A comedian stands up for sums. From New Scientist

Sounds like a great read with a bit of involvement.

PLEASE everyone, look into the fun side of maths for your kid’s sake. Kids need to enjoy maths and appreciate it is just a set of rules and facts they can commit to memory, just like any other subject. You don’t have to be good at maths to enjoy its many aspects in our daily lives.

A comedian stands up for sums – physics-math – 04 November 2014 – New Scientist.


Book Banquet 2012

Shai Coggins’ blog reminded me that I have read quite a pile of books this year that I should list, even if just for myself. If you have read any of these and have an opinion, please comment!

  1. Nonfiction. Them and Us: Changing Britain – Why We Need a Fair Society Will Hutton. This book applies equally well to the Australian scene since the Global Financial Crisis and is a big influence on how I now view the political economy of public health.
  2. Nonfiction. David Harvey. The Enigma of Capital: and the Crises of Capitalism. This book was the basis of a pre-conference workshop on the Political Economy of Health before the international Public Health Association meeting in Adelaide in September 2012. It convinced me that I’m on the right track with my lack of capitalism in its present form ever leading to fairness in the distribution of resources compatible with good health in a nation. All capitalism depends on gambling that the small amounts of money held by “lesser” people can be collected together by crooks on the stock market to increase the large amounts held by people who consider themselves “the bosses” of the rest of us. It can’t keep happening as eventually the poor run out of resources, get angry and disrupt the system, or the rich find there is little value in their cash because workers are not producing anything more for them to buy with it. They can then either stockpile wealth to absolutely no avail or start financing jobs for the unemployed so the economy can start moving again. Have I convinced you? Anyway, I could rave about this forever, knowing absolutely nothing about economics!
  3. Jo Nesbo The Redbreast. A horrific Scandinavian thriller, as are the next four.
  4. Jo Nesbo The Leopard
  5. Jo Nesbo The Devil’s Star
  6. Jo Nesbo The Snowman. These are so well-written I couldn’t put them down.
  7. Henning Mankell The Troubled Man. Detective Kurt Wallander has turned sixty and thinks he is succumbing to the dementia that ended his own father’s life. Meanwhile he is struggling to help solve the mystery of a murdered naval officer.
  8. Peter Hoeg The Quiet Girl. Odd but thrilling, with a young girl kept apart from others by an apparently obscure group of “nuns”, helped by a strange Bach-loving clown. There are touches of magical realism about the tale but it all hangs together in the end
  9. Camilla Läckberg The Ice Princess: The body of crime writer Erica Falck’s childhood friend is discovered, wrists slashed, in an ice cold bath. Was it murder or suicide? The investigation leads her to a community on the brink of tragedy.
  10. Camilla Läckberg The Preacher: Twenty years ago, two young women disappeared in Fjällbacka – now their remains are found, along with a new victim. As Patrik Hedström works to solve these murders, do the dark secrets of a local family hold the key?
  11. Camilla Läckberg The Stonecutter: When a little girl is found in a fisherman’s net, the police realize it was no accidental drowning. Patrik Hedström investigates the death of a child both he and Erica knew well.
  12. Hakan Nesser – but can’t remember the title- think it’s different in Australia than the USA. But it’s another crime thriller.
  13. Yrsa Sigurdardottir Last Rituals Set in Reykjavík, this thriller concerns the murder of a student who appears to have odd symbols carved into his chest linked to ancient folk tales.
  14. Martin Walker Black Diamond. Policeman “Bruno” Benoit Couregges is on the trail of truffle merchants who are rigging the price of their expensive finds in French provincial markets.
  15. Martin Walker  The Crowded Grave. I loved the description of the French countryside in this mystery about a modern murder victim concealed at an archeological dig against the suspicion of local cross-border terrorism.
  16. Non-fiction. Ted Nield Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet. About the history of the major tectonic plates that cover the earth and how we can see the ancient links between them by matching the minerals and landforms at the break-apart sites.
  17. Non-fiction. Simon Winchester Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms & a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories. I skipped most of the battles etc. & concentrated on the accounts of how the Atlantic is being widened by the upwelling of volcanoes along the mid-continental ridge and the currents that carry whole species to unusual destinations on its shores.
  18. Nonfiction. Richard Dawkins. The Ancestors’ Tale. This gave me a really clear view of evolution by tracing the origins of all living species back to where they branched off from their closest genetic relative on the evolutionary tree. The explanations for the sometimes bizarre separations of different species or varieties of animals and plants from each other by geological changes, such as continental drift and tectonic plates and climate change are quite revelatory as well. One of the best books on genetic evolution I’ve ever read- much better than all the ones that start with a single cell and come from past to present!
  19. Geraldine Brooks Caleb’s Crossing. The Pulitzer Prize Winner’s novel of early America- Caleb is the first Native American to attend Harvard University, after being brought up quite traditionally on the site of modern day Martha’s Vineyard.
  20.  Lars Kepler The Nightmare. Detective Inspector Joona Linna investigates the recovery of a young woman’s body from an abandoned yacht drifting around the Stockholm archipelago. Her lungs are filled with brackish water, and the forensics team is sure that she drowned. Why, then, is the pleasure boat still afloat, and why are there no traces of water on her clothes or body? The story involves international conspiracy and crime on a horrific scale, not easily relatable to the original death.

You can see by this selection that I’m a great fan of modern Scandinavian crime fiction, the history of the planet and the relationship of economics to health- what a weird mix  eh?! What’s your mix look like?


Beautiful Thing: An educational experience

From the title you might not conclude that Beautiful Thing by Sonia Faleiro could be very educational… unless you wanted to swiftly contract AIDS & die in the slums of Mumbai.

However, this true story of the life of a bar-dancer illuminated many things for me about life in India as a Muslim woman, about the immovability of old social structures, the nature of old Islam and [of course], public health.

I really feel some insight into the quandaries of life for women under the old and poverty-stricken Muslim regimes all through time and around the world. You may disagree with my conclusions from the book, but I’m sure you’ll never think of India the same way again. You might pause to think about the nightlife in Dubai as well.

This might not be the blog-space for me to expand on the information I gained about “ladyboys” in Asia, either, but a lot of things make sense now on why there are so many and why they lead these distorted lives.

Have a look at the blurb on Beautiful Thing from an Australian bookseller. While you’re there, sample the text via the convenient Google preview- you may be intrigued:

She is a Beautiful Thing

She is a Beautiful Thing

For a RLY SRS discussion of my learnings from the book, I’ll hop over to my public health blog shortly [people who know me would say I do EVERYTHING “shortly”, LOL].

Women, at least, should read this book- but you will need a strong stomach.

Bruno’s Dordogne

I’ve been reading a few books by an author named Martin Walker, who looks uncannily like my branch of the Walker family. This one is the second in a series of light detective mysteries set in the Dordogne wine-making region of France.
The Dark Vineyard: A novel of the French countryside The Dark Vineyard: A novel of the French countryside by Martin Walker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After 80 pages I thought it seemed to give a good impression of normal life in the French countryside.
The story brought in several possible new loves for the rather classically French policeman, Inspector Bruno, but I won’t spoil the story for you by saying how successful he was with how many!
The plot was nicely mysterious but I felt the “false leads” weren’t fleshed out enough to convince me in a short number of pages. However, it was interesting how the plight of the French wine industry in the modern era of multinational corporations, was portrayed. The author also complimented the South Australian wine education system by implying that it was the best in the world- pleasing to me as an Adelaide resident with quite a few wine-making acquaintances.
To my mind there wasn’t enough detail on the investigation of the suspicious deaths, which took some potential suspense out of the story.
Overall, I felt a little disappointed in this book after having read the first Inspector Bruno. This one makes a good light read but isn’t long- or gripping enough for a major plane journey.

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