Grand Canyon

What could have been a truly riveting story of geology, erosion, and plate tectonics turned into a snooze-fest. I struggled mightily for 160 pages, then determined it was not worth the pain of continuing. I’m a huge geology buff when written in a way that conveys excitement and scientific progress. This seemed to be “book report”-ish, with several pages of direct quotes from Charles Dutton’s book on the Grand Canyon.
Basic premise: John Wesley Powell rafts down the Colorado twice and proves that the river cut the canyon, not the biblical flood. One interesting item was that the plateau was formed by the river pushing the land upwards over time.

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What the Dormouse Said

Exactly what it pretends to be– an intermixing of 60s era counterculture (LSD, pot, etc.) with the birth of the PC industry. Nothing that was terribly new to me, but perhaps I’m spoiled b/c I live in the Bay Area and know all the tales already. Not sure this would appeal to anyone outside the Bay Area, but give it a shot if you’re curious of the underpinnings beneath the rise of personal computing. Strange inclusion of Greek folk dancing, huh.

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Freddy and Fredericka

Another delicious book by Helprin. This pushed the limits of what I had seen previously from him– a fantasty of sorts putting the Prince/Princess of Wales in America to conquer the colony back for England (which Freddy did, almost getting elected President after Dewey Knott was assassinated). They worked at various tasks as regular people, cleaning, chopping, saving up money for their weekends where they visited museums and libraries. Eventually back to England where Craig-Vvyan the falcon soars to confirm Freddy as king.

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The devil’s teeth

Gnarly (as in awesome) tale about the great whites lurking about the Farallon Islands 20 miles west of San Francisco. Casey gets hooked on the place after seeing a BBC documentary of the Shark Watch project in the 90s, and eventually obtains a permit to visit the island, meets with Peter and Scot (the bird/shark experts), and obsesses about learning more and becoming part of the crew. Peter decides she can rent a sailboat and be the water-born part of the shark expedition, mooring off the island (and thus not subject to all the rules and permits of the sanctuary). Lots of research went into this tale, diving into the history of the islands themselves (they used to have a school and small population, the Egg Wars, nuclear waste dumped nearby, etc.). But the true stars of the book are the sharks themselves, massive 15-20 foot monsters investigating the trailing decoy surfboards, spilling dark pools of seal blood into the sea, circling and creating awe wherever they appear.
The Farallons is one of the few places where great whites are known to congregate year after year (Sept thru November), and thus the perfect place to study the species. After a few years of tagging, GPS sensors were able to track where they went post-Farallons, and they discovered that sharks also congregate at a spot in the middle of the ocean, far from anything, and presumed to be hard-coded into their 400 million year old DNA as a mating ground.
Very enjoyable read– recommended!

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Obsessive Genius

Interesting look into the real Marie Curie story– from what I remember in 8th grade curriculum, she was a genius scientist and not much else. This bio looked inside her personal life, from a girl in Warsaw whose intellectual parents were poor but happy, to working as a nanny to pay for her sister’s studies at the Sorbonne, to going to Paris herself and working for her own degree at the Sorbonne, to hooking up with Pierre Curie because the quality of the instruments he was inventing would enable her to more accurately measure her experiments. She found a soulmate in Pierre, and they both worked tirelessly together on the quest to isolate Radium (and in the process also discovered Polonium). The non-recognition afforded her b/c she was a woman irked Marie, and Pierre was more than willing to credit her with the entire discovery in his acceptance of the Nobel prize. They had two daughers, Irene and Eve; Irene followed in her parents’ scientific footsteps, and went onto the battlefields of WWI as a teenager helping her mom with Xray equipment on the front line. Eve was more arty, interested in fashion and charming in her own right. Marie was driven by her work, and rarely saw her daughters as they were growing up. She eventually wised up to the fund-raising necessary to keep her lab going, and undertook an extensive tour of the US to obtain cash.

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Weeds

Another gem that I just watched the first 5 eps of. Had heard various media rumblings about this, but I don’t get Showtime, so downloaded the first 5 eps. Awesome and I continue to love Mary Louise Parker. Heard the “Treatment” podcast interview with Jenji Kohan (creator of Weeds) which prompted me to seek it out. Throwing the bones, indeed!

Firefly

Hell yes. Recommend this gem of a DVD/download… it aired on (I think) FX back in 2002, and I’m just now hearing about it. Pilot ep is a wee bit too long, but once you get past that, lots of great episodes in the 14 ep series. Cancelled after that 🙁 because network idiots, but this is available via DVD or download should you care to sample it. Check it out!

Walking Literary London

I took pieces of the walks suggested within; specifically the Bloomsbury and Soho and City walks. Was a good resource, not particularly great for a time-pressed visitor, but perhaps for a Londoner.
Highlights from my walks included actually getting to tour 44 Bedford Square (Lady Ottoline’s house where V. Woolf and H. James frequently visited) which is now a VAT tax office. Also Pepys Navy Office site, St. Dunstan’s ruins, the Temple, Virginia Woolf’s various houses about Bloomsbury, Thackaray/James in Kensington.

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Swimming to Antarctica

Awesome first person account of long distance swimming in sub 40s temperatures. Lynne details her swims, starting from the 3 hour swim through a hailstorm as a 9 year old, to her first attempt from Catalina to LA, crossing the English Channel with record breaking speed, 10 mile swims through the Nile with dead dogs, rats, and other disgusting surprises, Bering Strait swim that united USSR and USA, Lake Titicaca, Strait of Magellean, the list goes on and on. Her final swim was a mile swim to Antartica in 32 degree water.
Lynne is perfectly suited to long distance cold swimming, with an even distribution of body fat and a netrual buoyancy (she doesn’t have to work as hard to float).
This was a quick read, an inspirational story about setting goals and working your ass off to accomplish them.

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