Category Archives: Books

Garden Insects of North America: Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs, New Edition

BOOK NOTE: I interrupt this book review to note that Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman is currently available, again, as a Kindle book, for two bucks. And now returning to our regularly scheduled review.

Garden Insects of North America: The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs is not a pocket field guide. How could it be? There are over a million species of insects and probably a lot more (huge numbers certainly remain to be discovered) and of them, some 100,000 exist in North America. I’m actually not sure how many are represented in this book, but several thousand distributed among some 3,000 illustrations, mostly color photographs. Continue reading Garden Insects of North America: Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs, New Edition

Give The Gift of Nostalgia and Angst

For a holiday gift this year, consider giving a book about politics, since politics this year is so very special.

There are two kinds of books out this year of special interest. There is a plethora of books that expose the evil underpinnings of the white supremacist meritocratic oligarchic patriarchy. And, there is a growing collection of books about the last time America was going under for the third time, and the people of those times. Here is a selection for you to ponder. Continue reading Give The Gift of Nostalgia and Angst

Trump Isn’t the American Reality

Lately — since, oh, sometime in early November 2016 — I’ve been reading history, especially US history and especially centered on national history and presidents. Why? Because Donald Trump is not the American reality. Other things are the American Reality. They are not all good things, some are bad, but many are good. And with Trump, it is all bad, very very bad. Reading about Lincoln, Grant, JFK, Roosevelt, Johnson, and all those other famous white guys at this moment in time is one of several ways of coping with the hopefully temporary end of American civilization. This is only one thing I’m doing to cope, but it is one of the things.

Meanwhile, Chris Matthews has been doing something similar but different. Instead of reading about famous executive-level Americans who were good, he wrote a book about one. Last night, on the Rachel Maddow show, Matthews literally said that he wrote this book because “Trump isn’t the American reality.”

And so we have, coming out just now, “Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit” by Chris Matthews.

I vaguely remember the assassination of JFK. And I remember the assassination of MLK. But Bobby was my Senator, and he was part of the political community in which I grew up. When he was killed, my father, who had been watching the TF, following the primaries, came and dragged me out of bed so I could watch that part of history. It was an event that helped determine who I am today. It was an event that helped me to become of the the millions of Americans who ultimately will not put up with Donald Trump, and who will spend the rest of our days fighting Republicans because of what they have done to this country.

I have not read the book, but I’m going to. Here is the blurb:

A revealing new portrait of Robert F. Kennedy that gets closer to the man than any book before, by bestselling author Chris Matthews, an esteemed Kennedy expert and anchor of MSNBC’s Hardball.

With his bestselling biography Jack Kennedy, Chris Matthews shared a new look of one of America’s most beloved Presidents and the patriotic spirit that defined him. Now, with Bobby Kennedy, Matthews returns with a gripping, in-depth, behind-the-scenes portrait of one of the great figures of the American twentieth century.

Overlooked by his father, and overshadowed by his war-hero brother, Bobby Kennedy was the perpetual underdog. When he had the chance to become a naval officer like Jack, Bobby turned it down, choosing instead to join the Navy as a common sailor. It was a life changing experience that led him to connect with voters from all walks of life: young or old, black or white, rich or poor. They were the people who turned out for him in his 1968 campaign. RFK would prove himself to be the rarest of politicians—both a pragmatist who knew how to get the job done and an unwavering idealist who could inspire millions.

Drawing on extensive research and interviews, Matthews pulls back the curtain on the public and private worlds of Robert Francis Kennedy. He shines a light on all the important moments of his life, from his early years and his start in politics to his crucial role as attorney general in his brother’s administration and his tragic run for president. This definitive book brings Bobby Kennedy to life like never before and is destined to become a political classic.

Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change, Must Read Book

Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Changeis everyperson’s guide to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The IPCC issues a periodic set of reports on the state of global climate change, and has been doing so for almost two decades. It is a massive undertaking and few have the time or training to read though and absorb it, yet it is very important that every citizen understands the reports’ implications. Why? Because human caused climate change has emerged as the number one existential issue of the day, and individuals, corporations, and governments must act to implement sensible and workable changes in behavior and policy or there will be dire consequences.

Continue reading Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change, Must Read Book

The Furry and Creepy Creatures of Britain

A Field Guide to Britain’s Spiders

No, this is not a new Harry Potter story. It is a pair of books on British Wildlife.

I wish I had Britain’s Spiders: A Field Guide (Princeton University Press (WILDGuides)) Lawrence Bee, Geoff Oxford & Helen Smith for the United States.

The Chelicerata include the Arachnids, which in turn includes such as the scorpions, harvestmen, mites, etc. The largest single group of Arachnids is the spiders (Araneae). They all breath air, they all have eight legs, they all have venom injecting fangs (see THIS for more on that). Of all of the orders of organisms, spiders are seventh in terms of total species diversity, with over 45,000 species. (For reference, there are about 5,400 species of mammal and about 10,000 species of bird. Continue reading The Furry and Creepy Creatures of Britain

Venomous: How the Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry

You can read this book review, or you can just go HERE and listen to our interview with author Christie Wilcox. I promise you in advance that you will want to read her book!

But, if you want to read the book review, here it is…

Did you ever do anything that hurt, then you had to do it again and you knew it would still hurt, and you didn’t like that? Like getting your teeth cleaned, or licking a nine volt battery. OK, maybe you didn’t have to lick the nine volt battery, but you get my point.

When I was working in the Ituri Forest, in the Congo, taking a walk in the forest was one of those things. All sorts of things hurt. Your feet hurt because of jungle rot combined with sandy gritty stuff permanently indurated in your shoes. The leaves and branches you would have to move through hurt because it was early in the morning and they were cold and wet. And so on.

But one of the things that was not inevitable, but nearly daily, was being stung by a venomous beast of some kind. The most serious threat, of course, was snakes but that never happened to me. Much more common, but more common a night, was to be bitten or stung by a venomous ant. But that only happened, maybe, once a week or so. But nearly every day, if I would walk far enough in the forest (hundreds of meters) especially early in the morning, would be the venomous caterpillars.

Cute little caterpillars with some extra long furry thingies sticking out of them. When you brush against them, there is instant local pain, a bit like a bee sting (but different) followed quickly by shooting pains from the site of contact to the nearest major lymph node (usually the arm pit), followed by pain in the lymph node. The pain would eventually go away, after minutes, sometimes a bit longer.

Continue reading Venomous: How the Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry

A guide to the butterflies (book review)

A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America is a field guider’s field guide. It is the shape and size of a traditional field guide. The designers of this book said “we don’t need no stinking margins” so there are no margins. Color bleeds on the page edges allow a quick index to major butterfly categories. There is a two page spread visual index. A no nonsense introduction give you the basics about how to use the book, how to be a butterflyer, and how to not be a jerk about butterflies (like, don’t net them and kill them). The front covers even have those flaps that you can use as bookmarks.

Ranges are an interesting problem with butterflies, since their biogeography is both very heterogeneous and in some cases rapidly changing. Also, a key feature of their breeding ranges is not so much when they are there, but how many times they cycle through broods over the warm months. So the maps are interesting: Continue reading A guide to the butterflies (book review)