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The Colorado River is an essential resource for a surprisingly large part of the United States, and every gallon that flows down it is owned or claimed by someone. David Owen traces all that water from the Colorado’s headwaters to its parched terminus, once a verdant wetland but now a million-acre desert. He takes readers on an adventure downriver, along a labyrinth of waterways, reservoirs, power plants, farms, fracking sites, ghost towns, and RV parks, to the spot near the U.S.–Mexico border where the river runs dry.
Water problems in the western United States can seem tantalizingly easy to solve: just turn off the fountains at the Bellagio, stop selling hay to China, ban golf, cut down the almond trees, and kill all the lawyers. But a closer look reveals a vast man-made ecosystem that is far more complex and more interesting than the headlines let on.
The story Owen tells in Where the Water Goes is crucial to our future: how a patchwork of engineering marvels, byzantine legal agreements, aging infrastructure, and neighborly cooperation enables life to flourish in the desert —and the disastrous consequences we face when any part of this tenuous system fails.
Our sense of hearing makes it easy to connect with the world and the people around us. The human system for processing sound is a biological marvel, an intricate assembly of delicate membranes, bones, receptor cells, and neurons. Yet many people take their ears for granted, abusing them with loud restaurants, rock concerts, and Q-tips. And then, eventually, most of us start to go deaf.
Millions of Americans suffer from hearing loss. Faced with the cost and stigma of hearing aids, the natural human tendency is to do nothing and hope for the best, usually while pretending that nothing is wrong. In Volume Control, David Owen argues this inaction comes with a huge social cost. He demystifies the science of hearing while encouraging readers to get the treatment they need for hearing loss and protect the hearing they still have.
Hearing aids are rapidly improving and becoming more versatile. Inexpensive high-tech substitutes are increasingly available, making it possible for more of us to boost our weakening ears without bankrupting ourselves. Relatively soon, physicians may be able to reverse losses that have always been considered irreversible. Even the insistent buzz of tinnitus may soon yield to relatively simple treatments and techniques. With wit and clarity, Owen explores the incredible possibilities of technologically assisted hearing. And he proves that ears, whether they're working or not, are endlessly interesting.
Not since the dawn of competitive tournament golf has anyone distanced himself from the rest of the world the way Tiger has. He is the best there is at nearly every aspect of the game: the longest driver, the strongest iron player, the most creative around the greens, and so sharp a clutch putter that when he putts well the tournament is over, and when he putts badly he often wins anyway. He is a breakthrough athlete in a sport remarkably resistant to them; in every tournament, Tiger has to beat a hundred-plus competitors, any of whom can take away a title with a four-day hot streak. When Michael Jordan won all his back-to-back championships, each night he only had to beat one team.
Tiger is also a breakthrough athlete as one of the first true multicultural icons. There are African-American, Asian, Native American, and Caucasian elements to his roots; he carries with him parts of so many ethnicities that he not only shatters stereotypes but renders the whole notion of racial classification irrelevant. It is ironic that such an athlete would emerge in golf, America's most tradition-bound and racially insensitive sport.
In The Chosen One, gifted essayist David Owen ponders the social, economic, and athletic implications of this amazing young man. We are only beginning to see all the ways that Tiger Woods might reshape the world. Owen's thoughtful, incisive, elegant, and provocative work examines this phenomenon unlike any the fields of play have ever seen, in a book that will stand alongside John McPhee's A Sense of Where You Are (about Princeton forward Bill Bradley) among the classic works of sports philosophy.
David Owen, a New Yorker staff writer and the father of two children, has devised a revolutionary new way to teach kids about money. In The First National Bank of Dad, he explains how he helped his own son and daughter become eager savers and rational spenders. He started by setting up a bank of his own at home and offering his young children an attractively high rate of return on any amount they chose to save. "If you hang on to some of your wealth instead of spending it immediately," he told them, "in a little while, you'll be able to double or even triple your allowance." A few years later, he started his own stock market and money-market fund for them.
Most children already have a pretty good idea of how money works, Owen believes; that's why they are seldom interested in punitive savings schemes mandated by their parents. The first step in making children financially responsible, he writes, is to take advantage of human nature rather than ignoring it or futilely trying to change it.
"My children are often quite irresponsible with my money, and why shouldn't they be?" he writes. "But they are extremely careful with their own." The First National Bank of Dad also explains how to give children real experience with all kinds of investments, how to foster their charitable instincts, how to make them more helpful around the house, how to set their allowances, and how to help them acquire a sense of value that goes far beyond money. He also describes at length what he feels is the best investment any parent can make for a child -- an idea that will surprise most readers.
Chester Carlson grew up in unspeakable poverty, worked his way through junior college and the California Institute of Technology, and made his discovery in solitude in the depths of the Great Depression. He offered his big idea to two dozen major corporations -- among them IBM, RCA, and General Electric -- all of which turned him down. So persistent was this failure of capitalist vision that by the time the Xerox 914 was manufactured by an obscure photographic-supply company in Rochester, New York, Carlson's original patent had expired. Xerography was so unusual and nonintuitive that it conceivably could have been overlooked entirely. Scientists who visited the drafty warehouses where the first machines were built sometimes doubted that Carlson's invention was even theoretically feasible.
Drawing on interviews, Xerox company archives, and the private papers of the Carlson family, David Owen has woven together a fascinating and instructive story about persistence, courage, and technological innovation -- a story that has never before been fully told.
A challenging, controversial, and highly readable look at our lives, our world, and our future.
Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares, as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans. They live in smaller spaces, discard less trash, and, most important of all, spend far less time in automobiles. Residents of Manhattan—the most densely populated place in North America—rank first in public-transit use and last in percapita greenhouse-gas production, and they consume gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn’t matched since the mid-1920s, when the most widely owned car in the United States was the Ford Model T. They are also among the only people in the United States for whom walking is still an important means of daily transportation.
These achievements are not accidents. Spreading people thinly across the countryside may make them feel green, but it doesn’t reduce the damage they do to the environment. In fact, it increases the damage, while also making the problems they cause harder to see and to address. Owen contends that the environmental problem we face, at the current stage of our assault on the world’s nonrenewable resources, is not how to make teeming cities more like the pristine countryside. The problem is how to make other settled places more like Manhattan, whose residents presently come closer than any other Americans to meeting environmental goals that all of us, eventually, will have to come to terms with.
Hit & Hope is as pure a definition of the game of golf as anyone has ever devised. Through the essays in this book, acclaimed columnist and author Owen takes the mundane aspects of the game and our approach to it and stands them on their head, turns them inside out, and lays our follies bare for all the world to see (all the world except ourselves, of course). He does for American golfers what P. G. Wodehouse did for our English cousins, or Jacques Tati did for humanity at large: He finds humor and nobility in our essential silliness, as expressed in our pursuit of a little white ball over a vast (but not vast enough to contain our slices) greensward.
Funny, candid, and thoughtful, Hit & Hope is an invaluable addition to any duffer's bag and the truest commentary on how -- and why -- the rest of us play golf.
The Conundrum is a mind-changing manifesto about the environment, efficiency and the real path to sustainability.
Hybrid cars, fast trains, compact florescent light bulbs, solar panels, carbon offsets: Everything you've been told about living green is wrong. The quest for a breakthrough battery or a 100 mpg car are dangerous fantasies. We are consumers, and we like to consume green and efficiently. But David Owen argues that our best intentions are still at cross purposes to our true goal - living sustainably and caring for our environment and the future of the planet. Efficiency, once considered the holy grail of our environmental problems, turns out to be part of the problem. Efforts to improve efficiency and increase sustainable development only exacerbate the problems they are meant to solve, more than negating the environmental gains. We have little trouble turning increases in efficiency into increases in consumption.
David Owen's The Conundrum is an elegant nonfiction narrative filled with fascinating information and anecdotes takes you through the history of energy and the quest for efficiency. This is a book about the environment that will change how you look at the world. We should not be waiting for some geniuses to invent our way out of the energy and economic crisis we're in. We already have the technology and knowledge we need to live sustainably. But will we do it?
That is the conundrum.
Few things define us as powerfully as the place where we live. The size and location of a house may reveal basic facts about our financial or social status, but it is the personal touches -- a paint color or a homemade desk -- that reflect our aspirations, our tastes, our secret desires.
In Sheetrock & Shellac, David Owen recounts his renovation and home construction projects in small-town Connecticut -- from catching the home improvement bug while watching workmen replacing a leaky roof to his first tentative foray into DIY (successfully building an enclosure for a bathroom radiator that had "turned into a sort of low-tech factory for converting splattered urine into odor and dust"). As his skill grows, so does his confidence: replacing a broken light switch turns into wiring an entire room, making bookcases is followed by building an office. Some of the more overly imaginative projects -- for instance, an ambition to install sinks and hot and cold faucets in all the rooms of the house -- never come to fruition but are amusingly recounted for other intrepid home designers.
Owen's two-hundred-year-old farmhouse provides numerous occasions for home improvement projects, and layers (literally) of fascination. Owen quickly learns the hard way when to tackle a project himself and when to turn for help. But soon he's so comfortable with the undertaking that he decides to take the big leap from renovation to building a completely new home from the ground up. In this case, Owen decides to build a weekend cabin a mere six miles away from his home. From a discourse on kitchen countertop materials to the complete history of concrete, to a near-disastrous mishap with a tree, a newly constructed roof, and an overzealous chainsaw, Owen's journey through home designing and building proves both enthrallingly educating and hilariously detailed.
New Yorker writer Owen's engaging narrative, filled with a wealth of practical information, hands-on tips, and canny insights, explores the ways in which the human processes of construction and renovation leave all the parties transformed. More than a simple how-to, Sheetrock & Shellac is a why-to, a wellspring of savvy advice and encouragement for anyone who has ever contemplated changing their surroundings and changing their life.