Welcome to my blog where I share book reviews
and life along the winding road

Friday, April 20, 2018

In Pursuit of Memory by Joseph Jebelli

Neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli takes us through the scientific advances and failures beginning with Aloysius Alzheimer's discoveries.

Dr. Jebelli's advice:
Follow a Mediterranean diet
Exercise (even mild exercise)
Avoid stress
Stimulate your mind (puzzles and mind games)
Use turmeric spice (people in India who eat a lot of curry have lower Alzeimer's rates)
"You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain."

Joseph Jebelli is confident we will defeat Alzheimer's in our lifetime.

Aloysis "Alois" Alzheimer was born in a small Bavarian town in 1864. After attending medical school in Berlin he went on to work as an intern at a Frankfurt mental asylum where he made changes to release shackled patients and worked on calming them rather than imprisoning. He also studied brain tissue. The first patient he came across with what we now call "Alzheimer's" was a woman aged 51 but with dementia that had previously been associated with normal aging. After her death five years later, a post-mortem showed a large loss of brain tissue and dark particles of plaques and tangles between the nerve cells.

Alzheimer's disease is like a science fiction movie with plaques and tangles infiltrating the brain including frontal lobes that take away the ability to process logistical thoughts and resulting in fear and anxiety. With medication only 3-4 years of stability can be expected with death at about 8 years after diagnosis.

Following are some of the discoveries Dr. Jebelli mentions in his book:

In 1981 Leonard Heston discovered that Alzheimer's could be genetic with relatives of patients with early onset Alzheimer's developing the disease in middle age. He also discovered that many had a high incidence of Down's syndrome in the family. More studies on genes were done in the 1990 Human Genome Project.

In Columbia there is a higher concentration of Alzheimer sufferers than anywhere else in the world. Genetic mutation (Paisa mutation) is the cause. Scientists are hoping a new drug will combat the disease if given at an early age.

Karoly Nikolich found that using blood cells from younger people showed cognitive improvements.

Naji Tabet  Exercise - even mild exercise - can prevent or slow the decline of Alzheimer's patients.

Frank LaFerla states that stress lasting several hours or more might accelerate or worsen the disease.

Stanley Pruisner  discovered a class of pathogens (prions) that become self propogating and cause neurodegenerative diseases. These are immune to normal disinfectant and caused concerns for surgical instruments.

John Collinge shared that Alzheimer's might be transmissible (prions). Despite the British National Health service paying Dr. Collinge a large sum of money to develop a disinfectant to eradicate these (RelyOn), they then decided that the risk wasn't high enough to authorize the added cost within the hospitals (many had died resulting from infection after receiving a contaminated growth hormone)

Paige Cramer, a graduate student, discovered that a skin cancer drug, bexarotene, could reverse symptoms of Alzheimer's in mice.

Kavi Stefansson from Reykjavik, Iceland, discovered many Icelanders have a gene mutation that shields them from Alzheimer's.

Yves Christen and Tom Curran noted that those who develop cancer are less likely to get Alzheimer's and visa versa.

Genetics loads the gun - lifestyle pulls the trigger. . .

Early diagnosis is critical

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson is a view of Britain from an American point of view (he now has dual citizenship). In typical Bill Bryson fashion, the book is a mixture of history, current events, and a travel guide, written with sarcasm, wit and humor.
He talks about his path to British citizenship (the test and helpful literature was peppered with inaccurate historical events and spelling mistakes), the demise of some iconic seaside towns, due to affordable continental travel and the Chunnel, and out of the way villages where ramblers might share a path with a bull or herd of cows.
One village he came across was once slated to be destroyed as part of a design plan by Geoffrey Jellicoe which he called Motopia, ironically a pedestrian-only village where cars traveled on roads built on top of the houses (Mr. Jellicoe emphasized that the house ceilings would be sufficiently insulated to avoid noise from overhead traffic!). It was scrapped (thank goodness) because of the enormous cost to develop.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin has several narrators and shows how one bad choice can affect a whole family. While most of the "voices" sounded similar, Gabrielle Zevin throws in a lot of zingers and humor. The parts I enjoyed the most were the e-mails that Ruby sent to her Friends Around the World pen pal, Fatima, a Muslim living in Indonesia.

From the cover:
Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her married boss. When the affair comes to light, the popular congressman doesn't take the fall, but Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins. . . she sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. . . When she decides to run for public office, that mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up. It is only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Verbal Judo - The Art of Gentle Persuasion

Verbal Judo, by George J. Thompson was recommended by a security expert at a workshop I attended at a local school. Sadly, we live in a world where teachers need training on how to protect their students from someone wielding a gun or a kidnap situation. But, although George Thompson was a scholar, policeman and police officer trainer, he points out that we can use the art of gentle persuasion in all sorts of situations from diffusing a fight to persuading a store keeper to issue a refund.

Here are his five universal truths of human interaction:

  1. All people want to be treated with dignity and respect
  2. All people want to be asked rather than told to do something
  3. All people want to be informed as to why they are being asked or ordered to do something
  4. All people want to be given options rather than threats
  5. All people want a second chance when they make a mistake

He also points out that people can usually be broken into three categories: Nice, Difficult and Wimps.
The nice people will not complain and are happy to help and have a hard time saying no, but if you don't treat them well, you'll lose credibility and they will gradually stop supporting you.

Difficult people are persnickety. It is usually pointless to try and explain why they are asked to do something. They may not even care about consequences if they fail to obey. The best way to approach them is to tell them early on what's in it for them - what they will gain. If that doesn't work, tell them what they will lose.
i.e. If your child refuses to clean their room tell them if it's clean every day then they will have certain privileges, if that doesn't work, reverse it and tell them those privileges will be taken away.

Wimps appear to be nice people but will talk behind your back. They won't challenge you face to face but instead they will make disparaging remarks to others or start legal action against someone. Usually if you confront them they will back down.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict

Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict is an interesting look into the life of Andrew Carnegie and his family from the view of a fictional lady's maid.

There are mixed reviews of Carnegie's Maid on Goodreads and while I liked the idea and the historical setting for the story, I found a lot of the story about Clara (the maid) to be unbelievable. Her vocabulary and knowledge of how to take care of a lady seemed improbable for a poor Irish farmer's daughter and taking the place of a woman with the same name also seemed highly unlikely. Still, it was an interesting look at the Carnegie family and their rise to fame.

From the cover:
Clara Kelley is not who they think she is. She's not the experienced Irish maid who was hired to work in one of Pittsburgh's grandest households. She's a poor farmer's daughter with nowhere to go and nothing in her pockets. But the other Clara Kelley has vanished, and pretending to be her just might get Clara some money to send back home.
If she can keep up the ruse, that is. Serving as a lady's maid in the household of Andrew Carnegie requires skills she doesn't have, answering to an icy mistress who rules her sons and her domain with an iron fist.  

Friday, March 16, 2018

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson gives an in depth look at a corrupt and unfair judicial system, where one person was sent to death row even before his trial, a teenager was sentenced to life imprisonment as an adult for a non violent crime and despite evidence to the contrary, numerous witnesses showing he was innocent, and a jury that requested only life imprisonment, a man was sentenced to death.

My only brush with an unjust system was for a traffic violation in a southern state. Despite being stationary at a stop sign, I received a speeding ticket. I contested the case in Municipal court, showed the judge a picture of the stop sign which also clearly showed a church and the address shown on a placard for the church (same as the ticket). The officer admitted I had stopped at the stop sign.  I expected the judge to dismiss it, but instead he allowed the police officer to change the address on the ticket and confiscated my "evidence" which he said was for court records! This brush with the law cost me $150, others, mostly from poor families, are losing their lives.

Bryan Stevenson has been on a crusade with the Equal Justice Initiative to make changes for prisoners one at a time finding that despite following the letter of the law and correct procedures, his appeals are turned down, evidence is suppressed and abused children are incarcerated in adult prisons. One fourteen-year-old boy, George Stinney, was executed within ninety days of his arrest. He was arrested after admitting to seeing the murder victims when they asked him for directions. Although there was no written confession or evidence of a confession, the police declared he had confessed to both murders (the murder weapon was so heavy it would have been impossible for him to life it). His family packed up and left town after receiving death threats. George was left alone to face his death.

Bryan's final comments are: "Walter McMillian's case taught me that the death penalty is not about whether people deserve to die for crimes they commit. The real question of capital punishment in this county is, do we deserve to kill? . . . Walter had taught me that mercy is just when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given. . ."

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Lethal in Old Lace by Duffy Brown

Duffy Brown books never disappoint and Lethal in Old Lace is another gem. She has plenty of quirky characters and over the top situations to keep the reader absorbed in southern charm along with a curious mystery.

There are two social functions in Savannah guaranteed to get people talking: weddings and funerals. And just as consignment shop owner Reagan Summerside agrees to marry the hunky Walker Boone, her neighbors, sisters Annie Fritz and Elsie Abbot, step up their business as professional mourners. They are so successful that the Sleepy Pines Retirement Center has hired them as a part of their retirement package. But the celebration over good business is cut short when the residents at Pines suddenly begin dying at an alarming rate. And the sisters are the first suspects.

Note: I received the book in exchange for an honest review which did not influence my opinion.