City & the City Review

The City & the City, Miéville. Yes. This was my first ebook (from the library), which may have affected my experience somewhat, though not that I was able to detect. To get the editing complaints out of the way, there was a bad “whomever” that probably would have been on the first page of the paper volume. Later, there was a bad “whoever”, which doesn’t quite make up for it, and a “these kind”, which I believe I’ve never encountered before in an edited work. Finally, there were a number of places where hyphens were used where em dashes would have been appropriate, including at least one instance of an appositive set off by an em dash at the beginning and a hyphen at the end.
The story itself was adequately intriguing, with an unusual hook. Miéville drew out the explication of that hook just a little bit longer than was strictly called for, but it was not disqualifyingly long.

That Guy From That Thing

I finally saw The Hobbit (part one, my goodness!), and aside from enjoying it I also spent some time racking my brains over where I knew those actors from.
My conclusions:

That main hobbit: the dude from Sherlock, but not the main dude. Also Arthur Dent one time. Old version: in goddamn everything.
Pointy-hat man: Bad X Man
Main dwarf on quest (tall) (royal?): mill owner in that Industrial Revolution romantic miniseries Joan said I should watch. Also the Vicar of Dibley’s dream man.
Sexy Dwarf #2: The vampire from that UK show where the werewolf had stickey-outey ears and the ghost always wore that nice belted cardigan.
Main Elf: bad dude from Matrix, good dude from Priscilla.
White-hair wizard: bad dude in everything, often a vampire.
Poop-stained wizard: time travel guy with question-mark umbrella.
Main fat goblin: Dame Edna, cast against type!
Elf that welcomed everybody to elf town: Flight of the Conchords guy!!!!

Everyone else did a guest role on Xena: Warrior Princess because, you know, New Zealand.

A less-snarky take on Bastyr

A previous post on a continuing education course on cadaver anatomy at Bastyr University came off as too snarky, perhaps because it was too snarky (except to my core audience– hi, mom & dad!). Here’s a more thoughtful rewrite.

“1. No mention that you will be unlikely to find any physical structures in the body related to the flow of qi that is the entire premise of acupuncture.”
There are no physical or biological structures for the conducting of qi. Qi is unlike lymph, blood, and other circulation systems that might be studied in cadaver anatomy. I was referred to the Wikipedia article on Meridians, which has “each meridian corresponding to each organ; nourishing it and extending to an extremity.” This indicates, as I also understand the idea of acupuncture, that there is a flow of something vital to the body’s function through areas of the human body that are the same for everyone. The standard acupuncture points, meridians, and places through which this energy flows in the practice of acupuncture could certainly be indicated during the cadaver dissection process, but there would be no physical structures to be studied as a part of this, unlike other bodily systems which may require medical intervention, such as the digestive, pulmonary, or circulatory systems. In light of this, I wondered how cadaver anatomy could expand the future practitioner’s understanding of acupuncture.

“2. The instructor is a DVM!”
A sarcastic point, implying that perhaps this was as close as the institution could come to someone with a training in medical sciences. Bastyr does, in fact, have MDs on staff who could certainly teach an anatomy lab. I was wrong and I’m sure Dr. Love is perfectly competent in teaching, no matter her background.

“3. ‘Please note that Dr. Love is sensitive to your concerns about mortality and the body as a vessel of the spirit.’ Yep.”
This seemed to merely be a particularly flowery way of acknowledging that students may be creeped out and that this is ok. It is certainly ok, but brings up some of the problems involved in having a continuing education course marketed to, in addition to health care workers, “massage therapists, acupuncturists, yoga and Pilates instructors, [and] fitness trainers.” The only reason I became aware of this course is that a stack of Bastyr’s continuing education and evening courses for the general public is distributed to public buildings four times a year. Is this use of human tissue appropriate in the training of people unlikely to encounter or be able to influence physical structures aside from skin and muscle? Is it appropriate to advertise this class to the general public? I also (perhaps inappropriately) felt that this was implying a contrast to similar courses in other medical schools. They also treat the former person with respect. For the thoughtful and compassionate approach of many medical schools, take a look at Mary Roach’s excellent book Stiff.

“4. There is no herbal remedy for exposure to formaldehyde, so you’ll have to wear a respirator.”
Someone pointed out that there is no standard medical remedy for exposure to formaldehyde. Yes. This is true. I was, instead, hoping to highlight that there are not herbal remedies for everything. Actual physically measurable and testable ways to avoid exposure to harmful substances are far more effective. For most illnesses, when a safe and effective treatment is able to provide a full cure and recovery, the alternatives will (usually, but not always) melt away. Post antibiotics, there are far fewer ads for miracle cures for syphilis than in the early 1900s.

“anti-science”
While the alternative care modalities taught at Bastyr are not attempting to eliminate science-based medicine, they often operate in ways that are strikingly unlike it. Ancient medical systems (such as Traditional Chinese Medicine) and more recent American and European innovations (such as Naturopathy and herbal medicine) do not make an effort to change and improve with new evidence of effectiveness or patient injury as other areas of medicine do. The (always delightful) Mark Crislip has an excellent article on this difference. Science is willing to change its premises with new evidence and seeks that evidence constantly. Perhaps anti-science is an inappropriate label for the medicine taught at Bastyr, but science is as well. Does their coursework change as the evidence against each treatment mounts?

“The local alternative medicine college…”
This was interpreted as being a negative, but I only meant it to be descriptive. Bastyr is local and is a university of colleges.

For further reading, there is a helpful overview of the problematic nature of the clinical research on acupuncture at the Science Based Medicine Blog’s reference section.

I can become jokey about topics that make me uncomfortable. I am made quite uncomfortable by the money, effort, and lives spent by people hoping to help who are left with little more to offer than placebos. Many supporters of these modalities attempt to make themselves immune to change, immune to criticism, and immune to any evidence of being ineffective or causing harm. Alternative treatments can make both patients and practitioners feel good but there is a cost both financial and physical, even aside from the vicious or deluded who promise a cure to the incurable or to those with difficult treatment ahead.

November reading

Son, Lois Lowry
As the book jacket says, “The thrilling conclusion to The Giver,” it’s the fourth in the series and wraps up the plot lines from the previous books. Sort of. You know what happened to all the major characters, another village is introduced, and ROCK CLIMBING and TRAINING FOR ROCK CLIMBING are described in aggravating detail. But like the unsatisfying conclusion to a mysterious television show, not all questions are answered and one begins to wonder if there was any planning or forethought given to the series as a whole. Minor inconsistencies abound and I was left annoyed. Bah!

The lost cyclist : the epic tale of an American adventurer and his mysterious disappearance / David V. Herlihy.
When cycling was a booming trend and cycling clubs popped up everywhere, speed and endurance races were popular and frequent, there were also people making and breaking records for bicycling around the world. One guy made it halfway and then vanished. A cool story of almost insane adventuring and then a mystery with foreign-policy implications. Pretty fun.

Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan: the true story of how the iconic superhero battled the men of hate / by Rick Bowers.
The story of the radio show is almost overshadowed by the wonderful job Bowers does in giving background on Superman and the KKK– I don’t think I’ve read better. Really interesting and well-done.

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, Guy Delisle
Another great book of observation and art by Deslisle, well worth your time. He gets better and better, and as always his books should be required companions to current events.

Rebel in a Dress: Cowgirls, Sylvia Branzei, Melissa Sweet
Brief biographical sketches of cowgirls new and old emphasizing their bravery in challenging society’s limits on women. There were only a few of the women I had heard of before. There are some odd spots where non-military gunplay gets more of a heroic treatment than it usually gets in books for youth. Cool collage illustrations.

TeenBoat! The Angst of Being a Teen, The Thrill of Being a Boat!, Dave Roman and John Green
Light and fun, totally worth it. Good gags for grownups, too, like all the best comics and cartoons for kids.

In Conquest Born Review

In Conquest Born, Friedman. Yes. A book club recommendation, this first novel is somewhat longer than it needs to be, but the space opera struck me as worth the time. I was reminded of the Zelazny story “The Furies” by the sympathetic portrayal of (what might be expected to be) unsympathetic characters, though there was less unsympathetic portrayal of the sympathetic characters.

You can donate your body to anti-science?

The local alternative medicine college is offering a course on Basic Cadaver Anatomy, with a special focus on Acupuncture and Acupressure points. A few highlights (as if you needed them!)
1. No mention that you will be unlikely to find any physical structures in the body related to the flow of qi that is the entire premise of acupuncture.
2. The instructor is a DVM!
3. “Please note that Dr. Love is sensitive to your concerns about mortality and the body as a vessel of the spirit.” Yep.
4. There is no herbal remedy for exposure to formaldehyde, so you’ll have to wear a respirator.

October Reading

Darth Vader and Son, Jeffrey Brown
A gentle combination of Star Wars jokes and Having a Son jokes. Nothing groundbreaking, but nice.

Dead Mann Running, Stefan Petrucha
Sequel to Dead Mann Walking, it brings the creepy noir mystery and heart-pounding chase again. So great.

Accidental Salad, Joe Decie
Part of a new series of large-format books for comics artists, this one really deserves it. The comics are often thoughtful and atmospheric, in gorgeous ink wash. Decie’s work can be seen here.