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Reviews Written by
Ronald W. Garrison (Chapel Hill NC USA)

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New Soldier
New Soldier
by John F. Kerry
Edition: Paperback
11 used & new from CDN$ 55.38

4.0 out of 5 stars Why wold they lie?, Feb. 17 2004
This review is from: New Soldier (Paperback)
The reader from Seattle should realize that he is, in effect, saying that all those veterans whose comments show in those interviews are LYING. The obvious question is: Why would they? Some of those comments are soul-baring to an unbelievable degree. Why would ordinary people do that? For publicity? Give me a break. One deranged person, maybe, but not a dozen or two, in a book that will be around for generations.
I would never have been aware of this old snapshot of the past, if those so offended by it had not made such a stink about it. Carrying the flag upside down? Horrors! Everyone should know that that is a signal of distress. And distress we had then, and distress we have now.
What many of us will be watching for is whether John Kerry will now act in accordance with the things he said and did then, or whether he will now be co-opted by the same Establishment he questioned so pointedly in those days.

Men from Earth
Men from Earth
Offered by Uncover Treasures
Price: CDN$ 58.29
3 used & new from CDN$ 58.29

5.0 out of 5 stars a long-awaited treat, Dec 13 2002
This review is from: Men from Earth (Audio CD)
What is it that would make an album like this one of my never-will-get-tired-of-this favorites? I don't know, but I'm delighted to have it on CD at last. I'm also pleased with the bonus tracks.
On the whole, the sound is outstanding too. So far, I haven't noticed a *trace* of tape hiss--although I'm not sure if this is from very clean original tapes, or from modern signal processing (which is not necessarily without its downside). The CD has a much more bottom-heavy sound than the LP, and to my ears it seems like that's due to making instruments like the bass and drums more prominent, rather than EQ changes.
One thing they did flub, though--the fadeouts on some tracks should've been gentler. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that the end of "Homemade Wine" was botched, and I may eventually try to splice the end of the copy on my hits CD onto it to fix the abrupt end.
I remember, in the heyday of Napster, downloading some tracks from the Pickwick CD release of *Don't Look Down*, and finding some of the same abrupt endings, only worse. I was well acquainted with the LP, so it was hard not to notice. Note to New Era people: Are you listening? Please be careful about those fades!
One further comment, in answer to the later reviewer: The Daredevils' CD hits collection (called The Best) has the same shortened version of You Know Like I Know. (I don't know why they would do that, unless the original master tape was seriously damaged or something.)

The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World
by Bjorn Lomborg
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 26.00
107 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

3.0 out of 5 stars my baloney detector is offscale, May 26 2002
We can argue endlessly about this or that statistic, and clearly, sometimes Lomborg and other critics of environmentalists are sometimes right. The world is not deteriorating by ALL measures, and maybe not even by most. Global human life expectancy, currently at 67 (!), continues to increase, with no sign of slowing down. A smaller percentage of the world's population is actually starving than before. AND we continue to drive species to extinction, draw down water tables, and warm the atmosphere. It's a mixed bag. People in the broad, reasonable middle of the opinion spectrum have to agree on certain things.
But I find the overall direction of Lomborg's claim highly suspect. Obviously, I cannot know what goes on in his mind to lead him to the conclusions he puts forth, but they seem intended to give support to the anti-environmentalist backlash. They set a new high-water mark for sophistication, and for that reason, may be more dangerous than those of his mentors (such as Julian Simon).
Just consider a couple of big-picture things:
(1) Can anyone show me just ONE reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journal, without an obvious axe to grind, that supports Lomborg's claims?
(2) Lomborg says "We invariably choose to prioritize using our limited resources." He also says that "We have grown to believe that we are faced with an inescapable choice between higher economic welfare and a greener environment--only when we get sufficiently rich can we afford the luxury of caring about the environment." So--we can have improving living conditions for the human race, and a better environment, although we may not be able to insist on perfection in either area. Isn't that pretty much what most people in the environmental movement would agree about?
Is Lomborg going through all these statistics just to refute a few romanticist extremists who want to return us to prehistoric conditions? I don't think so.
If Lomborg is really as green as he claims, where is the support for people like Amory Lovins, who is promoting new technologies that support a win-win paradigm? Instead, Lomborg disparages such efforts. He says of wind power, "Even in the unlikely event that the rapid wind power growth rate could continue, it would take 46 consecutive years of 22% growth for wind to overtake oil." Well, wind power has been continuing that growth rate for at least a couple of decades, and there is no sign of it slowing down. On the contrary, there is a report in the May Scientific American (or maybe it was Technology Review about the same time, but I think it was SA), where there have been some real breakthroughs in large-scale wind power very recently. And that's just ONE of the major renewable technologies. And that doesn't even mention conservation technologies, where the real action currently is.
I think 46 more years is somewhat pessimistic, from the trends I've seen. Thirty to forty years, and the fossil fuel era will be coming to an end, if present trends hold. But you wouldn't know that from Lomborg's self-styled "optimistic" analysis.
Read carefully between the lines, and your baloney detector will go off too.

Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations
Beyond Contact: A Guide to SETI and Communicating with Alien Civilizations
by Brian McConnell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 32.37
27 used & new from CDN$ 3.22

2.0 out of 5 stars can't take it seriously, April 14 2002
Here's a book that superficially looks like a serious technical discussion of SETI, even to the point where many potential readers may be intimidated by the diagrams, equations, jargon, and so on. But in reality, it's very lacking in solid scientific information.
For example: On page 116, one of the factors mentioned as a limit to OSETI (finding laser beacons and such) is extinction--the attenuation of light due to dust in the intersteller medium. This, it is said, limits our ability to see laser beacons to "a few dozens light years" for visible wavelengths. Really?? Then how come you can go and see stars farther away than that with your naked eye? Oh, because they're brighter! Well, how bright does a laser beacon need to be? How much attentuation is there, in per cent, dB or whatever, at, say, 100 light years? How much does a beam spread out over, say, 100 light years? How much variation in the signal is there over time as a result of dust? Not a BIT of quantitative data on this stuff!
Like all other SETI enthusiasts I've seen, they also ignore another issue: As communication techniques get more advanced, they look more and more like random noise. Our millions of chattering cell phones and internet hosts will almost certainly be undetectable to anyone outside the earth environment, let alone the solar system: Those transmissions have no directionality, they are low power precisely because they are efficient and advanced, and their advanced modulation causes them to look like white noise. Consider a 300 bps modem, with its old-fashioned tone signaling; then listen to a 56k modem, which, except when it's hooking up, sounds almost like rushing steam. It's hard to escape the idea that we will only pick up radio from ET if he intentionally beams it at us, a doubtful proposition unless he's within 60 light years, as he has no way to know of OUR radio transmissions.
A final word about copy editing: I've yet to read a book with absolutely no errors, but at least they could get three-letter words like "its" right. There are other serious errors, such as missing words, the ubiquitous "different than," and other less glaring mistakes. If they can't do better than that, perhaps they should just record audio tapes.
All in all, about a third of the way through, I decided that other books must surely be able to better satisfy my curiosity on this subject.

Offered by Polar Bear Store
Price: CDN$ 56.72
6 used & new from CDN$ 24.73

5.0 out of 5 stars I LOVE this album!!, Jan. 2 2002
This review is from: Recollection (Audio CD)
I don't often get to say that, but this time I mean it.
It's over two years since I bought this CD, and only just recently have I gotten into it. It's suddenly become one of my favorites.
One thing I am a bit curious about: Why is the version of The Vampire Song on this album call an "edit?" It's a completely different rendition from the one on Bloodletting, and I for one like the Recollection version a LOT better!
I can't wait to get the videos, and check out a few other things, like No Talking Just Head.
And one more thing: Mercedes Benz is about my least favorite track just to listen to, but that doesn't mean it isn't impressive. Johnette manages to out-Janis Janis!

Quest For Immortality: Science At The Frontiers Of Aging
Quest For Immortality: Science At The Frontiers Of Aging
by Jay S Olshansky
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from CDN$ 0.44

3.0 out of 5 stars informative, but unrealistically conservative, Nov. 24 2001
I read The Quest For Immortality last spring with some expectation that my preconceptions about aging research would be seriously challenged. Instead, afterward I had the impression that, if this is the best these authors can do to debunk the claims of "prolongevists," then I'm more confident than ever that substantial life extension will be a reality in the near future.
Olshansky and Carnes agree with a variation of the commonly held "wear and tear" theory of aging--a version which holds that accumulated, random unrepaired damage, over time, causes aging. In their view, aging is not programmed by evolution, but results because our cells, though remarkably good at repairing random DNA damage, still do not do so perfectly. But in stating this, Olshansky and Carnes have to ignore some fairly obvious things.
First, somatic cells have, in vitro, been brought from a senescent state back to a more youthful state. So it is clear that not all somatic cells suffer from degraded DNA that induces senescence; it is also clear that the senescence of at least some cells is not the result of random DNA errors, or it could not be so easily reversed.
Second, nowhere is this supposedly critical random DNA damage quantified. Nowhere do they tell you how prevalent the accumulated damage is, how many or what genes it affects, or what tissues suffer most from it. In contrast, adherents of other theories can at least quantify certain aspects of things such as hormone levels or telomere shortening.
Although this book is written in an entertaining style that is well-targeted to the lay reader, I cannot give it more than three stars, not only because I think their reasoning is not persuasive, but also because I think their writing has been deficient in several places. Some examples:
(1) On p. 187, they start a chapter by saying that telomerase was discovered in 1998, and reported with great fanfare. This is not true. I have not been able to find the exact date of discovery, but telomerase was discovered no later than about 1989; this appears to revolve around work done by Carol Greider and Cal Harley at Cold Spring Harbor NY. The 1998 discoveries involved consequences to cells (renewed ability to divide) when telomerase was activated in those cells.
(2) One of the authors starts the book with a foreword in which he heaps scorns on the misguided health concerns of his in-laws--not a high note on which to begin a supposedly serious discussion!
(3) In a similar vein, another chapter starts with several derogatory remarks about the work of Michael Rose with fruit flies. Later, they speak of him in a more complimentary way. If the authors don't think much of Rose's work, fair enough; but they should just say so, and forthrightly tell you why. There seems a puzzling contrast between the different comments made about Rose's work.
(4) Around page 192, in discussing caloric restriction experiments with animals, they suppose that the control animals were allowed to "lay around and get fat," so that the findings would not be generalizable to other normal (not obese) animals. The usual assumption would be that the caloric intake of both groups would be regulated, at different levels. There is no confirmation that this was not the case. Some clarification could be helpful here.
Olshansky and Carnes have used questionable reasoning elsewhere as well. In an article in Scientific American around the time of the book's release, they paint a whimsical picture of what humans would be like if we were designed by nature to live decades longer than we do. Knee joints would be equipped for durability, not speed. Throats would be shaped to prevent choking. And so on. But nature does not design animals to hang on during an extended period of decline; and the aim of prolongevists is likewise not to extend a terminal period of decline, but to preserve youthful functioning. So it's not clear what their purpose is in putting forth this fictional scenario.
Aging research is a field sorely in need of clarification of important questions that are not adequately addressed by this book.

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