Sunday, January 27, 2013

Books on Human Origins

One of the most fascinating topics for me is human history and human origins. I know many people could care less about this topic, but I have always been interested. Once at a family gathering my sister shouted sarcastically from the other room, "Why don't you come in here and sit with some of your living relatives, rather than the dead ones?" At the time I was at the computer looking up my 9th generation great grandfather in Norway. I suppose she had a point, but I'm not alone. Louis Leakey spent his life digging up bones of ancestors millions of years old!

With DNA analysis emerging and getting more and more sophisticated each year, soon perhaps all our questions will be answered. Of course DNA will not illuminate every query, but genetics indeed answers many questions without debate, such as the mixing of Neanderthals and humans. In fact I will soon be receiving my DNA analysis from National Geographic. I will find out how much Neanderthal DNA I have. Generally it's 3 to 5 percent for most Europeans. Since I'm pretty sure my ancestors originated from the British Isles and Scandinavia, going far back, I might be a bit Neanderthal. Rumor has it that's where red hair comes from in people from Scotland and Ireland!

Here is a list of books I've collected. I published them on Amazon Listamania!

Books About Human Origins

Extinct Humans
1.  Extinct Humans by Ian Tattersall

When God Was a Woman
2.  When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone

3.  'MAN IN THE ICE, THE' by Konrad Spindler

Genes, Peoples, and Languages
4.  Genes, Peoples, and Languages by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza

Skeletons in Our Closet
5.  Skeletons in Our Closet by Clark Spencer Larsen

Deep Ancestry: Inside The Genographic Project
6.  Deep Ancestry: Inside The Genographic Project by Spencer Wells

Seven Daughters of Eve
7.  Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes

Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins
8.  Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins by Steve Olson

Reflections Of Our Past: How Human History Is Revealed In Our Genes
9.  Reflections Of Our Past: How Human History Is Revealed In Our Genes by John Relethford

10.  Neanderthal by Paul Jordan

The First Human
11.  The First Human by Ann Gibbons

Before the Dawn
12.  Before the Dawn by T?son Shimazaki

African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity
13.  African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity by Chris Stringer

The Tribes of Britain
14.  The Tribes of Britain by David Miles

Ancestors: In Search of Human Origins
15.  Ancestors: In Search of Human Origins by Donald C. Johanson

Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species
16.  Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

From Lucy to Language
17.  From Lucy to Language by David Brill

The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future
18.  The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future by Riane Tennenhaus Eisler

19.  LAST NEANDERTHAL, THE by Ian Tattersall

Giant Squid Finally Caught on Film

I read a fantastic article on Longform some time ago, about a man in New Zealand, Steve O'Shea, who is obsessed with the pursuit of the giant squid. I wonder how he feels now, that others have finally 'caught' the giant squid. I think his mission was to raise baby giant squids in captivity, so perhaps his mission is not over. Of course capturing the giant squid on video is not being able to study it closely. Scientists have studied carcasses of giant squid, but can't get close to the live animal. 

Of course the giant squid is responsible for many a myth making over the centuries. Encounters between the giant squid and fishermen throughout the ages have led to exaggerated stories, or perhaps not so exaggerated stories. The giant squid can be as large as 60 feet long, and it's tentacles are apparently quite strong. To see the elusive beast in action, is quite thrilling. Deep sea explorer Edith Widder and her colleagues are the folks who captured the giant squid on film, off the coast of Japan.

Click here for more footage.This creature is so beautiful.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Mysterious Case of the Burning Norwegian Cheese

As I have written about before on my blog, my grandfather Hjalmar ate a Norwegian brown goat cheese called ekte gjetost nearly everyday. He would slice the cheese very thinly, then place it on rye bread or crackers, with a slab of butter. If he ate it plain he would place a slice on the roof of his mouth, and slowly suck. He claimed it was delicious, but it was a most unappealing looking cheese.

None of my other family members joined him in consuming this delicacy. In fact, to us the cheese resembled a hunk of brown soap that you'd scrub a goat with, rather than eat.

When I visited Norway in my twenties in the spirit of acquiring family culture, I decided to try ekte gjetost (pronounced yed-oost). It has a very pungent taste and smell, and I quickly understood why my grandfather sliced the cheese very thinly. The Scandinavians also call it Brunost, because it is caramelized and loaded with sugar. I acquired a taste for this cheese. 

Indeed it is very delicious with rye bread and honey and jam especially.

In the United States Brunost is usually only available in specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods, or now online I'm sure. In the 1990s I used to find it at a specialty store in Harvard Square. Afterwards I did not see the cheese for awhile, until I went to the Norwegian Cultural Festival. I thought I better stock up, so I bought a huge block of gjetost. It had a dark blue and yellow plastic wrapping, with happy, dancing goats all over it.

This cheese lasted an eternity in my refrigerator. (there's no such thing as mold on Norwegian cheese, unlike those delicate French cheeses!!)

On NPR this week I heard that there was a freaky truck accident in Norway involving a truck load of brunost. The truck crashed and got stuck in a tunnel, caught on fire, and then burned for six days, blocking all the traffic for two miles. No one would ever expect 54,000 pounds of cheese to burn so long.

This event occurred in Knarvik Norway, which happens to be the area of Norway where my grandfather was born. In fact my great grandmother Henrikka Hansdatter was from Knarvik, Lindas Norway. 

Isn't it good, Norwegian brunost?
While I suppose the blocked traffic was an inconvenience, including the toxic flames, I can imagine the local Norwegians must have also had a good laugh. The smell alone must have been quite noticeable for miles. 

I know my grandfather would be cracking up right now, if he heard the story.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I am not a psychopath

In my humble opinion, I'm gratified and not surprised that I am not a psychopath. It probably would contradict everything I've ever done in my life, and all the jobs I've ever toiled away at.Not to mention it would contradict the core of my being, and the principles I live by. 


Lately there has been much renewed interest and rethinking of the term psychopath. A few new books published lately, including The Wisdom of the Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton, and The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson, have sought to examine the topic. I have not read these books, so I proceed with caution, but I think the message is that not all psychopaths are crazed killers. Some psychopathic traits- utter charm, ruthlessness, manipulation, narcissism, boldness, can be channeled into certain acceptable societal roles. In other words, the psychopaths walk amongst us. They are your ruthless car salesmen, CEOs, motorcycle stunt drivers, politicians, corporate lawyers, stock traders, and brain surgeons. I guess it would make sense that all traits are measured in degrees.


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