Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Review: Cattery Row

TitleCattery Row (Theda Krakow Mysteries, No. 2)
AuthorClea Simon
Tagsmystery, series, rock music, cats

This is the second in Clea Simon's mystery series about Theda Krakow, a freelance writer whose interest in music (specifically the indie music scence in the Cambridgeport area near Boston) and cats is passionate. In this book Theda is without any regular source of income, and unsure of the relationship she has with homicide detective Bill. She is trying to deal with both when she finds the body of Rose Keller, who is both a friend and an interview subject.

Good book, good series.
PublicationPoisoned Pen Press (2007), Paperback, 240 pages
Publication date2007
ISBN159058466X / 9781590584668

If Obama Wins, Who Will Be in His Cabinet -- And Who Should

"Obama's advisers will be the ones whispering in the president's ear and pulling the levers of executive power." Jim Hightower, well-known Texas progressive, wrote this article on who Obama's advisors are and what sort of cabinet he might appoint if elected.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Book Review: The Great Derangement

TitleThe Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire
AuthorMatt Taibbi
Tagsfringe groups, john hagee, 9/11 truthers, politics, congress

This is a difficult book to describe. Taibbi is a reporter for Rolling Stone and in this book follows some of the irrational communities that many people in the United States are joining. The two he covers in this book are fundamentalist Christianity as found in John Hagee's megachurch, and in the 911 truthers conspiracy theorists. To show the political derangement that people are escaping from in these fringe communities, he talks about his experiences with Congress, both under the Republicans and the Democrats, and as a reporter embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq.

There are hilarious scenes, such as the experience of having his demons cast out as part of joining Hagee's church (including the foul demon of handwriting analysis), and his imagined transcript of a meeting where Cheney, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and others are plotting 9/11 as the 911 truthers insist they did.

There are also parts that make one want to scream, as he indicates that Congress is broken, beholden to the monied class, no matter which party is in the majority. he paints a bleak and depressing picture of politics at the end stage of the American Empire.

Some might be surprised to see how strongly he condemns the 9/11 Truthers, but by the end of the book he is convincing in debunking the ideas of that movement. The imagined transcript, found on pages 191 to 204, is alone worth the price of the book.

Taibbi has a surprising amount of compassion and understanding for the people caught up in these irrational movements. It has become so hard for people to trust in government or the media, and many people have little sense of what the facts ARE, since there no longer seem to be a set of agreed upon facts. So they turn to groups where they might find community and security, or a sense of understanding what has happened to create the world we live in today.

And he sees some signs of hope. Although at one point he mentions that those in Hagee's church have been so brainwashed they''ll accept anything, no matter how crazy, from the church's authority figures, and doesn't believe most of them can be brought to see reason, he still has hopes that people are realizing they've been suckers and are now ready to move past that. I hope it turns out to be true.

PublicationSpiegel & Grau (2008), Hardcover, 288 pages
Publication date2008
ISBN0385520344 / 9780385520348

Book Review: Divine Circle of Ladies Courting Trouble

TitleThe Divine Circle of Ladies Courting Trouble (Circle, Book 4)
AuthorDolores Stewart Riccio
Tagsmystery, paranormal, fiction, wicca, women, psychics
Your reviewThis is the fourth in Dolores Stewart Riccio's series about a Wiccan herbalist, Cass Shipton, and the other ladies in her circle. It is the best fictional series I know that depicts Wicca well. In this case the ladies try to solve poisonings happening in their hometown of Plymouth, Massachusetts. I've loved the whole series (once past a very grim scene that starts the first book) and I Want More!
PublicationKensington (2006), Paperback, 320 pages
Publication date2006
ISBN0758209878 / 9780758209870

Book Review; Come to Grief

TitleCome to Grief
AuthorDick Francis
Tagsmystery, series, jockey, sid halley
Your reviewSid Halley is a series character for Dick Francis. He is a former jocky who lost a hand and can no longer race. So he has taken up investigation to earn a living. In this case, Halley finds out and has to prove that someone he considers a dear friend, one of the most popular men in England, is responsible for some hideous crimes. The characterization is absolutely outstanding, and the plot is good as well.
PublicationPan Books (1996), Paperback, 416 pages
Publication date1996
ISBN0330347772 / 9780330347778

Book Review: Wild Horses

TitleWild Horses
Author:Dick Francis
Tagsmystery, movies, movie making, fiction

Excellent novel from Dick Francis. Thomas Lyon is a director working on a film involving a mysterious death that happened many years ago. Lyon feels that if he solves the mystery it will make a better ending for his movie. Well-plotted, good characterization. Highly recommended.

Publication date1995
ISBN0788702653 / 9780788702655

Friday, August 22, 2008

Flash Map Showing US Military Presence Worldwide Over Time

"World land occupied by US bases: 46,566 square miles. See how the US military presence worldwide evolved over time with this cool flash map. Details for every country in the world." From Mother Jones, who often does truly exemplary investigative reporting.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

U.S. Watched as a Squabble Turned Into a Showdown

"The U.S. seemed to have missed — or gambled it could manage — the depth of Russia’s anger and the resolve of Georgia’s leader to provoke the Russians." Good explanation of the background to the Russian-Georgian conflict, including the U.S. position.

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Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?

"Jon Stewart says his job is just throwing spitballs. But in satirizing a world that defies satire, “The Daily Show” delivers both news and morality." Really good New York Times article on the Daily Show and its impact on American culture and politics. Am I a fan? Well, I stay up until midnight most of the time to watch it and the Colbert Report, so YES.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Political Humor

A friend of mine was just over and remembered reading in a science fiction novel about a Libertarian Immmortalists Party, who were, of course, opposed to Death AND Taxes.

I've looked on Google and it was apparently from Robert Anton Wilson's Schroedinger's Cat trilogy.

Friday, August 15, 2008

H. L. Mencken quote

A friend of mine just sent in email a great quote from H. L. Mencken that great curmudgeon and political observer of the early 20th century. The friend verified this quote in Snopes. Here's the quote:

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.H. L. Mencken
If that doesn't bring someone to your mind, you haven't been paying attention. ;-).

Converting gas-powered cars to electric

"Larry Horsley loves that he doesn't buy much gas, even though he drives his '95 Chevy S-10 back and forth to work each day." My brother has gotten really interested in this and similar topics. Seems to me that if this sort of thing exists, why can't the car companies provide more alternative fuel cars faster? I know, I know, there has to be the demand and they have to retool their plants and work out bugs... but still!

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Buchenwald liberator, American hero dies at 83

"James Hoyt delivered mail in rural Iowa for more than 30 years. Yet Hoyt had long kept a secret from most of those who knew him best: He was one of the four U.S. soldiers to first see Germany's Buchenwald concentration camp." Warning... the article contains descriptions of some of Buchenwald's horrors. Why bring that up? We can't forget... and can't forget that humans still wreak havoc on each other.... but there are also decent people like the man profiled in this article who try to stop such things.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Book on Obama Hopes to Repeat Anti-Kerry Feat

"A conservative gadfly who attacked John Kerry’s war record has released a book painting Barack Obama as a stealth radical liberal." The book is full of misleading or false statements. Please read the article to see why this book should not be given any credence.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lab makes renewable diesel fuel from E. coli poop!!

"Fossil fuels that keep our planet running -- oil, natural gas and coal -- were created from the decomposition of plants, plankton and other organic material over millions of years. Scientists all over the globe today are working to create fuels with the same properties, but without that pesky 100 million-year wait." It is really exciting to see research going in many directions. I think solving our energy needs requires multiple answers.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Russo-Georgian conflict is not all Russia's fault

"Following a series of provocative attacks in its secessionist region of South Ossetia late last week, Georgia launched an all-out attempt to reestablish control in the tiny enclave. Russia then intervened by dropping bombs on Georgia to protect the South Ossetians..." Good article explaining what's behind the Russian-Georgian conflict.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Book Review: Liars for Jesus

TitleLiars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History Vol. 1
Author:Chris Rodda
Tagschristianity, founding fathers

The title of the book is certainly offensive to some people. The minister who wrote the forward says he tried to persuade Ms. Rodda to change it, but she was determined. After reading the book, I understand why she kept the title. The book is a refutation of the work of many of those who write books supporting the idea that the Founding Fathers were Christian and meant this to be a Christian nation. Rodda, in exhaustive detail, demolishes their arguments. In doing so, it becomes obvious that the writers she refutes weren't simply bad historians. They manipulated the historical record too much for that to be the case. Though at times the detail gets overwhelming, at other times it provides some fascinating glimpses into the early history of the United States.
PublicationBookSurge Publishing (2006), Edition: 1ST, Paperback, 532 pages
Publication date2006
ISBN1419644386 / 9781419644382

Friday, August 8, 2008

Book review: Killer Heat

TitleKiller Heat
Author:Linda Fairstein
Tagssex crimes, fiction, mystery, series, alex cooper

Excellent series by Linda Fairstein about Alex Cooper, a woman in charge of prosecuting sex crimes in the New Y city District Attorney's office. Fairstein held that job for many years, so knows well the details of the job. Every book in the series has a tie to a particular aspect of New York City. In this case, a serial killer is leaving bodies on some of the lesser known islands near Manhattan. This was a good book, though not my favorite in ther series.
PublicationDoubleday (2008), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 384 pages
Publication date2008
ISBN0385523971 / 9780385523974

Book Review: Chasing Darkness

TitleChasing Darkness: An Elvis Cole Novel (Elvis Cole)
Author:Robert Crais
Tagsmystery, series, elvis cole, joe pike

Excellent and popular series by Robert Crais. In this outing, Elvis Cole, with the help of Joe Pike, tries to find out if a man he cleared of murder was really guilty after new evidence surfaces. Recommended.
PublicationSimon & Schuster (2008), Hardcover, 288 pages
Publication date2008
ISBN0743281640 / 9780743281645

Book review: From Dead to Worse

TitleFrom Dead to Worse (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 8)
Author:Charlaine Harris
Tagsparanormal, fantasy, vampires, telepathy, werewolves

Great book in a great series by Charlaine Harris. Sookie Stackhouse is a telepath. She can't read vampires, and has a hard time reading shapeshifters... and that's why she likes being around them, though by this time she is learning to control her telepathy better. In this entry in the series, she has to deal with wars among the vampires and the weres, and finding a new relative who is important to her.
PublicationAce Hardcover (2008), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 368 pages
Publication date2008
ISBN0441015891 / 9780441015894

Book review: Nim Chimpsky

TitleNim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human
Author:Elizabeth Hess
Tagschimpanzees, animal research, language acquisition

Well-done story of a chimpanzee raised with humans and taught sign language. Journalist author Elizabeth Hess covers the story honestly, warts and all. The ape is named Nim Chimpsky, not in honor of Noam Chomsky but to spite him, as he thought that only humans could learn language. Nim was one of the early attempts to teach a chimp sign language, and the sad thing is how often his life was uprooted despite his having the love of many of his caretakers, and how little attention was paid in these early years to what was necessary to meet the chimp's needs. The story also makes clear taht chimps are not humans, though sharing many human characteristics. Nim was strong and often bit, at least once causing severe damage. Yet many of those who dealt with him were captured by looking into his deep, emotion-filled eyes. The book raises a lot of ethical issues about how we treat animals.

Well done story.
PublicationBantam (2008), Hardcover, 384 pages
Publication date2008
ISBN0553803832 / 9780553803839