This new book is a very good place to start learning about cons and how they work. My only criticism is that I wish it had photos because Ms. Konnikova writes about so many real-life cons that it would be nice to have faces with names to keep everybody straight. The chapters are long, and sometimes I felt overwhelmed with information. So I broke up my reading, placing a few days between chapters, so I could absorb the information.
What makes the book uniquely helpful are all the psychological studies it cites, showing how cons exploit certain human tendencies in our perceptions and thought processes. I found these even more interesting than the stories of various cons ad crooks, which are very compelling as well.
I read a very good book about one of the most infamous episodes in West Virginia’s history, Blood Feud: the Hatfields and the McCoys: the Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance. What I liked about this book is that besides relating the events of the feud, the author explores why it’s still famous a hundred years late. There were other feuds — the ones the author researched were all in Kentucky — and they are all almost forgotten. Some of these feuds were longer and bloodier than the Hatfield-McCoy feud, so it wasn’t the violence that made it memorable. Ms. Alther puts the enduring popularity down to media attention. T.C. Crawford wrote An American Vendetta in 1888. The book “reached a wide audience and spawned spin-offs in the form of novels and silent movies.” It also created the stereotype of the violent, stupid hillbilly.
We see the media doing the same thing now. Certain crimes and trials become more well known than others because of how they are written and recorded, not because of anything inherent in the crimes or trials themselves.
When I was visiting Blackwater Falls State Park in Tucker county this summer, I needed to do some research in the county seat of Parsons. Taking US 219 south from Davis, I found the 30 minutes drive beautiful, exciting, and sometimes, nerve-wracking for someone not used to driving in the mountains, even on a two-lane highway.
Driving out of the state park, I skirted the edge of Davis, “the highest incorporated town east of the Mississippi”, then fairly soon found myself driving through the tiny town of Thomas, which has an interesting layout. Most of the town is built on one side of the North Fork of the Blackwater River. The mountainside is so steep, the town is built in layers like a wedding cake with buildings on the higher level set back from those below.
After passing through Thomas and descending Backbone Mountain, an enormous wind turbine popped into view. Its appearance was so surprising because I had had no hint of what to expect until the entire turbine loomed into sight, complete and colossal.
I pulled off onto Sugarlands Road and found the gate to a line of wind turbines open. I could taken the service road that ran under them as far as I wanted and when I returned with my family, we did follow it a short way to get some pictures. The turbines are 345 feet tall, and 166 of them line “the top of this north-south ridge for miles.”
Less than a mile past Sugarlands Road is a small picnic and observation area. The top photo is what can be seen from this spot. It was just gorgeous with mountains rolling to the horizons like waves. The farm in the photo stood out beautifully from the surrounding deeper green of the mountains.
Past this observation point, I continued to descend. At one point the road was six miles of a six percent grade. Driving that was a lot of fun, but it also made me nervous when the tractor trailers, coming up the road, swung around curve.
I noticed Tucker County High School is located a long this stretch, and it made me wonder what does the school do when it snows and the busses have to come down a slick road or crawl up one. Maybe the county clears this road first, but I could see all kinds of hazards for the bus drivers and high school students trying to make it to school on a snowy morning.
By the time I pulled into Parsons, which sits in a flat river valley along the Cheat River, I had descended 1,600 feet in half an hour.
It was a wonderful drive, and if you want to take scenic routes through West Virginia, check out Ms. Clauson-Wicker’s book.
A great way to get in a regular writing habit is to keep a journal about your life. Every writer should keep a writing journal, which holds all your ideas and attempts at different kinds of writing. But a daily journal, like a diary, is a way to keep writing even when inspiration has died. Paper is best. You don’t have to censor yourself or worry about security.
I started a journal in high school — I refused to call it a diary. I remember thinking it was something I should do because I liked writing and had some vague idea that I was also doing it for history’s sake.
Forget history. Write for yourself, about what interests you. If chronicling every event of the day sounds too boring, pick just one event and write it out in detail. Or keep a journal just about a hobby or a sport. Some movie buffs have movie journals, listing when and where he or she watched a movie and a review of it. You can keep a journal on any topic. that interests you. The important thing is to start writing and keep writing.
Writing about how to observe nature has reminded me how the beauty of nature makes me think of God. Specifically, it reminds me how good He is.
God has designed His creation with such beauty and mystery and created us to be able to marvel and explore it. Maybe He could have made nature strictly practical, but He made it for us, and it is so wonderful that it’s hard to doubt how great and loving God is.
Recently when I’ve been down about the horrible state of the world or stressed about overwhelming personal matters, taking in nature has revived me.
On a full moon night, I was walking on the beach. Seeing the sea turn to rippling silver and marveling at the power of the surf and the phenomenon of moon shadows, I was flooded with a feeling of optimism. If God could bother to make creation so beautiful, life was still good despite all the messes people make.
Another time, my family and I were flying paper airplanes off a steep hill in the golden light on an August evening. I was suddenly hit with the fact that people have been enjoying August evenings for thousands of years. Maybe, they just sat with their family after a hard day in the fields. Or maybe they threw a party to celebrate the first harvest. But I felt wonderfully connected to the past and decided we people in the present have everything in common with the people of the past. God made us all the same. It was very comforting to feel that connection with God and the past.