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review 2018-04-02 14:14
The man who introduced America to mass production
Eli Whitney and the Birth of American Technology (Library of American Biography Series) - Constance McL. Green,Oscar Handlin

Eli Whitney ranks as one of the great inventors of American history.  Associated in innumerable textbooks with the cotton gin that he developed, his contribution to the development of the American economy extended far beyond this simple device.  Constance McL. Green explains his impact on our history in this brief biography, one that serves both as a study of his life and of the evolution of early American industry.


Whitney displayed his mechanical aptitude from an early age.  Growing up in colonial Massachusetts, he preferred tinkering in his father’s workshop to his various chores on the family farm.  Though his family was middle class by the standards of the age, his request to go to college was nonetheless a considerable burden on the family finances, though one to which his father assented.  Whitney attended Yale, which Green sees as a decision with critical consequences, as his subsequent career would be greatly aided by his fellow alumni.


After his graduation in 1792, Whitney’s acceptance of an tutoring position brought him to Georgia, where he made the acquaintance of the remarkable Catherine Greene, the widow of General Nathaniel Greene.  It was while he was staying at her plantation that he set himself to solving one of the most perplexing problems the South faced – how to process green-seed cotton cheaply.  Here the author provides a valuable context, explaining the new nation’s economic straits in the aftermath of the American Revolution.  With America now cut off from most British markets and with her industry undeveloped, many believed that the solution was to develop a new staple product to export.  The Industrial Revolution was stimulating a growing demand for raw cotton for the new machines to weave into cloth, but the green seeds of the dominant American variety were prohibitively difficult to separate from the fibers.


Eli Whitney solved this problem by building a machine the separated the seeds from the fiber easily.  His new device, the cotton gin, was quickly seen as the revolutionary device it was, energizing the economy of a region that until then was bereft of a role.  Filing a patent for it, he went into business with Greene’s plantation manager, Phineas Miller.  Their plan to gin cotton for 2/5 of the crop soon encountered hostility from numerous Southern cotton growers, however, who preferred to copy the gin and do it themselves.  The subsequent legal battles dragged on for another decade, and resulted in judgements that brought in only a fraction of the money Whitney and Miller had hoped to make.


Yet Whitney’s efforts on the cotton gin were to lead to an even more revolutionary innovation.  To produce the number of machines believed his company would need, Whitney developed a standardized production process, one which he soon sought to apply to the production of muskets.  After his struggles with marketing the cotton gin, Whitney turned to musket manufacturing as an endeavor that ensured a guaranteed income through federal contracts.  His promise to deliver thousands of muskets rested not on a new design of the weapon, but on the application of his “uniformity system” to their production.  This, as Green notes, was Whitney’s “unique contribution to American industrial development . . his execution of a carefully-thought-out system, of which every separate type of machine was a part.”  Such a system offset the shortage of labor plaguing the young nation, and permanently transformed both American manufacturing and the American economy.


Green’s book is a good examination of both the man and his legacy.  Drawing upon a range of materials, it describes his inventions and his business activities in a clear and accessible manner.  More than just a portrait of Whitney, it is a study of a pivotal moment in the history of the American economy and in the development of American technology, with lessons and insights that are as applicable today as they were in his age.

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text 2018-03-30 20:02
The picture in the attic
The Picture of Dorian Gray and Other Works (Halcyon Classics) - Oscar Wilde

If you are one of those people who prefers no politics with your reading, then please skip this post.  You can even unfollow me if you like.



I think this is the portrait hiding in the White House attic.


(spoiler show)


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review 2018-02-09 00:00
Το πορτραίτο του Ντόριαν Γκραίυ
Το πορτραίτο του Ντόριαν Γκραίυ - Oscar Wilde,Όσκαρ Ουάιλντ,Δημήτρης Γ. Κίκιζας 4.5 stars

You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.
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review 2018-01-19 16:47
Didn't get the word play of the title until I was writing out my notes
The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People - Oscar Wilde

After what feels like a millennium, I have read The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and I totally get the hype now. Oscar Wilde's play focuses on two men who independently of the other have invented alternate personas that allow them to cut loose without (hopefully) any repercussions. One of the men has created Ernest who is by all rights a scoundrel and his creator has finally decided to do away with him so that he can settle down and get married. The problem is that his friend (the other deceitful man) has decided to take on the mantle of Ernest so that he can win the heart of a girl that he's just met. (I recommend reading this in one sitting because otherwise you're liable to get confused.) Wilde uses word play and absolutely ridiculous circumstances to discuss the folly of youth and poke fun at the whims and fancies of people who believe they are really truly in love even if they don't truly know the other person. For instance, the two women of the play are determined that they will only marry someone named Ernest but as it turns out no one is named Ernest there is a bit of a kerfuffle. After all is said and done, no one comes out on top and everyone is depicted as foolish and unimpressive. It was thoroughly amusing and I guess now I'll have to see the movie that was based on it. :-P If you haven't read it yourself and you'd like a quick, fun read this will do just the trick. 9/10


And yes the title of this post is true. I was staring at the book's title and then it hit me: "Oh because it's about two men proclaiming to be Ernest and they do it will all earnestness."  *facepalm* 


What's Up Next: The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson


What I'm Currently Reading: The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers


Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2018-01-03 10:08
Looking back on 2017
The letters of Herman Melville - Herman Melville,Merrell R. Davis,William H. Gilman
A True Novel - Juliet Winters Carpenter,Minae Mizumura
Wir - Евгений Замятин
Der Glöckner von Notre-Dame - Else von Schorn,Victor Hugo
What the Hell Did I Just Read - David Wong
Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
Сердешна Оксана - Григорій Квітка-Основ'яненко
The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo - Oscar Zeta Acosta,Manuel Acosta Sero,Hunter S. Thompson
The Revolt of the Cockroach People - Oscar Zeta Acosta,Marco Acosta,Hunter S. Thompson
Ein so langer Brief - Mariama Bâ,Irmgard Rathke,Rolf Italiaander

Hey there! I hope everyone had a fantastic start into 2018!


I always like to take the first days of January to look back and recap what I read in the past year – which books did I love, which ones did I like ok and which ones did upset or disappoint me. So here we go – quick and dirty!


Books I loved

There were a lot of books which I really liked in 2017, so I wrecked my brain to distil the three absolute best of the best for you:
My favourite book must have been The Letters of Herman Melville – interesting, well written and as an highlight I recommend reading the letters he addressed to Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Another one of my favourites was A True Novel by Minae Mizumura which I binge read in 11 days despite the sheer amount of nearly 900 pages. And last, but definitely not least was the mother of all dystopian novels We by Evgenij Zamjatin.


Books I was disappointed in

Luckily, in this category there were not that many books to choose from. The biggest letdown and as I can remember also the most exhausting one to read must have been The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, which is sad, because I expected so much more from this classic. What the Hell did I just read was no favourite of mine neither, although this did not come as a surprise, because David Wong’s books are gradually declining in quality. And since I mentioned We as one of the best books, I have to admit that 1984 wasn’t really a good one, despite its status as the dystopian novel par excellence.


And some honourable mentions

Сердешна Оксана as the first (and so far only) book I read in Ukrainian, So long a letter as a fascinating account of the life of African women and both books written by Oscar Zeta Acosta (The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo and The Revolt of the Cockrach People), because Acosta proves that even lawyers can be amazing writers and fight for what is right.

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