May 1944 – Little House

It’s not the transmitter. Etienne is wrong. It was not the radio the German was interested in. It was something else, something he thought only she might know about. And he heard what he wanted to hear. She answered his one question after all.

Just a dumb model of this town.

-Page 426 of All the Light We Cannot See

Magnocellular Deficit

Magnocellular (“magno” for short) deficit is related to dyslexia. The magno cells are associated with processing and detecting movement of stimuli coming through your retina. In autopsies of dyslexics and non-dyslexics, the former has a smaller cluster of magno cells that can bring in rapidly changing information. Because of this, images would tend to clump together and an activity like reading proves to be extremely difficult; the brain simply cannot parse out the many images (of text) going into your eyes. Without clean breaks between one word to the next, the words on a page seem to shimmer and jump on a page. It is not surprising to find that people who are dyslexic also do not like crowds or places with lots of movement – city streets, for example, with its many moving cars and people.

Parallel pathways of magno (fast-processing) and parvo (slow-processing) cells

In The User’s Guide to the Brain (page 105) by John J. Ratey, a researcher gives her story of how hard it was for her to believe that her mother is a dyslexic.

No, it couldn’t be, I thought to myself. My mother couldn’t possibly be dyslexic. She had graduated at the top of her class, she’s a perfectionist, and she absolutely loves to learn. How could she of all people be dyslexic?

We often do not realize that dyslexia can happen to anyone, and that being smart and motivated does not mean that it is easy to read. Reading, after all, is not an innate ability. Humans are not born knowing how to read but we certainly are capable of doing so. Dyslexia does not equate the lack of intelligence.

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief didn’t really hit home as it did for so many other readers that I’ve seen on GoodReads. The Book Thief is the first novel I’ve read that takes place in World War II that isn’t non-fiction. I’ve always enjoyed reading about this period of time, not because World War II happened, but because of the many components that caused it to happen was intriguing in a painstakingly, twisted way. I picked up this book because of the interesting premise  and because of the many good reviews I’ve heard about it. Unfortunately, I didn’t come to enjoy it as much as I thought I would even though this is a good, good book. I do recommend it to anyone interested in reading a piece on historical fiction. The Book Thief is written from the perspective of Death/Grim Reaper, and I suspect that because of this, I just was not so emotionally attached to the main characters.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Cover found on Wikipedia.org.

During WWII, Death makes his rounds collecting souls from those who died, and this particular story focuses on Liesel, a poor German girl living in a outskirts of Munich. Death constantly premeditates important plot points – the time when Liesel steals her first book, the upcoming death of Rudy, the death of Papa, etc. Death’s narration interrupts the flow of the otherwise third-person ‘neutral’ perspective when he gives these previews, and I can’t quite make up my mind whether I like this or not. On one hand, I do not get the element of surprise and am fully prepared to find out what happens to Liesel’s friends and family. On the other hand, this is war. What else can you expect to come out of this treacherous period of our history?

The key element I like about The Book Thief is that it focuses its attention on the lesser talked about folks – the poor Germans who live in the countryside. Those who are just trying to make ends meet. Those who do not really give much of a pig’s butt whether Jews live or die. These are the folks who join the Nazi Party so their family is not punished. They join because they know better than to resist. For me, this is the more interesting parts of the book and is what keeps me moving along. The Book Thief is not a page-turning, fast-paced novel, but it is one where you can pick back up at any point and still remember what happened before.

Book Review: Gone Girl

Image

I recently finished a novel by Gilliian Flynn called Gone Girl. It is the first book I’ve read by this author, and a quick skimming of her work shows that she writes mostly in the mystery and suspense genre. Gone Girl is written in the first-person narrative and switches perspectives between Nick Dunne and his wife Amy Dunne. The couple has always been perceived by neighbors and family as a loving couple. “They are perfect for each other,” her mom would say. On the day of Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary, Amy is nowhere to be found. Nick came home to their house to find the door gaping open, the iron left on, and a living room with overturned furniture. Here begins a story of who’d dun it – Where is Amy? Is the culprit before our very eyes – Nick?!

I breezed through this piece of fiction like it was a piece of cake. The story line is easy to follow and the writing is easy to understand. Because the characters tell their side of the story in first-person, I soon found myself sympathizing with one character more than the other, rooting them on. But, like any good mystery novel, you discover more details and flaws about the character you so want to “win” this, and then you’re left with not knowing what to believe any more. This is one of those books, where you have to second guess your hypotheses as you move along and gather clues.

SPOILERS TO FOLLOW:

At the end, this book made me think, and I love books that make me think. This book, particularly, made me think of how stupid Nick’s decision is and how Amy still has him wrapped under her belt. Of all the things he said – “come back home, bitch, and I will kill you” [my paraphrase], etc. – he was just one sad puppy in the end. The book has plenty of GOTCHA! moments, and the last one was a pretty good wrap-up and solidifies how pathetic Nick’s situation is.

Why couldn’t he divorce this evil b**** and have children with another woman?!

User’s Guide to the Brain: Sixth and Seventh Senses

The ending section of Chapter 2 (Perception) brings up two senses we frequently do not think about. They are a sense of direction and a sense for sex.

For me, the sense for direction is of great interest. While Ratey, the author, does not go into details about this possible sixth sense in humans, he mentions that there are findings of magnetite particles in human brain tissue. Crystals of magnetite are found in the heads of honey bees and of homing pigeons. These crystals are a natural magnetic material, which may explain how these animals find their ways. It’s intriguing that there is also an element like that in the human brain. This sounds like a great discovery (done by researchers at the California Institute of Technology) and can potentially explain how some folks are so great with navigating in their surroundings and finding their bearing across continents and oceans without compasses! The possibilities are endless; think of how technology can become if we incorporate the use of these innate crystals with physical devices!

The seventh sense, the sense for sex, refers to the “sense organ” inside the nose that detects pheromones. The technical term is “vomeronasal organ” or VNO for short. Located just on either side of the septum in the nose, the human VNO helps explain why we are attracted to certain scents, which runs the perfume and lotion industries. It has not been confirmed that this is indeed the spot were we detect pheromones, but it’s interesting stuff.