What I’m Reading: The Disappearing Spoon

bottle-1481599_1280

Image found here.

This book is predominantly about science. Before you dismiss the book because it might be boring or you’re “just not a science person,” consider these interesting snippets: mercury (the element, not the planet) caused literal “mad hatters,” a toxic, non-dissolving laxative made of antimony was considered so valuable that families would often pass them down from father to son, and, much like Edison and the light bulb, German chemist Robert Bunsen didn’t actually invent the Bunsen burner, he improved and popularized it. Mr. Bunsen also had a penchant for arsenic and blowing stuff up.

Fun stuff, huh?

The author discusses “True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements.” Yes, he does get a little technical at times. It is a book about science after all. I think we can all appreciate the tale about the mother of the man, Dmitri Mendeleev, who invented the periodic table:  Her husband passed away and left her with fourteen children. So in 1847, she took over a local glass factory and bossed the men who worked there in order to support her family. Then the factory burned to the ground. So she took her son, Dmitri, 1,200 miles on horseback, over snowy mountains to a university in Moscow where he could further his education. They rejected him on the grounds that he was not a local. So she rode another 400 miles with him to St. Petersburg to enroll him in the university his father had attended. After he was accepted, she died.

What a woman.

This book is full of strange and wonderful tales of events that shaped the periodic table and how the periodic table has shaped our world. Five stars from me.

And if you like strange and wonderful tales, stay tuned! Next Monday I will post the first installment of the “cheese sandwich” story. You have been warned.

What I’m Reading: The Psychopath Test

buho-857458_1280

Image found here.

“The consensus from the beginning was that only 1% of humans had it, but the chaos they caused was so far-reaching it could actually remold society, remold it all wrong, like when someone breaks his foot and it gets set badly and the bones stick out in odd directions. And so the urgent question became: How could psychopaths be cured?” -The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

This book reads like you are peeking over the shoulder of the author as he interviews psychopaths and the people who study them. Among others, he interviews a brash CEO, a charming patient at Broadmoor, and the man who invented a 20 point checklist that tells you just how psychopathic you are. Do you have a superficial charm? How about a grandiose sense of self-worth? Maybe you are a pathological liar, or manipulative, or prone to boredom, or impulsive, or callous? Don’t fret, reader, because if you are worried you may have psychopathic tendencies, that’s actually a good sign you are normal. Well, whatever passes for normal these days.

You see, the author tell us that psychopaths are unable to feel a normal range of emotions. Anxiety is unknown to them, which is why they are often killers. They simply do not care. Some are excellent at aping the facial expressions we associate with grief, or anger, or fear, but they are disconnected from those emotions.

The author talks about how some thought LSD was the answer to curing this malady of the mind and the disastrous results. He mentions a Canadian serial killer (insert joke about how polite Canadians are and something about moose or maple syrup), how psychopaths only dream in black-and-white, Scientologists, and the reality of  reality TV.

Equal parts disturbing and fascinating, this book gets five stars from me.

Oh, and I’m on Goodreads now! Come see what I’m reading, recommend what book I should read next, or be my friend. Psychopaths need not apply.

 

 

What I’m Reading: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume Three

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”
Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Science fiction has always held a special place in my heart. One of my favorite sci-fi books is This Perfect Day by Ira Levin; it left me changed in way that only a good book can.

Reading The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume Three, I encountered a short story with such delicious language I told my husband he had to read it. He was not enthusiastic. So I read it aloud to him, with different voices for each of the characters, and by the end, he was enjoying himself. At least, he hasn’t had me committed to a mental institution yet.

The story is entitled, “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison. It is ten and a half well crafted pages about a society where time is king, right down to the microsecond. Late ten minutes to work? Your life is docked ten minutes. If you are tardy too often, you are “turned off” by the all-powerful Ticktockman.

The Harlequin seeks to change this slavish devotion to time. He disrupts the schedule by seven whole minutes with-

Ah, but you’ll have to read the story to find out.That is, if you have the time.

clock-1392328_1280

                               “He was not purring smoothly. Timewise, it was jangle.”                                                                                               (Image via Pixabay)

 

 

 

 

Blueberry Ketchup

blueberry-834623_1280

Image via Pixabay

It’s summertime-hot, sticky summertime-and blueberries are on sale.

Some of my fondest summer memories have included those plump, velvety berries. I remember hiking along a mountain trail as a young child and stumbling across a patch of wild blueberries. I stuffed my little jacket pockets full, anticipating the pie my mother would make when we got home. The berries did not make it back intact.

I can still smell the blueberry buckle my mom used to make. Crisp, buttery, and filled with juicy berries, it was one of my favorite breakfasts. And I loved it when she read Blueberries for Sal, the berries “plink, plink, plink”-ing in her bucket.

I found myself buying three pounds of blueberries at the store this weekend, most of them earmarked for my family’s favorite blueberry zucchini bread. It freezes beautifully! But what to do with the rest (besides eat them, of course)?

Blueberry ketchup.

I know, it sounds strange, but trust me and try it. It’s sweet and savory, and oh so good with sweet potato fries. Even my kids gobbled it up! If you try it, let me know what you think.

This summer is a little sweeter and a whole lot stickier with all the blueberry ketchup-stained faces in my house. Sweet summertime memories.

 

 

 

O Say Can You Sing?

I can’t. That doesn’t stop me from trying, though. Especially today.

Today is one of my favorite holidays. Sure, I love sparklers, fireworks, and family picnics, but those things are just a bonus. I was raised in a military household that instilled in me a respect for God and country.  You can’t shake my family tree without a few soldiers-from almost every branch-falling out. See what I did there?

I am proud of and grateful for each and every one of them. Most of all, my Pop. My dad taught me the proper angle for a crisp salute and how to properly care for an American flag, but that’s another post.

 

Today, especially today, I try to sing that anthem to the best of my ability. I practice singing it around the house  while I’m doing dishes or folding laundry, and I cry. I cry because that song reminds me of when I used to untie my Pop’s combat boots when he came home from work. It reminds me of 9/11. It reminds me of strength. It reminds me of soldiers coming home.

Sing it with me. Sing the only first verse, or sing them all.

God bless America, land of the Free, and home of the Brave.

 

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.