Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Fearless WWII spies / The asteroid and the Amazon forest / Walt Whitman and the Civil War / Percy the Mars rover / The tango and samba

This week: Fearless WWII spies / The asteroid and the Amazon forest / Walt Whitman and the Civil War / Percy the Mars rover / The tango and samba

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. Five fearless female WWII spies and resistors
By Erika Robuck | CrimeReads | April 2021
“Operating behind enemy lines, women took on some of the war effort’s most dangerous clandestine work.”

2. The Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs Created the Amazon Rain Forest
By Rachel Nuwer | Scientific American | April 2021
“Fossilized pollen and leaves reveal that the meteorite that caused the extinction of nonavian dinosaurs also reshaped South America’s plant communities to yield the planet’s largest rain forest”

3. How the American Civil War Gave Walt Whitman a Call to Action
By Mark Edmundson | LitHub | April 2021
“Lincoln said that if he could save the Union without freeing a single slave, he would do so. Whitman the citizen and journalist would have concurred: though as we’ve seen, Whitman the visionary nurtured other aspirations about race in democratic America.”

4. One of the World’s Oldest Science Experiments Comes Up From the Dirt
By Cara Giaimo | The New York Times | April 2021
“Every 20 years under the cover of darkness, scientists dig up seeds that were stashed 142 years ago beneath a college campus.”

5. Rediscovering the Scientist-Priest Who Radically Changed Our View of the Universe
By Guido Tonelli | LitHub | April 2021
“He is among the first to grasp that Einstein’s equations can also describe a dynamic universe, a system of constant mass but one that is expanding—with a radius, that is, which gets bigger with the passage of time.”

6. What’s new with Percy the Mars rover?
By Nick Kirkpatrick, Frank Hulley-Jones and Laris Karklis | The Washington Post | April 2021
“Over the next 31 days, Ginny the chopper will make a handful of test flights in the thin Mars air under the watchful gaze of Percy, which will relay images and data back to NASA. The flight is one of several astonishing successes so far, in a Martian-year-long mission dedicated to a centuries-old mystery: Did ancient microbial life flourish somewhere besides Earth?”

7. The invention of whiteness: The long history of a dangerous idea
By Robert P. Baird | The Guardian | April 2021
“Before the 17th century, people did not think of themselves as belonging to something called the white race. But once the idea was invented, it quickly began to reshape the modern world”

8. The Case for Women’s History
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: The Legacy of WWI in the Balkans and Middle East | The Yazid Inscription | A History of the U.S. Marine Corps | The Tango and Samba

9. A DNA Zoo Maps the Mysteries of All Creatures Great and Small
By Jeff Balke | Texas Monthly | April 2021
“Scientists at a Baylor College of Medicine lab in Houston are sequencing the genomes of the world’s animals, one strand at a time.”

10. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2009-2019
Also see: Pythagoras | The Silk Road | Sparta | The Geological Formation of Britain

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Miss you, Sean Spicer / Black Americans’ past via genetics / View from Mars Rover / The Pentagon’s pollution / One father, 200 children

This week: Miss you, Sean Spicer / Black Americans’ past via genetics / View from Mars Rover / The Pentagon’s pollution / One father, 200 children

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. We’ll Miss You, Sean Spicer
By Erin Gloria Ryan | The New York Times | July 21
“Mr. Spicer was alternately rude and outright dismissive to reporters. He told April Ryan to stop shaking her head. He made Jim Acosta of CNN and Hallie Jackson of MSNBC into household names. Still, Americans tuned into Mr. Spicer’s pressers in such numbers that their ratings topped the soap operas that shared the time slot. Call it ‘As the World Burns.’ ”

2. How African Americans Use DNA Testing to Connect With Their Past
By Ed Yong | The Atlantic | June 2017
“Genetic tests have ushered in a new era of root-seeking and community-building, says social scientist Alondra Nelson.”

3. The Public Editor’s Club at The New York Times as told by the six who lived it
By Andy Robinson | Columbia Journalism Review | July 20
“The editors often found themselves in disagreement with colleagues, and even with direct access to the publisher at all times, the job was never easy. But all agreed the job was a testament to the integrity of the Times. Over the last six months I’ve photographed and interviewed all six who served as public editors of the most influential newsroom in the world.”

4. Trump’s desire for private infrastructure money will narrow his choices
By Tom Scheck, Curtis Gilbert, and Will Craft | APM Reports :: Marketplace | July 19
“An analysis by APM Reports has found that at least 46 transportation and water-related projects in 23 states and the District of Columbia presented to the White House could rely on private money to be completed, including investment opportunities in Alabama, drinking water pipelines in California and New Mexico and a massive transit project in the New York City area.”

5. From Mars Rover: Panorama Above ‘Perseverance Valley’
Jet Propulsion Laboratory :: NASA | July 20
“NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded a panoramic view before entering the upper end of a fluid-carved valley that descends the inner slope of a large crater’s rim.”

6. Open Burns, Ill Winds
By Abrahm Lustgarten | ProPublica | July 20
“The Pentagon’s handling of munitions and their waste has poisoned millions of acres, and left Americans to guess at the threat to their health.”

7. The man who may have secretly fathered 200 children
By Joanna Moorhead | The Guardian | July 15
” A daughter, Lotte, now 23, was born in 1994. Almost two years later, in 1995, Heij gave birth to a second child, Yonathan; Karbaat assured her the sperm was from the same donor.”

8. The unhappiness of the US working class
By Carol Graham | Brookings | July 2017
“A critical factor is the plight of the white blue-collar worker, for whom hopes for making it to a stable, middle-class life have largely disappeared.”

9. Home Girl
By Michael Hall | Texas Monthly | January 2007
“1. Erykah Badu Sings and Dances 2. Raises Her Children 3. Grows Herbs 4. Rides a Skateboard 5. Saves Her Old Hood in Dallas 6. And Works on Her New Album, Which Will Be Finished When It’s Finished”

10. My Beautiful Oubliette: The Difficulty of Being a Writer in Prison
By Dean Faiello | LitHub | June 2017
“Prisons are not set up to inspire writers; I have few choices of where to put down my piece of paper and write. That’s the whole idea of prison rehabilitation — limit the choices and temptations that daily life offers, and hopefully, men will learn to make the right decisions. But the reality is that many of us simply find a way to get what we want. Prison makes us smarter criminals.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Profiles of first ladies / Childfree and loving it / A boring mission to Mars / A Texas-made space telescope / Nixon’s love for Jews

IMG_2092

This week: Profiles of first ladies / Childfree and loving it / A boring mission to Mars / A Texas-made space telescope / Nixon’s love for Jews

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism.

1. The First Ladies
C-SPAN | 2013 and 2014
Watch the stunning and fascinating series about the women as intelligent, complex, canny, and noble (if not more so) than the presidents their husbands became.

2. The Choice To Be Childfree
On Point with Tom Ashbrook :: NPR | Aug. 23
“Childless by choice. We look at the trend of couples saying ‘no thanks’ to having kids.”

3. Dating Superman
By Seth Stevenson | Slate | May 2013
“The ultimate superpower would let you find, woo, and mate with the perfect person”

4. Olivia Wilde Takes Center Stage
By Emma Brown | Interview | Aug. 22
Drinking Buddies is Olivia Wilde’s first time carrying a film, but it is certainly not her last. With upcoming roles in everything from Rush to Spike Jonze’s Her and Paul Haggis’ Third Person, Wilde is the girl of the moment.”

5. Danger! This Mission to Mars Could Bore You to Death!
By Maggie Koerth-Baker | The New York Times Magazine | July 2013
“It would be catastrophic if humanity’s greatest voyage were brought low by the mind’s tendency to wander when left to its own devices. ”

6. Some Newly Uncovered Nixon Comments on the Subjects of Jews and Black People
By Elspeth Reeve | Atlantic Wire :: Atlantic Monthly | Aug. 21
“Richard Nixon was like many a Millennial (or middle-aged politician) who’s gotten busted for sending racy emails or sexts — even though he knew everything he was saying would be archived forever, he still said really inappropriate things.”

7. UT, A&M telescope to be 10 times sharper than Hubble
By Robert Stanton | Houston Chronicle | Aug. 21
“This Saturday, the third mirror for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) will be cast inside a rotating furnace lab at the Steward Observatory in Tucson, Ariz. It’s the only facility in the world where mirrors this large are being made.”

8. Turkey’s Women Strike Back
The New York Review of Books | Aug. 19
“Just as some Turks have recognized for the first time that violence against the Kurds in the east is no different than the police violence they are now experiencing in the west, they are also becoming aware that state meddling in women’s lives means meddling in the lives of everyone.”

9. Not-so-empty nests: When adult children live at home
By Adriene Hill | Marketplace Life | May 2013
“There are more than 22 million adult children still living at home with their parents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

10. The End of Second Acts?
By Shadd Maruna and Charles Barber | The Wilson Quarterly | Spring 2013
“The mass warehousing of convicts is a sign of America’s faltering belief in second chances. Considering how individuals atone for their crimes can help us restore rehabilitation as an ideal.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Harry, Prince of Vegas / Obama: Romney has no ideas / The real Afghan War begins / HD video of Mars descent / Unknown Civil War soldier ID’d

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Watch Out Mars! 1080 HD Video of Curiosity Descent
By Caleb. B. Scharf | Life, Unbounded :: Scientific American | Aug. 22
“Ok, so every so often something comes along that just blows away everything you’ve seen before. This is one of those things.”

2. Unknown soldier in famed Library of Congress Civil War portrait identified
By Charlie Wells | The New York Daily News | Aug. 22
“A chance encounter between the young soldier’s great-great granddaughter Patricia Mullinax and avid Civil War photography collector Tom Liljenquist led to the identification of Stephen Pollard.”

3. A paint-by-numbers portrait of changing nation
By Calvid Woodward and Christopher S. Rugaber | Associated Press | Aug. 25
“We’re heavier in pounds and hotter by degrees than Americans of old. We’re starting to snub our noses at distant suburbs after generations of burbs in our blood. Our roads and bridges are kind of a mess. There are many more poor, and that’s almost sure to get worse.”
Also see: Sign-of-the-times stats

4. Why Afghanistan Isn’t a Campaign Issue: Neither Obama nor Romney Have a Solution
By Tony Karon | Time World | Aug. 24
“The ‘systemic problem’ of uniformed Afghans attacking their American mentors raises questions about the viability of a bipartisan exit plan”

5. Ragtag Revolts in Parts of Afghanistan Repel Taliban
By Alissa J. Rubin and Matthew Rosenberg | The New York Times | Aug. 25
“[T]he movement has become another case study of a classic Afghan problem that directly challenges the Western goal of a stable country after the 2014 troop withdrawal: a threat posed by an armed group is answered by arming another group, which in turn becomes a game piece to be fought over by larger forces.”

6. Obama on Romney’s ‘extreme’ views
By Ben Feller | Associated Press | Aug. 25
“In an interview with The Associated Press, Obama said Romney lacks serious ideas, refuses to ‘own up’ to the responsibilities of what it takes to be president, and deals in factually dishonest arguments that could soon haunt him in face-to-face debates.”

7. Tania Luna: My story of gratitude
TED New York | July 2012
“Tania Luna co-founded Surprise Industries, the world’s only company devoted to designing surprise experiences.”

8. Las Vegas hails Prince Harry as a true son of Sin City
By Rory Carroll | The Guardian | Aug. 25
“Las Vegas is making the most of its role in a royal scandal — and young Britons are flocking to it for full-on fun”

9. The End of the Gutbuster
By Pat Leonard | Disunion :: The New York Times | July 5
“The soldiers could not have known then, and would not know until years later, the immense impact on their lives that would be wielded by the single unassuming officer who entered their camps that day.”

10. Does Self-Awareness Require a Complex Brain?
By Ferris Jabr | Brainwaves :: Scientific American | Aug. 22
“To be conscious is to think; to be self-aware is to realize that you are a thinking being and to think about your thoughts.”

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Being alone / Planning for post-Assad Syria / NASA preps for Mars landing / Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld get coffee / RFK’s secret archive

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. How to be alone
By Tracy Clark-Flory | Salon | Aug. 4
“We all have to learn to be by ourselves, whether it’s after a breakup, a move or a divorce — but how, exactly?”

2. State Department and Pentagon Plan for Post-Assad Syria
By Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker | The New York Times | Aug. 4
“Mindful of American mistakes following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, both agencies have created a number of cells to draft plans for what many officials expect to be a chaotic, violent aftermath that could spread instability over Syria’s borders …”

3. Ruins a memento of Iraqi Christians’ glorious past
By Kay Johnson | Associated Press | Aug. 5
“[R]uins have emerged from the sand over the past five years with the expansion of the airport serving the city of Najaf, and have excited scholars who think this may be Hira, a legendary Arab Christian center.”

4. NASA braces for ‘7 minutes of terror’ Mars plunge
By Alicia Chang | Associated Press | Aug. 5
“The Curiosity rover was poised to hit the top of the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph. If all goes according to script, it will be slowly lowered by cables inside a massive crater in the final few seconds.”

5. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Larry Eats a Pancake
By Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David | Crackle | July 2012
“Jerry’s special guest is Larry David in the premiere episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.”

6. He May Be Leader of Peru, but to Outspoken Kin, He’s Just a Disappointment
By William Neuman | The New York Times | Aug. 4
“The president’s brother Ulises, the oldest of the seven Humala children, compared the family’s wranglings — ‘Humala vs. Humala’ is a headline that needs no translation here — to the escapades in ‘Dallas.’ ”

7. Theo Jansen creates new creatures
TED | September 2007
“Artist Theo Jansen demonstrates the amazingly lifelike kinetic sculptures he builds from plastic tubes and lemonade bottles.”

8. Kennedys keep vise-grip on RFK papers
By Bryan Bender | The Boston Globe | Aug. 5
“Scholars and government officials believe the 62 boxes of files covering Kennedy’s three years as attorney general during his brother’s administration could provide insights into critical Cold War decisions on issues ranging from the Cuban missile crisis to Vietnam.”

9. Left for Dead in Virginia
By Ronald S. Coddington | Disunion :: The New York Times | June 28
“George T. Perkins and his Union comrades breathed a collective sigh of relief on the afternoon of June 27, 1862.”

10. Mississippi 1964: Civil Rights and Unrest
By Walter Cronkite | NPR | June 2005
“Walter Cronkite recalls the story of the slaying of three civil rights workers in 1964. Cronkite saw the drama unfold amid two struggles: one for civil rights and another against the Vietnam War.”

******************

TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. FULL MOON, EMPTY HEART Belly
2. COME TOGETHER The Beatles
3. STEP BY STEP Jesse Winchester
4. ATLANTIC CITY (Live) Bruce Springsteen
5. COME RAIN OR COME SHINE (Unplugged) Don Henley
6. ARE YOU GONNA GO MY WAY (Unplugged) Lenny Kravitz
7. RACING IN THE STREET Bruce Springsteen
8. AGAIN Lenny Kravitz
9. HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN The Animals
10. HELTER SKELTER U2

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Ideas to explore Mars / Love the child-free life / Appreciating our national parks / Ashtrays on airplanes / Sexy T-shirt sniffing

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism.

1. Expatriates in drug violence-riddled Mexico: Stay or go?
By David Agren | USA Today | May 23
“Horrific violence between warring drug cartels has been a fact of life in parts of Mexico for years. What is most frightening to Mexicans here, though, is that the victims were selected because they were innocent.”

2. Mars or Bust! Scientists Flood NASA With 400 Ideas to Explore Red Planet
Space.com | May 25
“Scientists have responded in a big way to NASA’s call to help reformulate its Mars robotic exploration strategy, submitting about 400 ideas and Red Planet mission concepts to the space agency.”

3. Childfree Women: Tell Us What You Love Most About Not Having Kids
By Emma Gray | The Huffington Post | May 23
“I’m content to live a life that just wouldn’t be possible if I was financially and emotionally responsible for another human being.”

4. Robert Caro: The Big Book
By Chris Jones | Esquire | April 12
“Time has eaten everything around him, and still he is not done. But until he is done, one part of the world that we will never see again will not die.”

5. Mars probe catches its own shadow
Associated Press | May 24
“Mars Rover Opportunity catches its own late-afternoon shadow in a view eastward across Endeavour Crater on Mars.”

6. Ken Burns: National parks feed America’s soul
By Ken Burns | USA Today | May 21
“These parks are part of our commonwealth, part of that which brings us together as Americans, that which has served as a beacon to the rest of the world.”

7. Staying Secure on the Road
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | May 22
“Is hotel Wi-Fi safe to use?”

8. Why Airplanes Still Have Ashtrays in the Bathrooms
By Jamie Condliffe | Gizmodo | May 22
“You might think that they’re a hangover, from more liberal days, on planes yet to be replaced — but you’d be wrong.”

9. Job, economy fears mix with hope for Class of ’12
By Sharon Cohen | Associated Press | May 26
“For thousands of new graduates making the big transition this spring, there are pressures to find jobs quickly, pay off loans and, in some cases, start a second career, all against the backdrop of the slow-healing economy.”

10. Sex, scents and pheromones
By Lauren Eggert-Crowe | Salon | May 19
“At L.A.’s hottest new party, singles hook up by sniffing slept-in T-shirts. Is it science or speed dating?”

**************

TUNES

My soundtrack for today included:
1. MANNISH BOY Muddy Waters
2. IT’S RAINING Irma Thomas
3. HOW BLUE CAN YOU GET? (Live) B.B. King
4. GOOD TO ME Irma Thomas
5. CATFISH BLUES B.B. King
6. HIGH HEEL SNEAKERS Tommy Tucker
7. AT LAST Etta James
8. THE THRILL IS GONE B.B. King
9. A CHANGE IS GONNA COME Sam Cooke
10. ALL I COULD DO IS CRY Etta James & Riley Hampton

Recommended reading / viewing / listening

Brains of abused kids … Are you pregnant? … TX lege maps blocked … More water clues on Mars … Helpful rats.

Most of these great items come from my Twitter feed or Facebook news feed. Follow me on Twitter and on Facebook for more fascinating videos, articles, essays and criticism. Read past recommendations from this series here.

1. Abused children’s brains work like soldiers’ do
By Andy Coghlan | New Scientist | Dec. 6
“When they saw angry faces, the maltreated children showed extra activity in the amygdala and the anterior insula, known to be involved in threat detection and anticipation of pain. Combat soldiers show similar heightened activity.”

2. Supreme Court blocks Texas’ electoral maps
By Sara Ines Calderon | La Politica :: NewTaco | Dec. 9
“The Supreme Court has blocked maps drawn by a panel of three federal judges after the state was sued because the original maps drawn by the legislature disenfranchised Latino and other minority voters”

3. The Supreme Court order staying new Texas legislative maps
By Sara Ines Calderon | La Politica :: NewTaco | Dec. 9
Read the court order here.

4. Analysis says no mental health risk with abortion
Associated Press | Dec. 8
“Among women with unwanted pregnancies, those who had abortions were no more likely to suffer from problems including anxiety or depression than women who gave birth, the analysis by the U.K.’s National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health found.”

5. Opportunity Rover Finds Gypsum, ‘Slam-Dunk’ Evidence That Water Flowed On Red Planet
By Timothy Stenovec | The Huffington Post | Dec. 8
“This isn’t the first mineral evidence that water may have flowed on Mars, but … this gypsum deposit may indicate a less-acidic water supportive of microbial life.”

6. Q&A: The Lifespan of a Flash Drive
By J.D. Biersdorfer | Gadgetwise :: The New York Times | July 19
“Q: Several years ago when I bought a flash drive, the clerk said it would retain info for five years. Is this true as a general rule for flash drives? Do they wear out?”

7. ‘Scary’ Volcano Erupts in Ecuador
National Geographic | Dec. 8
“During the past few days, Tungurahua has been unleashing booming explosions, hurling columns of ash some 9,800 to 16,000 feet above its peak, and issuing flows of lava.”

8. How Can You Be Pregnant (For Months) And Not Know It?
By Jena Pincott | The Huffington Post | Dec. 8
“Among pregnant women, 1 in 450 doesn’t know her status until week 20 or later (more than halfway through the pregnancy), and 1 in 2,500 is oblivious until she actually goes into labor.”

9. Rats’ bad rap: Study shows them nice, not naughty
By Seth Borenstein | Associated Press | Dec. 8
“Rats don’t always act like, well, rats. New experiments show rats demonstrating compassion and helping other rodents. It’s a trait some scientists thought was reserved only for humans and higher primates.”

10. 2012 race emerges as novel campaign
By Edward-Isaac Dovere | Politico | Dec. 9
“In a culture where politics has become a springboard to celebrity, the integration of the book tours into the presidential campaign is a natural progression. …”

**************

TUNES

Tonight I’m spending some time with the blues, specifically with the Texas Blues Café. Check out the line-up and then listen here.

1. Los Lonely Boys — Road House Blues
2. Los Lonely Boys — She’ll Be My Everything for Christmas
3. Van Wilks — Cold Slide of Cool
4. Scotty Meyer Band — A Piece of My Mind
5. Michelle Malone — Soul Chicken
6. Mojo Saints — Gnawin’ Bone
7. Barry McCabe — Kissin’ In Your Sleep
8. Paul Thorn — Viagra
9. Demian Bell — Dynamite
10. Chris Juergensen — Love Dog
11. Marc Broussard — On Santa’s Way Home
12. Blackfoot — Sunshine Again
13. Dr. Wu — Storm Watch Warning