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text 2017-09-25 19:44
Reading progress update: I've read 267 out of 346 pages.
Life and Letters of Charles Darwin - Volume 1: By Charles Darwin - Illustrated - Charles Darwin

Much of the information required for the writing of Origin of Species was obtained by Darwin writing to his scientific acquaintances and simply asking them for it.

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review 2017-09-25 17:52
My seventy-first podcast is up!
Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill - Deanne Stillman

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Deanne Stillman about her book on the relationship between Sitting Bull and "Buffalo Bill" Cody that developed in the 1880s. Enjoy!

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review 2017-09-25 01:19
Too Simplistic for 5th Grade
5th Grade US History: Famous US Authors: Fifth Grade Books American Writers (Children's Literature Books) - Baby Professor

While the authors listed in the book were about the correct age or grade (maybe a little older) there were a number of authors that should have been in there and weren't. There was also some information about the authors listed that I covered when we read these authors (or are reading them). So many things that should have been brought up and left out. 

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review 2017-09-25 01:10
Another That is Too Young
5th Grade Us History: Famous US Inventors: Fifth Grade Books Inventors for Kids (Children's Inventors Books) - Baby Professor

This is labeled for 5th grade but would be better for 2nd grade. I wonder if the author, like me, thinks of the simpler time where kids didn't write full on papers in 5th grade on research topics? It would be a good book to bring up the inventors, but only gives a little information, when I was teaching my girls 5th grade they had to know so much more about the inventor than what was provided in this book. 

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review 2017-09-24 12:52
Spitting Blood/ glazing eyes
Spitting Blood: The History of Tuberculosis - Helen Bynum

In all of human history, no infectious disease has claimed more human lives than Tuberculosis ("TB"). The reason for the large numbers is that unlike other big killers (e.g. malaria) it exists in all climates. TB has causes epidemics among Eskimos, in the Sahara Desert, in New Guinea... etc. Everywhere. So that's why I picked this book up. 


Technically the book delivers what it promises, but it does so in a very distant, unengaging way. I'm sure all the information here is correct, but delivered in such a dry style as to  make it tedious and forgettable.Medical history doesn't have to be that way; three nonfiction medical history books with far superior narrative come to mind:


The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus  (Richard Preston);


The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History (John M. Barry);


and The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time (John Kelly).


The fix, I think, is one of either two things:  (1) give the book a more human element to make it more readable as a mainstream nonfiction book; or (2) give more technical detail and just make it a full-blown textbook that most people outside of the field probably wouldn't read for personal enjoyment. 


That said, I thought the first 1/3 of the book had some pretty good parts, describing how tuberculosis (TB) is actually a family of organisms, some of which infect humans, but some which live apart from us in the animal kingdom. Identifying DNA from TB can be recovered from ancient bones, and they show that a form of TB called Mycobacterium bovis resided in cows long before cows were domesticated by humans. TB was not seen in ancient humans before the time cows were domesticated, but afterwards a human-infecting form called Mycobacterium tuberculosis evolved. 


So cows gave us tuberculosis. Something to think about, when you're standing in line at McDonald's, I guess. 


The complexity of the tuberculosis family, and the many different subsets of Mycobacterium tuberculosis has confounded a lot of research over the years. Different strains have different resistances to various medications, and different geographic distributions. When immigrants from different places came to the "melting pot" of New York in the late 1800's, this created some weird patterns, where some populations seemed to come down with much more aggressive strains of TB than others... leading doctors of the time to believe that some populations had more "natural resistance" to TB. As you can imagine, this fed in to some ideas about race and eugenics which are pretty horrifying and embarrassing by 2017 standards. 


The book wraps up with interesting developments in India (a leader in TB research) just since 2000, which shows that short-course, aggressive (high-dose, high-intensity), home-based treatments (i.e. oral medications, as opposed to i.v. based or surgery-based) directed at the newly-infected have a much greater efficacy than long-term, sanitorium-based treatments. 


TB has not gone away, and may resurge with great force, if poverty, overcrowding, war, or evolution of the organism to more drug-resistant forms give it the opportunity. What probably has gone away is the age of large TB sanitoriums like are written about in The Rack (A.E. Ellis) or The Magic Mountain (Thomas Mann).

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