Category Archives: Books and Reading

Book Review: “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” by Edmund Morris

The great thing about reading Edmund Morris is two-fold: he presents extremely thorough research with a enjoyable reading style that makes one feel like they are reading fiction. As a friend put it, it’s like reading a novel, not a biography. It doesn’t hurt that Theodore Roosevelt lived a life that makes easy picking for any biographer.

The first in Edmund Morris’ three part biography of the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt lived a life full to the brim. Born sickly, he had overcome physical ailments and “built courage by ‘sheer dint of practicing fearlessness.'” Indeed, his life reads in a crescendo that leaves other men wanting:

  • Published author at 18, of “The Naval War of 1812,” a classic that would go on to find a place in the textbooks for both US and British naval academies.
  • Married at 22, father and widower at 25, husband again at 28.
  • Acclaimed historian and New York Assemblyman at 25.
  • North Dakota ranchman at 26
  • Candidate for New York City Mayor at 27
  • Civil Service Commissioner of the United States at 30
  • Police Commissioner of New York City at 36
  • Assistant Secretary of the Navy at 38 (and author of the plan that defeated the Spanish in Manila under Admiral Dewey)
  • Colonel of the First U.S. Cavalry, the “Rough Riders”  and a war hero at 39 (yes, he left a near cabinet level position to ride in the cavalry)
  • Governor of New York two weeks short of his 40th birthday
  • Vice President at 42…

And that’s just in the first book. Making his living as a working writer, Roosevelt read over 20,000 books and writing fifteen of his own, not to mention speaking French and German, developing and maintaining relationships with numerous leaders in fields scientific, intellectual, and philosophical. His mind was a steel trap and his life steam engine, gaining speed and momentum.

He was a man who was a lifelong learner, knew no bounds to his interests or abilities, and never stopped trying to reach further. Although born to priviledge, Theodore took nothing for granted, and he took every advantage he could to work, read, exercise, challenge himself, and expand his reach. It’s an example that inspires me, and it’s one we could all use.

In a day where people talk a lot and actually do less, Roosevelt reminds us of the power of action, of doing, and that it is those who do that make a difference.

If you’re looking for a readable biography of one of our most colorful presidents, before he was president, pick up Edmund Morris’ “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.”

Science Edition: Spongebob is not your friend. Also, wrinkled fingers.

First, don’t miss the CNN/Tea Party debate tonight at 6 PM MST. I’ll be live tweeting here.

Until then, here’s your factoid(s) for the day: Spongebob Squarepants is not your friend. Or your children’s’ either, for that matter.

As if anyone is surprised:

Spongebob is hazardous to your children’s health.

[R}esearchers had three groups of four-year-olds watch Spongebob Squarepants and some boring, educational cartoon on PBS, Caillou, in nine-minute increments, while one group spent the time drawing with no television on. Afterward, tests were conducted on the kids’ executive function, or the ability to remain focused. Guess what! The kids who watched Spongebob Squarepants scored “significantly worse” than the ones who watched Caillou. And the group that spent the entire nine minutes drawing instead did even better. In other words, television really is horrible.

Shocker.  Looking closer, the we should perhaps be careful due to the small sample size (sixty), but still, it’s relevant. We’ve long known that exposure to television could increase propensity for ADD in children, but in such short time increments of 9 minutes?

To those parents out there looking to use the television to calm and baby-sit excitable children, perhaps you ought to look into getting a dog or some crayons, instead. Find the study here

Also, why your fingers wrinkle in the rain:

It’s not because of water absorption. It’s to give you better grip.

In the study, an evolutionary neurobiologist and his co-authors examined 28 fingers wrinkled by water. They found that they all had the same pattern of unconnected channels diverging away from one another as they got more distant from the fingertips.

The wrinkles allow water to drain away as fingertips are pressed to wet surfaces, creating more contact and a better grip.

That’s evolution at work, you know? Read more here.

[Gawker] [Brain, Behavior, and Evolution]

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A book commits suicide…

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Darth Cheney, unleashed.

Dick Cheney’s memoir, “In My Time,” is out today. As Daniel Henninger at the WSJ says

No one should have expected that Dick Cheney’s memoir would be anything but frank. Make that brutally frank. Such as this characterization of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s description to President George W. Bush of her proposed nuclear-weapons agreement with North Korea. It’s on page 487:

“Looking for a way to explain this situation, Rice said, ‘Mr. President, this is just the way diplomacy works sometimes. You don’t always get a written agreement.’ The statement was utterly misleading, totally divorced from what the secretary was doing, which was urging the president, in the absence of an agreement, to pretend to have one. . . . “

Would anyone expect anything less from the man the Left compared to Darth Vader?

Also, from Henninger’s piece, and perhaps the most telling about Cheney’s character as a public servant:

After two event-filled terms as George W. Bush’s No. 2, I asked Mr. Cheney to sum it up. Characteristically, the answer had nothing to do with anyone’s approval rating:

“I think we did a pretty good job after 9/11 for those seven and a half years. I think the record reflects that. I think the president gets a lot of credit for that. Partly it’s a question of political leadership. It’s important to have people at the helm who are prepared to be unpopular, to take the criticism and the hits that go with implementing policies.”

 

In any case, will you read it?

[WSJ]

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Tonight’s books, courtesy of the Salt Lake County Library

Word. Got a couple good looking books from the library tonight. It’s within walking distance, so if I put the kids in the stroller and take them with, I get new books to peruse and read, the kids pick out some new books, and I get at least a modicum of exercise….if just.

The books? I’ll spare you the fun ones and just share the more interesting of the titles.

How about you? What have you started reading this week?
(And, yes, I admit it: I also picked up sundry novels of low brow sci-fi and fantasy…but who’s keeping track?)