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review 2018-06-07 19:19
Facts, anecdotes, some opinions, and a very engaging way of learning about the human body.
Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes - Nathan H. Lents

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publishers (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

When I saw this book on offer, I could not resist. I studied Medicine and have been fascinated by Biology and the Natural Sciences for ages. I have also thought and often commented on our (mostly mine, but yes, most of the issues are general, not exclusive to me) flawed design, no matter how superior we feel to the rest of the species that share the planet with us. In a later chapter of the book, the author sums it up observing that if we participated in an Olympic Games-style contest that included all of the Earth’s species, we would not win at anything, apart from perhaps decathlon (or chess if it was included), as we are generalists. We might not be able to compete with the physical prowess shown by many other species (we are not the fastest, the strongest, the best hunters, the ones who jump higher or who can run for longer), but we can do many things to a reasonable level. And yes, we are pretty intelligent (however we choose to use our minds).

There is enough material to fill several books under the general title of this book, and Lents chooses pretty interesting ones (although I guess some will appeal to some readers more than others). He talks about pointless bones and anatomical errors, our diet (here he talks about our tendency to obesity and our need to eat a varied diet due to the fact that our bodies have lost the ability to synthesise a number of vitamins, amino acids… while other species do),junk in the genome (issues to do with our DNA), homo sterilis (we are not very good at reproducing as a species), why God invented doctors (about our immune system and autoimmune diseases, cancer…), a species of suckers (about cognitive biases. The title of the chapter refers to P.T. Barnum’s edict ‘a sucker born every minute’ although as the author notes, this is an underestimate), and he discusses the possible future of humanity in the epilogue. There is a fair amount of information contained in this book, and that includes some useful illustrations, and notes at the end (I read an ARC copy, but it is possible that the final version contains even more documentation and resources). It is an educational read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I listened to the book thanks to the text-to-speech facility, and it suits it well, as it has a very conversational tone and manages to impart lots of information without being overbearing or obscure.  I read some reviews suggesting that it was so packed with facts that it was better to read it in small bites. Personally, I read it in a few days and never got bored of it, but it might depend on the reader’s interest in the subject.

I was familiar with some of the content but I appreciated the author’s take and the way he organised the materials. Although I enjoyed the whole book, I was particularly interested in the chapters on genetics (the DNA analysis and the identification of specific genes have moved on remarkably since I completed my degree) and on cognitive biases. As a doctor, I also agreed with his comments about autoimmune diseases, the difficulties in their diagnosis, and how these illnesses can sometimes be confused with psychiatric illnesses (being a psychiatrist, I know only too well this can happen). Of course, as is to be expected from the topic, the book reflects on the development of the species and discusses natural selection and evolution, and I was fascinated by the reviews of people who took his arguments as personal attacks on their beliefs. I agree that some of his interpretations and his hypothesis of the reasons for some of these flaws can be debatable, but that does not apply to the facts, and I did not feel the book is intended as a provocation but as a source of information, and entertainment. As the writer notes, we remember better (and believe in) anecdotes and stories than we do dry data. (I am not an expert on the subject but was fascinated by the comments on his blog.)

I found the book fascinating, and as a writer, I thought it was full of information useful to people thinking of writing in a variety of genres, from science-fiction (thoughts about how other species might evolve crossed my mind as I read it), historical fiction (if we go back many years), and any books with a focus on human beings and science.  I would recommend checking a sample of the book to see if the writer’s style suits the reader. I highlighted many lines (and was surprised when I learned that female Bluefin tunas don’t reach sexual maturity until they are twenty years old and was pleased to learn about the important roll old female orcas play in their society) but I particularly like this one:

Scurvy is a dystopian novel written by the human body.

A great read for those who prefer non-fiction and fact-packed books, perfect for people with little time, as it can be picked up and savoured in bite-size instalments, and a book that might pique our interest in and lead to further research on some of the topics. Experts are unlikely to find new information here, but other readers will come out enlightened and with plenty to think about. I strongly recommend it.

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review 2018-05-22 18:48
Forensics / Val McDermid
Forensics: An Anatomy of Crime - Val McDermid

The dead talk—to the right listener. They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. Forensics draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid’s own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists.

Along the way, McDermid discovers how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine one’s time of death; how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer; and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist were able to uncover the victims of a genocide. It’s a journey that will take McDermid to war zones, fire scenes, and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with both extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.

 

I cancelled my cable TV years ago because I was making myself paranoid, watching way too many true crime stories. Plus, I had an unhealthy addiction to the show “Criminal Minds.” I’m pleased to report that I’m a much calmer person now that I’m not being inundated with this sort of entertainment. However, that former obsession with crime shows means that most of what McDermid writes in this non-fiction volume was not new to me, hence only a three star rating. If you are new to the world of forensic investigation, I think this would an excellent introduction.

McDermid has obviously had to research this field to make her mystery novels ring true. And what better way to make that research pay off again but to write a non-fiction book about the subject! It was good to get a British POV on these matters. Here in Canada, we tend to be bombarded with American material, both in books and television, so many of the case studies were new to me.

The author goes into just enough detail to make things comprehensible, without overloading the reader. The explanations are clear and easy to understand. I think it would make a good reference for jurors who are responsible for making decisions based on these methods.

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review 2018-04-12 10:57
Temeljno znanje iz područja fitnesa i Pilatesa
Priručnik za instruktore fitnesa - Marija Andrijašević,Marino Bašić,Tomislav Biščan,Igor Čerenšek,Marko Črljenec,Matija Dunaj,Davor Emeršić,Tomislav Gluhak,Jozo Grgić,Mirna Hajnic,Damir Laštre,Stjepan Heimer,Maja Jelavić,Marija Jurina,Vana Košta,Vedran Omerhodžić,Mladen Palenkas,Vladimir P

Ovaj se priručnik sastoji od temeljnih znanja potrebnih za uspjeh u području fitnesa i Pilatesa. Napisan je od strane vrhunskih stručnjaka koji su saželi svoje stručno znanje na ono najpotrebnije i najvažnije za početnike i sve one koji se ozbiljno žele baviti ovim područjem.

Priručnik sadrži nekoliko kategorija koje obuhvaćaju:



1. Osnove anatomije i fiziologije vježbanja
2. Principi vježbanja, fitnesa i zdravlja
3. Životni stil - upravljanje i promjene
4. Zdravlje i sigurnost u fitnes okruženju
5. Komunikologija



Priručnik je napisan stručno, ali je lak za razumijevanje te sadrži mnogo slika, opisa, tabela i primjera kako bi se čim bolje predočilo i vizualiziralo čitateljima i onima koji žele naučiti svo znanje ovoga područja.

Ovo je kamen temeljac na koji se kasnije može jednostavno nadograđivati specifično i detaljno znanje pojedinog usmjerenja.


Hvala svim autorima i hvala Fitnes učilištu na ovom neprocjenjivom znanju.

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review 2018-04-04 05:49
Anatomy of A Scandal -- NOT a detection club book
Anatomy of a Scandal: A Novel - Sarah Vaughan

So, I thought I was reading this for the Detection Club, because I'd shelved it that way, but I now have the book, and it's very clearly not included. I dunno why I labeled it that way, but I'm still glad I read it. (I think it could actually fit chapter 11, since the place they all met and most of the crimes take place at Oxford, albeit fake colleges at Oxford.)

 

I've heard only how awesome this book is. While it's not bad at all, perhaps because I've spent a large portion of my life sitting with men and women who are victims of interpersonal violence, I don't see these things as "current" or "of the moment" - I think they've been around since human beings have been around. Nonetheless, it's nice to read a book involving a rape that doesn't fall into the poor me montage or political diatribe schtick.

 

While not the best book I've read this year, it was excellent at keeping me involved because Sarah Vaughan knows how to build suspense. I started it last night before I went to bed, and it took a very firm talking to myself to get me to close it and go to sleep, then I greedily finished it today while ignoring phone calls and even sat it beside the sink while I brushed my teeth after dinner. (Sometimes the beauty of living alone is nobody to be upset when I read at the dinner table.)

 

I was able to divine early who had done what - the author makes it fairly clear, but that didn't stop the suspense, because I cared that the person get punished, and I wasn't sure that would happen. Even after I knew how the court case would turn out, I wanted to know what would happen to all of these (mostly unlikable) people. This is a perfect example of liking a book where the characters are less than sympathetic to me. I didn't like them, but I sure was interested in what happened to them and around them. It really is a book that kept me turning pages like a maniac.

 

It is an excellent example of privileged men. Toxically privileged. Not only are they male. They are upper class in the way that only Brits can be, or would notice. This gives them an air of "I can do whatever I please, so long as nobody sees me." While many might think that way, there is a degree of this that seems to be bred into the Oxbridge/public school tie set. An English friend once asked me why America has such racial divides, and I told him it was because we don't have their kind of class divide. (Then I offered to introduce him to some black Brits, because they think there's a racial divide there, but I'm off topic...)

 

Very sharp courtroom writing. It's amazing how vibrant straight-up court scenes were in this book, and though we got some information on the thoughts or feelings of the characters while in court, much of it was basically a trial transcript. That's compelling dialogue.

 

Sarah Vaughan managed to tell many people's stories through one court case (which is the reality, isn't it -- most court cases will involve or affect many people, though we only see a few of them in court.) All in all a perfectly good book, if not a great one, with excellent timing and also a great promo department (they have films about it and trailers and SO many blurb pictures, I gave up on picking one.) I'll look forward to more suspense from Ms. Vaughan.

 

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review 2018-03-21 01:49
"ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL" - AN ABSOLUTE MUST-READ
Anatomy of a Scandal: The brilliant, must-read novel of 2018 - Sarah Vaughan

From the moment I read the first 2 to 3 pages of "ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL," I knew this would be a novel I wanted to see through to the finish. I was seduced by the writing, which flows seamlessly and is a joy to read. 

Each chapter in "ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL" is told from the vantage point of the main characters: Sophie Whitehouse; James Whitehouse (her husband), an ex-Etonian and Oxfordian (both he and Sophie had met at Oxford, where they were students during the early 1990s), who was "to the manor born" and as an MP (Member of Parliament) and junior government minister is clearly poised for greater things. Besides, he and the Prime Minister - Tom Southern - are both blue bloods and boon companions from Eton and Oxford days. Both are imbued with an overweening sense of entitlement and privilege that gives them the sense that they can get away with just about anything. Besides, James is supremely self-confident, has an unerring knack for ingratiating himself with just about anybody, and has a handsomeness that even in middle age continues to draw women into his orbit. Then there is the barrister Kate Woodcroft, QC (Queen's Counsel), who has been appointed to prosecute James when he is accused of rape by a young woman who had worked for him as a researcher. 

A large portion of the novel is taken up with the trial. It is a high-profile trial which forces Sophie (who had given up her career upon marrying James and had contented herself with being the ideal political wife and mother of their 2 young children) to reassess both her marriage and her understanding of her husband, as well as her loyalty to him. Kate, too, is deeply impacted by the trial, which she is determined to win. Old ghosts from Kate's past are resurrected. And there are links between the present-day and Oxford from the 1990s that reveal interesting and unexpected connections among the main characters. 

Surprises and twists abound in "ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL" that will keep the reader wanting to know more. This is a novel that won't be soon forgotten by anyone who reads it. It is that GOOD.
 

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