Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mary, the mother of Jesus

This is the House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, an ancient town on what is now the western edge of Turkey.  Before reading this book, I did a quick search for information about Ephesus and found this.
A legend, which was first mentioned by Epiphanius of Salamis in the 4th century AD, purported that Mary may have spent the last years of her life in Ephesus.  The Ephesians derived the argument from John's presence in the city, and Jesus’ instructions to John to take care of Mary after his death.  Epiphanius, however, was keen to point out that, while the Bible says John was leaving for Asia, it specifically does not say that Mary went with him.  He later stated that she was buried in Jerusalem.  Since the 19th century, The House of the Virgin Mary, about 7 km (4 mi) from Selçuk, is purported to have been the last home of Mary, mother of Jesus in the Roman Catholic tradition.
The Testament of Mary ~ by Colm Toibin, 2012, fiction (Ephesus, in present-
day Turkey), 8/10
Colm Tóibín’s portrait of Mary presents her as a solitary older woman still seeking to understand the events that become the narrative of the New Testament and the foundation of Christianity.  In the ancient town of Ephesus, Mary lives alone, years after her son’s crucifixion.  She has no interest in collaborating with the authors of the Gospel.  They are her keepers, providing her with food and shelter and visiting her regularly.  She does not agree that her son is the Son of God; nor that his death was “worth it”; nor that the “group of misfits he gathered around him, men who "could not look a woman in the eye,” were holy disciples.  Mary judges herself ruthlessly (she did not stay at the foot of the Cross until her son died — she fled, to save herself), and her judgment of others is equally harsh.  This woman whom we know from centuries of paintings and scripture as the docile, loving, silent, long-suffering, obedient, worshipful mother of Christ becomes a tragic heroine with the relentless eloquence of Electra or Medea or Antigone.  Tóibín’s tour de force of imagination and language is a portrait so vivid and convincing that our image of Mary will be forever transformed.
Click to enlarge photo
 This portrait of Mary, the mother of Jesus, is different. It's unlike anything I've ever read about her, and I'm sure I'll be thinking about it for days.  Ephesus is the town where Artemis was worshiped.  The statue of that goddess showed her with many breasts.  In the book, Mary went to the Temple of Artemis.  Interesting, but it seems unlikely to me.  I rate the book 8 of 10, a very good book.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Library Loot ~ January 30 - February 5

The Mirrored World ~ by Debra Dean, 2012, fiction (Russia), 7/10
I really liked her first novel, The Madonnas of Leningrad (click to read my review), so I do want to read this second novel.  It's described as "a novel of love, madness, and devotion set against the extravagant royal court of eighteenth-century St. Petersburg.  Born to a Russian family of lower nobility, Xenia, an eccentric dreamer who cares little for social conventions, falls in love with Andrei, a charismatic soldier and singer in the Empress's Imperial choir.  Though husband and wife adore each other, their happiness is overshadowed by the absurd demands of life at the royal court and by Xenia's growing obsession with having a child — a desperate need that is at last fulfilled with the birth of her daughter.  But then a tragic vision comes true, and a shattered Xenia descends into grief, undergoing a profound transformation that alters the course of her life.  Turning away from family and friends, she begins giving all her money and possessions to the poor.  Then, one day, she mysteriously vanishes.  Years later, dressed in the tatters of her husband's military uniform and answering only to his name, Xenia is discovered tending the paupers of St. Petersburg's slums.  Revered as a soothsayer and a blessed healer to the downtrodden, she is feared by the royal court and its new Empress, Catherine, who perceives her deeds as a rebuke to their lavish excesses.  Dean reimagines the intriguing life of Xenia of St. Petersburg, a patron saint of her city and one of Russia's most mysterious and beloved holy figures."
Replay ~ by Ken Grimwood, 1986, science fiction
Jeff Winston, forty-three, didn't know he was a replayer until he died and woke up twenty-five years younger in his college dorm room; he lived another life.  And died again. And lived again and died again — in a continuous twenty-five-year cycle — each time starting from scratch at the age of eighteen to reclaim lost loves, remedy past mistakes, or make a fortune in the stock market. A novel of gripping adventure, romance, and fascinating speculation on the nature of time, Replay asks the question: "What if you could live your life over again?"
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Marg @ The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages us to share titles of books we’ve checked out of the library.  Add your link any time during the week, and see what others got this week.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Library Loot ~ January 23-29

The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People ~ by Neil Shubin, 2012, science
Shubin takes on the question of why we look the way we do.  Starting with fossils, he turns his gaze skyward, showing us how the entirety of the universe's fourteen-billion-year history can be seen in our bodies.  As he moves from our very molecular composition (a result of stellar events at the origin of our solar system) through the workings of our eyes, Shubin makes clear how the evolution of the cosmos has profoundly marked our own bodies.
Forgotten ~ by Catherine McKenzie, 2012, fiction
Emma Tupper is a dedicated lawyer with a bright future.  But when she takes a month-long leave of absence to go on an African vacation, she ends up facing unexpected consequences.  After she falls ill and spends six months trapped in a remote village thanks to a devastating earthquake, Emma returns home to discover that her friends, boyfriend, and colleagues thought she was dead — and that her life has moved on without her.  As she struggles to re-create her old life, throwing herself into solving a big case for a client and trying to reclaim her beloved apartment from the handsome photographer who assumed her lease, everyone around her thinks she should take the opportunity to change.  But is she willing to sacrifice her job, her relationships, and everything else she worked so hard to build?
The Gnostic Bible ~ ed. by Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer, 2003 , religion
Gnosticism was a wide-ranging religious movement of the first millennium CE — with earlier antecedents and later flourishings — whose adherents sought salvation through knowledge and personal religious experience.  Gnostic writings offer striking perspectives on both early Christian and non-Christian thought.  For example, some gnostic texts suggest that god should be celebrated as both mother and father, and that self-knowledge is the supreme path to the divine.  Only in the past fifty years has it become clear how far the gnostic influence spread in ancient and medieval religions — and what a marvelous body of scriptures it produced.  This is the first time that such a rich and diverse collection of gnostic texts have been brought together in a single volume, in translations that allow the spirit of the original texts to shine.  The selections gathered here — in poetic, readable translation — represent Jewish, Christian, Hermetic, Mandaean, Manichaean, Islamic, and Cathar expressions of gnostic spirituality.  Their regions of origin include Egypt, the Greco-Roman world, the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, China, and France.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Marg @ The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages us to share titles of books we’ve checked out of the library.  Add your link any time during the week, and see what others got this week.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Beginning ~ with a temper tantrum

Ming: A Novel of Seventeenth-Century China ~ by Robert B. Oxnam, 1994, fiction (China)
"I won't wear ir.  I won't!  It looks stupid!"
I've had this book on my shelf for several years, and — if my bookmark is any indication — at some point I have already read (and forgotten) the first two chapters.  I know already, from that same first page, that the speaker of these words is a boy named Longyan.  His mother was amused, but tried "to maintain her stern demeanor."
How could you punish a three-year-old, looking so impish in his underwear, a tiny rascal who charmed all the ladies in the red chamber?  Besides, time was too short for a real scolding.  She had less than ten minutes to make Longyan polite and presentable.
I think it's time for me to find out what's going on here.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.
Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Library Loot ~ January 16-22

Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate ~ by Justin Lee, 2012, memoir
Provided by the publisher:  "A loving and biblically-based response to the controversy that pits the church against the LGBT community and that divides Christians from each other."  Synopsis:  As a teenager and young man, Justin Lee felt deeply torn.  Nicknamed "God Boy" by his peers, he knew that he was called to a life in the evangelical Christian ministry.  But Lee harbored a secret:  He also knew that he was gay.  In this groundbreaking book, Lee recalls the events — his coming out to his parents, his experiences with the "ex-gay" movement, and his in-depth study of the Bible — that led him, eventually, to self-acceptance.  But more than just a memoir, TORN provides insightful, practical guidance for all committed Christians who wonder how to relate to gay friends or family members — or who struggle with their own sexuality.  Convinced that "in a culture that sees gays and Christians as enemies, gay Christians are in a unique position to bring peace," Lee demonstrates that people of faith on both sides of the debate can respect, learn from, and love one another.
Only one new book from the library this week, since I still haven't finished reading three books from last week.  I got this one because Rachel Held Evans is hosting a three-week discussion of this book.  I've already found a memorable line from a mother who had just learned her son was gay (p. 2):
"Whatever mistakes her son might make in life, Cindy was sure God would have mercy on him.  The church, she feared, might not."
That is so sad.  In a 2007 study of 16-to-29-year-olds, 91 percent of the nonchristians chose the term "antihomosexual" to describe present-day Christianity. 

(NOTE:  I'm typing this post with both hands, which is okay — I have permission from my physical therapist — since I don't have to move my healing shoulder.  My fingers are a bit "creaky" from lack of practice for these "six weeks post-injury" as of tomorrow, as the orthopedic surgeon puts it.  But my weak right-hand fingers are doing their share of the work.  Hurray!)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Marg @ The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages us to share titles of books we’ve checked out of the library.  Add your link any time during the week, and see what others got this week.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Five ~ Where is its HOME?

Mary Beth gave us our Friday Five assignment on RevGalBlogPals today:
"As noted at my own blog, my word for the year is 'clear.'  One of the things to which this refers is clearing away clutter.  One of the best ways I have found to do this is to give everything that comes into my house a HOME.   And I can easily tell that I have too many things when there are not enough homes for them all!   I gleaned the idea of items having homes from my younger sister who used to say to her toddlers, 'See that book on the floor there?  Is that its home?  No?  Please put the book into its home.'  Often, I am saying the same words to myself that she said to her little ones.  In my mother's house, the Marks-A-Lot marker always went in the cupboard next to the sink. I don't know why, I just know that's where the Marks-A-Lot goes, still and forever, in my house many miles away.  So, tell us your favorite homes for five things, the places that you can always and reliably find them.  Tell us about them; show us pictures if you want!"
Ah, this is one I can do.  Naming where I can reliably find five items, I mean.  Clearing away clutter is another matter, one I have not yet accomplished.

See these stacks of books?  They are part of the clutter problem.  See the desk buried under books and papers?  It's part of my first answer.

Once upon a time, back when I owned a house, I had a work bench in a corner of the basement.  All my tools lived there.  Now I'm an old lady —age 72 used to seem so old to me — living in an apartment, and people seem surprised that I have tools at all.  Sure I do!  I use a hammer occasionally, screwdrivers to tighten things, box cutter to open book packages from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. One day a close friend said, "The last thing I expected was to see you open a desk drawer and pull out wooden shims to steady a bookcase."  Yep, my tools now reside in that second drawer down on the left side of my desk, shown in that messy photo above.
Deb @ An Unfinished Symphony posted this perfect cartoon.
I've been keeping my cell phone in a perfect place — on a lanyard around my neck.  I can't lose it, and I can't drop it.  Those little boys who design our tech-toys think smooth and slippery is the cat's meow, unlike the phones of my youth that were designed for human hands.  The new cell phone I got today, unfortunately, does not have any place for me to attach the cord.  Does this mean I am destined to lose it?  Maybe I can find a case for it that can swing at the end of my lanyard.
I have always kept spare rolls of toilet paper in the cabinet under the sink, but my roommate found this cat to keep extra rolls in a cute way.  The dowel rod for a tail holds four rolls, with a curled-over piece stuck in the top for effect.  Guests have no trouble finding these rolls, if needed.
When I teach a class, I like to keep my materials together.  I'll be teaching DISCIPLE: Becoming Disciples Through Bible Study beginning in February (postponed from early January because I broke my shoulder).  Click the title if you are interested in the blog I set up for us to use.  Here you see the box of videos, my study manual (used two or three times already — in the 1990s), and the two versions of the Bible I plan to use — The Message and the NRSV.  They are on a small side table near where I usually read and study.
Beside the DISCIPLE materials is a stiff little plastic tote filled with post-it notes, markers, pens in a stand up jar, removable tape, and my newest 16 GB flash drive.  I can easily reach inside for what I need or take the whole thing with me.  The little green bag is home for these study tools.
BONUS:  Although I moved them for this photo, I usually put library books on the V-shaped shelf under this tabletop.  I don't always have it filled up, so I may include other books there that I'm currently reading.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Library Loot ~ January 9-15

The Missing Family of Jesus: An Inconvenient Truth How the Church Erased Jesus's Brothers and Sisters from History ~ by Tobias Churton, 2010, religion
Offering up equal parts controversy and thrills, theological scholar Tobias Churton rips apart the mythology surrounding the family of Jesus to reveal a stunning truth.  Using a broad range of sources such as the early Gospels and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Churton lays out his case that St. James the Just was in fact Jesus's brother.  Not just a dry reading of the Biblical texts, this journey stretches across continents and reads like a pure thriller as it challenges many assertions made by the Catholic Church.
The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature ~ by David George Haskell,  2012, science (Tennessee)
A biologist reveals the secret world hidden in a single square meter of forest.  In this wholly original book, biologist David Haskell uses a one-square-meter patch of old-growth Tennessee forest as a window onto the entire natural world.  Visiting it almost daily for one year to trace nature's path through the seasons, he brings the forest and its inhabitants to vivid life.  Each of this book's short chapters begins with a simple observation:  a salamander scuttling across the leaf litter; the first blossom of spring wildflowers.  From these, Haskell spins a brilliant web of biology and ecology, explaining the science that binds together the tiniest microbes and the largest mammals and describing the ecosystems that have cycled for thousands — sometimes millions — of years.  Each visit to the forest presents a nature story in miniature as Haskell elegantly teases out the intricate relationships that order the creatures and plants that call it home.
From Eternity to Here : The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time ~ by Sean M. Carroll, 2012, science
Time moves forward, not backward — everyone knows you can't unscramble an egg.  That simple fact of breakfast becomes a doorway to understanding the Big Bang, the universe, and other universes, too.  Sean Carroll argues that the arrow of time, pointing resolutely from the past to the future, owes its existence to conditions before the Big Bang itself.  Carroll's scenario is not only elegant, it's laid out in easy-to-understand language.  He uses ideas at the cutting edge of theoretical physics to explore how properties of space-time before the Big Bang can explain the flow of time we experience in our everyday lives.  He suggests that we live in a baby universe, part of a large family of universes in which many of our siblings experience an arrow of time running in the opposite direction.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness ~ by Susannah Cahalan, 2012, memoir
One day in 2009, twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak.  A wristband marked her as a "flight risk," and her medical records — chronicling a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory at all — showed hallucinations, violence, and dangerous instability.  Only weeks earlier, Susannah had been on the threshold of a new, adult life:  a healthy, ambitious college grad a few months into her first serious relationship and a promising career as a cub reporter at a major New York newspaper.  Who was the stranger who had taken over her body?  What was happening to her mind?  Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her inexplicable descent into madness and the brilliant, lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn't happen.  A team of doctors would spend a month — and more than a million dollars — trying desperately to pin down a medical explanation for what had gone wrong.  Meanwhile, as the days passed and her family, boyfriend, and friends helplessly stood watch by her bed, she began to move inexorably through psychosis into catatonia and, ultimately, toward death.  Then, at the last minute, celebrated neurologist Souhel Najjar joined her team and, with the help of a lucky, ingenious test, saved her life.  He recognized the symptoms of a newly discovered autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the brain, a disease now thought to be tied to both schizophrenia and autism, and perhaps the root of "demonic possessions" throughout history.  Building from hospital records and surveillance video, interviews with family and friends, and excerpts from the deeply moving journal her father kept during her illness, Susannah pieces together the story of her "lost month" to write an unforgettable memoir about memory and identity, faith and love.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Marg @ The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share titles of books they’ve checked out of the library.  To participate, just add your post to their Mister Linky any time during the week.  And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries this week.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday Salon ~ books and bones

The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language ~ by Eugene Peterson, 2002
Since I'll be teaching the 34-week DISCIPLE Bible Study this year, my best friend gave me this new Bible for Christmas. This edition is called the Numbered Edition because chapter and verse numbers have been restored.  Peterson originally left them out so it would read like a story, which it was originally.  The Bible's numbering system was a later addition, much later, and is really not very good, chopping up the story in strange places.  But an unnumbered story is difficult to use in  a discussion group, so this edition has restored the numbers.  I'm glad.  I plan to read all 1,736 pages this year.
It was exactly one month ago today that I fell and broke my shoulder.  I am greatly improved — no longer needing pain pills, getting around better, doing what I can with one hand to straighten the house, champing at the bit to DO something!  We kicked off the January book discussion at Book Buddies — Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver's new novel — would you like to join us?  Just click on the title.

 Visit the Sunday Salon's Facebook page for links to more posts.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Beginning ~ under London

 London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets ~ by Peter Ackroyd, 2011, history (England)
"A vast concourse of people, buried deep within the clay of the Eocene period, move beneath your feet in underground trains.  Rooms and corridors have been created for the settlement of thousands of people in the event of calamity.You are also treading on the city of the past, all of its history from the prehistoric settlers to the present day packed within 24 feet of earthen fabric.  The past is beneath us.  It exists still as the companion of the present city."
The lower photo on this cover is actually on the back cover of my library copy, with a less interesting photo on the front.  Read more about the book in my Library Loot post, which says that under London you'll find...
"...original springs and streams and Roman amphitheaters to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts, and modern tube stations."

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.
Click here for today's Mister Linky.

2012 in first lines

Simon @ Stuck in a Book posted 2012 in First Lines today. 
"It's quite simple — use the first lines of each month on your blog, to give an overview of your blogging year, albeit one which is amusing rather than very useful!"
It sounded interesting enough for me to decide to give it a try.  I discovered that I sometimes begin with a book's title or quote something.  Unless the whole post was a quote, I picked the first lines I actually wrote.  Here's what I found:

January:  Sammy and I welcomed in the new year together.  Donna (her person) is working, and Kiki (my cat) is being punished by having to stay in our bedroom with the door closed.

February:  I took one of those online tests called the Which Historical Queen Are You test (click that link, if you want to take it).   Here's my result:  "You are:  Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England and of France, 1122-1204."

March:  Of course, I immediately wanted to know what is in that silver box and why Liza buried it under the willow tree — or anywhere.

April:  Thursday evening, I went with Jane Yelliott and her friend Tillie to an art show featuring local artists.  (Bonus = the last lines of this post:  "It's April Fool's Day.  I think I'll be foolish today.")

May:  The dumpster was so full we had to REFUSE more REFUSE.

June:  What piqued my interest in reading this novel was the tombstone.

July:  This morning I attended church at St. Marks United Methodist Church, where two churches are trying something different.

August:  One book that's been on back order has finally arrived, and another six have arrived or been shipped.

September:  The Protestant version of the Bible is actually 66 books (with 39 "books" in the Old Testament plus 27 "books" in the New Testament) and "Harry Potter" includes seven books, so I don't know how somebody chose these ten titles.

October:  HEAVEN — Calling the Holy Trinity "overstaffed and over budget," God announced plans Monday to downsize the group by slowly phasing out the Holy Ghost.

November:  If I seem to be missing this month, it may have to do with NaNoWriMo, which began today.

December:  As the mother of identical twin daughters, I was hooked by part of the title of a chapter of this book:  "How Come Identical Twins Aren't Identical?"

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Btt (#28) ~ resolved

Booking Through Thursday asks:
"Any reading resolutions for the new year?  Reading more?  (Reading less?)  Reading better books?  Bigger books?  More series?  More relaxing books?"
For me, reading is a way of life.  Resolving to read, whether more or less, would be like resolving to breathe.  Sometimes I may focus more on one kind of book, as I do when working on a particular project.  If I've been reading a heavy dose of nonfiction, I may lighten up by reading a few novels.   That's analogous to eating dessert along with meat and potatoes.  Resolutions?  No, not really.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Library Loot ~ January 2-8

The Peach Keeper ~ by Sarah Addison Allen, 2011, fiction (North Carolina), 9/10
The author of Garden Spells (which I totally enjoyed)welcomes us to a new locale:  Walls of Water, North Carolina, where the secrets are thicker than the fog from the town’s famous waterfalls, and the stuff of superstition is just as real as you want it to be.  It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago.  The Blue Ridge Madam — built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home — has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal.  And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow.  No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.  But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate — socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood — of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn.  Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes.  But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.  For the bones — those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago — are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind.  Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.  Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families — and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.
Amazon has a letter from Sarah Addison Allen that includes this interesting tidbit:
"The original title of The Peach Keeper was God Eats Peaches, which I took from the old saying, 'When God eats peaches, He saves the pit.'  I had a cousin who would never throw away a peach pit based on that saying.  She thought it was bad luck.  My family is full of strange Southern superstitions."
I needed a novel for a change of pace, after reading so many nonfiction books.  This looked like a good one, so I got it, read it, enjoyed it, and rate it a 9 of 10, an excellent book.

Why Does the World Exist? : An Existential Detective Story  ~ by Jim Holt, 2012, philosophy
The metaphysical mystery of how we came into existence remains the most fractious and fascinating questions of all time.  Jim Holt examines our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe, contending that we have been too narrow in limiting our suspects to God versus the Big Bang.  This work becomes philosophy in its own right.
The Age of Miracles ~ by Karen Thompson Walker, 2012, fiction
On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow.  The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray.  Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life the fissures in her parents' marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions.  As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.
London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets ~ by Peter Ackroyd, 2011, history (England)
A study of everything that goes on under London, from original springs and streams and Roman amphitheaters to Victorian sewers, gang hideouts, and modern tube stations.  The depths below are hot, warmer than the surface, and this book tunnels down through the geological layers, meeting the creatures, real and fictional, that dwell in darkness rats and eels, mon­sters and ghosts.  When the Underground's Metropolitan Line was opened in 1864, the guards asked for permission to grow beards to protect themselves against the sulfurous fumes, and named their engines after tyrants Czar, Kaiser, Mogul and even Pluto, god of the underworld.  To go under London is to penetrate history, to enter a hid­den world.  As Ackroyd puts it, "The vastness of the space, a second earth, elicits sensations of wonder and  of terror.  It partakes of myth and dream in equal measure."
Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body ~ by Neil Shubin, 2008, science
Why do we look the way we do?  What does the human hand have in common with the wing of a fly?  Are breasts, sweat glands, and scales connected in some way?  To better understand the inner workings of our bodies and to trace the origins of many of today's most common diseases, we have to turn to unexpected sources:  worms, flies, and even fish.  Neil Shubin, a leading paleontologist and professor of anatomy who discovered Tiktaalik the "missing link" that made headlines around the world in April 2006 tells the story of evolution by tracing the organs of the human body back millions of years, long before the first creatures walked the earth.  By examining fossils and DNA, Shubin shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our head is organized like that of a long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genome look and function like those of worms and bacteria.  Shubin makes us see ourselves and our world in a completely new light.
Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire @ The Captive Reader and Marg @ The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share titles of books they’ve checked out of the library.  To participate, just add your post to their Mister Linky any time during the week.  And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries this week.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

Any act that protects life is sacred. Technology that is dedicated to life-saving purposes acquires sanctity as well, and its use becomes a holy act.
— Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in Jewish with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice

To Practice This Thought:  When you put on your seat belt, remember this is a holy act.