Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween at SARL-NH

On Saturday, I took Addy to the Salem Animal Rescue League Halloween party. Snow had not been part of the original plan, but with a major nor'easter forecast for Saturday, SARL thoughtfully provided a tent. There were treats for the puppers and for the humans, too. We were all greeted by SARL's mascot, Rocky. Many of the dogs and some of the people came in costume, and of course, there was a costume contest for the dogs.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey, by Allison Weir (author), Stina Nielsen (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781428120303, February 2007

Spoilers ahead, because this is an historical novel about a major figure, and I assume most people know how it ends already.

This is the story of Lady Jane Grey, the great-niece of Henry VIII, and cousin to King Edward VI, and his sisters Mary and Elizabeth. Raised a devout Protestant when England and Europe as a whole were caught up in the religious and political struggle of the Reformation, she became a pawn for those, including her own parents, who wanted to advance both their own power and England's commitment to Protestantism. Years of scheming to marry her to her cousin Edward come to nothing, and when Edward, at fifteen, is dying, he is induced to sign a new will, making Lady Jane his heir in place of his sister, the Catholic Mary.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

To My Faithful Readers

I have not forgotten you or abandoned you. I'm just reading the long, but excellent, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Stephen Pinker. This is an absolute must-read, but it's not a quick read. It requires serious attention and thought, and I want to do it justice. My review will come--but in the meantime, you could pick up a copy and start reading. Get ahead of the curve!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kamali is Accepting Applications to be His Forever Family

Kamali and I attended an adoption event together this afternoon, and I took the opportunity to discuss his interests and career plans with him. He told me that his greatest ambition is to be a lapdog for someone in need of lots of cuddling and love. He's willing to watch tv with you, or provide extra warmth and comfort while you read. As any good, responsible dog should, he says he would be happy to walk his person several times a day.

Kamali also expressed an interest in learning tricks, believing it would be good mental and physical exercise for him and his person.

Friday, October 21, 2011

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann (author), Peter Johnson (reader)

Highbridge Company, Abridged Edition, ISBN 9781565119789, August 2005

This is an abridged edition, which I normally avoid, but it's still a substantial and fascinating history of the pre-Columbus cultures of the Americas. The story is not told in a strict chronological manner, but Mann's writing and Johnson's reading make it easy to follow and understand.

One of the biggest surprises is the population and lifestyle of the Americas when Columbus arrived. Columbus, Pizarro, other Spanish explorers, the French and English explorers that first reached the northern east coast of North America, all reported, on the first explorations, large populations living in settled communities, practicing agriculture, with highly developed arts. It wasn't just the Aztecs and the Incas; it was most of the population of Central and South America, and much of the population of North America. The impression many of us grew with, that aside from the Aztecs and Incas most Indians were relatively primitive hunter-gatherers when Europeans arrived, is simply false.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts on the Tufts Canine & Feline Breeding & Genetics Conference

Photo by Rachel Doyle
I attended this year's Tufts cat & dog genetics conference at the Omni Parker House in Boston. It was a last-minute opportunity, when my friend Gina Spadafori had to cancel and transferred her registration to me.

It was two solid days, 8am to 5pm, with a lunch break and two short breaks, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. We sat in a room set up classroom style and listened to researchers and veterinarians talk about genetics research on cats and dogs, and the implications for breeding purebred and pedigreed dogs and cats, as well as behavior and health care for pet dogs and cats. Does that sound dull? It was fascinating!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hunter, by Wil Wheaton

Monolith Press/Amazon Digital Editions, February 2011

Pyke is living in a grim, desperate world, a colony world that has been invaded by a conquering alien force. There's an active, determined resistance--and Pyke used to be part of it. Six months ago, though, he decided it was hopeless, and decided to join the winning side. He's working for the Gan, now, hunting down resistance fighters. And today, he's after one more rebel, a teenage girl who'll be an easy target. Won't she?

This is a short story, so there's not a lot of room for development, but Wheaton makes good use of it. We care about Pyke, his target, and their world. I hope we'll be seeing more of it.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Coyote, by Allen Steele

Ace, ISBN 9780441011162, November 2003

It's 2070, the political situation in the US is appalling and the economy is no prize either, but we're finally about to launch our first interstellar mission, to colonize an Earth-like world, Coyote, a moon orbiting a superjovian planet of 47 Ursae Majoris B, 46 lightyears from Earth. The governance of the colony is carefully planned to keep it under the repressive political thumb of the current right-wing powers that be.

Captain R. E. Lee, commander of the USS Alabama, and some of the other crew and colonists, have even more carefully planned a hijacking of Alabama, to leave most of the armed enforces of the political status quo at home.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Winter Discovery, by Michael Baron

The Story Plant, ISBN 9781611880274, November 2011

This is an absolute little gem of a story, and perfect for Christmas. It's a novelette, and would make a lovely read for a snowy evening with some hot chocolate to sip on while you read.

Reese Rubato is just shy of his sixth birthday, and looking forward to that happy day almost as much as Christmas itself. His mother died not long after his birth, and while his father has remarried and he loves his stepmom, Millie, he's starting to think more and more about his mother. What would it be like to celebrate Christmas with his real mom? Wouldn't it be even more special?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Birds of a Feather, by Jacqueline Winspear (author); Kim Hicks (narrator)

Sound Library, ISBN 9780792736653, June 2005

Maisie Dobbs' business is now thriving, with a better office, a reliable flow of clients, and Billy Beale now employed as her assistant. A new case has just come in. Three of Charlotte Waite's friends have died violent deaths recently, two of them murdered and one an apparent suicide. Charlotte has fled her father's house after a quarrel over these deaths, and he wants her found and returned home. Mr. Waite is a controlling, domineering man, but he's genuinely concerned about her safety.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cinder and Ella, by Melissa Lemon--A Review

Cinder and Ella, by Melissa Lemon, Cedar Fort/Bonneville Books, ISBN 9781599559063, November 2011

This isn't the story of Cinderella, not even twist on the story. It is its own very neat little story, about the two sensible sisters in a very messed-up family, in a kingdom that has a very serious problem--its prince and heir to the throne.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Anything, by Michael Baron

The Story Plant, ISBN 9781611880212, October 2011

Would you do anything for the person you love? Truly anything?

Ken Timian gets a chance to find out.

He's living with, and engaged to, Melissa Argent, daughter of a Marine Colonel, environmental activist, and the love of his life. They've been together two years, and in that time, she's made him not only happier than he's ever been, but a better person. She's brought him both a greater moral awareness, and a greater ability to relax, have fun, and be spontaneous. Melissa herself, though, doesn't have the same ability to be light and spontaneous, and is oddly sensitive about pictures from her high school years. It's a surprise to Ken when Melissa's mother mentions that she was a very talented and dedicated pianist--until high school.

Then their very peculiar favorite jeweler, Stephon, asks Ken what his dearest fantasy about Melissa is, and Ken, after some thought, that he'd love to know what Melissa was like during the thirty years of her life before they met. Stephon, it turns out, has a way to make this possible--to let Ken be a spectator at key moments in Melissa's earlier life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Angel of Europa, by Allen Steele

Subterranean, Signed Limited Edition, ISBN 9781596064126, August 2011

Allen Steele is a fantastic storyteller.

I suppose I shouldn't really stop right there. This novelette is a very neatly plotted mystery that takes place in orbit around, and on the surface of, Europa. The International Jupiter Expedition has arrived at Jupiter already having suffered one casualty: their arbitrator, Otto Danzig, was nearly killed in an unexplained airlock accident, and has been in medical hibernation since they crossed Mars orbit. Now, though, the expedition has a worse problem: The bathyscaphe lowered into the Europan ocean has suffered an accident, the two scientists aboard have both been killed. Only the pilot, Evangeline Chatelain, survived and returned to the ship. She reports that a huge undersea creature rammed the bathyscaphe and breached the hull of the observation cabin, forcing her to jettison it in order to escape alive herself.

The problem is that no one believes her.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Competition for OverDrive? 3M Cloud Library in Beta with Kansas Libraries

Kansas State Librarian Can Transfer Thousands of Titles from OverDrive to 3M at No Charge:

'via Blog this'

This is a fascinating story from Library Journal. The Kansas State Librarian, Jo Budler, is attempting to move the state's e-books platform from OverDrive to 3M's Cloud Library, which is currently in beta. This isn't a random or capricious choice; staying with OverDrive would mean a 700% increase in the platform licensing fee by 2013. (Any content licensed is in addition to the platform licensing fee.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors, by Nicholas Wade (author), Alan Sklar (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781400152322, May 2006

Nicholas Wade discusses how the growing science of genetics expands and deepens our understanding of human evolution, our relationship to our closest relatives, and how we became the species we are--and what we might become in the future.

There's a lot of ground to cover, and this is a survey, not a textbook. It's very well-referenced, but in some cases he's relying on cutting edge research that, inevitably, will not all hold up. He also ventures into some touchy areas that not all readers will be comfortable or happy with. Nevertheless, it's an excellent, informative, and thought-provoking book that is well worth reading.

Monday, October 10, 2011

No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller, by Harry Markopolos (author), Scott Brick (reader)

Brilliance Audio, 9781455819119, February 2011

In December 2008, Bernie Madoff, one of the most respected figures on Wall Street, co-founder and former president of NASDAQ, confessed to running the largest Ponzi scheme in history. On the heels of that revelation, we learned that this fraud had been going on for decades, and then that it was international in reach.

We also learned that there had been a whistleblower, who had warned the SEC a decade earlier, and when he was ignored had continued to investigate, and made additional filings, with additional and more complete information, including the growing size of the fraud.

That whistleblower was Harry Markopolos, and this is his story.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Iron Knight: Book 4 in the Iron Fey Series, by Julie Kagawa

HarlequinTEEN, ISBN 9780373210367, October 2011

Ash, prince of the UnSeelie Court, has a major problem on his hands. He has sworn an oath to find a way to return to Meghan Chase and stand by her side as her knight and protector. But Meghan is now Queen of the Iron Fey, and Ash, one of the older, more familiar fey, cannot touch or even bear the near presence of iron.

So he's off on a quest, in defiance of his mother Queen Mab, and all common sense and good judgment, to find the Testing Grounds and earn a soul. He'll be giving up his fey powers and his immortality, but he'll be able to return to Meghan. Since violating his vow will cause his very being to unravel and dissolve, he figures it's worth the risk.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, by Sean B. Carroll (author), Patrick Lawlor (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781400153152, January 2007

Carroll starts out by talking about forensic use of DNA evidence in criminal cases, where we rely on DNA evidence to determine guilt or innocence, often in cases where the death penalty or long imprisonment is at stake. He explains, in simple terms, how this works and why it matters.

And then he explains the contradiction between the wide popular acceptance of DNA evidence by the general public, and the widespread resistance to or rejection of evolution.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What's the Bigger Threat, Piracy, Distribution Monopolies--or Refusal to Give Customers What They Want?

Miramax CEO: our biggest threat is online distribution monopolies, not piracy – Boing Boing:

'via Blog this'

Mike Lang, the Miramax CEO, says piracy isn't really any big deal, but distribution monopolies are, because they create chokepoints that limit the consumer's ability to get the product, thus limiting potential sales. He's got a valid point, but where it breaks down a bit is that he cites Apple's iTunes as an example. iTunes has too much control of the music market, so music companies can't influence pricing, packaging, merchandising.

But the reason iTunes has such control is because the music companies clung to their image of themselves as "record companies," drastically overpriced CDs, and bitterly resisted  digital distribution of music in forms consumers wanted and found useful and worth paying for. Had they been able to do so, they would have permanently blocked any digital distribution of music, allowing fear of piracy to override the far more central consideration of how to make money by selling their customers what they wanted to buy. They decided what they wanted to sell us, and tried to make us like it--and it didn't work. Apple controls the distribution of music because Apple created a way to give customers what they wanted and make a profit at it, while the music companies were still fighting digital distribution.

Between the Thames and the Tiber: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Ted Riccardi

Open Road Media/Pegasus Books, ISBN 9781453217856, April 2011

Holmes and Watson are back, in a new set of adventures that take the reader back and forth between London and Italy, where the two friends are now spending much of their time, with occasional excursions elsewhere. The stories vary in time from the 1890s to World War One, and they aren't presented in chronological order.

Watson inherited a sizable estate from an uncle his family had little contact with, and, in the guise of an anonymous benefactor wishing to support Holmes' work, has given half of his inheritance to Holmes. This gives them a freedom from any concern about whether a particular client can pay, as well as allowing them to spend a good part of the year living in Italy, and travel in Europe as freely as they like.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop--We have a winner!

Congratulations to Mammabunny13, winner of the Banned Books giveaway! I'll have Adventures of Huckleberry Finn out to you in the mail sometime this week.

Thank you to everyone who participated. I hope you all enjoyed my post and the other blogs participating in the Banned Books Giveaway Hop, and that you all learned more about banned books and the freedom to read.

Keep reading books, Banned or not!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire, by Ruth Downie, (author), Simon Vance (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781400153633, March 2007

Gaius Petrius Ruso is doctor serving with a Roman legion in Britain. Not very long ago, he was married, a hero (he had saved the Emperor Trajan's life), and the elder son of a prosperous family in southern Gaul. Now he's divorced, his father has died leaving behind a mountain of debt, his brief notoriety is forgotten, and Trajan is dead. He's struggling to pay off his father's debts, with his brother at home in Gaul working to keep the real state of their finances quiet so that their efforts have time to work.

In the meantime, he's sharing a mouse-infested with another army doctor and the previous owner's former dog, who has produced a litter of puppies. They have no servant to clean and cook for them, and their lodgings show it. Ruso has spent an unpleasant night examining the body of a dead woman fished out of the harbor, and then a long day on medical rounds. He doesn't need to buy an injured slave girl to rescue her from her sadistic owner, especially when she's too injured to work, won't talk, and will cost more to feed than she's worth.

So of course he does.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Big Handout: How Government Subsidies and Corporate Welfare Corrupt the World We Live In and Wreak Havoc on Our Food Bills, by Thomas Kostigen

Rodale Books, ISBN 9781609611132, October 2011

This book makes an interesting counterpoint to Clean Energy Nation, by Congressman Jerry McNerney, which I reviewed in August. McNerney is a Democrat, has a high regard for the sustainable energy policies pursued by President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s while regretting the micromanagement and lack of higher-level political skills that helped to doom those policies, thinks well of Clinton and Obama, and is not so fond of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Kostigen is  libertarian-leaning, considers the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation good and respectable sources, and admires Ronald Reagan as one of our great presidents. These two men are not coming from the same place, in their political worldviews.

Yet the underlying central message of the two books is the same: Our economic, energy, and agricultural policies are unsustainable, doing damage to our planet, endangering our national security, and making us poorer. McNerney attacked the problem from the perspective of energy policy; Kostigen comes at it primarily through agricultural and other corporate subsidies.