Be Good Johnny

Beside the tall red fence.
    A breeze blowing warmly.  
    Late afternoon.
    With my homemade periscope I could see Mrs. Robbins through the French windows, coming into her kitchen with a big bag of groceries, back from the store. Mr. Robbins was in his usual place, watching TV on the patio, and didn’t offer to help.
    Mr. Robbins was huge now. HUGE. Way he looked, he must have weighed a ton or more. And he just sat there in the lounge chair out back while his wife did all the shopping, went to work, and did the dishes. Used to be he was the State cycling champ, but gradually the kids took over, and he was one of those who had to be first or nothing. Or so it’s said. Now he never rode his bike anywhere. He had a stand beside him where he’d put his crackers, beer and things, and he’d just sit there eating and watching, eating and watching in the warm mornings, the hot afternoons, the cool evenings while his gut hung out of his belt like great folds of dough. Since the redwood fence was erected, it didn’t bother him to move out of the house onto the patio with the wide screen HD TV Mrs. Robbins made the mistake of buying. Mom said something about him being lazy, and being out of a job. Dad said a few things Mom would have washed my mouth out with soap for saying. He was tired of hearing about those old trophies at their lodge meeting.
    “So what’s going on?” repeated Peter Fibbs, my sometimes friend and classmate.
    “Shhhhh. . .she’s inside,” I said, waiting for the argument I’d heard every night for weeks and weeks. “She’s taking the groceries out of the bag.”
    “What’s this, uh. . . Cyclist doin’?”
    “Watching TV again.”
    “Watching TV,” Peter Fibbs mimicked in a dead monotone, then let the silence soak it in. “And I’ve got to go home. We start school tomorrow, ya know. High school.”
    I turned and whispered hotly. “Will ya wait a minute? She’s coming out on the patio now. She’s got a can in her hand. This is it. This is where she lets him have it!”
    The TV droned, babbling like a happy baby off under a cloud-crowded sky.
    Peter Fibbs stood beside my kid brother Ernie, shaking his head impatiently as we listened.
    “Here,” Mrs. Robbins words drifted to us through the late August air, “is your beer, darling. Want a roast pork sandwich?”
    “Yeah,” answered the fat man. “Thanks.”
    “After that,” said Mrs. Robbins pleasantly, “I’ll fix you those short ribs with potatoes and gravy. Won’t that be nice?”
    “You’re. . .feeling all right, are you, Alice?”
    “Sure, sure. Never better. Let’s stop our arguing.”
    My heart sank, weighted down by her words. Why had she smiled at him? It didn’t make sense.
    Ernie started whining then, and reached for my periscope. “Shhhhhh,” I hissed, and slapped his hand.
    The Cyclist lolled his head in our direction. His face was—I don’t know how to put it—pasty-looking. Like spaghetti that’s been overcooked. I held my periscope rock-steady thinking he’d spot it. But he didn’t.
     “So what’s the tub a’ lard doin now?” Peter whispered after a minute, very bored.
     “Just drinking beer. Wait. Here she comes again!”
     While Ernie kept tugging at my sleeve, I stared at what pretty Mrs. Robbins was now carrying to her husband, the Cyclist: A six pack on a bowl of ice.
    I let Peter have a peek. “Well, that’s just. . . stupid,” Peter said, mildly intrigued.
    “Isn’t it, though,” I said, then added, “unless. . .” I paused a moment, trying to think up something so Peter would stay. I remembered what Dad said about the Cyclist going to the hospital after he tried to ride his bike at the park one Saturday. A couple of maintenance men found him sprawled out on the ball field, clutching his chest. So trying to sound important, I said, “Listen, I heard this psychologist on 20/20 say some men marry just to be mothered. You know, to have someone clean up after them, baby them, an’ pamper them like they were used to growing up? He said exercise is what you watch other people doing on the tube, along with fast food commercials. Well, just suppose that Mrs. Robbins somehow decided she doesn’t want to watch her life go down the crapper too. What does she do? Well, maybe just what she’s always done. Only somewhere along the way, she’s crossed that thin line.”
    “What thin line?”
    “Like the man said, the one between love and hate. Suppose she’s decided subconsciously to pamper him to death. Like some cholesterol sludge in his veins breaks off, jams something up, an’ he just. . .”
    “Dies?”
    We stared at my periscope for the longest time as I turned it round and round nervously in the half light under faint stars. It was getting dark in a hurry.
    A cricket chirped.
    The weeping willow wept.
    Over the fence, a very fat man sat in a circle of television light, a swallowing machine, a human disposal. Behind him, against the garage, was what was once a beautiful Italian-framed racing bike, its Campagnolo pantographed components now crusted, its spokes rusted from neglect and rain.
    But Peter Fibbs was not impressed.
    “You’re crazy,” he said. “You need school.”
    “But Mrs. Robbins isn’t screaming anymore,” I said, defensively. “And here she is, pumping him big as a blimp, bringing him God only knows what for dessert. What would you think?”
    “I’d say they made up,” Peter Fibbs said. “And so would anyone else.”
    “But that’s exactly my point!”
    “Give it up, Johnny,” he said. “You been watching too many episodes of The Family Guy.” He laughed.
    “Oh sure,” I said, dully. “That’s it, sure.”
    Just then, the screen door opened on our house. Mom leaned out. “Time for supper!” she called.
    “See you tomorrow,” said Peter Fibbs, his back to me already.
    I watched Peter mount his Schwinn and glide out and down the street without pedaling, with all the time in the world. Peter Fibbs. Sometimes I wonder why I bothered. Where was his sense of adventure, anyway? How did I rate such a dullard for a friend in the first place? Whenever we’d talked about the future, was it ever him who thought of NASA first? No, Peter wanted to be like his dad. An accountant. What kind of future was that?
    After Peter was gone I tugged Ernie’s hand and, reluctantly, we went in to eat.
    In the dining room Dad sat, drinking coffee. Meanwhile Mom was serving dinner: veal cutlets and mash potatoes.
    “Dad?” I said.
    “Yes, son?”
    “Dad, I don’t suppose you’d believe me if I told you I have a theory about Mrs. Robbins trying to murder the Cy. . . I mean, Mister Robbins. With a heart attack.”
    Dad let out something like a war hoop, and slapped his own widening paunch. “It wouldn’t surprise me, son,” he laughed.
    “Careful now, dear,” said Mom, holding the table steady, and then, seeing me toy with my fork, “Now what made you say something like that, Johnny?”
    I told her. She stared at me with a face like a jury member filing in for a verdict.
    “Maybe you should check it out, Paul,” said Mom, still expressionless.
    Dad shook his head, no dice. “The playoff’s on in a minute. I can’t miss that.”
    “But this is actually important,” I pleaded one last time.
    Dad looked at me funny-like. So’s this, the look said. And then that same sense of sadness came over me, just like it had with Peter Fibbs. But this time it was multiplied by the feeling of farewells. Farewell to summer, hello to long gray autumn days of drizzle and homework. Farewell to Junior High, hello to acne and SAT scores. Farewell to imagination, and hello to. . . what?  CPA school? Job interviews? Retirement programs?
    “No dessert tonight, Johnny?” asked Mom as I pushed back my plate.
             
After dinner, Mom went into the kitchen, and started on the dishes. Lips sealed. Of course I never really expected her to take my side, because she was neutral. Like Switzerland. Maybe it was safer that way since she had to live with Dad while I was away at school, growing up way before my time.
    I watched Dad go into the living room and cut on the TV, having already forgotten about me. He just settled back into his leather armchair, and gave out this little self-satisfied sigh, almost like he’d mastered the secret of how to make us kids invisible. “Bring me a beer, will ya?” he called to Mom.
    Mom opened the refrigerator.  
    Mom passed us with Dad’s beer.  
    “Time for bed,” she said finally, turning Ernie toward the hall with her hand. “School tomorrow, bright and early.”
    I saw on TV there was a promo about a show featuring cyclists racing across America. They all looked exhausted, but thin and healthy. Watching this, Dad was expressionless, just sitting there, staring like one of those department store mannequins, and I was reminded of people in science fiction movie once that had transmitters planted in back of their heads. But when Mom came in, he suddenly seemed to see her pulling at Ernie, who was whining.
    “Do I have to–“
    “MOVE!” said Mom.
    Mom was acting oddly too, somehow. And there was something in the way she looked at me over dinner. I figured she’d wanted to go out that night, only Dad got his way again because he could talk louder. Mom would never try and shout back at him, of course. Usually she just went into her room and closed the door for a while.
    Usually, but not that night.
    We went to our room. Ernie started to slam the door, but I stopped him, and left it open a crack. For some reason I wanted to hear what Mom said, and if she was all right out there with Dad, the robot. But when Ernie started hitting me, I had to defend myself.
    “Well, I thought it was a good theory,” I said, trying hard now to imagine the sirens going, the fat man sitting there limp and pasty-faced next to his rusted racing bike, the TV blaring, and that one woman, smiling. “I thought so, anyway.”
    As I unbuttoned my shirt and threw it down, Ernie went over to where Mom had laid out our school clothes across the bureau. “You need school,” he mimicked Peter Fibbs exact words. Then we slid into bed and cut the light.  
    It was in the pitch darkness a moment later that Ernie said, like it had just hit him, “Summer’s over.”
    “Imagine that,” I said sadly, and pulled the covers snug.
    We listened to the muffled TV noises coming from the living room, and once or twice more heard Dad call, “Another beer in there!” and Mom answer, “Coming right up, dear.  . . .You want another roast pork sandwich?”  -0- 

—© Jonathan Lowe, originally published in The State magazine

Audie Award Winners

Congrats to the 2017 Audie Award winners

The Money Pit (Home Repair)

the-money-pit

In The Money Pit, named among America’s 100 Most Important Radio Shows by Talkers magazine, Tom Kraeutler and Leslie Segrete combine quick wit and clever advice to help listeners tackle a variety of home improvement and décor projects. It’s a series covering every imaginable home repair project, as download or on CD and Mp3-CD. Entertaining and informative, recommended for anyone looking to buy, flip, or repair. Real estate agents can learn a lot, too!

Audiobooks Today) How did the show come about, and how has the audience changed and grown? Who is the typical listener?
Tom Kraeutler) The short answer is I spent 20 years as professional home inspector and was frequently asked to be a guest on radio/tv shows on topics related to homes, home safety, remodeling and decor. In the early 90’s this led to an opportunity to host my own Saturday morning call-in home improvement show. That led to an opportunity to syndicate which we did n October of 1999. Now, almost 18 years later, we’re the largest home improvement show on radio and heard on over 330 stations, covering every state in the nation, and a few cities in Canada. There’s a lot more that happened along the way but this was essentially the path.  I eventually left home inspection behind and focused full time on radio. However, there’s no way I’d be able to answer all the questions I do without that solid experience learning how homes are put together and how they fall apart.
AT) What is the most heard problem or question, and the most bizarre?
TK) We tend to get a lot of questions about floors (repair, replace, clean stains, fix squeaks and lots of question on the wide variety of flooring choices). We also get lots of questions about energy efficiency, friendly improvements, kitchen and bath remodels, as well as outdoor living.
AT)  Putting all the shows on audio is genius, given they eliminate commercials and can be paused or replayed by consumers. What gave you this idea, and what is the production process like….any challenges?  
TK) Not my idea. Blackstone approached us actually. Our shows are produced in-house so providing the audio is just a matter of building the files they need for production, which is a higher quality (bit rate) version than what goes out on the radio or by podcast. We remove the commercial breaks but everything else is pretty much the same as the national show.
AT) Vanity Fair is now on audio. Do listen to other radio programs on audio?
TK) No much other radio programs but I like audio books so listen to those a lot when I’m driving.
AT)  Used to review for Cracker Barrel stores, which rents audiobooks, and XM. Truckers are big listeners. Do you get many calls from truckers?  
TK) Yes, those calls are always fun. It’s like “Joe from North Dakota is calling about the Lanai for his home in Florida.”

scifi

Acting & Listening Advice from Alan Alda

Alan Alda bookMost communication is nonverbal. We want to look at the faces of those testifying in Congress and detect lies or deceit. They try to keep their faces blank in order not to telegraph this, but subtle clues or reactions are there in their voices and tone, too. Their pauses, gestures. Alan Alda talks about how the face is judged, not for just beauty or ugliness, but for believability. Why paying attention to people’s reactions or expressions when they talk is most important in understanding WHAT THEY MEAN. Mostly we misunderstand what people say or mean, but by truly listening and observing we have a better chance of connecting (and resolving conflicts too.) Instead of waiting for people to stop speaking so we can make another point, Alda’s point is to LISTEN with all our senses with the objective to UNDERSTAND. Not to “win” an argument by demeaning or defeating anyone (or everyone) seen as an opponent. Great new audiobook upcoming June 6. Preorder at Tower Review. As James Garner once put it: “I don’t act. I react. Give me a reactor over an actor any time. It puts you there in the moment, and you’re less likely to flub the way you read your lines, too.” Alda was in the movies Bridge of Spies, The Aviator, Everyone Says I Love You, Manhattan Murder Mystery, and Crimes & Misdemeanors. On TV’s MASH, and Scientific American Frontiers. He has won 7 Emmys, and is a big fan of science. “At first I think they just wanted a famous face do the introduction, and then narrate off camera, but I wanted to be there and interview the scientists.” He’s read Scientific American magazine since a kid.

Ariana Grande

Do Food Animals Have Rights?

diet

This is from People Magazine: “American’s bacon craze is far from over. During the bacon-obsession boom we have been blessed with bacon pop tarts and bacon boxers, and we now know what happens to your body when you eat too much bacon: cancer. But the trend will never die. Maybe that’s a good thing, though, because it’s given us yet another way to celebrate this hallowed breakfast meat: Camp Bacon.”
This is from Food & Wine: “Bacon Explosion is a football-size, bacon-wrapped cake made of bacon-stuffed sausage. We brag about eating bacon. Bacon may not be a controlled substance, but it is pure pleasure, sensual to its core, a concentrated wave of ecstasy. Nothing brings the bliss like bacon: a sudden rush of saltiness and sweetness and fat and smoke, and no fewer than six types of umami. A bite of bacon is candy and cream and sizzling steak and smoky barbecue, all at once. It is, in a word, explosive, and it’s an explosion that will only stop when its fuel—our appetite for it—runs out. Which is to say, never.”
This is from PIG TALES: “Pigs can’t even turn around in factory farm pens, and develop raw wounds rubbing against their bars. If the ventilation system failed they would die by suffocation from the noxious gases. Farmers are not required to treat the vast amounts of waste, and they spray it onto fields where it is washed into waterways. 97% of hogs are raised on factory farms, forbidden to be filmed by the press. They are fed a continuous dosage of antibiotics that leads to the development of drug resistant superbugs that sicken or kill thousands of humans each year. Pigs have their tails and testicles removed without anesthesia, and are often dipped alive into scalding water. USDA inspectors who report such things are disciplined or transferred.”
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Having done research on hogs for my novel THE METHUSELAH GENE, I know them to be intelligent creatures that are used to grow human organs due to their being similar to us genetically. But whenever you challenge belief systems you run into criticism. This happens on all levels, especially in a culture of confrontation and “my opinion is as good as yours.” In the case of animal rights, there are the opposing views that food animals have no rights (mostly the meat industry) versus the vegan argument that animals are not property (and all consumption of them is morally unjustified.) There is a third view in which largely vegetarians argue that factory farms abuse animals, and so they point to consuming only grass fed or free range animals in small amounts, if at all. The first two sides are adamant and unlikely to change. The third gets attacked by both sides. What I would argue is this third view. Why? Here are some reasons to contemplate.
1) A law of logic states that “differences in degree constitute differences in kind.” Of course it would be great if everyone stopped eating meat. Beef production is bad for the environment, and grain fed beef is bad for both the animals and the people who eat them. Cows were not meant to eat grain, and when they are fed grain in crowded environments (with or without hormones) they get sick and are slaughtered just before collapsing, many of them. If one focuses on the idea of diminishing the amount of meat eaten (highest of all in the USA, which also has the highest cardiovascular and cancer cases, shown to partly be a result of eating red meat), along with the kind of meat eaten, fewer animals would suffer. Sticking with the first two stances (wrong or right) is quite simply illogical and uncompromising. Both end up preaching to their respective choirs, pounding their podiums and inspiring yawns (or ridicule from the other side.) Like the Trump philosophy versus the EPA. (He loves to eat pork.)
2) To convince people to eat less meat, science stands ready. Read HOW NOT TO DIE, and PIG TALES, among other books. Diseases and hormones are less prevalent on free range farms than in factory farms. Healthy animals are healthier to eat. This obvious fact is ignored by the other two sides. Also ignored is the fact that the animals live better lives. Is healthy not better than unhealthy? Is it not less cruel to let animals run free than to keep them in pens above their own feces, never seeing the light of day? Their waste pollutes the environment, and few report on it or investigate it. The meat lobby sued Oprah just for saying she was afraid to eat burgers (for a while.) Finally, in the book THE MIND SPAN DIET the director of genetics studies at Harvard shows that dementia is the result of too much iron in the diet. The worse type of iron comes from red meat, while Americans already get 100 times the amount of iron than they need, “and the dosage is toxic.” Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and iron: there is a link. Only in America is iron added to all flour products, labeled as “enriched,” too. In countries which don’t do this, (and which eat less meat) the rates of dementia is far lower. Big Pharma sells more drugs due to diseases caused by eating cheap meat advertised 24/7 on TV. This fact too is not mentioned by either of the first two sides in this argument. So the latest science says eating less meat is healthier, but the vegans pounding their podiums never mention it. What if they did? Would not fewer animals suffer as a result?
3) In a recent Pig Trial in Canada a woman was arrested and judged for giving water to pigs en route to slaughterhouses. She would get out at stoplights to water the hot, panting dehydrated pigs. Her lawyer argued that she did not impede the progress of the company, or cost them money. She won the case, but the hog industry actually won because it is now on the record that as long as they water their pigs they cannot be sued for exploiting them in other ways. In short, her lawyer had agreed that the company “owned” the pigs, as property. See how tricky the system is? In America the lobby for meat is very strong. Or as Trump would put it, “very, very strong.” There are lobbyists for Big Pharma too. Is there a connection? You bet. These CEOs know each other on a first-name basis. As the author of THE BLACK SWAN and ANTIFRAGILE put it, “They don’t make money if you eat vegetables grown in your own garden, or run on rocks barefoot without a cell phone.” Not that everyone should get off the grid permanently, but he makes a good point: Less is more. Small business is better than big business, both for the environment and for consumers. “Artisans make wine, giant corporations make soda and other things that clog up your body’s signaling system. Then they argue that they employ many thousands of people, so they get favors from the government in getting taxpayers to clean up their messes.” No one in the traditional media ever states the true cost of eating a burger at a fast food chain, including the health costs borne by increased premiums due to ER emergency procedures from uninsured poor people targeted by junk food ads featuring grain-fed cheap meat. (Read MEATONOMICS.) Why don’t they cover it? Those ads pay their salaries. Meanwhile the public is hooked, duped, and the dogs in America eat better than kids do. (Many dog food products are “100% Grain Free, Grass Fed Beef, with Added Vitamins and Minerals.”)
4) Speaking of dogs, the Yulin Dog Meat Festival in China is history. That’s good news, and cause for celebration. Dogs stolen in the countryside were tortured under the belief that the more cruel you were to them, the better the meat tasted. Some were torched alive, their muzzles wired shut. Those people deserve prison, but in China even human rights are violated, so animal rights are “back burner.” This sad tradition continues elsewhere in Asia, including Korea. It’s a different culture. In India cows are sacred. One man’s pet is another man’s dinner. All animals deserve better. Turn on the TV, though, and you are bombarded with ads for the “Baconator” (like the Terminator) from Wendy’s or with Arby’s “We have the Meats!”
5) There is also a religious aspect to it neither side talks about. Take Chick-Fil-A for example. Closed on Sunday, they are proud of Christian beliefs, and advertise that their chickens are hormone free. This does not mean that the birds are treated humanely, however. (A recent article in Scientific American showed that chickens are smarter and more aware of their surroundings than most people believe.) Most Chick-Fil-A chickens are not free range, and come from Tyson. What do they believe? That humans are not animals, but above all animals, created in the image of God. With Jesus returning soon to build a better world, in which “the lion shall lay down with the lamb” it follows that trying to save the environment is futile. Nationalist philosophy amplifies this hubris with a self-validating conceit, but everyone’s beliefs are certainly reinforced by social media filter bubbles, which feed back to consumers exactly the things they already believe (keeping them from seeing other viewpoints. Read THE FILTER BUBBLE.) To “win at all cost” is the goal of ISIS, which sees Earth solely as battleground for paradise in the next. Should it also be a Christian’s goal? Did not Jesus reject hubris and ego, siding with the poor by saying, “Except a man humble himself as a little child, he shall not see the Kingdom of God”? Certainly no Buddhist feels such pride or wears a bomb and attacks crowds of innocent people. They are more likely to be vegetarian, too. Neither is the NFL gridiron (temple for prayers and religion in itself) a major attraction to peaceful people. Patriots QB Tom Brady is considered the pinnacle of achievement in America, yet his wife Gisele recently revealed that he had a concussion in 2016 that went unreported by the NFL. The NFL denied it, but who should you more likely believe: his wife, or an organization with billions in revenue to defend, including from fast food and soda purveyors? Gisele is now involved in charity and environmental concerns, as was Kendall Jenner for a time. (Of course Kim & Kanye wear furs, too.)
    People can change. Changing minds involves changing viewpoints, and speaking out against injustice. Seeing things through other people’s eyes. Including animal eyes.       

medical thriller    

Jasmin Singer

From the extra pounds and bullies that left her eating lunch alone at school to the low self-esteem that left her both physically and emotionally vulnerable to abuse, Jasmin Singer’s weight defined her life. Even after she embraced a vegan lifestyle and a passion for animal rights advocacy, she defied any skinny vegan stereotypes by getting heavier. It was only after she committed to juice fasts and a diet of whole foods that she lost almost a hundred pounds and realized what it means to be truly full. ALWAYS TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH is told with humble humor and heartbreaking honesty. It is Jasmin’s story of how she went from finding solace in a box of cheese crackers to finding peace within herself.

Summer Reads

New releases May 2017

What makes for a good summer read? Regardless of whether you enjoy suspense, mystery, romance, biography, or non-fiction, one great option is to try an audiobook version of the book. No eye strain at the beach, or you can watch the scenery go by as you travel instead of having your nose in a print book.

nook books

Or you may prefer a print book nonetheless. Or an ebook reader. Your best choice should depend on where you are, and how much time you have. No matter what, smart people make time for books. 

Scarlette Johansson

Dark Ages or Eckhart Tolle’s New Age?

Goodreads

No one can see the future, despite what fortune tellers say. If psychics could really predict the future (or see the past other than via memories and associations in dreams,) they would win the lottery. No one on Wall Street knows which way the market will go, either. If a real, hard AI were to arise tomorrow, not even IT could see the future, although IT would make better predictions than humans. The future will be a shock to many. Especially those who resist change. The Dark Ages should be behind us, not in front of us. ISIS and the anti-science movement are both on the same side in that regard. Belief in God should not be belief in a dogma that forces itself on others, making itself right by insisting all others are wrong (and need to die.) That’s madness and static thinking that have led to religious wars in the past. Many times such people come to rule over citizen slaves as despots, as in North Korea or Syria. If you don’t vote in lock step with them, you are gassed or sent to prison to be beaten. Despite the title of this post, there is usually more than just two choices to things. America seems polarized, in a rut, thinking everything is either good or evil, with no in between or compromise possible, now. “Now” is even a dirty word. We prefer to extend solutions (and debt) to future generations, if they even exist. Truth is, only critical thinking and willingness to change and learn can ensure any positive future. A new show on NatGeo is “Genius,” produced by Ron Howard, based on the Einstein biography. The Nazis hated Jews, and Einstein had to leave, but not before saying, “Nationalism is the measles of humanity.” Being identified with a cause or country or team is most satisfying for the ego, but ego is illusion. “A most persistent myth,” said one neuroscientist I once interviewed. Eckhart Tolle once said that the ego lives for the past or the future, never the present, (although the present is all we “own.”) So anyone obsessed with the past or the future overlooks and abuses those “in their path” to some imagined state of glory when they will have “arrived.” Yet when the future comes, it will be the present. The Bible: “Time shall be no more.” Physicist Sean Carroll: “Time stops at the singularity of a black hole.” We imagine living forever, and fear death, too, which promises to take away everything we “own.” (Eternal life vs life extension?) Amazingly, Ron Howard also produces the Breakthroughs series, and in the second season this month there is a program in which a deactivated HIV virus is being used to treat cancer. One killer versus another. This was the premise of my suspense novel on longevity science The Methuselah Gene, except I used HIV to fight aging by bypassing the blood/brain barrier to deposit a longevity gene taken from a bristlecone pine tree, the longest living plant. (There is a “Satan bug” mentioned, and an ISIS-like twist too.) And in the first season of Breakthroughs Ron Howard talked about longevity science. Yup. It’s a big universe, but also “it’s a small world, after all.”

Book Haul

New releases this month. See one you’d like to review?

Lee Child

 

The Night the Sky Caught Fire

Command and ControlPBS aired a documentary based on the book Command & Control by Eric Schlosser. Scary history, to say the least. A missile silo in Damascus Arkansas exploded, after a wrench socket fell and ruptured the fuel tank on the rocket. Denials preceded the near detonation of the most massive H Bomb in the arsenal. They didn’t even know where the warhead was, and wouldn’t even confirm the warhead existed. People died, and they wouldn’t say, even to the authorities wondering if people should evacuate. In another earlier incident an H Bomb was accidentally dropped on Goldsboro NC, from a B52 that broke up in mid air. The bomb hit the ground and sent a detonation signal. A simple on/off switch in the off position prevented it from blowing up. It passed the other four safeguards. Today, the silos are in need of repair that will cost billions. How safe are the missiles now? Who knows for sure?