Month: May 2020

Review of Herb Books

Three Herb Books Reviewed

I love cooking with herbs. But I do not own a single culinary herb book. Most of my gardening books have a section on herbs or information on individual herbs. Additionally, I have four herb books mostly based on medicinal uses. They are all quite interesting to read but I have yet to fully utilize their information. I am going to talk about three of the herb books today.

Ortho’s All About Herbs

Maggie Oster is the author of Ortho’s All About Herbs. I own the 1999 edition and find it a compact reference guide. Even though it is condensed, only six pages devoted to culinary use of herbs and a similar number for medicinal use, the guide is chalk full of information. Not much white space is left on the page.

What I like best about this herb book is the table of Common Herbs and Their Uses on pages 8-11. A close second is the detailed index. Since it is a how-to book there are plenty of pages devoted to educating a novice. About half the book is devoted to individual plants. While Basil earns an entire page, most of the described herbs share space. Much like in a garden.

National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs

National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants was co-authored by Rebecca L. Johnson, Steven Foster, Tieraona Low Dog, M.D. and David Kiefer, M.D. This book is impressive. Gorgeous photography and beautiful illustrations accompany eight chapters of herbal information.

Since this herb book focuses on medicinal use, the plants are grouped by which part of the body they aid. For example, Chapter Four covers herbs useful for digestive ailments. However, each herb is only covered under one section. But the authors do indicate alternative therapeutic uses.

Readers may find it interesting to discover the inclusion of plants not considered herbs. Perhaps the inclusion of edibles such as tomatoes and various berries is the reasoning behind the long title. Whether herb or non-herb, the information contained is extensive.

Medicinal Plants At Home

The third book I want to share comes to us via Spain. Marìa Trànsito Lòpez Luengo and Carlota Màñez Arisò are the co-authors of the informative herb book Medicinal Plants at Home. I like how the authors organized the book.

First, there is an overall introduction. Then, the herbs are broken into groupings for subgroups of individuals, travelers, children, the elderly, etc. There is a short section on using herbs throughout the house and then the herbs are typed by how they affect the body. The authors discuss if the herbs are used for relaxation, anti-inflammatory purposes or as an immuno-stimulant.

Each herb is discussed and photographed. The authors indicate uses and include precautions and if/when the herb is contraindicated. Further, the plant is described and natural habitat disclosed. A recipe for each is included under the remedies section.

Herb Books for the Herb Garden

I am still expanding my herb garden. Currently, my herbs have more culinary applications than medicinal. While I have added both rose hips and lavender to my bath water, I have yet to make any teas or poultices. My horehound is a wonderful ground cover but I do not know how to turn it into a cough drop.

A fourth herb book is quite different and I am still reading it. Therefore The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies will be reviewed at a later date.

Modern medicine has replaced herbal medicine at the household level. I truly do not personally know anyone who mixes their own concoctions. My comfort level at this point in time is quite low with respect to preparing my own medicinal therapies. But, I am interested in adding herbal teas to my repertoire.

Enjoy the slide show.

 

 

 

 

 

Two-Sided Quilt

I have finally finished piecing both halves of the two-sided quilt. One side is a version of The Train Quilt and the other is a batik panel quilt featuring an elephant. Usually, panel quilts are quick and easy to make like I discuss in this post. But this particular design took a lot of effort.

Intricate Borders

Both sides of this quilt have intricate borders. I used a circus train motif for the Train Quilt. Instead of a coal car, I have a grain car. The passenger cars have clowns leaning out. Baby animals complete the motif. Best of all, pastel colored wheels and rails lend the baby element. Perfect for a soon-to-be one year old.

The middle border of the panel side looks quite complicated. Strip piecing made it a bit easier. But since it was the first time I had ever made this border there was still quite a learning curve. I used a pattern called Shaded Squares from The Border Workbook by Janet Kime.

Many of the fabrics used were batiks. I chose to vary the fabrics in the strips so that the border could compliment the stylized elephant on the panel. My aim was a watercolor effect. So, for example, in areas adjoining teals, there were several teal fabrics in the border.

Two-Sided Quilt for Longevity

I decided to make this reversible quilt so it can “grow” with the recipient. The Circus Train is great for a youngster. I can envision toy trains and cars rolling across the tracks. The colors are sweet and the fabrics include a few fun kid prints.

Once the youngster gets a little older, the two-sided quilt stays useful with the beauty of the flipside. The batiks used to accent the majestic elephant are perfect. The marbled colors are both striking and allow for a blending of colors that is pleasing to the eye. I picture a young teen curled up beneath the quilt reading on a snowy day.

One Last Hurdle

The two-sided quilt presents one last hurdle. I need to decide on a quilting design. Many times I use either a stitch in the ditch approach or one that highlights the main design. Neither will work in this case. So I need to come up with an overall quilt design. Fortunately I have an array of stencils to choose from. I will post more pictures after the quilting is done, but here are a few to enjoy now.

Long Road to Mercy Book Review

I recently read Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci. He is a veteran author known for his thrillers. The publishing date for Long Road to Mercy is 2018. But I did not buy/see it at the time. However, I enjoyed checking it out through my Libby App.

New Series, New Characters

Baldacci introduces a new series with Long Road to Mercy. The protagonist, Atlee Pine is a FBI agent based in the rural American town of Shattered Rock, Arizona. Pine is a loner in her mid-thirties with quite a back story. Her twin was kidnapped and never found at the age of six. While Long Road to Mercy begins and ends with this back story, the main plot revolves around government intrigue. The setting is split between the Grand Canyon and Washington, D.C.

Pine’s office consists of one staff member, Carol Blum. Blum is a key character in the book. Older than Agent Pine by about twenty years, Blum can recognize dedication when she sees it. She knows Pine is dedicated. So, Blum mentors FBI Agent Pine and serves as an admirable backup.

Sam Kettler is a National Service Park Ranger. He served in the Mid-east and has razor sharp skills. Kettler and Pine connect. Both are in top physical condition and both carry scars. Quite possibly the relationship will continue in future stories.

Long Road to Mercy Plot

Intrigue, espionage, and treason are at the heart of the novel. Primary action takes place deep in the Grand Canyon with Agent Pine and her assistant, Blum making a sneak trip to Washington D.C. in between. The storyline keeps the reader hooked. The protagonist digs deep to reach the bottom of the mystery.

There is a thinly veiled link to recent historical events in the United States, but the story is pure fiction. And that is a good thing. Because a similar scenario in true life would be devastating.

Novel Strengths

Baldacci has created complex and compelling characters. Both Pine and Blum are strong women and I like that. Sam Kettler is macho without the attitude. I also like that. The sequel to Long Road to Mercy is A Minute to Midnight. I have placed that novel on my To Be Read List.

Readers who enjoy action and don’t mind some violence will enjoy this novel. The main character is a strong female. David Baldacci is an expert at weaving stories of intrigue interspersed with moral conflict. I think the Atlee Pine series will develop quite a following. I know I enjoyed it.

 

 

Striking A Balance

Striking a balance is a key to life. One that seems to be sorely missing at this moment in time. In economics we call this balance an equilibrium. If you believe in the philosophy of Adam Smith you think a system which is out of whack will correct itself. Eventually. If you are a fan of John Maynard Keynes, your belief runs toward giving nature a helping hand through intervention. Usually government intervention.

To be honest, I tend to favor Smith over Keynes. (Although neither is my favorite.) The biggest problem with Smith is that nature can take a long while to correct itself. The biggest problem with Keynes is thinking man has the discipline, and the knowledge to strike and maintain a balance. Striking a balance is quite difficult. Maintaining one, perhaps impossible.

Debt

From time to time I link to the Debt Clock. I have already asked you to click here once this year but please do it again. The overall number is eye-popping. Over 25 trillion as I type this. But dig down deeper. Look at family savings, student and credit debt. Take a further look at household and national debt. Finally take a look at the M2 money creation.

The Federal Reserve is following a Keynesian path and pumping money into the monetary system. This chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve office shows the steep increase in M2 since the start of the year. The Federal Reserve has deeply cut the interest rate on the funds loaned out. The rate currently stands at .25 down from 1.75 earlier this year.

From both the Debt Clock and the M2 chart one can discern the attempt at striking a balance the Federal Reserve is trying to make. It is not this action I disagree with. Instead I worry about the unwillingness for re-balance in good times. Why, were interest rates low to begin with when we were at all time market highs the first months of the year? Shouldn’t the rates have been at 3, 4, or even 5 %?

My fear is the inability of governmental entities in striking a balance. Keynes’ basic philosophy will work but only if humans can put aside for a rainy day. I have seen little of this in my lifetime.

Managing a Pandemic

Public service is difficult. I have had some personal experience on a local level and the job is tough. Making decisions for the public is not easy. A crisis makes it even harder. Dealing with Covid-19, while not unprecedented, is proving to be the greatest challenge many will ever face. This holds true on a personal as well as public level.

I think the problem will be most apparent in countries that have enjoyed more freedom for citizens. But I think people everywhere will struggle with striking a balance in fighting this pandemic. Individuals in countries that practice preparedness will do better than those who live in places where a just-in-time philosophy extends to households as well as production facilities.

There have been a multitude of agencies as well as people that have not responded as effectively as one would hope. Additionally, political leadership has not been on an even keel. But perhaps what disappoints me the most is the divisiveness of the human population. Although, I feel a little better about the split since reading Gina Kolata’s Flu. Apparently a similar split has happened in the past on the best way to deal with an epidemic.

Personal Responsibility in Striking a Balance

Nonetheless, I urge everyone out there to consider the needs of others. A person can look healthy and young on the outside, but suffer from lung conditions such as asthma or cystic fibrosis. Pacemakers are not just operating in the elderly. So for once I am asking you to “assume” something. Please assume anyone you meet, young or old, may have an underlying condition. Give people some space. Further, assume you could be asymptomatic, spreading disease unknowingly. And by all means, if you do have symptoms of Covid-19 take responsible actions.

Striking a balance between public health and public wealth is difficult. We all have a responsibility. As humans, we need to show respect for each other. At some point in the future we will reach an equilibrium. Let’s just hope we remember to repay the funding mechanisms. Otherwise, the difficulties of living through this pandemic will pale in comparison to a future of financial instability.

 

 

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It Book Review

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It by Gina Kolata  is a well- researched tome. I spent about a week reading through the historical information in order to better understand the response to the Covid-19 pandemic we are currently facing.

Historical Account of Flu Through The Ages

Kolata begins with a prologue well worth reading. She follows this with an opening chapter on the Spanish Flu of 1918. The information presented is a basis for the main thread of virology research which takes place decades later and is the impetus of Kolata’s writing. This historical approach carries throughout Flu.

In order to give the reader perspective on pandemics, Kolata digs deep into history. An early (perhaps the earliest) record of epidemic exists through the writings of Thucydides from 431 B.C. in Athens, Greece. In addition to describing the illness, Thucydides comments on the reaction of the populace to the disease. The Greeks experienced medical doctors falling prey to the epidemic, people turning to religion for salvation and finally isolating themselves in their homes to avoid the illness.

This pattern repeats itself throughout the centuries. Kolata reports on the various pandemics including the Black Death and the flu of 1918. An eerily similar response occurs time and again. The population divides into two groups of thought. (Much like we are experiencing in 2020.)

Cross Species Flu

After providing an historical basis, Kolata switches to some of the unknowns of viral spread. Through the years, scientists tried to link all types of flu outbreaks to bacterium. Perhaps the presence of bacteria provided the quick spread. Others linked viruses to co-existing in animals. Pigs, ferrets and birds are just some examples.

The 1918 pandemic is often linked to swine and the author ties this strain to a chapter on the Swine Flu vaccine of 1976. Again, the comparison to the politics and scientific disagreements to current events is relevant for the reader.

Advances in Science

Much of Flu focuses on the work of scientists to determine the cause of the 1918 pandemic. I found the information interesting. But, to be honest I struggled to a certain extent with the jargon as well as the concepts presented. But biology was not my strong suit.

Kolata discusses multiple attempts to isolate the 1918 Influenza virus. As early as the 1950s, scientists attempted to retrieve the virus from frozen bodies. This effort was unsuccessful. However, the 1990s brought about additional attempts.

This portion of the text interested me the most from an economic standpoint. In the 1990s, multiple researchers again attempted to isolate the origins of the 1918 virus. Kolata relates several different approaches. One expedition took five years at a cost of half a million. It did not succeed. However, other sources had more success.

Flu was written prior to the reconstruction of the 1918 virus. Those of you interested in what has happened with this particular strain can click here for a CDC report.

Non-Fiction

Gina Kolata presents in Flu an excellent example of a well-researched non-fiction account of scientists searching to unravel the source of a pandemic.

Those of you who follow me know that I have been struggling of late to finish a variety of non-fiction books. Kolata’s book was the longest at almost 400 pages of text. Perhaps what sets Flu apart was the thorough research. Another possibility is the blend of science and history. Regardless, I read Flu in its entirety.

Although Flu was published in 2001, copies are still available to purchase. The book is also on Kindle and through the Libby app. I highly recommend this book for anyone with a science or history background. Furthermore, I think those with an interest in political science, economics, and anthropology will also find the subject matter of interest. Flu is not a quick read. The time spent is worthwhile. Someone on my Christmas list will get a copy in December of 2020.