Amanda Gates
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A Musings - July 2011

I took a couple months off from blogging, so I have a backlog of already-read books that I still need to blog about here. I’m going to play catch up with a four-books-in-one post, because 1.) I want to catch up, but mostly because 2.) It’s been a while and I don’t remember enough about these books to warrant full posts for each.

The Fifth Vial: I was out of books on my Kindle and only had a few on my shelf and they just weren’t calling my name. I saw this book in my husband’s stack, though. I’m not really a mass-market crime fiction type of reader, but they’re good every once in awhile to break things up. But mostly? My mom lent this book to him a couple years ago and there it sat. I miss her and I wanted to feel close to her again. While reading, I frequently flipped to the inside cover to look at her hand-written “8/09 – Good,” a note she wrote in every book because she read so much she wouldn’t remember what she thought of them (or would get halfway through and say, “Amanda, I think I’ve read this before!). The book is predictable, but fun. Plenty of action and a quick read. Scary to think there’s most likely a very similar, real-life black market out there for organ transplants – meaning, those with the money and the good reputation get, while those who are poor or deemed worthless die.

Out Stealing Horses: I’ve had this on the shelf for years, ever since it was new and earning rave reviews. It’s a translation from Norway that transfers between present and past during the life of a boy of 14 and a man of 60-something. It moves rather slow and ends rather abruptly and without much fanfare, but the book doesn’t have much fanfare to begin with. I found myself skimming a bit and wasn’t especially thrilled with it.

A Scattered Life: Karen McQuestion is a self-published Kindle author, the book sounded nice and for $2.99, I thought, Why not? It’s a very simple story about a young woman, her husband, her mother-in-law, her neighbors… I liked the journey the main character takes, the MIL drove me nuts (and I think she was supposed to) – it’s a good example of how a story can be simple and short without much depth, yet still be a decent read. Not everything has to be Cutting For Stone-detailed and prose-heavy (though, loved that, too).

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet: A freebie from work – love those! And this was a great one. Another book moving between the past and present, this time of a Chinese American man – from teen years to his 50s, I believe. You learn a lot about WWII and the United States’ treatment of Japanese (Americans!) after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Plus there’s love and music and friendship – a really wonderful, moving story.





Posted: Mon, 07/25/2011 - 14:34 |

I’ve followed Meagan Francis for a while, and when she said bloggers could simply email her and get a copy of her new book, I was in!

Now, The Happiest Mom isn’t rocket science. You’re not going to be reading about research or studies or experts that tell you how to be “happier.” It’s really the nuts and bolts kind of stuff: Make time for yourself, help your partner help you, don’t try to be perfect, etc. We all know these things.

HOWEVER, we don’t all remember these things. With the daily grind of picking up, dropping off, making dinner, keeping the house presentable, running errands, finding marriage time, etc., it is SO easy to forget the simplest of things. It’s so easy to get down on ourselves and feel like we’re sinking and that we’re alone and we have no idea what to do.

That’s when, if you have great girlfriends, they swoop in and say, “Nonsense! You’re doing awesome!” Well, that’s how I look at this book. It’s another girlfriend who can tell you that while it can be challenging, motherhood doesn’t have to be so all-consuming and/or negative. By following just a few of her ideas, or even just learning a little more about the type of mother you are (there are some quick, fun quizzes), you can begin to see how motherhood can be really fun (and, more importantly, manageable).

This book will take you maybe an hour or two to read. I know, 'Ha!,' right? What mom has a whole uninterrupted hour?! (I read a chapter a night before bed.) It’s quick, the design is whimsical and fun, and with each chapter you’ll smile or laugh a little. I particularly liked the real-life mom quotes sprinkled throughout the book.

Once you're done with the book, keep up with Meagan at her website, and think of her as another good friend or fellow mom to look up to.

Posted: Wed, 07/20/2011 - 15:38 |

This isn’t news, because I have yet to hear one major criticism of Tina Fey’s book, but I loved Bossypants. Sure, it isn’t a shocking yet moving memoir of overcoming abuse or drugs or an eating disorder, but it’s a sweet, and hilarious, look into the life of one of the hottest women on the planet right now. Things I loved:

Don Fey: Fey dedicates an entire chapter to her dad, and I LOVE him. I love what he wears, I love his stoic demeanor, I love his parenting techniques and I love how much Tina loves him.

The humbleness: So, Tina’s this big star, right? Yet she’s got a self-deprecating humbleness that’s instantly charming. She knows she wasn’t a looker in her early years and she embraces that (she’s like the rest of us!). She knows the only reason 30 Rock was picked up, and probably has lasted this long and won Emmys, is because of Alec Baldwin. When people actually liked her Sarah Palin impression – which up until two days before, she wasn’t even going to do – she was shocked that people found her funny at all. And I believe it – I don’t think that’s bullshit.

Her being a working mom: I have no idea how she worked on SNL, developed a sitcom and had a baby all at the same time. Seriously, I get edgy on my 6 hours of sleep/night and I’m guessing she regularly gets far less. But, she loves her kid and isn’t ashamed of having a regular babysitter or of formula feeding (though the mommy guilt is still there – she’s like the rest of us!).

Learning the behind the scenes stuff: While it’s disgusting that male SNL writers find other places to relieve themselves other than the bathroom, it’s still cool to learn these little secrets. It’s a man’s world – improv and comedy – but from her days at Second City, Tina (and Amy Poehler) started breaking down those walls. And not in an angry-self-righteous way, either. It’s great to read about; yet she doesn’t shove it down your throat.

(The things I hate? The cover. Ick.)

I read it fast, and then proceeded to lend it out to no less than seven other women. It’s fabulous – not ground-breaking and probably easy, but fabulous - and I think all her praise is well deserved.

Posted: Wed, 07/13/2011 - 09:17 | Comments: 1


Editor's Note: A couple of months ago my super-smart husband wrote a review of Physics of the Impossible, a book that I would never pick up, yet he makes sound so interesting. Well, here he follows up with one of author Michio Kaku's other books, Physics of the Future. It's CRAZY to see where we're headed - and some of us will still be here to see it!

Imagine for a moment that you woke up in the year 2100. What would the world look like? What would be different around you? What would be the same? These are the questions that Michio Kaku attempts to answer in his latest work Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100.

Consider a work completed in 1863 by Jules Verne that had been locked away for nearly 130 years until found in 1994. The work, Paris in the Twentieth Century, predicted that “Paris in 1960 would have glass skyscrapers, air conditioning, TV, elevators, high-speed trains, gasoline-powered automobiles, fax machines, and even something resembling the Internet.” Again in 1865 he wrote From the Earth to the Moon,” where he predicted the U.S. moon landings. He even predicted the size of the space capsule within a very few percent, and the location of potential launch sites not far from Cape Canaveral in addition to the number of astronauts, the length of the mission, weightlessness, and splashdown in the ocean. Similarly Leonardo da Vinci drew diagrams of helicopters, hang gliders, and airplanes that would have flown had he had a 1-horsepower motor – all in the late 1400s. How can these predictions be made? By consulting the scientists of their time to see what is on the edge of possible.

In this book, Kaku describes life over the next 90 or so years in terms of science that is being born today in labs around the world. This isn’t the stuff of science fiction. It is the beginning of science fact. Many of the technologies are on the fast track to reality with working prototypes in labs today. So what will the world look like? Kaku separates chapters by technology group, and into three time-spans: now through 2030, 2030 through 2070, and 2070 through 2100. I had a difficult time pulling highlights for the book, but here is what I’m excited about:

Present – 2030:

How about having the internet on your glasses or contact lenses? Computer screens might be gone by 2030 with internet images being beamed directly into your retina. You could read your e-mail while on the way to work in your driverless car. If internet contacts aren’t OK with you then you can interact with the internet via your four wall screens, or flexible electronic paper. This is how you will interact with your doctor, who will use miniature MRI machines to scan your body as well as DNA sensors in your mirrors, toilet, etc. The doctor will tell you to go to a human doctor if need be. Oh, and did I mention that your doctor will be a computer program in that wall screen? But you will barely be able to tell. If you need to see a doctor he/she will be able to cure many of your diseases via early stages of gene therapy. We won’t cure cancer, but helping to repair the P53 gene will rid your body of cancer cells, perhaps decades before a tumor develops.

2030 – 2070

By midcentury Moore’s law will break down (this law states that computer speeds/computation power doubles about every 18 months or so – this has held true for decades). The reason: we can’t make transistors out of individual atoms. However new computing technologies will be developed to replace silicon. Quantum computers, DNA computers, etc., may take their place. Oh, and those internet contacts/glasses will supplement reality with augmented reality. You’ll never forget the name of a coworker again. Your glasses will give you a profile of who you’re looking at. Those same glasses will inform consumers of the best prices of any item in a grocery store at any other store, driving prices of things down. They may also become universal translators, allowing people of any languages to communicate with each other.

What about killer robots? Not by 2050. We may have reverse-engineered the brain by then, but won’t be able to program something that complex into a robot. There will be a huge number of specialized robots, but they won’t feel or be aware.

What about our energy needs? By 2050 we may have commercial fusion power plants. The plants in fact generate more energy than they consume. This means essentially endless electricity with a tiny fraction of the waste or pollution of today’s reactors.

2070 – 2100

Would you like to control matter with your mind? It may be a possibility by 2100.

Robots may become conscious by this time. However we’ll likely have put in place many safeguards to avoid a Hollywood movie scenario from developing. They’ll help us do everything we need done but don’t want to do. Additionally, we’ll begin to merge with robots in terms of prosthetics. Remember Luke Skywalker’s new hand? That will be possible by 2100.What about medicine in 2100? Well, we’ll have identified and likely be able to turn of the genes responsible for aging. Additionally, if you need a new organ for whatever reason, a new one will be grown for you in a lab from your own cells. What does this mean? It means that there is a very real possibility that there may only be a few more generations to die (save for accidents). Kaku addresses overpopulation issues with immortality, which I’ll leave out here. Do you want to live forever?

Other highlights of 2100 include: floating cars and trains that use nearly no fuel due to magnetism; terra-forming Mars; using all of the energy that hits the earth from our star. We’ll also likely know if we’re alone in the universe. We won’t be able to communicate with other civilizations on other planets, but we’ll know they’re there.

Type I Civilization

By 2100 we will have become a type I civilization, where all of our resources will be developed. Think Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon. We will have planetary communications (the Internet is the birth of this), a handful of primary languages (English and Chinese), a planetary economy (signs of which are emerging with the EU), a planetary middle class, a planetary culture, planetary news and sports, and the weakening of national borders. The key to the future will be wisdom.

There’s so much in this book to discuss, ponder, and dream about. Kaku believes that the next 90 years will define humanity. Growing pains will abound in humanity’s quest to become global and push on. Kaku describes humanity as still having the savagery that we had when we left the caves. We are trying to shed that and become more. It will be up to the next three generations to get us there. If we do not solve the problems we have today, we may be headed for collapse. Kaku provides a glimpse into what we may look like in 90 years. His book is rooted in science happening today, but is very easy to read whether you have a scientific background or not. His book is thought-provoking and intelligent. Nearly every page had me saying “wow” to myself. His mixture of past, present and future is brilliant.

We should be able to solve our problems with how much brain power we have today. Consider: of all of the people who have EVER lived, 6% of them are alive RIGHT NOW.

Posted: Fri, 07/01/2011 - 11:33 |