The climate change documentary A Sea Change will be shown at the Maple Grove Library, in the Western Twin Cities, by the Northwest Minneapolis Climate Action group, this Wednesday at 7:00 PM. See you there!
Here is a trailer:
The climate change documentary A Sea Change will be shown at the Maple Grove Library, in the Western Twin Cities, by the Northwest Minneapolis Climate Action group, this Wednesday at 7:00 PM. See you there!
Here is a trailer:
The brand new just published (June 1) book Beren and Lúthien presents the story of the human (or should I say “Man”?) Beren Erchamion, or “The One-Handed” (AKA Beren Camlost, for “the Empty Handed”) and the Elf-maiden Lúthien Tinúviel.
If you read The Lord of the Rings you may recall Aragorn telling their story to Frodo.
This Man and this Elf-Maiden lived over 6,000 years before the time of the Lord of the Rings, and their story is told in several places throughout the LOTR literature, in books that, frankly, most people don’t read. Christopher Tolkien, heir of J.R.R. Tolkien, and mapmaker of the The Lord of the Rings, created Beren and Lúthien from those original texts, and the book, much delayed, is coming out right now. You can pre order it here.
The story is in the form of Hercules’ myth, with the quest set to Beren to steal a Silmaril, which is a special jewel, from the Ainur Melkor. That would be roughly like trying to steal Donald Trump’s tweeting device while he is under the protection of the United States Secret Service. Or maybe a little harder.
Beren is sent on this quest because it is the only way he can keep dating the Elf-Maiden Lúthien, according to her Elf-Lord father.
Tolkien, in his own tradition which was not as uncommon in, say, the 19th century as it is now, having slowly disappeared over time, played fast and lose with his stories, changing them quite a bit across published forms. This happened within some of the texts, like The Hobbit, but more pervasively, across different instantiations of the total lore-set. For this reason, the story of Beren and Lúthien changes a great deal across the full body of written work. This makes it impossible to simply extract the original story and make it into a single coherent book that is also “true” to a particular telling.
Personally, I would have been happy if Christopher Tolkien had just settled on a version of the story and made this into a regular novel, but I’m probably the only fan of Tolkien’s work that would accept that. Therefore, the new work is much more complicated, written from the point of view of the author JRR Tolkien, integrating text taken from the original work.
This new book also serves to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of The Children of Hurin. Come to think of it, you might want to read The Children of Hurin first, because it kinda sets up the context. (Since this is about LOTR, people will disagree!)
Yes, there are orcs.
A statement has just been released by the White House, regarding President Donald Trump:
President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor … and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.
There are a thousand ways to interpret this. And they are all AT THIS LINK
Hat Tip: Tracy Walker
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate By Al Franken. This book claims to be this:
From Senator Al Franken – #1 bestselling author and beloved SNL alum – comes the story of an award-winning comedian who decided to run for office and then discovered why award-winning comedians tend not to do that.
This is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect.
It’s a book about what happens when the nation’s foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.
It’s a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast.
In this candid personal memoir, the honorable gentleman from Minnesota takes his army of loyal fans along with him from Saturday Night Live to the campaign trail, inside the halls of Congress, and behind the scenes of some of the most dramatic and/or hilarious moments of his new career in politics.
Has Al Franken become a true Giant of the Senate? Franken asks readers to decide for themselves.
As the person who personally got Al Franken elected to office the first time around, I’m sure I’m in this book in several places. I haven’t checked yet, but I thought you should know about the book.
Without delay, here are four five star choices and four four star choices:
The Emperor’s New Clothes, the classic story by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated for the modern retro child by Virginia Lee Burton.
You know the story, so I won’t give you a summary, and the whole point is the illustrations so you should just click through to see. (The graphic at the top of the post is from within the book, illustrating the overall reading level and quality).
So Few of Me by Peter Reynolds.
Alternate title: Calming the helicopter parent.
Leo’s list of things to do keeps growing, until one day he wishes, “If only there were two of me.” Just as the words are out of his mouth, poof! Another Leo appears! Two Leos become three, three become four, and four become more . . . but Leo can’t help but notice that he has even more to do than before. As he struggles to deal with his overcomplicated life, Leo realizes that there may be a simpler solution to his overscheduling woes. Peter H. Reynolds, the award-winning author-illustrator of THE DOT and ISH, returns with an important message for readers of all ages: stop and take a little time to dream.
I’m Here a second installment by Peter Reynolds
And you’re there.
And that’s okay.
maybe there will be a gentle wind that pulls us together.
And then I’ll be here and you’ll be here, too.
Pure, powerful and deceptively simple, bestselling author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds reminds us that children—and the friendships they make—can take flight in unexpected ways.
Other books (not reviewed her) by Peter Reynolds, including a box set:
Ish (Creatrilogy), a third suggestion by Peter Reynolds
Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.
Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (A Click, Clack Book) by Doreen Cronin (Author) and Betsyh Lewin (Illustrator)
New York Times bestselling duo Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s Caldecott Honor–winning book is now available as a Level 2 Ready-to-Read!
Farmer Brown has a problem. His cows like to type. All day long he hears:
Click, clack, moo.
Click, clack, moo.
Click, clack, moo.
But Farmer Brown’s problems REALLY begin when his cows start leaving him notes! Come join the fun as a bunch of literate cows turn Farmer Brown’s farm upside-down!
I Stink! by Kate McMullan and Jim McMujllan
For fans of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train comes a noisy addition to the hilarious read-aloud series from Kate and Jim McMullan, the popular creators of I’m Bad! and I’m Dirty!
“Know what I do at night while you’re asleep? Eat your trash, that’s what!”
With ten wide tires, one really big appetite, and an even bigger smell, this garbage truck’s got it all. His job? Eating your garbage and loving every stinky second of it! And you thought nighttime was just for sleeping.
The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and Mark Fearing.
Introduce kids to the planets and solar system in this fractured fairy tale retelling of the classic The Three Little Pigs. Parents and children alike will adore this out-of-this-world story, which is set in outer space!
GREEP BOINK MEEP! The three little aliens are happily settling into their new homes when the Big Bad Robot flies in to crack and smack and whack their houses down! A chase across the solar system follows in this humorous and visually stunning book from Margaret McNamara (How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?) and Mark Fearing (The Book that Eats People). The endpapers even include a labeled diagram of all the planets.
Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt.
Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree. It’s way too dangerous out there. He could encounter tarantulas, green Martians or killer bees. But in his tree, every day is the same and if danger comes along, he’s well-prepared. Scaredy Squirrel’s emergency kit includes antibacterial soap, Band-Aids and a parachute.
Day after day he watches and waits, and waits and watches, until one day … his worst nightmare comes true! Scaredy suddenly finds himself out of his tree, where germs, poison ivy and sharks lurk.
But as Scaredy Squirrel leaps into the unknown, he discovers something really uplifting …
From John Peters at Booklist:
Gr. 1-3. In a tongue-in-cheek tale that may help to prod anxious readers out of their hidebound routines, a squirrel discovers the pleasures of leaping into the unknown. As the world’s a scary place, what with the killer bees, green Martians, tarantulas, germs, and sharks that might be lurking about, Scaredy Squirrel keeps to his tree, and to a precise, minute-by-minute daily schedule–until a supposed “killer bee” actually wanders by, causing Squirrel to dislodge his suitcase-size emergency kit. A wild lunge to rescue it turns into a long glide (portrayed in a gatefold), as Squirrel discovers to his astonishment that he is a flying squirrel. Eventually, Squirrel returns in triumph to his tree and from then on adds a daily glide to his accustomed rounds. Despite the simply drawn cartoons and brief text, this is more sophisticated in tone than Martin Waddell’s Tiny’s Big Adventure (2004), though the message is similar.
What, with all the attacks on science and scientist these days, we may not want to be focusing on those times when science goes off the rails and makes a huge mess of things. But, science at its best and scientists at their best, will never shy away from such things.
Dr. Paul Offit just wrote a book called Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong, which not about an evil black dog that escaped from a box, but rather, seven instances when the march of scientific progress headed off a cliff rather than in the desired direction. People died. Many people died. Other bad things happened.
Note: I interviewed Paul Offit about his book on Atheist Talk Radio. This interview will be aired on Sunday, May 28th, and will be available as a podcast. It should be HERE.
Readers will have different reactions to, and ways to relate to, each of the seven different stories, because they are far flung and cover a great deal of time, diverse social settings, and a wide range of scientific endeavors. Some readers will get mad because he talks about DDT and Rachel Carson, though I assure you his argument is mostly reasonable (I did disagree with some parts). All readers will be amazed at the poppy plant and all it can do and has done, and astonished at the immense apparent ignorance displayed by that plant’s exploiters, from back in the early 19th century to, well, yesterday. Those interested in race and racism, the use of poison gas to kill people, will find things you didn’t know in Offit’s carefully researched histories. Also, don’t forget to take your vitamins. Or, maybe, forget to take your vitamins.
The chapter “The Great Margarine Mistake” is a great example of the very commonly screwed up interface between food science, food production and marketing, and the shaping of food preference among regular people. You know, that thing where “They tell us not to drink coffee. Then they tell us to drink coffee. They don’t know nothin'”
My biggest disagreement with Paul is over malaria. He did not incorporate an often overlooked fact about the disease into his discussion, and had he done so, may have written a somewhat different chapter. Briefly, in zones where there are two wet seasons (or one long wet season and a very short dry season) there has never really been success in curtailing malaria. In zones where there is a very long dry season but it is wet enough for part of the year for the mosquito that carries malaria to exist at least most years, malaria is relatively easy to beat down using a wide range of techniques, no one of which is supreme. So, for example, today, the distribution of malaria in South Africa, where it is not actually that common (thousands of cases in a normal year among tens of millions of people) is determined mainly by how wet the eastern wet season is, integrated with the movement into that area of people, usually refugees, who are a) infected and b) not getting medical treatment. (See this.)
Malaria was wiped out in country after country prior to the use of DDT, then the DDT came in and helped a great deal, in those relatively dry countries. But the wet countries, not so much. Indeed, in a place like Zaire, there are absolutely no reliable statistics on how common Malaria is or ever was over most of the country, but when I lived there in the 1980s, it was as common as the common cold in New Jersey, and DDT was theoretically in use. (That is a second correlation with causation: the wetter the equatorial country, the less we actually know about disease. I recall leaving the deep rain forest to visit the “city” to get hold of a few courses of leprosy medicine for a handful of people who visited our clinic who had it, where I had dinner with a guy from the UN who was on his victory lap for having wiped out leprosy in Africa.)
In some ways, Offit’s final chapter is the most interesting, the eighth chapter (combined with the Epilog) in which he does two things. One is to identify the kind of reasoning mistake, or methodological mistake, each of his seven examples exemplifies. Such as failure to pay attention to the data, or failure to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. The other is to go quickly through what may end up being similar stories of science gone wrong just starting to brew today or in recent decades, such as the long term unintended effects of widespread use of antibiotics.
A question that Offit’s book raises, indirectly, is this: When a Pandora-like box opens and some sort of monster creeps out, why did the box open to begin with? Sometimes it is jostled open, like in the case of unintended negative outcomes from the use of antibiotics. Sometimes it is opened because someone can’t resist the treasures that may be inside. Sometimes it is opened because science is an open process and must always seek knowledge etc. etc. I wonder if the recent development of an engineered polio virus (three instances), or the Spanish Flu, is an example of such. Sometimes it is opened because of (Godwin Warning!) HITLER. Seriously.
I don’t know what knowing these reasons gets us, but one possibility is this: when we find ignorance as a root cause of calamity, perhaps an appreciation of knowledge is gained. That is certainly the lesson of Offit’s review of the products of opium, their invention, intensification, deployment, and use. Apparently addiction was simply not understood at all until fairly recently, and that lack of understanding caused science, medical technology, and medical practice to do the exactly wrong thing over and over again.
And of course, lobotomies. The invention of the latter method of doing this useless and horrible procedure is something that, if put in a movie as a plot element, would kill the movie because it is not possible to suspend disbelief to the degree necessary to stay seated in the theater.
Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong is a great read and a necessary addition to the bookshelf of any practicing skeptic or science enthusiast.
Paul Offit, who is a pediatrician and the inventor of a rotavirus vaccine (see this for an interesting podcast on a related topic), is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. He is also chief of Infectious Diseases and director of Vaccine Education at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Aside from Pandra’s Lab, he also wrote Do You Believe in Magic?: Vitamins, Supplements, and All Things Natural: A Look Behind the Curtain, Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, and Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine.
It is hard to find a good book for kids between the ages of 5 and 9. These are kids who can read, but at varying (and rapidly changing) levels, and who are too fancy for the little kid books (thick, big pictures, few words, boring).
Amanda and Huxley spend a lot of time figuring out what the good books are. They forage at two different libraries, they take home huge piles of possible good books, then narrow that down even more to identify just the best, and then, those are often re-acquired and re-read multiple times. We purchase some of these knowing that we can pass them on to the emerging younger cousins and that they will like them too because, as noted, these are the best books.
Recently, it dawned on me that others can benefit from Amanda and Huxley’s hard work. She uses a GoodReads account to keep track of and rate the books. Poaching her account allows me to pass some excellent recommendations on to you.
I’m going to do this over several posts, as it is a lot of work to put together the info and links, etc. I’ll give you her five star books as well as a few of the four stars, and I’ll ignore everything she gave fewer stars to.
I’m also providing the publisher’s descriptions and a picture of the insides so you’ll have a good idea of what the book is and what level it is at. Kids in this age group are in that strange zone where a book they can read and a book that they can enjoy having read to them are vastly different, but since they are in fact two different things, a book that can be read to them (like the first example I’m giving you, below) will later become a book they can read. And, in some cases, it can become a book they can have on their own bookshelves for a long time and go back to now and then.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.
Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost. . . .
Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle – that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.
This is a fantastic book, excellent story. Huxley’s teacher read it to the students in class, then we got it out of the library, Amanda read it to Huxley, then I got a copy of it and now it sits on the shelf in an honored location.
If you recognize the author’s name, it may be because she also wrote Because of Winn-Dixie.
Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann.
One small step for a mouse; one giant leap for aviation.
These are dark times . . . for a small mouse. A new invention—the mechanical mousetrap—has caused all the mice but one to flee to America, the land of the free. But with cats guarding the steamships, trans-Atlantic crossings are no longer safe. In the bleakest of places . . . the one remaining mouse has a brilliant idea. He must learn to fly!
Debut illustrator Torben Kuhlmann’s inventive tale and stunning illustrations will capture the imagination of readers—young and old—with the death-defying feats of this courageous young mouse.
This is more of a picture book than a chapter book, but the text is chapter-book like in the sense that the vocabulary is middle level, it uses lots of sentences, etc. So this qualifies as a read-to book for kids in this age range, except the ones that are a bit older.
Torben Kuhlmann is mainly an illustrator and has done quite a few other books that we’ve not seen up close but that look interesting, in both English and German, and Spanish.
These include: Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon and Moletown.
The next too books are categorized by Amanda as four star (the above were both five star) but they are quite good and Amanda is very picky, so they are worth a close look.
Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention by Barb Rosenstock:
Every inventor has to start somewhere, and one of the greatest innovators in our history was no exception. Ben Franklin developed his first invention while doing what he loved best: swimming! Ben’s Big Splash is the story of Franklin’s first invention, his journey through the scientific method, and the surprising successes that result when you’re willing to make mistakes. Barb Rosenstock’s rhythmic, whimsical style is the perfect complement to S. D. Schindler’s pen and ink and watercolor illustrations. Together they recreate history in an engaging and unique way. Both author and illustrator worked closely with Franklin experts, and the book includes Franklin quotes, an extensive author’s note, timeline, and bibliography.
New York Times bestselling author/artist Loren Long creates an unforgettable children’s classic.
Otis is a special tractor. He loves his farmer and he loves to work. And he loves the little calf in the next stall, whom he purrs to sleep with his soft motor. In fact, the two become great friends: they play in the fields, leap hay bales, and play ring-around-the-rosy by Mud Pond.
But when Otis is replaced with the big yellow tractor, he is cast away behind the barn, unused, unnoticed . . . until the little calf gets stuck in Mud Pond. Then there is only one tractor—and it’s not big or yellow—who can come to the rescue. It is little old Otis who saves his friend. It is Otis who saves the day.
In a wonderful new palette, and in the tradition of classics like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Story of Ferdinand, Loren Long has crafted an unforgettable new story—and character—celebrating the power of friendship and perseverance.
OK, that’s all for now. June is Book Month on Greg Laden’s blog, so they’ll be more of this series and other great stuff about books coming up.
A little while back I posted this: Taking The Axe To The Environmental Movement: Resolute v. Greenpeace.
Some of you complained because you don’t like Greenpeace. But that is hardly the point. Greenpeace has a history of working towards important goals and sometimes even attaining them, and there are a lot of whales that want you to lay off and give them credit.
Anyway, the point of that post was to let you know about a SLAPP lawsuit Greenpeace had been slapped with by Resolute Forest Products.
The long and the short of it is this: Resolute, if they get legal traction and win, are setting up a situation where environmental advocates can be told to sit down and shut up because their activism opposes businesses doing business the way they want to. That is not something you want to happen.
Anyway, we have this development. This is not from Greenpeace, but from Stand.Earth, another organization being threatened:
THURSDAY MAY 18, 2017 • Posted by Todd Paglia, Executive Director, Stand.earth
You may have never heard of Resolute Forest Products, Canada’s largest logging company, but you’re likely to be hearing more about the wayward company in the coming months. Resolute CEO Richard Garneau has earned a reputation as a thin-skinned executive who bullies and threatens his employees, competitors and critics. The parallels between him and Trump are uncanny — to the point that when he sued my organization (Stand.earth) and Greenpeace — he hired the law firm that Trump used to threaten the New York Times for publishing his tax returns and which vigorously defended Bill O’Reilly against multiple charges of sexual harassment.
Garneau’s lawsuit against us is pure bully strategy – come up with an outlandish legal strategy that forces your non-profit critics to spend precious resources defending themselves. Not very elegant or admirable, but it’s a $300 million (Canadian) legal threat nevertheless. Just like Trump is thankfully running into the constraints that our democracy provides, Garneau is crashing into the reality of the justice system. This week he got his first surprise, and likely not his last.
Garneau brought the lawsuit against us in one of the most inconvenient places possible – and an area he presumably believed held plenty of sympathy toward logging companies: the Southern District of Georgia. This week the court ruled that the lawsuit should be heard in the Northern District if California, where many of the key staff for both Stand.earth and Greenpeace live and where we both have offices.
We thought this change in venue was unlikely to be granted given that the judge was a fair-minded but conservative Bush appointee and he seemed unlikely to have a lot of sympathy for advocacy groups. His order this week may be an indication of just how ludicrous this case is.
Resolute may try to appeal having their case removed from Southern Georgia to San Francisco, but their hands are tied – the judge has broad discretion to “transfer” a case and once he does so it is extremely hard to reverse. It gives us a great jury pool, a better chance at a more progressive judge, the amazing 9th Circuit Court of Appeals should an appeal occur, and a location that is easy for us to get to.
You might wonder whether the Resolute Board of Directors is paying any attention to the company they bear fiscal and legal responsibility for. Their CEO has presided over a plummeting share price (from over $20 two years ago to under $5 today) and the company has questionable business fundamentals (Resolute made a huge bet on, of all things, the newsprint market among other questionable calls). Despite a faltering business, Garneau appears obsessed with bringing down Stand.earth and Greenpeace. Garneau has spent millions of the company’s funds pursuing what appears to be nothing more than a personal vendetta. Now his already incredibly remote prospects of winning are fading further.
On top of all that, Garneau’s behavior has made many of the big brands that it sells to uncomfortable. Who wants to be known as doing business with a company serially suing non-profits and attacking the First Amendment? As the judge in his ruling stated: the lawsuit claims that we “illegally criticized” Resolute’s clearcut logging practices. Criticism may be illegal in Russia and maybe that’s where Garneau should be pursuing his lawsuit. Dozens of Resolute customers have reduced or eliminated their purchases from the rogue logging company. That seems likely to pick up pace.
Book publishers like Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster are still doing business with Resolute despite the company’s destructive logging and anti-First Amendment problems. They and other big brands will be increasingly faced with choosing between being loyal to a company like Resolute or living up to their values. The choice is clear.
Whether the Resolute Board of Directors ever reels in their increasingly unhinged CEO, the company is in trouble. It is a brand risk to do business with Resolute on multiple levels already. And, Garneau has established himself as a Trumpian CEO who is obsessed with spending company time and money threatening critics instead of focusing on the business he is supposed to be running.
Resolute’s future looks turbulent at best. Sound familiar?
And now, an inspiring video for you to watch and share:
Did you ever hear the expression, “You’re a real card!” Well, if you are a notable woman in the physical sciences, you just might be a card!
My sister has a project, and Amanda and my niece Koren and some others are involved, that puts notable women in the physical sciences on cards, with a bit of biographical information. The idea is to underscore women in STEM while at the same time getting cards! The long term model is to sell the cards to interested buyers, such as YOU, and use the net thusly obtained to get decks into classrooms.
So, here’s what you need to do. Click here, and buy two decks of cards. One, you keep and play cards with, the other, you give to someone, perhaps a teacher or perhaps a young female who has shown interest in the physical sciences. Or, perhaps, you place one of these card decks somewhere were cards go, like a local bar or coffee shop that has some games, or at the cabin or something.
In addition, at this early stage of their project, they could use some plain old donations, so please consider doing that as well.
I have already heard from several physical science teachers that these cards are great and that they are doing things with them in the classroom.
As a science writer, I was at first shocked and dismayed to find that the science writers in the deck were on the Joker card! But when I asked my sister about it, she told me the Jokers are the most sought after cards for the science communicators, because Jokers are the most flexible and a bit on the wild side, and can cope and adapt to any situation. So, I suppose that’s OK (or is she joshin’ me?).
Anyway, have a look, pass it around, pick up some cards (buy double if your game is Canasta). I am not joking when I say the cards are great!