28 December 2008
1. everything is illuminated, jonathan safran foer
2. the old man and the sea, ernest hemingway
3. the namesake, jhumpa lahiri
1. the omnivore's dilemma, michael pollan
2. common wealth, jeffrey sachs (2008)
3. ghost map, stephen johnson
got a favorite from this year? i'd love to have a recommendation to start off 2009 right. just as soon as i finish off the three i'm in the midst of at the moment, of course... :)
25 December 2008
hope you all have a fantastic holiday.
to come sometime this week, a list of my favorite reads of 2008, and hopefully some actual progress in my knitting works-in-progress.
oh, and renewed attention to my marathon training, to begin compensating for the obscenity of this week's diet. holidays, it was nice but please take your sugar and go away. thanks.
18 December 2008
i was quite surprised by this book! i really enjoyed his popular curious incident of a dog in the nighttime, but knew that a book like that can't be duplicated. a was a bit nervous, therefore, trying on a spot of bother. i was certainly rewarded!
its a wonderfully british book (and if you're an audio reader, like me, you'll appreciate a fantastic narration). the book is incredibly sad at points, wildly funny, and in general very enjoyable.
the story follows george, an elderly man, as he goes through a bit of a mental breakdown, and the rest of his family. all the characters are experiencing a bit of a life changing moment, and haddon adds depth by describing the same interactions from different points of view.
one of the best straight-up novels i've read in a while. definitely worth a look!
11 December 2008
i absolutely loved this book. so much, that i'll just leave you with a quote from the new york times, and a few of the quotes from the book that i wrote down as favorites.
from the new york times review on the back of the book:
So let it be said that Mitchell is, clearly, a genius. He writes as though at the helm of some perpetual dream machine, can evidently do anything, and his ambition is written in magma across this novel's every page.
granted, that leaves out the reviewer's reasonable complaints about some aspects of the book, but i think is a good description of the author overall.
some of my favorite quotes:
1. i knew not the answer, nor whence flew the surety of my younger years.
2. yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?
3. a half-finished book is a half-finished love affiar.
4. fantasy. lunacy. all revolutions are, until they happen, and then they are historical inevitabilities.
maybe i'm just a sucker for well-written prose. the six stories in the book cover six very different styles and command of the english language. i loved them all.
07 December 2008
how does this song continue to parade around as a feel-good anthem to the world? these lyrics are ridiculous and offensive, and really throw me off my good-mood game:
do they know its christmastime at all?
yes! they [being those suffering from the late-1980's famine in ethiopia and eritrea] aren't stupid, they are hungry.
well, there won't be snow in africa this christmas...
no kidding! the parts of africa that do receive snow are in the southern hemisphere. what does this have to do with anything? no snow = no christmas? i think i miss the point here.
the greatest gift they'll get this year is life
the greatest gift we all will get this year is life.
thank god that it's them and not you
WHAT?! no, i don't think i'll be thanking god for famine anywhere. what is going on with this song?
i understand the origin of the song lies in a good intention. my point is that is wasn't articulated very well. the lyrics reveals some disturbing truths to how americans approach global relief, and i think its high time this song loses its place in the holiday song rotation.
feed the world? of course we should. but not because it's christmas.
02 December 2008
great book! the book (which is non-fiction) intertwines the story of wireless telegraphy's inception and a good-ol' murder mystery. the history of wireless was really interesting - just to imagine what it would have felt like to be alive during such a daring change in technology is really intriguing. larson does a great job of capturing the wonder and disbelief of the time.
the murder mystery is likewise quite interesting - though because the details were never discovered, a lot of the crime remains unresolved. the two are connected because the arrest of the murderer was the first public demonstration of wireless' capabilities. the chase was onboard a trans-atlantic ship, and the details of the guilty's daily life were transmitted far and wide to great public interest. (sounds very familiar to the 21st century, eh?)
a nice read. can't wait to pick up devil in the white city, larsen's big success.
01 December 2008
still, its an exciting realization that the control of this inconceivably damning virus is within reach. and its a bright spot on an otherwise dreary topic of research. if only we as a collective humanity could summon the collective will to tackle it.
its world aids day. read up.
29 November 2008
i've decided to try my luck with a second marathon, and picked this book up while looking for a training schedule book at the library. i was hoping for an overview to training, nutrition, etc - all the things that i probably should have a solid grasp on by now, but don't.
the book is definitely catered to the first-time athlete. most of the focus is put on motivation and confidence-building. i found the details i was looking for a bit skimpy, and generally felt that i wasn't the person for whom they were writing.
the writing is super-easy to read (maybe a bit too simple, but perhaps that adds to the confidence boost they're attempting). i read it really quickly, in just a few settings. i'd certainly recommend it to anyone just starting to run (or maybe just considering taking the first step). if you already jog or run, though, skip this one and try something else.
27 November 2008
24 November 2008
20 November 2008
this striped scarf idea is all over the place, but i tried to mix it up a bit by randomly defining the length of the stripe. i'm not really pleased with how the edging is working out (pulling the alternate yarn up is a bit messy), but i'm liking the product so far.
still a ways to go, but i'm looking forward to bundling up with some new colors this winter.
15 November 2008
12 November 2008
i have a thing for nobel laureates of literature. kipling, sinclair lewis, steinbeck, jose saramago, hemingway, neruda, garcia marquez... you really can't go wrong. i love them all. so i was excited to try out mr. pamuk, the 2006 laureate "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures".
i liked the book, but i was expecting more. its always hard to read a novel in translation, and i'm hoping that may be the cause of my discontent here. i'm very much a reader for language, and i didn't love the verbiage in snow. certainly a good story, and a very timely one. the novel hinges around the 'headscarf girls' - supporters of the political islamist party in kars, turkey. the plot unfolds over a three day period, in which the town is cut off by snow, and during which a short coup is made by a visiting theatre personality.
i've put my name is red, one of pamuk's earlier novels on my list & will give him another shot sometime - hoping to enjoy that one a bit more.
11 November 2008
one of the most difficult things to grasp about the UN's millennium goals is the focus on women and girls. its an important point, however, and the focus of the targets is supported by the realities of data and of ground experience. you owe it to yourself to learn more about the issue if you're not convinced. check out the resources made available through the girl effect's website and peruse the UN site as well. or visit the center for global development. there's lots and lots of work to do - billions of reasons why.
"Tests of the new Web tool from Google.org, the company’s philanthropic unit, suggest that it may be able to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
checking out the flutrends page i'm even more impressed. the page is really user-friendly, offers lots of answers about the process, links viewers to the CDC site for flu information, and PROVIDES THE RAW DATA. i wish i'd had this available to use for my master's thesis. thank you google, you are amazing and apparently can do no wrong.
when disease transmission is quick, its very easy to arrive a day late and miss the surge of cases. information on where influenza is striking right now - the data provided by this service - gives responders an earlier start off the block. additionally, this means of data collection doesn't rely on hospital or physician reporting, which in traditional data collection adds delay and relies on participation by rather busy (and often uninterested) individuals.
thankfully the map doesn't have much activity yet this season, but i'll be watching this flu season. i'm looking forward to reading more in-depth about this in their upcoming article in nature.
08 November 2008
for virginians looking for smoke-free places to chow down, the virginia department of health website offers a nice service. here you can find a listing of restaurants that are smoke-free, by county - just click on the "non-smoking restaurant statistics link" and look for your county.
percentage of restaurants that are non-smoking:
fairfax county: 89%
richmond city: 56%
sure, it requires a bit of effort and forward planning, but i appreciate the gesture. its a good step forward in the campaign against cigarette smoke & its many, many ill effects.
05 November 2008
"This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other."
hopefully we will all remember that the election itself hasn't changed anything & that we will all have to commit to the chance we want to see. i'm looking for obama to re-channel the passion for this election into a passion for a stronger, more gracious united states of america.
04 November 2008
03 November 2008
01 November 2008
"Boys born to mothers who drank lightly during pregnancy are better behaved and score more highly in tests at the age of three than the sons of women who abstained, according to a study published today."first of all, wtf? this article flies in the face of almost everything we know about drinking alcohol during pregnancy. it's a shocking claim - i was intrigued enough to click on the headline. when a claim is this controversial, there's a higher standard applied - the research should be solid and peer-reviewed.
is it? i don't know, because the article fails to identify where this finding was published - leading me to believe that it hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal. for a newspaper to print findings that are so contradictory to public health advice when the findings are not yet reviewed is terribly irresponsible. FURTHER, the authors acknowledge that their findings are not solid:
"Although allowances had been made for social circumstances, Dr Yvonne Kelly, the lead researcher, said they could not be completely certain that the children's better performance was not linked to their family background."
what?! family background is arguably the most important factor in child development - if it can't be ruled out as a factor in their study, then the results are completely void. the fact that their findings are only presented in boys suggests to me that they only found a very limited significance in a subgroup and are stretching for a finding.
if the research is crummy, major newspapers have no business printing it. how many expectant mothers will read this headline and decide to start drinking a wine with dinner every night? please can newspapers leave health advice to the experts?
30 October 2008
i wish there were more novels by jonathan safran foer available to me, but alas, there are only two - and this is my second. i read everything is illuminated this spring and loved it, and was promised by a friend that i would love extremely loud and incredibly close just as much but in a different way. and she was 100% correct. i really love the style of jonathan safran foer, and i love that he is so young in his life and career. i can't wait to see what else he has to offer us.
the story focuses on nine-year-old oscar schell, as he deals with his father's death in attack on the world trade center. its a beautiful story. as i do so many books, i listened to both of foer's novels on audio. both productions are really quite amazing, and the narration is one of the best i've heard on audio. (ditto for the audio of everything is illuminated - foer's got great audio adaptations!) i understand that the novel itself includes some photos and sketches mixed in with the text, though, and i am sorry to miss out on that.
definitely in the running for one of my favorites for the year. 4.5 instead of a 5.0 only because the ending left me wanting a little more oomph... but there's a realism in the ending that's hard to deny. absoultely recommended!
today we had to take my darling girl to the vet for surgery on her ear. at first this seemed no big deal, but was i ever mistaken. she has an ear hematoma, a pretty common problem where blood vessels rupture and the ear balloons up with blood. so in max goes, to have it drained and 'quilted' back together. not a big deal, right?
wrong! while they're doing the surgery, the vet had a look inside her mouth and discovered a broken tooth. might as well remove that, too! and why not give her all her shots for the year? annual rectal exam? throw it all in! clip those nails, scrub those teeth - the whole nine yards in one go.
so poor miss max wakes up to a cone around her head, a missing tooth, a sutured ear, and several sore spots inside and out. when i met her coming home from the doctor she was stumbling around, still half-under the drugs. she can't quite manage the cone and keeps tripping over it. after she fell down the stairs three times, i had to carry her upstairs. ultimate tragic sadness!
i finally understand why parents at the doctor's office cry when their kids get shots. i've never seen a sadder puppy and i'm so heart-broken for her. max's favorite things are to (1) stick her head through the railing of the stairs and bark at people, and to (2) lick the dishes in the dishwasher. neither can be done with a cone on!! it's heartbreaking people, and halloween is going to be brutal. so many small children to bark at.
27 October 2008
26 October 2008
after probably eight months of very slow and distracted work, i finally finished off the first charade sock! many props to sandra [hearts] hearts, formerly at 'i may be knitting ranch house' for the fantastic pattern. now if only i could remember where i packed the pattern, i could get started on its mate.
25 October 2008
so, it was with great delight that i learned of the lead editorial in the october journal of infectious diseases. the piece is a commentary on an article in the same issue, in which researchers re-examined the causes of death during the pandemic. the research put a spotlight on pneumonic infectious in flu victims - not novel diagnoses, but a reality long overlooked. morens et. al. found that a large majority of deaths were due to opportunistic pneumonia - in fact, only 4% of influenza victims died without a bacterial infection. indeed, many were on the verge of fighting off the flu when they contracted the bacteria. the attack of an opportunistic bacteria brings to mind the more recent experience of an HIV patient - once under seige, the human body is at great risk from other eager bugs.
this has very real implications for current global health priorities. since H5N1 reared its ugly head with an intention to stay in 2003, pandemic priorities have been focused on preventing the virus from crossing over into a highly human-friendly strain. the findings of the article suggest that we should be exerting a lot more effort into preparing for a massive need of antibiotics. it is rather likely that the outbreaks of 1957 and 1968 were so much less likely because of the availability of antibiotics. given recent breaks in our stockpile system, there is a great need to focus on this area.
i'm made much more hopeful by this view on pandemic influenza. chalk up another "thanks" to dr. koch.
24 October 2008
20 October 2008
my first david mccullough book. i wanted to start out with john adams, but i listen to audiobooks and this is what the library had in stock for me. well-written, of course - as mccullough is known for his engaging prose (as well as his pulitzer prizes).
i certainly enjoyed the book, and it is definitely the first real study of the american revolution i've undertaken outside of elementary school. the descriptions of war in the dead of winter with a six-month communication lag with the enemy made me consider how significantly our world has changed in the brief 232 years the united states has seen.
i do wish that the book had provided a bit of a epiloge to cover the war post-1776. i'd expected a complete history of the war, but the book actually only covers the year 1776 proper. maybe i'm just woefully ignorant of the period's history, but i was looking forward to learning the specifics of famous moments - the crossing of the delaware, the treason of benedict arnold, the surrender of yorktown. the crossing of the delaware was most excellently covered, but i found myself on wikipedia to find closure on mr. arnold and the events of yorktown.
a classic to have checked off of my list certainly, but overall too specific for me. i generally prefer more sociologically-oriented history, and a broader perspective than the detail found in military history. perhaps john adams next?
19 October 2008
13 October 2008
i enjoyed nickel and dimed, so i was eager to give mrs. ehrenreich another go. this less famous of her works focuses on the middle class - specifically on the white collar unemployed. given that i myself am attempting to enter the white collar workforce for the first time, it seemed an apropos read. wrong! this is a depressing book to read if you are unemployed, and only serves to reinforce the futility of most job searching activities.
i'd expected the book to be split between the search and the work, but was sad to discover she only covers the 'search' part of job search. (it must be noted that this is due to the fact that she is never able to find gainful employment. again, not inspiring to a current job searcher.) i'd been hoping for an expose on the base level of white collar corporate america, but was left hanging.
what the book does deliver quite well is an overview of the wild world of 'transitioning'. along with a rapid increase in the average number of jobs held per lifetime has been the rapid development of a transitioning business - a commercial field dedicated to helping individuals move from a layoff to a new position swiftly. dedicated to, but not necessarily successful at. the book is well-written and offers plenty of fun-to-read anecdotes and surprising statistics. ehrenreich offers yet another important and timely view into the social injustices of american society - one that is much more easily overlooked than the plights of the very poor.
all in all, a great read - just not one that i'd recommend to a fellow job searcher.
08 October 2008
my new idea for the third debate? cut the microphones off after time's up. or maybe start playing music like they do at awards show. i know they need to finish their thoughts, but they drive me (and tom brokaw) crazy abusing the time limits.
04 October 2008
i'm about a month into living in northern virginia, having spent the past two years living just down i-95 in richmond. the differences between fairfax and richmond in riding and running is pretty drastic. when i was training for the marathon in richmond, each run was a defiance of death by auto. there are almost no available sidewalks outside of richmond proper - leaving runners such as myself in henrico county to amble along the very shallow shoulders of three-lane highways. riding in richmond, however, is great - there's a strong cycling community and lots of people ride, and though i'd often be on huge divided highways, the traffic is generally light and drivers friendly.
northern virginia is a runner's paradise. there are paths along every major road, sidewalks nearly everywhere, and plenty of company. riding, unfortunately, is another story. while there are lots of "bike paths" available, they're really not suitable for road bikes (and definitely not for my rather worn front tire). fairfax county has done a very nice job trying to accomodate cyclists but the traffic defeats me. there are so many drivers at every hour of the day, and they expect riders to be on the paths. perhaps i've just lost some confidence since this summer, but i end up riding almost all of my 100 miles on a stationary because the roads are too intimidating for me. i suppose if i had a hybrid or a commuting bike i'd be much happier on the paths, but i think i'm more likely to invest in a trainer and continue watching tv while i ride. perhaps a group would help me get over my crowded suburban riding anxiety? or maybe this is a great opportunity to switch back into more running?
29 September 2008
ok, so this was a book that i should have read in high school. maybe middle school. but i never had, and since it had been sitting on my shelf for well over two years, i figured it was probably time to finally pick it up. public health is my field, after all, and i kept feeling guilty for not having read one of our few claims to pop culture lore.
it took less than a week, and it was pretty painful. interesting, sure, but not quite my usual read. i feel like a snob saying that it isn't a smart book, but frankly, that's how it felt. i think i would have loved it ten years ago, but reading it now, and suffering through really basic (and often poor) descriptions of basic biologic processes, it was almost a chore to read.
perhaps the most difficult part of reading this book was how much the author anthropomorphized the ebola virus. sure, you can certainly let yourself believe that viruses (or more generally, species as a whole on the evolutionary level) are actively thinking and strategically planning their attack, but in the end this a false notion. viruses don't plan their mutations any more than the finches of galapagos got together and decided who would grow longer beaks or shorter legs. this concept is one of the most common bastardizations of the natural selection idea, and it doesn't help science for authors such as mr. preston to further the idea.
though i understand the dramatic appeal of such a slant, and the need to sell books, i think its irresponsible of a "science author" who has won several awards for his efforts. evolution works solely through chance mutations and luck of the draw - let's not muddle the story by pretending otherwise. its unfairly up for debate as it is.
my conclusions? i feel better having read it - a little more informed of what the lay population understands about epidemiology and outbreak investigations. less than impressed by the writing and the spin on the virus, though, and looking forward to cracking open a new book.
26 September 2008
i'm going to have to side with senator clinton: i'm pretty sure our current presidential debate system isn't cutting it. the neutral viewer learns little of value about the candidates, and the party faithful watch their opponents with baited breath for future campaign fodder. would it be so difficult to redesign the system so that americans could learn something about the issues and be able to compare potential policy? i'm excited to watch tonight, but also discouraged at the unlikelihood anything will come of it.
the structure of the debates feeds into society's dangerous propensity for soundbites and quick answers. instead of having three of the same, perhaps this year of "change" would be a good time to try out a new model of debate. a mirrored town hall? a revisit to sirs abe lincoln and stephen douglas? perhaps microphones designed to prevent interruption mid-explanation? there must be a way to reintroduce intelligence and thought into debates. larry sabato describes our current system as a nascar race, where we watch not for the monotony of the laps but for the perhaps catastrophic crash. debates should educate and inspire, not further partisanship. will tonight be the best our political process can create?
23 September 2008
i'd been looking forward to this read for a long time. it's certainly a grabbing title, and an unusual combination of concepts. i would call myself "interested" in both soccer and globalization, though i have to confess my knowledge of both is woefully inadequate. in terms of globalization, my understanding is skewed to the development end, and generally only goes as far as thomas friedman's the world is flat. as for soccer, i'm one of those obsessive world cup watchers - but completely oblivious otherwise. i'd blame it on inaccessability, but that's really a lie considering something i like to call "the internet", and my friend threestripes. i guess i was hoping for an answer why in this book.
sadly, it let me down. the writing was good, and it certainly wasn't hard to stay engaged. learned a lot about soccer's modern history and found the specific histories of various clubs to be very interesting.
the structure, however, failed to meet the concept's potential. the book is broken down into ten chapters, each designed to show how soccer explains a particular tenet of globalization - sectarianism, the role of jews, bourgeois nationalism, etc. because the book lacks a first or last chapter tying things together, it feels scrambled and disjointed. if anything, the author makes convincing arguments about how soccer has been shaped by globalizing factors - the opposite intention, perhaps. if you're looking for an expanded understanding of globalization, this isn't the book for you. if you're interested, however, in expanding your knowledge of the modern history of soccer - read on.
i'd absolutely recommend the book to soccer fans with an interest in current affairs. if you're looking for an answer as to why there are so few of that group in the united states, chapter 10 (how soccer explains the american culture wars) may shed a little light on the subject.