BOOKS ARE ENERGY: Day 7 of 28, Fueled by Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Today’s goal in “Couch to 5K” was to have 30 minutes of non-impact cardio. As you can see from the screenshots from Strava, I went a little overboard.

For the first segment (to the left), I was riding my bike to Haarlem in the Netherlands because I wanted to go to Native Coffee. I am currently attempting to write a novel, and I thought a change of atmosphere might get the creativity flowing.

On the ride there, I finished listening to Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis. I was sad to see the end of this book, because this was a great book to work out to! You can see my review of the book by clicking on this link.

I then started to read Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson. This was probably not a really good choice (especially not following Hollis’ book) because the subject matter was rather complicated, and I found my mind drifting a bit to other topics during the ride. The only thing I really remember, is that he was trying to explain something about antimatter.

In total on this first ride, I did 13.64 kilometers in about 45 minutes. I arrived at Native Coffee in a good mood, ready to tackle my 1,000 word goal, but was told by the barista that I could only use my computer on one table in the back, where there was already 5 places occupied out of 6.

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It did not look very inviting. Of course, I had already ordered a dirty Chai latte and a really good slice of gluten free chocolate cake, so I read The Cobra Event by Richard Preston instead, and then made my way to a different Cafe that didn’t have such ridiculous rules.

Two hours, another latte and 1,000 words later,  I was ready to head back to Ijmuiden. After getting a little lost on the way back from Haarlem, I finally made it home. As you can see, for some reason I ended up going through the National Park instead of going around it.

I’m not going to lie, it was rather beautiful, but it added around 4 kilometers to my ride, for a total of 17.36 kilometers on the way back (a total time of about 1 hour and 12 minutes).

On this trip, I ended up listening to about 2 hours of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, but again I found it very complicated and kept getting side tracked. This is not the first time I am reading it, and honestly I thought that it would be easier to understand the second time around. It’s not. I don’t know, I could just be super dumb, but I think that I just feel overwhelmed by deGrasse Tyson’s use of a lot of big and complicated words / concepts. Sigh.

Good thing tomorrow is a “rest” day, because I am beat!

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston

198505._SY475_Title: The Demon in the Freezer

Author: Richard Preston

Book Length: 283 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Science, History, Medical, Health

Read Start Date: September 2, 2018

Read Finish Date: August 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The first major bioterror event in the United States-the anthrax attacks in October 2001-was a clarion call for scientists who work with “hot” agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer, his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of Usamriid, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the headquarters of the U.S. biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense.
Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at Usamriid, a wry virologist who cut his teeth on Ebola, one of the world’s most lethal emerging viruses, has ORCON security clearance that gives him access to top secret information on bioweapons. His most urgent priority is to develop a drug that will take on smallpox-and win. Eradicated from the planet in 1979 in one of the great triumphs of modern science, the smallpox virus now resides, officially, in only two high-security freezers-at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and in Siberia, at a Russian virology institute called Vector. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. It is almost certain that illegal stocks are in the possession of hostile states, including Iraq and North Korea. Jahrling is haunted by the thought that biologists in secret labs are using genetic engineering to create a new superpox virus, a smallpox resistant to all vaccines.
Usamriid went into a state of Delta Alert on September 11 and activated its emergency response teams when the first anthrax letters were opened in New York and Washington, D.C. Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government’s response to the attacks and takes us into the ongoing FBI investigation. His story is based on interviews with top-level FBI agents and with Dr. Steven Hatfill.
Jahrling is leading a team of scientists doing controversial experiments with live smallpox virus at CDC. Preston takes us into the lab where Jahrling is reawakening smallpox and explains, with cool and devastating precision, what may be at stake if his last bold experiment fails.

My Review: This book is scarier than any horror book, because you guys, this book is NONFICTION! Imagining that a terrorist group may be able to weaponize a virus like smallpox to decimate the population of a major US city in the blink of an eye is terrifying. This book opened my eyes to an array of grim possibilities that I had never before even though about. Viruses, epidemics, etc. have always fascinated me for some reason — and movies about such subjects are my favorite kind of film in the horror genre (closely followed by zombies).

The descriptive way that Preston writes about viruses, really gave me a clear picture in my mind of what he was talking about. Sometimes, this was not such a good thing — and unless you grew up listening to your mother’s ER stories at the dinner table like me, this book might not be a good thing to read while eating.

“The inflamed area in his throat was no bigger than a postage stamp, but in a biological sense it was hotter than the surface of the sun. Particles of smallpox virus were streaming out of oozy spots in the back of his mouth and were mixing with his saliva. When he spoke or coughed, microscopic infective droplets were being released, forming an invisible cloud in the the air around him.”

Seriously, you guys, I will never look at people coughing again without imagining all the tiny virus particles spewing into the air from their mouths.