker rings
  • Bulky knit yarn bobbins

book coverNote: I own the 2010 version sold at Walmart which includes an instructional DVD. The book has a lady with a blue crochet sweater on the cover (see right), but the rest of the kit looks like the top picture.

Includes 16 Patterns:
(11 Beginner patterns, 4 Easy patterns, 1 Intermediate pattern)
  • Cro-Hook Cool Coasters
  • Easy Crochet Bag
  • Easy Scarf
  • Cell Phone Case
  • Color Block Mesh Poncho
  • Hairpin Lace Skinny Scarf
  • Ruffled Skinny Scarf
  • Broomstick Lace Pillow
  • Wavy Baby Blanket
  • Bright Nights Wrap/Throw
  • Mesh Scarf With Posies
  • Girl's Wrist Warmers
  • Summer Stripes Throw
  • Summer Strips Pillow
  • The Gift Poncho
  • Soft Sage Camisole

My Review:
The I Taught Myself Crochet book was pretty bare-bones, but it did get the basic necessary information across. It explained the different Boye crochet products and what they're used for (steel crochet hooks, aluminum crochet hooks, jumbo crochet hooks, afghan hooks, CroHook, and two sets). It explained the different yarn weights, what hooks are good to use with the different yarn weights, yarn weight metric equivalents, crochet hook sizes, and a long list of crocheting abbreviations.

The book taught how to do a slip loop, chain stitch, slip stitch, single crochet, half double crochet, double crochet, treble crochet, increasing and decreasing, joining yarn and changing colors, finishing techniques, gauge, afghan stitch, how to use the cro-hook (needed equipment not included), how to make broomstick lace (needed equipment not included) and how to make hairpin lace (needed equipment not included).

Clear black-and-tan illustrations were included, though I would have liked more of the steps illustrated. It's great for a refresher, but not enough for an absolute beginner who's never crocheted, knitted, etc. The instructions were very good, but I guess I'm a visual learner when it comes to crocheting. There was also a tan-tinted photo of what a square of each stitch would look like, however it was difficult to see due to the coloring. All of the basic stitches (slip loop to treble crochet) were also taught for left-handers.

The patterns look fun, but this book didn't teach you how to read the patterns. You might be able to muddle through them with frequent looks at the included abbreviation chart, though. Three of the patterns required equipment not included in this kit.

The DVD included with this kit was Learn to Crochet with Erin Elkins. The DVD was 11 minutes and 47 seconds long. We were shown how to do a slip knot, chain stitch, slip stitch, single crochet, double crochet, and finish off the yarn ends on your piece.

It was easy to see what the presenter was doing, however, she sometimes didn't do what she told us to do. (For example, she described a "yarn over" as putting the hook under then over the yarn, but sometimes she did the opposite. She never explained why she sometimes didn't do it the way she said to, so I'm assuming she just goofed.) Because of this, I found the DVD more confusing than helpful.

Personally, I found naztazia's YouTube videos, How to Crochet - Part 1 - Basics for the Absolute Beginner and How to Crochet - Part 2 - Basics for the Absolute Beginner, very clear and much more useful. She also taught more of the basic crochet stitches.

The hooks included with the kit were easy enough to use, but I've since bought a full set of Susan Bates hooks and I much prefer them. The book and DVD didn't explain how to use the included stitch marker rings or bulky knit yarn bobbins. (I learn pattern-reading and the use of stitch marker rings from another book, Crocheting in Plain English.)

Overall, this kit was a cheap way to see if I'd enjoy crocheting, especially since I had the additional help of the YouTube videos. I'm sure I'll use the book to refer back to about abbreviations and to double-check how to do the various stitches (now that I've done them some). However, this probably wasn't the best set to get in a longer-term perspective.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Great Turning Point by Dr. Terry Mortenson

book cover

The Great Turning Point:
The Church's Catastrophic Mistake on Geology--Before Darwin
by Dr. Terry Mortenson

ISBN-13: 9780890514085
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: September 28, 2004

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Publisher's Website:
Many people in the Church today have the idea that “young-earth” creationism is a fairly recent invention, popularized by fundamentalist Christians in the mid-20th century. Is this view correct? In fact, scholar Terry Mortenson has done fascinating original research on this subject in England, and documents that several leading, pre-Darwin scholars and scientists, known as “scriptural geologists” did not believe in long ages for the earth. Mortenson sheds light on the following:

  • Before Darwin, what did the Church believe about the age of the earth?

  • Why did it believe this way?

  • What was the controversy that rocked the Church in 19th-century England?

  • Who were the “scriptural geologists”?

  • What influences did the Church contend with even before Darwin’s book?

  • What is the stance of the Church today?

This book is a thoroughly researched work. The history of the Church and evolution is fascinating, and it is interesting to see not only the tremendous influence that evolution has had on the Church, but on society as well.

My Review:
The Great Turning Point is a look at the historical background of an ongoing debate in geology relating to the age of the earth and the origin of the various rock layers. The author explained the intellectual, religious, and cultural context of the debate, including what Bible commentaries were saying about Genesis. He also explained the marks of geological competence in the early 1800s. Personally, I found this section the most interesting.

The second part took a closer look at Granville Penn, George Bugg, Andrew Ure, George Fairholme, John Murray, George Young, and William Rhind. The author gave a short biography for each person and talked about how knowledgeable they were in geology, what they said about geology, their attitude toward the study of geology, their view of the relationship between Scripture and geology, about their writing, and more.

The book contained quotes from the writings of the scriptural geologists and of those against them so you could hear their positions in their own words. The information was well-footnoted so you could see where the quotes and information came from. The language was formal, and a lot of information was covered (information-dense). It took concentration to absorb everything, but it wasn't difficult to follow. If you're interested in this subject, then this book contains some very good information.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from the Introduction
Geologist H.H. Read prefaced his book on the granite controversy a few decades ago with these words, "Geology, as the science of earth history, is prone to controversy. The study of history of any kind depends upon documents and records. For the history of the earth's crust, these documents are the rocks and their reading, and interpretation are often difficult operations."

This book analyzes one such controversy, an extremely important one at that, during the first half of the 19th century in Britain, which has sometimes been called the "Genesis-geology debate." At that time a tenacious and denominationally eclectic band of scientists and clergymen (and some were both) opposed the new geological theories being developed at the time, which said that the earth was millions of years old. These men became known as "scriptural geologists," "Mosaic geologists" or "biblical literalists."

The label "scriptural geologists" is preferred since three of their book titles used these terms and it was the most common label used by their contemporaries and by later historians. However, we need to be aware of the label's liabilities. It has not always been used carefully, resulting in confusion and inaccurate analysis. Calling them scriptural geologists obscures the fact that some of them were competent geologists while others were not (and did not claim to be). Conversely, it sometimes is and was used by opponents to imply, erroneously, that these men all developed their objections to old-earth geological theories solely on the basis of Scripture. Also, at least one of their contemporary critics, an old-earth geologist, also described himself by the same title. Finally, a few of their contemporary critics and several later historians have lumped scriptural geologists together with their opponents under this label. So it is necessary to have a clear view of what they believed.

The scriptural geologists held to the dominant Christian view within church history up to their own time, namely, that Moses wrote Genesis 1-11 (along with the rest of Genesis) under divine inspiration and that these chapters ought to be interpreted literally as a reliable, fully historical account. This conviction led them to believe, like many contemporary and earlier Christians, that the Noachian flood was a unique global catastrophe, which produced much, or most, of the fossil-bearing sedimentary rock formations, and that the earth was roughly 6,000 years old. From this position they opposed with equal vigor both the "uniformitarian" theory of earth history propounded by James Hutton and Charles Lyell, and the "catastrophist" theory of Georges Cuvier, William Buckland, William Conybeare, Adam Sedgwick, etc.

They also rejected, as compromises of Scripture, the gap theory, the day-age theory, the tranquil flood theory, the local flood theory, and the myth theory.Though all but the myth theory were advocated by Christians who believed in the divine inspiration and historicity of Genesis 1-11, the scriptural geologists believed their opponents' theories were unconvincing interpretations of Scripture based on unproven old-earth theories of geology.

Read excerpt from chapter one.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

To Be Perfectly Honest by Phil Callaway

book cover

To Be Perfectly Honest
by Phil Callaway

ISBN-13: 9781590529171
Trade Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Released: May 3, 2011

Book on Publisher's Website

Source: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Veteran author and speaker Phil Callaway is no stranger to daunting challenges. He has been laughed at—repeatedly—by large crowds of people from Halifax to Hong Kong. He fathered three children in three years, spent much of last year on airplanes built by the lowest bidder, and flipped an out-of-control ATV, which doesn’t mean he sold it for a profit. So who better than Phil Callaway to boldly accept a challenge that would make the average person run and hide?

Phil promised to tell the truth for an entire year, and he wasn’t joking. Twelve months later, his journal was crammed with successes, near-successes, and outright failures. During his year-long experiment with veracity, he made a disastrous financial investment, fielded hundreds of intrusive questions from friends and strangers, attended a thirty-year class reunion, and waded into possibly the most revealing—and hilarious—situations he has ever documented.

Find out what happens when a follower of Jesus does his level best to always tell the truth. There is no doubt you’ll be entertained. But don’t be surprised if you are left with a question: how might your life be changed if you sold out to the truth—with no exceptions?

My Review:
To Be Perfectly Honest is a humor book about Christian living. My main problem with the book was that I thought it was about insights (illustrated by true stories) into the unexpected benefits of always telling the truth. That took up only about 10-15 pages in the book. The rest of the book was mainly about getting a laugh out of the reader.

The author stated that he didn't feel that jokes counted as lies. So a book about telling the truth contained deliberate lies for the purpose of getting a laugh. Not so much a problem in theory, but I sometimes had a hard time figuring out when he was telling a true, naturally funny story and when he was lying in order to make the reader laugh. While I love to laugh and find life quite funny, I unfortunately didn't understand or enjoy most of his humor.

Why did I read this book? I don't struggle with telling the truth. Nonetheless, I was interested in the subtitle's claim of "One man's year of almost living truthfully could change your life. No lie." Since the humor was a flop for me, it's too bad that I didn't even get any new "honesty" or "Christian living" insights out of the book. Every time he had an "aha!" moment, I was thinking, "You mean, you didn't know that?" But I guess I gained the insight that not every longtime Christian knows these things.

I should mention that I was bothered that the author felt that telling the truth was an excuse to be cruel or arrogant toward others. (For example, he said mean things about his wife's cooking and justified it as being truthful. He refused to laugh at someone else's jokes if he didn't find them funny, which he used to do just to be polite. He never understood that you can find something both nice and truthful to say in "be polite" situations.)

And while I appreciate the author's willingness to be open about his struggles as a Christian and while he did come to some good conclusions, I didn't like his attitude toward practically everyone in his life (made me glad I didn't know him) and I didn't agree with every Christian insight he came to. (I'm glad he no longer feels the need to pretend about his feelings when praying to God since that's pointless, but I don't agree that God's pleased by him being openly angry at Him. Phil's angry because he thinks he knows better than God about how things ought to be done, but, well, that didn't go over too well with God in the Garden of Eden.)

There were some discussion questions at the back of the book that focused mainly on telling the truth and the insights Phil gained. They, like this book, seem geared mainly toward those who lie frequently.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Book Quote: Lost Boys of South Sudan

From A People Tall and Smooth: Stories of Escape from Sudan to Israel by Judith Galblum Pex (pages 37, 39, 46-47):

From 1983 to 1987 our life was stressful. Food was no problem, but when the government heard that rebels were in a particular place, they would come and even abduct children. So in 1987 when I was about ten years old, I decided to run away and join the other boys who were fleeing our area.

During the war the policy of the Arab-controlled government was to Islamize the boys especially. They aimed to change our ideology. The government soldiers might seize girls and women and abuse them, but boys were crucial to their plan to create a new Muslim society. They would brainwash the boys, give them guns, and send them back to kill their own people. That's how they operated. And that's why our parents sent us boys away.

Not all of us reached Ethiopia. We were protected by two or three rebel neighbors who were guiding us and fighting for us. But still, lions, leopards, and other wild animals killed many. Boys also died of hunger and thirst. Some were shot. Although the tribal militias were fighting with our guards, the bullets reached us too.

Each child received a tiny ration of water, barely enough for one day. In the desert they weighed the precious water for us.

'Be strong,' our leaders told us. 'When you reach the river you can drink as much as you want.'

Thankfully, in south Sudan a lot of gazelles pass through in herds, and our leaders hunted them. We children collected firewood and skinned and butchered the animals. We put the meat right on the fire. We had only a few pots, so if another group was cooking, we had to wait before we could have some soup. Only if we stayed in one place for a few days did we have time to wait. Otherwise roasting was the main way to cook. There were also wild vegetables to forage in the bush. We just ate what we wanted, depending on where we came from and what kind of wild fruits we had learned about in our area.

There were so many of us children traveling that I can't even estimate the number. In 1987 when we reached a place called Panyido over the border in Ethiopia, there were more than twenty thousand boys. For various reasons, no girls were with us. Because most of us were young, even eight years old, we started getting childhood diseases like chicken pox and measles. I witnessed a lot of my cousins dying in the camp but I didn't catch those sicknesses because I'd already had them at home. Many of us died of hunger and diseases. There was no treatment. Our rebel guards were trying to help us, but what could they do?

'You must come and care for these thousands of children,' the Ethiopian government begged the United Nations.

They came; but still our life was very, very, very hard. We suffered a lot. We were left to fend for ourselves. We had to build our own houses an construct roads too. When we went to the bush to fell trees, some of our friends never returned. We left them out there, killed by lions.

The few adults all lived separately from us. The grownups couldn't even help us except to just lend a hand in burying our friends. We buried most of them ourselves but if adults were around they helped us. They could also assist in unloading relief supplies from trucks, work that was too heavy for us boys.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A People Tall and Smooth by Judith Galblum Pex

book cover

A People Tall and Smooth:
Stories of Escape from Sudan to Israel
by Judith Galblum Pex

ISBN-13: 978-0-98-189293-1
Trade Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Cladach Publishing
Released: April 15, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
"At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord Almighty [to Mount Zion] from a people tall and smooth-skinned." -Isaiah 18:7

The popular beach town of Eilat, at the southernmost tip of Israel, is visited daily by international tourists who want to visit the warm waters of the Red Sea. But when hundreds of tall, dark Africans show up to stay, curiosities are piqued. Where did they come from? Why are they in Eilat of all places? When a group of them enter The Shelter hostel run by John & Judy Pex, answers to these questions unfold.

These are the very real stories of how and why five refugees escaped the genocide in South Sudan and Darfur, made their way through Egypt and smuggled into Israel, the only country their Islamic government prohibits them to go. They fled across the border with nothing but the clothes on their backs. No food. No money. No papers. No possessions. Just thankful to be alive.

All of the author's proceeds from the sales of A People Tall and Smooth will go to projects for the Sudanese refugees.

Advance Praise for A People Tall and Smooth:

"Although much has been written about the Lost Boys of Sudan who resettled in large groups in the United States beginning in 2000, very little, if anything, has been written about the countless Sudanese who fled alone to neighboring countries. Judy Pex breaks the silence, unfolding the perilous journeys of Sudanese refugees. For many it was a choice that came at tremendous cost: imprisonment, separation from their children and spouses, hunger, brutal beatings and death. It's a story of resilience, determination and the choice for freedom--at all cost."
--Joan Hecht, award-winning author of The Journey of the Lost Boys

My Review:
A People Tall and Smooth "A People Tall and Smooth" is the combined autobiographies of 4 Christian Sudanese refugees from South Sudan, 1 Muslim Sudanese refugee from Darfur, and the Israeli author (who happens to be a Messianic Jew). The author explained how she ended up in Israel running The Shelter Hostel and how she and her husband first meet the Sudanese refugees.

After helping these refugees for a while, she asked several of the refugees to tell her their story for this book. (They spoke the story into a tape recorder, the author transcribed the material and edited the sometimes disjointed stories so that they were in chronological order, then she confirmed with the person that she'd written up their story correctly.) As the person tells his or her story, the author inserted some comments into the text (using another font so you could tell that the "speaker" had changed). These included her thoughts about how different their lives were from hers or brief stories about the other refugees that the main story reminded her about.

The stories were well-written and easily kept my attention. While the stories were vivid, they weren't graphic. I keep feeling that all Americans (and people from other 1st world countries) need to read stories like these so we can get a realistic perspective on our own lives. While the author did give an overview of the conflicts in Sudan, we mainly get an individual's personal view of the conflict and how it affected them. We also see the problems that refugees face after they survive the conflict and survive fleeing from it.

A black and white map showing the areas under discussion was included as well as some color photographs of the Sudanese refugees. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
People from over one hundred nations intermingle in Israel. Besides Jews from Kazakhstan and Kansas, Burma and Belgrade, Calcutta, Congo and places in between, over a million tourists every year add to the mosaic. Include in the mixture two hundred thousand legal and illegal workers from countries such as China, Thailand, Philippines, Nepal and Ghana, and it’s clear that the average Israeli is used to seeing faces of all colors and shapes.

In 2007, however, a new group appeared on the scene whose appearance and status was unlike any other till this time. We began to notice men, women, children and babies on the streets in our town of Eilat who were exceptionally black and strikingly tall.

“Where do they come from and who are they?” My husband John and I asked ourselves. “What language do they speak?” Having managed The Shelter Hostel in Eilat on the Red Sea since 1984, we are used to interacting with diverse people groups and were eager to meet these new arrivals.

Our questions were answered when a tall, dark man walked through our front gate one morning. “I’m Gabriel, a refugee from Sudan,” he introduced himself in perfect English.

Read more from chapter one.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Than Good Intentions by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel

book cover

More Than Good Intentions
by Dean Karlan
and Jacob Appel

ISBN-13: 9780525951896
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Released: April 14, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher provided as an eBook through NetGalley.

Book Description from Goodreads:
A leading economist and researcher report from the front lines of a revolution in solving the world's most persistent problem.

When it comes to global poverty, people are passionate and polarized. At one extreme: We just need to invest more resources. At the other: We've thrown billions down a sinkhole over the last fifty years and accomplished almost nothing.

Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel present an entirely new approach that blazes an optimistic and realistic trail between these two extremes.

In this pioneering book Karlan and Appel combine behavioral economics with worldwide field research. They take readers with them into villages across Africa, India, South America, and the Philippines, where economic theory collides with real life. They show how small changes in banking, insurance, health care, and other development initiatives that take into account human irrationality can drastically improve the well-being of poor people everywhere.

We in the developed world have found ways to make our own lives profoundly better. We use new tools to spend smarter, save more, eat better, and lead lives more like the ones we imagine. These tools can do the same for the impoverished. Karlan and Appel's research, and those of some close colleagues, show exactly how.

In America alone, individual donors contribute over two hundred billion to charity annually, three times as much as corporations, foundations, and bequests combined. This book provides a new way to understand what really works to reduce poverty; in so doing, it reveals how to better invest those billions and begin transforming the well-being of the world.

My Review:
More Than Good Intentions focused on what programs (or parts of programs) actually achieved their objective of helping the poor. The authors talked about the studies they've done on this and explain their findings about what works, what doesn't, and how various programs might be improved. The authors acknowledge that people don't always act in their long-term best interest, so we need to understand why the poor act in certain ways (including overlooked problems they face), modify programs to take that into account, and test those programs to see if they're working.

The book was easy to read and very engaging. It contained interesting stories of real people that were impacted by these programs. I'd highly recommend this book to those who donate money to organizations that help the poor and to the people who run these programs.

The topics the authors covered were their studies on how to "sell" a program to poor people (as in, get them to use it), various types of microfinance programs (individual, group, along with basic business training, along with specific business advice, etc.), microsavings programs, agricultural programs, educational programs, and health programs (including reproductive health). The last chapter listed the 7 programs that they discussed that they're the most excited about.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One, from pages 3-4, 5
... Sometimes, even when we have all the good intentions in the world, we don't find the most effective or most efficient way to act on them. This is true whether we want to save fish, make microloans, distribute antimalarial bed-nets, or deliver deworming pills. The question is: How can we get beyond our good intentions and to the best solutions?

The only real consensus view on the issue is about the gravity of the problem. Three billion people, about half the world, live on $2.50 per day. (To be clear, that's $2.50 adjusted for the cost of living--so think of it as living on the amount of actual goods that you could buy for $2.50 per day in the United States.) In the public dialogue about aid and development--that vast complex of people, organizations, and programs that seek to alleviate poverty around the world--there are two main competing explainations for why poverty persists on such a massive scale. One camp maintains that we simply haven't spent enough on aid programs and need to massively ramp up our level of engagement. They point out that the world's wealthist nations dedicate on average less than one percent of their money to poverty reduction. In their view, it just doesn't add up. We could get serious about ending poverty, they say, but we haven't even given our existing programs a fair chance. The first thing we have to do is give more. A lot more.

The other camp tells a starkly different story: Aid as it exists today doesn't work, and simply throwing money at the problem is futile. They point out that $2.3 trillion has been spent by the world's wealthiest nations on poverty reduction over the past fifty years and ask: What have we accomplished with all that money? With poverty and privations still afflicting half the globe, can we really claim to be on the right track? No, they say, we need a fresh start. The aid and development community as it exists today is flabby, uncoordinated, and accountable to nobody in particular. It's bound to fail. They argue that we need to pull away resources from overgrown, cumbersome international organizations like the United Nations, wipe the slate clean, and focus instead on small, agile, homegrown programs.

....Jake and I propose that there actually is a way forward....Sometimes aid works, and sometimes it does not....The critical question, then, is which aid works. The debate has been in the sky, but the answers are on the ground. Instead of getting hung up in the extremes, let's zero in on the details. Let's look at a specific challenge or problem that poor people face, try to understand what they're up against, propose a potential solution, and then test to find out whether it works. If that solution works--and if we can demonstrate that it works consistantly--then let's scale it up so it can work for more people. If it doesn't work, let's make changes or try something new.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Outrageous Grace by Grace Fabian

book cover

Outrageous Grace
by Grace Fabian

ISBN-13: 978-1-935507-08-6
Trade Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Ambassador International
Released: 2009, 2010, 2011

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
My husband, a missionary translator in Papua New Guinea, was murdered while sitting at his desk translating the love chapter into the Nabak language. As the first witness on the scene, I soon learned that the murderer was a Nabak man. We had grown to love the Nabak-speaking people and were endeavoring to translate the scriptures into their language.

This memoir tells the story of my four children and me wrestling with grief and disorientation. It speaks of our quest for spiritual answers and of the difficulty of meshing two different worlds the culture of the Nabak people on the island nation of Papua New Guinea and of my Christian heritage from the United States. We faced the challenges of forgiving the murderer, rocks thrown onto our roof and through the windows, eviction notices, and twenty months later a court case.

Then we discovered that God is orchestrating an amazing story of redemption. I, even in my most creative and spiritual moments, never could have conjured up the story that came from this tragedy and our family's forgiveness.

My Review:
Outrageous Grace is a memoir by a Wycliffe Bible translator about her and her husband's work translating the Bible for the Nabak people in Papua New Guinea. Grace talked briefly about their childhoods and why they choose to be translators, the challenges of translating the Bible and how they did it, and about her husband's death and the troubles and forgiveness that happened afterward. There were some black and white photos of the people mentioned in the story.

Overall, the story was very interesting and well-written. I'd recommend this book.

I mainly read it because I was interested in learning more about the Bible translation process, and this book did answer many of my questions. However, Grace also talked about her husband's murder and where the path of forgiveness led her, her family, and the Nabak people. If you've ever questioned why God would allow His workers to die doing His work, the events that happened after her husband's death help to show that God wasn't caught off guard. God knew the impact her husband's death and her forgiveness would have on the Nabak people and used it to bring people to Him.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
A white-collared kingfisher swooped down, landing on a branch of the pine tree just outside my office window. Its azure blue feathers contrasted with the brilliant purplish-red color of the bougainvillea. That thorny vine draped itself around the pine branches like strings of Christmas tree lights. "Is there really a pine tree under there?" a friend had once asked.

Many unusual creatures like kangaroos, leatherback turtles and flashlight fish live on this island of Papua New Guinea connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

I favored the exotic birds. I called them "feathered friends," mainly because they kept the insect population down, though they did more than minimize my chances of contracting malaria. There was something reassuring about their throaty notes and the way they glided through the air. They inserted an element of pleasure and peace into my high-energy schedule by their glorious songs and brilliant plumage.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Gourmet Butcher: Beef, Lamb, & Pork DVD set

book cover

The Gourmet Butcher DVD:
Beef, Lamb, & Pork
with Cole Ward

2 DVD set
Length: 4 hours
DVD Website

Source: Won on the Lunch sustainablog community.

DVD Description from Website:
For more than 30 years, master butcher Cole Ward has been teaching chefs, butchers, farmers, caterers and meat-lovers how to cut and prepare their own meat.

Now you can, too: In four episodes, master butcher Cole Ward and chef Courtney Contos will show you how to turn a side of Beef, Pork and Lamb into heaven on a plate.

The Gourmet Butcher™ delivers Cole Ward's entire course – plus many extras – in a four-hour DVD series that will take you through every step of the butchering process: breaking down a carcass into primal cuts, turning those primal cuts into gourmet or retail cuts, then transforming them into table-ready gourmet dishes.

What you'll get:
Four hours of one-on-one teaching from Cole on Lamb, Pork, Beef fore-quarter, and Beef hind-quarter, instruction on tools and safety, prep tips and presentation options, and meal ideas with recipes from chef Courtney.

My Review:
The Gourmet Butcher DVD set teaches you how to cut beef, lamb, and pork carcasses into primal and retail cuts and how to cook these cuts. They included general cooking advice and several recipes. The DVDs also included a short section introducing the presenters and a brief section on what tools you'll need to do the butchering yourself.

The DVDs started with the animal already dead, gutted, skinned, and otherwise ready to be cut into smaller sizes of meat. The DVD on Beef Hindquarter and Beef Forequarter was very well done. The camera work was excellent and allowed a good view of what Cole was doing. Cole worked fairly slowly and gave enough instruction that I felt I understood why he was cutting where he was and what to look for.

On the DVD on Pork and Lamb, Cole worked very quickly. I felt like I could probably reproduce his cuts if I had the DVD going (and used the pause function) as I worked on the meat, but I didn't feel like I really understood the process. The camera work was also not as high quality. Several times the camera would focus on the Cole's face while he was demonstrating something with his hands, so we never got to see it demonstrated. Also, a couple of times Cole showed his co-host how to do something instead of the camera (though often he caught himself and showed us, too). This Pork/Lamb DVD would be useful for someone needing a refresher on what to do, but less so for a beginner learning solely from the DVD.

At the end of the Pork and Lamb primal cuts sections, Cole reassembled the animal and pointed out what cuts of meat had been taken from where and in what order. It looked much like those "cuts of meat" charts. Cole didn't really reassemble the beef primal cuts at the end, but he did point out those cuts in order again.

In the primal cuts section, Cole demonstrated how to make the main cuts in taking the meat apart. In the gourmet cuts section, Cole demonstrated how to cut those primal cuts into retail or "table-ready" cuts. Cole and Courtney also discussed how to best cook these cuts (by roasting, grilling, skillet, etc.). In the Beef Hindquarter Gourmet Cuts section, the presenters talked some about aging the meat. In the Recipe section, they demonstrated--like in a cooking show--how to do a recipe.

One thing lacking was that they didn't discuss sanitary measures. For example, it was disconcerting to see a primal cut fall on the floor and Cole never mentioned (or showed) what to do if that happens.

Overall, though, if you want to learn to butcher beef, need a refresher on butchering beef, lamb, or pork, or are interested in where the various cuts come from and want tips on how to best cook them, then this DVD would be useful.

Disk 1
Started with a quarter of carcass minus hooves, tail, and hide.

Beef Primal Cuts: 24 min 53 sec.

Beef Gourmet Cuts: 45 min 28 sec
1. Top Butt - triangle-tip roast, ball-tipped roast, (boneless) sirloin steaks
2. Bone-In Strip - boneless New York strip steak
3. Tender Loin - fillets or whole
4. Flank - Butterflied flank steak
5. "Flap" Meat - "sirloin tip" cut
6. Knuckle or Sirloin Tip - sirloin tip steak, sirloin tip roasts
7. Top Round - round steak, rouladen, top round roasts
8. Eye of the Round - minute/sandwich steaks, eye of the round roast
9. Bottom Round - cut into rump, center cut, and bottom round for pot roast
10. Shank - beef shanks

Beef Recipes:
1. Pig in a Flanket: 6 min 47 sec
2. Peposo Notturno: 3 min 20 sec
3. Cheddar Bacon Burgers: 3 min 46 sec (also showed how to make ground beef and form into burger patties)
4. Pickle & Cheese Stuffed Burgers: 4 min 2 sec

Started with a quarter of carcass minus hooves, head, and hide.

Beef Primal Cuts: 17 min 39 sec
(Included making retail cuts of skirt steaks; plate short ribs and further processing of the plate; rack of beef spare ribs, boneless rib eye steaks, and rib eye roast.)

Beef Gourmet Cuts: 28 min 10 sec
1. Brisket - brisket
2. Shoulder - short ribs, arm pot roast, shoulder "London Royal" steak, stew squares
3. Short Ribs & Beef Shank - shoulder short ribs, beef shanks
4. Bone-In Chuck - chuck steaks, chuck roasts

Beef Recipes:
1. Grilled Steak au Poivre: 7 min 7 sec

Disk 2

Started with a half of carcass minus hooves, tail, and hide.

Pork Primal Cuts: 14 min 47 sec

Pork Gourmet Cuts: 32 minutes 48 seconds
1. Ham Hocks & Head - "head cheese" cut
2. Picnic Shoulder & Boston Butt - roasts, chops
3. The Ham - butt half, center cut slice, Top Round into cutlets plus squares for kabab, Eye of the Round into thin "medallions", and Bottom Round into steaks
4. The Ribs & Pork Belly - ribs, bacon
5. The Ribs End, Center Cut, & Sirloin End - Rib End into baby back ribs & boneless country style ribs, Center Cut into pork chops & French roast, and Sirloin End into tenderloin & sirloin cutlets or sirloin steaks

Pork recipes:
1. Braised Pork Belly: 4 min 24 sec
2. Orange Marinade: 1 min 32 sec
3. Maple Breakfast Sausage: 6 min 40 sec (showed how to grind meat and form into sausage patties)

Started with whole carcass minus head, hooves, and hide.

Lamb Primal Cuts: 6 min 37 sec

Lamb Gourmet Cuts: 38 min 2 sec
1. Leg & Rear Shanks - Rear Shank into lamb shank and Leg into boneless leg roast (showed two methods to remove bone)
2. Breast & Front Shanks - Breast into riblets or make a pocket in for stuffing, Front Shanks into lamb shank, Brisket trimmed for use as ground lamb or in stew, and Neck trimed for stew
3. Rack of Lamb & Lamb Loin - Rack of Lamb was Frenched/Crowned or cut into rib lamb chops and Lamb Loin cut into loin lamb chops or butterflied lamb loin

Lamb Recipes:
1. Stuffed Lamb Loin: 3 min 50 sec
2. Lemon Herb Butterflied Leg of Lamb: 2 min 14 sec
3. Cranberry Apricot Ginger Lamb Sausage: 9 min 24 sec, (showed how to grind meat and fill sausage casing)

If you've watched this DVD, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from DVD

Or view video on YouTube.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Great Depression by David A. Shannon

book cover

The Great Depression
by David A. Shannon

Trade Paperback: 171 pages
Publisher: Prentice Hall Trade
Released: June 1960

Source: Borrowed from my father's personal library.

Book Description from Back Cover:
The Story of the Great Depression Told in Human Terms

What was it like, in 1930, to stand in a cold rain for hours to receive a handout of a loaf of bread? What did a destitute family actually do when city relief funds gave out? How did they survive? Cold rows of statistics do not answer questions like these. This book does.

How can we recapture in some measure the sick feeling of fear and hysteria that swept across the world's richest, most powerful country in the wake of the stock market collapse of 1929? Only by telling the stories of real people who, smug and complacent in the highly touted New Era of Prosperity, found themselves, almost overnight, impoverished and panic-stricken with no recovery in sight.

David A. Shannon's The Great Depression is a journal of human experience during those times: a carefully assembled collection of contemporary articles and news accounts by outstanding writers. Here are vivid documents--case histories--of bands of hungry children roaming the country like scavengers; of men and women seeking jobs in Russia; of shantytowns in New York's Central Park; of hunger riots; of the "lucky" who kept their jobs.

My Review:
The Great Depression is made up of newspaper articles and transcripts of reports made at government committee hearings made during 1929-1934. There were also six case histories about the lives of "ordinary people" during the worst of the Great Depression and how they survived. Some articles were more formal than others, but this book gave a good idea of how the Great Depression affected people from every class and circumstance. This book didn't get into what caused the Great Depression or what was done on the national scale to get out of it except in how those things affected people on a personal scale. I found this book very interesting, and I'd highly recommend it.

Topics covered were unemployment numbers, wage decreases, ways attempted to earn money after a job was lost, relief measures by the government, malnourishment in children, vagrants and migratory workers, bank failures, stock drops, the fear of a violent revolt against the government, and how the depression affected the farmers, middle class, industrial workers, teachers, public schools, and college students.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from pages 26-27
Oscar Ameringer of Oklahoma City described some of this tragedy before a Congressional commitee in February, 1932....

During the last three months I have visited, as I have said, some 20 States of this wonderfully rich and beautiful country. Here are some of the things I heard and saw: In the State of Washington I was told that the forest fires raging in that region all summer and fall were caused by unemployed timber workers and bankrupt farmers in an endeavor to earn a few honest dollars as firefighters. The last thing I saw on the night I left Seattle was numbers of women searching for scrapes of food in the refuse piles of the principal market of that city. A number of Montana citizens told me of thousands of bushels of wheat left in the fields uncut on account of its low price that hardly paid for the harvesting [costs]. In Oregon I saw thousands of apples rotting in the orchards. Only absolutely flawless apples were still salable, at from 40 to 50 cents a box containing 200 apples. At the same time, there are millions of children who, on account of the poverty of their parents, will not eat one apple this winter.

While I was in Oregon the Portland Oregonian bemoaned the fact that thousands of ewes were killed by the sheep raisers because they did not bring enough in the market to pay the freight on them. And while Oregon sheep raisers fed mutton to the buzzards, I saw men picking for meat scraps in the garbage cans in the cities of New York and Chicago.

[Note: If you read the whole book, it wasn't that the farmers were being unfeeling about the hungry people's plight. Due to the low prices for farm goods at the time, many farmers weren't even able to pay the property taxes on their land and were losing their land. They couldn't afford to harvest their fields or animals and go further into debt even faster.]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

All About Growing Fruits & Berries by Ortho Books

book cover

All About Growing Fruits & Berries
by Ortho Books

ISBN-13: 978-0897210096
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Ortho Books
Released: 1982

Source: Bought at a used book sale.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Plant your small home garden for a bountiful harvest of fresh fruits and berries. Complete, concise information on pests and diseases, pollination, pruning, espaliers, and wall plantings.

My Review:
All About Growing Fruits & Berries is a gardening book about growing fruit trees and berries in the USA. Though much of the information can be used by anyone interested in growing fruit trees and berries, people with only a small space for their fruit garden were the target audience. The book spent more time on dwarf trees, training trees to follow walls or fences, and container gardening than most "fruit and berry" gardening books.

Chapter one covered dwarf trees (including how they're created) and small area gardening. Chapter two covered the various growing zones in the USA, what fruit trees and berries are usually grown in those zones, and what problems are common to those zones. Chapter three covered choosing, planting, and plant care (self- vs. cross-pollination, soil types, planting, fertilizing, watering, mulching, and a pest & disease guide). Chapter four covered pruning basics and training information (including for espaliers). Chapter five covered container planting. The rest of the book was an encyclopedia with some general information on the different types of fruits and with listings of the different varieties of fruit trees, grapes, and berries.

Much of the information about planting and care and in the encyclopedia can be found on nursery websites or is included for free with orders from online nurseries. However, if you buy locally or want information on small area fruit gardening, this book may be useful.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bankruptcy of Our Nation by Jerry Robinson

book cover

Bankruptcy of Our Nation:
12 Key Strategies for Protecting Your Finances in These Uncertain Times
by Jerry Robinson

ISBN-13: 9780892216932
Trade Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: New Leaf Press
Released: March 18, 2009

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Surrounded by a host of political and social problems, America stands at the crossroads of a devastating economic crisis - the size and scope of which demands immediate action, while instability and debt loom over the future.

  • America is the greatest debtor nation in history.
  • The value of the dollar is at tremendous risk.
  • Inflation is about to become a huge reality.

Crippled by personal debt, local and state governments facing revenue losses, and the federal government struggling to bail out segments of the economy, many Americans are suddenly afraid and uncertain of what the future may bring. Many worry if the United States can even recover from this crisis. Will you and your family financially survive and even thrive during this turbulent time?

Bankruptcy of Our Nation gives you vital insight, historical and future perspective, revealing how America got into this mess, and how you can make informed decisions to weather this economic crisis. Don't rely on the government to secure your future - empower yourself with sound economic strategies, solutions, and godly principles today!

My Review:
Bankruptcy of Our Nation is about how greed and poor government policy has created an inevitable, coming financial crisis for the American government that will affect everyone in America. There's a lot of good, important information in this book, especially in the first half. There's no getting around that the "coming crisis" is real. The question is only how severe it will be and when it will occur. Therefore, I was disappointed that the "12 key strategies for protecting your finances" made up only one slim chapter.

The book was a quick, easy read. Some of the information was repeated, but those unfamiliar with these concepts might appreciate the repetition. Some of his speculation about the future is already out of date, but that doesn't significantly affect the overall value of the book.

However, I questioned the wisdom of a few of his "surviving" strategies, like putting money into (among other suggestions) fine art. If people can't afford food, why would they place any monetary exchange value on art? And if all the world's currency systems are potentially as unstable as ours, is it really wise to invest a full third of your money in foreign currency?

I also felt like he got a little sidetracked in the chapters about the Federal Reserve. I felt like he was leaving some information out, that some of his statements there were misleading, and I didn't accept some of his conclusions. For example, on page 173, he said, "Money is debt. And debt is money. The concept that all money in our modern society is actually debt may be foreign to you." Okay, so in certain circumstances, money is printed in order to meet the debt need. However, money has buying power and the ability to pay off ("cancel") debt, so it can't be debt.

I was also amazed that he managed to potentially offend just about every type of reader. He blamed both political parties for the problem (most of which he backed up with facts). The last 47 pages suddenly contained a lot of references to Christianity (which will turn off non-Christians), but then he makes statements that most Christians won't agree with. Personally, I didn't like how he basically said that rich Americans and banks were deliberately trying to financially ruin the helpless "working poor and middle class." I know rich people who have honestly earned their wealth through hard work and wise use of their money and poor people who have lost theirs through foolish use of their money. I don't think he's making a fair generalization, and I think that everyone ought to look to how they've contributed to the problem instead of looking for someone to blame.

Overall, this book has some very important information, but I question some of its accuracy so you might want to research it more on your own. Or you can watch this free, approximately 80 minute long PowerPoint presentation video that covered many of the same points about why they believe an economic crisis is going to occur soon. One big difference, though, is that some of solutions at the end of the video appeal to people's greed whereas the author of the book blames greed for getting everyone into this mess.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from pages 73-75, 92
As of this writing, the U.S. national debt stands at just under $9.4 trillion and is rising by the billions daily. And these record debt levels are going up every second...because the miracle of compounding interest is working against us. ...America is the largest debtor nation the world has ever seen. America is clearly spending more than it can ever pay for.

...let me simplify the gravity of this situation by examining the U.S. government's annual budget. In fiscal year 2006, the U.S. government spent $406 billion of their tax receipts (translation: your tax dollars) on interest payments to the holders of the national debt. That $406 billion is just the interest on our skyrocketing debt!

To help you understand just how much money $406 billion is, let's compare this amount to other important expenditures by the federal government. Consider the items from the Federal Budget from Fiscal Year 2006....

  • The entire annual budget for the Department of Labor in 2006: $11.5 billion
  • The entire annual budget for the NASA Space Program in 2006: $16.5 billion
  • The entire annual budget for the Department of Energy in 2006: $23.4 billion
  • The entire annual budget for the Department of Homeland Security in 2006: $34.2 billion
  • The entire annual budget for the Department of Transportation in 2006: $57.5 billion
  • The entire annual budget for the Department of Education in 2006: $56 billion
  • The entire annual budget for the Department of Health and Human Services in 2006: $67.2 billion

....Every 13 hours your government spends over $600 million on INTEREST on the national debt.

Now suppose that the federal government collectively decided one day to beginning paying off the $59 trillion it owes [which includes it's future social security, medicare, and medicaid commitments] at [the] rate of $1.00 per second. Assuming that this $59 trillion was not compounding with interest daily (which it is, by the billions), how long would it take our government to pay off $59 trillion dollars...? 1,888,000 years. [One million, eight hundred eighty-eight thousand years.]

Read the first 35 pages.