Reading Journal 2015 Week 3

This was an odd week. I have included a book by Wodehouse I have been reading here and there in my free time for the last three weeks. I know that doesn’t meet the book-in-a-week theme but I include it for sake of completion.

Once again, I did some reading about gaming. Why would I include this on a family farm blog? I’m glad you asked.

I wrote about this recently but in short, I have these kid…things. Children. Small adults…just add water. They share my house. They eat my food. They help kill chickens. They beg Julie to play Minecraft on a daily basis. Now, it’s a fun game. Let’s not misunderstand. But why do I make it a point to play WITH my kids? Because I want to meet my children where they are. That’s why we play board games. That’s why we watch Star Wars and Shaun the Sheep together. Some of this is building common culture in our family but mostly it’s making an effort to be with my kids with the hope that my investment in them will be repaid. If I play Minecraft this week, maybe I can make a connection that will make a difference in morale on a long, hard day. I hope that makes sense.

One final note before I begin, I’m not having a hard time reading a single book in a week. That’s no big deal…as long as I’m somewhat selective about the book (nothing by Dumas!). The trouble I’m having is that I tend to do all of my reading on Friday and Saturday. I tend to procrastinate…then I have to force-feed myself some of these books in short order. It’s like being in college again. I didn’t like college. In fact, I didn’t learn to enjoy reading until after college. I’m worried I’m returning to some bad habits here. If you choose to do this, try to spread your reading out over several days. Doing it this way makes my head hurt on Sundays.

Cottage Economy

Cottage Economy has proven to be more than a match for me. I am shocked. Mr. Cobbett enumerates his paragraphs and thank God. I read paragraph 5 and stopped to read it aloud to Julie. Then we discussed. Then I read paragraph 6 and stopped again. Rinse and repeat. I could be justified in writing whole blog posts on just paragraphs in this book…though maybe not on this blog…

Anyway, I’ll review what I have muddled through and pick up the rest next week.

What is the book about?
Let’s let him say it. This is most of paragraph 16.

I propose to treat of brewing Beer, making Bread, keeping Cows and Pigs, rearing Poultry, and of other matters; and to show, that, while, from a very small piece of ground a large part of the food of a considerable family may be raised, the very act of raising it will be the best possible foundation of education of the children of the labourer; that it will teach them a great number of useful things, add greatly to their value when they go forth from their father’s home, make them start in life with all possible advantages, and give them the best chance of leading happy lives. And is it not much more rational for parents to […to do this stufff…] than to leave them to prowl about the lanes and commons, or to mope at the heels of some crafty, sleekheaded pretend saint, who while he extracts the last penny from their pockets, bids them be contented with their misery, and promises them, in exchange for their pence, everlasting glory in the world to come? It is upon the hungry and the wretched that the fanatic works. The dejected and forlorn are his pray. As an ailing carcass engenders vermin, a pauperized community engenders teachers of fanaticism, the very foundation of whose doctrines is, that we are to care nothing about this world, and all our labours and exertions are in vain.

Is it a classic?
Yes. No doubt.

Will you read it again?
Yes. Portions of it anyway. 10% of the book is given to the detail on brewing beer. I tend to think more modern writers have done a better job of presenting this information with current materials, weights and measures.

Does it belong on your bookshelf?
Yeah, I think so.

Can you relate a favorite passage?
In the introduction there was a paragraph I found myself returning to again and again. This is, I think, in line with the quote I read in the Bob Kleberg book about the definition of social justice: “the process of giving everyone an equal opportunity to become unequal.” There is inequality. That’s how it is. I can’t go surfing this morning. Not fair. But feeling sorry for yourself because the other person has more is bad for all of society.

Let it be understood, however, that by poverty, I mean real want, a real insufficiency of food and raiment and lodging necessary to health and decency; and not that imaginary poverty, of which some persons complain. The man who, by his own and his family’s labour, can provide a sufficiency of food and raiment, and a comfortable dwelling place, is not a poor man. There must be different ranks and degrees in every civil society, and, indeed, so it is even amongst the savage tribes. There must be different degrees of wealth; some must have more than others; and the richest must be a great deal richer than the least rich. But it is necessary to the very existence of a people, that nine out of ten should live wholly by the sweat of their brow; and, is it not degrading to human nature, that all the nine-tenths should be called poor; and, what is still worse, call themselves poor and be contented in that degraded state?

But why stop there? Later he is talking about education. He has already established that 9 out of 10 have to live by the sweat of their brow so children should be given a thorough education in how to work. Education should not stop there but it also shouldn’t start with books. I’ll let him tell you from paragraph 12. I’ll just write the whole thing out. I am tempted to add emphasis but I think you’ll get it.

Understand me clearly here, however, for it is the duty of parents to give, if they are able, book-learning to their children, having first taken care to make them capable of earning their living by bodily labour. When that object has been secured, the other may, if the ability remain, be attended to. But I am wholly against children wasting their time in the idleness of what is called education; and particularly in schools over which the parents have no control, and where nothing is taught but the rudiments of servility, pauperism and slavery.

Ho. Ly. Cow. From 1821 no less!

Who should read this book?
The first part of the book should be required reading.

The last 10 or 15 years have been a good time to pick up home brewing as a hobby. If that’s your bag, the second chapter of this book is for you. I skimmed. We have made our own hard cider but I don’t see brewing beer on my horizon any time soon.

Take home messages:
How about this? Tea has no useful strength. Men who want to be strong, vigorous and vibrant – the sort of men needed by Britain to maintain the empire – should drink beer. Tea will only keep you awake at night. It is of no use, being corrosive, gnawing and poisonous. Working folk should breakfast upon Bread, Bacon and Beer! Besides, who can afford for their wife to spend two hours each day making tea when you could just drink a beer?

Little children, that do not work, should not have beer.

I should say not. I encourage the reader to read Ben Franklin’s autobiography to see what he had to say about the drinking of beer some decades earlier in Britain. (Just search the link for the first instance of “beer” and read on.) Cobbett is encouraging economy but Franklin shows how it’s done, saying the beer brewers provide beer to workers on credit, workers buy beer desiring strength but really it’s just a drain on their finances. Franklin is (by his own account) stronger and wealthier than all because he eats bread and drinks water. That’s right. And, though Cobbett condemns Americans for drinking liver-burning and palsy-producing spirits…well, who wears the empire pants now?

Maybe that’s not a take-home message. Let’s do this one next week when I finish the book. Just wait till you read what he thinks about the evil potato!

Blandings Castle

What is the book about?
Mayhem. The aristocracy. Show pumpkins. Show pigs. Love interests.

Is it a classic?
Heck yeah! Everything Wodehouse. Even the books about cricket (And I can’t begin to understand cricket).

Will you read it again?
Yes but not right away. Too much other Wodehouse to read.

Does it belong on your bookshelf?
Wodehouse gets his own bookshelf.

Can you relate a favorite passage?
This is tricky. Wodehouse weaves jokes through his writing. Since this book is all short stories I am really having a hard time pulling one specific passage out. It just loses too much context. My favorite story is Pig-Hoo-o-o-o-ey. Let me summarize the beginning. Lord Emsworth’s pig keeper goes to jail just prior to the pig show. Empress (the sow) stops eating and Emsworth is very concerned. At the same time his niece (Angela) breaks her engagement with one man and picks up with another. Multiple characters come to Emsworth to discuss the problems with the female pronoun (her, the girl, etc.) Emsworth always assumes the conversation concerns the pig rather than his niece. The jilted fiancee appeals to Lord Emsworth.

‘I say, I’ve just ridden over to see if there was anything I could do about this fearful business.’

‘Uncommonly kind and thoughtful of you, my dear fellow,’ said Lord Emsworth, touched. ‘I fear things look very black.’

It’s an absolute mystery to me.’

‘To me, too.’

‘I mean to say, she was all right last week.’

‘She was all right as late as the day before yesterday.’

‘Seemed quite cheery and chirpy and all that.’

‘Entirely so.’

‘And then this happens – out of a blue sky, as you might say.’

‘Exactly. It is insoluble. We have done everything possible to tempt her appetite.’

‘Her appetite? Is Angela ill?’

You see where this is going. Emsworth’s character fits this role perfectly…being consistently absent-minded in each book. His first concern is his garden but after that he worries about the pig. Interpersonal problems seem to resolve themselves so…

Who should read this book?
Anybody with a little free time, a sense of humor and a desire for an increased vocabulary.

Take home messages:
I don’t know. Wodehouse’s characters are often not the most intelligent but they are generally caring and honest. Maybe that’s the most important thing. Harvest comes in due season…you reap what you sow.

Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus “Notch” Persson and the Game that Changed Everything

What is the book about?
The birth and rise of Minecraft…written as a biography of Marcus Perrson.

Is it a classic?
No. I don’t think so. Portions were very interesting though. I spent a surprising amount of time discussing it with Julie on our way to a family outing this weekend.

Will you read it again?
Probably not. The kids won’t read it either. Too many things I don’t want to explain.

Does it belong on your bookshelf?

Can you relate a favorite passage?
This is from Chapter 8. It’s not breaking new ground here but this triggered some thought:

The conclusion was obvious: game players have different brains than others. The question then becomes: What causes what? No one knows if gaming makes the striatum grow or if a congenitally larger striatum makes one more inclined to play. It’s clear that certain personality traits seem to be more common among those who play a lot. They seek immediate rewards for their efforts and make decisions more quickly than others. If it could be proved that games make the brain’s enjoyment center grow then it’s logical that these characteristics are strengthened by a lot of gaming. If that’s the case, then gaming may make us more active and give us quicker reactions, but it might also lead us to tend to choose short-term rewards rather than working long-term toward something greater.

Well, maybe. I have been playing video games my whole life. My kids want to know why I am so good at Super Mario games. Well, I’ve been playing Super Mario for 30 years in one form or another. Am I a gamer? Yes. But I can still work toward long-term goals. As can the gamer who created Minecraft…the subject of the book. I mean, I don’t think the author has thought about what he is saying. But it still gave me something to chew on.

In chapter 9:

Jakob and Markus found themselves at the same crossroads that most people with entrepreneurial dreams encounter at some point in their lives. On the one hand: a secure work life, with a permanent job and a monthly salary. On the other hand: a rare opportunity to realize a dream.

There was also detail about Jeb’s initial inclusion in Minecraft development. The product belonged to Markus. Nobody worked on it but Markus. Not that it was protected, that’s just how it was. Jeb took a look at some code and spent a Christmas vacation adding a feature so players could dye sheep’s wool…even while still on the sheep. It was a little risky but Markus embraced it and promoted the programmer. I think it is cool that Markus poured his life into a project but still was free and open enough to embrace a contribution honored the spirit of the game.

Who should read this book?

Last week I read another book about Minecraft. This one got a little further into the details Markus Perrson’s personal life, his family and his motivations. Each book has its strong points. Though this book was written prior to the other one I feel this is the book that should be read…if one were inclined to read a book about Minecraft.

Take home messages:
You know that thing you think you should do? That book you should write? That blog you should start? That spreadsheet you have been meaning to design? That car you need to fix? That thing you haven’t done because everybody says it’s stupid? That thing you haven’t done because you don’t think it really matters? 

It matters.

Don’t quit your job though. Make time in your day to do whatever your thing is. I know you don’t have time. That’s why I said “MAKE” time.  There will come a time when you succeed out of your job. You won’t have an alternative. That’s your goal. Today is the day. Get started.

Favorite Blog Post of the Week

This week Matron wrote part two of a series about capturing and utilizing winter livestock bedding. I think both parts of this series are great. Just great. I look forward to a third.

In short, how much time does she spend on bedding? How much bedding does she use? What does she do with it all? Find the answers in the cleverly-named Peeing Forward Part II.

Favorite Podcast of the Week

I don’t know if podcasts will be a regular feature of my weekly (ahem…) reading journal or not but to round off my media consumption for the week, The Survival Podcast had a great episode on Thursday. Let me caution you that this is not an episode I will listen to with my children. He drops every word but F.

So let me give you the gist. The American dream is not a house. The American dream is a productive home. An asset, not a liability. A place that increases our wealth and well-being, not just a place to store our stuff. He also hits on an important idea, that we can strengthen our relationships by enduring hardship together…a concept we believe in strongly.

Just to open the window into our library, the following books arrived Friday:

Why these books? My kids are into Minecraft so I’m into Minecraft. As far as they want to go. They picked up the ball…now we run together. At some point they will move on. So will I. Believe me when I say we are doing more than playing a game here. Much more. I’ll give you an example. To build a dome with blocks you have to have a base diameter that is an odd number. What is a diameter? Why does it have to be odd?

I plan to read and work through the Java programming book this week. If you want to make it in tech you have to constantly learn new stuff. That’s just how it is. Otherwise the industry will leave you behind. There is nothing new about Java but it is new to me. I’m adding to my skill set…in large part to help my kids as they work through the same book on their way to making Minecraft mods.

I’m sure I’ll flip through the other books as well.

I am also working through so TSQL puzzles from this site as I work to train a co-worker. The most interesting part is the HUGE number of valid ways you can solve any problem. What do I do for a living? How do I pay for the farm? I tell my children I solve Sudoku puzzles all day…not far from the truth as I have no idea what kinds of issues I’ll have to solve each day…many of which are quite puzzling. But anybody else who asks gets told, “I work on a computer like a UPS guy works on a truck. I can’t fix your home PC.” I hate fixing people’s home computers. Hate. Like lasers-Shooting-Out-Of-My-Eyes-just-before-my-head-explodes hatred. “No, I don’t want to update your anti-virus. Oh, you have both Norton AND McAfee. Wow. It appears an unknown gremlin has used your browser to visit a number of sites which indicate said gremlin has certain tastes…that I’m not judging and really don’t want to know about…but I suspect those sites have a lot to do with the problems we are seeing. The gremlin also managed to install seven different toolbars in Internet Explorer. Couldn’t you just save your budget spreadsheet to Google Docs or OneDrive or Dropbox and sync your cat pictures to one of any of the online photo whatsits? Then we could just wipe and start fresh every third week.”

Anyway, this week I plan to read something related to farming besides finishing Cottage Economy. I haven’t decided what yet but I’ll keep you up to date. I’m leaning toward Native and Adapted Cattle by Kelley, though I appear to have the only copy.

Please give me some feedback on this post. I read a lot. Like, a lot, lot. I like to share with my readers when I find a book that helps a farmer out. But I also like to be entertained so I include links to movies and music. Fun books too. Please let me know if there are questions I can answer for you or if you have any suggestions to help make this format more meaningful.

Also, let me know if you are doing any of the reading with me. Would it be better if I published some sort of schedule or is it OK that I shoot from the hip?

Click here to see all entries in my reading journal.

12 thoughts on “Reading Journal 2015 Week 3

  1. I enjoy reading your posts about reading. I probably won’t read many of them, I’m not a gamer but my children are. I enjoy reading how people come up with their ideas. So a book about the creator of Minecraft could be interesting. It certainly makes me interested to read Cobbett. I believe in instilling a strong work ethic in our children, and to have a wary eye on education.
    Thanks for the options.

    • Thanks Steve. Cobbett makes a fair amount of sense but when he gets to the part about “A husband could never love a woman who can’t bake a loaf of bread…” well, Bill, I don’t think that thinking stands the test of time.

      • And, of course, I commented with my wife’s account. So. There you go. It happens she agrees with me that Cobbett’s commentary concerning bread baking is hilarious. “A father can do nothing better than to see to it that his daughter can bake bread. It’s the most important work God has for her.” That’s not a direct quote but it’s close.

  2. Haha…love the new banner…l

    I’m also enjoying the reading journal, and I hope you’re able to keep it up in some form or other. I have been getting reading ideas from you for a few years, and don’t want to stop now.

    I just finished the first in the Blandings series, enjoyed it thoroughly, and it’s now in hubby’s hands, as he was tantalized by the bits I read out. I’ve read a couple of Jeeves and Wooster in past years, but this series is new to me, and it’s great.

    I’m about halfway through Ten Acres Enough. Very interesting read, though I don’t share his enthusiasm for cultivating blackberries. Incidentally, in his other book (which I did finish – it’s shorter and I skimmed a bit), he talks about cultivating a wild patch of blackberry into a more productive crop. It was a new take. I like Ten Acres Enough that I will probably try and buy a copy.

    I’m also halfway through Farmer’s Progress, maybe a little more than that. My loan from the Soil and Health library is about to run out, so I guess I’ll be buying a copy of that too, because it is all that you have said it is, and not something to rush through, but something to go back to and re-read – many times.

    Other current books for me right now include a bible study with Jennie Allen (Chase), a book by D E Stevenson called The Four Graces, light, happy, wholesome and firmly middle class England circa WWII. I started with her Miss Buncle trilogy and enjoy her style enough to read the rest of her books. Perfect bedtime reading – I can fall asleep easily with these. And a book by Cary Elwes, As You Wish, basically a “making of” book of the Princess Bride, my favourite movie. It’s OK. Glad it’s a library book, and it won’t matter if I don’t finish it.

    Hubby is thoroughly enjoying The Martian by Andy Weir – if he hasn’t finished it already. Thanks for that recommendation. I’m not a sci-fi fan and I enjoyed the first chapter before I brought it home for him from the library. I see what you mean about the humour. Hubby says it’s kind of Tom Clancy for sci-fi fans,only shorter and funnier.

    I’m about to start The Perfect Keg – Sowing, Scything, Malting and Brewing My Way by Ian Coutts. I was interested in the sowing/scything part of this one when I picked it up. Two weeks later, I’m not in a beer mood anymore, so I don’t know if I’ll do more than dip into this one.

    Cottage Economy. Speaking of beer…I’d forgotten about Cobbett’s thing with beer, though it did strike me the first time I read it – hard not to, as you say, it is throughout the book. You might note however that he is down on pubs and taverns. What he’s in favour of is “small” beer, which is a very different beverage from what you and I think of as beer now. Also, water wasn’t a safe drink in that time and place, and he’d started out being opposed to tea from the first chapter, so really, what option did he have? Well, I thought it might pique your interest, and at least it’s thought provoking.

    I don’t have your disciplined reading focus. If I sit down to read after about 930pm, I’ll probably fall asleep. I am reading two of these books online, and get distracted very easily from the screen. I don’t read quickly – I like to take my time to absorb the thoughts. Working where I do, and considering that most often, I’m reading a library book, highlighting isn’t an option. I do sometimes take notes, but I haven’t made the effort to do so the last year or two. I will have to for Farmer’s Progress I think, there’s just so much to try and remember.

    Podcasts – share more! I know about PV, Beginning Farmer, Farm Marketing Solutions, The Ruminant, The Survival Podcast, and a couple others, but I’d love to get some variety…

    Any recommendations from Julie or the kids? Maybe just if something stands out for them?

    • I currently subscribe to seven podcasts. TSP, Tech News Today, This Week in Tech, Permaculture Voices, Mission Log: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast, Agricultural Insights (appears to have ended), and The Beginning Farmer.

      I carpool with Julie’s brother who most frequently listens to The Morning Stream, Weird Things Podcast and Daily Tech News Show. That’s not a recommendation, just sharing options. I’m usually asleep or reading when he drives.

    • I asked Julie to track what the kids are currently reading. There is a little war every time they return from the library. The older two hide books from each other in an effort to be the first to read something. Hopefully she’ll have something to post. The Minecraft books I bought last week seem to have distracted them…particularly the Minecraft Handbooks. Lots of pictures, ideas, plans so the graph paper is back out.
      A real surprise was Caroline Kennedy’s Poems to Learn by Heart. I have seen each of them sitting with that in their laps at different times. I’ll ask Julie to share more detail.

      • You’re saying I have to switch series? I’m going to have to get Psmith from another library system – we don’t seem to have it in ours – nor the second in the Blandings series for that matter. Though there is a Blandings TV series apparently, which I’ve just ordered the first season of.

        • I think there have been several stabs at Blandings on TV.

          As they were written Psmith is a late entry in the Blandings series but Leave it to Psmith happens shortly after the events of Something Fresh.

        • Oh, I guess Leave it to Psmith was written in order. Hmmm. But it is the last Psmith book. Whatever. Good times abound.

          If you are wanting to watch Wodehouse, Jeeves and Wooster leaves us in stitches. You can find those on YouTube, though we went ahead and bought the DVDs

  3. Finally got round to listening to the TSP episode you linked here. Yup, it was a gooder. And why does he feel the need to let his language go like that? To demonstrate how passionate he is on the topic? There are other words in the lexicon that do a good job at that…to appeal to a certain segment of his audience? He does this sometimes, and it annoys me, because he’s clearly articulate and well read – he can do better. That said, I shared with hubby the conversation about a home being an asset vs a liability and what that entails. Interesting dinner conversation…

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