Moving On

The days will grow longer. Then the front yard will die, as it does every summer. Self has never mowed her yard, not once in three years. The grass is a bright green, and all the different things she’s planted are green and lush and it’s beginning to look like an ecosystem. Like a balanced ecosystem. Which is what she wanted to do in the first place, though a year and a half ago, she had only a vague idea.

Onward.

She has briskly dispatched The Butterfly Effect. She skimmed the later chapters, which had a lot to do with industry and man’s ingenuity and how man depends on insects for manufacturing product, yada yada yada. She also skipped the chapter on eating bugs because, while surely fascinating, she doesn’t feel the slightest inclination to experiment in that direction.

She has three library books currently. Two of the books begin in high summer, and the third is about a polar bear in the Arctic. So she’s reading Ice Walker, because it’s cold here in her house. It’s probably best to read about polar bears when it is actually cold.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Self Learns Something New Everyday 2

Self is so glad she is reading this book! There was a review in the Wall Street Journal, last August. She saved the review for months, finally got the book from the local library.

The Butterfly Effect, Chapter 1 (The Bug in the System):

  • “Insects evolved around 480 million years ago . . . ” whereas “the earliest fossil evidence for anatomically modern Homo sapiens — discovered on a tree-speckled savannah in 2017 at Jebel Irhoud, Morocco – is a mere three-hundred thousand years old.”
  • Moreover, insects used to be giant. For example: There were “gargantuan” Meganeura monyi (dragonfly-like griffinflies) with “two- to three-foot wingspans” which “made them the size of small hawks.”
  • Their decline in size was likely due to “the evolution of predatory birds” as well as “reductions in atmospheric oxygen levels.”

Sentence of the Day: Edward D. Melillo

When we bite into a shiny apple or enjoy a spoonful of strawberry yogurt, listen to the resonant notes of a Stradivarius violin or watch fashion models strut down a runway, receive a dental implant or get a manicure, we are mingling with the creations of insects.

The Butterfly Effect: Insects and the Making of the Modern World, p. 4

Hellooo, February! (Tweaking the Reading List)

Since High as the Waters Rise turned out to be a novel about the environment (who knew!), self decided to continue the theme with her next book, Ice Walker: A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic, by James Raffan.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The Economist: Books of the Year 2020

A list from a list (highly idiosyncratic — in which self decides which kind of writing she’s going to spend most of 2021 doing)

BIOGRAPHY AND MEMOIR

  • A Promised Land, by Barack Obama – “A reminder that the 44th president is one of the best writers ever to serve in that office”
  • Stranger in the Shogun’s City, by Amy Stanley – “The everyday struggles of an obscure woman in Tokyo in the first half of the 19th century”
  • Kiss Myself Goodbye, by Ferdinand Mount – “The hilarious tale of a . . . pathologically inventive aunt in raffish, upper-class Britain either side of the second world war”

HISTORY

  • A House in the Mountains, by Caroline Moorhead – “Weaving deep research into a compelling narrative . . . about four women fighting with the partisans in northern Italy in 1943”
  • Alaric the Goth, by Douglas Bain – “Colorful portrait of the city and empire in the fifth century”

FICTION

  • The Slaughterman’s Daughter, by Yaniv Iczkovits – “Late 19th century picaresque about a Jewish mother in the Pale of Settlement who sets out to retrieve her wayward brother-in-law in Minsk”
  • Shuggie Bain, by Douglas Stuart – “Coming of age in Glasgow in the 1980s”
  • Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar – “Part autobiographical tale about growing up as a Pakistani-American through the age of 9/11 and then Donald Trump”
  • Burnt Sugar, by Avni Doshi – Opens with “I would be lying if I said my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure.”

CULTURE AND IDEAS

  • Leo Tolstoy, by Andrei Zorin – “Weaves together his times, his writing, his faith and his political activism”

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

  • Apollo’s Arrow, by Nicholas Christakis – “the history of plagues”

BUSINESS AND ECONOMICS

  • No Rules Rules, by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer – “The boss of Netflix and his co-author explain how he arrived”

3rd Monday in June 2020: Still Reading The Uninhabitable Earth

Self is reading fast as none of the arguments are new.

  • “We think of climate change as slow, but it is unnervingly fast.” — p. 198

There is a big, big elephant in the room, which is the impact of Greta Thunberg, who is never mentioned. (She shows up, finally, on p. 257)

  • “Any number of dead is a tragedy, but more than 10,000 die each day, globally, from the small–particulate pollution produced by burning carbon.” — p. 203

Never in a million years, at the time this book was published (2019) could anyone have imagined that a pandemic and the need to find a vaccine would soon eclipse climate change in urgency.


Back from picking up prescriptions (which always require a doctor’s visit: $162). She catches a Gavin Newsom presser. He’s addressing the ongoing need for masks. This morning, self asked the doctor if he had a test. He did, but it cost $150. He reassured her that all of the patients he’d tested had tested negative.

“Do they all live in the area?” she asked.

“Some of them,” he said.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

THE UNINHABITABLE EARTH: LIFE AFTER WARMING, by David Wallace-Wells

p. 12

. . . if we take action on emissions soon, instituting immediately all of the commitments made in the Paris accords but nowhere yet actually implemented, we are likely to get about 3.2 degrees of warming, or about three times as much warming as the planet has seen since the beginning of industrialization — bringing the unthinkable collapse of the planet’s ice sheets not just into the realm of the real but into the present. That would eventually flood not just Miami and Dhaka but Shanghai and Hong Kong and a hundred other cities around the world. The tipping point for that collapse is two degrees . . .


p. 16

The upper end of the probability curve put forward by the U.N. to estimate the end-of-the-century, high-emissions scenario — the worst-case outcome of a worst-case path — puts us at eight degrees. At that temperature, humans at the equator and in the tropics would not be able to move around outside without dying.

1641: Nikolaas Tulp, Dutch Anatomist

Self is going back and forth between Caliban’s War (which is all action, which is perfect because reading action is a nice balance to her current state of total inactivity) and Mama’s Last Hug.

Trigger Warning: If the mere notion of dissection makes you ill, do not read. It’s not graphic, but it did make self a tad queasy.

Mama’s Last Hug, p. 66:

  • When a team of behavioral scientists and anthropologists finally tested the idea by carefully dissecting the faces of two dead chimpanzees, they found the exact same number of mimetic muscles as in the human face — and surprisingly few differences. We could have predicted this, of course, because Nikolaas Tulp, the Dutch anatomist immortalized in Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson, had long ago reached a similar conclusion. In 1641, Tulp was the first to dissect an ape cadaver and found that it resembled the human body so closely in its structural details, musculature, organs, and so on, that the species looked like two drops of water.

Also, did you know that there is a type of human smile called the Duchenne smile? The Duchenne smile is “a sincere expression of joy and positive feeling,” and involves a crinkling/narrowing of the eyes.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Emotions: Language Descriptors For

Mama’s Last Hug is fascinating, how well it points out the limits of human understanding (i.e., Man is always front and center and human emotional behavior is always the benchmark for analyzing other species)

Self can’t help continuously drawing comparisons with . . . never mind.

p. 54:

  • If it is true that the environment shapes facial expressions, then children who are born blind and deaf should show no expressions at all, or only strange ones, because they’ve never seen the faces of people around them. Yet in studies of these children, they laugh, smile, and cry in the same way and under the same circumstances as any typical child. Since their situation excludes learning from models, how could anyone doubt that emotional expressions are part of biology?

Stay tuned.

Melancholy

Perhaps it’s this damn covid-19, but self is feeling mighty melancholy today.

To match her mood, today’s excerpt from Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves is from a section called Finality and Grief:

  • It remains unknown how widespread the sense of finality is and how much it relies on a mental projection into the future. But members of at least some species, after assuring themselves by smell, touch, and revival attempts that a loved one is gone, seem to realize that their relationship has permanently moved from present to past . . . It also reminds us that all emotions are mixed with knowledge — they wouldn’t exist otherwise . . . Life goes on, as it should, but individuals are unique.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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