Archives for category: Linda Cannon

photoarkWow! Hundreds of amazing photographs fill the pages of The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals by Joel Sartore from the fine folks at National Geographic. Sartore has spent most of the last decade travelling around the world to zoos, wildlife centers, private homes and wherever animals live under human care to photograph as many species as he can. So far, that’s over 6,000 species, several hundred of which are included here. He is the founder of National Geographic’s Photo Ark which hopes to add photos of every species under human care to its archive. In his introductory essay, Douglas Chadwick (wildlife biologist and journalist) points out that while Earth’s human population nearly doubled from 3.7 billion in 1970 to 7.5 billion now, during that same time, the number of large land animals fell by half. Ninety percent of the living land animals today are humans and their livestock. Fifty-nine percent of all large (over 33 pounds) and sixty percent of herbivores over 220 pounds are officially threatened with extinction. If pollution and other effects of human existence do not change, one-third of all species could be gone by 2100. Aside from the awful statistics and anxieties about extinctions and ecological disaster, it’s a lovely essay about biodiversity and what makes it a good thing, including how beautiful and interesting so many animals of all sorts are.

In his own essay, Sartore explains the genesis of the Photo Ark project. His wife was diagnosed with breast cancer which caused him to take stock of his life and work as well as to try to figure out what he could do for work while staying close to home (as he normally travelled for months at a time to find animals in remote locations to photograph). He decided to do something worthwhile—photographing as many endangered animals as he could—as well as work that would not require such long trips, which made zoos and the like great places to work. He began his photo ark with a naked mole rat at the Lincoln (Nebraska) Children’s Zoo, a mile from his home. His wife has recovered, and his work continues. He plans to photograph all 12,000+ captive species over the next 15 years, making this a 25-year project.

The animals are photographed in front of either black or white paper backgrounds in studio portrait style and the layouts vary, but are carefully thought out. For instance, in Chapter One (Mirrors), one page might be a bird with various shades of blue plumage while the facing page is a similarly colored butterfly, or a praying mantis on one side with an arctic fox on the other, both with their heads cocked or a giant deep-sea roach appearing to face off with a very similarly shaped Southern three-banded armadillo.  Chapter Two (Partners) features either photos of paired/grouped animals (breeding pairs or friends or littermates, mother and cub and whatnot) or opposite pages of “birds and bees” or “owl and pussycat” and so on. Chapter Three (Opposites) focuses on the unlike or antagonistic (snail and cheetah, Siamese fighting fish, a tiny katydid and a huge stick insect, etc.). “Curiosities” are featured in Chapter Four, your echidnas, platypuses, tarsiers, and other unusual animals along with strangely posed animals or pairings. Finally, Chapter Five presents “Stories of Hope.” Animals like the Bali mynah, rescued by a captive breeding program and re-introduced to the wild or our own Kirtland’s warbler, the rarest songbird in North America. A happy accident (a controlled fire that got out of hand) enabled scientists (in cooperation with nature) to reclaim the habitat necessary for their survival. The birds only nest in 10-foot tall or shorter Jack pines and, given those again via fire and plantings, are now making a comeback. Golden Lion tamarins are being bred in captivity and released to the wild in a repopulation effort that appears to be paying off. By the way, their “cousins”, the cotton-top tamarin, are the focus of Springfield’s Dickinson Park Zoo’s Proyecto Titi, a conservation effort to help preserve it, one of the most endangered primates in the wild.

Each photo is captioned with the animal’s species and its level of existential threat according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. So, EX equals extinct, EW is extinct in the wild, CR is critically endangered, EN is endangered, VU stands for vulnerable, NT is near threatened, LC means least concern, DD indicates data deficient, and NE means not evaluated.

There are a few scattered pages of “behind the scenes” looks at some of the photo shoots, capturing some of the methodology used in getting these extraordinary photos. Also distributed throughout are several “heroes” who have dedicated themselves to assorted conservation efforts, including raptor recovery, endangered primates, extinct in the wild pheasants, and others. The book concludes with an index of the animals photographed including the zoo or other center where the animal was photographed along with their web address.

Open to any random page and enjoy and, to cap it off, learn a bit about conservation efforts and why we need them.

 

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gardenAbout a year after I started working at the library, Courtney Dermott joined our staff, working alongside me in our Circulation Department. I enjoyed her company here for the next nine years or so until her retirement. More recently, Courtney was on our Library Board of Directors, last serving as President. Sadly, Courtney recently died, leaving many bereft. She will be missed. Courtney would be happy to know that several of her friends and club mates have remembered her with Memorial Gifts to the library. You may not be aware that we buy materials in honor or memory of people (and organizations). We will select and purchase items that friends or loved ones feel would be suitable to memorialize a loved one or honor someone’s birthday, anniversary, graduation, or other event. Included in those recent memorial purchases is the title I’m reviewing this week, Native Plants of the Midwest: A Comprehensive Guide to t he Best 500 Species for the Garden by Alan Branhagen, which the Garden Club purchased in her memory.

This is a terrific book, lots of beautiful photos of all the plants included as well as full descriptions and information on how to grow them, where to use them in the landscape and their ornamental attributes. All that comes after the first eighty pages or so which delve into the whys and wherefores of using native plants as well as inspirations for design and selecting the right plant for the right location and use.

You may well be tempted to skip over those first pages and jump right into the plants themselves, which are broken up into numerous divisions, including shade trees, evergreen trees, small trees and large shrubs, vines, prairie perennials, woodland perennials, groundcovers and more. Many, if not most, of the plants listed were at least somewhat familiar to me, but there were quite a few I had never encountered before that I can recall, although most of those are plants I would not normally encounter in life or reading as they are succulents (which I generally don’t care for) or plants that only grow in specialized environments (like bogs, which I have never had a need to find plants for).

I was amazed at how many plants we now grow in our gardens are, in fact, native, given that for many years gardeners preferred to garden with mostly European and Asian plants as they were considered more interesting and exciting. More recently, interest in native plants has grown because people are more aware of the effect on the ecosystem (growing natives provides food and shelter for all kinds of animal life, including butterflies and birds) and that plants that evolved in a given climate and soil, etc. are better fitted to thrive there. Himalayan poppies, for example, are beautiful and one of the few truly blue flowers, but they don’t like it in the Midwest. The native blue eyed grass, on the other hand, while not as showy does have some truly blue selections and is allegedly relatively easy to grow from seed although it does not transplant well. Pitcher’s sage (salvia azurea) is also quite blue and much easier to grow and widely popular with bees and other pollinators (as well as pretty adaptable and easy to grow).

So, if you are interested in familiarizing yourself with a wide variety of really good native choices for your garden, now’s the time to start planning for spring with this beautiful and informative book, among many gardening books to be found at the Joplin Public Library.

index-aspxEver find yourself in a situation where you have to talk to strangers? Not good at small talk? Want to feel more up to snuff watching the pundits on the news? Just like stuffing your head with bits and pieces of information that might be useful or interesting? Have I got a book for you! The Intelligent Conversationalist: 31 Cheat Sheets that will Show You How to Talk to Anyone About Anything, Anytime by Imogen Lloyd Webber has it all covered. Nearly  400 pages chock a block with info from language to math to religion to politics, history and more. Need a gloss on major religions of the world? Got it. Refresher on American history and presidents? Right there. Who were the Axis and Allied powers in World War II? Oh, yeah, them. And what’s up with the Electoral College, anyway?

Each cheat sheet begins with either a few paragraphs or pages on the subject or a handy grid with terms and explications of the terms and ends with how to argue the point covered, a “crisp fact” (a neat bit of trivia on the subject) and a “pivot” (a handy question or statement to move things away from the current discussion). Some cheat sheets have Red Flags to watch out for, like things that are just either way too controversial or way too well known. Nothing like a nice batch of eye rolls from your audience when you spout off with something that “everybody knows.”  There’s a nice little section on British slang (the author’s a Brit, which helps explain Chapter 15, which consists entirely of a huge grid of the kings and queens of England since 1066, covering 27 pages. Here’s an entry on Edward II to show the sort of info (and writing style) you’ll find: “Qualifications—Son of Edward I. He was created the first Prince of Wales in 1301. Quirks—Edward II was deposed by his wife Isabella (Phillip IV of France’s daughter) and her amour Roger Mortimer. Edward II gave up his crown to Edward III. Edward II was later murdered at Berkeley Castle. Notable Feats/Fiascos—Into favorites, most famously Piers Gaveston and Hugh le Despenser. Edward II was inept. Cue the barons getting very irritated. He also was defeated by Scot Robert the Bruce in 1314 at Bannockburn, which did nothing for his popularity.”

For readers more interested in modern history, there’s a cheat sheet on Middle Eastern history, twenty-odd pages of info about the most unsettled part of the globe and how it got that way. The Pivot question on this section, by the way, is “Qatar won the bid to be the first Arab country to host the FIFA World Cup in 2020. Are you a soccer fan?” How’s that for a change of subject?

Feeling a little uninformed about culture? Have a gander at cheat sheets 27 (authors you need to know about), 28 (artists), and 29 (composers) while Chapter 30 gets you a smattering of theater information.

The writing is all most definitely in the snarky British humor vein, and the politics are noticeably left-leaning. If you like that, it’s a big winner. If not, maybe you can overlook that and just enjoy buffing up for your next trivia contest or become a couch champion watching Jeopardy.

Every four years, when the presidentialout race rolls around, folks say “If (fill in the blank) wins, I’m moving to Canada!” Or maybe Bolivia, or “anywhere but here.” With that in mind, we recently ordered the latest edition of Getting Out: your guide to leaving America. For many reasons, I’m not going anywhere, but I thought it would be interesting to have a look and indeed, it was. After some introductory info about how the book came about and who it’s intended for, the meat and potatoes appear. First a section on different sorts of visas as well as gaining foreign citizenship (which is usually pretty difficult unless you marry a native or have oodles of money). After that, different methods of supporting yourself overseas, including the Peace Corps (if you don’t mind going wherever they send you) and other volunteer organizations, retirement, working for the U.S. government, entrepreneurship, etc.

The next section is the largest and, to me, the most interesting.  Lots and lots of info on different countries, including which ones speak English, which ones are least/most expensive, how corrupt the governments and police are generally, who has good/bad infrastructure including roads and internet, where crime is high or low, etc. Interspersed all along the way are bits of info from expatriates who have relocated to lots of different places. Some of them are really eye-opening, but mostly they boil down to “remember it’s not the U.S. and you’ll be happier.” Some people really like their new homes, whether temporary or permanent, while others put up with various issues simply to live where it’s cheaper or more aligned with their worldview or because their spouse is native and they accompanied them home.

After the general information on statistics and culture, we finally come to the country by country list of places you might consider and a short list of places not to consider (Somalia, Chad, Haiti, Sudan and a few other notable places best avoided). For each of the sixty countries listed, there’s an info box about climate, form of government, population, currency, major languages and religious groups, ethnic groups and a comparative cost of living. That’s followed by a overview of “living there” including a bit more on governance, quality of infrastructure and internet, healthcare cost and quality, how likely it is that you might be able to work there, the tax situation, and a bit about crime, whether or not you can buy real estate, and whether abortion is permitted as well as gun control and marijuana laws. Something I found a bit troubling in spots is the snippet on “Women’s Issues.” While it’s certainly worth knowing if you might be taking yourself (or your wife or daughter) to someplace rife with sexual harassment, I think that stating “Domestic violence is a problem in Aboriginal communities” in Australia seems to imply that the European descended folks are all peaceable and well-behaved.  The section on “Moving There” goes a bit more deeply into who can/can’t take up residence in the country. Sadly, just about anywhere I would consider going won’t take me unless I win a sweepstakes or lottery (and I’d need to anyway in order to afford the cost of living in those places).

By the way, if you’re interested in high-tailing it out of the country to avoid the long arm of the law, there’s a list of countries with no extradition treaty with the U.S. The book concludes with a section on web resources for up-to-date and more in-depth information for those who are more than merely curious about becoming an expat. At any rate, whether merely curious or itching to get overseas, you’ll find plenty to inform yourself with here.

I was a little disappointed when I first glanced at Simply scratch : 120 wholesome homemade recipes made easy by Laurie McNamara only because I had thought perhaps it was going to be a book on preparing things for the pantry for later use. Well, there’s some of that, but not as much as I had expected. Her stated goal is to get back to basics, cooking like her mother did, making healthy food with ingredients she could pronounce. In 2010, feeling she had gotten a firm grip on cooking just about everything from scratch, she started a blog, Simply Scratch, devoted to “from scratch” cooking. This cookbook is a compilation of some of the best advice and recipes she has shared online so far.

Chapter One, “Basics,” covers what McNamara thinks we all should have in our kitchens, from three kinds of flour to 3 kinds of solid fats and various oils and applesauce (which she uses to replace fat in some baked goods). Next up, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, citrus fruits, and onions and garlic. These cover all the day-to-day staple ingredients and are followed by tools and equipment she finds indispensable, like a garlic press, box grater, kitchen scale, mesh strainers, etc.  She doesn’t eschew power equipment—food processors and blenders make the list, as well. She includes a rice cooker, acknowledging that lots of people can prepare rice without one, but she isn’t among them. There are also some basic and frequently used techniques outlined here. Aside from her enthusiasm for various vinegars, which I do not share, everything here seems right on track for those trying to get back to basics or just beginning to find their way around the kitchen.

Next comes the “Basics from Scratch” chapter which, again, I had thought would be the bulk of the book. There are some very good sounding (haven’t made any of these) recipes for mayonnaise and aiolis, ketchup and barbecue sauce, three pestos, six seasoning blends and chicken and vegetable broths. What caught my eye, though, having become rather more a “convenience” cook in my later years, are the recipes for “from scratch” creams of mushroom and chicken soups intended as ingredients in casseroles, etc. with each recipe making one “can” of soup. Both are essentially light veloutes (soups made with dairy and stock) and sound reasonably time-effective, particularly if you made double or triple batches and portioned and froze the extras for later use, although the recipes don’t mention that.

The next chapters include baking (including making your own seasoned bread crumbs and graham crackers); a slew of sauces, dressings and dips; breakfast/brunch foods;  soups, salads, and sandwiches including a chicken chili and a lentil salad; a nice selection of side dishes, including glazed carrots, parsnip fries, a broccoli cheddar gratin, twice baked sweet potatoes, a “fried rice” style farro,  and some yummy sounding baked beans.

The next chapter covers mostly meat-based main dishes including a very nice looking baked chicken dish using dark meat pieces, chicken and rolled dumplings, a turkey meat loaf, skirt steak fajitas, spaghetti and meatballs, and a cottage pie.

The book wraps up with, naturally, a chapter on desserts leading off with a fabulous sounding fudgy chocolate toffee-topped brownie which I fully intend to try. There are also mini French coconut tarts, a Mississippi mud pie (really a sheet cake that I remember from my youth), and a glazed butter rum bundt cake that sounds just right for the holidays.

All in all, not perhaps exactly what I anticipated, but a very sound collection of recipes truly made from scratch, with nary a processed box or can in sight and I think most of us could use a bit more of that in our kitchens. Stop by the library and check out this (or one of our other nearly 1,000 cookbooks) for your reading (and perhaps cooking) pleasure.

It never ceases to amaze me that every other day, it seems, there’s a new story in the media about something being bad for you. Or good. Sometimes the same thing is bad one day and good next time you hear about it (or vice versa). So, I was eager to check out a clever flip-over book, Bad News About What’s Good for You/Good News About What’s Bad for You by Jeff Wilser. Wilser writes mostly for magazines but has four books to his credit as well. This one combines two of my favorite things: information and humor.

How can it be that coffee/wine/nuts/fat/you-name-it is bad for you? No, wait, good for you? No, wait. . . A lot of it can be explained by the simple fact that television and radio outlets are constantly on the alert for “the latest thing” to grab our attention. Unfortunately, it seems that the two best ways to grab our attention are one, fear and two, easy answers. So, if they can scare you with “how coffee is killing you,” works for them. If, a month or two later, they can tout “drinking three cups of coffee a day cures everything that ails you,” there you go. So, easy enough to understand the motivation behind the good for you/bad for you “news” cycling constantly, but how do they make the claims? Our old friend statistics.

As Disraeli (according to Mark Twain) said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Other books I’ve read (like Freakonomics and its kin and the previously reviewed Less Medicine, More Health have opened my eyes to the ways that data can be twisted like a pretzel to make a point, whether it’s valid or not. There’s a lot of that going on with the good/bad information out there. Small, sometimes tiny, studies are used as proof that something is good or bad, never mind that only 100 cases were looked at. Failure to account for other factors shows up a lot. Maybe the fact that people who floss regularly have better health is tied, not so much to flossing, but to those who floss regularly also being higher on the socioeconomic scale and able to afford better food. Or maybe flossers also tend to have something else in common which improves their health like eating less sugar to avoid dental decay. At any rate, there’s a lot of bad science out there being used to persuade us to eat/do one thing or avoid another.

So, you say, could you be specific? What’s good/bad/who-knows-which for you? Let’s take the aforementioned coffee. For years, we were warned against coffee, particularly the pernicious caffeine it contains. Heaven knows why coffee/caffeine was so condemned since, it turns out, that coffee (in reasonable amounts, mind you) can have some really positive health effects. Lowering the incidence of oral cancer and Type II diabetes, improving long-term memory, and an overall decrease of 10% in death rates. Wow! Sounds pretty good! Well, at least until the next study comes out.

On the other side, how about something we all know is good for us? Stepping away from food (hard as that may be for me), we’ll look at something I’ve read about in the aforementioned Less Medicine, More Health. The we-all-know-it’s-best annual physical. Weren’t we all taught in health class in school that we should all get an annual physical? It’s the “gold standard” of health care, right? Catch it early, get it fixed in the best case. Worst case? Spending a few dollars and a little time to find out nothing’s wrong, right? Well. . . Not so fast. There can be distinct downsides to annual physicals and arrays of tests. False positives lead to unnecessary tests and treatments that can cause real harm in addition to simple unnecessary worry. I’m not saying (nor is the author or any responsible party) that you should never see a doctor. If you have symptoms or a family history that warrants concern, by all means seek medical advice and help. If, on the other hand, you live healthily, feel well, have no symptoms and no genetic predispositions to worry about, take the annual physical off your to-do list. Or not. Maybe next week there will be a study proving that annual physicals would save 100,000 lives a year. I guess we’ll just have to wait and watch the news.

Well-written, informative and amusing, I recommend Bad News/Good News to get the info on kale, red wine, yoga, procrastination and apologizing and a plethora of other things that are bad for you. Or good.

 

NovelistRoss McCammon is a senior editor at “Esquire” magazine and he has written a useful (and amusing) guide to getting ahead in the workplace. While “” is primarily directed at upscale office professionals, anyone should find a useful tip or two. I’d recommend this to anyone starting out in the working world and anyone who just thinks “I’m missing something here,” at work.

McCammon illustrates most of his points with tales from his own past, cutting himself little slack. Yup, he’s made some boneheaded moves in the past, but he’s got an excellent handle on things now and is eager to share so that others can avoid embarrassing themselves and/or placing their careers in jeopardy.

Sprinkled among the anecdotes of “how I did this wrong and how you can do it better” are a number of alleged quizzes. I say alleged because they are almost entirely tongue-in-cheek, although some may provoke an “A-ha” moment or nod of recognition.

There are fifty-two short chapters, mostly two or three pages, including “Classic Interview Rules, Plus One More,” “How to Enter a Room, ”What to Say When Someone Asks for Your Take on the Oeuvre of Werner Herzog at Dinner with Your Brand-New Colleagues and You Don’t Know Who Werner Herzog Is,” “Why Strident Postures on Social Media Are, at the End of the Day, Probably a Bad Idea—Especially If You’re Looking for a Job,” ”How to Give a Toast,” followed immediately by “Things You Should Never Say While Giving a Toast.” The titles give an excellent idea of the flavor of the book. If this sort of humor appeals to you, you’re in for a treat. If you don’t care for smart-alecky humor, you won’t enjoy the book nearly as much as I did, but you could still find some helpful advice.

Here, in its entirely, is Chapter 49, “Two Beers and a Puppy: A Helpful Test for Determining How You Feel About Someone.” “Two beers and a puppy” is a test that I developed while working on an “Esquire” story on the American “son of a bitch.” The test is: In order to find out how you actually feel about someone, ask yourself, “Would I have two beers with this person? And: “Would I allow this person to look after my puppy over a weekend?”

Some people are no and no. These people are to be avoided at all costs. Some people are yes and no. These people are to be cautiously trusted. Some people are no and yes. These people are no fun but they make the world a better place—for puppies, especially. And some people are yes and yes. These people are wonderful people and your life and work are better for having them in your life. Seek them out. Collaborate with them. Enjoy their company.”

By the way, don’t skip the appendices (or the introduction, for that matter). More of McCammon’s useful and/or funny stuff here, including “How to Pronounce the Names of Scotches,” (useful if you’re a big-city business person, I’m sure) and “Rules I Never Got To,” which are one or two sentence rules that are funny and useful.

There is “adult” language here and there, and some of the humor is a bit strained, but I found it mostly humorous where intended and think it would be useful to anyone who has to work with others (which is pretty much all of us, one way or another). The library has both print and audiobook versions available.