Looking Back: Virtue of the war

Today in 1922, Simon Duarte Botello was born in Central Texas. Botello and his four brothers fought in World War II, and their younger brother immortalized their experiences in a small book.

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Today in 1922, Simon Duarte Botello was born in Central Texas. Botello and his four brothers fought in World War II, and their younger brother immortalized their experiences in a small book.

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LOOKING BACK
A special series

During my time as a contributing editor to the magnificent Voces Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin, I came across some amazing stories. The project, which I celebrated in 2011, collects the stories of Latino veterans and civilians who saw and felt the effects of war, from World War II to Vietnam. This occasional series highlights a few of these fascinating lives.

Simon Duarte Botello, born on Jan. 5, 1922, and his four brothers helped their father on their family farm in Central Texas. When World War II began, the boys enlisted, leaving behind their parents and eight younger siblings. The family gave up farming when the boys — the farm’s labor force — departed for war.

Three brothers were wounded. All five brothers returned home once the war ended in 1945. A younger sibling, Thomas, immortalized most of their experiences and memories in a small book, based on interviews and wartime letters.

The war’s greatest legacy on the homefront, Thomas concluded, was that it led to educational opportunities for millions of children, including many of the younger Botello siblings.

Visit the Voces website. Like them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter.

Undiscovered countries: The books we need

Insightful celebrations of worthy works, considerations of upcoming titles, and general musings on great writing will all meet here on a regular basis.

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Stillness of Heart‘s range of popular and academic book criticism widened and deepened in recent years, and many more reviews are on the way. Insightful celebrations of worthy works, considerations of upcoming titles, and general musings on great writing will all meet here on a regular basis.

As always, the Stillness of Heart community of writers, readers, intellectuals, historians, journalists, and artists welcomes your ideas and recommendations. Tell us what we should be reading.

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Some of 2015’s best Civil War books … so far
Cold Harbor to the Crater: The End of the Overland Campaign, edited by Gary W. Gallagher and Caroline E. Janney
Defining Duty in the Civil War: Personal Choice, Popular Culture, and the Union Home Front, by J. Matthew Gallman
The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory, by Bradley R. Clampitt
The World the Civil War Made, edited by Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur
Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth, by Terry Allford
The Smell of Battle, the Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the Civil War, by Mark Smith
The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters, by James M. McPherson
Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science, by Shauna Devine
Originally published in July 2015
“Publishers in 2015 offer excellent work that both casual and serious readers of the Civil War should know about.”

The Silent Enemy
Polio: An American Story, by David M. Oshinsky
Originally published in December 2014

“The United States battled polio long before it ever faced the Soviet hegemonic threat, but only during the Cold War did the U.S. achieve significant victories in the battle against the virus.”

From a flame into a firestorm
A consideration of the French Revolution and its unexpected consequences.
Originally published in September 2014
“Why the French Revolution devoured its own people”

Dealing with the real America
Puerto Rican Citizen: History and Political Identity in Twentieth-Century New York City, by Lorrin Thomas
Originally published in August 2014
“Dealing with Puerto Rico means dealing with the key issues of the 21st century. Few in the U.S. government may have the stomach for that rollercoaster.”

The wars over the war
Hospital Sketches, by Louisa May Alcott
Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War, by Charles B. Dew
The Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict, by Andre Fleche
The Union War, by Gary W. Gallagher
The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865, by Mark Grimsley
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Jacobs
“The North American Crisis of the 1860s,” by Patrick J. Kelly, in The Journal of the Civil War Era
“Who Freed the Slaves?” by James M. McPherson, in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society
“Who Freed the Slaves? Emancipation and Its Meaning,” by Ira Berlin, in Union & Emancipation: Essays on Politics and Race in the Civil War Era
Originally published in July 2014

“Nine key books and articles taken together can explain what led to the first sparks of civil violence and how those sparks ignited what evolved into the bloodiest and most important war in U.S. history.”

Endless Borderlands
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, by Gloria Anzaldua
Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands, by Juliana Barr
Walled States, Waning Sovereignty, by Wendy Brown
Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canada Borderlands, by Kornel Chang
The Comanche Empire, by Pekka Hämäläinen
A Tale of Two Cities: Santo Domingo and New York after 1950, by Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof
Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories, edited by Benjamin H. Johnson and Andre R. Graybill
Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol, by Kelly Lytle-Hernandez
The Line Which Separates: Race, Gender, and the Making of the Alberta-Montana Borderlands, by Sheila McManus
Border Dilemmas: Racial and National Uncertainties in New Mexico, 1848-1912, by Anthony P. Mora
Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West, by Nayan Shah
Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border, by Rachel St. John
Bárbaros: Spaniards and their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment, by David Weber
“On Borderlands,” by Hämäläinen and Samuel Truett, in the Journal of American History
“From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in Between in North American History,” by Jeremy Adelman and Stephen Aron, in American Historical Review
Originally published in June 2014
“Fifteen essays and books explore the borderlands field with passion and intelligence, daring their readers to leave behind their old worlds and follow them into new ones.”

The Battle for Boricua
Reproducing Empire: Race, Empire, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico, by Laura Briggs
Originally published in January 2014
“Is Puerto Rico the battleground for America’s intellectual future?”

Torn in the USA
Polio: An American Story, by David M. Oshinsky
Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution: An Unfettered History, by David Allyn
Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939, by Lizabeth Cohen
Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class, by Jefferson Cowie
In Search of the Black Panther Party: New Perspectives on a Revolutionary Movement, edited by Jama Lazerow and Yohuru Williams
Quixote’s Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966-1981, by David Montejano
“Resistance in the Urban North: Trumbull Park, Chicago, 1953-1966,” by Arnold R. Hirsch, in the Journal of American History
“Crabgrass-Roots Politics: Race, Rights, and the Reaction against Liberalism in the Urban North, 1940-1964,” by Thomas J. Sugrue, in the Journal of American History
Originally published in September 2013
“Life, liberty, and the doomed pursuit of happiness.”

Nixon lurking in the shadows
Richard M. Nixon in books, in the news, on TV, and in my dreams
Originally published in December 2011

“Richard Nixon was in my dream last night. The post-presidency Nixon. The bitter, self-pitying, damned Nixon, coiled in the shadows of La Casa Pacifica in San Clemente, dark eyes glaring at the world as it spun on without him.”

Homo universalis
A reflection on my intellectual ambitions.
Originally published in July 2011
“I’ve always been blessed with a hunger for knowledge, a curiosity that often flares into full-blown passion for new arenas of experience, a curiosity perhaps sparked by a bittersweet frustration that I don’t know as much about literature, science, mathematics, history and culture as I think I should.”

Engraved devotion

Pave the Paseo raises money from UTSA alumni for scholarships and campus activities.

Photo credit: University Communications / University of Texas at San Antonio
Photo credit: University Communications / University of Texas at San Antonio

Sombrilla, a magazine published by the University of Texas at San Antonio, recently highlighted a variety of ways alumni may contribute to Pave the Paseo, a fundraising initiative in which alumni pay to have their names engraved on bricks, which are then added to a popular campus walkway. I proudly participated.

Check out Michelle Mondo’s wonderful story, “Leave Your Mark,” which you may read here.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: Useless to resist

Kate Stone’s brother led a group of men back to the Brokenburn estate to recapture the slaves the Stone family left behind as they fled Union troops.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Kate Stone’s brother led a group of men back to the Brokenburn estate to recapture the slaves the Stone family left behind as they fled Union troops. Stone recounts with chilling nonchalance what the men saw when they arrived at the springtime plantation. The slaves, exuberantly basking in seeming freedom, had tended the season’s load of vegetables, gathered fruit, stocked fresh meat, made cream and butter, and seemed to be on the verge of re-imagining their liberated community. Little did the slaves realize the fluidity of freedom of the home front.

May 22, 1863

Near Monroe, La.

In the last ten days I have been too busy to write. Mamma was away at Delhi waiting for Jimmy to return from his perilous trip to the river until last Monday, when they returned in triumph with all the Negroes except Webster, who had joined the Federal Army some time ago, and four old Negroes who were left on the place to protect it as far as possible.

Jimmy went in with a Capt. Smith and five other men, but it was owing entirely to Jimmy’s exertions that the Negroes were secured at last. They had captured the Negroes and were pushing on for the bayou when they were pursued by a body of forty Yankees. They came within hailing distance of Capt. Smith and his men and fired volley after volley at them, but fortunately none were struck. Capt. Smith ran as fast as possible to escape and to tell Jimmy to let the Negroes go and escape for his life, but when he came up with Jimmy at the Tensas Bayou, he found Jimmy swimming the stream and the Negroes and mules already across. Jimmy had heard the firing and rushed the Negroes over in dugouts, he swimming over with the mules. He swam over two or three times.

The Yankees, having no boats, did not attempt to follow any farther, and so Jimmy saved all of the Negroes at last. They are now on their way to Texas in Jimmy’s care, trying to overtake Mr. Smith’s train.

Jimmy and the men with him hid all day in the canebrake just back of the fence and in the fodder loft at Brokenburn and stole out at night to reconnoiter. They found what cabins the Negroes were in, and while hiding under Lucy’s house they saw her sitting there with Maria before a most comfortable fire drinking the most fragrant coffee. They were abusing Mamma, calling her “that Woman” and talking exultantly of capering around in her clothes and taking her place as mistress and heaping scorn on her. Capt. Smith says that he never heard a lady get such a tongue-lashing and that Lucy abused the whole family in round terms. At daylight they surrounded the cabins, calling the Negroes out and telling them it was useless to resist. They were captured. William made an effort to escape by jumping from a window, but at sight of a bowie knife he gave up. … As they passed Capt. Allen’s on Bear Lake, Capt. Smith and his men stopped to cook something to eat, and it was there that he came so near being caught. The penalty would have been hanging, and I suppose there would have been no mercy shown as this is his fourth trip into the swamp to bring out property left there. He is a marked man by the Federals.

Mamma heard only after Jimmy left that the penalty for removing anything from the property confiscated by the government was hanging, and she was utterly wretched until she welcomed Jimmy back, sunburnt and tired but triumphant.

Capt. Smith says Brokenburn is lovely, a place of abundance flowing with milk and honey. The tall oaks in their summer finery of deep green are throwing shadows on the soft deep grass creeping to their very trunks, the white house is set in a very bower of green, and the flower garden is shining off at one side, a mass of bloom. He said he did want to stay and take one good breakfast with the Negroes, since he never saw so many good things to eat: a barrel of milk, jars of delicious pinkish cream, roll after roll of creamy yellow butter, a yard alive with poultry, and hams and fresh meat just killed. The garden is stocked with vegetables, the strawberry bed red with fruit, and then a supply of coffee, tea, flour, and such things bought from the Yankees. He says they would have been foolish Negroes to run off from a place like that. William and his family were occupying Mamma’s room, completely furnished as we left it, and all our other possessions had been divided up among the Negroes.

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Arnold’s film career / A certain San Antonio fashion designer / The physics of Batman / Let the dog make the baby healthier / A girl with two lovers

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Schwarzenegger Gears Up for Act 2 as an Action Hero
By Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes | The New York Times | July 12
“[I]t was lost on no one that Mr. Schwarzenegger’s appearance marks his return to a film career that will find him taking more substantial action roles, even though he will qualify for Medicare upon turning 65 this month.”

2. To these successful designers, the concept of outsourcing is out of fashion
By Michael Quintanilla | San Antonio Express-News | July 12
“‘Made in the U.S.A.’ — it’s a refreshing phrase in a world of outsourcing and overseas production.”

3. Batman could fly, but he’d crash and die
By Michael Holden | Reuters | July 9
“Holy crash landing Batman! The crime-fighting caped crusader could fly but if he did, he would smash into the ground and probably die, a group of British physics students have calculated.”

4. Another Stab at the U.S. Constitution
Room for Debate :: The New York Times | July 9
“As the United States prepares to mark the 225th anniversary of its Constitution, we have the benefit of hindsight that the framers lacked. What should be omitted, clarified or added?”

5. Remember Iraq? Still A Mess, but the US Needs to Stay Out
By Robert Dreyfuss | The Nation | July 9
“Still, it’s important for liberals, the left and the antiwar movement to remember Iraq by borrowing the phrase, ‘Never again.’ And here’s what the Obama administration ought to do about violence in Iraq: Nothing.”

6. Babies in dog-owning families may be healthier
By Andrew M. Seaman | Reuters | July 9
“Dogs are no longer just man’s best friend: The furry family members may also protect infants against breathing problems and infections, a new study suggests.”

7. More public schools splitting up boys, girls
By Jessie L. Bonner and Heather Hollingsworth | Associated Press | July 8
“Proponents argue the separation allows for a tailored instruction and cuts down on gender-driven distractions among boys and girls, such as flirting. But critics decry the movement as promoting harmful gender stereotypes and depriving kids of equal educational opportunities.”

8. Woman With Two Lovers Trying to Hide the Bruises
Daily Intel :: New York Magazine | May 9
“Once a week, Daily Intel takes a peek behind doors left slightly ajar. This week, the Woman With Two Lovers Trying to Hide Bruises From Rough Sex: female, fashion buyer, 24, Williamsburg, straight, single.”

9. Rereading: A candid view of Candide
By Julian Barnes | The Guardian | July 1
“Julian Barnes pays tribute to Voltaire’s Candide, a satire that remains as fresh and pertinent today as when it was written in the 18th century”

10. The death of Pushkin
Witness :: BBC News | February 11
“Pushkin died after a duel with a Frenchman. Rumours about the other man’s relationship with Pushkin’s much younger wife had led to the stand-off.”

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Tonight I’m spending some time with the blues, specifically with the wonderful Texas Blues Café. Check out the line-up and then listen here.

1. Preacher Stone — Come On In
2. Preacher Stone — Judge Me Not
3. Ian Moore — Nothing
4. Big Head Tod & The Monsters — House Burn Down
5. The Geoff Everett Band — Hole In My Life
6. Los Lonely Boys — Evil Ways
7. Johnny Lang — Living For The City
8. JJ Gray & Mofro — All
9. Demian Bell — Long Way Up
10. Gerry Joe Weise — Who’s Calling
11. Jane Crow & Blues Inc — Back For More
12. Rocky Jackson — Goin’ Back To Texas
13. Joss Stone — Right To Be Wrong
14. Tommy Crain — Take Me To The River

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Stay-at-home moms / Invisible octopuses / The rare transit of Venus / The damage from Texas textbooks / Departures of Kristen Wiig and Peggy Olson

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us
By Gail Collins | The New York Review of Books | June 2012
“Ever since the 1960s, the selection of schoolbooks in Texas has been a target for the religious right, which worried that schoolchildren were being indoctrinated in godless secularism, and political conservatives who felt that their kids were being given way too much propaganda about the positive aspects of the federal government.”

2. Stay-at-Home Moms Report More Sadness, Anger and Depression than Working Moms
By Bonnie Rochman | Family Matters :: Time | June 1
“Gallup.com found that working mothers report greater well-being than stay-at-home moms. Is a job the ticket to bliss?”

3. How Octopuses Make Themselves Invisible
By Katherine Harmon | Octopus Chronicles :: Scientific American | June 1
“Do they survey the whole area in their proximity and incorporate the general hues and patterns into their skin display, or do they pick out just a few nearby landmarks for a more precise match?”

4. Tuesday is last chance to see transit of Venus
By Elizabeth Weise | USA Today | May 31
“It happens only four times every 243 years. If you want to see the famed transit of Venus, next Tuesday is your last chance this century.”

5. A Study in Farewells: Kristen Wiig and Peggy Olson
By Sasha Weiss | Culture Desk :: The New Yorker | June 1
“What a relief — and what a brilliant coincidence — that the gods of TV charted a course this week from Peggy’s quiet triumph to Wiig’s loud one, and one we can all share in.”

6. Christina Hendricks on Joan’s Epic Moral Moment
By Gwynne Watkins | The Stream :: GQ | May 30
“The emotionally wrenching episode was the best so far this season, and a tour de force for actress Christina Hendricks (whose hourglass beauty gets more press than her considerable acting chops).”

7. Issues for His Prose Style
By Andrew O’Hagan | London Review of Books | June 2012
“[Ernest Hemingway] never takes nouns for granted. He invests his whole personality in them, because nouns are the part of speech where a person gets to show off.”

8. NASA to future moon explorers: Don’t ruin our Apollo landing sites
By Larry McShane | The New York Daily News | May 29
“Space agency issues guidelines to help other lunar missions to protect historic remains”

9. Are literary classics obsolete?
By Laura Miller | Salon | May 30
“A new study says today’s writers are influenced by authors of the present, not the past”

10. The ‘Muslim Schindler’
By Mehdi Hasan | The New Statesman | May 23
“A lawyer by training, he used his negotiating skills to try to persuade the Nazis’ experts on racial purity that the 150 or so Iranian Jews living in the city in 1940 were assimilated to non-Jewish — and ‘Aryan’ — Persians through history, culture and intermarriage.”

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TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. WHY TRY TO CHANGE ME NOW Fiona Apple
2. SLOWLY Max Sedgley
3. SAIL AWAY David Gray
4. WHY Annie Lennox
5. WAS LOVE Captain Ahab
6. SMALL OF MY HEART Madison Violet
7. HEAVEN’S GONNA BURN YOUR EYES Thievery Corporation
8. TA DOULEUR (Your Pain) Camille
9. MEET YOUR NEW LOVE Atlantic/Pacific
10. ANGEL OF SOLITUDE Alias

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Types of Super Bowl fans / Men who love ‘Downton’ / Astronaut applications sky rocket / Latinos ready to retire / Handwriting and IQ

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. A Game Guide for Three Types of Fans: Novice, Casual, Expert
By Matthew Futterman | The Wall Street Journal | Feb. 3
“The connoisseur, the casual and the curious-but-clueless: Find your level”

2. Baby boom takes schools to breaking point
By Simon Murphy and Jeevan Vasagar | The Guardian | Feb. 3
“Two-shift day and use of empty Woolworths stores among ideas to cope with surge in primary age pupils”

3. ‘Downton’ dudes
By Reed Tucker | The New York Post | Feb. 3
“Move over, ESPN! Men are getting gabby over Brit masterpiece ‘Abbey’ ”

4. Who wants to be an astronaut? Everyone!
By Brad Plumer | WonkBlog :: The Washington Post | Feb. 3
“More than 6,300 individuals applied to become a NASA astronaut between Nov. 15, 2011 and Jan. 27, the second highest number of applications ever received by the agency.”

5. Pledge Sues Sorority for Making Her Pee Her Pants
By Anna North | Jezebel | Feb. 3
“Her lawsuit also reveals why for some pledges, it can be so hard to simply leave.”

6. Hispanics Are Least Prepared For Retirement, Report Finds
The Huffington Post | Feb. 3
“As the wealth disparity between white, black and Hispanic households continues to grow, the share of minorities concerned about their financial future is likely to grow beyond what the study reports.”

7. NASA sheds light on tech needed for space travel
By Martin LaMonica | CNET | Feb. 3
“The technologies needed back in the days of the Apollo space missions were well understood. But with NASA’s current missions, it faces a broader and more complicated list of priorities.”

8. Connecting the dots between handwriting and high scores
By Donna Krache | Schools of Thought :: CNN | Feb. 3
“With classroom time at a premium and the common use of the keyboard, some school districts are abandoning handwriting as part of the curriculum.”

9. Under the High Line, a Gay Past
By Erik Piepenburg | Arts Beat :: The New York Times | Feb. 3
“Built on a defunct railway that runs 30 feet above Manhattan between 10th and 11th Avenues, the High Line stands above parts of the city that for generations of gay people, particularly gay men, were equal parts playground (the Roxy nightclub, the Anvil bar) and sanctuary (Florent restaurant, Christopher Street).”

10. Are high-tech classrooms better classrooms?
By David Sirota | Salon | Feb. 3
“Despite the hype over Apple’s new iPad textbooks, there’s little proof that gadgets do much to improve education”

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TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. AND THAT’S SAYING A LOT Natural Calamity
2. BLAME IT ON THE BOSSA NOVA Eydie Gorme
3. TEARDROP Morcheeba
4. THE ROAD TO BENARES Thunderball
5. FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN Robert Plant
6. RIGHT ANGLES Thievery Corporation
7. SULLEN GIRL Fiona Apple
8. SONGBIRD Fleetwood Mac
9. THANK YOU Dido
10. A MILLION MILES AWAY Lenny Kravitz

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Texas health care / Send your scholar overseas / Iranian women as ninjas / Avocado and egg breakfast / Super Bowl apps

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Roseanne Barr seeks Green Party presidential nod
By Andrew Miga | Associated Press | Feb. 3
“The actress-comedian said in a statement that she’s a longtime supporter of the party and looks forward to working with people who share her values. She said the two major parties aren’t serving the American people.”

2. Texas Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz: Spanish is Ghetto
By Sara Ines Calderon | NewsTaco | Feb. 3
“Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Texas Ted Cruz recently followed Newt Gingrich’s lead in calling Spanish that language of the ghetto.”

3. App Smart Extra: Super Bowl Apps
By Bob Tedeschi | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | Feb. 3
“Most football fans will be forced to spend at least part of the weekend away from televised Super Bowl coverage. For those not willing to endure that sort of pain, the N.F.L. this week released three apps to help.”

4. Bake an Egg in an Avocado for a Fast and Healthy Breakfast Treat
By Alan Henry | Lifehacker | Feb. 3
“Avocados are amazing things — they’re delicious on their own, but they also have a lot of healthy fats, dietary fibers, and vitamins, and despite their high caloric value, they’re remarkably easy to prepare.”

5. Why Thousands of Iranian Women Are Training to Be Ninjas
By Max Fisher | The Atlantic | Feb. 3
“In a society that treats them like children, sports — and especially martial arts — offer a way to express strength and independence.”

6. Outsource Your Kid
By Charles Kenny | Foreign Policy | Jan. 30
“Trying to save money on a university and still get a good education? Forget the local community college — send your kid to school overseas.”

7. Interactive: Enrollment in Texas’ Health-Care Programs Increasing
By Becca Aaronson | The Texas Tribune | Feb. 1
“There were nearly 3.6 million Texans enrolled in Medicaid as of June 2011, the most current available data — a 16 percent increase in enrollment compared with June 2009.”

8. Gaza Lives On
Al Jazeera World | October 2011
“The Israeli blockade may have taken a heavy toll on Gazans, but this film reveals life and hope among the devastation.”

9. This much I know: Gillian Anderson
By Shahesta Shaitly | The Observer | October 2011
“The actor, 43, on Britishness, growing older and the importance of being wrong”

10. Ups and Downs
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | November 2011
“As a gardener, I plant seeds any which way, and they invariably send shoots up. How do they know which way is up?”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Iowa vote confusion / Europe’s future / Olympic sheep-shearing / Lovers exchange passwords / Preschool cuts

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. 2021: The New Europe
By Niall Ferguson | The Saturday Essay :: The Wall Street Journal | November 2011
“Niall Ferguson peers into Europe’s future and sees Greek gardeners, German sunbathers — and a new fiscal union. Welcome to the other United States.”

2. Sheep shearing an Olympic sport? New Zealand farmers hope so
By Matt Brooks | The Early Lead :: The Washington Post | Jan. 17
“With New Zealand hosting the world shearing championships in March, Federated Farmers Mean and Fiber chairwoman Jeannette Maxwell believes it’s time to strike while the clippers are hot.”

3. Countries consider time out on the ‘leap second’
By Frank Jordans | Associated Press | Jan. 17
“The United States, France and others are pushing for countries at a U.N. telecom meeting to abolish the leap second, which for 40 years has kept computers in sync with the Earth day.”

4. Password Sharing: For Teens, Access To Online Accounts Is A Sign Of Love
The Huffington Post | Jan. 18
“Would you want to share access to your email, Facebook and Tumblr accounts with the one you love? For more and more teens, the key to their heart comes with the passwords to their digital lives.”

5. Iowa Republicans to call caucus result split decision
Reuters | Jan. 19
“The Iowa Republican Party will certify this month’s presidential caucuses as a split decision between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, citing missing data from eight precincts, the Des Moines Register reported on Thursday.”

6. Recession slows growth in public prekindergarten
By Kimberly Hefling | Associated Press | Jan. 17
“The expansion in public prekindergarten programs has slowed and even been reversed in some states as school districts cope with shrinking budgets. As a result, many 3- and 4-year-olds aren’t going to preschool.”

7. This much I know: Morgan Freeman
By Simon David | The Observer | October 2010
“The actor, 73, on wearing an earring, being a good sailor, and dreaming big”

8. As the World Turns
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | April 2011
“Do the shifts of the Earth’s axis produced by earthquakes alter world weather?”

9. Five myths about the American flag
By Marc Leepson | Five Myths :: The Washington Post | June 10
“Americans love our flag. … Yet the iconography and history of the American flag, especially its early history, are infused with myth and misrepresentation. Here are five of the most prevalent myths.”

10. Civil War women: Abigail May Alcott
Civil War Women Blog | Oct. 22
“Abigail ‘Abby’ May Alcott (1800–1877) was an abolitionist, women’s rights activist, pioneer social and one of the first paid social workers in the state of Massachusetts.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Understanding SOPA / The 5-Second Rule / Looking back at Election 2012 / MLK papers now online / Romney’s faith issue

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Concerns about Romney’s faith quieter but not gone
By Rachel Zoll | Associated Press | Jan. 16
“The second time around, the shock has worn off. The prospect of a Mormon president appears to be less alien to South Carolina Republicans who are giving Mitt Romney a second look after his failed White House bid in 2008.”

2. Peruvian food put back on the map in Britain
By Sam Jones | The Guardian | Jan. 16
“Restaurants will offer a taste of Lima — with the help of a ‘sacred quartet’ of chillies”

3. 200,000 Martin Luther King Papers Go Online
Open Culture | Jan. 16
“The documents give you a good glimpse of Dr. King’s role as a scholar, father, pastor and catalyst for change.”

4. 10 Important Life Lessons You Learn From Living Abroad
By Whitney Cox | BootsNAll | Jan 16
“It’s a world of implicit triumphs and it’ll-be-funny-later humiliations. Unpack your bags and look forward to these life lessons”

5. Analysis: Wannabe stars, failed hopefuls and the GOP drama that wasn’t
By Steve Krakauer | CNN | Jan. 16
“How did we get here? Where’s the drama, the intrigue, the subplots worthy of intense media salivation? Let’s take a look back”

6. Split by Race and Wealth, but Discovering Similarities as They Study Steinbeck
By Winnie Hu | The New York Times | Jan. 16
“Westfield and Plainfield are linked by a railroad line, but little else connects their residents.”

7. What Is SOPA?
By Brian Barrett | Gizmodo | Jan. 17
“SOPA is an anti-piracy bill working its way through Congress…”

8. This much I know: Tim Robbins
By Emma John | The Observer | September 2010
“The actor and musician, 51, on hatred, ice hockey, and winning an Oscar”

9. The 5-Second Rule
By C. Claiborne Ray | Q&A :: The New York Times | February 2011
“You know the five-second rule for dropped food? Is it really safe if you pick it up in time?”

10. The Krakow Ghetto
Witness :: BBC News | March 2011
“The city of Krakow in Poland was home to a large Jewish community before World War II. But with the arrival of the Nazis many of its Jews were deported, or fled. Then in 1941 a Jewish ghetto was built.”