Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game is an excellent science fiction book. The setting is a world in the future where Earth has been attacked once by an alien race. Earth expects the aliens to come back again, and in order to prepare the best and brightest to fight the next invasion, they set up a military school … for children. The most intelligent and mentally capable children are selected at a very young age to attend the military academy. At the academy they train using “The Game” – a sports game in no gravity that prepares them for war.
Orson Scott Card does an excellent job of character portrayal, and his children, while geniuses, are very believable.
I’ve read the print edition of this book and recommend it. However, I recently listened to the audio version of this book and it was excellent. It’s done in several voices.

Mona Lisa Smile

Mona Lisa Smile is a movie about a young professor from California who takes a job at Wellesley College, a prestigious women’s college, in the 1950’s. The young professor is played by Julia Roberts. Julia Stiles and Kirsten Dunce play several of the girls.
During the movie, Julie Roberts’ character struggles greatly with the attitude of both the Wellesley administration, who want her to teach a traditional curriculum, and the students, who are looking forward to getting married. Roberts’ character wants the students to think and challenges them to achieve higher academic and career goals. However, most of the girls in the movie are planning on getting married and starting a family, not a career. The movie illustrates the changing roles and attitudes of women in American society in the 1950s and how difficult that was for many people.
What struck me most was how different I would have been if I’d grown up in the 1940s and how little understanding and tolerance women of my generation have for the women of previous generations. While being a mother and housewife is certainly still a respectable career, we have little patience with someone who doesn’t understand the importance of our outside the home career. Not too long ago, it would have been unheard of for most of us to have the careers we have. I don’t think we realize how much we’ve changed in such a short time.

Just in case after seeing the movie, you think Wellesley College is a school for coeds looking for husbands, you should know that many, many prestigious women have graduated from Wellesley, such as Madame Albright and Hillary Clinton. And 5% of the women that sit on Fortune 500 boards graduated from Wellesley, according to author Harvey Mackay.

The Path To a Healthier America (or not)

In spite of all of the government funded studies that show that Americans are becoming more and more obese, the newest transportation bill allots less than 1% of the $300 billion total for sidewalks and bicycle paths. As anyone who has tried to run their errands on foot knows, without better walkways, it will continue to be easier and more pleasant to use a car for daily tasks, and we will continue to get heavier and heavier as a nation. For more information, read the New York Times article, The Path to a Healthier America.

High Tech Porta Pottys

While traveling in San Francisco, we ran into the following high tech porta potty. You put a quarter in the slot, the door opens automatically and you step inside. Inside you hit the door close button and enter the world of high tech bathrooms. To wash your hands, you just hold your hands over the sink. The water and soap start pouring automatically and after a time, they shut off and hot air blows out. When you leave, the whole bathroom cleans itself, including the floor and toilet bowl. There’s a warning sign telling people not to enter as people leave, as the wash cycle happens automatically!


High Tech Porta Potty

Control Panel

Sidestep

The Wall Street Journal has a column today about travel websites. In it the article I discovered this cool tool called SideStep that you can download from the Sidestep website. It installs as a toolbar in your browser, lets you search for flights and takes you to the website with the fare when you pick one.

Last Juror

I really enjoyed listening to the Last Juror by John
Grisham. (I listened to it on my Otis from Audible. Tell them
“storming” sent you if you sign up.) It’s a book about a
young man without much direction in life who moves to a
small Mississippi town and ends up, almost by accident,
buying the town newspaper. We meet the town through him
and hear about many topics affecting small southern
towns in the 1970s such as racial integration, Vietnam,
department stores, etc. All of it chronicled through his
friendships and his ownership of the newspaper. The book
does have a murder mystery in it, so it is more like
some of John Grisham’s legal thrillers than Bleachers
was, however it is really a story about a small town and
the people in it.

Innovator’s Dilemna

I had a chance to hear Clayton M. Christensen, the author of Innovator’s Dilemma and Innovator’s Solution, speak today. I enjoyed his first book, Innovator’s Dilemma, and it was really interesting to hear him apply his ideas to current technologies. Clayton talked not only about distruptive technologies that companies miss, but disruptive technologies that they are not able to take advantage of in the markets they serve. For example, he argued that solar power will not develop into a mature technology in the United States because we will not be forgiving of an immature product – we expect 24/7 uptime from our electricity. On the other hand, people living in Mongolia are excited to have solar technology – they don’t depend on electricity 24/7 and are ok with it going out often. He gave a couple of similar examples and ended up having an interesting conversation with Tim O’Reilly who was in the audience.

Charlie Mike by Leonard Scott

Charlie Mike is a book about the rangers in the Vietnam War. My boyfriend recommended that I read it (and then gave me grief for months as I avoided it.) I enjoyed the book – it was much easier to read a book about the Vietnam War than it was to watch a movie. Without the visual violence I was much more able to relate to the characters. In Charlie Mike, Leonard Scott does a good job of describing the war and the people in it in a way that made it more possible for me to understand some of the awful events and behaviors that came out of the Vietnam War, like why people volunteered, why people were slaughtered in battles that shouldn’t have happened, why people enjoy fighting and he did an especially good job of showing us why people enjoy the military.
I do have to say that his female characters were a bit shallow. We didn’t really get to meet them. The focus of the book was most definitely the rangers. The characterization of the rangers was excellent.

Bleachers

Bleachers is a book about the coach of a small town’s football team. Unlike most of John Grisham’s other books, it is not a legal thriller nor a mystery. It’s about a small town, a coach and a football team. John Grisham does a good job of describing how the lives of many men have been affected by their high school football coach. Whether or not you agree with the coach’s methods, there is no denying that he’s a true leader. He changes the lives of those around him.

This is a good short book, so it’s well worth your time to read it.