Tag Archives: the meaning of life

The Tigger’s 2015 in review: stats and more

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Now at the start of the year I made some a series of reasons why people should read this blog so that I could gain 1000 followers. I now have 385 that read this blog directly; 29 read through Tumblr; and 985 see my book reviews through my FaceBook page – https://www.facebook.com/elayne.coakes which does have other stuff on it too.

So what I said was:

  1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;
  2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.
  3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure. [Sorry, 2015 has been dominated by books but still I did cover other items, and shall try to do better in 2016]
  4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. [2015:This is absolutely still true and will continue to be so]
  5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started. [2015:I now have at least one author interview a month, sometimes more, and I am recognised by several publishers as shown by my widgets including being in the Brash Priority Reveiwer’s Circle]

 Here are details of 2014’s activity to compare to this year’s:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?. In 2014, there were 60 new posts.

Click here to see the complete report. for 2015.

And do please comment and come and read more posts!

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Feminist? Humanist? Means to an End?

Just recently, having watched Suffragettes the movie, and been reminded about how long it has taken for so many women to achieve human rights, I was again reminded by an email that starting in November, women worked the rest of the year for nothing. Equal pay has still not been achieved for so many women.

I am also now a member of a Refugee Action Group raising funds and awareness of the plight of refugees both here and abroad and one of the issues we see again here is the plight of many women who are now refugees fleeing from oppression, rape and war.

I also note that rape is not a permitted reason for the Northern Irish woman to ask for an abortion and that this has just been ruled as a breach of their Human  Rights.

So I decided to take myself off to a lecture hosted by the British Humanist Society on Feminism and Humanism at UCL. This was the Bentham Lecture for 2015 and was given by Professor Rae Langton of Cambridge.

Some readers may not be aware of what the British Humanist Society stands for let alone who Bentham was as you may only have come across him if you learnt about British social and political history, so I’ll give some brief introductions to them before going on to talk about the lecture as this helps set the scene.

The British Humanist Society is a charity that works on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical lives on the basis of reason and humanity. They promote Humanism, a secular state, and equal treatment of everyone regardless of religion or belief.

Now, despite what they say, you can also be a humanist if you are religious as the key to being a humanist is that you judge for yourself what is right and what is wrong based on reason and respect for others. You use empathy and compassion to try and improve the world for all.

I will come back to this meaning later as it was a core element in Prof Langton’s speech.

Bentham was a very interesting man. He was a philosopher who lived in the late 18th and early 19th century. He was a child prodigy being able to read a history of Britain as a toddler and started learning Latin at 3 years. He went to Oxford at the tender age of 12. He is mainly known for his doctrine which was intended to guide the law, practice and belief – the greatest happiness of the greatest number.

This was very much a utilitarian view of the world and humans – individually we are a means to an end. Also we are motivated by a desire for happiness and to avoid pain. Fundamentally we are only concerned with our own well-being – the community is a fictitious body merely the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it.

He was part of a group of philosophers who agreed that many of the social problems of the time were a result of an antiquated legal system and control of land and capital by inheritance and thus the landed gentry.

Professor Rae Langton has been called the 4th most influential women thinker in the world and was listed in Prospect magazine as the 18th most important thinker –  note the difference in numbers here between women and men… which of course is why the lecture was so important. She is considered such an important academic that she has a Wikipedia page.

Most of her work is concerned with speech and pornography etc and she has studied and written extensively about Kant. So I am going to make a short diversion here to also discuss Kant as without Kant her lecture on feminism and humanism could not be understood.

Immanuel Kant is an important philosopher with regard to Humanism. Kant lived in the mid to late 18th century and it is said that he lived a very boring life! He never left his home town and was extremely regular in his behaviour – such that his neighbours literally could set their clocks by him. From Kant we can draw a statement that Humanism is an end in itself and not a means to an end.

Prof Langton took this and other Kantian writings about how we can choose our behaviour and know its causation to mean that we are born with choices, we always have options. There is a wrongness in treating humans as things with no choice. If humans are things then we can oppress them – we can impose a role upon them externally to themselves. Thus we see the role of women being imposed upon them by men or by people being classified as slaves with no rights to their own-selves – they are objects.

The issue is that at times, as philosophers such as Simone de Beauvoir say, women may willingly conspire with this role as is easy to live with no choice and to have one’s behaviour and even thoughts dictated to one.

In the lecture it was agreed that one is not born a woman but becomes a woman through behaviour and belief. But if a woman is a thing, an object, one cannot have an authentic relationship with her – the ‘other’ remains alone in this relationship. The ‘other’ is the only human that counts in this relationship. Their will predominates.

Martha Nussman, another female philosopher with a Wikipedia page and to be found discussed in Prospect magazine has come out with 7 features which identify objectivism:

  1. instrumentality: the treatment of a person as a tool for the objectifier’s purposes;
  2. denial of autonomy: the treatment of a person as lacking in autonomy and self-determination;
  3. inertness: the treatment of a person as lacking in agency, and perhaps also in activity;
  4. fungibility: the treatment of a person as interchangeable with other objects;
  5. violability: the treatment of a person as lacking in boundary-integrity;
  6. ownership: the treatment of a person as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold);
  7. denial of subjectivity: the treatment of a person as something whose experiences and feelings (if any) need not be taken into account.

Rae Langton added three more features to Nussbaum’s list:

  1. reduction to body: the treatment of a person as identified with their body, or body parts;
  2. reduction to appearance: the treatment of a person primarily in terms of how they look, or how they appear to the senses;
  3. silencing: the treatment of a person as if they are silent, lacking the capacity to speak.

Do you recognise any of these features in the treatment of women? Do you believe that objectification is always bad? How does it link to Feminism? Or Humanism? Or religion for that matter?

All these and more are questions we women of today should be considering. Just what in our familial socialisation makes us a woman? If we are not born one? Is it right and correct that we should be taught a different set of rules according to our gender? And just how do  we know what that gender is? What about transgender people? How would we know whether they are women or men? And remembering that gender is not so black and white but many shades of grey, are we or they, objects or means to end, or ends in themselves?

So look at the TV programme by Tyger Drew-Honey and think on these concepts of gender and wonder again, just what does being a woman mean?

 

 

 

An interview with Elizabeth Patterson

Elizabeth Patterson author of Bonners Fairy

1.) I have always enjoyed fairy stories ever since I was a young child. I often fantasized what it would be like to be tiny and able to fly like a bird. There are not a whole lot of fairy stories out there and since I share a kind of “kinship” with fairies, I chose to create a story about them. I think the uniqueness would be the fact that my fairies are guardians, warriors of their realm.

2.) I have only written one topic and that is the Bonners’ Fairy series (so far). I hand write all my books.

3.) I usually only do research when I come to a part in the scene in which I am not so familiar with (what is proper, what is correct). I will go online and check out the available information.

4.) My resources are: My own mind, and the internet

5.) I work for a Sheriff’s Office, so I have 10 years experience in that field.

6.) I am self published.

7.) I am still self published.

8.) Absolutely I would recommend self publishing. The company that does my books is phenomenal. Finding a traditional publisher is almost next to impossible. There are tons of submissions and tons of rejections unless you get really lucky. I think self publishing is the way to go at the beginning. Once you get some good sales and reviews, traditional publishers “may” take notice.

9.) Writing doesn’t usually provide sufficient income unless you are fortunate to write a best seller. Hopefully I am on the way

10.) I haven’t really had anything “funny” happen on a book tour, my first book signing in the real Bonners Ferry, I found out the reporter that did the story on me was born and raised in the town I live in. Coincidence?

I don’t think so. Also, my tent almost blew away in the wind at a book signing.

 

 

 

 

Your mind just can’t believe it

WAKE-UP CALL

The Wake-Up Series

by

Amy Avanzino

A disturbing but also fun book which really tells life as it is as a mother of under 5s.
Yes, your house will smell of poop as the nappy bucket needs to be emptied or the kids have accidents, and yes, they will follow you everywhere even into the loo and yes, little boys will try and pee into the bowl whilst you are still using it.
A story that is clearly drawn from real life experiences whether of the author herself, or her friends and family with small children.
But what must it be like to experience that chaos and smells all at once without it gradually creeping up on you? That slim, svelte, toned body you worked so hard for before you had kids, is no longer there – overnight, literally, it appears to have vanished when amnesia kicks in and the years of child birth and early rearing are lost to you. You are now the mother who turns up for the school run in PJs before her shower.

When Sunday mornings are no longer for lie-ins and reading the paper over coffee, leisurely then making your way to brunch with friends. Now mornings tend to arrive at the crack of dawn – 9.15am with our grand-kids is when the small voice says in our ears ‘Read me a story, Nana’.

So a thoroughly enjoyable light story but a fourth child? I know the author has 4 but I bring you the warning of my GP when I was expecting my 2nd – she had 3 boys and wanted a girl – so she got twin boys!

The Ick Factor

Sky High

By

Susan O’Brien

A NetGalley Review

C Difficile where the ‘ick’ factor is the latest cure is a major theme of this book.

CDiff is a very difficult virus to remove from anyone’s system – worse than Norovirus. It is known as a killer in those who are in hospital – a prime place to catch it, and those with compromised immune systems.

Now I am learning about Norovirus from personal experience as it has been with me now for nearly 3 months and is improving but prone to ‘flash backs’. [much longer than the medical tests say it can last but with a compromised system ,like my own..]. So I certainly would not want CDiff but one of the central characters in this story about the Sky Investigative Agency and its owner, does have this disease and the story features much discussion of how it can be cured.

So just what is this ‘ick’ factor? Well it is a poo transplant – yes, you got it, faecal matter is injected into the body from a healthy person.

Our NHS says: This involves a sample of faeces being taken from a healthy donor and placed into the colon of someone with a C. difficile infection using a catheter. Alternatively, it may be placed using a thin tube through the nose into the small bowel below the stomach.

The donated sample restores the normal balance of bacteria inside your digestive system with that from the healthy donor.

While this may sound unpleasant, the treatment does have very good results, with a success rate of more than 90%, and is probably the best treatment currently available.

 

Personally, I’ve been treating my norovirus with acidophilus and it does seem to have a similar effect.

Apart from the nicely accurate medical condition which provides a nice background story, I liked the whole book.

It was gentle, it had fun bits and I just loved ‘Super Teddy’ and the photos of him and could just imagine that happening  for a fretful child. I also had not heard of a Norwich Terrier, though looking them up I had seen them about and coveted them – such friendly lively dogs.A_Norwich_Terrier

I also empathised with the narrator as a vegetarian in the US. Being one myself, I have had some interesting experiences – 1. Where a waiter empathised with me, exclaiming, ‘I so agree! Isn’t chicken wonderful and so much better for you!’; and also 2. at a conference where at the formal dinner I was offered a plate of fruit as my main dish.. I got hungry quite quickly afterwards.

And finally, I am waiting for my gym to offer pole dancing lessons just to see who turns up! And what they wear!

So was the storyline good? I enjoyed it – I liked the style and it kept moving along with some nice twists and turns. It is not a complicated and deep, dark  PI story, but one to feel cosy with and to empathise with the narrator as she manages her life as a single mum with 2 kids and a business to run.

 

 

Ashes goodbye!

FIVE: Out of the Ashes
Holli Anderson
(Five, #3)
Published by: Curiosity Quills Press
Publication date: November 30th 2015
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Their last battle ended with death and despair, but they have no time to mourn. One of their own has been taken and the Quinae Praesidia set out to find and rescue her. In this third and last installment of the FIVE series, the FIVE discover new powers, make a desperate run through the Netherworld, land on an island paradise . . . and find that Brone, always a step ahead of them, is becoming more powerful than ever.

Add to Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Holli Anderson has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing–which has nothing to do with writing, except maybe by adding some pretty descriptive injury and vomit scenes to her books. She discovered her joy of writing during a very trying period in her life when escaping into make-believe saved her. She enjoys reading any book she gets her hands on, but has a particular love for anything fantasy.

Along with her husband, Steve, and their four sons, she lives in Grantsville, Utah–the same small town in which she grew up.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

 

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Cutting you off

The Water knife

By

Paolo Bacigalupi

A NetGalley Review

 

The Southern USA has lost its battle with water profligacy and has become the desert it once was.

The Colorado River is even more embattled than it currently is and water is in such short supply that control over it is maintained by armies of private mercenaries who cut supply to towns as legal battles are waged.colorado 300px-ColoradoTexas_Watershed

This story is an extension of the current situation in the Southern States where already the Colorado River shows signs of running dry as is documented by Peter McBride and the National Smithsonian Magazine.

They say:

The Colorado River is the seventh largest river in the U.S., … It is also one of the most diverted, silted, and heavily litigated rivers in the world. The farmers and residents of the rapidly growing western states rely on the river for irrigation, drinking water, and electricity. This demand has permanently altered the river’s ecology. http://www.petemcbride.com/coloradoriver/

Beginning in the 1920s, Western states began divvying up the Colorado’s water, building dams and diverting the flow hundreds of miles, to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and other fast-growing cities. The river now serves 30 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico, with 70 percent or more of its water siphoned off to irrigate 3.5 million acres of cropland.

Climate change will likely decrease the river’s flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 years, says geoscientist Brad Udall, director of the University of Colorado Western Water Assessment. Less precipitation in the Rocky Mountains will yield less water to begin with. Droughts will last longer. Higher overall air temperatures will mean more water lost to evaporation.

The Colorado no longer regularly reaches the sea.

Invasive plants, such as salt cedar and cattails, now dominate the delta, a landscape of seemingly endless mud flats where forests used to stand. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-colorado-river-runs-dry-

When we visited California ourselves we saw the dry and arid dust bowls that were created by the diversions – areas that were once farms in a desert. We also saw Californians watering lawns daily or twice daily in temperatures of over 30 degrees and planting water thirsty plants rather than aloes and agaves and cacti which would survive better as this is their native habitat.  So the outcome proposed in this book is, in many ways, not such an extension of what we can expect to be reality in not so many years in the future.

The self-contained blocks described in the book were an interesting application of modern technology which permits water recycling and conservation – we ourselves could have a grey water system installed from our rainwater conservation but at the present we don’t need to.

And we already see buildings like  the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design with six stories, 50,000 square feet, that won’t use a single watt of electricity from the grid, nor a drop of water from downtown Seattle – using ground pumps for heating and rainwater.

There is also a set of regulations in existence that govern a living building design but with water being provided by rainwater rather than river water

So the book started well but then got repetitive as we needed to move from what is a very real tomorrow possibility further into the future. I got bored around 50-60% through so I have downgraded this from 4 stars to 3.