The Disappearing Spoon

Thoughts : And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean, Back Bay Books 2010, 416 pages

Challenge: What’s in a Name: Cutlery Category
Genre: Pop Science
Type/Source:  Tradeback Paperback / Local Indie Bookstore
 Why I read this now: I think it took me all month to read it. I wanted something new and different after all the 2016 pub’d books I had furiously flown through.

MOTIVATION for READING: I like fun science. This satisfied the cutlery challenge and looked interesting. My other option was Consider the Fork about technology and food. (Yep, another nonfiction.) If you want a title with a knife, I only recommend The Knife of Never Letting Go if you have ALL books in the series. I hate cliffhangers.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: The author walks the reader through the elements of the Chemistry Periodic Table regaling with history, personalities, OF COURSE some science and other oddball tidbits to fascinate.

Jupiter is a fantasy camp for elements.

WHAT’s GOOD: Easy to understand sections about how they figure the age of the world. I enjoyed the personal anecdotes about the fascinating scientists that worked out these challenges. The author does a fair job of recognizing and discussing privilege in science/history. And how much we still don’t understand – the chapter on the alpha constant! It’s everywhere – totally fascinating. He highlights many recent stories that show how science of the elements is still evolving. [doh. The study of medicine/pharmacology, anyone?!] I know that I have internal bias that science discovery was all done ‘back then’ and when he mentions research and experiments past 2005 — I admit, I am embarrassed to wonder “hey- that is recent!” Maybe it is the realization that I have lived some of this history but how can I be that old already? It really is an odd thing to sense one’s own aging; it still befuddles me.

“If anything runs deeper than a mathematician’s love of variables, it’s a scientist’s love of constants.”

What’s NOT so good: I had to have two bookmarks – one for the text and the other in the footnotes section. I’ll never remember most of it! Only occasionally, the presentation is dense and extremely technical but also easy to skip over and get to the good stuff.

FINAL THOUGHTS: If you like science history, this is a don’t-miss. But then again, if you really love science history, you probably know a lot of it already.

It often reminded me of that episode of the Big Bang Theory when Sheldon adopts the cats…

RATING: Three slices of pie. No pie mentioned.

 

 

pierating

Copyright © 2007-2017. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.
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The Double Helix: Annotated and Illustrated

Thoughts dhbyjw by Dr. James Watson, Simon and Schuster 2012 (orig 1968), 368 pages [Edited by Alexander Gann and Jan Witkowski]

Challenge: Classics Club 50
Genre: Science History
Type/Source: Hardback / Library

MOTIVATION for READING: I love science.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: How Watson and Crick used models to figure out how DNA was structured.

WHAT’s GOOD: I did not expect the breezy style. It is very readable.

What’s NOT so good:  Well, you may or may not like Dr. Watson at the end but he does tell a fun story, even if bits are regrettable. He was young and determined. He shares more than just the science, but also other activities these youthful scientists were up to – where and what they ate (gooseberry pie has a mention!), the girls they tried to meet, the famous people they encountered and traveled to visit. He talks about his troubles with the sponsor for his time abroad and quite a bit about the personalities of everyone he works with.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I am so glad to have read this. The big question:  did Rosalind Franklin get screwed out of the discovery and subsequent Nobel Prize. Question Mark. Let’s just say, it’s complicated and that I could say yes, but. It very much feels like facts happened and one’s viewpoint is X and the other is Y. This and that. Perspectives. And when you start to get snarky, it gets very ugly fast. Did circumstances make it difficult and thus makes it a helluva story? Oh yes.

She deserved more accolades and unfortunately she is getting it now and not in her lifetime. It is sad that she died so young. Was Watson a _____ (insert whatever nasty/relevant word you want here, but my answer is “he was a man”.)

And NOW:  I get to read more about Rosalind Franklin:

rftdlodnabybm

RATING: Four slices of gooseberry pie. If you are going to read this, I suggest the annotated illustrated edition.

fourpie

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Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Is It Me? Or the Books?

pierating

I don’t know if this is a reading slump or I am just reading three unappealing-to-me books all at the same time?

I suppose I would/should like a couple of these if I was in a better frame of mind or perhaps three books all at the same time of this competition is only making them all unpalatable?

Should I power through or give up and start something else?

Let’s chat, shall we?  and please advise.

The current three:  ptlbytc  qbysc hiapwdbysjg

pierating

Prologue To Love is a paperback printed before I was born. The font is tiny, it has the slightly yellowed brittle paper feel and lovely old book scent. I had to tape the cover back on. There are over 750 pages. I’m told that this is loosely based on the true life story of Hetty Green, once the world’s richest woman – I’ve read a book on her and found it fascinating. One of those tales that reinforces the idea that lots of money can’t buy happiness. HUZZAH!

I’m just too turned off by the father of the main character; he is miserly, judgmental, obsessed with the creation of wealth but abhors the idea of spending ANY of it. (He lets his daughter live in a run down house with no heat nor extra blankets and lousy inadequate quantity of food?) I don’t have enough sympathy for him – I don’t get his quick critical thoughts about why he doesn’t like his nephew nor why he doesn’t like his own daughter and I don’t really care to find out. I’m sorry Bybee!

Prologue To Love! –> I declare you DNF’d.

Quiet just isn’t capturing my attention. I decide to go read, sit in a comfy chair or go out to the lounge area of my lovely backyard, and end up playing with Litsy, IG and Facebook on my phone. I’ll probably carry it around the house and misplace it a few more times before I give up on it. However, I’m thinking the reviews I have read have probably given me enough information on the subject.

Quiet! (With a Chainsaw?) –> Vote is still out…

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress is supposed to be a funny feminist book guaranteed to entertain. I’m not entertained. I’m bored. Maybe the narrator’s voice just isn’t quite right? No, she’s doing a fabulous job, but like coconut — you like it or you don’t. It’s possible that I’m still too early into it?  So far, it is still her childhood (the current essay is about her obsession with the Rolling Stones when she was 15.) I don’t know; it’s just not working.

Hypocrite! –> Playing in the background but I’m not listening.

The problem with audiobooked essay collections is that you can’t flip and skip around. Can I suggest that audiobook chapters start showing titles? Which bits of this book are the ones I shouldn’t miss? Should I save it for print? Yea, maybe I should get the book from the library and return this to Audible…

pierating

While these three books are jockeying for some love, I am stalled… Release the guilt, release the books back into the wild or back to the shelf, move on.

Ok, NOW what should I read?!

 

 

 

pierating

Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

I’m Landscaping

I’m landscaping!   Or rather, my husband is – I’m just helping.   I’m more the gardener.   I just wanted you all to know what I’ve been up to and why I feel I don’t have any internet-play time.   Somebody asked to see some photos…   Enjoy.

WHAT I’m READING:   Northeast Home Landscaping by Roger Holmes and Rita Buchanan, Creative Homeowner 1998,2007; 223 pages and lots of pretty pictures!

On Saturday, we rented a sod cutter machine to create the new space to for me to play in the dirt.    We will be adding granite steps on the steepest part and planting a tree in the center.    Today I am going to lay the weed-prevention fabric and then start mulching.   I’ve got some azaleas to plant, too.

I do intend to take some reading breaks.     I’ve got Woman:  An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier and I’m loving it – learning A LOT.     It’s a library book – HAPPY LIBRARY WEEK!  and I’m also dipping into PS I Love You by Cecelia Ahern.

So what are you doing this spring that might be taking you away from blogging?

HIdeinWhitetoSkipLine

Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Proust Was a Neuroscientist

Thoughts Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer, Houghton Mifflin 2007, 200 pages*

FIVE SLICES OF PIE!

MOTIVATION for READING:    I read Eva’s review.     I wondered about my reaction to the name/word ‘Proust’  (Initial reactions:   I assume he is ‘hard’?   I don’t think I know anything about him nor what he is written.   I couldn’t even be sure he was a writer or a philosopher.   How do I develop these ideas and what do I base them on?) So I thought this would be just the ticket to get me to think about how I think.    Plus, I love nonfiction and I like reading science books.

WHAT it’s ABOUT:    Mr Lehrer had an idea that a few certain artists actually came up with some neurological explanations for how our minds work (perhaps without themselves being fully aware of what they ‘discovered’) and SURE ENOUGH!   scientists came along later and PROVED these discoveries!    I loved it.   I loved the fun thoughts that popped into my head – the aha!  and YES!  and “That’s just COOL.”

I’ve often wondered why we refer to so many artists as ‘genius!’ and yet when I think of the definition of genius, I think of someone really smart, like Einstein – someone who typically works in the SCIENCES.    This book explores the concepts that might seem at odds and yet are very integral.      We shouldn’t think people who are good at math and science cant’ appreciate ‘good’ books and certainly, if you love to read, you shouldn’t excuse away that you are ‘BAD AT MATH’  –  bah humbug.    Stop compartmentalizing.    It’s the same frustration I have when I say I am an engineer and someone will immediately think I design cars.   WRONG.     Our definitions are too boxed in.   and too small.

Π

Did you know that Walt Whitman wrote that line about the ‘body electric’ before anyone had a definite clue about the electricity in our bodies?!

Π

I will never be able to just glance at a Cezanne painting (um, who?  isn’t he one of those French Impressionists?  uh, no.)  and shrug.   Or rather, I will now be able to glance – then stare – then wonder with an amazed curiosity at a Cezanne painting.   Then shrug.

It’s all about the image of what I’m looking at and contemplating not just the light reflections through my eyeballs but the interesting way my brain waves interpret those images and yet, they’ve proved that even that is not quite true of how we ‘see’.   Fascinating.

Π

I was thrilled and delighted with the chapter on Auguste Estoffier – I had never heard of this guy before and as a lover of all things Food Network…   let’s just say this dude is cool.    He’d have his own show on TV if he was alive today and I would watch.

Π

I don’t think any book has stirred me to subsequent action like this one has.      I had to go listen to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and really listen with new amazement and insight.     What a guy!  (and thank you Internet for making the process of looking this stuff up so easy)

I can’t wait to read more Woolf!     As an intro to her writings, this book is terrific.    And now I’m also super excited to read McEwan’s Saturday which is his response to Mrs. Dalloway which is a book I loved and will be re-reading very soon.    I’ve never read any George Eliot – now I want to.    I have only read a fictionalized bio of Gertrude Stein (The Book of Salt by Monique Truong) and am now a bit more curious to actually read something she’s written.  

“How can grammar be?” Stein asked herself in How to Write. “Nevertheless” was her answer.

I’m still iffy on Walt;  the book can’t do everything…  But I am not intimidated by Proust anymore!

It feels like my words here have been preaching to the choir.   If you don’t know anything about these artists nor what they are known for, it’s OK.  I only knew names of some before I picked up this book.   I’m certainly no expert on neuroscience.    But Lehrer does a great job of not getting too heavy and yet it is still complex – in a good way.    He used a few big words and referenced a few things I didn’t have the context to ‘get’ but I still loved how this book made me think.

If you agree with the idea that humanities and science should not be totally distinct and unrelated subjects of study, I heartily recommend this.

The mind is not a place;  it is a process.

Please do go read Eva’s thoughts on this book.   She also includes some excerpts from the book so you can get a much better impression of the writing and what’s discussed.

* How do you count page numbers?   Do you count only the text and not the biblio + index, etc?   or what ever page number is on the last page with a page number?    If I were to do that, this book has 242 pages.   But I didn’t read every word on those last pages so I only counted through the Acknowledgments.

Books in My Future

I thought I would quickly list off the books I know I want to read in the next few months;  some to finish challenges and some to start new challenges.   This list is more for me to help me get organized – my book to-do list.

Dewey’s Reading Challenge
John Green’s Abundance of Katherines – have but loaned to my next door neighbor
John Green’s Paper Towns – need
The Virgin Blue / Tracy Chevalier – have in house
The Sea – John Banville – need

Science Challenge
I wanted to read a book about bees and have narrowed it to A Spring Without Bees:  How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply by Michael Schacker and Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis by Rowan Jacobsen,   I’m hoping the library can find these.  I have yet to search.

I should finish my Einstein book, too.

Books I just want to read now ‘cuz’: The Mandarin and Other Stories by Eca De Queiroz (thanks Nymeth!) and Greenblatt’s Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare (thanks KB!)

Now, for upcoming commitments, I have officially and unofficially decided to read The Hobbit, Mrs. Dalloway and just maybe Moby Dick.   Of these, only MB is in the house.     I believe I said yes in Twitter to the Really Old Classics but honestly, I’m just a wimp.   But the book IS in my goodreads – unfortunately, I will have to order it.     The library, yes – even the I.L.L. – does not show it in the system: Two Zen Classics: The Gateless Gate and The Blue Cliff Records by Sekida, Katsuki.

Anyone care to talk me into any other challenges?     The Historical Fiction one, perhaps?     I could read Moby Dick for that, right?

Review Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Review tbyel Thunderstruck by Erik Larson, Three Rivers Press/Crown Publishing/Random House 2006, 399 pages

MOTIVATION FOR READING: I bought this for my Dad for Christmas and got it back after he and Mom read it.    I enjoy nonfiction.    And I do believe I can count this for the Science Challenge:   Inventions, Telegraphy, Forensics.    It’s not all that heavy – ok, it’s very light, in fact – on technology jargon.    Still, I don’t think I followed much of the explanations of Marconi’s work.   Honestly, he just seemed to succeed by trial and error and didn’t really care about the HOW and WHY his invention worked.   He was just damned persistent that it WOULD work.

WHAT IT’s ABOUT: A tale of murder and how technology was applied specifically to the capture of the murderer.     Rather, how this one event unexpectedly highlighted how useful this technology was going to be.     I get the idea that it is the author’s original idea to link these events.     Larson goes back and forth between the lives of the murder victim and the murderer and how Marconi figures out how to send wireless telegrams, eventually providing a play by play of how the murderer was arrested in as the world discovers how exciting this wireless stuff can be for real-time communication over many miles and across the ocean.

WHAT’s GOOD: My favorite part of history written almost in novel form,  fast-paced and action-packed, is that THIS REALLY HAPPENED!     I love when history comes alive.     As they say, “you can’t make this stuff up.”     The murder and the circumstances are bizarre and still begs the question of HOW did this guy manage this crime?     Larson does an amazing job of including documented conversations and filling in the gaps with interesting narrative.     I also enjoy reading through the bibliography;  Larson includes anecdotes that didn’t make the text but are still interesting.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD: On the other hand, I didn’t like the jump in time frames.    It is easy to get caught up and then get lost in what happened when.     The crime sections cover a shorter time frame than the wireless technology development so on one story line we jump months and in the other one we jump years.

I also found myself in serious dislike of Marconi and how he treated his wife which unfortunately had me thinking negatively about the whole book at times.      I read this on the flight back from Phoenix and I kept interrupting my husband’s reading (of fishing magazines) to tell him how much I didn’t like Marconi.   He kept asking me, “So, what?”    We also got into a disagreement about the museum or Historical Site or whatever it is on Cape Cod, so now we have to go check that out so I can prove I’m right.

Marconi Beach, Wellfleet Mass
Marconi Beach, Wellfleet Mass

FINAL THOUGHTs: I enjoyed this book but I think I had too high of expectations for it.    Three pieces of pie.  pieratingsml I’m still looking forward to reading another Larson book, The Devil in the White City.

Neurology in Haiku

Since I gave my book to Nymeth (cuz she’s just wonderful and I owe her more than a book),  I don’t have it to refer to.   OOPS!   I was so excited about shipping it off that I forgot I hadn’t done a review.        Silly me;  I wanted to include this in my Science Challenge but I’ll just have to read MORE (ie, something else by Sacks – so many great options!   perhaps The Island of the Colorblind, which is in-house.)

Short Thoughts  tmwmhwfah The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, first published 1990, 256 pages


So many terms unknown to me.

Did not know a phantom limb is needed for prosthesis to work!

I now want to read/see Awakenings.

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To read one of Nymeth’s reviews of another Sacks’ book, please click on her review of An Anthropologist on Mars. Be watching for her review of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.     Soon; let’s let the postal services deliver it and give her time to read it.

UPDATED TO ADD NYMETH’s REVIEW!!!    Click this.