A dangerous book to read over dinner, given how frequently I laughed -- which is not what you might expect from a non-fiction book about Britain's bumA dangerous book to read over dinner, given how frequently I laughed -- which is not what you might expect from a non-fiction book about Britain's bumblebees. Goulson's style is so engaging, though, that I was as entertained as I was educated.
Though the focus is on bumblebees in the UK, the underlying theme is universal: that habitat destruction damages populations of creatures great and small, including some we typically only think about when a careless barefoot stroll leads to a sting. I had no idea of the complexities and variations amongst bumblebee species. The bit on cuckoo bees, which mimic and hijack the nests of ordinary bumblebees, was particularly fascinating, as was the description of the very peculiar genetics of bees. Spoiler: female bees are diploid, as we are, but males are usually haploid, which means they grow just fine from an unfertilized egg.
I also, as a scientist, particularly appreciated Goulson's recounting of his various experiments, which often didn't go as planned. They also involved a lot of hacking together of non-standard equipment (such as plastic hair curlers as temporary housing for queen bees), which was not surprising given Goulson and his teams are often running novel studies.
The book both begins and ends with the tale of the short-haired bumblebee, a species native to Britain which was introduced to New Zealand in the late 1800's, subsequently went extinct in its native region, and is currently being reintroduced into Kent. The description of this project was enough to make me order red clover and wildflower seeds for planting this spring: it's a small effort, true, but this book shows that many little things can make a tremendous impact....more
Can you romp through the brain, learning as you go? I think that's what I just did. This was marvelously entertaining, rich in history with the gossipCan you romp through the brain, learning as you go? I think that's what I just did. This was marvelously entertaining, rich in history with the gossipy details that bring these historical doctors and researchers to life.
Kean recounts a history of brain research, starting from gross anatomy in the 16th century, to current debates over the nature of consciousness today. I'm a sucker for a book that's both educational and makes me laugh, which was certainly true here....more
Like the big con itself, this book drew me in slowly but surely. It begins with the story of J. Frank Norfleet, a Texan rancher who was taken in by aLike the big con itself, this book drew me in slowly but surely. It begins with the story of J. Frank Norfleet, a Texan rancher who was taken in by a stock market con in 1919. But instead of ruefully returning to his ranch, Norfleet become obsessed with revenge, becoming a rather good con man himself as he crisscrossed the country over the next decade, hunting down the men who'd fleeced him and seeing them sentenced for fraud and graft.
As fascinating a character as Norfleet is (and he's certainly a character; he clearly started to buy into his own press), even more interesting is the history of the United States as a land of optimistic opportunists, all to willing to buy into the promise of the Sweet Deal. Reading does a marvelous job of describing the rise of Wall Street from an investment hub for the select elite at the beginning of the 20th century into an obsession for the middle class by the end of WWI. It was fascinating to read about the transformation of the average American from thrifty saver (the 18th century ideal) into the modern consumer, the one willing to borrow and leverage and invest -- especially given the tumble the economy's seen these past five years.
By the second half of the book, Norfleet's obsessive crusading is eclipsed by the determination of Philip Van Cise, Denver's district attorney from 1921-25, to take down the intricately built network of bunco men who ran that city for many years. This is a true life version of The Untouchables, with con men taking the place of bootleggers, and to see Norfleet and Van Cise ultimately get their justice made for a most satisfying read....more
Hullo, Goodreads; it's been an awfully long time since I've reviewed a book.
This one's an excellent selection for getting back into the swing of it, tHullo, Goodreads; it's been an awfully long time since I've reviewed a book.
This one's an excellent selection for getting back into the swing of it, though. This history of Bell Labs spans the 20th century, focussing on their heyday in the 40's and 50's in an excellent blend of history and science. As someone who was only passingly familiar with the Labs, just enough to know they had a significant impact on consumer electronics through the 80's, I found Gertner's descriptions of such wide-ranging innovations as the transistor and satellite technology fascinating.
I could've done with a slight bit more of the science, actually, but that's just a personal preference. Gertner frames the history by detailing the careers of a half dozen of the Labs most influential (and sometimes controversial) scientists. I was particularly taken with the biography of Claude Shannon, mathematician, father of Information Theory, and dilettante in whatever caught his fancy in the moment (unicycles for one).
The dissolution of Ma Bell is the focus of the final couple chapters, which is naturally something of a down note as we know the Labs will inevitably fade into an echo of what they once were, but Gertner manages to make even the political machinations of the Labs' relationship with Washington interesting. Though Bell Labs was a peculiar product of its time -- and funded by a monopoly of a kind that couldn't exist again -- I still found myself wishing we could see what a modern, far more diverse gathering of great minds would produce in a similar hotbed today....more
Were I a teenaged girl, I'd be all over this book. Even at thirty-something I'm tempted by several of the projects. Sure, the instructions are terriblWere I a teenaged girl, I'd be all over this book. Even at thirty-something I'm tempted by several of the projects. Sure, the instructions are terribly oversimplified, and a few of the projects are clunkers (you want me to make an electrical tape bracelet? on purpose?), but several are quirky and elegant, like the hex-nut necklace featured on the cover, or the S-hook bracelet with copper accents.
Worth flipping through if only to spark ideas the next time you're in your local hardware store....more
While the styles are classic, they're also rather shapeless. These are "traditionally" constructed garments, consisting of a front panel, a back panelWhile the styles are classic, they're also rather shapeless. These are "traditionally" constructed garments, consisting of a front panel, a back panel, and sleeves, with no hip, waist, or bust shaping. So many of these tops would be greatly improved by some hint of shaping and circular construction instead of these blocky, clunky panels.
There are two patterns I think I can use as a jumping off point to something more flattering: a tank and a tee that can be easily done in the round, borrowing some of the edging and sleeve details from this book. Other than those two exceptions, though, I'm sending this one back to the library without a second look....more
Hrm. A well-written discussion on the state of the food production industry, this takes a look at the underlying reasons behind the rapid increase inHrm. A well-written discussion on the state of the food production industry, this takes a look at the underlying reasons behind the rapid increase in obesity in America. Kessler's certainly done his research, using his clout as former commissioner of the FDA to garner interviews with numerous players in the industry... and yet I was underwhelmed.
Perhaps it's simply that there's not a lot of new information here, at least not to someone fairly informed about nutrition and the state of food industry. I also found Kessler's ultra-short chapters (some as short as two pages, with most averaging about a half dozen) to be somewhat distracting, but that's a minor grievance.
The final portion of the book addresses Kessler's title directly, but it's nothing you don't already know: adjusting our eating habits is going to require a tremendous amount of attention to portion size, to cutting back on overprocessed foods, and it's going to be a slow, life-long process. I have no serious complaints with this book, but I don't think it was worth my time to read....more
A collection of articles on the history and psychology of advertising, this includes a number of reprinted essays from the now-defunct "Stay Free!" maA collection of articles on the history and psychology of advertising, this includes a number of reprinted essays from the now-defunct "Stay Free!" magazine as well as new material. This is a lighter look at advertising than some other recent books on the subject and approaches the topic with a healthy dose of humor -- which is exactly what the modern consumer needs to navigate the daily sea of ads....more
Also available as an e-book from my local library, I read this after finishing The Moment it Clicks. As the title suggests, this book is narrower in fAlso available as an e-book from my local library, I read this after finishing The Moment it Clicks. As the title suggests, this book is narrower in focus, and less useful to me personally because I'm not (yet) a DSLR user.
Don't let that turn you away, though, because McNally's writing is so wonderfully chatty and helpful that you can't help but learn something. A recognized a good bit of this material from his blog (http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/), which is well worth checking out.
Looks like I'm going to have to buy that slave flash for my point-and-shoot Canon after all. Darn you, Joe!...more
Popped over to my local library's website to reserve this title and discovered it was available as an e-book. Excellent: I read this on my laptop withPopped over to my local library's website to reserve this title and discovered it was available as an e-book. Excellent: I read this on my laptop with my camera beside me, fiddling with the settings and taking test shots as I read.
Though intended for the more advanced photographer, I still found this an entertaining and informative read. I have a point-and-shoot, albeit a very adjustable one, but am only an advanced beginner. McNally's specialty is lighting portraits in subtle and innovative ways and it shows in the abundant examples in this book. I found myself wishing for a DSLR and lighting accessories several times, but nevertheless picked up quite a few pointers on how to make the most of the equipment I already have.
Even for the most beginning photographer, there's a wealth of advice on composition, taking advantage of the moment, and being willing to experiment with your models and props. McNally's work is inspiring as hell, and his conversational way of teaching is very enjoyable....more