Saturday, March 18, 2017

It's A Needed Read

We Should All Be FeministsWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book everyone should read, whether or not you embrace feminism.

I was raised in a conservative and very religious household and I learned to physically respect women - don't hit, don't harass - but I was taught that they have their place in the world. All the fiction books I read featured strong male characters. I only read biographies of males and actually had feelings of disgust at the suggestion of reading a book about - let alone written by - a woman. The first book that I ever (knowingly) read by a woman was The Thornbirds, and that was a horrible work of fiction to get me to read if the idea was to gain my respect for women writers, but that was not the idea of the person who suggested it. It was not until I had read a few books by Carl Sagan that I took seriously, and acted on, the idea that I should question everything that I believed. And I do mean everything. Through that practice, I found there to be no good reason to deny women the same opportunities, compensations, legal protection or privilege granted to men. In the then male dominated field of science and math, I met women who could run circles around men doing the same work. In one of the graduate math classes I took, there was a woman who asked questions that I didn't even understand. I vividly recall thinking upon witnessing it, "Never underestimate a woman. Never!" Like a hundred other beliefs that I left behind, the idea that a woman either could not or should not do something she wanted and was able to do evaporated and was replaced by the knowledge that a woman could, and should be encouraged to, make the most of her abilities just like any man. While I have spent much effort as a science and math teacher practicing that belief, I still have work to do as a male in this culture. It takes a lifetime to unindoctrinate yourself.

As the author clearly points out, culture is the main problem. While the United States has come a long way in making improvements, women still don't have cultural, economic or political power equal to that of men. Worse yet is the problem worldwide - particularly in third world countries and those dominated by religious fundamentalists.

The author makes many good points, but there is one that I disagree with. She says,

We are not apes.
Well, we humans are apes and to ignore the common evolution that we have with chimps and bonobos as well as the rest of the mammals and the behavioral tendencies we have in common with them is a mistake. Like all undesirable proclivities we have as mammals and apes due to evolution, we must lean to overcome them.

I was disappointed by the author's not mentioning the sore lack of equality of educational opportunities for women worldwide. In my estimation, it is one of the biggest - if not the biggest - problem to be addressed by feminism. Without excellent education, self-determinism - even in a politically and religiously friendly culture - is exceedingly difficult.

Thanks to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for writing this short work. I hope that there are many more like it.




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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Can you solve the river crossing riddle? - Lisa Winer

The Many Worlds of the Quantum Multiverse | Space Time | PBS Digital Stu...

The Best American Sampler 2011The Best American Sampler 2011 by Geraldine Brooks
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I Don't Get It

I love to read. I rarely run across material that I don't like to read. How the entries in this volume rank as the best of anything is a great mystery to me. Most of the writing is narcissistic or self gratifying. Some of it is haphazard. The short about ghosts was fairly well written nonsensical woo. I hate woo. Give it to Oprah or Deepak Chopra. I don't want it. I'll stick to The Best American Science and Nature Writing, thanks. Maybe I'm just not artsy fartsy enough to appreciate what to others might be awesome writing, but after reading this book, I know that I don't want to be.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED WHEN ACTORS MUMBLE AND CALL IT ACTING

Interstellar: The Official Movie NovelizationInterstellar: The Official Movie Novelization by Greg Keyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of course, most people would agree that the movie was good, but actors these days mumble so much and call it acting that you sometimes don't get all the important dialogue. I bought this immediately after seeing the movie and having finished it more than two years later, I've got not only all the character dialogue, but more insight into the character personalities and motives and even their feelings even though the acting was excellent (aside from mumbling and calling it acting). By all means, see the movie, but even if you don't, this book is excellently written, and in fact is one of the best novelizations of a movie that I've ever read. And if you'd like to know more of the actual physics that this novel is loaded with, I highly recommend Kip Thorne's The Science of Interstellar .

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Very engaging book!

Night Passage (Jesse Stone, #1)Night Passage by Robert B. Parker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you check out my profile, you will see that I am currently reading 75 books. What I do is cycle through them, reading a chapter or two at a time. Once in a while I get book that is so engaging, that I have to put all the others aside and focus on that that book. This book is one of them. Not since The Martian have I been so engrossed in a book. I can't do justice to Robert B. Parker's writing style by talking about it. Pick up one of his books. If you're not sucked in right away, you won't ever be. Yes, this is the same Jesse Stone featured in the made for TV movies starring Tom Selleck - who plays Jesse Stone perfectly, by the way. If you like detective novels and you like Robert B. Parker, you can't go wrong starting here.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Is He, Or Isn't He?

The Servants of TwilightThe Servants of Twilight by Leigh Nichols
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have long been a Dean Koontz fan as I find him to be an engaging storyteller and a creator of memorable characters, but I've never considered his writing anything but "entertaining." He can be formulaic in his storytelling and his characters often have a personality formed from a mold he often uses, but once in a while, he manages to write a story that leaves the reader ..... wondering. This novel does that quite well. I was left with doubts and quite uncomfortable feelings after reading what on the surface appeared to be a happy, sunshiny ending. Wile it takes a while to pick up, once it does, the book is hard to put down. The action goes from ambling to full out sprint. I found it a very enjoyable read. I especially enjoyed the cognitive dissonance displayed by several of the characters throughout the story. Read the summary for the premise of the story and if you like it, I think you'll enjoy the book. The afterward is even entertaining as it conveys how the book became a movie, and you'll know whether or not you want to watch that movie after you've read the afterward.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tongue tied and twisted just an earth bound misfit I

Flight (Smallville Series for Young Adults, #3)Flight by Cherie Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the third in the Smallville young adults series. It tells the story of Clark Kent and his new friend Tia Haines. Tia is sprouting wings and her controlling father and brother want to make her life miserable while up to no good themselves. Tia wants to fly, but she's scared. She also believes that her mother abandoned her. Clark takes it upon himself to give Tia all the moral support he can muster while holding down a job at a pizzeria and preparing himself to skydive with Lana despite his acute fear of heights. I can relate. As we all know, Clark will learn to love flying, but he has many issues to resolve before he becomes The Man of Steel. The Smallville saga is one of my favorite coming of age stories and this story - not a novelized episode, but written by a show writer - fits in nicely with the episodes of the television series. If you're looking for some light reading, this is a very fine read at any age. After all, if the kid in you is already dead, you're not very far behind.

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Today is Thursday You smashed the limbs of Leikn; you bashed ðrivaldi; you knocked down Starkadhr; you trod Gjalp dead under foot. - Prayer to Thor


Monday, January 16, 2017

Light Falls: Space, Time, and an Obsession of EinsteinLight Falls: Space, Time, and an Obsession of Einstein by Brian Greene
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This short, dramatic reading of Brian Greene's Light Falls produced by Audible, Inc. describes the path that Einstein took to develop his general theory of relativity. Brian Greene narrates while Paul Rudd, Peter Ganim, Suzanne Toren, Edoardo Ballerini, Julian Elfer, Kevin Pariseau and Jonathan Davis do the voice acting for the involved characters. Paul Rudd plays the part of Einstein. It is based on the Theatrical production of the same name. It is a nonfiction account with accurate quotes from the involved people. If you like audiobooks, are fascinated by Einstein or general relativity, you'll enjoy it. Greene injects some humor at places and the presentation, while accurate and not dumbed down, is engaging and very enjoyable.

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Goodbye, Eugene Cernan - Last Man on the Moon

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hmmmm...... How Interesting!

The Life of the CosmosThe Life of the Cosmos by Lee Smolin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this book, Lee Smolin proposes that universes can be naturally selected for based on their production of black holes. He calls it "Cosmological Natural Selection." It's an interesting idea and Smolin is careful to point out that it is more speculation than established science, although his theory is testable and he proposes tests for the theory. Smolin is good at acknowledging criticism of the theory and does his best to defend it. Once I got the hang of the idea, I was ready to be done with the book as Smolin repeatedly beats dead horses and reiterates his points. I don't blame him. He has to be careful, but it doesn't make for easy reading. My favorite part of the book was the appendices where he gives background information on physics necessary for understanding the ideas presented. While mathematical ideas are discussed, there is not a shred of mathematical formalism in the book, although Smolin points carefully to excellent sources if the reader wants such material. That said, this is not a book for the average layperson who is mildly curious about cosmology. There are more appropriate survey books on the subject written by well known authors. My compliments to Smolin for clearly distinguishing what is science and what is speculation in this lengthy discussion. My impression is that he truly cares about his audience's understanding. I recommend this book if you are a serious fan of physics.

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