newthingsold

The wise man is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things both new and old.

Month: September, 2015

Death on hold.

This is a review of the book Death on Hold from Burton and Anita Folsom.

I once taught minors in a juvenile detention center and thought I had the department of corrections -and life on the inside- figured out. Burton and Anita Folsom take the short anecdotes of Mitch Rutledge, an Alabama prisoner serving a life-sentence without the possibility of parole, and paint such a vivid picture of life in prison that I quickly realized how much I did not know. Though not explicitly graphic, the Folsoms use the letters of Rutledge to create an engaging biographical narrative that is a quick, gripping read.

Death on Hold tells the story of prison inmate Mitch Rutledge, who is serving a life sentence for murdering a man across state lines. His life, which is told in three-to-six page short chapters, chronicles significant events of us upbringing and adolescence which contributed to his eventually committing the murder, his time in prison, and his eventual redemption. When the authors present an excerpt from a write-up on him from Time in the 80s that attempts to pain him as worthless, the reader cannot help but be hooked as he or she asks the question: If Mitch is worthless, why would anyone actually write a book about him?

Moving from the point-of-view of Mitch, Lillian (a nun from California), Mitch and his wife Anita, the book uses short chapters that through description and action tell a story that would not be as interesting a read as an academic research book. The point of the project is to relate the events of a formerly troubled individual who is at a place where he should be able to do something to contribute to society outside the bars of the prison. While I do not know how I feel about that notion, but I do know that Death on Hold makes a pretty compelling case for it.

In the end, Death on Hold is a book to read for an individual looking to find hope in unexpected places. The reader should be cautioned though, this book will elicit some deep thoughts as he or she wrestles with the underlying theme of the book.

I received my copy of this book for free through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for publishing a review on it. I was not obligated to write a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.

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Waiting for the next storm.

I am a middle school cross-country coach -some of the time. Typically our meets occur on Tuesdays and Saturdays. A week or so ago we had a meet on a very rainy Saturday morning. As a 30-year-old male, I am aware as to how weather systems work. Basically. Low pressure systems bring precipitation, high pressure brings sun, and weather systems are not permanent. Clouds are continually moving and shifting shape which translates to changes in the weather.

The rain won’t last forever.

While I am an adult who knows this, for a split second the thought crossed my mind: This is never going to stop.

In that moment I caught myself before the thought went any further and instead started exploring it from a different angle. I live with mild depression and sometimes I find myself stuck in a “rainy” mood and thinking the same thing: This is never going to stop. And that is because of the level of reality in which I find myself.

Immediate reality: The place an individual finds him or herself currently is the immediate reality. It is the one that changes to varying degrees and is the least predictable. In the sense of Saturday, the rain is going to go on forever until it changes because I cannot see what is coming next.

Reality: The difference between reality and immediate reality is that reality looks at immediate reality and interprets it as part of the larger picture. No matter what is going on in immediate reality, there is always something bigger going on. The rain might be falling now, but soon the weather patterns change; they always do.

So often we get hung up looking at our current circumstances that we lose sight of the bigger picture; immediacy crowds out what is going on behind the scenes. We become frustrated, feeling that our situation is all there is. The challenge becomes figuring out how to embrace the immediate storm so that it does not prevent us from getting out of life what it has to offer. In short, the challenge is to remain hopeful.

 

These sentiments can be accurately summed up in a brilliant song off Frank Turner’s new album, Positive Songs for Negative People, called “The Next Storm.”

Exploring the merging of quantum physics and biology in “Life on the Edge”.

This is a review of the book Life on the Edge by Prof. Johnhoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili.

I am an amateur quantum physics enthusiast. My daily life does not revolve around scientific principles; everything I know about quantum scientific practices has been because of a fascination and desire to learn. When Life on the Edge crossed my path, based on my interest in quantum mechanics, the notion of its application to biology seemed intriguing. Reading through customer reviews on Amazon made it sound like it would be accessible in the same vein as other booksLife on the Edge is an informative book, but I did not find it as engaging on the topic as some other books on the topic.

McFadden and Al-Khalili both do an impressive job of leading the reader through the foundational notions of quantum mechanics (the idea of the uncertainty principle in electrons, wave-particle duality, etc.). They explain them in a way that a reader without much experience in the subject will be able to have a basic comprehension of the subject, which is good because without that knowledge, the connections that they make relating physics to biology in life would not work at all. The most fascinating chapters of this book deal with the human mind, and with the origins of life. The chapter on the human mind explores consciousness and how electro-chemical impulses play a role in it. The origins of life chapter presents the reader with the notion that quantum mechanics could have played a part in its beginning, but the challenge would be in how that seemingly unpredictable nature would become more predictable in gene replications.

Life on the Edge is a solid read; it is just really dense for 360 pages. At the sake of being able to bring as many readers along for the ride as possible, the writers have to navigate through the material at a slow pace, and in reading this book I found myself wondering whether or not this fact is to their detriment or not. The product contains quality information and application of theory and principle, I just found it at points… boring.

McFadden and Al-Khalili produced an okay book that manages to introduce the (perhaps) not-so-knowledgeable reader to quantum physics and how the field can be applied to advanced biology. Desire to read this book for the information contained within and you will not be disappointed.

I received my copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for reviewing it. I was not obligated to publish a positive review; the opinions expressed are mine.