Archives for January 2011

PGS Exclusive: “Go ahead, try the guinea pig. It’s delicious,” and other notes on adventurous eating from Eugene Kaplan

Have you ever eaten ostrich, crocodile, and impala in a single sitting? Well, Eugene Kaplan has and he has a reassuring (sort of) message for travelers who are worried about trying local delicacies. Read below for Gene’s thoughts on eating in the developing world.

I am an equal opportunity eater. When traveling, I will eat most things that the locals eat – with the exception of living things like the fat, juicy, finger-long grubs that a Peruvian Indian guide dug out of a rotting log and popped into his mouth. But I have eaten roasted guinea pig (tastes like chicken) and roasted alpaca (tastes like lamb) in the highlands of Peru.

There is a restaurant called “Carnivore” on the outskirts of Nairobi, where I ate the blue plate special of three local species – ostrich, crocodile and impala (taste like tough chicken, icky chicken and beef, in order).

In Jerusalem I ate stuffed pigeon (tastes like squab – which tastes like chicken)

In Cote D’Ivoire I ate some incomprehensibly-named organism, which my local friends explained was a black bird and warned me not to eat (tasted like rotten chicken). Possibly a vulture? I don’t know, but it tasted so bad I ate only a mouthful.

On the aquatic side, frog’s legs and snails are not my favorites; not because they taste like chicken, but because I have sacrificed hundreds of each species on the altar of science and might get guilt-induced indigestion.

I don’t recall, but I must have eaten my share of chocolate covered insects like ants and grasshoppers, but I regret my thoughtlessness because they were probably not cooked.

This laundry list of exotic foods may seem intimidating or even dangerous to less adventurous eaters. After all, the perils of eating raw or poorly cooked meat in the tropical developing world are well-documented. But you may be just as surprised by the dangers lurking elsewhere on your plate. The truth is that well-prepared meat may be as safe, if not safer, than the veggies and side dishes.

When I “gave birth” to a pencil-thick-and-long roundworm, it was not contracted from the well-cooked pigeon that was the piece de resistance of the meal. Rather, this roundworm offspring was thanks to poorly washed, contaminated parsley in the salad. When I got dysentery in Thailand, it was not from the meat, but from the accompanying lukewarm noodles that had been handled by contaminated fingers post-boiling.

Fears of parasites and illness often prevent travelers from indulging in local gourmet, but with normal precautions, there is no reason to avoid such delicacies. You are no more likely to become infected than your fastidious, cautious, or vegan neighbor So, become an experimental eater. After all, it’s the noodles and parsley that will get you every time.

Eugene H. Kaplan is the Donald E. Axinn Endowed Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Conservation (emeritus) at Hofstra University. His many books include What’s Eating You: People and Parasites and Sensuous Seas: Tales of a Marine Biologist. He is about to embark on a trip to Israel, perhaps stuffed pigeon will be on the menu again.

This Week’s Book Giveaway

Our book Mammals of North America: Second Editiongiveaway of the week is Mammals of North America, Second Edition by  Roland W. Kays and Don E. Wilson.   

“This is a truly indispensable guide for the experienced mammal watcher as well as a real treat to the novice. . . . With 112 color plates covering 462 species of North American mammals, the guide is up-to-date, accurate, handsome and handy. If you only have one reference to your local furry friends, be sure this one is on your book shelf.”–Cathy Taibbi, Wildlife Conservation Examiner,

* The best-illustrated and easiest-to-use field guide to North American mammals
* Beautiful and accurate color illustrations of all 462 mammals found in the United States and Canada–including 20 species recognized since 2002
* 112 color plates–including 13 new ones
* Key identification information–fully revised–on facing pages
* The most current taxonomy/species list
* Fully revised, easy-to-read range maps
* Illustrations of tracks, scat, and whale and dolphin dive sequences
Groundhog a.k.a. woodchuck

You will find this cute little groundhog on page 53 along with a description.  He’s also known as a Woodchuck and belongs to the Marmot family.  Hopefully, Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow on Groundhog Day and Spring is just around the corner.

LIKE us on Facebook and you’re automatically entered in our weekly book giveaways. The drawing is this Friday.

Groundhog tracks

Mammals of North America, Second Edition by Roland W. Kays and Don E. Wilson.

Do you agree with Andrei Codrescu? Should authors become less accessible and abandon Facebook?

Writing in the Soapbox column of Publishers Weekly this week, Andrei Codrescu makes a new case for the elusive and exclusive author. He argues that Facebook and other social networking sites are ” giving away stupid prose for free!” and that familiarity doesn’t necessarily breed book sales.

He writes, “not only do you not sell books by being friendly, you won’t sell any because everyone in your ‘social network’ thinks they know you. Why buy your books, since you’ll tell them everything they want to know for free.”

So, what do you think? Is Facebook the marketing mecca we have been promised? Or are publishers and authors actually cannibalizing their sales by providing too much access to what we are selling?

The responses on Twitter are worth perusing for their range of support to disbelief.

We have now published two books with Andrei and have a third on the way. If you are a fan, check out his books The Poetry Lesson and The Posthuman Dada Guide. His next book Whatever Gets You through the Night will publish this June.

Can this book be judged by its cover?: Shumeet Baluja’s The Silicon Jungle

“A Novel of Deception, Power, and Internet Intrigue” reads the subtitle to The Silicon Jungle, the latest work of senior staff research scientist at Google, Shumeet Baluja. Praised as being both “[a] cerebral, cautionary tale… credible and scary” as well as “[c]lever and prophetic,” this novel unravels a thrilling tale about a naive intern, granted unfettered access to people’s most private thoughts and actions. Undoubtedly, the novel raises serious ethical questions about technological advancements, and the growing availability to use online activity for private, political and personal gain.

The book’s cover, with its almost sinister, seemingly unidentifiable face mounted in an explosion of words, is effectively eye-catching and raises questions about the book’s content. After talking to the book’s cover designer, Lorraine Doneker, it became clear that there was meaning hiding between the lines of text and lurking in the gaps of this ominous image. The hint of mystery evoked by the book’s cover begs the reader to unlock the meaning breathing within the content –provoked by the words “deception,” “power” and “intrigue.” These ideas prompted us to ask Lorraine a few questions about the thought and work that went into the cover design of The Silicon Jungle.

Q: The cover of The Silicon Jungle is quite striking!  It definitely got my attention when I first saw it – I saw the face, and then I noticed the words.  How should we interpret this design?  Is it meant to be ominous, thought-provoking, attention-grabbing…?


A: All of the above, totally!  The author’s thoughts: edgy, revelatory, controversial, thriller, and dark – reminiscent of Brave New World or 1984. Big brother like… all of that meets modern Crichton thriller.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this cover?  And how did you create it?  Did it take a long time?

A: The author actually sent his version “Our Significant Bits,” and I immediately saw the self portrait and knew it could work with some ‘tweaking’ and different colors. He actually created a program called fingerprint.jpg where he was able to place the text – I am sure it took him some time to create the effect he wanted.

Q: How did you decide which words to use to create the image of the face?

A: Text/Word art – words like ‘email, search, blog, cell phones…’ all composited together in the form of a person or face-signifying that these are the things we are composed of, and by looking at all of them in aggregate, it’s possible to get a complete picture of a person.


Q: Were there other versions of the book jacket design that you considered before choosing this one?  (If possible, could you send images of the other designs?)

A: The first is the original one the author sent – “Our Significant Bits.” The second one shows new color treatment and sizing of words that make up the portrait. The third is the one that was ultimately chosen. Colors are more effective with type placement for title, subtitle and author.

Q: Why did you ultimately settle on this design?

A: It gives the feeling that though, it is a technical book, it has a very real ‘human’ story behind it which is what the author wants to emphasize.

Q: Did the idea for this design come to you easily, or was designing this cover a more challenging process?


A: I am not sure how easy this concept was for Shumeet, like any artist, ideas grow and expand as your adrenaline surges. Kudos to Shumeet, I was happy to ‘put the icing on the cake.’ He was a delight to work with – he knew what he wanted and was very effective in conveying his thoughts.

Q: What’s your take on the saying, “never judge a book by its cover”?  Should The Silicon Jungle’s cover only be considered in conjunction with the book’s content, or is it able to stand on its own?

A: The cover is a nice ‘marriage’ to the interior. It conveys power and stature, almost the opposite of friendly– book is not friendly and the subject matter is a serious sense of timelessness. The author wanted something that is not solely appealing to techies, but instead reaches to a mass audience.


As Lorraine explains, the use of the face, although it evokes a certain ominous or mysterious feeling, allows the reader to understand a human aspect of technological innovation – accurately reflecting the content of the story to follow and the vision of both the author and the cover designer. Many thanks to Lorraine for this amazing cover, and for answering questions about this design!


Interested in The Silicon Jungle? Check out our Facebook Page and become a fan!

The American Crawl reads “Create Dangerously”

If you haven’t picked up a copy of Create Dangerously yet, now’s a great time. The American Crawl is reading the book over the next few weeks and you can follow along in sort of a virtual book club.

If you want to get a jump start, try watching this video interview with GritTV:

More GRITtv

Richard Crossley Unplugged: Crossley’s ID Tips: Size

Have you pre-ordered your copy of The Crossley ID Guide? It is available for pre-order on our web site and from many online retailers.

Earlier Crossley Unplugged videos:

Post your bird IDs from this episode in the comments section below. How many different types of birds do you see in this installment?



FACT: With the introduction of the income tax in 1913, tariffs were no longer a major source of government revenue.  As a result, Congress began to use tariffs mainly to protect domestic industries from imports.

Peddling Protectionism:
Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression

By Douglas A. Irwin

The Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930, which raised U.S. duties on hundreds of imported goods to record levels, is America’s most infamous trade law. It is often associated with–and sometimes blamed for–the onset of the Great Depression, the collapse of world trade, and the global spread of protectionism in the 1930s. Even today, the ghosts of congressmen Reed Smoot and Willis Hawley haunt anyone arguing for higher trade barriers; almost single-handedly, they made protectionism an insult rather than a compliment. In Peddling Protectionism, Douglas Irwin provides the first comprehensive history of the causes and effects of this notorious measure, explaining why it largely deserves its reputation for combining bad politics and bad economics and harming the U.S. and world economies during the Depression.  Peddling Protectionism tells a fascinating story filled with valuable lessons for trade policy today.

We invite you to read the introduction online at:

Douglas A. Irwin is the Robert E. Maxwell ’23 Professor of Arts and Sciences in the Department of Economics at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Against the Tide: An Intellectual History of Free Trade and Free Trade under Fire.

What Are Gamma-Ray Bursts? by Joshua Bloom

This picture was taken at the book party for What Are Gamma-Ray Bursts? at the recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Gamma-ray bursts have been accused of causing mass extinctions here on Earth, but do we really have a good understanding of what they are? In the new book What Are Gamma-Ray Bursts? (part of the new Princeton Frontiers in Physics series), Joshua Bloom gives us the most comprehensive and up-to-date explanation of the discovery and physics of gamma-ray bursts.

Chapter 1 of the book is available online now.

Another Bird Blog weighs in on The Crossley ID Guide

Another Bird Blog reviews an early copy of The Crossley ID Guide and urges everyone to place pre-orders. Who am I to disagree?

“Folks, before I go on to look in more detail at this book, my advice is to place an order right now, because as sure as eggs is eggs, the first print of this phenomenal publication is bound to be a huge seller resulting in a shortage for birders not quick off the mark to the book store or to place an Internet order,” writes Phil.

As to the content of the book, Phil notes, “the book is innovative, exciting even, in the way the reader can interact with what is in effect a real-life method to bird identification, reality birding, unlike the traditional pointed arrow, look-and-learn approach.”

Has Richard perfected the art of armchair birding? Perhaps, if what Phil writes is true: “I have to say that each bird scene page contains a wealth of detailed visual information that made me look at not only the overall montage of birds, but also each of the subtly different individuals, and to even then search again through the page for more birds to look at. Just like a birding trip in fact.”

This is exactly what Richard hoped the response would be. He deliberately did not label every bird on the page in hopes that readers would be drawn into the scenes, looking for each individual bird.

We expect finished books in the next 1-2 weeks, so soon you will all be able to get your hands on a copy of this innovative and revolutionary identification guide.


David Weintraub on Ireland’s Newstalk radio

Noting that How Old Is the Universe? is an antidote to the usual “headmelting series of facts about red shifts and gravitational forces and space time” you encounter when you try to answer the titular question, Sean Moncrieff interviews author David Weintraub on his Newstalk program. Listen in here (the interview starts just after the 7 minute mark, though you might want to tune in a bit earlier to hear Moncrieff’s opinions on men wearing chapstick!).

You might also want to check out what the AstroGuyz had to say about the book here.

OrgTheory book spotlight on Privilege by Shamus Khan

Everyone at OrgTheory seems to be reading Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School by Columbia sociologist Shamus Khan. First we have Brayden King finding a dialogue between Privilege and a new novel called Parrot and Olivier in America.

Then Fabio Rojas jumps in to provide a terrific overview of Privilege, concluding that “Shamus’ book fills in the crucial missing piece. It’s a well grounded description of the people who are the ‘input’ into the elite higher education system. It’s a view of elite life from the ‘training camp,’ right before they are unleashed into American society. Highly recommended to anyone interested in stratification and education.”

Commenter Kieran also notes, “Every time I see that cover, I want someone to come by and push him off the shelf.”  I guess I can see his point.

Roland Kays, guest-blogging at the NY Times’s Scientist at Work column

Writing about “Albany’s urban weasels” A.K.A. the fisher, Roland Kays describes how he is conducting research to figure out, among other things, how in recent years the “Northeastern fisher ha[s] gone from wilderness animal to suburban predator, while its cousins in California struggle to maintain their populations even in wild forests.”

Why are fishers thriving in urban areas? How do scientists study these fascinating and ill-understood animals? Click through to learn more.

Roland will post a new article every few days for the next couple of weeks, so check back frequently for more fascinating stories of his research. And if you want to learn more about mammals and how to ID them in your backyard and afield, check out Roland’s book Mammals of North America here.