Monday, September 06, 2010

Parasites by Rosemary Drisdelle

I read this book for RIP. I'm also reading Dracula, so I figured this might introduce me to some smaller and more realistic bloodsucking freaks.
The subtitle of this book, as you can see, is: Tales of Humanity's Most Unwelcome Guests, and thus, the book was almost entirely dedicated to Human Parasitology. There were a few discussions of some of the more dramatic and interesting nonhuman parasites such as the barnacle that feminizes male crabs and turns them into nurturing "mothers" for the parasite. Carl Zimmer's Parasite Rex is a much more fun read and deals with many of these fascinating examples. But Drisdelle's book was mostly about humanoids and their parasites and how their parasites have affected history. This was some of the most interesting stuff in the book. She discussed the role of hookworm in the outcome of the United States Civil War, the role of malaria in the Vietnam War, and the role of Stanley and Livinstone in spreading river blindness. There was some interesting speculations, such as that Captain Cook may have had Ascaris intestinal worms that gave him a Vitamin B deficiency that led to his making bad decisions that led to his being chopped into little pieces by Polynesians. Some of the case studies were fascinating, such as the college student who was thrown out by his roommates and dosed their food with tapeworm eggs before he left. (He was a student of parasitology, after all). Overall, a pretty intersting book, especially the chapter on how parasites affect the behavior of their hosts.
One of the take home points was that our global society is moving our parasites around and bringing joy to new areas of the world. The slave trade, of course, brought yellow fever to many parts of the world. European's took smallpox with them wherever they went. Chagas disease has come to the U.S. through blood transfusions of immigrants. Globalization has many down sides and parasites are one of them.
But parasites are not all bad. We now know that whipworms greatly relieve suffering from Crohn's disease and that Ascaris worms reduce allergy symptoms. Next time you go to the doctor, they just may give you a friendly parasite to make you feel better. Just hopefully not a screwworm larvae or a botfly.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


I'm happy to be joining Carl's RIP again...actually haven't ever been this excited for this or any other challenge. All around our home, we are amped for RIP. This time, we, a word that here means I, will choose from:

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
2. Potter's Field by Paul Azaceta (graphic novel)
3. Stephen King's The Stand graphic novel series by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa et al.
4. Already Dead by Charlie Huston
5. Brains by Becker
6. Killer weekend by Ridley Pearson
7. Dracula (graphic novel) by Michael Mucci
8. The graveyard book by Neil Gaiman
9. Publish and Perish: Tales of tenure and terror by Hynes
10. The Passage by Justin Cronin
11. Parasites: Tales of humanities most unwelcome guests by Drisdelle

Read on, brothers and sisters.

Monday, August 23, 2010

You MUST read this

This cover is what attracted me to the book as I was browsing at B&N. Sometimes a great cover is followed by a bummer of read, but not this time. This book is awesome. There is suspense, zombies, humor, satire...something for every reader. I was only sorry that it had to end.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

It really should be another country...

Today, I want to drop Texas from the union and perhaps adopt Australia. Or maybe The Maldives. Anything but Texas. I want Texas to really be another country. Now, I know there are millions of fine Texans. But, they need to move, as soon as humanly possible, at least if they want their children to get an education. Seems the Republican lead Texas State Board of Education wasn't happy with history, so they've decided to rewrite it. They felt that conservative issues and the conservatives who espouse them were not painted in a favorable light in traditional existing textbooks, so they are makin' their own textbooks. They want to downplay things like separation of church and state and civil rights. “I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said one member of the board. And they want play up the free enterprise system and how it "thrives best absent excessive government intervention" (April Castro, AP). Sounds a little right wing...perhaps...What I find amusing is the amendment to paint Joe McCarthy in a more favorable light! Why hasn't anyone thought of that before?
And we in the U.S. wonder why our students don't fare so well compared to other students in industrialized nations. We New Yorkers have the most corrupt and venal politicians in the world, but I'll take them any day over the idiots on the Texas State Board of Education. I feel bad for all of intelligent Texans who have to swallow this bitter pill. I know they will fight this ludicrous, egregious, insidious, and obnoxious crap. Unfortunately, in their present environment, they appear to be outnumbered.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sleepless by Charlie Huston

I heard about it on NPR one day as I was driving home from work. The reviewer said it was a great book to help pass the long, cold winter nights. And damn was he ever right. Debi and I went to the bookstore that night and bought this book and I have no regrets.
It is about an infectious disease that makes the afflicted unable to sleep. A major drug company has a drug that can help symptoms, but not the underlying disease. Of course, supply can't meet demand. As more and more people become sleepless, culture changes dramatically and civilization falls apart. The cause of the infectious agent is truly fascinating. I love the science underlying this book. I have now become a science fiction fan. And I just bought another book by Charlie Huston.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Vietnam War: A graphic history

  1. I read bought this book after my wife mentioned that it existed as I have long wanted to know more about the Vietnam War. I was only 8 years old when Saigon fell and don't remember much about the War other than the aftermath. This book was a nice introduction. I learned much. It is a pretty concise book, only 138 pages, and left me with a strong desire to learn more and read more; it would have been impossible to give a thorough discussion of the war in a short book. One of the things I liked about the book was that it put the war in perspective. It did not simply discuss the tactical details of the war but discussed public sentiment toward the war, the political situation as the war progressed in the U.S. and in Vietnam, etc.
  2. The art is pretty good. I really liked most of the drawings. The battle scenes were the weakest part I thought. The art was in black and white; not that I minded at all, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
  3. A few days after I finished this book, Debi and I were in Barnes and Noble and I bought "The soldiers' story: Vietnam in their own words" by Ron Steinman. I definitely am in the spirit to learn more about this war after reading this graphic novel.
  4. I have no earthly idea why my post has become numbered. I can't get it to stop. Why do older folks like me have problems getting computers and other technological devices to behave? Maybe someone can do a Ph.D. dissertation on that.
  5. I highly recommend this graphic novel, which was written by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and illustrated by Wayne Vansant by the way, especially if you are like me: Highly interested in learning more about the Vietnam War but currently lacking in almost any knowledge about the details.
  6. Have a nice weekend everybody.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

Damn, what a great book! I can't believe this book was written in 1992 and I didn't get to it until 2009/2010. This book had all of my favorite things in a novel (all the things I love about my favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut): dark humor, satire, irony, and fun poking at authority.

The authority that gets poked fun at here is organized religion and its hypocrisy. We meet Om, a "small god" in the form of a turtle. He isn't very nice. Omnia is a pretty fundamentalist religious state where there is a sort of "religious police" (sounds like Iran and other fundamentalist states) that basically feel that if you are suspected of something then you must have done it...after all, there must have been some reason you were suspected of evil-doing or evil thinking or unpure thinking, etc. A really not-nice guy named Vorbis runs the "religious police". Finally, we have our hero, Brutha, who shows small gods and religious zealots the error of their ways. Brutha tells his god that "You could have helped people. But all you did was stamp around and roar and try to make people afraid". Om is a fan of smiting...

As a confirmed atheist who can't stand the hypocrisy of organized religion and who despises religious zealotry (and most forms of zealotry for that matter), this book spoke to me. A few of my favorite quotes:

"You should do things because they are right. Not because gods say so" - Brutha

"Don't put your faith in gods. But you can believe in turtles" - Terry Pratchett

Believe me. This is a great book!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Another Damn Reading Challenge...Not exactly

I'm going to continue my current reign of terror by joining yet another reading challenge...and probably not the last one I'm going to join this month. This one is a bit different than my usual reading challenge and thus, I'm excited about it. It is the GLBT Challenge. I've got a few books in mind and will be relying on my incredibly well read and helpful wife for more. I'd better get a few of the many books I'm currently reading done so I can get on with some of these new challenges. Off I go to read some.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Graphic Novels Challenge

I'm overjoyed to be joining this challenge. I only began reading graphic novels a few months ago and I love them. I am indebted to my wife for getting me started on these. I'm going to try for the intermediate level. I've got a few in the library already, most notably The Vietnam War: a graphic history by Zimmerman and Vansant and a graphic novelization of Dracula.
Can't wait to begin reading...