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Showing posts from December, 2016

An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler book review

I first heard of University of Illinois Professor Peter Fritzsche's An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler earlier this fall when a slightly tongue-in-cheek recommendation online pointed out the similarities to our current political situation under President-elect Trump. As with the other history book I discussed recently, you can read several different reviews elsewhere so I won't seek to repeat what they say.

What I will say about An Iron Wind is that Fritzsche's story is tight, well-written, thoughtful, and takes an approach to history that desires to skip the "history." His focus is on the men and women witnessing daily life and leaving behind evidence of their views. You know what happened; he wants to write about what people then were thinking about what happened. And it's what makes the book fascinating. Probably one of my favorite books in years for the deeply psychological study of a major human event.
The Germans killed one of every five hundred people on…

Tattoos and babies

My kids are currently obsessed with tattoos.

Ever since we saw Disney's Moana with the Chicago Dads two weeks ago, we've been watching the videos from the soundtrack on endless repeat. And, I confess, it's a fantastic story, characters, and score that probably deserves its own review. But for now, let's talk ink.

The title character ends up on an epic adventure with the demigod Maui from Polynesian mythology...played amazingly well by The Rock. Anyway, his skin is covered in traditional tattoos that represent the various legends about him. Pulling fire from the underworld, raising islands out of the ocean with his magical fishing hook, harnessing wind, giving humans coconuts. Watch the video.

So we've gotten into a few long, kitchen table chats about the history of tattoos, culture, personal choices. It's been especially interesting because one of their parents has a tattoo and one of us does not. We've been over that, yes, they hurt when they're the pe…

The Great Departure book review

It's been awhile since I've read anything noteworthy enough to recommend in an extended-review kind of way. But my current find is shaping up to be well-written, timely, and a great book on a variety of levels. I'll try to avoid the type of information you can find on Google here in exchange for a different analysis.

The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World is a 2016 book from University of Chicago professor Tara Zahra. She's a professor of modern European history and a recent winner of the MacArthur Fellowship. And notice there I said European history--not American history. The story she tells is, most definitely, the stereotypical history of American immigration...Ellis Island, ethnic neighborhoods, the search for opportunity...but her version departs (pardon the pun) from the usual and covers a more global, balanced, and policy perspective. As Americans, we usually hear the immigration story of the 19th and early 20th c…

"Speeding on your street" sausage

This post is probably most informative for Oak Parkers, traffic engineering geeks, and people who enjoy hearing about the misery of local governance. Everyone else, feel free...but even I'm a little bored by it.(!) So why am I writing about it? Because, dear reader, you complain. About something in your life. And--most likely--it has behind the scenes some version of this conversation.

If you're not from Oak Park, I should start with the explanation that our northern boundary is a very busy multi-lane thru-road called North Ave. Our western boundary is a very busy multi-lane thru-road called Harlem. There's your problem. Traffic backs up and people are impatient to get to where they are going so the residences to the south and east of those roads have troubles (don't we all?) with speeding, failing to stop at stop signs, pedestrian dangers, etc.. One by one, the non-collector roads have been blocked off in various ways to appease the neighborhood. Cul-de-sacs, diverter…