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Showing posts from November, 2011

Short History of the Sugar Beet

I always associated sugar with sugar cane until I came to Europe, but sugar beets are a major source of sugar in the world, and taste good to boot.  Surprisingly, it wasn't until 1747 that it was discovered that sugar could be derived from Beta vulgaris by a German chemist, Andreas Margraff.  You can read more about the wonders of this beet root at this Univ. of Nebraska website.

Absalom, Absalom!

This is perhaps Faulkner's most haunting work, especially given that it is narrated by that tormented soul, Quentin Compson, when asked by a Harvard classmate to tell a story about the South.  What follows is a narrative like no other, casting the South as if from the pages of the Old Testament.  I was hoping to find Shelby Foote's 1936 review, but this is the closest I got.  The book cast quite a spell on me when I read it some years ago, and would love nothing more than to read the original edition again.

Drought reveals history

BLUFFTON, Texas - Johnny C. Parks died two days before his first birthday more than a century ago. His grave slipped from sight along with the rest of the tiny town of Bluffton when Lake Buchanan was filled 55 years later.  Now, the cracked marble tombstone engraved with the date Oct. 15, 1882, which is normally covered by 20 to 30 feet of water, has been eerily exposed as a yearlong drought shrinks one of Texas' largest lakes.

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Seeds that changed the world

More on how seeds changed the world.  This is a book by Henry Hobhouse, first published in 1985, and now expanded to included six socially significant Seeds of Change.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

I've added this excellent website to the list of other sites on the sidebar.  It is a great resource and really seems to promoting American History in education, which is sorely needed.
Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich tried to evoke the famous Lincoln-Douglas debate in an attempt to put substance before politics, laying out approaches to governance, rather than simply offering soundbites.  From what little I watched, it seemed a mostly self-congratulatory evening with the two candidates trading compliments more than barbs, and making every attempt to appeal to their Tea Party audience.  A far cry from the debates Lincoln and Douglas staged for an Illinois Senate seat in 1858, where the two had profoundly different views on slavery, with Lincoln setting the stage for his eventual presidential run in 1860.

Sadly, it seems history is moot these days.  Candidates often evoke the past without any real knowledge of the events they allude to.  This is especially true of this event, which was really nothing more than a high-priced fundraiser ($200 a ticket) featuring two of the GOP presidential candidates.

Collective Bargaining Wins

This stamp was issued in 1975 to honor 40 years of the Wagner Act.  It seems that for the last 40 years the Republicans have done everything in their power to try to roll back this legislation.  They took a big blow in Ohio, where more than 60% of the state voted against Kasich's new bill that would have greatly restricted collective bargaining.  It seems Americans are finally waking up to what is happening.  Mississippians also rejected a bill that would have stated life begins at fertilization.

The Columbian Exchange: A Reading of 1493

This month's reading group selection is 1493 by Charles Mann, which takes the reader on a very personal journey of the afermath of Columbus' "discovery" of America.  Mann covers much of the road himself, similar to Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel, illustrating how profoundly the discovery of America reshaped the global map.  Not just in terms of geography, but it terms of "ecological imperialism" and the advent of "globalization" with the discovery of silver and its use as currency in exchange for Chinese silk.  Feel free to discuss the issues raised in this book.