The Paper Wasp

avid reader.png

From The Avid Reader Show, Sam’s latest interviews from a history of over 450 interviews over the past decade:

Listen to the podcast:  THE AVID READER

The Paper Wasp is about two women, one beautiful, one plain, one insecure and one quite confident (at different times).  It’s about a rekindled relationship in which power shifts, spirituality is embraced or given lip service and plans are made, by both women, plans that sometimes work and sometimes don’t.  My point, somehow made in an extremely disjointed fashion, is that it’s hard to know who’s successful, who’s a failure, who knows what their life is about and who doesn’t and then layered on that is the insecurity the reader experiences when she has no idea whether what she is reading is what is really happening.

A Wonderful Stroke of Luck

avid reader

From The Avid Reader Show, Sam’s latest interviews from a history of over 450 interviews over the past decade:

A Wonderful Stroke of Luck is set in a boarding school in New Hampshire where we meet Ben and his unique teacher, Pierre LaVerdere, who teaches reason and the art of skirting around the truth.  Though Pierre’s students leave him, he never really leaves them.  It’s not difficult to relate to Ben, when Ben leaves boarding school he wonders as we all often do with periods of our lives – what did that experience really mean?  His whole life shaped by a couple of years … why?  When you read the book that why will be answered.  Listen to the podcast:  THE AVID READER

The Uninhabitable Earth | Book Review


| Book Review by Jim Scott |

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

Wallace-Wells has delivered an eloquent description of the world’s climate breakdown and the consequent societal collapse.  Though a non-scientist and non-environmentalist, this talented journalist writes that mankind has “exited the state of environmental conditions that allowed the human animal to evolve in the first place, in an unsure and unplanned bet on just what that animal can endure.”  His conclusion emerges from analyzing years of others’ “scientific work” (my emphasis) and recognizing the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the gold-standard assessment of the Earth’s state (on a carbon dioxide [CO2] drunk) and the likely trajectory for climate change (collapse), due principally to human-generated, CO2-rich emissions, accepted as “settled science” in our schools, colleges, scientific journals, and public media.

Cause=>effect=>solution: he says, “We have all the tools we need, today, to stop it all: a carbon tax and the political apparatus to aggressively phase out dirty energy; a new approach to agricultural practices and shift away from beef and dairy in the global diet; and public investment in green energy and carbon capture.”

In Wallace-Wells’ final pages, he inadvertently acknowledges that “we live today under clouds of uncertainty about climate change,” after already having told us repeatedly of the certainty of his bleak, IPCC scenario.  His stylistic phrase “clouds of uncertainty” is perhaps a Freudian slip: clouds and water vapor are unmentioned greenhouse gas molecules, accounting for as much as 10 times warming effect of CO2 + methane + nitrous oxide, combined, though yet remaining inadequately evaluated and modeled by the scientific community.  Moreover, many other serious researchers, believing that it’s wrong to blame global warming primarily on greenhouse gases in general, much less on CO2 alone, cite IPCC’s major shortcomings in the key areas of research scope, inadequate models, conflicting temperature information, lack of regional geographic relevance, and economics.  And Nobel Prize winner (for climate change economic modeling) William Nordhaus has soundly criticized the IPCC’s strategic CO2-target cap as costing more than it’s worth.

They describe the global heat engine as a complex interplay of activities all over Earth’s surface: on the sea and on land as well as above (stratospheric winds) and below (ocean currents and deep, geological activity).  Caltech’s Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences is aggressively researching the global heat engine scope issues.  In addition, to replacing the clunky IPCC climate models, MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change has described in refereed technical journal, NATURE, its long-anticipated “Multi-Sectoral Climate Impact Assessment” strategy using a highly advanced, integrated modeling framework, which at long last analyzes and integrates economics with regional, geospatial factors.  The fresh, ongoing climate research by these and others should help inform Wallace-Wells’ “certainty” as well as help dispel our uncertainties.

Meanwhile, read Wallace-Wells’ book as he takes us to a place where we may not wish to go, as hair raising as poet Virgil was for Dante in the Inferno.


You Will Be Safe | Podcast

avid reader.png

From The Avid Reader Show, Sam’s latest interviews from a history of over 450 interviews over the past decade:

Listen to the podcast:  The Avid Reader

Damian Barr is an award-winning writer and columnist. Maggie And Me, his memoir won several prestigious awards. Damian writes columns for BigIssue and High Life. He is the creator and host of his own Literary Salon that premieres work from established and emerging writers. I’d love to talk to him for hours about that but we’re here to sell his book, to be unpolished.

You know, Sometimes I get a little nervous when a novel straddles two centuries with multiple characters. But no need to fear here. The pieces of this book fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. It may not be the most pleasant of juxtapositions but it is a novel that immediately draws the reader in, not with certainty, but with a subtle questioning that leaves one a bit nervous and unsure, kind of, of one’s own values.

Cinderellas of Conflict


3 Book Review by Jim Scott

  • A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War,

by Patricia Fara

  • Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II,

by Liza Mundy

  • Hidden Figures:The Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win The Space Race,

by Margot Lee Shetterly


These are three, celebratory narratives of women excelling in science, engineering and mathematics in the shadow of war and international conflict.

Patricia Fara, a Cambridge science historian, writes convincingly of the wholesale, societal animus against women in Britain 100 years ago.  Based on her prodigious research, she celebrates the work of historically marginalized women scientists, previously excluded from the solidly male territory of the technically elite.  Fara delivers a lasting tribute to the women who bridged the science and engineering talent gap caused by WWI’s absorption of male counterparts.

Accomplished journalist Liza Mundy extols the work of several thousand, mathematically astute, American women recruited in WWII by the U.S. Army and Navy and deployed successfully as code-breakers of German and Japanese war communications.  Mundy passionately and effectively portrays the mind-numbing tedium and frustration of their clandestine work, and holds no punches in assailing society’s entrenched misogyny before, during, and after the war.

Margot Lee Shetterly, daughter of a Black research scientist at NASA-Langley Research Center, founded “The Human Computer Project” as the research vehicle resulting in the paean, Hidden Figures.  The focus was the successful struggle of segregated Black women mathematicians who played key roles inside NASA, with clear impact on the U.S./U.S.S.R. space race of the ‘50s and ‘60s.  She illuminates the human computers’ efforts to overcome Jim Crow and “gender-smack down” realities, both of which failed spectacularly to attenuate the spunk and value of the women to NASA’s successes.

As Frederick Douglas wrote presciently in 1870: “Women’s natural abilities and possibilities, not less than man’s, constitute the measure of her rights in all directions and relations, including her right to participate in shaping the policy and controlling the action of the Government under which she lives…” These 21stcentury stories reflect the “Douglas touch” on women’s rights, extending from a suffrage base of counting politically towards one of competency-based, professional equality.

These mathematicians, scientists, and engineers were clearly Cinderella figures, where war and conflict were wicked stepmothers, with a fairy godmother nowhere to be seen until the likes of Fara, Mundy, and Shetterly appeared to reveal their exciting stories from obscurity.

What’s Cooking? – “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook”

Yea!  I was waiting and waiting for Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen to write a cookbook.  I have been following Deb’s blog since I discovered the chocolate peanut butter cake recipe that made my in-laws accept me a birthday parties.  Deb is my go-to person for homemade marshmallows (one you have a homemade marshmallow you will NEVER have one from a bag again!).  But enough about why I love her blog, here is why I love her new cookbook.

Deb provides one of the most helpful notes and tips sections I’ve found in a cookbook.  For example, what to do if you don’t have buttermilk in the fridge or how to make brown sugar if you run out.  I mean really, I never have buttermilk but I always want buttermilk pancakes and biscuits.  This in itself is worth buying the book! 

True to the recipes on her blog, the recipes in the cookbook are straight forward and delicious.  I did my usual recipe sampler so here it goes:

Breakfast:  Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby – I’ve never had a dutch baby pancake, I’ve barely ever heard of them.  It is a light, cripsy pancake that you make in the blender and oven.  I might never go back to regular pancakes and the mess again.  All you do is whiz them up in the blender, pour into a pan (that can go into the oven), pop them in the oven and bake.  What this means is that you can make them on a busy school morning, they are so simple.  The gingerbread spices make the kitchen smell wonderful too!  I also made the Apricot Breakfast Crisp – if you love cobbler, this is going to be your new breakfast go-to.  Baked fruit (I made it with peaches) with a crumbly topping is served with yogurt and delivered to the table in about 30 minutes.  This is absolutely wonderful and it is even better cold so you can whip it up at night and have it for breakfast.

Salads:  Roasted Baby Roots with Sherry-Shallot Vinaigrette – This is a complete salad but can also be served as a side if you would like a heartier meal.  You can roast any root vegetable that you like and once they are cooked you toss them with a vinaigrette, some quinoa and goat cheese.  My family couldn’t stop eating this!  The sweetness of the veggies with the tangy dressing was a perfect.

Veggie Main Dishes:  Gnocchi in Tomato Broth – Don’t let this intimidate you, gnocchi is pretty easy to make.  Basically, roast your potatoes and mix with egg, flour and a few other things until you have a dough.  Then you just roll it with your hands and cut into chunks with a knife.  What you end up with are light, fluffy gnocchi that you won’t want to stop eating.  Deb pairs this with a simple tomato broth.  I did change this up a bit though because when it came to strain the veggies out of the broth I found I just could not do it (I’m a bit of a veggie fanatic) so I pulled out my hand blender and made a smooth sauce.  It was delicious.

The Main Dish:  Vermouth Mussels with Tarragon Oven Fries – I am a sucker for mussels and fries.  I always get them when they are on the menu in restaurants and they are simple and quick to make at home.  And as crazy as it sounds, my toddler loves them too!  Deb’s mussels with the vermouth and tarragon were scarfed down in record time.  Mustard Milanese with Arugula Fennel Salad was my more complicated foray into the book.  Chicken breast fillets are dredged in flour, mustard sauce and panko breadcrumbs and then pan fried and served with a simple arugula and fennel salad on top.  Another hit with the family!  The chicken was moist and crunchy and Deb’s tip to bread the chicken and then put in the fridge for an hour was the answer to why I don’t fix many breaded dishes.  I hate when you bread something (chicken or fish around here) and then all of the breading falls off!  Popping the breaded fillets into the fridge for an hour really set the breading so every bit stayed on the chicken.  My hubby asked if I would make this dish again.

Desserts:  About one third of the cookbook is dedicated to desserts and I have to say they all look amazing but I haven’t had a chance to try them out.  Based on the chocolate peanut butter cake and the marshmallows I have no doubt they will be spectacular.  I am especially anxious to try the S’more Layer Cake, need I say more?