Archive for the 'Why Aren’t You Reading This?' category

Good Reads - Elder Care Edition

Mar 05 2014 Published by under (if) Elder (why) Care, Why Aren't You Reading This?

It struck me the other day that I now have a small and growing elder care section in my personal library. One or two of these books might be of interest mostly to people who may soon, are now, or have recently been involved in elder care but most are just good reads.

Up first are the two that are most targeted to "users" - those who are caregivers and family members of elders. Caring for Your Parents: The Complete Family Guide by Hugh Delehanty and Elinor Ginzler is published by the AARP. This is especially useful if you are just starting down the pathway of elder care, and/or if you and your siblings have never had any discussions with your parents and/or each other about how the parents will be cared for as they age and become more needy. Blessed is She: Elder Care - Women's Stories of Choice, Challenge, and Community by Nanette J. Davis combines statistics and analysis with excerpts from first-person narratives culled from interviews with 61 caregivers of varied ages and backgrounds. Those mired in caregiving will recognize themselves in many places, and may find much to comfort them here.

Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death by Katy Butler is both personal narrative and investigative reporting. She uses the story of her father and the pacemaker that kept him alive long past the time he wanted, and the quest to have it turned off, to explore the issues around aging, quality of life, and quality of death. I would recommend this to anyone.

In This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett you will find several essays about her grandmother and her dog. They are beautifully written; they will give you new perspectives on love, devotion, and loss; and I dare say they will comfort.

The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki is not about elder care per se, but it is about students, and their extraordinary teacher, learning how to live in the face of death. This one is a page-turner.

No More Words: A Journal of My Mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh by Reeve Lindbergh is just what the title says. You could finish this book in a day or two with uninterrupted reading. But it is not lightweight. There is much to think about here. Anne Morrow Lindbergh was left debilitated and nearly wordless by a series of strokes, and her daughter Reeve writes about caring for her in the last year and a half of her life. It turns out that even the very well-to-do, with all the assistance one could want, suffer the guilt, anger, resentment, and despair elder care brings.

It seemed like everywhere I turned in these books, and often in life, people recommended or spoke of Buddhist philosophy and belief as helpful in negotiating life as a caregiver. One book I have not yet finished, but which came highly recommend to me, is Living Beautifully With Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron. Elder care is nothing if not packed to the rafters with uncertainty and change, so maybe this is as good a guide as anything the AARP can tell you about navigating the Medicare maze.

Two novels I'll add to the list and be done: Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan, which gives you the perspective of the elder facing life alone at home, companions and acquaintances passing away, children living far off. Wish You Were Here is sort of the prequel to this book and is just as wonderful.   These are two of the best novels I've read recently.

If you've read something along the lines of the category of this post, feel free to drop a note about it in the comments. I'd love to hear about it!

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Rethinking the Normality of Attrition

There are few things so beloved by the professoriate as the faculty retreat – amirite? And the highlight of every faculty retreat is surely that hour when we gather and form small groups to contemplate How Diversity Is Making Us Stronger!!1!! These are nearly always well-planned, adroitly led, and very effective. In my dreams.

At one such gathering, the first exercise our group was given consisted of a sheet of paper with four photos: a young white man in casual clothing; a middle-aged white woman in a suit; a young African-American woman in a suit; and an old, bespectacled, gray-haired, bearded eminence in tweed jacket and tie. Our task: which of these people did we think was a professor, and why? Nobody wanted to go anywhere near that booby-trap. Nobody, that is, except the old, bespectacled, gray-haired eminence in a jacket in our group. He promptly pointed to the bearded dude and said “oh, he’s the professor. He just looks like one. Don’t you think that’s how a professor is supposed to look?” The diversity workshop leader happened to be standing next to our group at the moment and the rest of us cringed. Now, this professor was a really nice guy, and he said this without any guile. In retrospect I applaud him for saying what we were all thinking but self-censoring ourselves from saying. Gray-haired bearded dude did look like what we thought a professor should look like. The question was why did we, committed as we were to diversity, still think that? How could we come to see the others – especially the women – as equally valid images of the professoriate?  And what did all this mean for our work at the university?

Well, it should be no surprise, and should not make anyone feel guilty or ashamed, to realize that we carry these internalized stereotypical images of what a professor or scientist or engineer looks like. We daily bathe in the sea of stereotypes.  We may also carry a picture in our heads of what a successful STEM student looks like, without realizing it, and may make advising decisions based on that image rather than on the student’s interests, desires, and real potential.

The first step in interrupting the circuit is to interrogate the term “successful student”. Is a successful student one who makes top grades? One who rallies after a failure? One who doesn’t have a lot of distractions to get in the way of focusing on the degree? One who learns how to manage the non-negotiable constraints of life and still continue with their studies? One who goes on to a satisfying and successful STEM career post-graduation? One who takes their STEM degree as a springboard into another career direction? Is a successful student one whom we help to succeed?

Of course, I can tell you my anecdata about getting a D in calculus and going on to a successful STEM career despite a frosh advisor who suggested I switch out of engineering, and you can counter with your scores of advisees and your, as we will see, oh-so-unfortunate example of George.  And then I’ll walk over to my bookshelf and peruse the research.

The classic reference text on students switching out of STEM majors is, of course, Seymour and Hewitt’s Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave The Sciences. If you are a STEM professor, make yourself familiar with this book if you are not so already.  The book is an exhaustive presentation of the results of a three-year study of 335 students at seven four-year institutions of different type and location. The authors question the assumption that leaving, or switching, is natural or normal.

The revolution did not swing by anytime in the last 15 years so you can pretty much go with what the book says. Here’s the

most important single generalization arising from [the] analysis…switchers and non-switchers [were not] two different kinds of people. That is to say, [they did not] differ by individual attributes of performance, attitude, or behavior, to any degree sufficient to explain why one group left , and the other group stayed…What distinguished the survivors from those who left was the development of particular attitudes or coping strategies – both legitimate and illegitimate. Serendipity also played a part in persistence, often in the form of intervention by faculty at a critical point in the student’s academic or personal life. [emphasis mine] [p. 30]

It turns out that STEM is bleeding students, male and female, white students and students of color. Only, the bleed rates for females and students of color are slightly higher than for white males, so the overall impact of culling the herd is to reduce diversity. After all that hard work to recruit the best and brightest to your uni, and to get all those women and students of color to your doorstep! Such a shame. Well, what can you do, eh?

Seymour & Hewitt note, by the way, that inappropriate choice, underpreparedness, and overconfidence, while present for many students of color, are not sufficient factors to explain the higher switching rate of this group compared to white students. So one thing you can’t do is lay the burden for the problem on the students.  The extra difficulties that students of color face include: differences in ethnic cultural values and socialization; internalization of stereotypes; ethnic isolation and perception of racism; and inadequate program support.  It’s true. Your unis are not doing a good job of supporting students of color.

Seymour & Hewitt speak in their conclusion of a desire to marginalize the issue of wastage of students, given the consequences of taking seriously the loss of 40 to 60 percent of a group of students with above average ability.

Switching is not defined as a problem when it is believed to be caused, on the one hand, by wrong choices, underpreparation, lack of sufficient interest, ability, or hard work, or on the other, by the discovery of a passion for another discipline. Either way, there is little that faculty feel they can, or should, do about people who leave for such reasons. The difficulty about our data is that they support neither type of explanation for switching. We find no support for the hypothesis that switchers and non-switchers can be sufficiently distinguished in terms of high school preparation, performance scores, or effort expended...Nor do switchers neatly divide into those who are pushed out (by inappropriate choice of major, lower ability, poorer preparation, lower levels of interest, or unwillingness to work), and those who are pulled out (because they discover a vocation elsewhere)...[W]e posit that problems which arise from the structure of the educational experience and the culture of the discipline (as reflected in the attitudes and practices of S.M.E. faculty) make a much greater contribution to S.M.E. attrition than the individual inadequacies of students or the appeal of other majors. [p. 392]

Ouch. That hurts.

Students who wash up on your advising shores performing poorly in their major classes may be doing so for any number of reasons. In my opinion, if you let them get to their junior year and flunk a major course three times without an intervention, your uni is failing that student, and not by giving them a failing grade, if you follow me. Read the conclusions chapter of Seymour and Hewitt if you read no other part of it. There's more in there about the groups of students that are being lost from STEM, groups that faculty members might very much want to retain. And rethink your notions of the successful student and beneficial advice to switch majors. Even if you think you're doing the student a favor, is it really a good thing for your uni to continue recruiting, but not retaining, STEM students?

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Thony and Penny Are Bringin' It On The Guest Blogge!

Zuskateers, there is a heap o' good reading over at the Guest Blogge right now!  Thony and Penny are turning out a series of posts so wonderful I want to cry.  How could you not love the story of Florence Violet Mackenzie, Australia's first woman electrical engineer?  Complete with a great black and white photo.  Or Thony's answer to that old argument, "who invented the calculus, Newton or Leibniz?" - Thony sez, you're asking the wrong question.  There's more, much more. Go forth, read, be entertained and enlightened.

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Isn't Rape Really Just All About Sex?

I know I'm supposed to be posting installment three in the work-life balance series - and it's coming tomorrow, I promise - but I was distracted by this post by Isis's new co-blogger. I think there's a relatively strong consensus that this invention is clearly a bit of Technology Gone Bad.
In a really old Saturday Night Live sketch, Gilda Radnor and Dan Akroyd play a befuddled couple at home in the kitchen, arguing over Shimmer. It's a floor wax. No, a dessert topping. But wait! Spokesperson Chevy Chase pops in to tell them it's BOTH!!!!!
What does this have to do with understanding rape?

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Oil and the "Chance Fate of the Unfortunate Individual"

The last week or so I've been reading that classic of naturalist writing, The Outermost House by Henry Beston, as the last of this year's selections for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Book Club.
The book is a delight to read for those who love language - it is essentially one long prose poem. But at the same time, it is sweetly painful, as one takes the measure of all the glory that must have been lost in the time since Beston wrote.
Nothing quite prepared me, however, for encountering the following passage about halfway through the book, in the chapter titled "Winter Visitors". Beston is described the birds that come to the Cape in winter - "a region which is to them a Florida".

A new danger...now threatens the birds at sea. An irreducible residue of crude oil, called by refiners "slop," remains in stills after oil distillation, and this is pumped into southbound tankers and emptied far offshore. This wretched pollution floats over large areas, and the birds alight in it and get it on their feathers. They inevitably die. Just how they perish is still something of a question. Some die of cold, for the gluey oil so mats and swabs the thick arctic feathering that creases open through it to the skin above the vitals; others die of hunger as well. Captain George Nickerson of Nauset tells me that he saw an oil-covered eider trying to dive for food off Monomoy, and that the bird was unable to plunge. I am glad to be able to write that the situation is better than it was. Five years ago, the shores of Monomoy peninsula were strewn with hundreds, even thousands, of dead sea fowl, for the tankers pumped out slop as they were passing the shoals - into the very waters, indeed, on which the birds have lived since time began! Today oil is more the chance fate of the unfortunate individual. But let us hope that all such pollution will presently end.

Oh, unfortunate individuals of the Gulf Coast, how I mourn for you and your "chance fate". I suppose we can take heart that we are no longer purposefully discharging "slop" into the ocean - we aren't, are we? - but it's slim comfort.
But no matter. I heard a story on NPR the other day about how the oil slicks haven't made it to the beaches of the Gulf Coast yet, so the white sands are still sparkly. And the state tourist bureaus are hard at work on ad development to reassure you that your vacation need not be ruined or delayed by any distressing sights on the beach; all is well! Out of sight, out of mind! The only oil you need to worry about is the tanning oil on the shapely young lass on the beach towel in this tourist ad! (There's nothing female flesh can't sell!) Come relax, spend your dollars, support our local tourist industry, and forget about the environment for awhile! It's all good! Till it's not.

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The Arts as a Healing Balm for Mansplaining's Psychic Ills

March is women's history month, but don't let that circumscribe your fun. You can get together with a posse of your like-minded women friends and mock mansplainers anytime. Now, I know many of you have just recently learned that there even existed a name you could attach to this annoying behavior plaguing your existence. Believe me, I know how important naming experience is - that's why I have a whole category assigned to the topic. But your joy need not begin and end with just knowing that the craptastic manifestations you've been subjected to are (1) not your fault, (2) part of a larger system of patriarchy, and (3) mocked by many, many, many women all over the place.
No, you can have even more fun. Why not get together with a couple of good friends for movie night or a book club meeting? Get a nice bottle of wine (if you are a wine drinker) or a local microbrew or just make a nice pot of tea. You could order some tea from Premium Steap - they have awesome stuff, and it's a woman-owned business.
So, let's talk about two things - what to read or watch, and what to eat.

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"The Madame Curie Complex" Sample Chapter: Part Three "Women in the Wild: Changing the Culture of Western Science"

This is the third and final part of a multi-part presentation of a sample chapter from a forthcoming book, The Madame Curie Complex. Part One can be found here. Part Two can be found here.
Recently I was approached with an offer to share with my readers a sample chapter from a forthcoming book called The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science. A caveat: I have not read the whole book, and offering the sample chapter here for you to read does not constitute an endorsement by me of the book. But I was sufficiently intrigued by the sample chapter I read to think it was worth sharing with you, to let you read if you want. You can make up your own minds and decide if you want to purchase the book, which is on offer at the Feminist Press site for a reasonable price. About the book:

This March, The Feminist Press will release The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science by historian Julie Des Jardins. The book tells the stories of women scientists, from Marie Curie to Maria Mayer, who took enormous chances and made great discoveries in spite of, and at times because of, the resistance they faced in a male-dominated field. Des Jardins compares their stories with prominent male counterparts in an exploration of whether, and how, women research, collaborate, and come to different conclusions about the natural world.

The chapter I have been given to share with you is chapter 7, The Lady Trimates and Feminist Science?: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. It came to me in a pdf version and a lot of formatting has been lost in moving it to this blog, but I hope you will still enjoy be able to enjoy reading it. I hope locating the footnotes will not be too hard. I've broken the chapter into sections for a series of posts, and the reference footnotes for each section will be at the end of each post.
On to the last section of the chapter...

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"The Madame Curie Complex" Sample Chapter: Part Two "Louis Leakey's 'Primitive' Feminism"

This is part two of a multi-part presentation of a sample chapter from a forthcoming book, The Madame Curie Complex. Part One can be found here. Part Three can be found here.
Recently I was approached with an offer to share with my readers a sample chapter from a forthcoming book called The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science. A caveat: I have not read the whole book, and offering the sample chapter here for you to read does not constitute an endorsement by me of the book. But I was sufficiently intrigued by the sample chapter I read to think it was worth sharing with you, to let you read if you want. You can make up your own minds and decide if you want to purchase the book, which is on offer at the Feminist Press site for a reasonable price. About the book:

This March, The Feminist Press will release The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science by historian Julie Des Jardins. The book tells the stories of women scientists, from Marie Curie to Maria Mayer, who took enormous chances and made great discoveries in spite of, and at times because of, the resistance they faced in a male-dominated field. Des Jardins compares their stories with prominent male counterparts in an exploration of whether, and how, women research, collaborate, and come to different conclusions about the natural world.

The chapter I have been given to share with you is chapter 7, The Lady Trimates and Feminist Science?: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. It came to me in a pdf version and a lot of formatting has been lost in moving it to this blog, but I hope you will still enjoy be able to enjoy reading it. I hope locating the footnotes will not be too hard. I've broken the chapter into sections for a series of posts, and the reference footnotes for each section will be at the end of each post.
On to the second section of the chapter...

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"The Madame Curie Complex" Sample Chapter: Part One

This is part one of a multi-part presentation of a sample chapter from a forthcoming book, The Madame Curie Complex. Part Two can be found here. Part Three can be found here.
This is something a little different for TSZ. Recently I was approached with an offer to share with my readers a sample chapter from a forthcoming book called The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science. A caveat: I have not read the whole book, and offering the sample chapter here for you to read does not constitute an endorsement by me of the book. But I was sufficiently intrigued by the sample chapter I read to think it was worth sharing with you, to let you read if you want. You can make up your own minds and decide if you want to purchase the book, which is on offer at the Feminist Press site for a reasonable price. About the book:

This March, The Feminist Press will release The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science by historian Julie Des Jardins. The book tells the stories of women scientists, from Marie Curie to Maria Mayer, who took enormous chances and made great discoveries in spite of, and at times because of, the resistance they faced in a male-dominated field. Des Jardins compares their stories with prominent male counterparts in an exploration of whether, and how, women research, collaborate, and come to different conclusions about the natural world.

The chapter I have been given to share with you is chapter 7, The Lady Trimates and Feminist Science?: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. It came to me in a pdf version and a lot of formatting has been lost in moving it to this blog, but I hope you will still enjoy be able to enjoy reading it. I hope locating the footnotes will not be too hard. I've broken the chapter into sections for a series of posts, and the reference footnotes for each section will be at the end of each post.
The chapter opens with two quotes:

We think of science as manipulation, experiment, and quantification done by men dressed in white coats, twirling buttons and watching dials in laboratories. When we read about a woman who gives funny names to chimpanzees and then follows them into the bush, meticulously recording their every grunt and groom, we are reluctant to admit such activity into the big leagues. We may admire Goodall's courage, fortitude, and patience but wonder if she represents forefront science or a dying gasp from the old world of romantic exploration. . . . The conventional stereotype is so wrong. . . . Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees represents one of the Western world's great scientific achievements.
--Stephen Jay Gould, Introduction to the revised edition of In the Shadow of Man1

Often I think of science in technological terms--of the cold machinery, the devices, and accelerators, the weapons that science makes possible--all the things that modern science creates and utilizes. However, one day, I thought of science and appreciated its intent to look more closely into the beauty and mystery of nature. I had a glimpse of science in a different light, and at that moment the image of the woman in my dream came to mind. In one view of science the image exists of the male scientist exerting power and control over passive female nature. In this view the practice of science is seen as a violation of the natural world. However, my dream image raised the possibility of an alternative view. I began to consider another generative impulse of pure science--one born of curiosity and the love of nature. Then the woman becomes an intriguing symbol of a new way for me to think about the practice of science and its nature. She embodies the sense of science as the desire to understand nature, pursued in a rational and imaginative way. . . . Science is then not about the power of (male) intellect over passive (female) embodied nature. Rather science is a marriage, the relationship between human intellect and the intelligibility of a dynamic nature--nature which is both mysterious and knowable and in whose knowing we learn something about ourselves.
--Mary Palevsky, Atomic Fragments, April 19972

1. Jane Goodall, In the Shadow of Man (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971), 5.
2. Mary Palevsky, Atomic Fragments: A Daughter's Questions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 238.
On to the chapter...

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"The Myth of Black Disingenuity": Exploring the Intersection of African American History and the History of Technology

I failed to produce this post in time for DNLee's Diversity in Science carnival - Black History Month: Broadening STEM Participation at Every Level. That's mostly because I had a bunch of personal stuff going on in the past couple weeks that just wouldn't leave me alone. I think I'll be back to more regular blogging now.
You might have already read my brief post on Hercules, the chef enslaved by George Washington who eventually escaped to freedom. In it I noted "It was no small thing to be a chef under such circumstances, and the degree of technical skill required was surely astonishing." Even the highest tech 18th century kitchen still demanded a range and depth of technical competence that today's average pampered cook just can't imagine.
When I read about Hercules in that fantastic set of articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, I might not have given much thought to the degree of technical skill he must have possessed to turn out state dinners in such circumstances. What put me in the state of mind to ponder such matters was a book I had recently begun browsing: A Hammer in Their Hands: A Documentary History of Technology and the African-American Experience, ed. Carroll Pursell. This book would be worth its price if only for the introductory essay which contextualizes the collection of primary sources that follows with the intersection of African-American history and the history of technology, all in a few short pages. Pursell speaks of the "prehistories" of these fields, and notes the following:

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I Cannot Tell A Lie - Hercules Is More Important Than An Apocryphal Cherry Tree

How did you celebrate George Washington's birthday this year? You didn't do anything? Well, it's not too late. Pour yourself a nice hot cup of coffee or tea, and sit down to read a pair of fascinating articles published this past Sunday and Monday in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Hercules: Master of cuisine, slave of Washington
A birthday shock from Washington's chef
If you don't already know - and why would you, this stuff isn't in our history books - Hercules was a great chef, and one of nine slaves Washington kept at the first White House in Philadelphia. The history of slavery in the first White House has recently been the subject of intense study with an archeological dig at the site undertaken in 2007. The dig showed that the former slave quarters were located just steps away from where the Liberty Bell sits today.
But wait, you might ask. I am a savvy historian. How did Washington manage to keep slaves in the Philadelphia White House in spite of Pennsylvania's Gradual Abolition Law? Good question, my friends. Here's how:

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Musings on Listening to Skloot Talk About "Immortal Life" on Fresh Air

Feb 02 2010 Published by under What They're Saying, Why Aren't You Reading This?

Just finished listening to Rebecca Skloot talking about her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, on Fresh Air this afternoon. You can now listen on the web (transcript not yet available).
Around 25:10, Skloot tells Terry Gross about an experience she had with a faith-healing ceremony with members of Henrietta Lacks's family. Among other things, that was the point when Skloot realized that she had to write herself into her own book. It was also the turning point when Lacks's daughter became more trusting of Skloot the journalist. I recommend that you listen to the whole interview, but especially that portion.
It raises some seriously interesting questions about the value of religious traditions and their meaning in a scientific community. The answer is far more complex than whether or not Skloot's personal religious beliefs were changed by the experience (they weren't - she was and remains non-religious). It's that the experience happened at all - clearly it provided some sort of healing for Lacks's daughter, and it did have a serious impact on Skloot. I would argue that the faith healing ceremony facilitated something that "science" wasn't capable of doing, whether or not the participants - all or any of them - believe in God or a god.
And I'm speaking as someone who doesn't believe in god.

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Skloot, "Immortal Life" Featured on "Fresh Air" Today

Be sure to catch Fresh Air whenever it airs in your local market to day, or catch the podcast. Rebecca Skloot is on today, talking about her book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which, as I hope you know, is released today. And I hope you pre-ordered your copy already. Fresh Air is on at 3 pm and again at 7 pm in Philly - can't wait!
UPDATE: Terry Gross may just be the perfect person to interview Rebecca Skloot, who is wonderfully telling the story of Henrietta Lacks, and of how she came to tell the story of Henrietta Lacks. If you don't get to listen to Fresh Air on the radio, listen to it on the web. And then go donate some money to your local public radio station. And then go buy Rebecca's book, if you haven't already.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: Pre-Order NOW!!!

You may have been hearing some of the buzz about Rebecca Skloot's forthcoming book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells--taken without her knowledge--became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they'd weigh more than 50 million metric tons--as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Abel Pharmboy has a great post on it. I have not yet read it but we all know The Skloot can write, the topic is of major importance for just about any scientist, and as Abel says,

What is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks really about? Science, African American culture and religion, intellectual property of human tissues, Southern history, medical ethics, civil rights, the overselling of medical advances? The difficulty in defining the book is also what makes so appealing to academics in both the arts and sciences.

Abel also points out the advantage to everyone of pre-ordering NOW:

Forthcoming February 2, 2010, you can pre-order from your local independent bookseller, or online via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders or Powell's
Pre-ordering the book is a mutually-beneficial proposition.
First, Amazon, for example, is currently offering the book at a 34% discount off the retail price - almost $9 off - an offer that will disappear on the release date.
Second, I learned that all book pre-orders count toward a book's first-week sales, the major determinant of subsequent momentum and popularity of the book. Being such a vocal booster of this book, the story, and the author, I urge you to consider pre-ordering the book in the next two weeks if you have any inkling that you will ultimately be interested in reading it.

So pre-order before February 2! Let's help make this important book's first week sales as big as possible. We need more of this kind of science journalism, more of this kind of telling the stories that have previously gone untold - indeed, have been buried. Kudos to Rebecca Skloot for bringing this story to the scientific community - now let's make sure we do our job as a community and help it get as much attention as it deserves.

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Picking at the Bones of a Dying Bookstore

Jan 13 2010 Published by under Friday Bookshelf, Why Aren't You Reading This?

It's no secret bookstores have been in trouble for some time now. Small independent bookstores have been dropping like flies left and right. One of the oldest and best loved independent bookstores in Philadelphia, Robin's, recently closed, reinvented itself, and reopened in new space above its old location. It now sells mostly used books, along with some new books, and focuses on events as well. People are just dang glad to have some piece of the old store, opened in 1936 (in the middle of a depression!), in existence.
But hey, at least we have the big chain stores, right? Maybe not. Though I live in an area where a short drive will take me to any of several big chain stores, my most favorite one, the Borders in Chestnut Hill, is closing. Saturday is its last day. Chestnut Hill is a tony urban-suburb of Philadelphia that has, nevertheless, been struggling just like everyone else in this crazy economy. Rents are high, business is slow. You do the math. Landlords have been loathe to cut rents because recovery is just around the corner, or cutting rent will give people the idea that Chestnut Hill isn't such a tony address anymore, or they think they can squeeze more blood from stones, or I don't know what. Some storefronts are empty, a very unusual sight in that neighborhood.

Borders.jpgAnd now, the great big huge Borders at the top of Germantown Avenue (sort of the equivalent of an anchor store in a mall) is going dark. They are even selling the shelves and furniture from the store. I can't imagine what, if anything, will move into this really lovely architectural space, but I am pretty sure it will not be something that lets me browse bookshelves and sit around reading and sipping coffee while sunlight pours through the beautiful enormous second-story bay window.
Still, mine is not the loss of the good people of Laredo, TX. Laredo is about to become the largest U.S. city without a bookstore, as the B.Dalton bookstore there prepares to close its doors.

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