books, ethics, government, human rights, TV

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

Faceless Killers is a 1991 crime novel by the Swedish writer Henning Mankell, and the first in his acclaimed Wallander series.

Happily, the audio book is read by one of my favourites — Dick Hill — of the excellent Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch series. Hill has 542 audio books, last time I checked.

Inspector Kurt Wallander is called out to a seemingly senseless and brutal murder on a Swedish farm.

Wallander is forty-two-years-old. His wife left him unexpectedly 3 months earlier. He’s constantly worried about his estranged daughter. And unsure whether his own elderly father can continue living alone out on another farm.

Also, he’s gaining weight.

Uncoordinated. Accident prone.

Near broke.

Troubled, to say the least.

Author Henning Mankell was a left-wing social critic and activist. 

But the themes of the book include Sweden’s liberal attitude regarding immigrationracism and national identity. The character Wallander is conflicted.

Kenneth Branagh is one of the actors who’s played Wallander in adaptations.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

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ethics, government, science

World’s First Genetically-modified Babies

He Jiankui has been jailed in China for 3 years. And fined US$430,000.

He’s the researcher who’s work led to the world’s first gene-edited babies known as Lulu and Nana in 2018.

Their father was HIV positive. Mother HIV negative.

His goal was to edit their genes to be highly resistant to HIV using CRISPR.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.


I listened to MUSIC

When podcasts and then audio books arrived, I pretty much quit listening to music.

BUT when skiing on my own for 3 days, I downloaded offline copies of 100 favourite songs. It was a retro treat.

Of those, the ones that really worked fro me on the slopes included:

Good Old Days – Macklemore
Invisible – U2
I Write Sins Not Tragedies – Panic! at the Disco
Times Like These – Live Lounge Allstars
Mr. Brightside – The Killers
Not Ready to Make Nice – Chicks
Hate It or Love It – The Game, 50 Cent
Cleveland Rocks – Ian Hunter
Ahead By A Century – Tragically Hip
Bad Guy – Billie Elish feat. Justin Bieber
California – U2

Click PLAY or listen to it on YouTube. It’s about U2’s transformative first trip to California in the early 1980s.

books, good news, health & fitness, movies, science, things getting better

The Code Breakers by Walter Isaacson

Have you heard of CRISPR?

(clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their contributions in the development of a method for genome editing.

It’s called the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors.

Based on how bacteria fights off virus attackers, in future CRISPR will be used to fight coronavirus variations.

Click PLAY or see how it works on YouTube.

Most people my age know about Watson and Crick’s discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA. But I certainly couldn’t explain anything about CRISPR before reading this book.

Once again, Walter Isaacson made a complex story entertaining with this 2021 biography:

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

The bestselling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns with a gripping account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.

When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.

The development of CRISPR and the race to create vaccines for coronavirus will hasten our transition to the next great innovation revolution. The past half-century has been a digital age, based on the microchip, computer, and internet. Now we are entering a life-science revolution. Children who study digital coding will be joined by those who study genetic code. …

After helping to discover CRISPR, Doudna became a leader in wrestling with these moral issues and, with her collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, won the Nobel Prize in 2020. Her story is a thrilling detective tale that involves the most profound wonders of nature, from the origins of life to the future of our species.

simon and schuster

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

The first half of the book is the story. Very entertaining.

Then it gets better.

A detailed look at the drama over WHO wins the awards. WHO gets the patents.

Of course there are many other scientists who could have and should be lauded for breakthroughs in this field. They are covered in the biography, as well.

Most worthy — perhaps — is Feng Zhang. But he and his boss Eric Lander come off as BAD GUYS in this book, unethical in their collaborations.

ONE bit of good news. When COVID-19 was announced early 2020, both Zhang’s and Doudna’s companies changed research priorities towards developing CRISPR-based coronavirus tests. Both were successful and both hope to make simple at-home tests ready for market in 2021: Sherlock and Mammoth.

The most entertaining of the CRISPR giants is geneticist George Church. When the movie is made, he’ll be the fan favourite.

Emmanuelle Charpentier is an intriguing personality, as well. I’d read her biography.


The Irregulars – season 1

In this adaptation, Sherlock is a pathetic, incompetent, egomaniac opium addict. A has-been.

Dr Watson might be a bad guy.

Sounded fantastic.

A group of street teenagers — the Baker Street Irregulars — working to save London from supernatural elements.

BUT … it’s not nearly as good as I hoped.

Still … Thaddea Graham as Bea almost made it worth watching. She has star charisma.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

related – Meet Thaddea Graham – the talented young star dominating Netflix fantasy

education, ethics, government, health & fitness

What Nations come out of COVID-19 Strongest?

There’s an argument that governments should have let the pandemic run its course. Kept most things open as Sweden did at the beginning. More early deaths, more illness, more long long-haul side effects.

Leaders leaning this way include Trump, Nicaragua’s Ortega, Brazil’s Bolsonaro, Mexico’s Obrador, Belarus’s Lukashenko, Turkmenistan’s Berdimuhamedow, Cambodia’s Hun Sen, Tanzania’s Magufuli.

Populists pandering to their dumbest voters.

When the pandemic ends we’ll be able to calculate which nations survived best: economically, educationally, healthiest. It won’t be any of those nations. They will include New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Iceland, Senegal, Denmark, Saudi Arabia.


The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

Quite good.

This is a book about the women of Australia in the early 1840s.

I liked best the story line of Mathinna, the orphaned daughter of the Chief of the Lowreenne tribe, who was adopted by the new governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).

Seduced by her employer’s son, Evangeline, a naïve young governess in early nineteenth-century London, is discharged when her pregnancy is discovered and sent to the notorious Newgate Prison.

After months in the fetid, overcrowded jail, she learns she is sentenced to “the land beyond the seas,” Van Diemen’s Land, a penal colony established by Great Britain. Though uncertain of what awaits, Evangeline knows one thing: the child she carries will be born on the months-long voyage to this distant land.

During the journey on a repurposed slave ship, the Medea, Evangeline strikes up a friendship with Hazel, a girl little older than her former pupils who was sentenced to seven years transport for stealing a silver spoon.

Canny where Evangeline is guileless, Hazel — a skilled midwife and herbalist – is soon offering home remedies to both prisoners and sailors in return for a variety of favors. …

Kim’s Convenience – season 1

I finally got around to trying this show — and was pleasantly surprised.

Figuring it would be something similar to Corner Gas, it turned out to be much more than just another sitcom.

Season 1 episode 1 deals with Gay rights in a funny way.

Season 1 episode 2 deals with sexual harassment in the workplace … in a funny way.

Social commentary through comedy. I like it.

Paul Sun-Hyung Lee is clearly the star of the show. A modern day Korean Archie Bunker.

But I like Janet (Andrea Bang) and her TV brother Jung (Simu Liu) , as well.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.


Mount Royal University pandemic LOCKDOWN

Police brought me home when I was a kid. Brian and I were caught climbing the construction site of what’s now Mount Royal University in Calgary. We jumped from … 3 FLOORS DOWN, the cops told our parents.

Over the decades, Mount Royal’s been my coffee shop and office. Just 5 minutes walk from my brother’s place in Glamorgan, the neighbourhood where I grew up.

It’s bizarre and eerie to see the huge complex deserted. Unsettling. Like some dystopian science fiction movie.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube. Best for me is the audio.

I’m still studying and practicing video editing almost every day.

This one includes several (new to me) techniques:

  • colours: white & sterile, progresses to golds, and finishes with optimistic multi-colours
  • deliberately tilting videos 5-10 degrees to convey … something is wrong
  • rapid zoom introduction montage