Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Faster: The Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World's Fastest Cyclists

During the doping era, cycling teams would spend money on drugs rather than training. This may have provided some quick fixes, but prevented long term gains. Separately, the British cycling team focussed on science to improve the team and win gold medals. The first step is find the athletes. There are some basic physiological capabilities needed. They must also have the desire and drive to succeed. On top of that, there is training. The training that is needed to separate the elite athletes is different than that needed for more casual athletes. There are minor little things such as diet, training details and bike improvements that can be the difference. While these may help the casual cyclist, some more simple things may produce a bigger bang. The work on the margins continues to evolve. Bike technology has also improved, but is often limited by the cycling governing body. Psychology is not very important to a sport like cycling that relies almost exclusively on cardiovascular strength. There will continue to be advancements and people with the drive to be faster.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

Lieutenant Dangerous: A Vietnam War Memoir

Lieutenant Dangerous is a late cycle Vietnam memoir. Being late to the game gives the author the advantage of greater retrospection from a distance. He begins with some of the absurdities. Some people could get drafter, while others had exemptions. Local draft boards had a huge say, and were biased towards local kids. The government would be provided equipment on "cost plus profit" basis. Troops were trained in the snow for deployment to the rainforest.

He was drafted after he was married. His primary goal was to avoid harm. Having experience with languages, he sought out an intelligence position that would require language training. He found this full of more absurdities. His training in romance languages helped him pass the test (even though Vietnamese was totally different.) The coursework was mostly rote memorization without real focus on understanding. The location ended up being in El Paso instead of Monterrey. 

He sought to further delay deployment by becoming an officer. Alas, he was first told he was too valuable with his language training. He went another route and was accepted - but ended up becoming an ordinance officer instead. Meanwhile, he also went to Columbia University to talk about enrolling there. He showed up at the peak of protests wearing complete military uniform. That did not go over well. While deployed to Vietnam, he wrote his Senator to complain he was not using his language skills. This eventually got him to more intelligence related operations.

The overall feeling and experience in Vietnam was similar to what we have heard elsewhere. The objective and actions were not clear. The military did not know how to fight in the jungle. He had speciaal criticism for the Air Force. Bombing didn't help the cause. It just made people mad at America. Communism ended up being defeated by communism, not by war.

Saturday, August 06, 2022

The Great Hunt: Book Two of The Wheel Of Time

Aes Sedai are women with special power. When a man is involved it is even better. There is some sort of "human leash" that causes others to feel what somebody feels. This makes it impossible for them to hurt the other person because. There is palace intrigue and people out in the country. Some women try to go out to a mission to their hometown to help solve things. Women seem to be both powerful and subservient. There is a hierarchy where people want to achieve new positions. The story ends.

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive

The human immune system is very complex and continues to evolve as the different invaders evolve. This book presents the science behind the immune system in an easy to understand format, mixing scientific terminology with analogies. For example, cancer is similar to rogue developers constructing skyscrapers in Brooklyn, plucking down il-constructed buildings wherever they see fit. At first it might be cute, but pretty soon they dominate and there is no other place for people to live. 

There are many layers in the immune response. The body also has the ability to respond to just about any invader. However, the response is usually not immediate. A "too good" immune system can be just as bad as a "too bad" one. Allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock are usually caused by the immune system working too hard when it does not need to.

Fevers and other "symptoms" of sickness are part of the body's way of fighting the invader. The skin provides a huge barrier that makes it difficult for different pathogens to enter the body. Once something is in, different cells attempt to fight it off, depending on the nature. Viruses use the body's cells to replicate themselves. The body's defences involve matching signatures and also killing off items that are not properly identifying themselves. There are many battles going on everyday as our immune system fights to keep us alive.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

The Hammer of Thor: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2

Magnus Chase is on a mission to find Thor's hammer. He is in our world, but there are plenty of things from the world of the Norse gods involved. (Normal people don't see them.) There is a visit to giants. Both sides are using tricks to beat the other side. Eventually, the "kids" win out. There is plenty of illusion and shapeshifting going on. This goes in conjunction with a gender fluid kid. They do more trickery to attempt to get the hammer back, but still run into troubles. Time for the next episode. The Norse mythology here is primarily filled with trickery where wit can help overcome brawn. 

Monday, August 01, 2022

Arcade and the Fiery Metal Tester

Things "heat up" for the third Coin Slot Chronicles book. Arcade starts middle school. His best friend needs to move to Florida. He also gets a better understanding of how the magic token works. They travel to various events to gain more knowledge and understanding. However, the primary goal is personal growth. He struggles through school challenges as well as losing his dog. He learns to understand the past experiences of others to have more empathy with them and thus grow himself.

Arcade and the Golden Travel Guide: The Coin Slot Chronicles, Book 2

In the second book, the kids travel a lot. They make a "real" trip to their previous home in Virginia. They also make "golden coin" trips to Holland, San Francisco and other places. They also see their parents when they were young.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies

The early history of aviation was dominated by carnivals and courtrooms. There were numerous attempts at early flights. The Wright brothers were able to develop some technology that would actually work. They soon spent more effort on defending their patent than pursuing than demonstrating their technology. Meanwhile, the public became excited by flying. Different competitions were held to demonstrate flight and break barriers. Dirigibles and other vehicles initially competed in these, but planes came to dominated. Others airplane manufacturers, such as Curtis created airplanes that were able to build and improve on airplane technology. These contests helped to increase the speed, distance and altitude of flight. Some pilots, such as Beachey gained fame from their flying ability. Many pilots died in crashes. Early on, the Wrights tended to have a higher crash rate. The Wright Brothers did patent the basic concepts of flight and attempted to collect a 20% royalty. However, World War I ended up limiting that. After Orville Wright sold the company the litigation took a back seat. The patent war may have set the US aviation industry back some time. How do we balance given credit to initial inventors with allowing other to build upon this?

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood

We all depend on blood to allow us to live. Nine Pints is more a collection of "short stories" about blood, rather than a continuous narrative. It goes through leeches, plasma donation, AIDS, menstrual periods and other things. There is not much of a flow from topic to topic. 

My Body

At a young age, the author realized she had natural beauty. She used this to her benefit, engaging in activity with boyfriends and starting a modelling career. Her body was a source of income as well as a challenge. Her career depended on men lusting after her body. She was little respected as an object. She was able to party with rich people and shot to fame with a risque music video. She also found photographers publishing photos without her knowledge. Ironically as a person who depended on her body for her career, she acknowledged not taking exceptional care of it. The life of modelling fame seems absolutely miserable. She seemed to like the path that she went down, though seems to now be tired of it.