A Cuckoo Clock Ticked Anxiously Waiting For Its Big Moment

The Weird SistersThe Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a book that I probably wouldn’t have read without a very strong recommendation, as it doesn’t fit comfortably into my usual tastes. I would have missed out on some excellent writing.

I actually listened to this book as an audible.com download on my recent trip to visit family for a wedding and the 4th of July holiday. My wife and I were entranced by the beautiful use of language and were drawn to the sisters’ stories. Before the trip was over, my 19 year old son and 17 year old daughter were also caught up. Not what I expected, I admit.

So, what is it about this book that drew in my entire family? We are all suckers for Shakespeare. The references and quotes were entertaining to be sure, but I don’t think that was enough. The sisters’ quirky, complicated, lives were both familiar yet strange enough to be interesting as were their relationships to each other.

Honestly, I think it was the writing. I often separate my view of a work into writing (use of language) and storytelling. Many books are wonderful stories but the writing might be slightly better than average (like Harry Potter), other books can have marvelous writing without having a story I’m drawn to. This book had overwhelmingly good writing and the story was worthy with characters I learned to care about very quickly.

I would be remiss if I failed to include the mother and father in this review. I very much liked how enigmatic their characters were at the beginning, more objects than people, and as the sisters looked beyond themselves the parents became more real. It is the way with children and was well delivered in this book.

Also, the narrative voice was unique in my experience. I don’t even know what to call it. It is both first person and third person omniscient. The view is from the sisters’ point of view, but it shifts so that it is can be a sister or all the sisters without ever actually being a particular sister. Very creative and bizarre.

As for that Cuckoo Clock?  That line went by and I think my jaw dropped.  I stopped the book and looked at my kids.   My son says, “The cuckoo clock?”   “Yeah”, I said.  “Great line.”, he says.  My daughter caught it as well.  Not pivotal or anything.  Just a one-line fabulous piece of writing.

View all my reviews


Saying Goodbye for the Last Time

When do we say goodbye for the last time?

A great deal has happened in 2010 that inspires me to try to collate the fragments of ideas I have about life.  The loss of my father, a friend being diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, other losses and challenges to people in my life.  So much, I haven’t known where to start or what to say.  This is the first topic that I’ve been able to wrap my brain around.

It has now been about four months since a dear friend was diagnosed with brain cancer.  My friend, her family and their situation has been an integral part of our lives for that time.  In one way we’ve been fortunate enough to provide assistance is in giving her friends and family visiting from out of town a bed to sleep in.  When I say fortunate I mean it in a very real sense, both in the sense that our situation affords us the ability to do that and in the fortune of the wonderful people we’ve had the chance to meet.

After spending a long day with my friend, one such guest came back to our house very distraught as she felt she had just said goodbye for the last time.  I really was at a loss for how to comfort someone who has felt a very tangible loss while in that no man’s land between having some control of a situation and none at the same time.  You see, my guest is a photojournalist who may be on assignment in Dubai one day and earthquake ravaged Haiti the next. Where she will be a month from now may be well out of her control as she explained, “saying ‘no’ means you may not get the call the next time”.  Not good for a freelance photographer.

So, I didn’t have anything particularly helpful to say. But I listened and we talked.  Maybe that helped.  I hope so.

But it did get me thinking.

One of the other events of 2010 occurred, about a week after my friend’s diagnosis, was my father’s death.  This was quite sudden and unexpected.  The last time I had a chance to say goodbye was about four hours before he died.  I was at the hospital with my friends husband, her children, my wife and others.  My dad called to see how she was doing.  He had been a caregiver for my step mom for a number of years and understood that situation, the feelings and the tough decisions that get made.  When I said goodbye I was more concerned with the potential loss of my friend than my father.  It seemed reasonable given the situation and the excellent checkup he had just two days prior.

Getting back to the photojournalist. It would be easier if I just used names, wouldn’t it?  Anyway, her story is even more pertinent than you might think.  She came very close to dying herself about 8 years ago in a bus accident in a a remote part of Laos.  The bus was hit by a logging truck on a narrow road.  Her recovery began with a villager picking glass out of her, sewing her up without anesthesia and an 8 hour trip in the bed of a pickup to a hospital.  It finished months and months later.  This is her life.

So, why is it that she doesn’t realize that EVERY TIME she says goodbye it could be the last?

While I had no extraordinary reason to expect that call with my father would be our last, I now realize I had no reason to believe it wouldn’t be.  The universe is a dispassionate place with no regard for your pre-conceived notions of mortality, fairness or importance.

Why is it that we don’t all realize that EVERY TIME we say goodbye it might be the last?

It seems to me it was a skewed perspective to lead my guest to think that particular goodbye had greater significance than all the previous, or that my last goodbye with my dad had any less.  You just don’t know and it may just be messed up that we don’t think this way.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” — (Anonymous proverb, Sometimes attributed to Dr Seuss)


Anti-Vax Advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr draws obvious conclusion

The article doesn’t make any sense.  It is saying that Thorsen claimed that Autism cases grew in number due to the removal of Thiomerisol?
“This new law and the opening of a clinic dedicated to autism treatment in Copenhagen accounted for the sudden rise in reported cases rather than, as Thorsen seemed to suggest, the removal of mercury from vaccines.”
Also, if it was a big fraud sponsored by the CDC, why would the CDC have been the ones to detect and advertise the misdoings?
“The discovery of Thorsen’s fraud came as the result of an investigation by Aarhus University and CDC which discovered that Thorsen had falsified documents and, in violation of university rules, was accepting salaries from both the Danish university and Emory University in Atlanta — near CDC headquarters”
Not to mention the fact the RFK, Jr is a pretty well known anti-vax supporter, so the article has a known bias that needs to be taken into account.

This is a quickie to try to get back into the blog habit.

Dr. Poul Thorsen, a Danish scientist who authored a large study on vaccine safety is being investigated by Danish polish for a $2 million shortfall in grant money received from the CDC.

There are the facts of the case.

From that, RFK jr drew the conclusion that this is part of a conspiracy by the CDC and Thorsen to cover up the link between Thiomerisol and Autism.


The article doesn’t make any sense.  It is saying that Thorsen claimed that Autism cases grew in number due to the removal of Thiomerisol?

“This new law and the opening of a clinic dedicated to autism treatment in Copenhagen accounted for the sudden rise in reported cases rather than, as Thorsen seemed to suggest, the removal of mercury from vaccines.”

Also, if it was a big fraud sponsored by the CDC, why would the CDC have been the ones to detect and advertise the misdoings?

“The discovery of Thorsen’s fraud came as the result of an investigation by Aarhus University and CDC which discovered that Thorsen had falsified documents and, in violation of university rules, was accepting salaries from both the Danish university and Emory University in Atlanta — near CDC headquarters”


Dr Gonzalez cancer regimen doesn't work. Immediate action could save lives.

Recently, the results of a trial for an alternative to standard chemotherapy treatment for Pancreatic Cancer were published.  The alternative is enzyme treatment therapy, sometimes referred to as The Gonzalez Regimen.

“At enrollment, the treatment groups had no statistically significant differences in patient characteristics, pathology, quality of life, or clinically meaningful laboratory values. Kaplan-Meier analysis found a 9.7-month difference in median survival between the chemotherapy group (median survival, 14 months) and enzyme treatment groups (median survival, 4.3 months) and found an adjusted-mortality hazard ratio of the enzyme group compared with the chemotherapy group of 6.96 (P < .001). At 1 year, 56% of chemotherapy-group patients were alive, and 16% of enzyme-therapy patients were alive. The quality of life ratings were better in the chemotherapy group than in the enzyme-treated group (P < .01).”


Just to emphasize the study showed that on average patients were likely to lose 10 months of their lives and have a lower quality of life on the alternative treatment.

A severe indictment of a particular alternative to conventional Chemotherapy. I think the real question is why Dr Gonzalez who is at the forefront of this alternative treatment is not being shut down in a very public way, immediately.

Not only that, but the National Cancer Institute has not modified its pages to
reflect the results of the study.  People are dying earlier and with a much worse
quality of life because of this.


Here is Dr Gonzalez’s web site:

Not surprisingly, there is no mention of the study.

“Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez has been investigating nutritional approaches to cancer and other degenerative diseases since 1981, and has been in practice in New York since 1987. Dr. Linda Isaacs has been working with Dr. Gonzalez in his research and practice since 1985. In our office we use individualized aggressive nutritional protocols to work with many types of cancer, and with other illnesses such as allergies, autoimmune disorders and chronic fatigue.”


“The proteolytic enzymes we use were developed by us specifically for use in this program and are not commercially available in pharmacies, health food stores, on the Internet, or through multi-level health promotion plans.

Overall, cancer patients will consume 130-175 capsules a day, including nutrients as well as enzymes. Non-cancer patients might consume in the range of 80-100 capsules a day, the exact number depending on their health status and medical problems.”

I’ll bet all those pills are not covered by insurance and are VERY expensive.


Each year in the United States, about 42,470 individuals are diagnosed with this condition and 35,240 die from the disease.

Hopefully, very few of them are following Dr Gonzalez’s sage advice.

For a much more learned treatment of this subject please consult the wonderful Science Based Medicine blog , Dr. Steven Novella’s Neurologica Blog and Quackwatch


Bibles for teachers?

A religious group bent on religion being taught in school science classes has provided a thousand bibles to be distributed at the National Education Association convention next week.

A spokesman for the Creation Science Education Caucus makes no bones about their mission, “To be clear, the NEA Science Educator’s Caucus purpose is to reach individual teachers with the creation/gospel message”. Whether they publicly claim to want to change curriculum, or not, that is clearly their mission.

It turns my stomach to hear the phrase “Creation Science”, since it is decidedly not. Clearly, I’m not the only one.

It isn’t just any bible that is being distributed, it is the Charles Darwin Bible.  A bible that is specifically targeted at Atheists and has additional references propagandizing religious creationism.

Why should I be surprised that the religious continue to target the young and the education system? This is where they’ve always preyed, as it is fertile ground for sowing the seeds of credulity.


Sad placeholding entry

I’ve really been busy, honest.

My son just graduated high school and we’ve been involved in the transition from High Schooler to almost college freshman.  Visiting relatives, parties, orientation and such.

Also, I’ve been involved in some long email exchanges and some stuff on Facebook that would have been blog posts (and may yet).

That being said, I hope to start posting again.  At least once.  Real soon. Really.


Tribute to a Fallen Ninja (Joe Murphy 1972 – 2007)

I never had the chance to meet Joe Murphy in person, but I spent many hours listening to his contributions to Slice of SciFi, Dragon Page, Wingin’ It and the Kick Ass Mystic Ninjas.  Joe was opinionated, but thoughtful and I took away many insights into genre fiction from him.  You can learn much from those you respectfully disagree with.

So, I lift a virtual glass of something fruity to your life, Mason Rocket, it was much too short.

Tee Morris’ 2009 tribut to Joe Murphy


Celebrate Darwin!

This Thursday, February 12, 2009, is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.  It is the perfect time pay tribute and thanks to the man who has brought so much to humanity.

Yeah, yeah, I know, controversy.  You’re probably thinking, “If not Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace would have published his work and it would have been just the same.”  Well, I think you’re wrong.  Wallace didn’t spend the years that Darwin did thinking about natural selection and its ramifications.  He was uniquely positioned to defend his work.  It had to be Charles Darwin.

If you aren’t convinced based solely on his wide variety of experiences and just the length of time he spent cogitating on the problem, you might be convinced by the fact that Wallace was a ‘spiritualist’ and a known supporter of nutters!

Now you’re convinced, but what is an appropriate gift for one long dead.  Well, the Center for Inquiry  has a great idea.  Help them create a tribute video with people reading from, “On the Origin of Species”, in recognizable spots all around the world.  Details can be found at Darwin Aloud, check it out.

For other activities, check out the Darwin Day site.

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”  — Charles Darwin


From the "You've got to be kidding me" file

“Special licenses offered to those who fear ‘beast'”

What? Who? Huh?

“West Virginia is offering special driver’s licenses to people who oppose digitized photos because they believe this could be the beginning of the biblical “mark of the beast” prophecy.”

So, who carries the burden of the additional cost in time and resources? Who do you think?

Look, I can understand where they are coming from. I generally refuse to have my picture taken, since it is my sincere belief that photographs steal your soul. But I don’t expect taxpayers to foot the bill for the photorealistic artwork I use on my driver’s license.


Re: The Fingerprints of God are never too far away

Mr McGhee,

After reading your commentary “The Fingerprints of God are never too far away” in the Baltimore edition of The Examiner, I thought I might be able to give you a few pointers on anti-evolution marketing. I’ve read quite a bit on the subject and think I’ve come to be quite versed in effectively communicating that position.

First off, I would like to really commend you on the opening paragraphs. Solid, subtle, biting. You’re firing on all four cylinders here.

Close-minded. Accept their view by faith without questioning. Hostile. Angry. Willing to punish those who disagree — these are all charges that have been frequently laid at people of many faiths who believe that Charles Darwin got it wrong.

That’s right, they don’t like us. They call us names, just because we disagree with this musty guy who’s been dead for almost 200 years anyway. What could he possibly understand about the world, he didn’t even know there were going to be cell phones!

I also liked how you bridged the time from Darwin to now by referencing H.L. Mencken (and hey, way to bring it close to home with a Baltimorean!), the Scopes Trial and even Nazi Eugenics on the way to the new Expelled Movie.

A couple of notes here.

You might have wanted to make a little comment about the difference between a scientific theory and the immoral application of said theory. I mean, you don’t want to give the impression that you would throw out nuclear medicine and energy just because someone built a bomb using the same foundational theories, right?

Also, being up front with the fact that you haven’t seen the movie is great, but you might want to take it a little slow with referencing it sight-unseen. You really never know what a piece of rhetorical garbage it might be.

Moving on, you drop in a quick paragraph setting up the rest of your article. I think you got it right, “Science and theology should not be seen as competitors”. You should have stopped there and not gone on with the whole “colleagues in pursuit of the common goal of truth”. By establishing them as peers you’ve given Science equal authority on divining truth. This is going to be problematic. You can’t effectively undermine solid scientific theory unless theology trumps science. You have to be able to bring in god and have him bitch-slap evidence, or we’ve got nothing.

Well, I guess the damage is already done. Let’s see if we can’t recover a little in the next paragraph.

Let’s start with my dog. Patches is half Jack Russell Terrier and half Beagle – a JackaBee. No one denies you can take two different breeds of dog and mix them to make a superior animal

Whoa! Kevin! What are you doing here? We already established that Eugenics is evil by associating it with the Nazis! Now you’re trotting out little Patches a “superior” animal that is the result of not one but two directed breeding programs. You’re killing me here.

At least you gave us the little heads up that you’re going to be using humor, or the “Two dogs produce more dogs – not monkeys” line would seem just juvenile. In this context it comes across as kind of cute.

Over the last 50 years, many fossils have been discovered that have been touted as providing “further proof” of evolution. What is not described with each of these new headlines is that fossils of “transitional life forms” are very rare in the fossil record. Rather than science seeking “the missing link” that proves evolution, there are literally thousands of gaps in the fossil record which have no satisfactory explanation.

So, one of the things I’ve noticed in other articles like this, is you really have to stay away from discussing actual paleontology and biology. You don’t want to take on scientists on their own turf, you’ll just look kind of dumb. “Missing link”?? You just don’t hear anyone talking like that any more. I think the scientists have moved on from that old saw and now describe evolution as more of an ongoing process making everything a link. With many, many transitional fossils that clearly establish an evolutionary record we need to pick a better argument than having paleontologists find every one, or they’re going to have us explain why the bible doesn’t list every animal on the ark and how they survived the trip.

Our life experiences suggest that things don’t really work that way. Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics famously states that the natural tendency of the universe is away from order and toward chaos, rather than the other way around. If I drive my 1991 Honda into a swamp and leave it there for 50 years – or 50 million years – does anyone think that what will emerge is a Mercedes?

This is that comedy thing again? I have to say, it doesn’t really work here. First, Newton has nothing to do with the Laws of Thermodynamics (his laws had to do with motion). Second, it is pretty well established that biological systems do conform to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Is the car thing an analogy? To what? If I drown a rabbit in the swamp, it ain’t coming out either. So what?

Does such a concept really ring true – from the goo to the zoo to you? From time immemorial, reasonable people have seen in one another the very image of God. The next time you hold a newborn baby, look very, very carefully at her tiny fingers; and then ask yourself, what kind of an engineer could design something so perfect? I have dear and brilliant friends who spend their days looking through both telescopes and microscopes, and what they see are not the products of random selection or cosmic chance, but the fingerprints of God.

Your summary paragraph. As I stated before, you’ve undermined your “god trumps everything” argument by putting Science on an even footing. I like the newborn baby angle, it’s touching. I’m choked up. A baby’s fingers, though? Perfect? Maybe it’s been a while (my daughter is fourteen), but there’s a lot more perfect stuff about my kid than her fingers when she was born. Why not go for the whole brain thing? Pretty amazing, if you ask me.

Well, Kevin, I’m sorry. Now that we’ve gone through the whole thing together, I really would suggest you ball it up and start over. Get your thoughts together. I think the comedy angle was a bust. Maybe you’re more cut out for flat out demagogy, you were out to a really good start demonizing scientists. I think you just got lost along the way trying to support a theological position with reason instead of emotion. It doesn’t really work.