Alan Furst writes first-rate historical spy novels set in Europe just prior to, during, and at the end of World War II. They are all about ordinary people from Poland, Hungary, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, France, Germany, and other counties who are caught up in war and how they try to cope with the demands of their personal lives and the demands—both wanted and unwanted—of their countries.
Meticulously researched, carefully designed and populated with very believable characters, Furst’s books intrigue and delight in equal measure. From his initial Night Soldiers to his latest The Spies of Warsaw [and now Spies of the Balkans], Furst draws the reader into his imaginary world that seems very real indeed. In a review of The Foreign Correspondent, the Los Angles Times wrote “As close to heaven as popular fiction can get.” I agree.
Posted September 01, 2010
I will use any five minutes I am given to promote the use of LinkedIn for professional networking among current Bowdoin students, Bowdoin alumni, parents and other professional colleagues. With over 60 million users world-wide, LinkedIn has quickly evolved into the go-to site for career networking and peer-to-peer advice. By setting up a free profile, you create a virtual resume of experiences and a real time reference/endorsement network. There is no better way to prepare for your first, or next, career step than to connect with professional peers in advance of when you are ready to make the move. As many positions are filled by the referral market, LinkedIn becomes an essential tool for exploring new companies and fields you may wish to join.
Bowdoin students are using LinkedIn as a dynamic platform to network with alumni and friends of the College. To foster this engagement, Bowdoin Career Planning recently launched a Bowdoin Career Advisory (BCAN) networking group on LinkedIn that has over 1,200 members and growing. In fact, many organizations you might belong to are likely to have a LinkedIn group. The beauty of LinkedIn, however, is that it greatly expands your reach beyond any one college or workplace affiliation. Creating a basic profile and accessing basic services are free, so there is no reason not to participate in this dynamic online community.
Posted May 27, 2010
I like Jon Stewart. A lot. Of course I don't know him, but I admire, appreciate and thrive on his persona and performance. He is the absolutely marvelous combination of incisiveness, wittiness and goofiness. I love it. He is breathtakingly smart. He's human--that is, imperfect. But his percentages when it comes to being right or right on are pretty high. He's articulate and foul-mouthed in just the right measures. He has impeccable timing. He is a master parrier and hard to match on the riposte--en-garde. He's sassy, and fearless, while playing to type as the sissy. Mostly, he is funny like hell. Much of the time--I've been watching for years--he and The Daily Show are my nightly tonic, my antidote to the day, especially the political day. Finally, he is what I call a nice Jewish boy. His parents must have such naches (not nachos). I refuse to explain. Consult JS's Yiddish glossary. He brings it.
Posted May 11, 2010
I love Fantasy Baseball. The only problem is that I'm horrible at it. I've played in a regular Yahoo league for 10 years with a dozen or so friends from college. Every year, I obsess over my draft picks and spend far too much time looking for rookie sensations. Every year, my team underperforms, and I overreact and trade away good players. Two years ago, for example, I traded Alex Rodriquez straight up for Chone Figgins. Even a non-baseball fan knows this makes no sense. Who is Chone Figgins, after all? Needless to say, the trade did not work out well for me. This year, I’m shifting gears yet again. I recently downloaded off our league site the 10 years of statistical data relative to my league. This includes my yearly performance and the stats for each team in over 20 performance categories. I'm approaching the season from the data end, and not from the perspective of a baseball fan. Before the draft, I ranked performance categories that consistently predict our league's winner—and I drafted with that in mind. Will it work? Probably not. And I'll undoubtedly shift gears mid-season and revert to my "hunches" that have proved so misguided in the past. No matter what happens by seasons' end, though, I always have fun, and I always look forward to next season.
Posted April 14, 2010
My husband and I took a summer trip last year and tooled around the northeast corner of Spain in a VW van. It was one of our best vacations so far. As far as I'm concerned the area around Barcelona has everything I want: sophisticated cities, beautiful country, friendly people, great food, the sea, the mountains and jamon that can make you cry. On this trip I found a wine that was new to me. It's a crisp yet juicy white wine made with verdejo grapes from Rueda, which is an area northwest of Madrid. It was reasonably priced and we found ourselves ordering it everywhere. To my delight, it's available in various forms at our excellent wine sellers in Bath and Brunswick like Provisions, Tess's Market, and Now You're Cooking. My particular favorite is Cuevas de Castilla "Con Class" Rueda, which retails in the $10.00 range.
Posted February 25, 2010
I love baseball's Spring Training, both what it is but also what it represents. Yes, I'm an obsessive-compulsive Red Sox fan, and I love to follow the evolution of my team and the associated cast of characters. But Spring Training comes to Maine at just the right time. The truck leaving Fenway and the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers are my Groundhog Days. These markers give me a sense of optimism that the long Maine winter will soon come to an end and remind me that our academic year is winding down. During the Long Period of Suffering, the spring games represented a new beginning and provided a reason to believe that this would finally be the season. Now, as two-time champions, I've replaced my bizarre rituals, which were necessary for Sox victories, with confidence and the chance to legitimately needle insufferable Yankee fans like President Mills and Professor Coviello.
When the Red Sox and Yankees finally take the field on April 4 for Opening Day, spring will have arrived in Maine and the summer will quickly follow, but in the interim, I will have enjoyed a Spring Training induced renewal.
Posted February 25, 2010
At its most basic, history is storytelling. As a professional historian, however, I sometimes feel trapped by the conventions of my profession and the tastes of my peers. That's why I have a secret love for graphic novels and comics. The best artists fuse the simplicity of children's books with the complexity of adult literature. And one of my favorites is Shaun Tan, a Chinese-Australian raised in the suburbs of Perth. History, politics, science, and social commentary infuse his work, yet the worlds he invents are at once familiar and utterly strange. The Arrival is a wordless allegory about immigration. A man fleeing his destitute town encounters strange new languages and creatures in a new country across a vast ocean. Helped along the way by other refugees from violence and poverty, he creates a new home overseas. Tan's latest book, Tales from Outer Suburbia, is an anthology of short picture stories about bizarre visitors - a nut-sized foreign exchange student living in the pantry - and strange incidents - a wandering sea monster beached on a front lawn - in the most ordinary of places: a suburban neighborhood. Tan does what the best historians do: telling extraordinary stories about ordinary things. Besides, I can share his work with my children, too. They probably understand more than I do.
Posted February 09, 2010
I came across this site last spring when looking for help with my fitness nutrition and training and I've been hooked ever since. I mainly use The Daily Plate feature that helps me track the calories I consume and burn to keep me on target with my training goals. There's also an iPhone/iPod Touch app that I use to do the same. My wife gives me a hard time, thinking I'm a little compulsive about it, but using The Daily Plate improved my eating habits and helped me drop 10 pounds that I couldn't otherwise seem to shake. Most features on Livestrong.com like The Daily Plate are free, including additional helpful tools, and insightful articles and videos on a wide range of healthy lifestyle topics, as well as a social networking component. Livestrong, of course, is Lance Armstrong's brand, and Livestrong.com also contains resources for cancer patients, survivors, and their supporters.
Posted December 08, 2009
I saw a terrific film a couple of months ago—"Man on Wire," a documentary about Philippe Petit, the French aerialist who walked a tight rope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974; a feat which some have described as “the artistic crime of the century.” I was living in New York at the time, and remember the sensation it caused, but the film brought out the truly breathtaking audacity of his undertaking, not least of all how he managed to get a reliable tight rope strung between the twin towers without the permission or cooperation of the authorities. What no public artist today would dream of doing without approvals and major financial support, he and his friends did pretty much on their own; do-it-yourself public art on a grand scale. Aside from the beauty of the feat itself, and the unexpected effects it had on his personal life, re-thinking this relatively benign and artful transgression, eight years after 9/11, evokes a complex mixture of thoughts and emotions about how much the world has changed in the last thirty-five years.
Posted March 04, 2009
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. A great book to share – it’s been given to me by two former students and, in turn, I’ve passed it along to friends and family. It lives up to its title, skimming the surface of most branches of the natural sciences, starting with the origins of the universe and ending with the descent of humans. The student who first handed it off was particularly enthusiastic about the odd bits of knowledge into every page. To me, the beauty of the book is how these scientific facts are embedded within personal and political histories of those who discovered them. Sure, it’s fun to learn that humans have about the same number of genes as grass and far fewer than newts, but somehow more fun to learn that, when they weren’t dying from X-ray exposure, pioneers in the study of DNA were using family connections to steal one another’s work, being refused passports for their liberal views, and alienating their colleagues to the point of early retirement.
Posted March 03, 2009