Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meet the man behind the weather report

"Nature's Messenger: Memoirs of a Prophetic Meteorologist,"

by Craig Edwards

Craig Edwards was the man behind the scenes for our weather in Minnesota and the rest of the Upper Midwest.

As the Twin Cities area chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service, the St. Hubert, Chanhassen parishioner recently finished a 34-year career warning people about storms, tornadoes, blizzards -- you name it.

It's from that experience of watching the weather patterns and witnessing scientifically the dramatically visible changes we see and feel that Edwards moves from telling his life story to almost a self-appointed role as prophet about climate change and global warming.

Edwards, who upon retirement from the weather bureau in 2007 took a job in the weather department for Minnesota Public Radio, religiously -- pun intended -- writes about his Catholic upbringing in Illinois and his fascination with the weather from an early age.

Readers of a certain age are going to see parallels with their own youthful years, I'm sure, and I didn't find much of that part of "Nature's Messenger" compelling reading.

But when you get to page 56 of this paperback, that's where the good stuff starts.

Come behind the curtain

Edwards takes readers on a lengthy behind-the-scenes tour of operations at several Weather Service locations around the Midwest, into the personnel issues, how and why the government got behind commercial television stations in working with new technologies like Doppler radar.

If you're old enough you'll be able to relive some of the major weather events of the past 34 years, including record snowstorms, tornadoes and of course the Red River Valley floods. Edwards calls the central part of North America "the world's greatest playground for the forces of nature," and thus a prime spot for weather people to work in.

All along the way in this life story of a man with an interesting job he works in what's going on with his family life and especially his faith life, including his finding blessing in Eucharistic Adoration and teaching in his parish confirmation program.

Interesting, too, is this comment about the parallels between life and weather: "There are a large number of days when things are just simply partly cloudy."

A man on a bigger mission

There's a good bit of preachiness here about the importance of striving for excellence in one's career without having to be pushed by outside forces, but Edwards doesn't over-do it. His writing style like his leadership style is more of collaborating, mentoring and preaching with his actions.

But when he starts laying out his thoughts about climate change, Edwards preaches a tough-love homily. "The planet is more vulnerable than ever before," he claims, and we humans have brought it on ourselves.

He sees the evidence of global warming as disrespecting God's creation, and he drives home with paragraph after paragraph of evidence the fact that we ignore all the warnings at our peril.

The answer lies in "a substantial sacrificial response and personal accountability," Edwards said. "All God's people have an inherent purpose to preserve the goodness of the earth."

Edwards does speaking engagements on the topics he writes about in "Nature's Messenger," an iUniverse title. Reach him at www.naturesmessenger.com. -- bz

Friday, December 12, 2008

Do you know where you came from?


by Hugo Hamilton

What's your earliest memory?

You've heard from parents and extended family stories from that part of your life for which you have no memory because you were just too young to remember.

But what if you discovered that maybe you hadn't been told the complete truth about those early years?

What if there was evidence that the people who call themselves your parents may not be your parents at all?

Hugo Hamilton gets inside the mind of a character in that very scenario. It's a novel that traps you into reading to the end.

Who are we, really?

The setting is Germany, and the story starts during World War II and flips back and forth between the generations and decades after the war and 50 some years later. Hamilton offers us a wonderful sense of place in every one of the locales he takes us to.

And as much as "Disguise" offers plot as a main device, it's really character that is in the spotlight, and not just for the family whose story is drawing us in.

How is who we are and where we come from -- and who we come from -- important to what we become?

What impact is there on our psyche in knowing our ancestry, or, more to the point, of not knowing? What does it do to you when you can't trust -- or don't know if you can trust -- your own parents? If you don't belong in a place, where do you belong?

How do you know when you're home?

No formulaic ending

"Disguise" isn't a book I'd jump up and down to recommend. By grade, maybe it's a "B+" thanks to the absolute beauty of the prose.

But I do recommend this Harper title (www.HarperCollins.com).

We need to read literature that doesn't have the formulaic endings of best-selling novels where you know before you start that the hero will conquer evil. -- bz

Monday, December 1, 2008

Most useful and used gift book you could buy this Christmas is about, of all things, the Rosary

"The Rosary: A Journey to the Beloved,"

by Gary Jansen

It's one of those small, easy-to-handle books, only 100 pages or so, and the pages are of the 5 inch by 7 inch variety, but "The Rosary" may be one of the most useful gifts you wrap this Christmas.

Gary Jansen, a book editor by trade, rediscovered the Rosary as a prayer of transformation, a prayer of peace and a prayer of hope, and his little book will help others do the same. As he explains about his own "dark night of the soul," "God had not abandoned me; I just hadn't been listening."

He wrote "The Rosary" as a short introduction on how to listen to God's words in day-to-day life and as a reminder that we are never alone.

There's some introductory pages that offer down-to-earth questions you may have asked yourself at one time or another, like: How long have Catholics been praying the Rosary? What's the point of repeating Hail Mary's over and over? What's behind the "mysteries" of the Rosary?

Jansen offers this simple way to look at the Rosary:

See the Rosary as sitting with Mary and paging through a scrapbook of Jesus' life; it will let you know Jesus on a whole new level, an emotional one, a loving one, and a familiar one.

But can we ever just sit and take the time to do the Rosary?

We 21st century people may have to re-learn how to reflect, not "just do it." Just the opposite of doing, Jansen encourages praying the Rosary as a way to sit with the stories in each of the four mysteries -- Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious:
  • See them as the high points in the life of Jesus;

  • Think about their meaning;

  • Become a character in the scene (for example, a waiter in the gospel story of the Wedding Feast at Cana), and ask yourself how you might have reacted, what you would be thinking were you there at the time, what you might have done in response.

Don't know thing one about the Rosary? There's an easy to use how-to section.

After you've read those introductory pages, though, you'll find Jansen's work useful time after time as you pray The Rosary. Just pick up at Page 39.

You'll see the opening prayers, and then a scripture passage and beautiful painting that goes with each of the 20 mysteries to help you focus on that aspect of Jesus' life story. None is more than one page, most very short, and the simplicity is perfect for helping target your attention.

Art buffs will appreciate the credits in the back that identify each of the paintings and their artists.

All will appreciate this Faith Words imprint (www.faithwords.com). -- bz