Books read in January

Bruchko– well known missionary story of Bruce Olson who has worked with the Bari tribe of Columbia for forty years or more and seen remarkable results. I read this in a single sitting because I didn’t want to quit. It was slow going or the first couple of chapters. I didn’t really care about his criticism of the Lutheran church of his youth, and I found his account of his family unsatisfactory. But once we got out America and into South America it was riveting. You can read more about his work and the Motilone/Bari people here and here for starters.

Re-Creations,by Grace Livingston Hill- what can I say. It was free and it’s GLH. I love her. This story is about Cornelia, who abruptly has to end her college career just a term before graduation because her father’s business has gone bust, Mother has nearly died and is in a sanitarium, the children are either running wild or over-burdened trying to keep things together while still in school, and they just moved to a new house and aren’t even unpacked yet. Cornelia is first resentful, but she has not been told how bad things are and how many sacrifices have been made to keep her in college this long. Her plan was to be an interior decorator for the rich, and instead she is redecorating their shabby home on the wrong side of the tracks, helping her poor benighted neighbors experience beauty in their lives, and helping to redesign her errant young brother’s life by showing him just how tacky and vulgar his chosen crowd of people mostly are. She also, of course, cooks delicious meals making much out of little (my favourite details in all these books), sews her dresses into new frocks for her little sister, meets the local pastor and his family and rediscovers the faith of her youth and learns, with little sister, to rebuild a strong and faithful prayer life and makes their disorderly, motherless mess of a house into a tastefully decorated, comfortable and welcoming home. Romance in the usual tasteful GLH fashion. What can I say? I love this stuff.

In Our Image, America’s Empire in the Philippines A history of the Philippines which was useful for me to read, but often tedious, and regrettably it ends just before Mount Pinatubo’s eruption ended the American military presence here. I say regrettably, because that connection was a constant feature of the narrative, and I would have liked to have read something which addressed the Philippines *after* Clark was returned.

(links are affiliate links)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In which I discover I am abook thief. But only temporarily

I really have to share here my immense satisfaction with Amazon kindles, and also with the program known as Overdrive, and, in a strange way, with our lack of Wi-Fi, and even now the incompatibility of our wifi with my Kindle.
HEre’s what I mean-

The Kindle, of course, permitted me to carry some 2,000 books with me overseas in the longest journey of my life, all in this little electronic device that doesn’t weigh half a pound. Well, I did carry more like 4,000 books in two devices, but one of them was lost in the journey and never did turn up.

Overdrive allows you to check out ebooks if you have a good library card with a participating library. I have cards to two different libraries with very different types of collections, so that’s very handy. The other nice thing about Overdrive is that you can either read (or listen, you can do audiobooks, too) from your phone or other device, OR you can actually download them in various was, including going to Amazon and downloading the loaned books to your Kindle. Now here is where I discovered something delightful and also my husband insists, not kosher, but I didn’t do it on purpose. Because I have not had good Wi-Fi connections, what I ended up doing is maxing out my loans during those hours I could get to the school to use their Wi-Fi, and then downloading the books to my laptop. When I get home, I transfer to my Kindle via my USB cord. I also did this with the free books I download from kindle every month (okay, every week). I do this because I cannot get my kindle to connect to the school’s wifi or my wifi at home and allow me to download the usual way.

I categorize and file away books downloaded to my Kindle to keep things tidy and easy to find. The loaned books are in my category marked “Currently REading” which is a lie and a self-deception because I couldn’t possibly be currently reading that many books. But I put them there along with titles I do own and do mean to be currently reading to encourage myself to remember to read them. When I finish a book, I remove it, and when I don’t finish it but my Overdrive check out time has expired, it is no longer accessible to me. Or rather, this was true before we moved to the PHilipppines.

I have shared before I have absolutely no sense of the passing of time. So I did not notice that my Overdrive bookloans were overdue but not disappearing. If I had downloaded them to Kindle in the usual way, they would just automatically be closed to me and marked with notice that my loan was ended. But since I can’t get the kindle connected to the wifi, Amazon cannot get into my Kindle and remove things. The books automatically do disappear from my overdrive profile of books checked out. This means I don’t even know which Kindle books I bought and which I checked out- I can sign in to Amazon and view my order history and figure it out, but I only realized I even needed to do that this week.

I discovered this was happening when one book in particular had taken me a ridiculously long time to read and it was not disappearing from my Kindle. I went to check Overdrive to see how much longer I had, and it was no longer checked out to me. But it was still on my Kindle. For another couple of weeks, I continued stubbornly reading under an oppressive cloud of irritation and dismay because I thought the reason it was no longer checked out to me but was still on my Kindle was because I must have accidentally purchased it, and I really had not intended to do that. It’s a history of the Philippines written from an American perspective (sympathetic to the Philippines, but still, distinctly American in outlook), bt it was written by a journalist and journalists in general should not write history books. They are repetitive and boring.

I finally finished it, and went to check on Amazon to see just how much I paid for the wretched thing. I could not find that I had ever purchased it. I went to look in my currently reading folder on my Kindle to see if I could find any clues, not really expecting to, and discovered that I had some 20 library books still accessible to me on my Kindle, but no longer checked out to me on Overdrive.

I am reading them at my leisure, and when I am done I will remove them. But my husband says I am a book thief. I say no, I am merely a delinquent borrower, and since I will return them, I won’t be a thief. He says I will, because returning them later only makes me a reformed former book thief.

Since I just checked out and downloaded a dozen more books to read, it is perhaps optimistic to use the words reformed and former.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Responses

History of Science, cont. Ben Franklin, part II

In 1747 Franklin made what is generally considered his chief contribution to science. One of his correspondents, Collinson (a Fellow of the Royal Society and a botanist interested in useful plants, through whom the vine was introduced into Virginia), had sent to the Library Company at Philadelphia one of the recently invented Leyden jars with instructions for its use. Franklin, who had already seen similar apparatus at Boston, and his friends, set to work experimenting. For months he had leisure for nothing else. In this sort of activity he had a spontaneous and irrepressible delight. By March, 1747, they felt that they had made discoveries, and in July, and subsequently, Franklin reported results to Collinson. He had observed that a pointed rod brought near the jar was much more efficacious than a blunt rod in drawing off the charge; also that if a pointed rod were attached to the jar, the charge would be thrown off, and accumulation of charge prevented. Franklin, moreover, found that the nature of the charges on the inside and on the outside of the glass was different. He spoke of one as plus and the other as minus. Again, “We say B (and bodies like-circumstanced) is electricized positively; A negatively.” Dufay had[Pg 124] recognized two sorts of electricity, obtained by rubbing a glass rod and a stick of resin, and had spoken of them as vitreous and resinous. For Franklin electricity was a single subtle fluid, and electrical manifestations were owing to the degree of its presence, to interruption or restoration of equilibrium.

His mind, however, was bent on the use, the applications, the inventions, to follow. He contrived an “electric jack driven by two Leyden jars and capable of carrying a large fowl with a motion fit for roasting before a fire.” He also succeeded in driving an “automatic” wheel by electricity, but he regretted not being able to turn his discoveries to greater account.

He thought later—in 1748—that there were many points of similarity between lightning and the spark from a Leyden jar, and suggested an experiment to test the identity of their natures. The suggestion was acted upon at Marly in France. An iron rod about forty feet long and sharp at the end was placed upright in the hope of drawing electricity from the storm-clouds. A man was instructed to watch for storm-clouds, and to touch a brass wire, attached to a glass bottle, to the rod. The conditions seemed favorable May 10, 1752; sparks between the wire and rod and a “sulphurous” odor were perceived (the manifestations of wrath!). Franklin’s well-known kite experiment followed. In 1753 he received from the Royal Society a medal for the identification and control of the forces of lightning; subsequently he was elected Fellow, became a member of the Académie des Sciences, and of other learned bodies. By 1782 there were as many as four[Pg 125] hundred lightning rods in use in Philadelphia alone, though some conservative people regarded their employment as impious. Franklin’s good-will, clearness of conception, and common sense triumphed everywhere.

One has only to recall that in 1753 he (along with Hunter) was in charge of the postal service of the colonies, that in 1754 as delegate to the Albany Convention he drew up the first plan for colonial union, and that in the following year he furnished Braddock with transportation for the expedition against Fort Duquesne, to realize the distractions amid which he pursued science. In 1748 he had sold his printing establishment with the purpose of devoting himself to physical experiment, but the conditions of the time saved him from specialization.

In 1749 he drew up proposals relating to the education of youth in Pennsylvania, which led, two years later, to the establishment of the first American Academy. His plan was so advanced, so democratic, springing as it did from his own experience, that no secondary school has yet taken full advantage of its wisdom. The school, chartered in 1753, grew ultimately into the University of Pennsylvania. Moreover, it became the prototype of thousands of schools, which departed from the Latin Grammar Schools and the Colleges by the introduction of the sciences and practical studies into the curriculum.

Franklin deserves mention not only in connection with economics, meteorology, practical ethics, electricity, and pedagogy; his biographer enumerates nineteen sciences to which he made original contributions or which he advanced by intelligent criti[Pg 126]cism. In medicine he invented bifocal lenses and founded the first American public hospital; in navigation he studied the Gulf Stream and waterspouts, and suggested the use of oil in storms and the construction of ships with water-tight compartments; in agriculture he experimented with plaster of Paris as a fertilizer and introduced in America the use of rhubarb; in chemistry he aided Priestley’s experiments by information in reference to marsh gas. He foresaw the employment of air craft in war. Thinking the English slow to take up the interest in balloons, he wrote that we should not suffer pride to prevent our progress in science. Pride that dines on vanity sups on contempt, as Poor Richard says. When it was mentioned in his presence that birds fly in inclined planes, he launched a half sheet of paper to indicate that his previous observations had prepared his mind to respond readily to the discovery. His quickness and versatility made him sought after by the best intellects of Europe.

I pass over his analysis of mesmerism, his conception of light as dependent (like lightning) on a subtle fluid, his experiments with colored cloths, his view of the nature of epidemic colds, interest in inoculation for smallpox, in ventilation, vegetarianism, a stove to consume its own smoke, the steamboat, and his own inventions (clock, harmonica, etc.), for which he refused to take out patents.

However, from the many examples of his scientific acumen I select one more. As early as 1747 he had been interested in geology and had seen specimens of the fossil remains of marine shells from the strata of the highest parts of the Alleghany Moun[Pg 127]tains. Later he stated that either the sea had once stood at a higher level, or that these strata had been raised by the force of earthquakes. Such convulsions of nature are not wholly injurious, since, by bringing a great number of strata of different kinds today, they have rendered the earth more fit for use, more capable of being to mankind a convenient and comfortable habitation. He thought it unlikely that a great bouleversement should happen if the earth were solid to the center. Rather the surface of the globe was a shell resting on a fluid of very great specific gravity, and was thus capable of being broken and disordered by violent movement. As late as 1788 Franklin wrote his queries and conjectures relating to magnetism and the theory of the earth. Did the earth become magnetic by the development of iron ore? Is not magnetism rather interplanetary and interstellar? May not the near passing of a comet of greater magnetic force than the earth have been a means of changing its poles and thereby wrecking and deranging its surface, and raising and depressing the sea level?

We are not here directly concerned with his political career, in his checking of governors and proprietaries, in his activities as the greatest of American diplomats, as the signer of the Declaration of Independence, of the Treaty of Versailles, and of the American Constitution, nor as the president of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania in his eightieth, eighty-first, and eighty-second years. When he was eighty-four, as president of the Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, he signed a petition to Congress against that atrocious debase[Pg 128]ment of human nature, and six weeks later, within a few weeks of his death, defended the petition with his accustomed vigor, humor, wisdom, and ardent love of liberty. Turgot wittily summed up Franklin’s career by saying that he had snatched the lightning from the heavens and the scepter from the hands of tyrants (eripuit cɶlo fulmen sceptrumque tyrannis); for both his political and scientific activities sprang from the same impelling emotion—hatred of the exercise of arbitrary power and desire for human welfare. It is no wonder that the French National Assembly, promulgators of the Rights of Man, paused in their labors to pay homage to the simple citizen, who, representing America in Paris from his seventy-first till his eightieth year, had by his wisdom and urbanity illustrated the best fruits of an instructed democracy.


American Philosophical Society, Record of the Celebration of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Benjamin Franklin.

S. G. Fisher, The True Benjamin Franklin.

Paul L. Ford, Many-sided Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin, Complete Works, edited by A. H. Smyth, ten volumes, vol. X containing biography.

Above from:

Gutenberg, An Introduction to the History of Science, by Walter Libby

Posted in education, history, science | Tagged | Leave a comment

Davao Diary Video and Basketball

There’s a group of Indian medical students on our street, because there’s a med school not too far from here, and there are a lot of Indian students there. Right now they are playing croquet out in their yard.

This is the father of one of my son’s classmates:

This place- it’s all that I expected, and then some more. It’s not that there are not frustrations and disappointments, too. Of course there are because we all live in a real world which is also a broken world.

I told you about the dog. Occasionally the food is clear evidence of a fallen world. My husband ordered tacos at a Filipino place here. Now, I spent ten years in Arizona, just a few miles from the Mexican border. He grew up in southern California. So we have certain expectations about Mexican food. These expectations were not met. He was sad. I asked if it would help if he just thought of the result as more of a sort of Pacific Island hipster veggie wrap in a sweet pancake crepish kind of wrap thing and just divorced all memories of an actual taco from the experience.


(There *is* a good taco place nearby, partially owned by a Texan. This place was just not even close). But I digress.

My son and the son of the above film-maker are both on the basketball team, which my boy couldn’t do back in the states because he’s not that good. But they love basketball here so he has ended up playing with the guys from church and people from school and just random strangers around town. Most neighborhoods have a basketball court and hoop. He walks around with friends sometimes just looking, and they can usually find a pick up game. The constant playing has improved his own skill, of course. So now he’s starting. He says of the five guys on the starting team, he’s the only American, and no two are from the same place. Furthermore, most of the others are from a place where English is not their first language. So he says what happens is when they get excited, they blurt something out- a call, a direction, whatever- but it’s not in English, it’s in their first language, which no two guys on the starting team share, so none of the know what the others are saying.

The Boy, used to much harsher and longer football practices, finds basketball practice a breeze, so he also entertains the team with his antics. Apparently he entertains a number of people with his antics- in one of his classes recently one of the girls asked suddenly, “Are you the one who is always singing during basketball practice?”

“Yes,” called one of the other students from across the classroom, also on the team, “and we’re the ones shouting ‘Oh, would you shut. up!’ All in good fun, of course.

He mostly sings Cotton Eyed Joe. “I told you we didn’t want an American football player on our team,” drawled one coach to the other recently when he was being particularly hilarious in his own eyes.

To be fair, he says they have told him that so long as he pays attention on the court they like his antics because the rest of the team is more energized when he’s there doing his schtick.

Not that he doesn’t get in trouble sometimes outside of basketball…

But I’m glad we’re here, and I’m glad he came, even though he does still plan on going home in June.

Posted in Davao Diary | Leave a comment

Crocheters looking for a service project

Preemies benefit from crocheted octopuses. It’s the tentacles. Fascinating stuff.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

  • The Common Room on Facebook

  • Amazon: Buy our Kindle Books

  • Search Amazon

    Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

  • Brainy Fridays Recommends: