“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” – book review

In the book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Judi Barrett wrote about a fictitious town called ChewAndSwallow that rained food. It is quite an inventive story with wonderful illustrations by Ron Barrett.

In the town of ChewAndSwallow, the weather sometimes rained soup and juice.  And had hamburger storms. The weather came three times a day, bringing its citizen their food. There were weather forecasts informing the people of what possible food might come for their next meal. The title of the book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” is one such forecast.

Therefore, there were no grocery stores in the town; they were not needed. People would eat their fill and whatever is left over is saved for in-between-meal snacks. Although it was quite a chore for the sanitation department to clean up the food on the streets after each meal, things worked out well and everyone was satisfied. Until….

All was good until the weather started to turn sour. One day it rained smelly Gorgonzola cheese all day. The next day brought only overcooked broccoli. And the next day came Brussels sprouts and peanut butter with mayonnaise (yuck!)

Storms became violent with hurricanes of bread and thick pea soup fog. There was a tomato tornado with high salt and pepper winds. Food portions that dropped from the sky became bigger and bigger such that it damaged roofs. In fact, a pancake fell that covered a entire school with a down pours of maple syrup. No school for the kids that day (yeah!).

The citizens finally had to abandon the town by building boats out of bread and sailed to a land on another shore where there were normal weather with normal grocery stores. The end.

The Movie – Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

The book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” was the inspiration for the 2009 animated movie of the same title by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The story line of the movie is different from the book with Bill Hader playing the voice of Flint Lockwood, the protagonist.

What follows may contain movie plot spoilers.

Whereas the book did not explain why the sky rained food, the movie fills in this plot-line by creating the character Flint Lockwood, who is a boy inventor who comes up with weird inventions that does not quite turn out right. One of his invention was spray-on shoes so that you don’t have to tie shoelaces. The problem is that you can not get the shoe off. Another invention is the monkey-thought translator that enables his pet monkey Steve to talk. But it was his latest invention that inadvertently caused the sky to rain food.

Because the town of Swallow Falls is sick of eating sardines all the time, Flint creates a device called the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator (FLDSMDFR for short) that would turn water into food. Whereas the book has the town as ChewAndSwallow, the movie named the town Swallow Falls and located this tiny island right underneath the “A” in “Atlantic Ocean” on the map.

Before the machine was successfully tested, a mishap caused the machine to be shot up into the sky. And on that day, the sky rained cheeseburgers (which was what Flint had set up the machine to produce as the first test run). So the machine had in fact worked.

Flint now starts taking “orders” and “requests” for particular food from the town’s residents. This includes a request from the policeman Earl. And on Earl’s son birthday, Flint made his machine rain ice-cream (making for a beautiful scene of the town).

Sam, the weather-woman reporter whom Flint likes, never made any food request. So Flint made a request for her by creating a jello-mold castle in which they jumped and played in. It was also in there that Sam confused to Flint that she too was a “nerd” but had learned to cover it up. Flint encouraged her to be her true self and so she started wearing her glasses and tying her hair into a ponytail.

The town’s greedy mayor asked Flint to make it rain food three times a day. The Mayor ate so much that he is morbidly obese and can not walk. He rides in a motorized cart. This is reminiscent of another animated film Wall-E of 2008 where the obese population of the future rides in hover chairs.

The Mayor built a new tourist attraction called “Chew and Swallow” and had sneaked into Flint’s lab to order the sky to rain a Las Vegas style All-You-Can-Eat buffet.

By ordering too much food, the machine goes into the danger “yellow zone” and bad things are started to happen. The sky dropped larger and larger portions of food. A spaghetti tornado destroys half the town. The residents has to evacuate by building boats out of toast. Near the end of the movie we see the Mayor eating his own boat.

Flint tries to shut the machine down. The Mayor tries to stop Flint by throwing a radish at Flint. It missed Flint but broke the communication device to the machine in the sky. Now there is no way to tell the machine in the sky to stop.

Flint feels so bad that he ruined everything that he felt like trash and threw himself into a trashcan along with all his other previous useless inventions. Flint’s father found him there and gave handed him Flint’s white lab coat. Flint pulled himself up and was now determined to save the world by shutting down the machine for good. He built a flying car and the crew consisting of Flint, Sam, Steve the monkey, Sam’s cameraman, and Brent flew up to the machine which was now surrounded by a giant meatball. With some adventures up there, Flint finally manages to shut the machine down by spraying his spray-on-shoe onto the machines output nozzle sealing it forever.

The movie has some good laughs as well as well-developed plot-lines. We see Flint’s romantic relationship with Sam. We see Flint’s strained relationship with his father. And we see Flint’s relationship with himself in terms of his self-esteem.  We also see what happens when one gets too greedy and eats too much.

Wii Video Game

With the release of the movie, videos games with the same name followed — where the player can control Flint. Game available for the Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, and PC.

Don’t Get Twitter? Get the Twitter Book

Twitter Basics

The Twitter Book” covers the basic mechanics and conventions of Twitter from signing up and setting up a profile. It explains what is meant to “follow” someone. Then it talks about the # hash tag, the use of the @ at-symbol for replies. It explains how to re-tweet using both the “RT” and the “via” conventions. It covers Twitter jargon as to what is a “failed whale” and “tweetup”.

Although all messages in Twitter is public by default, it is possible to send private direct messages to someone. The book explains how as well as how to bookmark your favorite messages.

For those new to Twitter, they may have trouble getting their message to fit within Twitter’s 140-character limit. That where 140it.com and bit.ly comes in handy.

Twitter Searches

Next, the book looks at Twitter searches. search.twitter.com is where the power of Twitter comes into play because you can see what are the hot social topics and what people are talking about at the moment. Other examples are hashtags.org and whatthetrend.com which are two places that can show you what topics are being most talked about on Twitter.

In fact, there is a page in the book that has the question “What’s Twitter good for?” and its answer is “Mind reading”. Quoting from the book: “search service is an amazing mind-reading tool, letting you see not just what individuals are thinking about, but what groups are focusing on, too.”


Twitter Tools

Now that you know how to use Twitter, the next part of the book explores the use of third party tools that makes your Tweeting more convenient and efficient.

Because of Twitter’s open Application Programming Interface (API), there are many third-party websites that have developed Twitter related tools and services that harnesses the power of Twitter. The book points a couple of these websites out. For example, TweetDeck.comMonitter.com, and TweetGrid.com.

So Many Types of Diet Books

Upon looking on Amazon, there are so many types of diet book out there. There are three categories of macro-nutrients that the body consume: fat, protein, and carbohydrates. And there are good and bad types of each of these. So different types of diets try to tweak different portions of these macro-nutrients.

Here are just some of the types of diet books found on amazon in no particular order.  They are not recommendations and some may even be harmful.   But you may find some good info in some.  And not all diet is right for everyone.

Low-Fat Living

Living Low Carb

The 30-Day Low-Carb Diet Solution

The Mediterranean Diet

The South Beach Diet

The New Atkins for a New You

The Spectrum

The UltraSimple Diet

The Insulin-Resistance Diet

The Diabetes Diet

The Glycemic Load Diet

The Paleo Solution

The Dash Diet

The New High Protein Diet

The Metabolic Effect Diet

The Real Food Diet Cookbook

The Oil-Protein Diet Cookbook

The High Intensity Diet

The Flexitarian Diet

The Vegan Diet

The Vegetarian Low-Carb Diet Cookbook

Flat Belly Diet

The 10/60 Diet

The Dukan Diet

Easy HCG Diet

The G.I. Diet

The New Detox Diet

The Carb Lovers Diet

The Raw Food Diet Plan

The Fat Resistance Diet

The Fat Burning Diet

The False Fat Diet

The New Glucose Revolution Low GI Vegetarian Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet

The PCOS Diet Plan

The Full Plate Diet

The 17 Day Diet

Crazy Sexy Diet

The Hormone Diet

The No S Diet

The Thyroid Diet

The Beck Diet Solution

The Kind Diet

Dr. Gott’s No Flour, No Sugar Diet

Book Report: “One Day” by David Nicholls

The novel “One Day” by David Nicholls gives us a glimpse of the friendship between Emma and Dexter over a 20 year span from 1988 to 2008. We see a snapshot of their lives on July 15th (St. Swithin Day) of each year.

The friendship starts right after graduation and continues into their mid-lives. In a sense, this is a coming of age story. We see how both of them change and their perspective in life changes as they progress through life stages.

Like any relationship, there are its ups and down. Half-way through the book one can’t help but root for them to get together. Will they always be “just friends”? Or will they ever get married, have kids, and live happily ever after? Even at halfway through the book, we do not know. It is this need to know — to see what become of them — that propels us to the end of the book.

So I will not ruin the story for you by telling you what happens. Just read or book or buy the DVD. A movie released in 2011 is based on this book starring Anne Hathaway as Emma and Jim Sturgess as Dexter.

Here is the DVD …

Books That Say Stress Kills Brain Cells

Chronic stress is damaging to the brain. If you want to maintain brain health, you have to keep the stress hormone cortisol levels low to the extent possible. This is mentioned in many brain health related books and web articles.

  • In Dr. Mark Hyman’s book The UltraMind Solution, key #7 is to “Calm Your Mind”. On page 53, he writes that cortisol damages the hippocampus part of the brain.
  • The book Brain Longevity by Dr. Dharma Khalsa, it says similarly that cortisol affects the hippocampus, and that the hippocampus of Alzheimer patients are significantly smaller as the disease progresses. It also points out that day-after-day and year-after-year of chronic stress can kill billions of brain cells. [page 121] Dr. Khalsa talks more about stress on the brain in his web article and in a video on fora.tv.
  • In the book You: The Owner’s Manual, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz says that action number 4 of the section “Your Brain: The Live Younger Action Plan” is to “reduce stress”. And it again mentions the link between cortisol, stress, and brain health.
  • Page 30 of Dr. Daniel Amen’s Magnificent Mind at Any Age points out that older adult with long-term elevated levels of cortisol had smaller hippocampus and performed worse on memory tests.
  • The book The Memory Cure says on page 76 that chronic stress is one of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s. The type of stress can be that of a stressful job for example. The stress is damaging to many organs of the body including the brain.
  • Page 176 of the book The Brain’s Behind It again mentions that stress can kill hippocampal neurons.
  • In book Ultraprevention, page 112 of the Kindle Edition, it says “Cortisol kills neurons, especially in a particularly sensitive area called the hippocampus.”
  • Page 66 of book Fat Chance it writes “In particular, cortisol kills neurons that play a role in the inhibition of food intake.”

Since it might be difficult for you to find the references to all of those books mention, here are some links to some web articles that say’s basically the same thing — that stress is harmful to the brain.

There are also YouTube videos about stress on the brain.

  • Google Talks video of Dr. John Medina talking about brain health. Dr. Medina says that “stress damages cognition in virtually every way cognition can be measured”
  • And here is a video reporting on stressed versus unstressed rats in a memory task of remembering location of submerged platform.
  • In page 75 of the book, The Chemistry of Calm, it says that prolonged elevation of cortisol can lead to fat storage, insulin resistance, inflammation, and brain degeneration.

Book: “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert

This book is not only insightful, but very amusing. At times, the author Daniel Gilbert who is an psychology professor at Harvard University, writes as if a comedian. I normally do not read the acknowledgements of a book. But it starts out so funny that I had to read the rest of it as well as the forward.

This book gives lot of concrete examples and results of studies that shows that people often do not know in advanced what will make them happy. Just like the eyes can be fooled by opticial illusions, the minds imagination of the future can be fooled. Just like we can not accurately remember the past, we can not accurately fortell the future or how we would feel if this or that event were to happen.

Our imagination has three shortcomings that we are often not aware of:

a) Realism — The mind fills in a lot of gaps and makes a lot of things up. We tend to forget this and hence our imagination seem more real to us than should give it credit for.

b) Presentism — Our imagination of the future is affected by our current state.

c) Rationalization — We tend to look for things that confirms our belief or than enhances our attitude towards our current state.

We are also often fooled by how and what we look for things. This is summarized on page 183 that says “The brain and the ey may have a contractual relationship in which the brain has agreed to believe what the eye see, but in return the ey has agreed to look for what the brain wants.”

The relationship between wealth and happiness is also very interesting. On page 239, it says “Economists and psychologists have spent decades studying the relation between wealth and happiness, and they have generally concluded that wealth increases human happiness when it lifts people out of abject poverty and into the middle class but that it does little to increase happiness thereafter. Americans who earn $50,000 per year are much happier than those who earn $10,000 per year, but Americans who earn $5 million per year are not much happier than those who earn $100,000 per year.” This is the concept of declining marginal utility of money. When you have none, it makes you happy to have some. But once you have enough, any additional amounts will give you a less and less return on happiness.

To hear more from Daniel Gilbert, watch this video.

Book: “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” by Daniel Amen

Dr. Daniel G. Amen write an informative and practical book on how to keep your brain healthy and working well. Regardless of what state your brain is in now, it can be improved. Because the brain is so central to our being, improving the brain often will improve our lives. The two main points is good diet and exercise.
Dr. Amen is a clinical neuro scientist and medical director of Amen Clinic for Behavioral Medicine.

More books by Dr. Amen »