Friday, August 28, 2009

Book Quotes: New Governmental Ideas

From The American Patriot's Almanac by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb:

ON JULY 13, 1787, Congress enacted the Northwest Ordinance, one of the greatest achievements of the young American republic. The legislation provided for the government of a huge region then called the Northwest Territory-the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota.

....The Northwest Ordinance treated each new territory as a state-in-embryo. Settlers in the territories could establish free governments and write constitutions, and once they had achieved 60,000 inhabitants, they could apply for admission to the Union as new states. Each state would be admitted on an equal basis with all previous states.

This was the first time in the history of the world that the principle of equality was so recognized. American territories would not be colonies, held in perpetual subordination to the "mother" country.

A crucial feature of the Northwest Ordinance was its treatment of religion. The first article stated: "No person, demeaning himself in a peaceable and orderly manner, shall ever be molested on account of his mode of worship or religious sentiments, in the said territory." This enlightened doctrine was little short of revolutionary for its time. No other government had ever laid out such a principle for administering newly acquired territories.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Passion for the Impossible by Miriam Huffman Rockness

A Passion for the Impossible

A Passion for the Impossible
by Miriam Huffman Rockness

Trade Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Discovery House Publishers
First Released: 1999

Source: Review copy from the publisher

Back Cover Description:
This is the story of the woman whose life of faith and devotion inspired the hymn "Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus." Although art critic John Ruskin enthusiastically proclaimed Lilias Trotter's potential as one of the best artists of the nineteenth century, her devotion to Christ compelled her to abandon the life of art, privilege, and leisure she could have enjoyed.

Without knowing the language and without sponsorship of any organization, Lilias left her London home of comfort for a modest dwelling in Algeria, where her love of literature and art became dynamic tools for evangelism, and where her compassionate heart captured the hearts of the people. For forty years, despite frail health and many obstacles, Lilias devoted herself to missionary service among the people of Algeria through her lifestyle of love and encouragement.

A Passion for the Impossible is a biography of Lilias Trotter (1853-1928) who did outreach work to women in England and then went to Algeria as a missionary. The book used primary sources as much as possible and often quoted diaries, journals, and letters written by Lilias and those who knew her.

I liked that the author showed how Lilias Trotter was influenced by the events and society of her day and how she influenced them. Thus, the reader also learns about D.L. Moody, the YWCA, John Ruskin, and others who touched her life.

The writing style was easy to understand and read, though a bit formal in tone (which matched the material). The book described the barriers Lilias Trotter faced and the methods she used to reach Muslims with the gospel. I especially liked Lilias' descriptions of Algeria (of both the setting and the culture).

There were several pages of black and white photos of Lilias Trotter with a few also showing her colleagues or the places she worked. There were charming sketches by Lilias at the bottom of many pages or at the ends of chapters. The black and white map of missionary stations in Algeria in 1924 wasn't easy to read or use. I would have enjoyed another map that clearly showed the places she visited on various trips.

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about history or anyone who enjoys reading missionary biographies. In fact, if a person was only going to read one missionary biography, I think I'd recommend this one since it gives a broader view than just Lilias' work.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter Five
[From pages 67-68, which is the middle of the chapter:]

Lilias, revitalized by a deepened understanding of the Christian life and newly immersed into a life of service, soaked in this new experience. The confidence and boldness with which Moody preached, on this occasion as well as others, and the receptiveness of the people to his message, reinforced all the lessons she had learned in the past two years and demonstrated what God could do with one willing life. Where she was not specifically instructed by Moody, she was inspired by him. Four decades later, Lilias would challenge her coworkers in North Africa with a detailed account of Moody's compassionate address to five thousand men at a meeting expressly for "atheists, skeptics, and free thinkers of all shade." Moody himself maintained, "I know perfectly well that wherever I go and preach, there are many better preachers known and heard than I am; all that I can say about it is that the Lord uses me."

Moody's innovative methods alone would have provided Lilias with a study in strategy. He intuitively recognized the shift from the rural to an industrial-urban age, and he effectively adapted the tools of evangelism to reach a more sophisticated audience. Many of his techniques newly implemented in the United Kingdom--advanced organizational preparation, house-to-house visitation, avoidance of direct appeals for money, joint ministry with a song leader, and arrangement of a separate inquiry room--changed the very character of evangelism and introduced methods practiced to this day.

Moody, by example and by teaching, provided training for Lilas and many others in relating the life of faith to the unbeliever. He personally presided over the volunteers whom he trained to counsel the hundreds of people who flocked to the inquiry room at the conclusion of each service. "You must ply them with the Word of God," he insisted. "Work patiently until you see that they have grasped the truth and are resting on Christ alone for salvation. Don't be in a hurry; think, oh think what it means to win a soul for Christ and do not grudge time spent on one person."

While it is, of course, impossible to determine fully the direct influence of Dwight L. Moody on Lilias Trotter, it can be stated with certainty that many of the approaches and attitudes that marked Moody's work would be evident later in Lilias's ministry--first with women in London, and later with Arabs in the slums of Algiers, in nearby mountain villages, and in the desert oases of the Sahara. Innovative, thoughtful, and practical, she, like Moody, would pioneer new methods and materials while never compromising the essential message.

Read the first 36 pages.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Quote: War and Water

From Tragedy in South Lebanon: The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006 by Cathy Sultan (page 77):

The issue of water, or the lack thereof, is an urgent one for Israel....When war did in fact break out in 1967, the water issue was among major Israeli concerns in launching a preemptive attack. With purposeful planning, Israeli tanks and troops stationed across the proposed route effectively completed Israel's encirclement of the headwaters of the Upper Jordan, which include the West Bank. It's seizure of Syria's Golan Heights assured Israeli protection for the Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) pumping works while the take-over of Gaza gave Israel plentiful water supplies....

Israel's ecology varies from semi-arid to complete desert, yet it has intense water needs. These are fulfilled primarily by three sources. The Sea of Galilee provides over a third of Israel's water. Another third comes from two aquifers--large, geographical areas of subterranean catchments where water accumulates. These lie beneath the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, precisely the territories seized in the 1967 war.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Defenders of the Faith by James Reston Jr.

Defenders of the Faith

Defenders of the Faith
Charles V, Suleyman the Magnificent, and the Battle for Europe, 1520-1536
by James Reston Jr.

Hardback: 432 pages
Publisher: The Penguin Press
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Buy from Amazon

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
A bestselling historian recounts sixteen years that shook the world— the epic clash between Europe and the Ottoman Turks that ended the Renaissance and brought Islam to the gates of Vienna

James Reston, Jr. examines the ultimate battle in a centuries-long war, which found Europe at its most vulnerable and Islam on the attack. This drama was propelled by two astonishing young sovereigns: Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Turkish sultan Suleyman the Magnificent. Though they represented two colliding worlds, they were remarkably similar. Each was a poet and cultured cosmopolitan; each was the most powerful man on his continent; each was called “Defender of the Faith”; and each faced strident religious rebellion in his domain. Charles was beset by the “heresy” of Martin Luther and his fervid adherents, even while tensions between him and the pope threatened to boil over, and the upstart French king Francis I harried Charles’s realm by land and sea. Suleyman was hardly more comfortable on his throne. He had earned his crown by avoiding the grim Ottoman tradition of royal fratricide. Shiites in the East were fighting off the Sunni Turks’ cruel repression of their “heresy.” The ferocity and skill of Suleyman’s Janissaries had expanded the Ottoman Empire to its greatest extent ever, but these slave soldiers became rebellious when foreign wars did not engage them.

With Europe newly hobbled and the Turks suffused with restless vigor, the stage was set for a drama that unfolded from Hungary to Rhodes and ultimately to Vienna itself, which both sides thought the Turks could win. If that happened, it was generally agreed that Europe would become Muslim as far west as the Rhine.

During these same years, Europe was roiled by constant internal tumult that saw, among other spectacles, the Diet of Worms, the Sack of Rome, and an actual wrestling match between the English and French monarchs in which Henry VIII’s pride was badly hurt. Would—could—this fractious continent be united to repulse a fearsome enemy?

Defenders of the Faith is a history covering 1520-1536 AD which mainly focused on the politics and wars in Europe (Charles V, Francis I, Henry VIII, the popes, Martin Luther, etc.). Only a fourth of the book focused on Suleyman's battles in Europe, European diplomacy efforts toward him, descriptions of feasts he held, and his internal politics...and very little was said about the Sunni/Shi'i conflict.

The book used quotes from people living at the time and gave nice details about how things looked which helped bring the events alive in my imagination. However, for all it's detail (describing the scene, the weather, numbers of people, maneuvers, etc.), the book gave only a surface assessment of the motives behind the actions. The author judges the actions from hindsight, knowing the results of the decisions, rather than giving a "this is how the situation might have appeared to them" view. He also assumes the worst motives behind the actions. This critical and cynical view of events results in a lot of negative language being used to describe the people and their actions.

There was a mild bias in this book. Whenever the author described cruel actions by the Turks against Christians, neutral language was used. If Christians did the same actions against Turks/Muslims, negative language was used. Also, the Hospitaller knights were called "fanatics," popes rarely had anything positive said about them, and the author used mocking language when describing how Martin Luther feared he might be killed when he had every reason to think he would be. Also, descriptions of people changed throughout the book. For example, a pope was described as sly/scheming when he was being sly/scheming and then described as gullible when his actions appear gullible. I didn't feel I could trust the author's assessment of the situations, but he also didn't give me enough information for me to draw my own conclusions.

The book included several nice black and white maps covering the areas described and black and whites pictures of the personages described in the book.

If you're interested in the Reformation (which made up a large portion of this book), then I'd recommend other, less biased books. History buffs wanting an overview of European politics during this time period might find this book interesting. If you've read this author's previous books and liked them, then I suspect you'll like this book as well.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
In May 1520 a royal flotilla left Spain for the British Isles with precious cargo. He was the twenty-year-old king of Spain, Charles V, the grandson on his mother's side, of the "Catholic kings of Spain," Ferdinand and Isabella, the grandson on his father's side of Maximilian I, Holy Roman emperor. By his maternal lineage, he was also the nephew of Catherine of Aragon, the current wife of Henry VIII. Charles was now on his way to see the English king. The voyage would take seven days, ample time for the sober-sided, determine young monarch to ponder the extraordinary events of the past five years that had taken him from a cloister in the Netherlands to the pinnacle of power in Europe and to his new role as secular leader for all Christianity.

By birth, he was not Spanish but Flemish, born of Austrian parents in Ghent in the Jubilee Year of 100. His first crown had been that of the Netherlands, which he had acquired at the age of six upon the death of his father, Philip the Handsome. The Low Countries, especially their contiguous provinces of Burgundy, would always lodge deep in the sentimentalities of the youthful monarch. Then at the age of seventeen, the crown of Spain was conferred upon him as well through the line to his Spanish grandparents, Ferdinand and Isabella, though the Spanish nobility was none too pleased to have this dour youth of Austrian and Dutch background as their monarch.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Quotes: The Taliban

From Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin:

Peshawar is also the gateway to the Khyber Pass. Through this pipeline between Pakistan and Afghanistan historic forces were traveling. Students of Peshawar's madrassas, or Islamic theological schools, were trading in their books for Kalashnikovs and bandoliers and marching over the pass to join a movement that threatened to sweep Afghanistan's widely despised rulers from power.

That August of 1996, this mostly teenaged army, which called itself the Taliban, or "students of Islam," launched a surprise offensive and overran Jalalabad, a large city on the Afghan side of the Khyber Pass. Frontier Corps guards stood aside as thousands of bearded boys who wore turbans and lined their eyes with dark surma poured over the pass in hundreds of double-cab pickups, carrying Kalashnikovs and Korans.

Exhausted refugees, fleeing the fighting, were flowing east in equal numbers, and straining the capacity of muddy camps on the margin of Peshawar.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

History Magazine

History Magazine

History Magazine

Six magazines per year

Magazine Website

Source: A year ago, I bought a 3-year subscription from the publisher.

History Magazine opens a window on the past, providing compelling stories about how our world became the place it is today. In the pages of History Magazine, you'll discover thrilling stories of exploration, invention, innovation and conflict, and learn about the development of government, medicine, technology, trade, the arts and the art of war. Written from a North American perspective, History Magazine's articles are clear, informative and insightful, and supported by colorful maps and illustrations. History Magazine breathes life into the stories of the past, telling tales of both pivotal moments and everyday life with passion and spirit.

In the magazine, you'll find:

In our "History Notes" feature and throughout each issue, History offers the juicy tidbits that make history fun. Did you know that pepper once cost its weight in gold, that Thomas Jefferson bred geese to satisfy his need for quill pens and that a single tulip bulb was worth more than a horse and carriage in 17th-century Holland?

Informative articles trace the extraordinary lives ordinary people led - covering subjects like the one-room school-house, farming in the New World and 19th-century nightlife - providing vivid detail about the times in which your ancestors lived, filling out your family history and connecting you to your roots.

In each issue, we examine a historical period in depth, with maps, timelines and articles on some of the key events of the age - revealing, for example, that Greek independence, the Erie Canal, the first railroads, Beethoven's Ninth and the Missouri Compromise were all achievements of the 1820s.

In each issue we focus on a historical invention or innovation that has changed our way of life - from necessities like refrigeration, bicycles and sewer systems to fun stuff like roller-skates, circuses and soft drinks - providing insight that will allow you to view the world with a new perspective.

Read fascinating stories of the challenges faced by real people - such as laying the first trans-Atlantic cable, escaping slavery via the underground railroad or crossing the Oregon Trail to settle in the West - that highlight the struggles, joys and triumphs of the past.

Our "Hindsight" section's recommendation on books, movies and other items of interest - coupled with our research references throughout the magazine - provide starting points for further learning.

I've enjoyed reading the interesting and sometimes downright fascinating articles in History Magazine. The magazine is well-written and covers the type of information I'm most interested in (trivia, how people lived, odd and profound inventions, etc.). I'd recommend this magazine to history buffs.

You can even try History Magazine for free to see if you'd like it. Or you can preview an issue online.

If you've read this magazine, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion in the comments.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Book Quotes: Communism vs Democracy

From The American Patriot's Almanac by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb:

ON JUNE 26, 1963, John F. Kennedy became the first president to stand on the west side of the Berlin Wall and denounce totalitarianism....

....Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us .... [The Berlin Wall is] an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together ....

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free....

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ancient Inventions by Peter James and Nick Thorpe

Ancient Inventions

Ancient Inventions
by Peter James and Nick Thorpe

Hardback: 704 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
First Released: 1994

Buy from Amazon

Source: Library

Back Cover Description:
We in the twentieth century tend to assume that our era has a monopoly on the inventions of clever machines, labor-saving devices, feats of engineering, and advanced technology. But as the authors of this fascinating and eye-opening book reveal, some of humankind's most important and most amazing inventions actually date back thousands of years. Ancient Inventions is a treasure trove of the triumphs and marvels of applied science, from the stone tools hewn by the earliest prehistoric people to the dawn of the modern era in 1492.

Historian and archaeologist team Peter James and Nick Thorpe have pooled their expertise in amassing this compendium of human ingenuity through the ages. Together they conclusively prove that our ancestors, however long ago they lived ad whatever part of the globe they occupied, were brilliant problem-solvers.

Ancient Inventions reveals that:
*Medieval Baghdad had an efficient postal service, banks, and a paper mill.
*Rudimentary calendars were being used in France as early as 13,000 B.C.
*Apartment condominiums rose in the deserts of the American Southwest a thousand years ago.
*The ancient Greeks used an early form of computer.
*Plastic surgery was being performed in India by the first century B.C.

Ancient Inventions covers a wide variety of ancient technologies and details of ancient life. The information is interesting, easy to read, and easy to understand. As you can see from the table of contents I listed below, the Sex Life section covers some intimate topics in explicit detail and includes some fairly graphic illustrations. I'd recommend this book to history buffs and anyone needing to do research on ancient technology.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Table of Contents (paraphrased)
Chapter 1: Medicine
Introduction; Surgical Instruments; Eye Operations; Plastic Surgery; Brain Surgery; False Teeth and Dentistry; False Limbs; Anesthetics; Acupuncture

Chapter 2: Transportation
Introduction; Mapmaking; Skis and Skates; Odometers; Wind Cars and Rocket Cars; Ships and Liners; The First Suez Canal; The Compass; Lighthouses; Diving Gear; Man-Bearing Kites and Parachutes; Ballooning

Chapter 3: High Tech
Introduction; Computers; Clocks; Coin-Operated Slot Machines; Automatic Doors; The Steam Engine; Automata; Earthquake Detectors; Electric Batteries; Magnets and magnetism; Magnifying Glasses

Chapter 4: Sex Life
Introduction; Aphrodisiacs; Dildos; Contraceptives; Pregnancy Tests; Sex Manuals

Chapter 5: Military Technology
Introduction; Human and Animal Armor; Tanks; Catapults and Crossbows; The "Claws" of Archimedes; Flamethrowers; Hand Grenades; From Gunpowder to the Cannon; Poison Gas

Chapter 6: Personal Effects
Introduction; Mirrors; Makeup; Tattooing; Soap; Razors; Perfume; Wigs; Clothing and Shoes; Jewelry; Spectacles; Umbrella

Chapter 7: Food, Drink, and Drugs
Introduction; Restaurants and Snack Bars; Cookbooks; Refrigeration; Chewing Gum; Tea, Coffee, and Chocolate; Wine Beer, and Brewing; Drugs; Tobacco and Pipes

Chapter 8: Urban Life
Introduction; Sewers; Pipes and Plumbing; Apartment Buildings; Fire Engines; Banks; Coins and Paper Money

Chapter 9: Working the Land
Introduction; The Reaping Machine; Waterwheel and Windmills; Pesticides; Beekeeping; Fish and Oyster Farms; Drilling and Mining; Tunneling

Chapter 10: House and Home
Introduction, Mammoth-Bone Houses; Cats and Dogs; Lavatories; Saunas; Baths; Central Heating; Glass Windows; Keys and Locks

Chapter 11: Communications
Introduction; Calendars; The Alphabet; Codes and Ciphers; Books and Printing; Encyclopedias; Postal Systems; Pigeon Post; Telegraphy

Chapter 12: Sport and Leisure
Introduction; Bullfighting; The Original Olympic Games; Ball Games; Gardens and Gardening; Zoos; Theaters' Musical Instruments; Keyboards; Written Music; Fireworks; Magic Lanterns; Playing Cards