This book is part biography and part history. It is the story of the black female mathematicians who worked for the National Advisory Committee for AeThis book is part biography and part history. It is the story of the black female mathematicians who worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) during World War II, which then became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Cold War, as human computers.
It's really amazing how the women featured in this book overcame a double handicap, being both female and black, to have successful careers in the sciences. I had no idea that there even were a significant number of professional female mathematicians before the feminist revolution. Perhaps this is because I just accepted the stereotypes of 1940s women's career opportunities or because, in population culture, the STEM fields are still being portrayed as an all boys' club from which women are excluded. Interwoven among the life stories of several women is the history of segregation and racial discrimination in Virginia.
I wanted to like this book more than I did because it deals with such imp0rtant social issues. While I enjoyed learning about the women's lives and triumphs, I found the writing very dry, and I had a hard time getting through it. There is a lot of footnoted history and technical jargon. Also, I have no interest in aeronautics or the space program, so the highly detailed explanations of what exactly the women mathematicians calculated were lost on me....more
Told in brightly colored cartoony whimsical illustration, this book explains conception to small children. Because it's "A book for every king of famiTold in brightly colored cartoony whimsical illustration, this book explains conception to small children. Because it's "A book for every king of family and every kind of kid," the information provided is extremely non-specific. According to this book, making a baby requires a sperm from one body, an egg from another body, and a uterus. This explanation is great if you don't want go into details about the mechanics of sexual intercourse (or IVF, or gestational surrogacy, or artificial insemination, depending upon one's unique personal situation) but want to provide medically accurate information. I thought this was a neat concept. But it may not be enough for older child who are bound to ask how the sperm and egg get together to do their little "dance."
I didn't like that the DNA contained in the sperm and egg is described as "stories all about body that the [sperm/egg] came from." It would have been more accurate to say something like "the history of the body and its family." I also didn't like that when the sperm and egg meet, they dance and tell each other their "stories." It would have been better to say that when they meet they will combine if the conditions are right to create something new. And the use of "stories" for DNA gets even more confusing, when the book attempts to elaborate on how everyone is different "depending on the stories that the egg and sperm share." Again, every baby is different depending upon the family histories that the egg and sperm bring together would make more logical sense.
I did like that the book explains that sometimes the new thing doesn't grow and that sometimes it grows into a baby. The book shows a couple developmental stages, explaining that it usually takes 40 weeks for a baby to be born. I liked that the books touches on natural onset of labor as well as induction/planned caesarean, and it gives two birth scenarios (vaginal delivery and C-section). I was surprised that it used the term vagina but didn't use the term caesarean section. Considering the US C-section rate is 33%, it was nice to have that included.
Overall, the book is a mixed bag. It's much better for very young children than school age children....more
This book is part biography of Emma Gatewood who in 1955 at the age of 67 became the first woman to continuously hike the entire Appalachian Trail, thThis book is part biography of Emma Gatewood who in 1955 at the age of 67 became the first woman to continuously hike the entire Appalachian Trail, the history of the Appalachian Trail, and background on walking as a recreational pastime in the United States. The subtitle is a bit of an exaggeration; Grandma Gatewood didn't so much as "save" the Appalachian Trail as provide it with a great deal of publicity, which resulted in better maintenance of the trail and attracted more hikers. The story had a nice flow to it, and the historic background was very readable.
This book was a fascinating light read. What on earth would possess an older woman with no real hiking experience to attempt such a feat wearing a pair of Keds and carrying only a few supplies in a denium sack no less? The narrative poses some theories but comes to no definite conclusions. One of the most amazing things is how Grandma Gatewood would just knock on people's doors and ask for food or to be put up for the night. Considering her physical state for most of the trip (She didn't even pack a comb and washed her clothing out in streams along the trail), it's amazing how often people did just that. ...more
The philosophy behind this book is one to which I am attuned. Like Nia Shanks, Dr. Kelly Starrett believes you shouldn't push yourself to the absoluteThe philosophy behind this book is one to which I am attuned. Like Nia Shanks, Dr. Kelly Starrett believes you shouldn't push yourself to the absolute brink and that pain is a warning sign that there is a problem with your technique or your body mechanics that needs to be immediately addressed rather than ignored and "powered" through. It is so refreshing to see this in exercise culture rather than the destructive imperatives that will only result in permanent injury.
Starrett has 12 standards in his program: #1: Neutral Feet #2: Flat Shoes #3: A Supple Thoracic Spine #4: An Efficient Squatting Technique #5: Hip Flexion #6: Hip Extension #7: Ankle Range of Motion #8: Warming Up and Cooling Down #9: Compression #10: No Hotspots #11: Hydration #12: Jumping and Landing
Some I already practiced, and some I'd never heard of. While I am not sure of the actual science behind these standards, they all have a certain degree of logic to them. All the voodoo flossing seems vaguely voodoo-y, but there has been a lot of buzz about using the foam rollers, and many of the techniques he demonstrates to workout hotspots are very similar to yoga stretches. I am very tempted to convert to a zero drop heel, but then I looked sadly in my closet at all my shoes, and I just can't bear to throw away all my thong and wedge sandals, calf boots, ankle boots, and dress shoes. Virtually every shoe I own has a slight heel. Alas, I cannot do it....more
The Sound of Gravel is an ultra-compelling story. Ruth Wariner is her mother’s fourth child and her father’s thirty-ninth. Her mother was the fifth wiThe Sound of Gravel is an ultra-compelling story. Ruth Wariner is her mother’s fourth child and her father’s thirty-ninth. Her mother was the fifth wife of Joel LeBaron, “the prophet” of the LeBaron fundamentalist Mormon colony in Chihuahua, Mexico. Ruth’s father died while she was still an infant after which her mother became the second of her stepfather Lane’s four wives.
I can understand why men are drawn to polygamist cults like this. It feeds their egos, gives them an exaggerated idea of their own manhood, and allows them endless opportunities to indulge their carnal desires all justified in the name of religion. No matter what losers they are, their wives will fight over who gets to take care of them and spend time with them, and because taking multiple wives and siring as many children as possible is a tenet of their religion and not a personal choice, they are under no obligation or moral responsibility to support their families.
For women like Ruth’s mother who choose to stay despite the terrible cost to themselves and their children, I can’t understand it. Her own parents eventually got wise and left the cult, but she bought the "poor but rich in spirit" baloney hook, line, and sinker. I realize she had been brainwashed and wasn't terribly bright, but I still can't understand who would really want to serve a god like this. That pitiable deluded woman who was perfectly willing to sacrifice her children for a promised afterlife. She saw everything as a test of faith and part of the "God's plan" instead of the direct result of the actions of herself and others. It was horrible to watch the abuse and neglect that she visited upon her children through strict obedience to her delusional religious beliefs. If you ever wanted evidence for why human rights restrictions need to be placed on the freedom of religion, this book has plenty.
Ruth’s childhood is gut-wrenchingly sad. Her mother is a true believer, and as a result she subjects herself and her children to abject poverty and squalid living conditions in the name of eternal salvation and protection against the ever-impending End of Days, the longed for event during which Jesus would return to gather all the true Christians up to heaven and cast everyone else into hell. Because all of the men in the colony have more wives and children than they can possibly afford, all of the women in the community commit welfare fraud via false addresses in the United States. While lying and stealing are generally considered “sins,” as one of the colony’s main sources of funding, everyone feels entitled to take advantage of Babylon’s (aka the United States’) generous social benefits. Because they are “doing the Lord’s work,” they deserve to have someone else support them in their chosen lifestyle.
And it’s not just poverty that mars Ruth’s early life. It is constant instability. Her mother and stepfather move the family around with no regard for the children’s welfare. They don’t care about their living conditions, or their education, or their basic levels of sanitation. The defining characteristic of Ruth's mother's home in the colony is “the smell of mouse droppings.” A lot of the time they didn't have electricity or running water. Fellow residents of their trailer park in Texas reported the family to Child Protective Services, and there is almost a moment when the reader thinks Ruth and her siblings will be taken away and given a chance in life, but Ruth's mother manages to lie her way out of the situation (apparently lying isn't a sin when lying to non-believers) ... although she does get two years probation during which the family has a greater degree of stability than usual for which Ruth is grateful.
Her mother Kathy produces children, some of whom have serious cognitive and developmental disabilities, at an alarming rate, and unlike her second husband’s Mexican first wife, it is beyond her ability to care for them in even the most elemental way. While Alejandra can cook, clean, and sew and taught her daughters to cook, clean and sew as well, Kathy’s only domestic skill seems to be baking bread in tin cans and getting pregnant. As the oldest girl without a disability, Ruth is the default caretaker expected to take up the slack from her mother. She was forced to leave school at a ridiculously young age to help with her younger half-siblings. While Ruth’s half- and step-siblings by other mothers are clean and at least moderately well dressed (perhaps their relatives in the United States send them money as Lane is a total deadbeat), she and the children in her mother’s household are almost exclusively filthy and dressed in a dirty hodgepodge of ragged clothing. They are barely fed, and aside from the time they spent in California with her mother’s parents, they subsist on homemade bread, beans, and rice.
After over a decade of low level abuse, Ruth finally has an epiphany. "I realized then that I couldn't count on [my mother's] promises and began to wonder why she didn't seem able to protect my siblings and me. I just couldn't understand it." As if living in squalor and instability isn’t bad enough, Ruth’s mother cannot even keep her children physically safe from their stepfather. Ruth’s stepfather molested her for years and years. She told her mother the first time, and her mother “talked” to him after which he promised it wouldn’t happen again. He then continued to molest her for years. When she and two of his other stepdaughters finally came forward, much to the dismay of his wives, the Elders banned him from the colony for two years. Surprisingly -- or unsurprisingly depending upon your personal experience (I wasn't surprised) -- the adult women blamed the victims. It wasn't like they were his biological children. The girls were “pretty,” so naturally he would be sexually attracted to them. They enjoyed him touching them. He was just grooming them for their husbands. It could have been worse (meaning that it was only fondling and not penetration), and they were just being spoiled brats about it. They should consider how much their stepfather has suffered and how humiliating the accusations were for him. They are ruining his life by continuing to bring up his sexual abuse. They need to forgive like Jesus says in the Bible. It was disgusting.
Tragically, (view spoiler)[it is only the death of their mother (hide spoiler)] that allows Ruth and her surviving maternal siblings to escape to a life of relative safety and stability with their extended family in the United States. ...more
My interest in folk saints made me curious to learn more about Santa Muerte, which prompted me to read this book. Written by an academic, it is a schoMy interest in folk saints made me curious to learn more about Santa Muerte, which prompted me to read this book. Written by an academic, it is a scholarly yet colloquially written look at the folk saint Santa Muerte (Saint Death) whose cult has been steadily gaining popularity in Mexico and the United States over the past two decades. While the author tries very hard to downplay the more sinister aspects of this "saint," his attempts to emphasize her positive virtues often feel like he is grasping at straws. Much of his book comes off as a one man public relations rehabilitation project rather than objective documentation of a folk phenomenon. The chapters on descripting her powers for good often contain a lot of repetition despite being very short.
The chapter on Santa Muerte's origins was informative. Throughout the book, author repeatedly touches on the motivation behind the surge in her devotion, which are fairly telling. Because death in many ways is a great equalizer, she has an obvious appeal for the socioeconomically disadvantaged as well as the marginalized. But again because her darker aspects are being minimized, he just glosses over her role as the saint whom can be asked to perform deeds no one would dare ask of other holier saints, which remains her major selling point. The author does attempt to move beyond narcos and hitmen to describe why Santa Muerte is the object of intense devotion from ordinary people who need a bit of unholy help, and there are lots of personal anecdotes. The darker element surrounding Santa Muerte is never really dispelled.
The author mentions taking lots of photos for his research, but there aren't many photos in the book, which is too bad. I would have liked to have seen more personal altars and the variety of depictions of the saint described in the text. ...more
This book was trial for me, and the fact that I listened to it on audio and, therefore, couldn't skim made it even harder to endure. Alas, that I am tThis book was trial for me, and the fact that I listened to it on audio and, therefore, couldn't skim made it even harder to endure. Alas, that I am the book discussion leader and do not have the luxury of not reading or not finishing a book.
It did have its good points. First, the premise is intriguing. Who knew that falconry was still a legitimate hobby for ordinary 21st Century people and not just the obscure specialty of professional Renaissance Faire folk? The description of how to train hawks is fascinating. Second, the author can really write. Her background as a scholar and researcher are evident in the writing. She writes very well and namedrops and quotes slew of literary works. But her academic training has its downside, which brings me to the bad points.
The author reads deep symbolic meaning into every little thing. Every single thing she encounters in her life has a deep meaning ascribed to it. This is not true in real life anymore than it is in literature. And unlike good writing where every scene should either advance the plot or elaborate on a characterization, life is full of meaningless fluff that fills in the spaces between events. Yet Macdonald reads deeply into all this filler. She particularly likes to use Freud as a basis of analysis. Evidently, she is unaware of the fact that although Freud is still considered very important to the history of the field of psychology, his work has been entirely discredited and is no longer used as an explanation for psychological phenomena. Despite this, Freud's theories do continue to be used in literary criticism, which is probably why the author is so enamored with them. Strangely, at the same time she liberally applies meaning and symbolism, she doesn't like it when others ascribe meaning and find symbolism. This is contradictory and makes no sense. Of course, in her opinion they are usually false meanings and incorrectly used symbols.
Another problem with the book is that the author's grief over her father's death is so wildly exaggerated that it is nearly impossible to relate to. This memoir is marketed as a meditation on grief. However, Macdonald's grief is pathological. At first, it seems like she is being dramatic for effect, but then it quickly becomes clear that she is actually in a clinical state. For the majority of the narrative, she is in need of medical intervention, which I, as a reader, found disturbing. Yet it is not until very near the end that she decides that she may actually need some medication. I couldn't understand why someone on NHS for whom it is absolutely free to see a doctor and for whom costs less the average, lowest tier copay in the US to fill a prescription didn't arrive at this conclusion sooner.
Throughout the narrative, Macdonald exhibits a real lack of self-awareness, which is severe fault in a memoir. Hindsight gives her no clarity. And it's not just her failure to realize when her grief had crossed over into a psyche disorder. At one point, she mentions that shortly after her father's death she fell "in love" with a man who quickly discovered that she was in no state for a relationship and ran like hell. She is still upset about this rather slight than understanding that his decision made perfect sense.
The author is also very blasé about trespassing on other people's land and poaching. She repeatedly goes on property on which she doesn't have permission to hunt, and several times her hawk kills stocked game birds. The fact that she feels guilty about this doesn't absolve her of her wrongdoing, and she's very lucky not to have encountered an owner or gamekeeper with a shotgun on these occasions.
Macdonald's obsession with T.H. White is never adequately explained. His inept training of a goshawk is the antithesis of her skillful training of one, so he serves as a literary foil. But the reader is left wondering why all the sorry details of his unhappy life are so fascinating to her. And she finds such deep psychological meaning buried in all the details of his biography.
The author tends to work herself up into a self-righteous rage on a variety of topics. She particularly dislikes it when people pick and choose what facts to present. But she herself cherry-picks when it comes to facts. Perhaps she assumes readers aren't as scholarly as she considers herself to be and won't notice, or perhaps she is ignorant as to her own biases. Here are a few examples. Macdonald spends a lot time analyzing male falconers from previous centuries according to Freud and interpreting falconry as extremely phallic, but when her friend's husband suggests that she and her hawk get along so well because they are both female, she feels violently insulted. This is not only a denial of her entry into an all male club, she considers it an affront that paints her as moody and emotional. As a nature writer and animal trainer, she should have been aware that sex hormones do have an effect on animal training ... at least for mammals. This may not be the case with bird training, but it is a documented phenomenon, so her friend's husband's theory has a factual basis even if it is not applicable in her case. And she's awfully hard on a guy who was probably just trying to make some polite small talk since his wife wasn't home when she turned up on his doorstep. Several times through the book, Macdonald claims to be a historian. Then when she encounters a couple who share her love for the "Old England" that the rural countryside conjures, she becomes severely offended when they express the concern that the England they love may cease to exist in the face of current migrant crisis. The author goes on a literary tirade naming animals that have gone extinct on that same landscape due to human activity and wishes she had lectured the couple on history instead of sadly walking away. She is too busy being angry that the couple loves the countryside for its symbolic meaning to realize that the parallel she's just drawn substantiates their fear. As a historian she should know that mass migration displaces and replaces the existing populations in an area. It rarely results in assimilation. Did she sleep through her history classes and miss the effect that the mass migrations from Imperial Rome, Central Europe, and Scandinavia had on the people living in Britain during each of those periods? The couple's fear is not without historical precedent, but because it undermines her own political stance on the issue, she simply discounts it without considering it. Refusing to address legitimate concerns and instead dismissing them by shouting racist and xenophobe is exactly what caused Brexit and resulted in the toxic political climate leading to Trump being elected president of the United States. Oh, if only the Democratic National Party had attempted to understand what motivated Trump supporters and presented a candidate who specifically addressed those issues in line with the democratic platform instead of ignoring the obvious dissatisfaction with the establishment, name calling, and insisting the status quo was the only way to go, things would have gone so differently.
Oy! I do not understand the glowing reviews and blurbs this book received.
The subtitle is very misleading, and it seems contradictory to the standard parenting advice that children should be allowed to make their own choicesThe subtitle is very misleading, and it seems contradictory to the standard parenting advice that children should be allowed to make their own choices and encouraged to be independent. When Dr. Sax says that treating children like adults is detrimental to them, he doesn't mean considering them to be individuals with their own inner lives, minds, and emotions who are (or will one day be) capable of rational thought, problem solving, decision making, and independent living. He means that it is harmful to transform the parent-child relationship into a peer relationship in which a child (who possesses very little life experience and limited cognitive abilities) is given equal authority to that of a fully functioning, mature adult. Parents need to have authority to parent their children. Otherwise, they will be unable to teach, correct, and guide their children to become mature, fully functioning adults with the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to be at least minimally successful in life. In relationships between adults, nearly everything is negotiable. In relationships between parents and children, the parent shouldn't be negotiating. The parent should also understand that listening to your child's opinion, feelings, and point of view doesn't mean that the parent has to do what the child wants.
Abdicating parental responsibility causes several problems, which Dr. Sax addresses. His solutions seem overly simplistic. He recommends 1) teach your children humility, 2) enjoy the time you spend with your children, and 3) teach your to find a deeper meaning in life.
This book is a guide to decluttering and reorganizing. Unlike other books on the same subject, it is a philosophy rather than a methodology. The coreThis book is a guide to decluttering and reorganizing. Unlike other books on the same subject, it is a philosophy rather than a methodology. The core tenet is to only keep things that "spark joy."
For me, the most important ideas to take away are: * "The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live." (182) * "The person who gave [a gift] to you doesn't want you to use it out of a sense of obligation or to put it away without using it, only to feel guilty every time you see it." (108) *"The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past."
I do, however, disagree with the author's edict that one shouldn't ball up his/her socks. I will continue to ball up all my socks, and Marie Kondo can't stop me....more
After his parents announce at breakfast that they will be having a baby, a little boy spends the entire day asking people where babies come from. HisAfter his parents announce at breakfast that they will be having a baby, a little boy spends the entire day asking people where babies come from. His babysitter tells him from "the Baby Tree." His teacher tells him from the hospital. His grandfather tells him from a stork. The mail carrier tells him from eggs. Finally, at bedtime, his parents give him a very simplified biological version in which a "seed" from Dad is planted in an egg from Mom (no mention of the circumstances under which this occurs) and then growing for nine months until a baby is born usually at a hospital although sometimes at home.
The best part of this book is that the last page has a question and answer sheet for children ages 4 to 6, and this page contains more detailed medically accurate information about pregnancy. It also answers the more social questions about adoption and same-sex parents....more
This is a good introduction to pregnancy and childbirth. It's age appropriate for small children and mostly medically accurate. I wish the author woulThis is a good introduction to pregnancy and childbirth. It's age appropriate for small children and mostly medically accurate. I wish the author would have used the term "embryo" instead of seed because egg and sperm do not combine to form a seed. She could have easily used the correct term in addition the seed metaphor. I did like that the book mentioned homebirth: "A baby can be born at home or in a hospital."
It's a shame that this is an alphabet rather than a dictionary. Because there can only be one beast per letter, a lot of very cool medieval creaturesIt's a shame that this is an alphabet rather than a dictionary. Because there can only be one beast per letter, a lot of very cool medieval creatures had to be left out by necessity. The format also necessitates some very obscure stretches. The pronunciation guide at the front is a big help.
There are several varieties of dragons (amphisbaena, firedrake, wyvern) and sea monsters (echeneis, hippocampus, kraken, ozaena, triton, ziphius). Unfortnately, the illustrator chose to depict the unicorn with the body of a jackal-like beast rather than a horse. One of my favorites, the manticore, is also included. My only real compliant about the illustrations is that a sheen of ugliness and aggressiveness colors everything, so everything is rather horrible than majestic or awe-inspiring....more