Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Teaser Tuesday...to spark your interest in books!! Kevin Hearne-Iron Druid Series

Shattered by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 7) (Fantasy) NY Times Best Seller!

"Granuaile raised her hand. I have a problem with this plan to stab my father in the head and the heart!" (pg 66)

Hunted by Kevin Hearne (The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 6)

Atticus speaking: "Do you mean Pi, the mathematical symbol?"
Oberon the Irish Wolfhound: "< No, Atticus, I mean Shepherd's Pie. I'm not going to confuse that with math. Shepherd's Pie is delicious and desirable, math is not.> " (pg 67)

The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne have, for the most part, been an entertaining and fun series for reading. I just barely finished the 8th book in the series called “Staked”, and to me, it didn't seem as good as the other volumes. I got a bit bored with all the Norse mythology stuff being rehashed over and over again, could it be the author was struggling for ideas? (Not surprising after writing seven volumes about the same characters.) I just wanted to read about Atticus (the main character) and his latest adventures. I stopped reading “Staked” about 2/3 through and put it away for a few months, then I pulled it out again the other night and completely finished it within a few days. It's not my favorite one of the series but the story is still entertaining and witty. I will continue to be a fan of the author as he creates more adventures for these characters. The one unique thing about the latest book is that it bounced around between three main points of view- Atticus (main character and the one known as the iron druid) his female student and now a full druid Granuaile, and Owen, Attticus' old druid master who was rescued from being trapped in time. It is an interesting story telling device having the three points of view, it also was sometimes a bit confusing. I can't say if I liked the technique or not yet, I am reserving judgment on that for now. Throughout the series there have always been parts of the story including “conversations” between Atticus and his dog (and the dogs point of view), these are some of the best parts of all the books. Oberon, the Irish Wolf Hound is the dog, he is one of the characters I love in this series.
A man with his Irish Wolfhound.
Author Kevin Hearne

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Teaser Tuesdays- To Spark Your Interest in Books of All Kinds!!

Notes to Myself (My struggle to become a person) by Hugh Prather (self-help, philosophy) (1970, 1983)

"All I want is for you to accept me as I am."
"Yes, and all I want is for you to accept my not accepting you."

A small volume that takes the reader on a ride of introspection. Interesting and inspiring, good for pondering, mindful. These are collected thoughts from the author's journal. Lends itself well to reading in bits and pieces, thoughts about oneself, handling life, relationships, human emotions. Put together in an unusual format with no page numbers.

Next time I will ..."
"From now on I will ..."
- What makes me think I am wiser today than I will be tomorrow?”

Now that I know that I am no wiser than anyone else, does this wisdom make me wiser?”
Hugh Prather, Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person

The author was a lay minister, author of self-help books, and a counselor. The book had sold over 5 million copies and has been translated into 10 languages. Prather died of a heat-attack in 2010 in his Arizona home.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Teaser Tuesdays...to spark your interest in books!

Never Argue with a Dead Person by Thomas John (Manhattan medium)
True and unbelievable stories from the other side.

Quotes from the book:

"A quizzical look on my face must have betrayed my thoughts as Detective Caprini immediately answered the question I asked only in my mind." 

" She hung herself. Nasty scene; we've been at her penthouse since 3:00 this morning..."
"So what is it that you do?" The taller cop asked..."I talk to spirit people...I channeled her son."

This book is written by a man who is known as a medium, he has the ability to channel, and communicate with the dead. The stories are heartwarming especially since they usually bring comfort and some closure to people that have lost a loved one. I do believe in life after death and it
is helpful to me to know that our loved ones are not gone forever from us when they go from one form of existence to another. While I have never really 'talked' to a dead person, I have had a few choice dreams where I have been in dreamland, with people I have known, that were deceased and do get “impressions” from people and places. I think some persons have special spiritual/supernatural gifts that may allow them to communicate with people after death. There are many examples of spiritual gifts and supernatural things in the Bible, burning bushes, heavenly manna, miracles of preservation (think Daniel in the lions den) and healing (Christ), banishing devils into swine, prophecy being pronounced and then fulfilled.

To me, mediumship seems to be a part of what we are as spiritual beings sojourning on earth, some people just have more developed spiritual senses than others. But this type of thing seems to be frowned upon by a lot of religions and is sometimes called evil. Maybe one reason it is not encouraged is that it may show a lack of faith and that one is not trusting in God by wanting to communicate with a person who has moved to the next spiritual realm, even though you do believe in it. These are the thoughts that clutter my mind when I consider mediums, or those called clairvoyant, because I am certainly curious about the afterlife, like I am sure many other people are.
Faith and actually knowing are not the same thing, which reminded me of a scripture:
Hebrews 11:1 (King James Version of the Bible)

 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Your thoughts??

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Nautilus - Pretty Shell, Aqua-Propelled...

The Nautilus - Pretty Shell, 
amazing nautical creature.

The Nautilus is part of a family of sea creatures which have seemingly made their way into today's oceans from a rift in time. It is the only remaining member of the family Nautilaceae, they look like they have for millions of years and have even been called 'living fossils', because they have existed in the ocean since the dinosaurs. In fact, they have existed longer than the dinosaurs but are not extinct. Scientists have used fossil data to determine that this species has not changed significantly in millions of years.

The nautilus is considered a marine mollusc, this is a category of marine animals that do not possess a backbone. They are also in a category of marine animals known as Cephalopods, characterized by a large head and including arms or tentacles (meaning head-foot). Other examples of cephalopods include octopi, squid, and cuttlefish. They also have bilateral symmetry, which means if you chopped them in half, the halves would be mirror images of each other. Another characteristic of cephalopods is that their blood contains hemocyanin, a protein that carries oxygen to their body tissues. Hemocyanin is blue colored when it contains oxygen (the opposite of people, where the protein hemoglobin is red when carrying oxygen). No other cephalopod has an external shell except the nautilus and it can hide completely in its shell if it needs to.

Nautilidae are protected by smooth, whorled shells which shield their soft bodies from predators. Like other cephalopods, the nautilus has lots of tentacles but it has even more of them, up to 90! Their tentacles are retractable and they do not have little suckers on them like an octopus does, instead they have grooves for gripping. There are two small tentacles by the eye of the nautilus that are used for smell, this is the main way they find their food. The nautilus has a parrot-like beak with specialized teeth which is used to scrape food off of rocks and to help crush and shred their scavenged meals, which include the discarded shells of lobsters and hermit crabs; but nautiluses will also eat just about any discarded carrion they come across. The nautilus has a four-chambered heart and arteries and veins, it has nervous tissue but scientists do not believe it has a brain. Though scientists once believed that these ancient creatures had very limited intelligence, studies now show the presence of memory and an ability to improvise and change behavior relative to changing stimuli. Most species of nautilus are about 8 inches in diameter (20cm), but one particular dwarf species has a shell averaging 115mm, about 4.5 inches. 

The chambers inside a nautilus.

Nautiluses have a unique shell that can withstand ocean pressure to a depth of about 800 meters (2600ft). The shell is composed of two layers, a shiny inside and a flat white with brownish stripes outside. The shell is divided into chambers. As the nautilus grows it creates new larger chambers to grow into and seals off the older, smaller, chambers as it moves out, these chambers aid the nautilus with buoyancy. A newly hatched baby nautilus starts out with a four chambered shell and as it grows its shell can contain 30 or more chambers by the time it is mature.

If you look at a shark or an orca whale from above and below you can see that it is camouflaged to blend in well with its environment. Animals having darker markings on the top and white or lighter markings on the bottom to help them blend in are said to have counter-shading. The nautilus also uses counter-shading. When viewed from above the darker markings on the top of the shell help it blend in with the darker ocean water. When viewed from below, the white underside helps the animal blend in because it is viewed towards the lighter, sun touched, surface of the water. Cool!  

countershading on a nautilus


Nautiluses "swim" in an amazing way, using a complex inner plumbing system with siphons, they draw water into and out of their shells, propelling them forward, up or down, a bit like a submarine filling or emptying its dive tanks. Nautiluses do not suffer from the bends and can raise and lower themselves quickly in the water without pressure damage.

The nautilus is difficult to raise in captivity and in the wild their eggs can take up to a year to hatch. They are a creature that matures late in life, up to 15 years and they only live about 20 years, so they reproduce slowly. They live in the Asian and Australian regions of the ocean, on the deep slopes of coral reefs and they like cooler water, only surfacing to warmer, shallower regions of water at night to feed. These interesting creatures are hunted for their beautiful shells and the meat is used as food. The inner shell is sought after for its iridescent beauty called 'mother of pearl'.


There have not been any regulations regarding the hunting of the nautilus and there were concerns that they were becoming endangered as a species from over hunting. As I was writing this article I found out that on October 3, 2016, a proposal to protect the nautilus was approved by CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) at a meeting in South Africa, now the nautilus will hopefully be a bit more protected. I think the nautilus is a beautiful and fascinating creature and I had to cut a lot of information out from the research I did for this article to make it a manageable length, because I realize not everybody will be as enamored of it as I am, but I wanted to share some interesting facts about this wonderful creature.

USFish and Wildlife.gov
Aquarium of the pacific.org
(National Aquarium) Aqua.org

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Teaser Tuesday...Sparking your interest in books!

Anthem by Ayn Rand 1938 (Science Fiction)
"There is fear hanging in the air of the sleeping halls, and in the air of the streets. Fear walks through the city, fear without name, without shape. All men feel it and none dare to speak." (pg 46)

I had a literature class in my senior year of High School entitled “Utopian Literature”. We read things like Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and had great discussions in class. I don't remember much about The Fountainhead, but that class really got me interested in the subject of Utopian and Dystopian literature because of the interesting explorations of political and social organization that the books explored.

I like to frequent thrift stores just to check out the books. It's like a little bit of heaven to me to spend an hour rummaging through the stacks to see what I can find. I always found a few copies of Anthem, every time I went to look at the books. Finally, I purchased a copy of Anthem for myself and proceeded to read the slim volume. This book is disturbing and odd. Something that might be better enjoyed with a group of readers you can discuss it with. I'm not sure what to make of it.

Author Ayn Rand was controversial then and continues to be so now. She did not worship at the altar of political correctness, in fact she rallied against it. She grew up in the Soviet Union, at a time when collectivism and statism were King and individualism was scorned. She proceeded to give her strong opinions on the subject back in the 1930's. Anthem was published in 1938. I wonder if any public high school would even dare to have her books on their reading lists now, it might offend someone or cause a riot!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Teaser Tuesdays- Sparking your interest in Books...

Quotes from books actually on my shelves.....

The Furies by John Jakes (Book 4 of the Kent Family Chronicles, Historical Fiction about the founding and shaping of America as a nation. Eight volumes all together, listed here in order: The Bastard, The Rebels, The Seekers, The Furies, The Titans, The Warriors, The Lawless, The Americans.)

Quote from The Furies:"Instead, he'd wrecked her customary composure with the one thing capable of doing that- the past; the past she constantly picked over so the wound could never heal." (pg 179)

In book one, the illegitimate son of a nobleman who is refused his birthright travels to London where he learns the printing trade and admires the statesmanship of Benjamin Franklin. He decides
to leave England and start a new life in America. The series follows the Kent Family as they live through exciting historical periods in U.S. History. John Jakes has also written the North and South Trilogy, and the Crown Family Saga. The books have been dramatized in movie production miniseries.

The Kent Family Chronicles

From left, Andrew Stevens, Gwen Humble, William Shatner and Don Johnson (wielding flintlock) in the 1978-79 mini-series “The Kent Family Chronicles”.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Working for a Living!

A friend of mine had a post on Facebook and it said "List the first seven jobs you ever had". So that made some wheels turn in my head and I started making a list of all the jobs I've ever had and remembering the good and not so good times all those thoughts dredged up in my brain. 

I made a list going forward from my very first job as a babysitter to the job I have now as a Medical Technologist specializing in Microbiology. Then I made the list backwards- from my job now back in time to my first job and realized I forgot a few jobs along the way and corrected my list. All in all, it was an entertaining cerebral exercise that put me in the mood to write about it. I've done everything from scrub the toilets in the men's bathroom to teach medical students the joys of gram staining bacteria, and a lot of things in between. There are so many good ideas for spin off writing here from debating the minimum wage to discussing why schools seem to be failing, and all from thinking about the various employment situations I've had since I was a teenager. Play along with me and spend a bit of time thinking about the different jobs you have had in your life.

Here is my bare bones list: Chronologically from the past until the present day...

Retail Store Clerk (Department Store)
Fast Food cook and cashier
Library Attendant
Retail Store Clerk (Clothing Store)
Cafeteria Employee
Avon Salesperson
Fast Food cashier and chief restroom cleaner (graveyard)
Retail Store Clerk, display designer and depositor of bank funds at night (Clothing Store)
Retail Store Clerk- Aquatics (Pet Store)
Medical Courier
Medical Laboratory Technician and Phlebotomist
Medical Technologist Generalist
Medical Technologist/Teaching Technologist/Laboratory Coordinator
Community College/Applied Technology College Instructor
Medical Technologist Blood Bank
Substitute Teacher K-12
Special Education Teacher's Aide (Junior High)
Science, Honor's Science, and Art Teacher (Junior High)
Medical Technologist/Microbiologist 

Great guitar solo by Chris Hayes, live performance with Tower of Power Horns.
Basically from this list, my one sentence explanation of my employment experiences is: "I am a 'scientific labbie type who does not mind being with people", this appears to be a contradiction since most people loving types are not scientific types and most science nerds are not all that social. So I guess I am the embodiment of an oxymoron or maybe I am an oxymoron? Oh well, I have always felt dual pulls from the scientific side of me and the artistic side of me. I have expressed each side at different times in my life-such as when I started college wanting to be a laboratory scientist, then changed my major to Interior Design. I finished up the design program and then went back to college a few years later to finish becoming a lab scientist. I finally "found myself", in the lab, but continued to express my creative side through sewing other handicrafts. 

When I taught junior high it was the perfect juxtaposition of science self and my artsy self and I loved being able to express both sides of me each and every day through the teaching I did. The downside was that when I opened my mouth to talk science to the other 'science teachers' I got a lot of blank stares because the majority of them had never been in a laboratory except for college Biology class. My educational philosophy is not reconstructionism, (IMHO public schools are over run with reconstructionists and that is part of why public education isn't as stellar as it may have been in the past- but that is another discussion all together), my philosophy is more essentialist\perenialist, as in reading, writing and rithmaticism, so I didn't exactly feel that I fit in where I was.

If you had to sum up your employment experiences in one sentence what would that sentence be?