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Topic: 2012 To Sea Choice Discussion

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Kat (polbio) -
Subject: 2012 To Sea Choice Discussion
Date Posted: 1/1/2012 6:28 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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Post a review of the book you chose for this category here

Date Posted: 1/2/2012 9:53 PM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
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I've just started The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal by David McCullough. Size-wise it's a pretty intimidating book. Especially when it feels like I can only get 6 pages read at night before I fall fast asleep.

Date Posted: 1/11/2012 12:55 PM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
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Path Between the Seas update: Hooray! I made it to 'book 2!' (It's one volume, but McCullough has organized each evolution of the canel into 3 'books.') Two, actually three things, slowed me down in this first part...

Simple exhaustion: The bulk my reading the past two years has been toddler books. Now that I've made it this far, I feel like an adult again.

French history. I'm not up on French history in the late 1800s / early 1900s, but McCullough does a good job of leading you through events by following certain characters.

Economics: Following the money flow was mind-deadening for me! There was an unimagniable amount of money invested in the failed French attempt at building the Panama Canel. The whole fiasco ended up being a alleged conspiracy in public media and the fallout was several years trials of the Canal company officials for fraud. McCullough all along tries to explain how many francs were proposed, how many francs came paid for salaries, equipment, railroad stock, etc., AND then it got even more complicated when the fraud / conspiracy charges surfaced as aftermath. McCulloguh did what he could when explaining income, pay outs, bribes, stocks, bonds, but he's hindered in the basic text format.  Eventually all the numbers just blurred together, there was no difference between 620,000 francs or  620,000,000 to me by the end of the Book 1. Better minds than mine can follow it, but I felt the need to start writing a seperate ledger to make sense of all the francs that were flying about.

Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/11/2012 1:37 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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I think as long as you get the concept that a heck of a lot of money was wasted and their was some fraud, I dont think the actual numbers are important, lol.

Date Posted: 1/12/2012 9:03 AM ET
Member Since: 11/12/2011
Posts: 473
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That's exactly what I did towards the end of book 1. And I'm not trying to critcize McCoullagh when he was trying to be specific on who-bribed-who, etc. I think it could be fixed by formatting the  figures a bit more creatively than simply typing out all those many,many zeroes long-hand within the confines of a densely worded paragraph. This hadn't occured to me until just now,  but I could flow the money when it was 'above board' - initial proposals, paying the laborers, renting machinery, etc. When bribes and padded salaries were revealed at the slowing French momentum, that I'd would glaze over the figures. Chalk it up to currency-fatigue.



Last Edited on: 1/12/12 9:06 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 1/12/2012 1:23 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,123
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If the corruption and graft during the time the French were trying to build the Panama Canal interests you, then make time to read McCullough's The Great Bridge.  This is the unbelievable story of the long building of the Brooklyn Bridge between Brooklyn and Manhatten when they were still independent cities. Spell GREED in capital letters and you will understand most of the book. Graft, corruption, backstabbing, sex... the list goes on and on.  Along with the tremendous engineering feat that astounded the world!

Great book.

Date Posted: 1/12/2012 1:54 PM ET
Member Since: 11/15/2008
Posts: 210
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I just finished a lighter but enjoyable read for the To Sea category.  I read Titanic Survivor: The Newly Discovered Memoirs of Violet Jessop Who Survived both the Titanic and Britannic Disasters by Violet Jessop. This is a memoir of her life in general, so while she discusses her experiences with these two shipwrecks they are not the complete focus of the book.  Jessop served as a cabin stewardess on several ships in a career that spanned from 1908 to 1950.  I found it interesting to read about her travels around the world and the different situations she encountered while serving on these ships. The book begins with her childhood where she was raised in Argentina by parents who were from Ireland.

 

This book was "introduced, edited, and annotated" by John Maxtone-Graham who adds interesting observations and explanations throughout the book.



Last Edited on: 1/12/12 1:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/12/2012 4:42 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
Posts: 3,067
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Cindy, that sounds really interesting. I had never heard of it before.

Date Posted: 1/12/2012 6:30 PM ET
Member Since: 11/15/2008
Posts: 210
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It is something I stumbled across on another swap site and decided to take a chance on.  I'm glad I did.