discoverycentral

Bruce Campbell - What can I say about his life as a B movie actor. There is something about this guy. I have followed his career since Hercules and Xena and I own the Evil Dead trilogy but I have never been able to watch the movies in a single sitting. I do admire that this small group of young men made an independent movie and made a career out of their desire to make movies. The story that unfolded was a great story of perseverance and drive. It was great to get some insights into Rob Tappert and Sam Raimi and how these three along with their friends and family really pushed to make it in their respective careers. What was missing was insight into the mistakes and second guessing that most of us have when things do not go as we expect or wish. There is little expression of regret about his divorce or movies he may have missed out on. I did enjoy the perspective on Hollywood and being a B movie actor in that town.


I look forward to seeing more of him on his current TV show Burn Notice where he brings a nice mix of drama, suspense, and humor to a show that could be too intense without the character played by Bruce Campbell.

We have a confession to make: one of the largest objects in our collections isn’t the real deal. Our juvenile #giantsquid is a model. He was built for a temporary exhibition, ‘Slime’, held by @LeedsLibraries at #LeedsCentralLibrary back in 2002. He now hangs above the store entrance.

A few giant squid facts (courtesy of Curator Lucy @lucymuse): The earliest known ancestor of a modern squid is Kimberella, a tiny mollusc, which lived about 555 million years ago.

Squid are related to common garden snails – they’re both molluscs!

Squid have beaks, rather than mouths.

Giant squid may only live for up to five years.

Giant squid have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom – up to 27 cm in diameter.

#squid #naturalhistory #museumfake #artefacts #giantsquid #seacreatures #seamonster #LeedsMuseums #museumstore #museumcollection #DiscoveryCentre #maritime ~ By 52museums, February 08, 2016 at 09:46AM (Source: http://ift.tt/1K7x9UZ)

Check out the Discovery Centre’s ongoing collection of I-CUREUS testimonials. Maybe it’ll give you an idea of a research project you’d like to try… 

Here’s Stephanie DeFilippe precipitating our the antimicrobial compounds with hydrochloric acid. 

See more of Stephanie’s story at http://carleton.ca/discoverycentre/2016/profile-food-science-and-nutrition-student/

Before I was pleasantly distracted by the final installment of The Wheel of Time I had completed the second book of diaries by Michael Palin.

Once again I was taken down memory lane by a man who is very pleasant company with many interesting tales of life as a Python and the many encounters he had with other interesting personalities. Michael Palin gave the inside stories for the making of The Time Bandits, Brazil, The Meaning of Life, A Fish Called Wanda, plus a few movies with the incomparable Maggie Smith.

This time for Michael Palin was filled with post Python work including writing his first novel and screenplays. It had him traveling to the US more and living through the political turmoil of the Reagan/Thatcher era which was not the shiny beacon of hope that many today try to portray it as.

As I thought, the Denis O'Brien partnership did not last (I could have cheated and read Wiki about this, but it was fun to hear Michael Palin’s diary perspective to this failing relationship as it occurred). Michael Palin’s entries about the Hollywood types he ran across while trying to get his screenplays financed for film showed the emotional toll that many must navigate in that profession. He is upbeat about it but the frustration does come through. Through this period he is working with the other Pythons either as a cast member in their movies or as a writing partner on the screenplays and frontman to get financing. The best part of this story is how George Harrison gave his help by financing many of the films that are iconic classics today. Harrison did it because he wanted to see the movie - wonderful.


Michael Palin’s disillusionment with certain aspects of America climaxes when John Lennon is shot and killed in New York. America’s fascination with firearms and their accessibility to the mentally ill is still a major topic today. Soapbox warning -  I have to agree that Americans (our politicians) are crazy and failing in their responsibility to govern for the good of the people and future generations. Just saw the 10th episode of Newsroom on HBO where the cast compared the Tea Party to the Taliban. It was well supported using the words of the Tea Party members themselves. This craziness has infected our political system and stops many others from being able to protect our rights to not get shot by gun crazy maniacs. Passing the comprehensive background check legislation would not have stopped legal, sane American from purchasing a gun, but the crazies in congress stopped that bill and showed us just how imbedded this madness is in our system. - end soapbox.

Michael Palin lost his sister to suicide during this time. From the diary entries in his first book and this book, we see his sister’s battle with depression and his regret at not being able to give her what she needed. This second book had more emotional connection with Michael Palin’s life and perceptions than the first book which gives the reader a chance to connect with Palin on that emotional level. This book does end before the death of his fellow Python member Graham Chapman but Palin is aware that Chapman is sick. I watched the IFC 6-part biography Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut) at the same time as I was reading this book and in the third episode the funeral service for Chapman was shown. It was a brilliant celebration for their friend and showed just how much he will be missed. That biography was a perfect companion to this book diary and a great way to end my research of the Python years.

Well, I’m again caught up in The Wheel of Time saga. Currently listening to book one again so expect my next entry to be commentary about this series. I am still trying to complete Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography, so maybe there will be closure on this in the future.

I finally finished this read. It was not as engaging as the epic Guns, Germs, and Steel by the same author, but I did learn some fascinating and depressing realities on the state of our world and past & contemporary societies.

The Easter Island collapse was a really insightful and a somewhat depressing account. As I know that this book was written before the NOVA episode (http://video.pbs.org/video/2299677471/) where the walking Moai was demonstrated as a possible means for moving the statues across the island, reading about how the population likely started and how the resources where used up over generations until the moment when the last palm tree was cut down was riveting. The comparison with both failed and successful pacific island societies was equally satisfying. I was fascinated with the successful pacific island societies that instituted a form of population control where young adults abstained or terminated having offspring, but the voluntary suicide by sailing away into the blue during famine was devastating for this first world citizen. Then when you compare this societal outlet with the proclaimed outlet of ‘necessary’ genocide as practiced in overpopulated Rwanda, the sick feeling just increases. What was astonishing and something that I would have likely never discovered on my own if not for reading this book (as why would I want to read about the horrors that occurred in Rwanda), was that there where many Rwandans that thought that horrific slaughter was a necessary process for an overcrowded and hungry country.

The Greenland colony section of the book was the most depressing and slowest part of the book. It was during this section that I decided to buy my next biography, Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Just buying a book that promised some light humor allowed me to continue Collapse to it’s satisfying end, where the discussion of practical solutions that can lead to a successful conclusion to our current stresses were laid out. The fact that forest are being regrown was heartening as Diamond points out that EVERY failed society had massive deforestation. Haiti and the Dominican Republic section of the book was very educational for anyone who has ever seen a picture of the border (http://highwaytohaiti.com/2008/02/11/deforestation-in-no-uncertain-terms/) where trees only exist on the Dom Rep side and wondered what happened. The answer is provided in the history of that Island and provides a possible insight into Haiti’s future.

Diamond clearly lays out the paths to collapse beginning with ignorance and false reasoning, to creeping normalcy (landscape amnesia), and finally to selfish self interest (or tragedy of the commons) which can lead a group of people or a leader to make mistakes that can have tragic consequences for a society. He then applies these attitudes to countries from China to Australia and finally the US using the state of Montana as it’s example. But before he shuts the door on hope for the future, Diamond shows examples of good companies making a difference to their bottom line and to the environment. He then talks about how people can influence these changes in people and business attitudes that will provide a sustainable future for the next generations. What I found heartening about the last section of the book was that there are grass roots organizations that are having an impact and that we can still have much of our current standard of living while maintaining a sustainable society. What was disheartening was the realization that as China goes, so goes the world. That one fact was a total buzz kill, but even in that realization there is hope.

This book was worth the time I put into this read. Although, I can’t help wonder how Diamond would explain the impact of the 2008 financial crisis and the response to that crisis from our leaders. We can’t exactly cry ignorance as we have seen and documented many financial crisis were bubbles and poor regulations resulted in similar failures. Creeping normalcy may be valid as there are few alive today who experienced the excess of the 1920s and most financial institutions have short term 'memories’ and goals. But I believe the tragedy of the commons and outright illegal behavior led to that collapse as everyone wanted to 'get theirs’ at the expense of the future. Will we learn from our mistakes? I hope so. Otherwise as Diamond writes, all the wealthy earn for their selfishness is the right to be the last to starve. Cheery.

Now on to Bossypants!

I love Alan Alda’s work! He infuses an emotional backstory to his characters that makes those characters vulnerable and real. It’s the science commentator Alan Alda I have trouble warming up to. When he did SA Frontiers, his naive enthusiasm always annoyed me. It reminds me of a teenager who has discovered for themselves some amazing connection that is a rite of passage for most emerging adults, but thinking that no one else can possibly have seen this ‘truth’ then goes through that energetic exercise of explaining this to everyone else around them. This explanation is brimming with giddy passion and hand waving. As an adult who has already discovered this truth and understands the deeper meaning that years of additional experience has flavored that truth with, there are one of two responses; a renewed re-awaking of that exciting teenage moment in themselves or, exhaustion. I tend to exhaustion when that giddy wave of naive enthusiasm washes my way. Even when I may not have discovered the ‘truth’ for myself, that expression of naive enthusiasm usually exhaust me making it hard for me to watch the complete episode of Scientific America Frontiers and any other discovery program hosted by Alan Alda. It just feels like he’s trying too hard.

So why would I be reading Alan Alda’s second autobiography? I have had this signed copy of the book on my shelf for over 6 years ever since being giving the book as a Christmas present from my mom’s husband Carl. Carl and I never really connected, but I did think he was a good person and that engendered if not love for him, then endearment. I did care for him, but we were polar opposite in our personality which made it difficult to see each others perspective world view on many subjects.  Also living on opposite ends of the country did not allow much time to really get to know each other and come to an understanding about many of the subjects that caused us tension. The fact that these short visits also coincided with the emotional charged holidays of a far flung nuclear family that usually only saw each other during this time of the year didn’t make it easy for Carl and I to connect. When he gave me this book, he was sick and dying. I could tell that it meant a lot to him that I read this book, but I could not read the book at the time as I was already exhausted with trying to research my dissertation. We all have regrets. Mine is not talking to him about this book and his other passions.

Alan Alda uses his second autobiography to chronicle his invited speeches to University commencements and other venues.  His speeches usually are vehicles where he documents and shares the connections he has made in his life. He admits to getting some of his ideas for his speeches from the local news reports and expresses his regrets at dwelling on the negative news of the day during these happy transitions in young people’s lives. It took 80 pages before I started connecting to what he was saying. The highlights of the book take place in the second half starting where he talks about Acting. He gave a speech to the graduation class at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts that really conveyed to me his real passion without the dramatic enhancements that would annoy me. It was a good speech and he breaks it up with some insightful commentary about his passion for his life’s work.

This is an Alan Alda that I can appreciate as he is talking about the love and passion of his chosen career backed by all the knowledge that comes from 40 years doing the thing you love. He talks about energy in acting and how it’s about finding the right energy for a scene or character, not necessarily the amount of energy expended. He then moves into the motivation of an actor and warns against acting just to get attention or the bow (praise), but acting for the love of it and for the love of getting better. All of these subjects (energy and motivation) can be applied to everyone’s life and work, but it is the part about respecting your fellow actors and directors and respect for the audience that is watching the performance that really reminded me about what is important in life. Understanding the vulnerability of an actor after they have performed their heart out and acknowledging that work by simply saying “You were wonderful” without the editorial or critical commentary is respect most high. Service to the audience is the goal of the actor where they allow the audience “a chance to understand better what it means to be human.” These last two life lessons are about appreciating the value of other people in and surrounding your occupation and life and are attributes I think Carl tried to live by.

It is after this great recollection on the art of acting that the book really starts to sing for me. When 911 happened, I was in Moscow having just arrived on a flight out of New York the night before. For ten days I was stuck in Moscow until I could get a flight back to the states. When I arrived I was shocked at the number of flags that were flying and confused as to why that would be our (Americans) response to this crisis. It was an ineffectual expression in my opinion. Halfway through the book, Alan Alda explains his response and why American’s responded the way they did. It was an expression of unity during a time when there was very little direct action that could be taken. This chapter alone was worth reading this book.

Alan Alda also gets around to explaining why he acted with such enthusiasm (he calls it curiosity) in the show SA Frontiers. He wanted the scientist to communicate their passion for their field in emotional terms and when they veered off into lecture mode, he would draw them back to talking to him in emotional terms by exclaiming his curiosity. Method to the madness but I’m used to lecture mode and found the emotional part distracting. He may be right about how to communicate science though and I have tried to teach myself how to talk about climate change and how it will affect all of us on a personal level in terms that get the general public to ask questions. I may never get to the brilliance of a Tim Flannery for communicating how humans have changed the climate system, but I will keep working on it.

The book ends with some amazing inspirational insights and I now think I understand why Carl wanted to share this with me. Alan Alda is a man who started searching for meaning in his life, but ended up understanding the deeper truth which I think appealed to Carl. Just living life, loving those around you and being useful can lead to a satisfying life. It’s good to be reminded of this from time to time. To paraphrase Alan Alda while stealing from the movie Finding Nemo: ‘Just keep swimming! Do it with a friend and have a useful purpose behind it.’

You were brilliant Mr. Alda.

The Weather Makers

We have superpowers! Collectively we can destroy the planet’s ability to host human civilization. Our cities, unsustainable because the planetary thermostat was adjusted 3-8 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the ideal temperature that has allowed for the development of human civilizations in the first place over the last 8 to 10 thousand years. But we also have the super power to fix it too. That is what I boiled this amazing read down to for the attention impaired twitters out there :-) This was one of the most important books I have read since finishing school.

This book covers my area of study and education yet I did not know some of the key climate change specifics as my course work did not focus specifically on climate change and the carbon cycle. As with all good courses of study, my course of study focused on the fundamentals of the movement and composition of the ocean of air and salt water that interacts with the land of this amazing planet. How the carbon cycle is affected by plant, animal and human activities was unfortunately not covered from a contemporary viewpoint. To be fair, understanding of the carbon cycle and the affects that humans have had on this all important cycle has only recently been modeled and tested (as this is the only time in history that humans have affected the planetary respiration), so at the writing of this book, that knowledge was only being tested and confirmed by the science committee.

Since this book was published in 2005, we have had 7 additional years where the changes humans are forcing into the planetary thermostat through the introduction of long buried carbon (or buried sunlight) has only continued to show effects that are worse than that modeled by the best climate change models. But, there is hope. We have a small window of time to change over our energy usage to a non-carbon energy economy. If we miss this window we are likely headed to a future that would be worse than the distopic science fiction literature and movies have portrayed. This is not an exaggeration. Tim Flannery lays out the very real consequences that ‘business as usual’ will doom this planet and our civilization to moving forward into the later half of the 21st century and the 22nd century.

This was a comprehensive study of the problem and the solutions that will save us. Part 5 The Solution lays out the changes that we as a society and as individuals can makes that will immediately change our carbon emissions. Tim Flannery also lays out the logical legal and distopic governance future that will be required for survival if we do not make these changes soon. Humans will resort to some drastic measures to survive (the Mayans and Easter Island come to mind) and if we delay much longer, global human civilization is almost certain to survive through means that we, as American citizens, would find repulsive. There is hope for a better future if we act now.

We have super powers. Now it’s time to use these super powers to save ourselves and our kids. It’s not hard if we all agree to make the change. Ignore the politics. Ignore the sustainability agenda. There are simple changes that can make the difference. Use your powers for good and demand that your government do the same.

Below is a link to Dr. Sir Bob Watson’s lecture at AGU in Dec 2012 on Climate Change. This was a good companion lecture on how climate change will affect each of us if we continue 'business as usual’.

http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2012/events/union-frontiers-of-geophysics-lecture-professor-sir-bob-watson-cmg-frs-chief-scientific-adviser-to-defra/

This lecture series linked below (The Anthropocene:Confronting the Prospects of a +4 degrees Celsius World) provides more information presented at AGU on human induced climate change issues:
http://fallmeeting.agu.org/2012/events/gc51h-the-anthropocene-confronting-the-prospects-of-a-4c-world-i-video-on-demand/   And of course check out the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:  http://www.ipcc.ch/
The Fifth assessment will be out near the end of this year.

Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady, passed away last night at the age of 87. I am reading her second autobiography about her early years and to be honest, I am having a really hard time liking this woman. Listening to the memorial statements on BBC radio by both proponents and opponents provided some really good words that mirrored my opinion after reading only 70 pages of her 600+ page book. I’m at the point in the book where she has been elected a Tory MP and is getting married to her husband and I already have so many opposing issues with her world view that I was considering putting this book aside and looking for a Thatcher biography written by a disinterested historian. I was told that I was unlikely to find an author that met my criteria as she was such a polarizing personality that unbiased historians would be hard to find. Her uncompromising and unsympathetic viewpoint that England after World War II and the people who voted for a more socialist state were wrong headed and have led the country to destruction is hard to read as she gives no indication that she sees or cares about the individual consequences for this uncompromising and unsympathetic viewpoint.

This uncompromising and, frankly, arrogant world view seems to have started early as the young Margaret Thatcher had opinions about the wrong headedness of appeasement before Great Britain entered the War. She writes that her family was in the minority over their opposition to the Peace Ballot and that those that were enthusiast for the Peace Ballot, like Rev. Skinner who married her and Denis, were hard-headed. She was frankly blunt in her writing that Rev Skinner’s “…personal virtue is no substitute for political hard-headedness.”(page 11) It is this arrogance in her and her families superior intellect and political virtue along with her own hard-headedness and lack of sympathy for those with less like-minded virtue and intellect that makes her unlikable, if not right in hindsight about her family’s political stance.

For someone who considered herself intellectually smart (the early years drips with this conviction), it is appalling to read examples of her strange simplistic connective logic about social issues. One example of this is her comment that England has “since removed the stigma of illegitimacy not only from the child but also from the parent - and perhaps increased the number of disadvantaged children thereby.”(page 11) This implies that if we make a behavior more socially ‘acceptable’, more people will choose it which makes sense in a very simplistic world view, but ignores the real social root causes behind that behavior such as a lack of education, contraception, and the lack of opportunities for upward mobility (plus many other factors not limited to the economy). It also ignores why (if this is really true) the numbers of reported illegitimate children was low when it was stigmatized (murder, forced adoption, lying, etc…). I would have expected a scientist to use better logic, but her upbringing seems to have trumped her training.

Margaret Thatchers world view was colored by the fact she was a teenager during the War. She has an arrogance that came from her conviction that she was one of the Greatest Generation due to having survived that great conflict. I think this harden her heart towards the following generations as they did not show the same moral fortitude or virtues of those that “fought” the War. This attitude extended to her conviction that one of the lessons she learned from that time “…was that the kind of life that the people of Grantham had lived before the war was a decent and wholesome one, and its values were shaped by the community rather than by the government.”(page 31) This Norman Rockwell sentiment is ridiculous after reading how restrictive her childhood was in a devoutly religious family in a small religious community where her family had great influence and wealth from the family business as the local market merchant for the area which I’m sure provided some insulation from the worst deprivation of the war time rationing. It is also an exclusive world view as it does not allow that another upbringing could be as virtuous and wholesome. This only leads to a polarizing world view that along with a lack of compassion (the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes) likely contributed to why she was the most hated Prime Minister in history.

Her absolute conviction in the rightness of her political course extended to her party which lost power after the war. She states several times in various ways that “…the Left were extremely effective after Dunkirk in portraying the Conservatives as exclusively responsible for appeasement, and managed, by skilful sleight of hand, to distance Churchill from the party he led.”(page 43/44) She has consistently blamed everyone but her party for the perceived degeneration of England and the British Empire. I’m not sure if the term 'Conviction Politics’ was coined during her time in power, but that term definitely defines Margaret Thatchers political stance. I would add Blind in front of that term, but as I have only read 10% of this autobiography so far, I may have to take that back.

It is interesting to hear what other powerful people thought of Margaret Thatcher and whether her legacy was good or bad for England. She was so polarizing that the thoughts of others only vary from Saving England (from a failing economy, lost of world influence, and labor unions) to Destroying England (which the additional statement that England is still dealing with the damage she and her party caused). What they do agree on is that she was a highly influential woman who’s conviction and integrity never wavered. It has been said that it was the uncompromising conviction of her political stance that led to her eventual downfall.

Whether you hated her or loved her, there is no doubt that she was a massive influence on English politics and socialism. I look forward to getting to the time frame that has relevance to me (the 1970s) and hearing how this fundamental conviction conservative handled this time of social enlightenment in England. It would be fun to read Michael Palin’s next 10 years of diary entries covering that same period to get his liberal viewpoint of the Thatcher government. I may switch off between the two just to keep it fun.


ADDENDUM: Could the reason Margaret Thatcher was so polarizing be as simple as the following analogy? She expected the people to adapt to her parties changes in the national infrastructure, while many people expect the national infrastructure to be adapted to the peoples wants and needs.

This thought occurred to me while I was listening to the BBC radio report about Margaret Thatcher’s legacy with the hand over of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1984 (40secs to 10mins - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p016tng7). A woman was arguing (Emily Lau) that Thatcher should have done more to protect the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong citizens. Emily talked about a question she posed to Thatcher about why Thatcher negotiated the treaty as she did and Thatcher responded that she was concerned with National policies, not International policies. This made me realize that Thatcher was not concerned with people as individuals but in laying down her foundation for the infrastructure of her national policy and she expected the people to adapt to that new infrastructure without regard to how individuals would fair in that new environment. Adapt and survive or perish. Pretty harsh and it explains why many disliked her and her policies.

The question remains - Could she have 'saved’ England while still maintaining individuals safety nets and entitlements or at least cushioning the blows brought about by her changes to the infrastructure? Could she have just been more sympathetic in her responses or was a brutal program management style truly the only way to run 1980s Great Britain? Her legacy is still hotly debated, but Margaret Thatcher will not be forgotten for all she did for Great Britain and the end of the Cold War. She may not have been likable, but no one can deny her influence and important on the world stage.

Tina Fey has always impressed me with her comedic honesty. I really didn’t become aware of her until she preformed Sarah Palin on SNL and produced the most honest portrayal of a real-life cartoon character that was distractingly tasked to be a heartbeat away from the possible ruler of the free world. What a hoot.
What Tina Fey’s portrayal and SNL highlighted was the hypocrisy of the political machine that picked this beauty queen who could not even complete her term as governor of one of the least populated states in the US to run for the co-pilot seat of this great country. It was hilarious and spot on. (Come on, Republicans. Do me the favor of picking an honest bright woman to represent the party in an election. Someone who helps female causes instead of being the Barbie VP. Someone like a Republican Hillary Clinton. They are out there. Just see them.)

Reading Bossypants was less of the fluff piece I expected from the reviews. Tina Fey bared some pretty honest moments from her life and career, with all the anxiety that comes with being a bright working mom with a husband who is afraid of flying (good story). I loved the commentary on her gender encounters with the male saturated world of SNL and Hollywood. I was very impressed with her love letter to Amy Poehler as that highlighted many issues that any talented dedicated woman in a job environment where there are strong male tendencies for control can lead to the reining back of a talented woman only if that woman allows that to happen. It made watching Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting the Golden Globes even more entertaining for the realization that this was the first time two very funny women hosted the GG. And they did an amazingly entertaining hosting job. I loved the faux actor bits.

I’m sure there is more to discovery about this woman/comedian/actor, but what we got in this book was entertaining, insightful, and honest.


Next Michael Palin 1969-1979. I was in England when Monty Python was beginning (yes, my parents let me watch this when I was a kid) and it made a huge impression on me. I was also in the US when SNL was just starting in the mid 70s and yes my parents again let me watch this show. Kind of explains a lot really….

Technically, this is not a biography as it does not chronicle a real-life person’s life, experiences, and personality. It’s not even a popular science book like Guns, Germs, and Steel or The Weather Makers. It is a science fiction book that is written in a biographical style which takes place in our contemporary world maybe a decade from today. I’m counting it for the style :-)

A good science fiction novel shines a light on our world as it is today extrapolated into a future that is driven by some event that is outside ordinary experience. The response of the characters to the crisis is designed to reflect and illuminate aspects of the reader’s societal (or human) philosophy and psychology, providing a chance to understand human motivation in the context of today using the vehicle of perspective change driven by the fictional action in the story. This book did that job brilliantly.

The oral history of the zombie war is told by well over twenty people interviewed by the author. Each person interviewed covers some aspect of the zombie war in chronological order from patient zero to the end of the war. As these people tell their stories, the reader is shown some of the worst aspects of human behavior which led to the massive death and destruction of human life as greed, fear, selfishness, and ego allowed the crisis to get out of hand.The reader is also shown the despair and heroism of humanity as they fight to survive and eventually conquer this crisis. Because it is taking place in a contemporary setting the author presented plausible scenarios that resonate as psychologically true given the fictional driver of the presence and spread of a zombie virus.


Zombies are in fashion. In the 1890s-1950s, aliens were the human antagonist, then it was ourselves as users of nuclear weapons and now it’s zombies that scare the bajeebies out of us. That’s how fear fads work. As we become less fearful, we always find a new apocalyptic fear to ‘entertain’ us for a generation or two. We don’t want to dwell on the real fears of the day, epidemics, climate change, authoritarian control, animal extinction, etc… for too long, but zombies - cool. What’s great about this book is that the author covers all of the real fears, such as epidemics, climate change, authoritarian control, animal extinction etc… as minor consequences of the larger zombie infestation. That in itself added a great deal of depth to the story. In addition, the depth of personality brought to many of the interviewed characters had me wanting more of their story after the author had moved on to the next interviewee. The book is as engaging as the radio play of the War of the Worlds broadcast from 1938 as documented in the 1975 TV movie The Night That Panicked America. I prefer fictional panics over politically or corporate sponsored panics (see previous blogs). But as the character Breckinridge “Breck” Scott, who made money selling a 'vaccine’ for African rabies, says in his interview, “Fear sells”.

I hear that The Big Bang Theory discloses some spoilers for the third season of The Walking Dead. Time to catch up on the episodes of The Waking Dead that I Tivo’d before I watch TBBT. Long live Inferi! umm.. wrong genre… Zombies are cool! ..No, that’s bow ties… Oh, lets just learn something about ourselves both light and dark…

Reading The Weather Makers by scientist author Tim Flannery. Just finished Part 1 Gaia’s Tools which did a great job outlining the global feedback system that has allowed humans to have this time of unprecedented prosperity. Before 8,000 years ago, humans and all life have had to contend with a natural cycle that would plunge the world into millennial long Ice Ages. Without high levels of greenhouse gases (less than 200ppm of CO2 is the norm in Ice Ages), the planet is a snowball encased in ice almost to the equator. When CO2 gets above 200ppm the planet tends to warm. Flannery does touch on the other factors that lead to this natural cycle of warming and cooling and the processes that can cause the increases in the CO2 that have given the planet the various Periods and Epochs in the geological and biological record. This was fascinating reading which included the history of scientists who discovered these epoch transitions and made the connections with increased greenhouse gases. Flannery ends this section of the book with a summary of the problem in real terms of human consumption and the burning of buried sunlight (oil, coal, natural gas) from millions of years ago. He lays out the issue of rapid increases in CO2 and how this has caused mass extensions in the past and how if humans continue with business as usual, this planet is headed to a similar situation of the extinction event from 55 million years ago. This was chilling reading as at that time the ocean turned so acidic that ocean fossil are not available as they were dissolved producing a sediment sludge in the core samples for that time.

Reading “In Search of Powder”. I and my brother tried the skibum life for one season in 1986 when we took a leave of absence from college. If not for an illness, I would have continued for another ski season. My brother went off to try his hand at crab fishing in Unalaska. We both finished school a half decade later.

Reading this book reintroduced me to that time and the many ski areas I skied before and after my try at that life style.

At least we didn’t go backwards again with the 2012 election. I wonder if Hillary Rodham Clinton was in those binders?

Loved last night’s Daily show. The gun control segment and how it is tied into the distopic vision that certain people fear is going to happen was right on the money. Below is a thumbnail video of the Jan 8, 2013 gun control segment from the Daily Show - nailed it!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yXGThWEDVo

Or watch the whole episode here http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/tue-january-8-2013-stanley-mcchrystal

Living History Hillary Radham Clinton

Started Hillary Clinton’s biography of her White House years. Just reading about her works up to moving into the White House exhausted me (in a good way). Looking forward to reading about the 8 years in the White House. Let’s see where this goes. Enjoying it so far. Love hearing about all the people that help make the Clinton Administration possible.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_History

In Search of Powder

Finished “In Search of Powder: A Story of America’s Disappearing Ski Bum” by Jeremy Evans and Glen Plake which was about the decline of the ski bum. This was an amazing read. I tried a season as a ski bum in the mid 1980s which was the height of the ski bum culture. I had no idea that things have changed so much since that time as finishing school and making money has kept me busy over the last two decades. The decline of the ski bum really is influenced by the times. How can this amazing culture survive the culture of greed and material acquisition? A very thought provoking read.

http://www.amazon.com/Search-Powder-Story-Americas-Disappearing/dp/0803228392

I loved how this book tied in the Warren Miller films and other film business, which glorified the skibum culture in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, with the corporate interest of getting people to come to the new corporate resorts that replaced the small locally owned ski areas after the early 1990s. Being a skibum has become a business.

The Lost City of Z

Just finished “The Lost City of Z : A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by David Grann which was about Percy Fawcett’s pursuit of The Lost City of Z in the Brazilian Amazon. The Raiders of the Lost Art Indiana Jones was partially based on Percy Fawcett. Percy disappeared in 1925 causing his legend to grow with many subsequent searches (and deaths) to discover the reason for his disappearance. An amazing book that kept me engaged right to the climatic ending. It answered so many questions I had as a teenager. I also need to read “America in 1492: The World of the Indian Peoples Before the Arrival of Columbus edited by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.” this year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_City_of_Z_(book)

What amazed me about this book was the realization that even today, going into the jungle was a risk not only from the environment but from the tribes in the jungle.

This book was in the same “understanding what drove these men and what happened to them” investigative biography/non-fiction investigation books that include Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster and Into The Wild both by Jon Krakauer, and The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger.

The year 2013 is the year of Biographies.

So I have finally finished school! Now it’s time to read all the books I have wanted to read over the last 4 years. Biographies!

Why Biographies? For the last 6 years I been doing research on our changing atmosphere which required a focus that caused me to withdraw from the immediate social world. I stopped reading books for fun (except Harry Potter and the Hunger Games), watching movies as they premiered (except Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings), and following politics or history with any depth (except the Republican “War on Women”). After successfully finishing my school work and graduating, I felt a disconnect from the immediate world as I was missing the context behind the politics and popular culture stories (Who the hell is Kim Kardasian (Star Trek villain???) and why is she famous?). So, I have a desire to read history and get more depth into the stories that are of interest to me. I have had this desire during the last 6 years as I consciously bought biographies that I knew I could not spare the time from my work to read. Now I have the time to read through the bookcase of books I purchased over the last 6 years. Some I may get through quickly and some may take awhile, but my goal is to read as many biographies in a year as I can. I have a lot of catching up to do and I am excited to begin!

Before I get into this years new biographies, I find a need to list the biographies/scholarly texts that I read 10 or so years ago that influenced me to the point that my opinions today are inseparable from the information I gleamed from these books. These are worthy reads:

Guns, Germs, and Steel : The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond ISBN-13: 978-0-393=31755-8

       For anyone who has ever asked “Why is the Western World the leader in the world (in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries) given the advancements of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations during the same time when Europe was in the dark-ages (15th century)?”, “Why do we domesticate and eat certain animals and plants?”, “How did our planet’s rotation and tilt affect human civilization and advancements?”. So good I read this book three times.

Jesus A Revolutionary Biography : A Startling Account of What We Can Know About The Life of Jesus by John Dominic Crossan ISBN 0-06-061662-8

       I loved the contextual history of the life and time of Jesus. My biggest takeaway of many takeaways was what “Turning the Other Cheek” really means. Hint- it does not mean walk away from bullies (as that doesn’t stop the bullying).

The Botany of Desire : A Plant’s-eye View of the World by Michael Pollan ISBN 0-375-76039-3

       Wonderful read about some of the most influential and successful plants in human history. The introduction is called “The Human Bumblebee” which is a brilliant example of the prospective changing information in this short 5 hour read. This fundamentally changed how I think of plants in my world. Along with the Investigative Lens PBS report about “King Corn”, (http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/kingcorn/) I have had a deeper understanding of what plants offer us and how we have helped grasses rule the plant world.

Fast Food Nation : The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser ISBN 0-06-093845-5

       Not that I ate a lot of fast food before reading this book, but this changed how I approach my processed food habit. When I eat a fast food hamburger, which I do from time to time, I now understand exactly what I’m eating. I expect these small sharp shocks of realization will eventually lead to my eating less and less processed food. It’s always better to know what you are putting into your body than to wonder about why you are sick later in life.

Kitchen Confidential : Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain ISBN 0-06-093491-3

        Confession - I have become a foodie; someone who likes to eat good fresh healthy tasty food. Before school I ate out a lot. After reading this book, I cooked more at home :-)

I would like to give a nod to two historical fiction novels: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis ISBN 0-553-08131-4 and The Red Tent by Anita Diamant ISBN 0-312-35376-6.