Saturday, September 29, 2012

Banned Book Week. Part 1

So, I went to the bookstore yesterday and bought three books to celebrate Banned Book Week.  I found it a little difficult to select the books from this list and this list, since I have read most of them already.

The first banned book that I read was What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones.

This is a book written for teenage girls that tells the story of Sophie, a smart gifted teenage artist, who completely respects herself and her body, and discovers what it means to love someone in that innocent teenage sort of way.  

The book is obviously banned because this is definitely the sort of thing we don't want our kids reading.  Yes it talks about how she likes making out with boys (what 15 year old girl doesn't) and sneaks off sometimes to do it, but she respects herself enough to never let it go any further than that (good for her).  Apparently the part that offends the most people is the following section:

Ice Capades

on chilly nights
I stand close to my bedroom window,
unbutton my nightgown
and press my breasts 
against the cold glass
just so I can see
the amazing trick
that my nipples can do.

Really, you are going to ban a book for that.  What girl hasn't done that.....ok, I admit I've never done that, but I probably would have if I read this book when I was a teenager, and do you know what, it would have been pretty awesome.  I'm sure I would have still turned out just fine. 

The book is pretty short, it only takes an hour or so to read, but I found myself feeling a bit like a teenage girl again when I read it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Arduino Board

Look at my new Arduino Board.

Me holding my Arduino boaard

So, this little Arduino circuit board is an open source microcontroller.  For all you non-engineers out there, it is a circuit board that you can program really easily, and hook up any number of electronic devices and sensors to.  It is really easy to program, just by plugging it into your computer with a USB cable (get started here). There are lots of books and websites that are full of fun projects that use these little devices (Like this, and this, and this), that you can pick up at Radio Shack (or any number of other electronics distributors).  My boss' 15 year old daughter is using one to measure a bunch of temperature sensors for her science fair project.  So, there is no reason all for you nerdy ladies (and gentlemen) should not get one of these to play with.  

I plan on posting some of the fun projects that I plan on building with this little toy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Handmaid's Tale

So, I just finished reading The Handmaid's Tale, by Margret Attwood.  It tells the story of a theocratic society that rises from a revolution which occurred in a fictional near future of the former United States.  In this near future vision, industrial and nuclear pollution has rendered the majority of women infertile.  Because of this epidemic of infertility the upper ranks of society utilize a select group of still fertile women to act as "Handmaids".

The title of the book is inspired by the titles from the Canterbury Tales (by Geoffrey Chaucer), and the inspiration for the role of the "Handmaid" comes from a verse in the book of Genisis (30:1-3) 

"When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, Give me children or I shall die! Then she said, Here is my maid Bilhah; go in to her, that she may bear upon my knees, and even I may have children through her.'"

Although I consider myself a  religious person,  the novel presents a vision of what could happen if all of the Christian zealots in the United States got everything they wanted.  It is not a rosy future.

There were a few things in the book (originally published in 1985) that were very forward thinking, and not a little bit scary.  In particular, it is mentioned that the use of electronic money transfer was one of the key elements in allowing the revolutionary group seize control of the former US population.  Because cash had become obsolete and not used, the revolutionaries were able to freeze the bank accounts of all the women in the country as well as (presumably) any political opponents.  In doing so, they were able to completely subjugate all the women in the country with one swift move.  The most foreboding aspect of this is that in today's society cash is becoming more and more obsolete, which is consolidating a tremendous amount of power in the hands of the people who control the electronic transfer of money.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the book an I highly recommend it.  Don't forget to read the final section titled "Historical Notes on The Handmaid's Tale", it is a clever epilog, written as an academic conference lecture set in the far future (approx 150 years after the events in the novel), that put a lot of the ambiguous parts of the story in perspective.   A movie was made in the early 1990s based on the book, which was pretty lousy.