Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Five Best Reads of this Fall

Your Life: An Owner’s Guide, by Michael R. Slavit, Ph.D.

This book is just what the doctor ordered!  It’s very readable, and it hits home on major life issues as well as nitty-gritty issues.  It starts with helping you sort out your life in terms of your values and goals.  Then it helps you with issues like motivation and getting out of slumps, or depression.  Then it gets right down to issues like managing your money, keeping up with exercise, avoiding clutter, and entertaining in your home.  This guy is down-to-Earth (like me), and knows what he’s talking about. Available on Amazon.  Get it.

The Survival of the Sickest, by Sharon Moalem, M.D., Ph.D.

Another doc, but this one is on the cutting edge of research into health, evolution and environment.  This book will stand you on your ear about how we human beings have evolved in concert with all the other living things on the planet.  You’ll be amazed at what you learn about how certain inherited diseases once helped out ancestors to survive climate changes and plague.  Mile-deep ice cores from Greenland show that, in the past, climate changes have been much more rapid than scientists had previously guessed.  Great book.  Extremely enlightening.  it’s available on audiotape, too.

How I Killed Pluto, and Why it Deserved it, by Michael Brown. 

You’ve probably heard about how Pluto, which used to be called one of the nine planets, has been “down-graded” to a dwarf planet.  What you may not have heard is that far out beyond the orbit of Neptune, Pluto is joined by 8 or 9 other objects just as big.  The Solar System has gotten bigger, not smaller.   This book is not suspenseful, but it sure gives you a peek at what a dedicated scientist goes through to make discoveries – discoveries that may capture the imagination of the next generation of school kids.

Climate Change: Picturing the Science, by Gavin Schmidt.

When you read about retreating glaciers, sinking villages on the Arctic tundra, and drying lakes, there won’t be any doubt in your mind about climate change.  This book is extremely well illustrated .  You’ll enjoy it.

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards, by Jay Feldman. 

You’ve heard of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.  But you probably didn’t know that the most devastating series of earthquakes in American history rocked Missouri for 3 months in 1811-1812.  This book has so much history in it!   It tells of the noble character of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, the daring and successful steamboat trip to New Orleans by the inventor Nicholas Roosevelt, and lots more.  This book will inform and amaze you.

5 Great Things and 5 Not So Great Things About America

5 Great Things About America:

ONE.  Every 4 to 8 years we have a peaceful transition of government.  People in power leave voluntarily, and new people move in.  Many world historians consider this a miracle.

TWO.  We can travel from state-to-state whenever we want, without having to show a passport or papers of any kind. We can cross the whole country without interference.   We take this for granted, but over the course of history, the freedom we enjoy is unusual, and we should treasure it.

THREE.  Anywhere you go in our country, you can go into a restaurant and be pretty confident that it is safe and sanitary.  Why?  Because every state has a Health Department that sees that restaurants live up to health standards, that’s why.   So, some of our tax money really works, doesn’t it?

FOUR.  We have a great collection of colleges and universities – the best in the world.  Our universities do innovative research in physics, medicine, environmental studies, and technology.  If knowledge eventually saves our world civilization, much of that knowledge will have been gained right here in the USA.

FIVE.  Our civilization does best when there are frontiers.  We have two frontiers left: the ocean depths and outer space.  The USA is the world’s best space-faring nation.  Right now we have a rover named “Curiosity” studying the planet Mars. 

5 Not-So-Great Things About America:

ONE.  We have a democratic system, but it’s broken.  One way it’s broken is that candidates for office spend their time slamming one another.  Or, they’re hurling around catch phrases and generalizations.  They do not do what they are supposed to, which is tell us their vision for America’s future and specifically how and why their proposed policies will get us there.

TWO.  We are much too legalistic.  There are too many lawyers running the show.  We have to sign contracts for everything we do – contracts that are too long to read and too obscure to understand.  Instead of working things out like reasonable people, we’re always in court.

THREE.   We don’t have our eye on the ball.  Most Americans are so busy watching sports, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars or American Idol, or are busy planning weddings or showers, that we don’t know what’s going on socially, economically or politically.  It’s just like during the decline of the Roman Empire.  They called it “Bread and Circuses” then, and it looks like that’s what we’ve got again today. 

FOUR.   The next generation is getting fat and out-of-shape.  The New England Journal of Medicine reports that among today’s 5-10-year-olds, sixty percent of them have at least one risk factor for eventual heart disease (too many video games and too much junk food).

FIVE.   RAP and Hip-Hop.  I used to think that they’d never come up with a style of popular music that I couldn’t stand.  I was wrong.