Monday, January 07, 2008

Reading & Books Update

I haven't been reading as much as I'd like. Since my last reading update, I've only gotten through three books. My duties as a Papa and spouse have been slowing me down I have to say and long gone are the days of chewing through 3600+ pages a month. Alas. My wife is still astonished at the read I am able to read even so since she has been working on the same pair of books for quite a while now. She hasn't yet mastered the art of squeezing in a few pages at a time whenever she can. Those three books I read were pretty good though even so.

The first was Fastovsky's The Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs. It was a good read and I recommend it for anyone that wants to take the step from being a mild to moderate dinosaur enthusiast on the road to a more serious student. However, should you be someone that was already a knowledgeable person, I'd skip this one. You probably know all that's contained therein.

The second book was Preston and Dillon's Opening Mexico. It covers a lot of the evolution of Mexico's politics over time. It bridged a lot of the happenings since the previous book I read about Mexico's politics, Distant Neighbors, was written around 1984 to Vincente Fox's administration. Noel, your books are on the lost. Just needed a little more general info before I delved into what I assume to be deeper works. I do recommend the book. I have been finding I am actually a bit embarrassed that I know so little about our neighboring countries compared to, oh, say, Rome. Or Germany. Or Russia.

A slight tangent here: after doing all that reading about Mexico and how the PRI authoritarian system worked, trappings of democracy w/o the substance, etc. I did realize that there was an interesting parallel in a another nation's unfolding evolution: Russia. The system that Putin seems to be working on there smacks of what the Mexicans did. I'll have to keep watching - and reading! - to see if the parallel holds true. Of course, it'll be a bit more Slavic flavored in its recipe than Latino, but...the shoe, it looks like it fits, at least for the moment.

The last book I finished was The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution. That was a very fast read. It was mostly purely new knowledge for me since I am not that up on the genetic aspects of biology. Oh, I know some, but most of my knowledge is a tad dated. When I read Out of Thin Air, I brought up the surprising crocodilian evolution aspect. I emailed the guys at GNXP at the time - this was before I stopped reading - asking whether or not there might not be 'genetic scars' that could be identified one way or another as a way to test the hypothesis. I didn't hear back. However, upon reading tMotF, I found that my 'genetic scars' are technically called 'pseudogenes' or as the author calls them in the book, 'fossil genes.' They're also quite common in species studied to date. Us included. A way to verify of the idea of archosaurs were basally endothermic would be to compare the genes in birds related to metabolism and those in crocodiles. If there were pseudogenes that matched up in crocs with our avian friends, then there would be solid evidence about the metabolic rate for the dinosaurs as well as testing the above hypothesis. The crocodile genome mapping only recently - this year I think - got under way and there are several efforts to map the genomes of birds already, so there ought to be some information in the relatively near future to start doing research with.

At the moment, I am reading a rather different book, Russia's Far East: A Region at Risk. I get the distinct feeling I'd get more out of it if I had more than the first couple economics classes. I'm about a 1/6th done with it, but it is interesting though. I'm in the midst of the 1998 banking crisis within the book. We'll see home this goes. It's an interesting comparison between this book and the thesis of Siberian Curse. The authors of the book I am reading now are arguing what's needed to develop the far east. SC was arguing that market forces would end up not developing it nor should they. Since my wife is off on her anniversary gift trip to the Bahamas this week, I am sure to be able to read this one and start on the ones I have left and just ordered.

I made out like a bandit this XMas with books. My wife got me a very nice gift card and my uncle did too. Therefore, I went wild buying books. From the paleo side of things, I picked up Polar Dinosaurs of Australia (as an update), After the Dinosaurs, Evolution of Fossil Ecosystems, Supercontinent, Principles of Paleoclimatology, and The Eocene-Oligocene Transition. Related to what Julia did for me, I picked up Designing Embedded Hardware, Programming Embedded Systems, and An Embedded Software Primer. Makes ya wonder what I am up to, eh, Julia? ;)

I also want to pick up Continents and Supercontinents and maybe a book on Puerto Rico, another paleo book, something Byzantine, or maybe Greenspan's book. Not sure. I still have two books on Mexico to read. I need to order more on the KT Event to do the write up on that mass extinction. We'll see.

Gift cards from bookstores are my favorite gifts these days. ;)

Update: Whoops! I forgot that my cousin gave me a copy of His Dark Materials.


Julia said...

I am really curious now Will! Hope all will be revealed soon.

Zach said...

Boneyard is this Saturday at my humble blog, brother! Good to see you're back--now get to finishin' the Permian post!