Book Review: Prevention’s Stop Dieting and Lose Weight Cookbook

Title: Prevention’s Stop Dieting & Lose Weight Cookbook

Author: Prevention magazine staff, edited by Mary Jo Plutt

Date: 1994

Publisher: Rodale

ISBN: 0-87596-198-3

Length: 436 pages including index and appendices

Illustrations: full-color photos

Quote: “[E]ating foods low in fat will do more than just make you look better. It’ll make you feel better, too…”

But extreme-low-fat diets are Out, you say, and high-fat, low-carb diets are In? Er um, for one thing, remember what happened to Dr. Atkins? Actually, the difference between viable low-fat and low-carb diets is not nearly as big as the difference between faddy ones. People who stay trim and healthy eat reasonably balanced diets that include some fat–only less than the unbalanced diets fat people eat–and some carbs–only more complex and fewer simple carbs than the unbalanced diets fat people eat. So low-carb people can use this book; the majority of the recipes are, in fact, lean protein and fiber-rich fruit and veg, and they recommend using enough oil to lubricate pans and ward off the depression some people develop on extreme-low-fat diets.

Will you lose weight, look better, and feel better? Gentle Readers, I got this book from a friend who likes to be mistaken for one of (her daughter’s and my) schoolmates, and often is. With her straight shoulders, trim top-heavy figure, and long blonde hair (it wasn’t always blonde), she looks and acts like a well-preserved forty-or-fifty-something. If you didn’t know her oldest child was fifty you wouldn’t believe she’s seventy. Of course, she’s also into exercise and all the other habits of people who enjoy very long healthy lives, and she also comes from a long line of ancestors who were blessed with similar tastes, habits, and longevity. And cheekbones.

Can you use these recipes if your diet needs to be “free” from some specific food? More of the recipes are gluten-free than are dairy-free, but a lot of them are the kind where it’s easy just to substitute water or stock for milk, or omit the cheese. Most of them are sugar-free and low-carb. Many are grain-free.

Do they taste delicious? Some of the recipes do have that old familiar 1970s health-food-store flavor. Most do not. The ones that appeal to me really depend on the quality of the fruit and vegetables you use. If you use store-brand canned veg, they might come out on the boring side. If you use fresh garden produce, they’ll be delicious.

And, for a timely bonus…I didn’t plan ahead to post this review just before the Winter Holidays, but this book actually contains flavorful, healthy, tradition-inspired recipes for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s feasts.

Since this book is a collection from a magazine’s archives, it’s not a Fair Trade Book. As usual, to buy it from this site, send $5 per book + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of this screen. (This is a good-sized book–I’d like to promise that you could get two copies into a package for a total price of $15, but that depends on the packages the post office has in stock that day. However, you could get four skinny little Pocket-Book-type paperbacks into the package alongside this book, for a total price of $30.)

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Book Review (or Announcement): Narcotics Anonymous

Title: Narcotics Anonymous

Author: Narcotics Anonymous members

Date: 2008 (6th edition)

Publisher: Narcotics Anonymous

ISBN: 9781557767349

Length: 396 pages plus 29-page index

Quote: “As our members stay clean ten, twenty, thirty years and more, our fellowship has more and more experience dealing with challenges beyond ‘not picking up the first drug.'”

Fair disclosure: I’m not the ideal person to review this book. I don’t even know any NA members well. I know some people for whom Alcoholics Anonymous has worked miracles, and a few for whom local AA groups have come to seem like abusive cults, so I’m guessing that Narcotics Anonymous can work either way too. I myself chose abstinence at an early age, and have always been glad I did.

For those for whom it’s too late to choose abstinence…well, this is a book full of short, rather bland because anonymous, testimonies from people for whom the NA way works. There are a lot of them. There have been five previous editions of this book, and each edition has been thicker than the one before as more recovering addicts have supplied stories of how their program has kept them clean through different life passages and challenges. So there’s a good chance that NA could help anybody out there who is ready to recover from all use of drugs.

Even antibiotics, some might ask? Maybe not antibiotics, but definitely all “mind-altering, mood-changing chemicals.” The NA way is for people who are ready to live without legal “substitute drugs” like Antabuse or psychopharmaceuticals like Prozac, too. “All of us, from the junkie snatching purses to the sweet little old lady hitting two or three doctors for legal prescriptions, have one thing in common: we seek our destruction a bag at a time…until we die…In this program, the first thing we do is stop using drugs.”

Lack of emotional support from loved ones is not a valid reason to use drugs, but when twelve-step programs work, emotional support from the group is what gets people through what may be a long withdrawal/recovery period (depending on how much damage they’ve done to themselves). When it works, recovering addicts transfer their emotional addiction to the group and form lifelong bonds with their friends in the group. When it works, they avoid the financial and social costs of dependency on legal drugs, and are often able to go back to work and lead normal healthy drug-free lives.

If you are, or know, an addict who would like to have a relatively high “bottom” and get into recovery while still able to hold a job, this book is for you. It’s our Sunday book because many twelve-step programs are sponsored by churches–although NA has no specific religious affiliation and welcomes non-Christians who want to work this program, too.

Since this book has no individual author, it’s not a Fair Trade Book, and the price to buy it here ($5 per copy + $5 per package) actually seems pretty competitive according to Amazon. (The copy I physically own, which is locally available for a much lower cost, was heavily used by at least two addicts before it reached me, and contains many handwritten marginal notes. People who go to NA meetings are likely to acquire copies of this book in similar condition, free of charge.) Two copies could be shipped in one package for a total cost of $15.

Book review cat:

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Book Review: The Five Minute Marriage

Book Review: The Five-Minute Marriage

Author: Joan Aiken

Date: 1977

Publisher: Warner (paperback), Doubleday (hardcover)

ISBN: 0-446-89682-9

Length: 280 pages of text

Quote: “My uncle is so set on the marriage between my two cousins, that he intends to disinherit them both if the wedding does not take place before his death.”

Conrad Aiken, the well-known American poet, had two daughters who grew up in England. Neither tried to write the sort of very very serious and ambitious novels or poems their father wrote. Jane Aiken Hodges specialized in period romances; Joan Aiken (who also married) wrote a few period romances, a few ghost stories, a few murder mysteries, a few contemporary novels, a few imitations of Jane Austen, and one volume of light verse, but was best known for stories about children. Indeed a pair of children, usually a brother and a sister, always “gifted,” emotionally but not physically precocious, are a sort of trademark of her fiction; they’re in this romance too.

The most conspicuous feature of this novel is that Ms. Aiken was obviously playing with the genre. This is a Regency Romance with all the trimmings, the nice but poor girl adrift in a hard world with a mother who’s more of a burden than a protector, the handsome hero who doesn’t seem too promising at first but comes through for the heroine in the end, and all the historical details at a convenient distance from the action…but everybody, arguably including the heroine, Philadelphia or Delphie, has a given name lifted from Arthurian romance, and the hero is burdened with a family name that you’re meant to pronounce like “Pennystone” while you see it as a rude joke.

In the years to come, in her novels for Jane Austen fans, Joan Aiken would really pitch into the bizarre mix of snobbery and misogyny that seems to have complicated women’s lives at the turn of the eighteenth century. In this novel she accepts it. Delphie is obliged to marry Gareth because her uncle thinks she’s Gareth’s first cousin; she consents to the marriage on the promise that it can be dissolved easily once her uncle dies, but the plot thickens…it doesn’t have to make sense, hey? It’s a Regency Romance…Cousin Elaine may be trying to kill Delphie, Cousin Mordred overtly tries to kill Gareth, various other vague and/or illegitimate relatives complicate matters as much as possible…anyway, at the beginning Gareth and Delphie don’t like each other, at the end they do, and all the plot twists tie up in the requisite cellophane-transparent heart-shaped bow at the end.

You won’t believe it. You’re not actually meant to believe it. You’re meant to laugh, and feel relief that your own love life, however messy it may be, is surely less preposterous than Delphie’s. That you will do.

I have exactly one serious objection to this novel, apart from my feeling that editors should have insisted on spelling Gareth’s family name “Pennystone.” The objection is that, if this should happen to be the first of Joan Aiken’s books you read, you might not go on to read and appreciate the books Aiken herself seems to have taken more seriously. This is an amusing romp through the ridiculous, hardly to be compared with the mock-history series that began with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, the character studies of The Girl from Paris or If I Were You, the nonstop nonsense of Arabel’s Raven, the dreamlike stories in Not What You Expected, the subtle social commentary of Morningquest, or the right-to-death eloquence of Midwinter Nightingale.

Though Joan Aiken no longer needs a dollar, readers “meeting” this writer for the first time should visit the blog about her books maintained by her heirs: Some writers’ heirs seem to prefer that the writers’ books quietly disappear and stop reminding them of what they’ve lost. Other writers’ heirs, like Walter Hooper with C.S. Lewis and, apparently, Lizza Aiken with Joan Aiken, keep the books alive for one or more generations after the writers are gone. There won’t be any more books by Joan Aiken but there are plenty of them already (she wrote more than a hundred), and many are still in print.

Anyway, to buy The Five-Minute Marriage (and other vintage Aiken books) here, send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. If you buy four books for a total of $25 that may work out to less than you’d pay some other sellers whose per-book price appears, at first, to be much lower, so shop carefully.

Morguefile book review cat:

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Book Review: Little Town at the Crossroads

Book Review: Little Town at the Crossroads

Author: Maria D. Wilkes

Author’s web site:

Date: 1997

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 0-06-440651-2

Length: 343 pages

Quote: “Before Laura Ingalls Wilder ever penned the Little House books, she wrote to her aunt Martha Quiner Carpenter, asking her to ‘tell the story of those days’ when she and Laura’s mother, Caroline, were growing up in Brookfield, Wisconsin.”

And this is the book Maria D. Wilkes made out of the story Aunt Martha told. Laura Ingalls’ mother and sister make friends with a German immigrant girl who spells English words correctly but pronounces the letters “Ah-bay-tsay-day-ay,” and so on, so she can’t be given credit in spelling bees. Laura’s Uncle Henry brings in passenger pigeons to cook into pigeon pies. Woodchucks attack the garden just in time to win the children the right to keep a dog, even though their widowed mother hasn’t felt able to afford to feed a dog. There’s a Maple Syrup Festival and an Independence Day parade.

Apart from being illustrated by Dan Andreasen rather than Garth Williams, this book is much like the original Little House books, with memories of how people used to do everyday work told as vividly as memories of special events. Elementary school readers should be able to enjoy it; if they’re interested in old crafts and old songs, they may enjoy rereading it every year.

Although there are those who think the original “Little House” series (Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, The First Four Years, and some would add On the Way Home, West from Home, and Young Pioneers) was sufficient unto itself, the descendants of Ma and Pa Ingalls preserved enough other family letters and souvenirs to have inspired storybooks about Laura’s mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother as little girls. A certain sense of authenticity has of course been sacrificed: these are reconstructions, not memoirs. Children, however, affirm on Amazon that the additions to the “Little House” collection others have made after Rose Wilder Lane’s lifetime are still good reads.

Maria D. Wilkes, who has outed herself as being known in real life as Maria DiVincenzo, is alive and maintains an historical research web site. Therefore Little Town at the Crossroads is a Fair Trade Book. If you buy it here, for $5 per book + $5 per package, I’ll send Wilkes or a charity of her choice $1 per book sold. That’s more than some Amazon sellers are asking, but if you order four books for a total of $25, you may be ahead financially to buy the books here–and if they’re all by Maria D. Wilkes, she or her charity will receive $4. Payments may be sent to either of the addresses in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.

Here, for Google + purposes, is our Morguefile Book Review Cat:

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Link Log from November 18

Categories: Animals, Art, Bizarrerie, Food, Google +, Muslims, Phenology, Photos, Poetry, Psychology, Thanksgiving Day, Writing.


+Sandy KS shares fun facts about an ugly but interesting animal.

(In between Animals and Art, somebody may enjoy scrolling through +Raphaël Vavasseur Art ‘s Google + gallery of paintings…I don’t know, they seem to express a lot of the emotions and associations humans project on to our cats.)


Peter Streep shares a painting by Pieter Saenredam, an obscure Dutch artist whose style seems ahead of his time.


How I’m getting referrals from this site is anybody’s guess…could it be because I’d said, more than once, that the word “honey” in modern U.S. usage is so vulgar, so often, that it should probably be considered unprintable? Oh well. Nobody minds the cute, innocent little bees, and the bees at this Blogspot “hive” seem busy indeed. What are the hidden dangers of visiting online “mobile recharge sites”? When you exchange your cell phone number for recharge minutes from a web site, how many nuisance calls are you signing up for? I don’t know. I can’t even afford to check this out. If someone out there wants to check it out and report back, I’d thank them.

And here’s the inimitable Vladimir Putin…I agree with the +Allen West Republic assessment. Totally.

Food (Yum) 

Would you pay $6 per month to join a spice club?

I like this beef-and-vegetable soup recipe. I like okra.

Google + 

“Revitalizing” Google +? Three thoughts:

(1) Computers are business tools. If you want people to hang out on social sites, you pay per post. That’s the secret of the relative success of all the other alternatives to Facebook.

(2) Business tools should never call attention to themselves. If you want people to use a web site when they’re not being paid to use it, you never, never, never change a button that was working, and you avoid adding clutter or screeching, clashing background colors.

(3) Personally, the reason why I backed away from Google +, where I was connecting with some e-friends I’ve missed, has been that I’ve switched from mostly using public-access desktop computers to mostly using a privately owned laptop computer. Google + is one huge mess of memory-hogging graphics. Some laptops won’t open it at all. And as I read that more people are buying even cheaper and flimsier “tablets” and using phones for their Internet activity, I think I’m onto something. The way to “revitalize” Google + might begin with offering a graphics-free version.


Bill O’Reilly wants a “Million Muslim March” to condemn ISIS.

Morgan Griffith wants Saudi, Egyptian, Jordanian, and other Muslims to join us in a war against ISIS.

For quite a long time, I’ve wanted just to link to articles or review books in which Muslims denounced ISIS and/or the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda…good luck, gentlemen. Brigitte Gabriel may have a point, much as I hate to admit it. If the peaceful majority are afraid of offending the loud lunatic minority, then the peaceful majority may be irrelevant.

And, while we’re here…I think Muslim drivers who refuse to deliver beer…should own their own independent outfits, if they like, but not take jobs driving for companies that handle beer.

Phenology Links 

In Canada, they’ve just had the First Snow…serious snow, mind you. (In Virginia, when we get this much snow, levelheaded people call it a Big Wet Snow, and those who panic easily start carrying on about “snow emergencies” and “blizzards.”)

And then in Scotland…


Dan Lewis has found quite a collection of photos of active volcanoes:

The Vagabond Tabby has found a charming ruined house:


Speaking of charming ruins, Alice Walker posted a new poem:


Scott Adams discusses the psychology of late adolescents (ages 15-30) in ways that probably just won’t make sense to anyone under about age 20. Let’s just say I agree with him about the rationalization process; all of us humans do a lot of the things we do for reasons we don’t completely understand (I don’t usually eat when I’m sleepy, but often eat when I’m thirsty) and then, if asked why we did those things, we invent reasons that don’t actually account for what we’ve done.

Thanksgiving Day 

Big-chain stores get the message: Don’t open on Thanksgiving Day.


Here’s a site that delivers a word and a quote (not related) per day.

Neil Gaiman talks about stories:

E-friends from AC, please don’t drive +Lyn Lomasi completely around the bend, but…she’s built her site up to Real’Zine status and can accept a few guest posts and/or applications. Hurrah! If any of us deserved to reach this point first, she did.

Drama at the Cat Sanctuary: Social Cats and a Fire

For once, a long me-me-me post that may interest someone outside my immediate family…November 14 and 15 were quite a weekend.

First, Heather, Queen of the Cat Sanctuary, negotiated a successful labor strike. I am not making this up. You can see, even from this image of a half-grown kitten nonverbally expressing “How could you take Ivy’s picture first,” that Heather is a cat you don’t meet every day.

Last spring Heather gave birth to five kittens. Two of them, Tickle and Elmo, remain at the Cat Sanctuary.

“They’re six months old now,” I said. “It’s time they moved on to permanent homes. I don’t want tomcat odor in the house.”

“Their permanent home is my permanent home,” said Heather, nonverbally, “and you will let them in the house, and you will feed them, or I’ll move out. I may have been born in a house but I can revert to being totally feral any time I want to. I can live on wild squirrels…there are enough of them in the woods this year!”

So for ten days, while I searched for her and thought she might have been killed or petnapped, Heather skulked in the woods, and Ivy was able to catch one of the recent gray squirrel irruption. The only evidence of Heather’s survival I could find was a steady decline in the squirrel overpopulation problem.

On November 14, Heather came home, waking me around 2 a.m. After watching to see that Tickle and Elmo were fed too, she ate another meal and agreed to be friends again. I didn’t get back to sleep that night.

After the cat family drama, November 15 started out to be a bland, even boring, sunny autumn day. I put the trash in the wood stove as I usually do. I usually burn just one piece of wood with one bag of trash. I saved truckloads of scrap wood from construction jobs in 1993 and in 2006, and have almost half the total volume of wood left, today. On November 15 the trash (mostly used tissue) was on the damp side so I put in a larger scrap of wood than usual, a piece of a 2×4 instead of the usual skinny slat. I did not anticipate a need to watch the fire. I expected that about half of the trash bag and half of the wood would be in the stove, cold, in the morning.

If I’d stayed in the older part of the house (it has three distinct sections, old, new, and in between) I would have noticed that something different happened with that little trash fire. What happened was a chimney fire. If you keep your chimney nice and clean, chimney fires burn out harmlessly. If you let soot and creosote build up, the fire in the chimney can be hot enough to ignite wood or paper near the chimney…especially if the wall near the chimney is insulated with the pre-asbestos kind of petrochemical stuff that burns faster than paper.

On November 15 I learned that this can also happen if you inadvertently burn a scrap of wood that was once, long ago, treated with creosote. That wood burned bright and hot, drying and consuming the damp tissue, blazing straight up into the chimney.

All these years I’d never even wondered what the walls in the older part of the house were insulated with. Only when I smelled smoke, ran into the kitchen, and saw flames flickering inside the wall, did I find out…it was the bad stuff all right, and the fumes when that stuff burns are horrible.

When I was growing up in the house where I now live, everybody knew that the fire engines couldn’t pump or haul enough water to spray on a house that was not on a town water system; the county fire department wouldn’t do anything. You fought your own fire, and your neighbors’ if you didn’t want their fires to spread to your property, or you just stood about watching your house burn to the ground. I stayed in a house across the creek, and watched a poor old lady watch her home burn, when I was six years old. I helped save our house, and contain the fire after a neighbor’s house was lost, as a teenager. Even my depressive sister has some fire-fighting experience.

So I knew not to panic. The air was damp, the wood was not very dry, so despite the blaze from the insulation the fire didn’t spread fast. I had time to run in and out sloshing bottles of water on the flames, but the insulation kept blazing up again, and also I found out that I’m not tall enough to climb up on the roof from the ladder that was available. About that time a neighbor passed by. I asked him to try climbing up on the roof. He’s taller than I am, but fatter, and didn’t get onto the roof either. The fire was getting ahead of us. Well, why not call the fire department, I had said. On a lazy Sunday afternoon one of them might be willing to take a bottle of water up on to the roof.

About that time the county fire engine rolled up, and to my surprise the county fire department did take over fighting the fire. That is why the house is basically intact today. Inside, there’s a big hole in the wall between the two oldest rooms, a small hole in the ceiling, some damage to the chimney, some damage to the stove, and some further damage to the wiring I hadn’t dared to use since the 2011 cyclone anyway. The house still has an intact floor that will support seven large men, an intact roof that will support one of them, and mostly intact but unconnected electrical wiring. The neighbor and I might have put the fire out without professional help, but the damage would certainly have been worse.

I had planned to go into town and post that long reflection on sustainable organic gardening on November 15. I had wanted to stay home and enjoy the relatively warm, sunny afternoon. I had actually prayed about the matter and felt led to stay…at least a little later…when the fire started. So when it was over I was actually saying, “Thank you, God.”

Well, by then, it was time to call the cats to dinner…and where was Heather? I think she seriously considered going back to the woods. The other cats had missed her, too, and we all spent a lot of time roaming around in the woods, calling Heather. Then Heather took some time making up her mind whether she could stand the smell in the house. In the end, though, I think she took pity on us.

The sun was down; the temperature went down. I had considered myself over bronchitis, finally, on November 14. Deep breaths of chemical fumes followed by deep breaths of cold air brought the bronchitis back worse than ever.

On the whole, though, I think the Cat Sanctuary was better off than November 16 than on November 13. It may be a while before anybody can either cook or burn trash in the kitchen…but at least we do have Heather.

Book Review: Ingrid Bergman My Story

Book Review: Ingrid Bergman My Story

Author: Ingrid Bergman with Alan Burgess

Date: 1980

Publisher: Delacorte

ISBN: none, but click here to see it on Amazon

Length: 477 pages plus index

Illustrations: black-and-white photo inserts

Quote: “I will go on acting…After all, they always need an old witch in some production or other.”

Once upon a time there was a shy little Swedish orphan who had embarrassed her parents, while they were living, by “always being something else; a bird, or a lamppost…I remember the day I decided to be a small dog. I was quite disconcerted when my father refused absolutely to put a leash around my neck…I still trotted at his heels woofing.” This love of play-acting stayed with little Ingrid as she grew up.In some small way, acting helped her endure the loss of her parents, the aunt who adopted her, and finally her home country.

Bergman was a successful actress in Sweden, married to Petter Lindstrom, in 1937. By 1938, “if you were anybody at all in films,you had to be a member of the Nazi Party,” and “If you get an invitation from Dr. Josef Goebbels to tea—and you’re pretty certain to get one—you just say ‘Yes.’ You don’t argue or have a headache. You go! He likes young actresses.” The manner in which the devoted bride reports hearing this advice could have been calculated to turn any woman against Goebbels.

So she decided she wanted to come to America, with or without Lindstrom, but she encountered more subtle kinds of censorship here. “It never occurred to me that I shouldn’t have a child, or that it would interfere with my career…that everybody should be shocked that I had had a baby…‘And please, please don’t have any photographs taken with your child’…The movie stars of Hollywood adopted children if they wanted them.” In Berlin Bergman had refused to learn the Nazi salute; in Hollywood she gave an interview to a representative of David Selznick during which she knitted baby clothes. In her first few films she also refused to wear makeup, although she came to agree that the filming process made makeup necessary.

American audiences, of course, loved her anyway. In some ways it was mutual. “Americans laugh because the joke is against them. And they have nothing against success.” In other ways she clung to Swedish customs. In her early theatre training “You played old people, young people, nasty people, good people, but you rarely played what you looked like or what you were. You got inside somebody else’s skin.” She refused to play “Hollywood peaches-and-cream-girl” parts unless she could alternate them with more challenging parts: barmaids, hags, martyred saints, anything but pretty young girls. She played a Protestant missionary lady who was not a romantic heroine but an action hero. She played a nun. Audiences were delighted.

Then, as Bergman approached age thirty, Snow White drifted. She and Lindstrom quarrelled; she left him for Roberto Rossellini. It couldn’t have been his looks, it seems unlikely to have been his manners, it probably was’t money, and if it was a publicity stunt it wasn’t a helpful one…but the relationship didn’t last long. Rossellini’s next companion was also divorced, and before that divorce was final Bergman had found her third husband…and this book tells us more about the soap opera of all those family-blendings than I for one was interested in knowing.

Anyway, here are lots of memoirs and pictures from one of Hollywood’s greatest actresses. Movie buffs should enjoy this book.

Ingrid Bergman didn’t outlive this book by long, so it’s not a Fair Trade Book. To buy it here, send $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.

Morguefile book review cat:

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Organic Gardening and Farming, Continued

Last year +Jeff Sullivan started a debate that got into, among other things, the hazards of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacteria culture that causes slow, apparently very painful, death for caterpillars but usually doesn’t bother humans at all. (Individual monarch caterpillars are vulnerable to BT; the species as a whole was not endangered by it.) BT is organic. Right. But we’re talking about three different possibilities with BT:

(1) The bacteria are naturally transmitted among insects, at a relatively low concentration. Humans are exposed to very few bacteria unless they eat or handle insects daily, which nobody we know does, right?

(2) The bacteria are cultured in laboratories and the culture is sprayed or poured, in much higher concentration, on vulnerable plants at the key time of year. Humans are exposed to more bacteria than they ever were before microscopes and systematic bacteria culturing were invented, but that’s still relatively few bacteria. (Human volunteers have demonstrated the ability to eat a cupful of live BT culture at a time without showing symptoms.)

(3) DNA from the bacteria is spliced into one or more foods that humans then unknowingly eat every single day over a period of years. Arguably humans are exposed to fewer living, “natural” bacteria than in the first two situations…but reality is that a small minority of humans (who apparently ate a great deal of BT-DNA-enhanced corn) have developed chronic symptoms that they describe in terms similar to the early stages of death-by-BT in infected caterpillars.

It’s not scientifically rigorous to say that pesticide A is “worse” than pesticide B; you have to specify how much of each pesticide under what conditions–and obviously the article linked below is comparing apples and oranges, in terms of the ways serious organic gardeners and small farmers use these pesticides. On the other hand, if we’re talking about commercial “organic” agribusinessmen thinking they can just substitute concentrated tobacco juice for “Roundup” or plant BT-spliced corn instead of spraying the corn with “Raid,” we could be talking about a serious health hazard. Potentially. If they’re trying to plant acre after acre of the same thing, year after year, and “protect” it by poisoning it instead of rotating crops the way serious organic farmers do…

Protecting our environment is not merely a matter of substituting one poison for another poison. We have to learn to raise food crops efficiently enough that nobody has to rely on poison.

This can be done, but it’s not a quick, easy process. Vegetable gardeners and “organic” farmers need to be prepared for a long haul.

Helicoverpa zea, the Corn Earworm Moth, used to be a rare species. This drab little moth is, perhaps surprisingly, not nearly so well protected against predators as the showy Monarch. The Monarch’s vivid colors warn most predators that they don’t want to eat it. Birds, bats, bugs, wasps, and other creatures prefer to eat the Corn Earworm Moth, which apparently tastes good to them. However, when humans started spraying insecticides on whole fields, Corn Earworm Moth populations exploded! The insecticides were killing predators more efficiently than pests. The Corn Earworm Moths reproduced faster than poisoned birds and bats did, and when the next generation of moths hatched, there weren’t enough predators to thin their populations.

(Credit: “Pollinator” at Creative Commons.) I grew up in a world that had probably ten times as many Corn Earworm Moths as the world had a hundred years earlier. According to Wikipedia…

…the caterpillars infest one ear of corn (or sorghum) apiece. This, I learned as a child, is not necessarily the case. The first year we tried planting corn without spraying a field that had been poisoned every year for several years, we hardly found an intact ear; three and four earworms per ear of corn were not uncommon, and the chickens got more of our fresh, organically grown corn than we did. It took about ten years for predator populations to recover, even locally, to the point where anybody could count on having intact ears of organically grown corn for dinner.

This is typical, Gentle Readers. The first year you stop poisoning a field, you’ll be raising insects and will need to find Green ways to kill the ones you can’t just throw to the chickens. It will take time to rebuild predator populations. You’ll need to rotate crops (sustainable agriculture involves rotating crops anyway) and hand-pick a lot of pests. We used to go out to the vegetable garden with a little jar in our pockets to pick up all the insects, so we could burn or drown them all at once instead of having to squish them on the ground. We tried all kinds of dodges like tying nylon stockings over ears of corn to discourage those corn earworms.

After ten or twenty years, though, all this effort will pay off in beautiful, healthy food. If you want an organic garden, don’t give up too easily. Organic gardening does work, even though the local ecology will need time to recover from the Vicious Spray Cycle. Most of the corn grown in my corner of the world today is earworm-free.

Book Review: Colo(u)r Right Dress Right

Book Review: Color Right Dress Right (US), Colour Right Dress Right (UK)

Author:  Liz E. London & Anne H. Adams

Date: 1985

Publisher: Dorling Kindersley (UK), Crown (US)

ISBN: 0-517-55869-6

Length: 96 pages

Illustrations: many color photos

Quote: “Women are instinctively attracted to the colors that most become them.”

The colors that “most become” women have changed with the fashions. The colors agreed to be a woman’s “best” in 1984 might have been agreed to be her  “worst” in 1954. So, is it true that people (not always only women) are attracted to their “best” colors? Often it is; most of us do agree that colors work together to produce certain effects, whether the effect is to emphasize warm or cool tones by combining them, as in 1984 fashion photos, or to “balance” warm and cool tones, as in 1954 fashion photos.

Men who see the full color spectrum, incidentally, relate to color theory in the same way women do, although they’re less likely to talk about it. The gender difference is that a substantial minority of men don’t see as many different colors as the average person does. When bright colors are in fashion for men, these guys can be recognized by the peculiar combinations they wear—orange-red and purplish-red may look like the same shade of brown to them, and green may look like gray. There is undoubtedly a connection between this fact and the fact that, around the time a full spectrum of dyed colors became available in clothing, fashion decreed that only black, white, gray, and blue were suitable colors for men’s business or evening clothes.

Color Right Dress Right came out about the same time Alive with Color and Color Me Beautiful did. Its presupposition that all readers would be women could be considered an advantage or a disadvantage.

Another disadvantage is that, as of 1985, both Carole Jackson’s Winter/Spring/Summer/Autumn and Leatrice Eiseman’s Sunrise/Sunset/Sunlight color classifications were taken. The authors bump along with more literal and traditional descriptions of complexion types. Basically they advise women to choose the same colors Color Me Beautiful recommended. They don’t call a pale ash-blonde reader “a Summer” or “a Sunrise,” but they do advise her to choose soft white, cool pastel colors, beige or grey.

Then they proceed through brief discussions of cosmetic effects, hair styles, figure types, and clothing styles. Being influenced by 1980s fashions, they consistently approve and disapprove of the same effects discussed in Color Me Beautiful, but in less detail.

The “makeover” chapter is a real hoot. Although only four pages are devoted to makeovers, the familiar phenomenon in which fashion experts ruin a plain, decent look can be observed. A model described as “busy mother of five” has a nice easy-care hairstyle and one-piece dress; the only real problem with her “Before” picture is that it’s taken with bright light casting weird shadows on her face. In the “After” picture the hair’s been dried out and broken off, full lips that needed no exaggeration have been turned into pale liver, the simple dress has been replaced by five pieces stacked in four layers, and the woman looks as if she’s gained fifty pounds. (And, can a “busy mother of five” find time to match lots of pieces of clothes? I can’t, and I don’t even have children.)

That was what 1980s fashion, apart from the color effects, was all about: dressing like coltish Diana Spencer and/or like gaunt Nancy Reagan, in styles designed to flatter their peculiar bodies, meant that most of us looked fat. Two of the other makeover victims also look fat in the “After” pictures. The fourth, the only one young and thin enough to model fashions in the U.S., wouldn’t look fat in anything, but her teenybopper look has been upgraded to a college look, rather than the grown-up, businesslike look we’re told she wanted.

It doesn’t have to be this bad, of course. Using the general guidelines in the book and looking in the mirror as you go along can help you avoid becoming as much of a fashion victim as the “makeover” survivors. There are years when women have to choose between buying clothes that make us look fat, and wearing clothes that make us look out of fashion; this book happened to be written during one of them. Apart from that, the fashionable sense of color hasn’t changed, so this book can still be used as a shopping guide, although Color Me Beautiful contains more patches of colors you can match.

Alternatively, if you want to use Color Right Dress Right as a guide to costuming characters for a book, play, or video about the 1980s, it’s a nice, short, simple, mostly pictorial guide. Accurate? Very. For this purpose it’s highly recommended.

A person, or persons, called Anne H. Adams is or are active in cyberspace, and this book is recent enough that there’s no reason to doubt that London and Adams are still alive, so let’s call this a Fair Trade Book. If and when you buy it here, I’ll make an effort to track down London and/or Adams and send $1 for each book you buy to one of them or to a charity of her choice. As usual, send $5 per book + $5 per package to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen; you could probably get five copies of this slim book into a package for a total of $30, but I’d still send $5 to the writers and/or their charities–in the case of $5, parcelling out $1 to each.

Morguefile book review cat:

blogjob cat

Phenology: Monarch Butterfly, Gardening, Farming

(This was written on November 13, originally scheduled for November 15; it’s been separated into two posts due to length, and will have to appear on November 16 and 17, due to drama at the Cat Sanctuary on November 14 and 15.)

Not last night, but the night before, rain washed most of the leaves off most of the trees. The predominant color of the hills is now drab, with a few lingering patches of oak, beech, pine, or cedar. Nevertheless, we’ve had only one or two brief dips below the freezing mark, and insects remain active. One of the spring kittens managed to pick up a dog tick last week.

And yesterday I saw a monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus. This is one of the best known and best loved butterflies on Earth…

(Credit: “Monarch In May” by Kenneth Dwain Harrelson. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – )

They’re popular because they tour. The one I saw was heading south for the winter, and may come back in the early spring, when milkweed begins to sprout. The female Monarch is restless in spring, and lays only one or two eggs on each milkweed plant. On a quiet day you can hear her wings flap as she flits from plant to plant. Monarch caterpillars eat nothing but milkweed; more than one or two of them might kill their host plant. When they reach their full size, which can be a little over two inches long, the caterpillars often look for a plant other than milkweed on which to hide while they rest and turn into butterflies.

They spend ten or fifteen days pupating, during which they don’t spin cocoons and are visible but don’t look like living animals, and then emerge–as adolescents. Monarch butterflies reach full maturity only when they’re ready to reproduce. In summer this takes four or five days; for the alternate generation, who hatch in winter, it takes the whole winter season.

For hundreds if not thousands of years, monarch butterfly populations were stable. The species became threatened only recently. Efforts have been made to rebuild population levels…

However, the species has been severely threatened by humans’ abuse of chemicals. Monarch butterflies are harmless to plants humans can eat, but they’re vulnerable to poison spray.

Despite the science fiction in the novel Flight Behavior, monarchs are not seriously believed to be endangered by global warming…although, if some of the global warming scenarios scientists have projected were to come true, they would be. The butterflies are most seriously endangered by herbicides that are sprayed, or drift on the wind, onto their host plant milkweed. They are also vulnerable to insecticides, although they tend to scatter themselves widely enough that population levels were not threatened by insecticides alone.

Are the “organic pesticides” discussed below really more toxic than glyphosate or DDT or whatever? Depends on the concentration in which they’re used; water could be “more toxic than DDT” if we’re talking about a trace of DDT on the peel of a peeled apple versus enough water to drown in. Thing is, if you really get into sustainable organic farming or gardening, the “organic pesticides” are going to be like that rifle I didn’t actually buy, last summer, for the purpose of killing a nuisance animal–you don’t even think about them every year. I’ve recommended the oil-and-vinegar treatment for poison ivy, but do I myself use it? No; I dig up my own poison ivy by the roots, which is a better option I’ve recommended for long-term poison ivy control. Another good option is owning (or renting) a goat; they can become lovable pets, and they eat poison ivy.

(More about sustainable farming and gardening forthcoming…)