Tango Midnight

Tango Midnight by Michael Cassutt is a science fiction book about the space program. This story about a disaster on the space station takes place in the very near future. The book is well written with well developed characters (always a must for any good book). What I didn’t like about the book is that the author jumps back and forth between two time periods, pre and post disaster.

If you enjoy near future, realistic science fiction, you will probably enjoy this book. Although realize that the book is less about the science of space exploration, and much more about the story – the disaster on the space station and how the characters involved deal with it – and the politics – the Russian, US and Chinese space agencies all interact during this book!

Do you know this book?

My aunt is looking for the author and title of a science fiction book: “Do you know the name of a science fiction book in which experiments were carried out on babies, the babies had wings, the setting was deep in a forest, one of the babies escaped…..????”
I haven’t read it but my guess was either a Ray Bradbury type book or the female science fiction author that writes the language related books …
Do you know? (If you find it with Google or Amazon, I’d like to know which search words you used!)

Career Warfare

Career Warfare: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Personal Brand and Fighting to Keep It by David F. D’Alessandro and Michele Owens is a how-to business book. D’Allessandro, the CEO of John Hancock, claims that your personal brand, the way people see you, can make or break your career. In his book (which is co-authored by Michele Owens) gives very well-structured advice on how to build your own personal brand. Writing in a very clear style with highlights called out on each page, D’Allesandro uses personal examples, both good and bad, to demonstrate his points. All of the advice makes good sense, and while you probably won’t learn anything earth shattering, D’Allesandro does a good job of using personal examples to demonstrate why it’s important to ALWAYS pay attention to your behavior. While stressing that your day-to-day behavior is important, he also demonstrates how your actions during a few critical moments can make or break your career.
During this time of high media attention to the personal accountability and responsibility or lack there of at the CEO level, D’Alessandro’s book is a good primer and reminder of how we all ought to behave at work.

How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

In How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, David Bornstein describes social entrepreneurs as individuals that start businesses to enhance society – individuals with the influence, ideas and drive to change the way the world works for the better. Although he describes social entrepreneurship as a growing phenomenon, he tells us that it’s been around for a while. One of the first examples he gives is Florence Nightingale. Her work to change the medical system of the British army and then in Britain itself decreased the mortality rate of wounded soldiers by 100s of percent. She created a self sustaining organization (a new medical organization) that improved the lives of those in her society.
Bornstein introduces an organization called Ashoka, a nonprofit organization that invests in social entrepreneurs. Through the work and motivation of nine Ashoka fellows, Bornstein shows us what a social entrepreneur is. He uses examples from around the world, from setting up an organization to help homeless children in India to providing affordable irrigation to rural farmers in Brazil. In all cases Ashoka looks for individuals that are self-motivated, already well along the way to making their dream come true, have a realistic plan and a self-sustaining plan. Social entrepreneurs set up organizations that are at least self-sufficient if not profitable. They may need donations and hard work to get started but they are in the end a new profitable way of doing business. For example, in Brazil, Fábio Rosa uses both new technology and new regulations to bring cheap electricity to rural farmers which enables them to use wells and pumps to irrigate their land.
The book is very well written. By describing the nine Ashoka fellows, Bornstein helps the reader understand what motivates these social entrepreneurs, in turn motivating the reader. I highly recommend the book.

Heifer International

A friend told me about Heifer International, a nonprofit organization that donates livestock to poor people around the world. The idea is that Heifer gives a poor family or community an animal that produces food, like a milk cow or a chicken. The family can than live off the proceeds, milk or eggs in this example, directly or sell it for other food that they need. In exchange, they agree to give at least the first offspring of their animal to another family in need.
They also have other projects. For example, they are working in the US to increase the number of young farmers.
You can read more about Hiefer International on their website. They’ve also been featured in the New York Times and Fortune magazine – the links are on their website.

Weird news: 12 pounds of coins found in a man’s belly

There’s an article on CNN about a man who swallowed twelve pounds of coins, necklaces and needles over the course of a decade. He had a disease called pica, which comes from the Latin word for magpie. It’s a condition (such as when kids eat dirt), but this man’s was probably linked to a psychiatric disorder. I wonder if it was just a weird side effect or if it actually started with a rational decision, such as needing to hide money and spread from there …

Moon sized diamonds

According to this article, Moon-sized diamond found in space, they’ve found a moon sized diamond in space. It’s a crystallised white dwarf star. It weighs 5 million trillion trillion pounds, however it’s 50 light-years from earth, so I doubt it will be feasible to mine for quite a while. Quite an incentive though … maybe even more so than going to Mars.

Fishing Cameras

I had to post this because it goes along with the Fantasy Hunt site that I talked about earlier. Slashdot pointed me at this article that says, “A new camera could help save dwindling fish stocks by letting fishermen identify and free unwanted catch immediately after nets are hauled in, its Danish inventor said yesterday.” This camera takes a picture of a fisherman’s catch and can immediately tell them the type and size of each fish! According to the article, currently 1/3 of all catches are “waste”. This would eliminate that. The question is, is the technology cheap enough for the average fisherman? And do they need a sys admin aboard to keep it running?


My favorite blog so far is Slashdot, News for Nerds. Stuff that matters. It’s like a newsletter for geeks but both the topics and the discussions are supplied by the audience. Today they had an article about a topic I just recently talked about, online networks like Friendster and Orkut. Here’s the Slashdot discussion, Detecting Patterns in Complex Social Networks. The article referred to in the original post is rather sparse, but some of the follow up comments in the discussion have links to some very interesting networking sites. The networking sites have studies that even pull in mathematical theories, globalization, and international trade, as well as other topics. You can get a graduate degree in networking. I wonder who actually hires you if you end up with a degree in networking. Do you end up in economics, strategy, international relations? Any of the above?
The book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell talked about how new trends spread like epidemics. I don’t have the book in front of me but he talked about three types of people that spread a new trend or idea. Only one of these types of people has large numbers of contacts. This type of person with the contacts has a huge network and spans between groups – they are responsible for a trend spreading. (One of the other types of people was the expert – people trust their judgement.)
One of the articles referred to in the Slashdot discussion says that one of the things researchers study is the clumps. I believe the author of the The Tipping Point would have argued that it’s the ties between clumps that are interesting. They are what holds the larger network together. There are also probably experts and focal points within each network but the network wouldn’t spread to groups with other interests without the connectors.

The Shadow of the Lion

I am reading The Shadow Of The Lion by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint & Dave Freer right now. I’m enjoying it (although I think it could be a little shorter than it’s 900+ pages.) The book takes place in an alternate reality in a Venice, a 16th century Venice, that has magic, monsters, priests and gods. It’s pretty good – definitely a fantasy novel with a lot of character development. Speaking of character development, it reminds me a lot of one of my top favorite (like probably top ten books of all time), Angel with the Sword by C.J. Cherryh. They both have lots of character types in common. To start with they both take place in a city riddled with canals with an abundent underlife. Both have a female character who has her own boat that she inherited from her very strong, single mom whom we never meet. Both canalers fall in love with a mysterious blond guy who is working for high class families. Both books have two brothers who were born to one of the high class families but are in hiding. Both have two, maybe lesbian, female singers/musicians. Both have swamps where scary people live but you can hide. And so on. They are very different books but if you enjoy one, you will probably enjoy the other one because the worlds and character types are similar.