Archive for October, 2016

This has been a humdinger of an election cycle. Everybody wants it to be over with, period. I think a lot of people don’t even care who wins, since it appears to be a lose-lose proposition – they just want it all to go away. Personally, I can understand that, though I cannot bring myself to say that I do not care who wins. I do. And if I were in charge, the winner would be Gary Johnson.

Who is Gary Johnson? If you’re asking, you are one of the many, many people who are not aware that there are alternatives to Trump and Hillary on the presidential ballot. Johnson is the Libertarian Party candidate and the candidate that most closely matches my politics. While he is no pure theory libertarian, he’s close enough, and miles and miles better than either of the Democrat or Republican candidates.

If you’ve heard of him at all, it’s because he appeared to be caught flat-footed by a couple of questions put to him. The media has made a big deal over it, and Democrats and Republicans have derided him for it. For me, it’s all silly. Those couple of questions, which also would have tripped me up the way they were asked (though admittedly I’m not a candidate for president), are nothing, and I mean NOTHING compared with the near criminal (actually, probably very criminal) activities of Hillary Clinton and the ridiculously simple-minded, reactionary rants of Donald Trump.

But it has been ever so. The two main parties have always fought to defend their turf, and that turf is politics. They have no intention of allowing a third party candidate an equal run in the race. And the truth is, the media only views the minor parties as a sideshow.

If Johnson had been allowed into the debates (which he would have been, using previously established guidelines which were changed to keep him out), he would have wiped the ideological floor with Trump and Hillary. God forbid that there be any real discussion of substance of the actual issues. Instead we were subjected to invective and glittering generalities from Trump and to promises from Hillary that she has absolutely no path to provide. She felt she had to one-up Bernie Sanders, an actual socialist (like Hillary isn’t?) and Trump is most inclined to appeal to the paranoia and panic of the working class.

It has not been pretty, and I don’t think that the results of the election, whichever way they go, are going to improve the situation. Even if Johnson were to win (be still my heart), he would still have to deal with congress. I’m starting to feel that there is just no good way forward. As long as one side wants to steal from Peter to give things to Paul for free, and as long as the other side thinks that building walls is going to solve all the country’s problems, there will be no happy future.

Sometimes I despair over the fate of this country, and this election just seems to offer up proof after proof of why this is so.

bookmark: cheaper by the dozen

Cheaper by the Dozen – Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr.

It was interesting to revisit this book, last read sometime when I was a teen. It still holds up, and proves my memory correct in the connection between this book and my appreciation for all things efficient.

It was a popular book back when it was first published in the late 1940s, and has been made into a film a couple of times. I have not seen any of the films (that I recall), but I suspect that the book is the better way to first experience this material. I was surprised to learn that the book was written by two of the children in the family. For some reason my memory said that the parents had written the book.

This book takes place during the early teens and twenties of the twenty century (that’s 1910 – 1924 or so, for those of you who are century challenged). It’s an interesting immersion into a more restrictive, less permissive time. Certainly it’s not the Victorian era, but most people now would be hard pressed to feel comfortable living with the social mores of the time. But times change, and people adapt, as part of the book relates.

As I mentioned in my review of Belles on Their Toes, this book is about Frank and Lillian Gilbreth and their twelve children. Frank and Lillian had a consulting business where they advised companies on the most efficient way to do things. They were groundbreaking in this field and created some of the terminology and practices still used today. How their efforts translated to practice in the family setting is an interesting part of the book. When you have so many kids, it pays to have efficiency experts for parents. Hard to keep things in order, otherwise.

If you haven’t read this book, treat yourself and read it. It’s easy and enjoyable reading and gives you a real sense of a different time, and of a family probably much larger than yours. I think, overall, I’m glad I didn’t have a dozen children, though the book does make it sound like it has its appealing side, and a lot of kids can mean a lot of fun.

Finished 10/24/16

bookmark: belles on their toes

Belles on Their Toes – Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr.

Way back when I was a young man, sometime in my teens, I read Cheaper by the Dozen. I don’t recall most of the details in the book, but it was a pivotal moment in my life. The book was about a man and wife and their dozen children, but the thing that fascinated me was that the husband and wife were “efficiency experts.” What this means is that they studied activities and determined the most efficient way to perform that activity. Mostly they worked with businesses, but they also applied it to their home life.

When I read the book, it rang a sympathetic bell deep inside me. It was as though finding the best way to do something was a latent part of my being, brought to bloom by this book. Though that book has long since faded into the background of my life, I have always acknowledged that it was an influence in the way I live, and even in the career in which I found myself.

Recently, scanning through the $1.99 Kindle books on Amazon, I found that there had been a sequel to the original written by two of the children, Belles on Their Toes by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. Cool! Cheap bastard that I am, I found the book in the library and checked it out.

Having read the original Cheaper by the Dozen so long ago, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to just pick up on the story in the sequel, but I shouldn’t have worried. It felt like I was right there at home with the family. That is, minus the father. Seems that the breaking point between the first book and this follow-up book is the death of Frank Gilbreth, the father (one of the author’s is his son, Frank Jr.), and the sequel is how the family dealt with life after his passing.

It was a fun book to read, other than the first chapter which had me shed a tear or two. It was gratifying to find that the family was able to cooperate and coordinate in such a way as to run the household even while the mother, Lillian Gilbreth, carried on the business that she and her husband had started. It surely wasn’t easy, particularly right after Frank Gilbreth died, but Ms. Gilbreth did become an accomplished and well-known expert in her field and the family stayed together and thrived.

I enjoyed the book enough that I have decided to go back and read the original Cheaper by the Dozen. As a matter of fact, I think that book has moved up to next on my list.

Finished 10/16/16

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning: A Memoir – Laurie Lee

When I was a young man I was not a very adventurous person. I was a homebody not comfortable with long distance travel on my own. I suspect this was a result of my upbringing, with parents who allowed me to sleep over at a friend’s house only once in my life, and who would not allow me, even at the age of eighteen, to go to my girlfriend’s college homecoming event across the state. I don’t know why not, but I presumed it was because of what we might do when we were off on our own (like we hadn’t already done pretty much whatever we wanted by that time). To tell the truth, I was a little relieved when they wouldn’t let me go. The idea of driving to her college across the state, on my own, figuring out where I was going to stay, and the novelty of the situation all made me nervous.

Oh, how I wish now that I had been a braver soul then. Today I am able and happy to travel to unknown places on my own, but I will never be able to experience places and people in the same way I would have in my youth. Indeed, age even places greater limits on the places I am able to go. I’m never going to hike the wilderness.

So it is with great admiration that I read the stories of people who left home at a young age to wander around another part of the world, let alone across the state. Such is the story of Laurie Lee when he left his rural English childhood home to first go to London and then to wander across Spain.

I suppose that one must be young to travel as he did, busking his way from city to village without any other means of financial support. When you are young, you are more flexible and more willing to deal with the exigencies such travel entails. Go hungry for a few days, eat food that is unknown to you, go without bathing for a few weeks, hike through wind, snow and rain . . . much more likely to roll with those punches when you are young than when you are older and have grown accustomed to the comforts of life.

Anyways, back to the book. This book is the second in the trilogy comprised of this book, Cider with Rosie and A Moment of War. I’ve already written about Cider with Rosie and A Moment of War will follow, as I am going to read it as soon as the book arrives. As I Walked Out covers a relatively short period of time, but it was the time that Spain was erupting into civil war. Had the author started on his trip through Spain just a little later, his experience would have been very different, and indeed, in A Moment of War, he describes what it was like to go back to Spain to attempt to participate in the war.

While Laurie Lee is apparently well-known in England, I had never heard of him before I stumbled across Cider with Rosie. With As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, I have also become a Laurie Lee enthusiast. I have read the first few chapters of A Moment of War and am looking forward to reading the whole book.

There are those who have criticized the historical accuracy of Mr. Lee’s accounts, but even if not one-hundred percent accurate, they convey the spirit of the time and the conditions of his travels in a way that keeps you reading, or at least kept me reading. And not only kept me reading, but had me wishing that I had had bigger balls when I was young and that I had tales to tell now that would be worth telling.

Finished 10/2/16