j_cheney: (Book)
What is real? How do you define real? If you're talking about what you can hear, what you can smell, taste and feel, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

Yes, the textbook that I'm reading now starts with a quote from The Matrix.

Sensation and Perception, if you buy the older edition used, comes pretty cheaply (I paid just over 4$ for it). The new edition is way more expensive, in the 150$ to 160$ range.

The older edition is missing new research about the vomeronasal gland (although there is a notation that you can get that information on-line if you have the CD.) I don't, but I'm pretty sure I've gleaned all that info from other sources.

The quote actually makes sense, in that context....

Merryland

Dec. 12th, 2008 01:04 pm
j_cheney: (Horse)
I finished reading Merryland by Josh Pons this morning. This is a two-year diary of a horse racing farm in Maryland. I enjoy diaries in that they give unexpected insights that statistics often do not, but I read very few of them.

This is easy to read, but the language is often arcane. There are references to various things that only horse people would know, which are not explained for the laymen. I even had to look up the word pinhooker, which might be compared in real estate terms to a 'flipper', I think. I was quite worried that it meant 'renderer' until I found it on-line.

Anyhoo, what did I get out of this book?

1) 50% of your racing stable is injured at all times.

2) 1.5 out of every 1000 starts dies. Yep, dies. Can you imagine if 2 out of every 1000 NFL players starting a game dropped dead in the endzone? Yeesh!
The stables in question lose a few horses during the 2 year span of the diary. That's the painful part.

3) Starting a horse racing at 2 is pretty scary, as their bones might not be fully developed (at least, that's what I understood). Also, 2-year-old is an inflexible term, as a race horse turns a year older on Jan 1, not their actual birthdate. If you have a really late foal (say born December 20), when January 1 rolls about, it's lumped in as a yearling, just like the ones born back in March. Now I understand why they start breeding in February.

4) Fragile, delicate, anything will chip their bones, cut their hide, trigger colic. The number of horses that die OFF the track is probably like the number of men that died from sickness in the Civil War.

5) I applaud the people who run various racehorse rescue agencies, trying to place retired racehorses with adoptive homes (rather than sending them to the renderers.) (This is not an issue with this particular farm, I think, who had one horse that appears to be 35+).

All in all, a good book, if you're prepared not to understand what he's talking at times. There is no plot, no resolution. Raising race horses is gambling, in many ways.
j_cheney: (Book)
In interest of sparing the flist, I'm posting two reviews together

The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John Barry
This is a wonderful book is so many ways, detailing vast amounts of information. It's had tons of reveiws on Amazon, so let me just add my two cents here, and keep it mininal.

Influenza is bloody terrifying. This books sheds light on that in so many ways, starting with the way influenza mutates and following with the tragedy it can leave behind. Particularly gruesome were the accounts of this epidemic's assault on military cantonments, where healthy young men in crowded conditions became the perfect food for the virus. The books tells of thousands of men in hospital there, so many that the few nurses had no time to clean them or even remove the dead.....and the doctors and nurses were dying themselves. The death rates were terrifying, particularly since this particular mutation killed the young and healthy. The hardest hit age group was 25-29.....leaving behind thousands of orphans in the US alone.

Particularly interesting to me was the brief discussion of the psychological aftereffects of this epidemic: In adition to the more-predictable exhaustion, survivors have a much higher rate of Parkinson's and schizophrenia. (It has been established that women who contract influenza in the 2nd (or is it 1st?) trimester of their pregnancy have a much higher chance of having a child with schizophrenia. I read about this in Genome, I believe.) I find it a bit terrifying that you could come out of this illness with your brain chemistry altered. Yeesh!

I will note that the book had one failing for me, that I will call Grandpa Simpsonism. You know that scene where he goes off on "I had an onion tied to my belt, which was the fashion at the time...."? This book does that...a lot. There are endless asides about one person's medical career or another, and the first 166 pages of the book seem to be a paean to the head of Johns Hopkins at the time of the epidemic....who didn't actually do much about the epidemic as he was sick with flu for the bulk of that time. I haz resurch, can I show you it? All of it?. This book could have given me the pertinent information in 1/3 the number of pages. I'm impatient.



Garbage in the Cities by Martin Melosi
This is the other end of the spectrum, where the author gives you statistics, charts, and hard numbers. Yep, right up my alley. This author, who has written more books on this subject, goes through the basic ways municipalities handled garbage, sewage, and rubbish.

A pet peeve of mine is that so many people who write about the past forget to include the trash...or more importantly, the manure and sewage. Street sweeping and garbage collection, which Dickens often reminded us about (think Our Mutual Friend or Bleak House, for instance), are oddly dismissed by many authors who write about the past.

Cities that depended on the horse, however, for transportation and hauling, had two huge issues.
1) Manure in the streets (hence the street sweepers). Tons were removed daily, and in many cities simply dumped downstream or into the ocean.
2) Dead horses. Yep, that's what I said. Statistically, a city horse at the turn of the century had a !2-year lifespan!, (which I find incredibly depressing). In 1910, Manhattan sanitation removed 15,000 dead horses from the streets. By 1915, even with the increased presence of the oh-so-clean automobile, they were still removing 10,000 a year. So depressing.

I will say that this book, despite having some less than happy info in it, provided exactly what I was looking for.


A final note. [livejournal.com profile] displacedtexan read Life in a Medieval Castle and The World Without Us for me, and marked the sections I would be interested in, although he says I won't want to read the full books, so no reports on those two. I'll read the bits I need and move on to Crashing Through.
j_cheney: (Default)
The review part of this is regarding the book,More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want.
commentary under the cut )

And the article? But I did everything right!

This is regarding Lower Dopamine Receptor Density in children. Reserachers have been studying the effects of dopamine for some time, and a study came out back in December which stated that people with lower DRD have difficulty learning to avoid things that gave them trouble in the past. In essence, these people don't seem to learn from their mistakes....

The newer study found that approximately 30% of children seem to be born with LDRD. (I'm just using the acronym because I'm lazy). The effects of this? Well, they can't learn from their mistakes. These are quite often the kids who keep getting in trouble, over and over, usually with the exact same problem--no matter what their parents do...

The upside of this seems to be that children with this condition survive abusive homes with comparative ease. The downside is that other children with this condition go on to disrupt good homes with comparative ease.

It's an interesting thought....and I'm certain more study will have to be done in this area....
j_cheney: (Default)
Once again, I've been reading Psychology Today, which is such a fun little magazine sometimes. In the Sept/Oct issue, we have a lovely article called Cult of Clean, available free here online. This is, oddly enough, right up my alley.

If you've read one of my stories (or have beta-read the novel) with Shironne Anjir, you'll recall that she has a related problem. She senses things through her skin at the...molecular level. She's aware of everything that touches her skin (all of her skin, BTW) in a way that others are not. So yes, she's aware of every spot of urine on the floor or everything that gets left on her sheets or clothes during the laundering process. And at this point, I should probably cut for the squeamish... Read more... )

Not all the articles in this magazine are a hit with me, but occasionally they get one I just love. Get used to it. ;o)
j_cheney: (Default)
by Avery Gilbert
This book is sub-titled: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life
More apt subtitle: Smells and their Appearance in Pop-culture.

Whether you like this book depends on why you wanted to read it. It contains a great deal of information about how and where scent appears in modern culture, from the people spritzing you in the mall to the advent of Smell-O-Vision to the appearance of scent in dozens of literary sources.

Unfortunately, in the 238 pages of writing there's very little science. A few tidbits of scientific fact are thrown out among the references to Garrison Keillor and James Joyce, but for the most part, this doesn't actually spend much time covering the science. If you want that, I'd suggest taking the money and putting it into a subscription to Scientific American Mind. Seriously.

So, what did I get out of it?
a)I did find the scientific name of the scent geosmin, the scent that rises from dry earth after a rainfall.
b)The Liang Limit--basically no one can separate out more than four scents at a time, if that.
c).....

Well, darn. Being that I wanted this book to be about science, I found this dearth rather frustrating. There's not a great deal of information here that I didn't already know before...that I had any interest in. Other people will love this book. It's just not for me.
j_cheney: (Default)
I just finished Social& Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction by John Monaghan and Peter Just. The title is pretty self explanatory.

If you're looking for a quick overview, this is a pretty good one, touching on the major areas of interest for anthropologists. I don't think I learned a great deal from the book, but it served to codify what I already knew, which is always a handy thing to have done for you. (Especially since one of my characters is a student of Divergent Anthropology.)

A good refresher, it lightly touches on each field. Not an in-depth explanation of anything, if that's what you're after.

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J. Kathleen Cheney

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