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Blair Bacon

Book Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik

IMG_1812.jpgAutumn Wood’s late fall book recommendation.

I’m a little nervous about writing a book review because if I make a review of any books it must be because I like them and I could only hope to be able to give them some due justice; I likely won’t bother with a review of any books unless I either love the book or find it very useful. I don’t want to write about books otherwise. So if you ever find me reviewing a book I probably enjoyed reading it a great deal or found it quite useful.

Uprooted is in the really really enjoyed it, loved it category. I must say though that I read this book about a year ago, but it’s also how I came across a more recent book I read that I’ll review at a later time.

Reader I don’t know what your tastes in books are, so I have no idea if you’ll love the same books that I do, so if you end up disappointed with the way I make Uprooted sound to you or if you read it and it doesn’t meet your expectations then I apologize ahead of time for your wasted time, but reading this book wasn’t a waste of my time.

I’ll get on with the review now.

Hopefully I’ll have a strong enough of a remembrance of the book. I’m not saying I don’t remember it well necessarily, but it may not be fresh enough in my system for as good of a review as I’d like to give you. When I read this book I lived in it, I was looking at my own world through rose colored Uprooted glasses.

One of the reasons why I like this book is because it’s a fantasy book that involves magical powers and at this point in my life when I came across this book I was craving for the fantasy genre and this hit just the right spot.

What was very different about this book from other books I’d read in the past though was that it was the first book I’ve read with a Russian setting other than one children’s book from elementary school which I don’t count.

I don’t feel interested in revealing too much though because I enjoyed letting the story unfold for myself as I read and don’t want to take that from you if you end up choosing to read this book. I’ll just say a few things about it. The protagonist is Agnieszka who you get to see develop more as a character through the course of the book, there is a “dragon” in this story as well, and the villain of this story is the woods (one of the most interesting concepts to me of the story since the woods is it’s own entity that is trying to envelop the world around it in darkness). Overall it’s simply an enjoyable rollercoaster ride of a book with a setting that I didn’t ever want to leave. Anyhow, happy readings reader. I’ll be posting a new book review up soon.

TAG Agreement, SAT, and ACT Exams in California for the College Bound

So I’d like to cover this topic before I perpetually forget to do so, you see I was having a discussion with my stepmother regarding these three topics in relation to my younger brother who is near the doorstep of reaching his college years. He’s a very good student and I’d like to offer them as much information as I can to help him along the way and in doing so I figured that I might as well share this information to anyone else who might find it helpful as well.

First off I’m not really going to address the topic of SATs much because it’s something that my stepmother is already well aware of, but for anyone else who might not be as familiar with it I’ll simply say that it is one of the main exams that colleges and universities look at when they’re deciding whether or not to accept a students’ college application.

Second I’ll cover the ACT exam because my stepmother had never heard of it and unless things have changed since the time that I was in my college bound years, then it is the second exam that colleges and universities look at when going over applications.

The only site that I found that discusses which test you need to take or if you need to take both is It seems that based on the information it gives you can take one or both and that most colleges will accept either test but just click on the link to read the information for yourself and to see what the Princeton Review suggests.

As for information regarding the ACT test alone the link for the information on their exam is here: One of the additional links provided from them on that page which includes a free study guide would be this:

As for the TAG agreement (aka the Transfer Agreement Guarantee), this is an agreement between community colleges and the UC’s in California. It basically is a transfer agreement between the community colleges and the UC’s, wherein 6 out of the 9 UC’s in California are participating in this program.  It is basically that the student will have to meet a list of requirements provided by the given UC’s including number of units, specific classes taken, and minimum GPA. As long as the student has applied to enter the agreement and has met the requirements then in the end the given students will automatically be accepted and be able to transfer to the UC after they have met its requirements. The agreement gives the student a 60 and a 90 unit option. I had a couple of friends that took this route and went to UC Davis and I had considered and applied for it as well, but decided not to go on with it, although even now that I am working I’m still receiving emails from these UC’s. It’s definitely a good option for people who want to save some money by entering community college first. The link for the TAG agreement is here: The six participating UC’s are: Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz.

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

I’m copying and pasting a post that I’d once made on a prior blog site that I’d created, it’s also the only post I ever made on that blog and since I have no plans as of this time to continue to write on my other blog I will post what I wrote here instead, especially since this remains a topic and subject matter that I care about and take interest in.

Reader’s guide:

  • If you are a reader by nature then feel free to go straight into the reading below.
  • If you prefer learning through videos, but are still interested in information regarding this issue, this is the link to the video covered in this post The Power of Community.

This post will be covering the issues addressed in the documentary, “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”. In 1993 the Cuban economy crashed, which resulted in something along the lines of an artificial peak oil crisis.


M. King Hubbert is the theorist that first brought about the idea of peak oil. Even before the crisis in Cuba the United States had gotten a taste of some of the hardships that might be faced during an oil crisis, when in 1973 an embargo on oil was passed as a result of the Arab-Israeli War. Some of the effects of this embargo included gas purchases being restricted to every other day, long gas lines, and lowered speed limits.

Jimmy Carter had begun to address the issues related to peak oil, but this progress was short lived as Reagan’s presidency put an end to the fledgling progress began during the Carter years.

What is peak oil?

The point in time in which oil production reaches its maximum (meaning to say that the reservoirs have become half empty). The oil does not run out, but production does begin to decline. Oil is a nonrenewable resource in the sense that it took millions of years for the remains of dead plants and animals to become the energy sources that they are today, and when these sources have been used up, it will take millions of years for these resources to become available once more. Unless new scientific advances change this inevitable fate, there will be an impending global oil crisis yet to come. To make matters worse this insatiable need for oil is only growing as countries like China try to follow in the footsteps of the United States.

“The Special Period”

Cubans often refer to their past oil crisis as “the special period”. This crisis began when oil imports from the Soviet Union dropped from about 13 or 14 million gallons per year down to only about 4 million. The average Cuban lost about 20 lbs during this crisis and blackouts became a commonplace occurrence all across the country. Workers also had to wait 3-4 hours for buses to take them to their jobs. The Cuban government imported 1.2 million bicycles and manufactured half a million more.

To make matters worse the U.S. also enacted its own embargo on Cuba. Import of food went down about 80%, money became useless. In order to keep the population from starving the Cuban government created food rations and also began to provide subsidized meals.

Surviving Peak Oil

  1. Agriculture: It is in the agricultural sector that Cubans saw the most drastic changes. In the time of this oil Cuba’s green revolution began. Before the crisis Cuba’s agricultural industry was the most industrialized out of all the Latin American countries and exceeded the United States in fertilizer use. The sudden shortage in oil caused the agricultural industry to falter and resulted in the food shortages. Due to these struggles people began to grow food throughout the Cuban cities. Nearly all arable land was turned into organic gardens.
  2. Urban gardens: Vacant lots throughout the cities were converted to orchards. It was through the process of trial and error that these urban gardens succeeded. Permaculture experts from Australia visited Cuba to assist the people with innovative new ways of growing food and this newly acquired knowledge spreed throughout the community. During this time of hardship farmers were seen as some of the most successful members of society. In the city of Habana over 50% of the produce was supplied by the urban gardens. For smaller cities and towns the yield of local gardens accounted for 80-100% of produce. This change in food availability reduced much of the need of transporting food over long distances.
  3. Sustainable practices: The newly adopted organic farming approach eliminated the need for natural gas and oil based farming methods and became implemented nationally within a few years. The new methods worked with nature rather than against it. One of the key components was ensuring that farms had healthy topsoil (the soil situated at around the top 3 inches of the land). Past farming methods were greatly damaging to topsoil because adding chemicals damages soil turning it into sand. Some of the methods of improving top soil included crop rotation, composting, and green manure.
  4. Land distribution: 40% of large state farms were divided up into privately owned cooperatives. Land was leased rent free and tax free to small farmers. In return these farmers had to show the state that they were growing food on these pieces of land or else this privilege would be taken away.
  5. Education and healthcare: Due to the lack of transportation universities became decentralized. Originally Cuba had 3 universities, but this number went up to about 50 after the crisis. In spite of the hardships faced by Cubans during this time the government continued to provide its citizens with free education and healthcare. The average lifespan and infant mortality rates in Cuba was almost equal to those of the people in the United State despite the economic challenges they faced.
  6. Transportation: Many large vehicles were converted into city buses and government cars were required to pick up anyone needing a ride. As for the people residing in rural areas, many turned to using mules and horses for their transportation and as mentioned previously bicycles became one of the most commonly used modes of transit.
  7. Housing: 85% of Cubans own their own home, but most of these houses are small and simple. Cubans living in rural areas often have more land available to grow food and often those living in the cities can only afford to live in apartments, which seemed acceptable to many as there still remained a draw to live within the hustle and bustle of city squares.
  8. Alternative energy: The government provided many of the rural schools with solar panels, as this was less costly than connecting them to the city grids. Many sugar mills were utilized for an additional purpose, to function as power plants. Crude oil, which is very bad for the environment was also used during this time, as there were very limited resources for acquiring oil and survival was what was most important.

Our society today lives in unsustainable ways and the security of oil supplies are getting more risky with each day that passes. The world is changing and we too must change in order to adapt. One of the ways that we can do so is through rebuilding our communities. It’s great to think about issues globally, but action must take place at a local level, each person much contribute their part in their own way, no matter how small.


  • A change in oil supplies can turn a nation dependent on fossil fuels upside down.
  • Societies can develop more resilience by learning to rely more on local resources.
  • Community is at the heart of any social fabric and can help to bring people out of the darkest of times.




The Power of Community-How Cuba Survived Peak Oil (2006), produced by Community Solutions and directed by Faith Morgan.


Don’t Lose Sight of Why You Started It All

It’s still so early so don’t lose sight of why you started it all, so early in on writing this blog and sometimes it can already be easy to forget. First and foremost it’s for yourself, it’s your journal (of course with some constraints due to the fact that it’s an open journal of sorts), but never-the-less it’s your journal and it’s here to serve you. It should serve to aid you and never to hurt you. It isn’t for how many follows or likes you can get, although that can be nice sometimes too, but rather it’s to help organize your thoughts and is a vessel through which you can communicate and express your feelings. It shouldn’t feel like a chore and you shouldn’t feel like you have to impress anyone other than yourself, in fact since it’s yourself there’s no impressing to be done anyway. It should be used as a tool and not used as a self inflicted chain. You can’t require yourself to write blank amount of posts each month, only that you hopefully do write each month. It should grow and change with you, but it should never restrict you or make you feel like you need to do it. Just relax and allow it to be what it is and allow yourself to be what you are, nothing more and nothing less.

Roomba: The Good, but Imperfect Convenience Bot

So I’m still searching for many solutions to improve my day-to-day life in a number of ways including housework, but have only encountered a few so far. The Roomba is one of these solutions, although I will say that it is without a doubt an imperfect one. I’m not the cleanest person, but I do take quite a good deal of interest tidying and cleanliness.

The Roomba happened to be my birthday gift in 2017 and I am writing on this post how I’ve liked my gift in this year since I’d received it.

It has its good and its bad points.

I’ll start with the bad points, I know that most bloggers posts will start with the good rather than the bad, but I’ll start with the bad because most of the bad points happened to come as a surprise to me. First, the Roomba isn’t the smartest robot you’ll ever meet, it will do its job decently well and save you some exertion, but it also just wanders aimlessly a good deal of the time and vacuums in the same spots over and over again and ends up running out of battery before it even completes vacuuming a room sometimes (I googled its charging time and it seems to take about 2 hours). Second, it likes getting itself stuck: under furniture like desks or beds and in the middle of chair legs. Third, it’s had its creepy moments where it has turned on all by itself early in the early morning or in the middle of the night and has started vacuuming or starts talking with its little robot voice demanding to be charged (happened to everyone in my family).

Now the good points and some possible tips: the Roomba will save you some effort, it will do its job of cleaning the floors, perhaps not quite as well as a real person will, but it does serve itself as a helper well. The Roomba can vacuum the floors while you take care of other tasks. As for its wandering about, the little machine that comes with it to block it off helps with this problem and also just moving items around the house to block off the area you’d like to have vacuumed helps as well. Overall it can serve as a bit of a time-saver, but I personally use it selectively. There are times that doing the vacuuming myself is my preference and other times just I let the little Roomba do its thing. So overall it’s a good but imperfect machine.

Walmart Pick-Up App

This will be a relatively short post, but it will just be my little review of the Walmart pick-up app. I’d mentioned it before in the posts I’d made when I was feeling sick about how this app seemed promising when it came to my idea of avoiding too much interaction with other people when it isn’t necessary, not that I want to be antisocial and avoid people, but rather because the more people I’m around the more chances that I also give myself to catch something like a cold. Since those posts I’ve tried the app twice and I like it quite a bit thus far.

I can just pick my “favorite” items that I buy regularly like dog food, printer ink, antibacterial wipes, etc. so it makes things even quicker and easier. Also the app gives you the option of store pick up where an associate takes the items to you to your car or the delivery option where the items are delivered to your house. I always do the pick up one because my family and I avoid having strangers come to our house, we don’t even have pizza delivered just as a safety precaution we take.

For now I’ve gotten over my cold and will hopefully not catch anymore, so far the precautions that I’ve enacted to avoid catching a cold and to get better from a cold have worked decently well. This is just my little review that I definitely recommend giving the app a try if you’re interested or just curious.


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison

This post is mostly for myself, a small reminder for myself to always return to regarding my view on life which has changed quite a good deal since I was younger. In my youth I was in more of a state of mind of instant gratification, instant reward. In my mind, if I saw no results immediately, then it must be that the matter at hand must not be worth any effort because of the lack of immediate results, but now I think that all good things take time and effort.

I may jump around every which direction in this short post, but I know where I’m jumping, so you can follow or you can read this post with some sense of bewilderment, either way it’s okay, my mind can be a little flighty at times, but it’s of no great concern.

This is the part where I get a bit flighty and kind of jump from idea to idea:

With regard to the picture accompanying this post, it’s to signify the same general idea with regards to effort. This has to do with a concept that I like and it is the grassroots movement, the grassroots movement doesn’t relate to a single historical movement, but rather a general type of movement. The definition given on the site is: “the common or ordinary people, especially as contrasted with the leadership or elite of a political party, social organization, etc.; the rank and file”. I am just this “ordinary” and “common”, so if I expect to ever make the kinds of progress that I hope to make in my life I may as well be well aware beforehand of the grit and determination it will take on my part and know that my goals are going to require an uphill climb, but this early awareness will make the hard work more bearable.

I can’t find the direct source of the next quote, but it still relates to success and hard work, this time it comes in the form of a sort of story about Chinese bamboo:

“You start with a little seed, plant it, and water it for a whole year, but nothing happens. The second year you water it, again, nothing happens. The third year you water it, and still no signs of your effort. How frustrating! If you stayed consistent and continued to water it into the fifth year, the tree finally sprouts and grows up to ninety feet in six weeks!

The improvement process is much like the Chinese bamboo tree; it is often discouraging, but great things happen if you remain persistent when you aren’t seeing results. If it seems like all your hard work isn’t adding up right now–be patient and keep watering the bamboo.”

I get frustrated with my goals sometimes and discouraged, but these sorts of little reminders help me soldier on and this post is a way to keep all these different ideas all relating to my view of success and effort all in one place as a source for some gentle reminders that success takes time and effort to achieve.


EKG and ACLS Review: Rhythms

IMG_1876.jpgFirst things first.

Before I even review what the important rhythms are, I’ll review the basic reading of the rhythms.

So with regards to time:

  • One box is equal to 0.04 seconds
  • 5 boxes add up to 0.2 seconds
  • And 75 boxes together equate to 3 seconds


IMG_1877.jpgNext is a review of the waves that are seen on the EKG rhythms:

  • First is the P wave, which under normal circumstances should be upright
  • Next is the QRS interval, the Q wave is a negative deflection, the R is a positive deflection, and the S is another negative deflection
  • Third is the upright T wave
  • And last is a U wave in some cases


These diagrams and descriptions are extremely basic and don’t go into too great of detail. For this information I mainly referred to a PDF I found online from a copy of ECG Interpretation Made Incredibly Easy 5th Edition I have no idea if this copy has been posted online without violation of any copyrights, I just googled “ECG for Dummies” and this was one of the sources that came up so I can’t guarantee that it will always be made available forever, but in the meantime it’s there.

Next I’m going to review the rhythms that we’re required to be able to recognize according to ACLS guidelines, the list given in the manual from the American Heart Association includes the following:

  • Sinus Rythm
  • Atrial fibrillation and flutter
  • Bradycardia
  • Tachycardia
  • Atrioventricular (AV) block
  • Asystole
  • Pulseless electrical activity (PEA)
  • Ventricular tachycardia (VT)
  • Ventricular fibrillation (VF)


The images above are of rhythms that I traced from the American Heart Association’s ACLS manual.

Those rhythms are also some of the most confusing rhythms for me because all any of it looks like to me are squiggles and it confuses my brain to try and make out one type of squiggle from another type of squiggle.

I may still be wrong now, but perhaps I finally understand to some small degree some of the differences in these rhythms.

In the case of v-fib there is no particular rhyme or reason to the rhythm, it really is just squiggles, on the other hand the v-tach, which can either be monomorphic or polymorphic has more of a pattern to it (in the case of the monomorphic form it has a singular appearance in its pattern whereas in the polymorphic form the pattern varies to some degree).


Next I’ll review pulseless electrical activity which has a sort of broad definition being that the rhythm is organized, but that no pulse can be detected. The list of pulseless electrical activity that is provided in the ACLS manual includes:

  • Idioventricular rhythms
  • Ventricular escape rhythms
  • Postdefribrillation idioventricular rhythms
  • Sinus rhythm


This most recent image is of the various types of AV blocks. The main resource I used for this is the Youtube video: AV Blocks (1st, 2nd, and 3rd Degree).

All the AV blocks are also forms of bradycardia and since I’m on the topic of bradycardia I will add the signs and symptoms of symptomatic bradycardia since knowledge of them is useful to me in my work as a bedside nurse:

Symptoms include chest discomfort or pain, shortness of breath, decreased level of consciousness, weakness, fatigue, light-headedness, dizziness, and presyncope or syncope.

Signs include hypotension, drop in blood pressure on standing (orthostatic hypotension), diaphoresis, pulmonary congestion on physical examination or chest x-ray, frank congestive heart failure or PE, and bradycardia-related (escape) frequent premature ventricular complexes or VT. (Donnino et. al: 122)

I won’t do much review on tachycardia, but I will quote another section of the ACLS manual regarding symptomatic tachycardia because once again, this information is pertinent to my work and care as a bedside nurse:

  • Hypotension
  • Acutely altered mental status
  • Signs of shock
  • Ischemic chest discomfort
  • AHF

Last of the rhythms that I’ll review are a-fib and a-flutter.



“The ACLS Cases.” ACLS PROVIDER MANUAL, 2016, by Michael W Donnino et al, American Heart Association, 2016, pp. 122 and 131.







DIY: Pumpkin Bouquet (Easy)

So here I go with the 1 hour limit, plus I’ll likely not add any additional posts in the next few days since I’ll be working, but this post will be where I’ll be getting a little Pinterest-y/Martha Stewart-y on this blog. I saw a post on Pinterest at some point in time of a pumpkin bouquet and I found it really cute and so I thought that I’d give it a shot.

What I used for my bouquet was: a bouquet of flowers, one appropriately sized pumpkin, a large cup, paper towels, some fake moss (optional), and a little elbow grease.

Step 1: Buy flowers and pumpkin, fake moss optional.

Step 2: Cut and clean pumpkin using elbow grease, the top of the pumpkin can be discarded since it’s not used in this DIY. Also, I added an extra step for myself with washing the pumpkin inside and out with a bleach and water solution to slow the rate in which it would naturally rot.

Step 3:IMG_1835.JPG Take the large water cup and fill close to the top with water, then place cup in the center of the hollowed pumpkin. Put folded paper towels under cup for balance and between the glass and pumpkin edges for support as well.


IMG_1836.JPGStep 4

Trim flowers to fit container and arrange as desired.

This next part is where you can use fake moss if you wish, I used it to fill the little gaps between the pumpkin and the cup to give it a neater more professional look.

Step 5

Find a home for your pumpkin bouquet, as a table centerpiece or in any other place in your home and enjoy your fall creation.