29 May 2009

Three Cups of Tea Youth Edition

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World... One Child at a Time ( The Young Reader's Edition)
Since I didn't much like the book Three Cups of Tea when I read it last year, but because I think Greg Mortenson's story is an important one to tell, I decided to try reading the new youth edition of Three Cups of Tea. I didn't read every page (since it was telling the same thing as the original), but I did read enough to decide that it was pretty good. It's obviously aimed at children, with plenty of words defined in the glossary and a slightly simplified storyline (that's a good thing, with this book). It's a much quicker read than the original. There's also a pretty long section at the end talking to Mortenson's daughter, Amira, that was interesting.

Even though this is for children, I think it might be the better book to read if you just want to learn about what Greg Mortenson is trying to do in south Central Asia.

28 May 2009

So, we're still hoping.

But. Staying here wouldn't be so bad. We live in a great place and the boys have good friends. I have a garden. My husband got a great grant to pay for school next year and he could get through 3rd-year Uzbek. Besides taking Uzbek, he'd have to take other interesting classes, like one on Islam in China, or the people of Siberia. Having him in school is a lot easier on the family than having him practice law.

I just wish I could be the one in school.

In Sacred Loneliness

In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
So I finally sat down and read Todd Compton's In Sacred Loneliness about the wives of Joseph Smith. You can find lots of reviews of this book if you search for them, so I'm not going to write so very much here. Overall, I thought it was interesting, well-researched, and worth reading. We need more books like this. I did get bogged down in places (honestly, it got repetitive at times) and I had to take a break for quite a few weeks because there's only one copy in my library system so several of us seem to be trading it around, but that's okay.

The best and essential thing about this book is the women. Even though they're all here because of their marriages to Joseph Smith, this book is about 33 interesting and important women. In fact, since most of these women long outlived Joseph Smith, he's hardly here at all in many ways.

I did feel that there was just a touch of an agenda throughout the book despite its telling about these women. Compton states in the preface: "Nevertheless, my central thesis is that Mormon polygamy was characterized by a tragic ambiguity. . . . it was a social system that simply did not work in nineteenth-century America." It seems sometimes that the reason for these biographies was to prove this point.

I was very unhappy with the citation system. In a scholarly book with a zillion citations, I think numbered footnotes or endnotes are essential. There was a lot in the notes that I missed because it simply took too much time to find a source if Compton made a statement that I wondered about- and there were definitely statements that I would have liked to have known more about. However, once you found what you were looking for, the citations were good, although I would have liked to know a little more about the reliability of some sources.

I do think the FARMS review is too defensive and tries too hard to soften some of the very sharp edges in this book. The truth is that Joseph Smith did marry many women, often without Emma's knowledge, and many of those women were married to other men at the same time, apparently sometimes without their (the other husbands') knowledge. Polygamy resulted in a lot of loneliness and difficulty. It really doesn't seem like it worked out well at all. In my own family history there are plenty of examples of polygamy being very difficult along with a few success stories. But it's still perfectly possible to accept Joseph as a prophet. He's the same man before you read this book as he is afterwards. I can't think of anything Joseph did that's any more awful to our modern sensibilities than any number of other prophets accepted by Christian, Muslims, and Jews.

Yes, that says 200,000 miles. 14 years and still going.

26 May 2009

China Road

China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising PowerA woman from a book group I'm in recommended this book about China a few weeks ago. I was a little hesitant about reading it, because it looked like the same old thing about China- a journalist's take on China. I've mentioned before that I often don't like non-fiction books written by journalists.

But China Road was different- and excellent. Rob Gifford is a journalist, yes, but one who has lived in China for years, studied it, and speaks Mandarin. He's not a journalist who breezes into China, knowing what the guidebook he read on the plane says about it. He clearly knows China better than many foreigners and is comfortable there.

Gifford is also obviously fascinated with China. The book is about his final trip in China before moving to NPR's London bureau (and you can listen to his pieces that played on Morning Edition in 2004). I didn't feel like he took the trip because it was assigned, or because he thought it'd make a great book. He travels Route 312 because he wants to, and it felt like he wrote the book because he wanted to share that trip with his readers. How refreshing.

This book isn't at all scholarly, and it's definitely from a Western perspective. Gifford might be fascinated with China, but he sees it clearly. Recommended.

The Woman in White

The Woman in White (Barnes & Noble Classics)I reread this one a bit ago for a book group and enjoyed it again. I don't read a lot of mystery-type books, but I do like this one a lot.

The Ordinary Princess

The Ordinary PrincessThis was a nice summer reread. I'd forgotten about it till Melissa read it a bit ago. What a fun little book.

20 May 2009

19 May 2009

Central Asian Oral Histories

There's a great new website with oral histories from Kyrgyzstan. Students from the AUCA interviewed Kyrgyz, Russians, Uzbeks, Tajiks, etc from various parts of Kyrgyzstan whose average age was 75. Most were born before World War II, and some even before the creation of the Soviet Union.

This goes along with two books I've read recently- The Silent Steppe and China Witness. None of these interviews or stories were recorded by historians, but now that they've been preserved, they're available to historians. There are only a few people still alive in Central Asia that remember these years. What a great project.

14 May 2009

More Yellowstone stuff for my sister

If you can go to Bechler, do. It's really out of the way, because you can either hike in, or drive in from Idaho. Daddy was born while Grandma and Grandpa lived in Bechler. I need to scan in the photos I have of Grandma and Grandpa when they lived in Yellowstone. Bechler is a nice waterfall part of Yellowstone.

I like Norris geyser basin. It's not by the rest of the basins, but it's different. It's usually not so very crowded, especially if you get away from the parking lot.

Since you think the neat geyser book is too expensive, try this geyser website. They're working on getting photos and descriptions of the geysers there. Pictures are useful when you're trying to figure out what you're looking at.

Midway Geyser Basin isn't terribly exciting, but it does have two huge things- Excelsior Geyser and Grand Prismatic Spring. GP is huge (the largest hot spring in the western hemisphere, I think) and beautiful, although you can only see it well on really warm days, and Excelsior is just huge. It's dormant now, but it's had some huge eruptions. But if you just drive by Midway Geyser Basin, I wouldn't be scandalized.

Upper Geyser Basin is huge-o. I'll do that later.

One fun thing you can do, although I've never done it, is find out at the OF Visitor Center if there are any backcountry ranger hikes while you're there. They can take you to neat places that are hard to find. There are lots of really interesting places that don't have trails.

12 May 2009

Interview number three is today.

If you'd asked me in March if I wanted to go back to Central Asia, I would have said YES! but I also would have thought I'd have some concerns. But then in April when the possibility came up, and is still a possibility, all I can think is YES! YES! YES!

10 May 2009

Happy Mother's Day

...to my mother. If I wanted to break tradition and give you a gift this year, I'd get you this. It just came out on DVD this week and you seriously need a better copy.

07 May 2009

A Cryptic Post for my Sister

I'll add more later, too.

Lone Star is worth going to. To get to Lone Star from the Upper Geyser Basin, drive towards West Thumb. Just past Keppler Cascades, you'll see the sign for Lone Star. Turn in and park, then take a lovely ride/walk down the old road to Lone Star. It's considered back country, so there's not a lot of trails and no boardwalks. Make sure that if you do go to back country areas to pay attention because there are hot places that might not be noticeable and a thermal burn miles away from anything wouldn't be fun.

Lone Star erupts quite reliably every three hours. You can ask at the Old Faithful visitor center for the most recent visitor report of an eruption and figure out when you need to head out there so you don't have to wait too very long. It's a little less than 3 miles out to the geyser. There is a river at the geyser that might entertain you while you're waiting. Lone Star usually has a minor eruption about 30 minutes before the major. It lasts a few minutes, then you wait for the major that last about 30 minutes.

We like Firehole Lake Drive. The first neat thing you get to there is Great Fountain Geyser. There is a sign there that might have a prediction of the next eruption. You can also ask at OFVC to see if they have an estimate for an eruption. Firehole Lake Drive will probably have just opened before you get there, so Great Fountain's patterns might not be known, but often it erupts in the 9-16 hour range (12-14 might be closer). It's a fun geyser to watch. One indication that it's not too far from erupting is that water starts overflowing from the crater of the geyser onto the platform. It's usually 1-2 hours from that point, so you can go see something else and then go back to Great Fountain. You can also see the geyser from the parking lot, which is handy in the rain. If you do choose to sit there, you can see White Dome across the way. We like White Dome a lot, but it's not predictable, so it's not really worth sitting next to it even though it's neat.

After those geysers on Firehole Lake Drive, you come to Pink Cone. Ask for a visitor report on this on too at OFVC, since it's fairly consistent, although I don't know what it's doing this year. It seems to be around 18 hoursish?

At any and all geysers, if you see someone there with a notebook, or a backpack, or a walkie-talkie, or talking to someone else about geysers, feel free to ask them questions. There are always lots of geyser people around in the summer. Some of them are testy and gruff, but you can figure that out quickly and leave them alone. Others are delightful and helpful and will show you interesting things, or tell you what to watch for.

More geyser stuff, but the links might be old

In the Lower Geyser Basin, opposite the exit from Firehole Lake Drive, are the Fountain Paint Pots and geysers. The mudpots are always fun to watch, but my favorite here is Fountain Geyser. It usually erupts every 6 hours (ask at OFVC) and lasts for about 30-35 minutes. I love to sit there and watch it. All the geysers in the area are connected and geyser gazers can give you an estimate of whether Fountain is likely to go soon. Jet, which is behind you when you're looking at Fountain, is lots of fun to watch. It goes for short bits often.

These are all things you have a good chance of seeing. There are many other geysers that go rarely. If you hear about Morning, Giantess, Giant, or Steamboat (and others), find out what people are saying because they're rare.

I still need to do the Upper and Midway and Norris Basins.
Don't you hate it when you go back and read something you wrote only to find a silly error- the sort of typo that makes you cringe when you see someone else do it? I've got to proofread a little better.
Cool geyser stuff

05 May 2009

I just saw that my friend Carole has breast cancer. You might know her since she's participated in Melissa's book challenges the last two years. She always has such interesting pictures of the many places she's been around the world. I hope you get good news soon, Carole!
Still hoping. Like I said, the longer we don't know, the better. But I am getting ready for the waiting to be over. I'm trying to stay in the hoping place instead of the waiting place.


I have to admit that the Kindle gets more tempting every time I look at it. Usually I don't look at it, because it's really too expensive when I have a great library up the street, but when I'm hoping to live overseas, I get really excited about it. It would solve all my reading woes. It may not be quite as convenient to use outside the US as it is in the US, but it's so much better than any other options in Central Asia. When I was checking it out today, I was amazed at the number of books available to download. I didn't think a Kindle was worth it when it came out, but it would be now, under the right circumstances.

01 May 2009

I shouldn't have washed the dishes in chile-hot water tonight. But it was worth it for the carrot chutney.