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VisibleGhost- 2012 NF

Non-Fiction Challenge / Journal

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1VisibleGhost
Dec 27, 2011, 9:38pm Top

I started reading NF seventeen months before I was conceived and have read some every year since then, so I'm sure I'll read a bit of NF in '12.

I read quite a bit of speculative NF and futurism, some policy paper NF, a bit of policy wonk NF, history, big picture history, geopolitics, and the occasional philosophic tome. Some biography, very seldom do I read autobiography, ditto memoirs, and I might dip into architectural NF. OH, and I'll do some graphic NF, hopefully.

2VisibleGhost
Jan 1, 2012, 6:08pm Top

Ordered my first NF book of 2012. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. 2004 updated edition. I have read it and frequently quickie-read a small section or two. My copy is quite ratty- thus the new one on its way. A definite favorite.

3qebo
Jan 2, 2012, 9:05am Top

I remember you from the 75ers a few years ago. Glad to see you here!

4VisibleGhost
Jan 2, 2012, 1:41pm Top

Hi qebo, I remember you and several others from the older 75ers group. I had to go look. I was a 75er in 2009. I'm still the same. I go through chatty periods then I go silent for spells. It seems like you have a nice little group going here. Congrats.

5VisibleGhost
Jan 5, 2012, 2:57pm Top

1. Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway, Matt Dellinger

A road book. No, not a travelogue type road book, a policy wonk type road book. The beginnings of the current iteration of I-69 date to 1991. It's often called the NAFTA highway- it proposes to connect southern Texas to Indianapolis. From there it will use the existing I-69 on to Canada. The world that existed when the Interstate system was built out from the 1950s through the 1970s is long gone. The money is gone. The fast-track system is gone. The political will for new big highways is gone.

Interstate 69 covers the endless rounds of meetings by states, counties, cities, feds, advocacy groups, opposition groups, special interest groups, and politicos involved in the last two decades of trying to get I-69 built. Several people have devoted a huge chunk of their life to this highway. Some of them died along the way. As of today only stretches of the highway are built here and there along the proposed route. Some of them are less than two miles long. Completion dates are estimated from never to twenty more years.

The Highway trust fund is basically broke. There's not even enough money there to maintain what is already built. Hard choices will have to be made in the future regarding funding of new highways in the US. Higher taxes (almost a non-starter), toll roads, or mileage fees. Everyone wants freeways but very few want to pay for them.

Australia mandated private retirement accounts a few years ago. They need investments that are stable and pay out for decades. Along with Spain, they view US transportation as a area that fits these criteria. Decades long contracts with little risk. They have been involved in bidding of privatization of some toll systems- Chicago, Northern Indiana. This sends the conspiracy theorists into high gear and gives rise to some paranoid conclusions that are quite daft. All in all, this book covers the current climate of national roads in the US- a micro-system few of us ever delve into.

6VisibleGhost
Jan 29, 2012, 12:41pm Top

William deBuys is a transplant to New Mexico that took to the area like a duck to water. His book, River of Traps: A New Mexico Mountain Life, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for non-fiction in 1991. His latest book, A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, is a snapshot of current conditions in the Southwest and some speculations of what the next few decades might bring. His love of the area shines through in an attached way. This isn't written in an unattached scholarly manner.

deBuys is not one of those hard-nosed black and white people when it comes to cogitating on the many issues facing the region. He brings out the grays and complexity of trying to address some of these problems. He mainly concentrates on the Colorado Plateau and the Colorado River watershed boundaries- New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Southern California, Nevada, Utah, and Northern Mexico.

There many areas touched upon, nearly all of them quite interesting. There are glimpses of past, present, and future. The chapter on the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi) advances some of the latest theories on the disappearance of these peoples from the areas where they built extensive infrastructure during medieval times. The Sun Corridor in Arizona (roughly from Phoenix to Tucson) has been called one of the least sustainable places in the world, this book brings out some of the reasons why. Another issue is the Beetles and wildfires that have hit hard in the last few years. There are some doubts on total recovery from these disasters.

The border fence between Mexico and the US is covered from several angles. Mt. Graham in Arizona has had a controversial last few decades between the astronomers and environmentalists. There was a chapter on the Janos Biosphere Reserve in northern Mexico of which I previously knew very little of.

One of the gray areas was fascinating, that of the arguments that have raged over mesquite, prairie dogs, and natural grasses. Some believe that it is not mesquite or grasses that dominate continually, but the area has flip-flopped over the centuries. Neither ranchers nor environmentalists are quite happy with this theory.

A Great Aridness was an informative, interesting, and engaging look at the potential problems facing one corner of the world.

7VisibleGhost
Feb 15, 2012, 7:02pm Top

Honeybee Democracy, Thomas D. Seeley

First things first. If you are a beekeeper looking for better yields or tips on bee husbandry then this is probably not the book for you. It is a treatise on how bees find new homes after they swarm, that is leave their current home. Usually two thirds of bees leave an old home when they swarm. The old hive is rarely completely abandoned. The bees that swarm leave without a destination in hand. They will hang on a branch, porch, or some other convenient site for a few days while the process of finding a permanent new place is decided on.

The decision making of the swarm is the crux of the book. It is fascinating process that takes from one to two to five days on average. If you come upon a swarm of bees in the open hanging from something, don't panic, they will move on rather quickly. As much as the book is about bees, it is just as much about experiments. The author has spent decades studying and experimenting with bees. I did blanch a bit from some of the early experiments that killed many many bees. Over the years the experiments built up knowledge that lead to even more sophisticated ones. The culmination of observations on the swarms led to intriguing insights into the hives' decision making on where to live and then how to guide the swarm there.

The book is richly illustrated with photographs and charts that convey the information clearly. It's not quite a textbook but it's more than the conventional non-fiction fare. If you have an interest in complexity, emergence, and communication networks this should be right up your alley.

8qebo
Feb 15, 2012, 8:14pm Top

7: Ooh, want. For the experiments as much as anything. So often I read science books and wonder how did they figure that out? (For neato descriptions of experiments: Naturalist by E. O. Wilson and Lords of the Fly by Robert Kohler.)
If you have an interest in complexity, emergence, and communication networks this should be right up your alley.
Yes.

9Linda92007
Feb 16, 2012, 10:45am Top

Honeybee Democracy sounds fascinating. Thanks for the review.

10VisibleGhost
Feb 16, 2012, 7:42pm Top

qebo, I'm the same when it comes to something stated but not explained in science books. I'll think, how and why do we know this?

Linda92007- thanks for stopping by.

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