If Only I Was Green

Book and movie reviews, and original stories...Enter and expand your mind.

November 01, 2006

A heroic haunting...

Monday night I watched the new TV series "Heroes", this was Episode 6, and I have to say that there was a scene in the show that was the most disturbing scene I’ve seen in a very long time.

I’m a typical American who watches way too much television, so I’m used to seeing a lot of violence. But that moment when Jessica/Nikki is about to kill DL and Marcus walks into the room and distracts her, just continues to run through my mind in slow motion. The actress, Ali Larter, does an amazing job in those few seconds. The transformation from Jessica who is trying to kill DL to Nikki who has no idea what is going on is convincing. Very convincing. The microseconds of confusion and pain on Nikki’s face before she dies are haunting.

I felt a rush of emotions. The injustice of it. Knowing that Nikki had invited DL, her husband, to bed thinking that he was a murderer but loving him anyway, knowing that Nikki had no idea why she was sitting on DL or what was happening to her, all combined with Nikki’s innocence was too much. I don’t want Nikki to die without her realizing why. I want her and Jessica to work things out, to come to an understanding.

In the world of make believe I hope that Nikki is not really dead. I hope that she has a chance to create a peaceful place inside of her. And to find that out, I’ll have to continue watching...which was probably the plan in the first place!

September 04, 2006

Review: Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

"Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" is a really fascinating documentary about the rise and fall of Enron. It’s quite fascinating to watch actual video of optimistic and upbeat speeches made by both Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling to employees and investors while simultaneously seeing an overlay of the financial state of the company at the moment the speech was made. If they hadn’t been busy selling stock while the company was tanking I would say that these guys have to be the most optimistic folks I've ever seen. Totally blinded to the reality of their company and unaware that the hole they were digging was getting so deep that there was NEVER going to be a way to turn it around.

But, that isn't what they were doing. They were busy selling stock while the ship was sinking. This video presents a fascinating look at these men lying publicly, convincingly, and enthusiastically to anyone who would listen. And it's all on public record.

I'm left wondering...how did they do it? How could they have convinced a lot of very smart people that the company was doing great? How is it that the financial report could have been presented so that no one outside the top tier of Enron knew the company was in serious trouble? How is it that the board of directors didn’t suspect something? The financial information is supposed to be public record and the speech videos are public record. Arthur Anderson signed off on the financial statements so investors trusted that the information was accurate and that the company was honestly presenting its true condition. It's just crazy to me that people from several companies: Enron, Arthur Anderson, investment banks, lawyers could all be so greedy and irresponsible to allow Enron become such a problem

If everyone involved had been honest about the true state of the company and had honestly, ethically, and legally tried to fix the company where would it be today? I doubt, in the short-term, it would have risen as high as it did due to the illegal activities, but in the long run it very well could have been a star.

August 23, 2006

Baen Publishing: Revolutionaries Welcome

I’ve been busy reading and obviously I haven’t taken the time to blog about all the books. That isn’t going to change with this post! While this isn’t about a specific book this is a post about a specific publisher. My favorite author is David Weber whose books are published by Baen. About three years ago I noticed that some of Baen’s books included a CDROM attached to the back cover. The CDROM contained complete books by other Baen authors.

Because Baen provided these free books I was able to find some new authors and as a result I spent well over a hundred dollars on new books. I loved the idea. My biggest problem is finding authors that write well, have well developed characters, have believable story plots, and write in the genres that interest me. Baen made that easier with the CDROMs. And I’m happy to report that they have added another dimension to ease of use. Baen has a Free Library on their site as well as a WebSubscriptions eBook section. Go to the free library, browse around the books, read one or two, and then when you want more from the author go to the WebSubscriptions section and buy an electronic copy of the book you want. The transaction takes but a minute and you get the book right then. Easy to buy and store.

I’ve been on a John Ringo kick....I’ll write more later. ;-)

May 16, 2006

Review: Is Wal-Mart Good for America?: Frontline

I didn’t really know what to expect from this DVD. But I found a lot of food for thought in "Is Wal-Mart Good for America? ". Wal-Mart has totally turned the retail industry on its head, moving the power-base from that of the manufacturers to Wal-Mart. This documentary talks to Wal-Mart folks, ex-Wal-Mart folks, suppliers, and folks who have lost their jobs because of Wal-Mart. I see reflected in the program the changing of America. And change is hard.

I’ve written a little about the problems I had when the Internet bubble burst and the anger and frustration I felt when I wasn’t able to find work. I have felt the anger and frustration of the laid off guy from Rubbermaid. This video lets you see how the world is changing and you should extrapolate from the retail/manufacturing sectors to the technology sectors, because the same thing is happening there.

America needs to change. We need to stop taking employment for granted and we need to stop training our citizens to be employees. I’m planning on teaching my children to be more entrepreneurial because if their only option is to be an employee then they will be dependent on a condition that they have little to no control over. There are some types of work that can’t be moved overseas such as service jobs: doctors, nurses, mechanics, carpenters, drivers, etc. During down times there will be less demand for service folks but there will still be some demand. Still, even in those positions who gets laid off first? Not the owner.

As a technologist I have to keep learning. Riding on past achievements is not an option and putting my future in other people’s hands is no longer acceptable, and it is certainly no longer safe. This video only makes that clearer to me.

Review: The Comedian by Jerry Seinfeld

I’ve never found Jerry Seinfeld’s brand of humor funny so I was never a big fan of his sitcom "Seinfeld". After watching "The Comedian" I find that I now have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He threw away all his old material and started over. "The Comedian" is a documentary of his journey to create new material and in it he comes off as sincere and honest. It’s easy to rest on previous accomplishments and in many ways throwing away something that had brought him so much success seems crazy. But I think that by doing it again he gained a better understanding of his craft and himself. And I think it demonstrates, to me any way, and lot of character.

Recently I’ve been struggling with my identity as a mathematical person. I had perfect scores on both my math Regents exams (required tests to graduate with a Regents high school diploma in NY), majored in mathematics in college, and I have been writing code...for over 18 years. Yet I totally bombed on the math section of the GMAT and I’m pretty sure I failed a statistics waiver exam recently. This testing of my math knowledge has been a tremendous blow to my identity. And because of my experiences recently, I finished “The Comedian” feeling a great respect for Seinfeld. I don’t think this is the best documentary I’ve ever watched but it was eye opening and something we should all think about as we move through life....could we do it again?

April 22, 2006

Review: "Spaceman" by Jane Cutler

Well, the oldest boy got his very first library card a few weeks ago. He was quite proud and very thoughtfully checked a book out for me. I don’t know why he chose “Spaceman” by Jane Cutler but I felt obligated to read it. I suspect that it was because he LOVES space and robots and knows that I do too. But “Spaceman” is not really a story about space. It’s the story of a fifth grade boy named Gary. This is Gary’s journey from regular school to special ed. I was shocked at how the adults at the regular school were portrayed. At how inconsiderate and thoughtless they were, but I suppose that the presentation reflects reality from Gary’s perspective. This is certainly a great book for starting a conversation with your kids about how people are different and how we need to be considerate and respectful of people’s differences. I’m going to wait on reading this one to the kids until they’re old enough to have that conversation.

March 30, 2006

Review: “Excuse Me... Are you a witch?” by Emily Horn, Pawel Pawlak

I’ve been pretty swamped lately and basically the only books I’ve finished are the “These make me feel good so I’ve read them 20 times,” books and childrens books. I’ll post later about my feel good books, this post is about a childrens book that my kids love. And to be honest I really like it too. “Excuse Me... Are you a witch?” is about a black cat named Herbert who doesn’t have any one to love him. One day, while hiding out in the library, Herbert comes across a book about witches. After he reads that witches love black cats he starts looking for a witch to love him. After a few misadventures he finds some witch school girls and their teacher at the library and gets to go back to the school with them.

There is something in this book that really appeals to my youngest son (3 ½) because he has asked for it back to back. Meaning I just finished reading it and he wants to hear it again. This is rare. I don’t know if it’s because Herbert is a black cat, and so that ties into his feeling different from his family. (My son is African-American and the rest of us, although mixed race, can pass as white.) Or, if it’s about Herbert’s quest for someone to love him, playing into adoption issues. Or if he just likes the story. My guess is that it’s a little of each.

I like the story and it’s not hard to read it thirty times, which is not the case with many children’s books. I highly recommend this book to families who have young transracially adopted children. If it is the racial and adoption issues my son is working out with the book, this book might just help your kids too.

January 29, 2006

Review: "Nobody Left to Hate" by Elliot Aronson and "Dark Days"

Mal recommended “Nobody Left to Hate: Teaching Compassion After Columbine” by Elliot Aronson and I’m really glad I read it. Dr. Aronson spends the first half of the book setting the stage to help us get inside Harris and Klebold’s heads. High school is HARD and for these boys it was torture. Dr. Aronson doesn’t try to justify their actions but he does make sure that we remember how much fun our high school days were. For some of us it was hell. What I like about this book is that Dr. Aronson suggests a solution that attacks the root causes for adolescent feelings of alienation and the Lord of the Fly’s hierarchies that develop. With his graduate students Dr. Aronson has developed a learning technique called Jigsaw. The idea is to break the classroom into groups and the groups study a subject together. Each person get’s a specific part of the assignment to learn and report back their knowledge to the rest of the group. The groups have to work together because if they don’t, they will all fail. There is also a subject group made up of the person from each group that has been assigned the subject. This helps each student get a solid understanding of the material they need to present. Dr. Aronson’s testing indicates that this style of learning teaches the students to emphasize with the other members in their group (and improved academic performance). Creating a situation where the students see the value in each of the other students. Dr. Aronson explains this much better than I and for that reason you should read the book.

Reading “Nobody Left to Hate” was very timely for me. I had just seen a news report on a study that found that until American students reach high school they lead the world in their knowledge. Then high school happens and the American students fall in the testing. If I remember correctly the US is ranked down around 6th from the top. I do remember that our students are no longer in the lead. This isn’t good for the US. If teaching emotional intelligence in school can make the high school experience pleasant and improve our children’s chances at college...then I say we need seriously consider the value of implementing either Dr. Aronson’s program or one similar in all US schools. High school should be remembered as the best time of our lives.

Along the same lines, Mal and I watched the documentary “Dark Days” this weekend. The documentary is about a group of homeless folks who built homes in an empty underground train depot. If you want to talk about getting empathy for someone...I did. These folks did not satisfy any of the stereotypical images I have of the homeless. They were proud of the shacks they built themselves, they were honest about their situation, and I was really surprised at how hard some of them worked. That was the big one for me. One guy made money from collecting cans and on a good day he could make $70. But he went through a lot of garbage.

Maybe if we, as a country, took Dr. Aronson’s suggests seriously and implemented a Jigsaw program in all of our schools we would have better success as a country. Helping our citizens learn to help each other and care seems a whole lot better than teaching them to hate.

January 24, 2006

Review: "Bears Discover Fire" and "Voyage to the Red Planet" by Terry Bisson

A month or so ago Paul Park was in town for a book signing. It just happens that Paul is a college friend of Mal’s. I read some of his early work a few years ago (“The Cult of Loving Kindness” and “Sugar Rain”) so I didn’t feel totally guilty when he got to the house. I did feel a little guilty about not reading any of his more recent work. But my big guilt trip was reserved for Terry Bisson. Paul stayed with Terry during his visit to Oakland and Terry was kind enough to bring Paul up to our house. I hadn’t read a single thing that Terry had written. And some of his work had won awards like the Hugo and Nebula Awards. I love science fiction and here I have TWO sci/fi writers in my house and I don’t know their work! Well Mal served them lunch and I went off to coach a hockey game...

In an attempt to redeem myself I asked Mal to find something from Terry Bisson at the library and she ended up bringing home “Bears Discover Fire” and “Voyage to the Red Planet”. Both books were easy to read but I enjoyed “Bears Discover Fire” the most. “Bears Discover Fire” is a collection of short stories that reminded me of a cross between Andre Norton and Outer Limits. I love how he twisted reality around to provide a new view of a common situation. My favorite story was “The Message”. And I can’t tell you why I liked it without giving away the story line so you’ll just have to get your hands on it and read it yourself.

“Voyage to the Red Planet” was an interesting story about how a trip to Mars would be accomplished if Hollywood ran the world. With all of today’s DRM news it’s easy to imagine that the entertainment industry would be more than happy to own everything and stifle all creativity. This was a fun romp and good for an afternoon when you don’t want anything heavy to read.

Review: “A Love Like No Other” edited by Pamela Kruger and Jill Smolowe

I am an adoptive parent of two awesome boys. I thought A LOT about adoption and race issues before my children joined my family. And I have thought about both of those issues every day since. Whether you are an adoptive parent or thinking about adoption “A Love Like No Other” is a must read. This book is a collection of stories from families who have adopted and it seems that many of the various flavors of adoption are represented. These stories document the complexity of adoption. Not just the joyfulness of having a family but also the facts about how complicated our families and children are. Raising adopted children is not easy. Every time one of the kids has an “issue” we run through the question loop, is it an: adoption issue, racial issue, developmental issue, sleep issue, food issue, etc... My kids’ have a couple extra layers to them. It was very therapeutic to read about families that use the same loop. To read about families like mine. Our children have hurdles but they also have our love. And I have never known a greater joy than my kids. So if you are thinking about adoption read this book, you will get a better feeling about what you’re getting into. If you have already adopted, then read this book, you will feel less alone.

January 08, 2006

Review: “Princess of Wands” by John Ringo

I really liked the new approach to supernatural infestation. Barbara Everette is a soccer mom who finds that she has a higher calling. Her faith is her shield against the powers of darkness, which I found to be a really nice twist. It’s not really a novel but a collection of three stories. Two long ones and one short.

I thought it was a fun read and definitely pushed me to be open minded on the religious stuff, but Barbara isn’t as believable and 3 dimensional as I like characters to be. I can’t say I totally hated it, but I don’t think it was worth the hardcover price I paid. Check this one out from the library.

January 05, 2006

Review: “Forever Odd” by Dean Koontz

A wounded but not down Odd Thomas is back. His friend Danny is kidnapped, Danny’s father murdered, and Odd is the only one who can save him. “Forever Odd” is the sequel to “Odd Thomas” and I really had high expectations for it. Unfortunately I was disappointed. “Odd Thomas” has the best first 7 pages of any book I have ever read. Odd is a very fun character and it’s hard not to fall in love with him. His quirky view on life and death is a big part of his appeal. And you’ll find that in “Forever Odd”. But the villain Datura is so insane that I found her hard to believe. I never really did understand where she was coming from and what she wanted. I suspect that she was supposed to be some Voodoo princess but I didn’t get the connecting pieces I needed to convince me she was a real Voodoo princess and not just insane. Because of this the ending was a little on the weird side. I read “Forever Odd” because of Odd and he didn’t disappoint me but I would suggest that if you read this book, to keep a REALLY open mind about Datura and not to have really high expectations about the story line.

About Me

I read a lot. Most of the fiction I read is either science fiction or fantasy. And like many scifi readers I have dreams of becoming a scifi author. So this site will have reviews and...my own original work. I hope that you enjoy what you read here.