Friday, December 28, 2018

An Uncommon Departure

An Uncommon Departure

Leaving town by airplane, train, or driving are common.

Nearly half a century ago, August 18, 1972, my wife Jane and I set sail on our 46-foot home-built and designed dream boat from the far western end of the Great Lakes in Minnesota.

Selling everything, we only packed our boat with essentials, bicycles, books and tools.

It would be ten years before we acquired another motor vehicle.

We were going where the wind blew, when the spirit moved us, and the price was right; fishing and foraging as we went.

This adventure was a glorious lark and would turn out to be the very best years of our lives.

On our maiden voyage, we sailed the Great Lakes to Buffalo, the Erie Canal to the Hudson River, and south to NYC. It was blowing and snowing October 20th when we tied up at the ship museum dock in lower Manhattan. Someone was obviously telling us something. Turn south to Florida...we did.

P. S.
Back in Wisconsin we had been looked upon as radical misfits. In Florida, on the other hand, we stood out as straight arrows. Everything is relative (where there is a will there is a relative).

Thus began a life long adventuresome adventure that generated four books.

Our dear friend Professor Skip Koloski had this to say, “anyone that criticizes you has never had an original thought in their entire lives.”

John Grimsrud, December 28, 2018

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama


This book is an autobiographical look at a united and supportive family committed to making the world a better place.

This excellent and uplifting story is worthy of more than five stars.

Focused determination coupled with active community involvement climbing the ladder one rung at a time propelled Michelle to the top of corporate success.

Reading the narrative of paths chosen and directions taken is inspirational.

Excerpts from Becoming by Michelle Obama

Barack was the only candidate capable of delivering real change. Barack wanted to get American troops out of Iraq. He wanted to roll back the tax cuts George W. Bush had pushed through for the super-wealthy.

If I’d learned anything from the ugliness of the campaign, from the myriad ways people had sought to write me off as angry or unbecoming, it was that public judgment sweeps in to fill any void. If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others. I wasn’t interested in slotting myself into a passive role, waiting for Barack’s team to give me direction. After coming through the crucible of the last year, I knew that I would never allow myself to get that banged up again.

“The single most important thing we want to achieve,” the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, had declared to a reporter a year earlier, laying out his party’s goals, “is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” It was that simple. The Republican Congress was devoted to Barack”s failure above all else. It seemed they weren’t prioritizing the governance of the country or the fact that people needed jobs. Their own power came first.
The public radio program This American Life had devoted two hours to telling the stories of students and staff from William R. Harper Senior High School in Englewood, a neighborhood on the South Side. [of Chicago] In the previous year, twenty-nine of the school’s current and recent students had been shot, eight of them fatally. These numbers were astonishing to me and my staff, but the sad fact is that urban schools around the country were contending with epidemic levels of gun violence.
Congress appeared determined to block any measure that could help keep guns out of the wrong hands, with legislators more interested in collecting campaign donations from the National Rifle Association than they were in protecting kids. Politics was a mess, I said. On this front, I had nothing terribly uplifting or encouraging to say. I went on, though, to make a different pitch, one that came directly from my South Side self. Use school, I said.

I’ve never been a fan of politics, and my experience over the last ten years has done little to change that.

North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek

North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek

Five Stars

This is the story of a one of a kind super athlete. Scott is focused, self-motivated, and driven to extremes.

This is my second book by Scott Jurek, and it proved to be a classic. We both came from the same motivating Duluth/Superior area and were driven by intensive and compulsive drives to excel and surpass our environment. I departed in 1972 before Scott was born, but totally understand his needs to act. John M. Grimsrud, author.
Excerpts from North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail:

Nobody expected a twenty-five-year-old from Minnesota to show up and win the Western States 100, first try. Nobody expected a sea-level Seattleite to win the Hardrock Hundred, and certainly nobody expected a stagnant forty-something to run the Appalachian Trail in record time. Nobody; except the man in the ring. I thought about that Roosevelt quote printed on my 1999 Western States race guide: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I wasn’t becoming more powerful, not at all. Instead I was being stripped down not only of fat, muscle, and nerve but also of my mental toughness. I was losing it, but maybe that’s what I needed to do.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The book Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream covers a pivotal point in American history, from dreams of the Great Society to the despair of Vietnam precipitated by McCarthyism’s obsessions that derailed it all.
This is a history we all need to scrutinize, ponder, and learn from.
I lived through this era and appreciated the opportunity to get this insightful overview the book presented.

The needs of blacks, would offer the civil rights bill; as panacea to the nation’s need, offer the Great Society; and, amid the final crisis of his career, use Rebekah’s lessons’”almost her words” to justify America’s involvement in Vietnam: “There is,” he told the country, “a great responsibility on the strong.“ When I thought about the kind of Congressman I wanted to be,” Johnson said much later in life, “I thought about my Populist grandfather and promised myself that I’d always be the people’s Congressman, representing all the people, not just the ones with money and power. “My grandfather taught me early in life that neither misery nor squalor is inevitable so long as the government and the people are one” so long as the government assumes the positive role of eliminating the special interests that cause most of our problems in America” particularly the moneylenders largely confined to New York, and those who had the money supply and knowledge and possessions in New York, Chicago, and Boston. They’d always been paid proportionately a far higher percentage of the total end product than they deserved. They lived off our sweat, and even before air conditioning they didn’t know what sweat was. They just clipped coupons and wrote down debentures we couldn’t spell and stole our pants out from under us.”

Johnson spoke in his peroration:”Let us put an end to the teaching and the preaching of hate and evil and violence. Let us turn away from the fanatics of the far left and the far right, from the apostles of bitterness and bigotry, from those defiant of law and those who pour venom into our nation’s bloodstream.”Defeating the Southern filibuster and opening the way for Congress to pass the most sweeping civil rights bill in history. On July 2, 1964, in the presence of the leaders of all the major civil rights groups, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“We have enough to do it all.” We’re the wealthiest nation in the world. And I cannot see why, if we have the will to do it, we can’t provide for our own happiness, education, health, and environment.
I do not want to be the President who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion. I want to be the President who educated young children; who helped to feed the hungry; who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election.”
In speeches, legislation, and continuing proposals, Johnson took the most advanced position on racial issues of any President in American history; appearing, at times, ahead of the civil rights movement itself, until, sadly, the war in Vietnam extended its paralyzing hand to this as to his other domestic ambitions.
Every story is always slanted to win the favor of someone who sits somewhere higher up. There is no such thing as an objective news story. There is always a private story behind the public story. And if you don’t control the strings to that private story, you’ll never get good coverage no matter how many great things you do for the masses of the people.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroads

Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow: The Epic Story of the Transcontinental Railroads by Dee Brown
America and the world were eternally transformed by the steam-powered Industrial Revolution. Imperialistic expansion driven with steam power augmented an avalanche of emigrants fueled by unscrupulous robber barons who used the very best politicians that money could buy. These manipulative financial tricksters sold and resold paper certificates as flimsy as blue sky to eager investors. I loved this true story that is guaranteed to arose in you a strong emotional reaction.
Worthy of more than five stars.

Excerpts from Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow:
With all these arranged riches awaiting the taking, Durant was now ready to begin railroad construction, and his first move was to send one of his New York henchmen to Omaha to sound out Peter Dey. The chief engineer had already submitted estimates of construction costs per mile for the first hundred miles across the rolling prairie country of eastern Nebraska. Dey’s estimates averaged between $20,000 and $30,000 per mile, and Durant knew that Dey’s figures were close to the real costs. What Durant wanted was an inflated estimate, at least $50,000, which would pour $20,000 to $30,000 per mile of excess profits into the closely held Credit Mobilier.

They collected the $16,000 per mile from the government for the track laid by the workmen, the $25,000 per mile of excess profits from Credit Mobilier, the 12,800 acres of land per mile, and whatever else they were able to divert from the sales of stocks and bonds. Instead of singing, they were always spending money to generate money, and there never seemed to be enough.

Although the people of America were paying for the railroad it did not belong to them.
James Garfield did not die of a broken heart, either. His Ohio constituents returned him to Congress three more times, and then the people of America elected him President, which might be an indication that Americans would sooner vote a rogue into its highest office than an honest man.

By the 1880s, railroad building in America had become the national get-rich-quick game. Promoters by the score leaped into the competition, building railroads helter-skelter across the face of the land. Few of them were planned to meet any transportation needs. They were built mainly for purposes of financial exploitation, not for the people of the nation, who ultimately paid for them over and over again, through economic depressions and wars, thus perpetuating the most absurd railway system in the world.

The spiritual life of Plains Indians were based upon the buffalo. That animal, which numbered in the millions, supplied not only the basic food, shelter, and clothing needs of the tribes, it was also a folk hero and a religious symbol. Without the buffalo, the entire civilization of the Plains Indians would collapse. In the years following the Gold Rush of 1849, the tribes had seen the buffalo pushed both north and south of the white man’s westward trails, and in the 1860s they had seen the railroads across the Central Plains bring devastation to once-great herds.

Scandinavia: A History by Ewan Butler


Scandinavia: A History by Ewan Butler

Excellence in writing, this overview of Scandinavian history delivers an enlightening look at these unique humanitarian people.
After reading countless books covering Scandinavia I found this publication the most illuminating.

Norsemen, is simply an alternative name for these marauders, again applied to all three Scandinavian peoples. Normandy, settled by the Danes in 911, reminds us of the Norse origins of that duchy and to this day Norwegians refer to themselves as Nordmenn. (The Norse invaders of Russia are alternately known as Varangians, derived from an old Norse word, possibly meaning “confederate,” and Ruotsi, meaning the “rowing men” in old Finnish.)

The Vikings were democrats, in a sense. Great fleets of hundreds of longships were assembled for a large expedition without any single leader being in charge of the operation. “We are all equals,” said the Norsemen proudly to the envoy of the king of France who came to Normandy inquiring for their leader, and there was some truth in this. Women were held in highest esteem by the Vikings and enjoyed rights of property and status which their sex was not to enjoy elsewhere until many centuries later.

Frederick had abolished almost all vestiges of serfdom (the Stavnsbaand was repealed in 1788) and established a credit bank to enable the newly freed peasants to buy their land. A free trade tariff act and a banking reorganization plan were instituted as liberal spurs to the growth of Denmark’s economy. Laws were passed to provide for the welfare of paupers, and Denmark denounced both the owning and trading of slaves, the first European country to take this enlightened step.

The countries of Scandinavia are humanitarian, with laws for the protection of workers, mothers, children, and old people. Few people in Scandinavia are extremely rich and none extremely poor. Class warfare and strikes are uncommon, thanks to enlightened labor relations. A minimum of seven years of education is standardized and compulsory for all, and advanced training equivalent to high school, college, and vocational schools is also provided free.

Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness


Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek, Steven Friedman
Focused determination and applied resoluteness with an open mind made Scott a self made champion.
I loved this young man’s autobiographical story. Focusing his mental and physical attributes to the fullest, he excelled exceptionally.

Excerpts from Eat and Run:
On the extremely rare occasions I’ve diverged from plant-based foods, it’s always been a matter of survival, never because I craved animal products or felt incomplete without them.

Winning felt great. Kicking ass, especially the asses of so many who had said I was doomed, was a sensation that all but the most spiritually evolved or brain-fried would enjoy. I had set a goal and achieved it. I had pushed myself to what I thought were the outer limits of my capabilities and then pushed farther on a vegan diet. Being crowned a champion was good for both my mind and my soul. But it wasn’t enough.

The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World by Tera Zahra


The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World by Tera Zahra

This book delivers a timely message of our status and relationship to all inhabitants of this planet.
This book is a wake up call and eye opening message to this world that selfishly grabs everything in sight with a me and my attitude of winner take all, might is right, and where it is far better to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent.

Worthy of more than five stars.

Excerpts from The Great Departure:
Countries that experienced mass emigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Mexico and China, also aimed to protect and support emigrants overseas rather than prohibit emigration.

In 1945, after all, Harry S. Truman and Winston Churchill had agreed to Stalin’s demands for the forcible repatriation of Soviet citizens, leading to tragic scenes. In Dachau on January 19, 1946, at the site of the former Nazi concentration camp, American troops had to use tear gas to force Soviet POWs from their barracks. After being thrust outdoors, the soldiers fell to the snow and pleaded with their captors to shoot them rather than send them home. Ten POWs succeeded in killing themselves, and twenty-one were injured before the group was turned over to Soviet authorities for repatriation.

In the United States, meanwhile, it is perhaps not coincidental that Donald Trump is married to the Slovene immigrant Melania Trump. His first wife, Ivana, was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia. Four of his five children have immigrant mothers. But for Trump (and his supporters), there is no contradiction in aspiring to make a Central European immigrant the first lady while promising to put a “total stop” to Muslim immigration to the United States and build a wall on the Mexican border.

The Whalemen by Edouard A. Stackpole

The Whalemen by Edouard A. Stackpole

Like the buffalo and passenger pigeon, the whale was unrelentingly hunted. This epic story spans the epoch beginning before the Industrial Revolution to the end of the age of sailing ships. America rode the wave of this heroic adventure story from its Revolutionary War of independence up to it’s ruinous Civil War. The end of whaling was abrupt.

Excerpts from The Whaleman:
Beginning with colonists in flimsy open boats, the industry expanded as enterprising Americans sent ships to every corner of the world, adding to their new country’s wealth and enlarging their knowledge of its geography. Born before the steam engine, the whaling business thrived for more than three centuries, dependent only upon the strength and courage of the brave souls who manned the ships.

In 1857 - New Bedford’s greatest whaling year - 10,000 men were making their living on New Bedford’s 329 sailing vessels, bringing in oil and bone worth $6,178,728 (more than $165 million today).

In the late 1800s, as the use of petroleum and natural gas accelerated, the world no longer needed whale oil for its lamps. Additionally, the need for whalebone to make women’s corsets disappeared with the invention of celluloid.

American Heritage History of Mexico by Parkes, Henry Bamford

American Heritage History of Mexico by Parkes, Henry Bamford
Peaceful places have no history, and Mexico has more than its share.
I loved this well-edited overview that covered the five hundred plus years from the first Spanish Conquest to the election of Cardenas that followed the first peaceful revolution in Mexican history.

Excerpts from American Heritage History of Mexico:

Bitter racial warfare still raged in Yucatan, reducing by half the population of the peninsula. And meanwhile, politicians and journalists in the United States, intoxicated by Manifest Destiny, were asking more and more vehemently why their country did not do its duty by carrying the benefits of Anglo-Saxon civilization as far as the borders of Guatemala.
There was only one Mexican who had the energy and the prestige necessary in a dictator; Santa Anna, who acquired the nimbus of a national hero whenever he disappeared across the Caribbean, was still the indispensable chieftain of any political combination. In spite of Santa Anna’s thirty-year career of trickery and corruption.
He was willing, however, to again sacrifice himself for the good of his country. On April 1, he landed at Vera Cruz, where he was welcomed by the familiar mob of generals, office-hunters, and agiotistas; and after attending banquets and bullfights and listening to his own praises from innumerable orators, he proceeded slowly to the capital, where he was formally proclaimed president on April 20. By no efforts of his own, he had been granted powers such as no Mexican had ever enjoyed before.

While there was some increase in fruits, vegetables, and commercial crops, there was actually a decline in corn and other basic foodstuffs. Under Cardenas and Avila Camacho, as under Di­az, despite the employment of two-thirds of the population in agriculture, Mexico continued to import food.