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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Her Own Devices (Magnificent Devices #2)Her Own Devices by Shelley Adina
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think that part of the reason so many writers and their readers are drawn to 19th Century settings for their stories is the fact that roles in that society seem very definitive compared with our "post-modern" time. We like the feeling of having boundaries if only for the chance to go beyond them.

This is apparent to me in the Magnificent Devices> series created by Shelley Adina. I have had the pleasure of reading the first two books in the series: Lady of Devices and Her Own Devices. The protagonist of the series, Lady Claire Trevelyan, is a brilliant, resourceful, and highly focused 17 year old woman who lives in an alternative Britain divided between the titled Bloods, represented in the novel by Lord James Selwyn, and the Wits, represent by the engineer Andrew Malvern. In Claire, James sees a bride who can compliment his house and bear him children while Andrew, who employs Claire as his assistant, sees a equal partner who can help his technological discoveries.

In addition to sorting out affairs of the heart, Claire must try to keep a promise she had made to a group of orphans and, reformed, cut purses who she fell in with in the course of her adventures in the first book in the series. Steam cars, carriages, steam locomotive trains, and dirigibles are the main mode of transportation. (The internal combustion engine was a failure.)

Steampunk fans will find all the devices and props that make that they enjoy in the genre. Science fiction fans will enjoy the alternative history aspects of the book. (America is referred to as "The Territories.)

Romance lovers will enjoy how Claire works through the problem of having two men love her when she is uncertain that she wants to fall in love with anyone.

In sort, this is a good, quick read and a great introduction to Steampunk writing if one has not yet been introduced to its joys.


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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite PlanetThe Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Neil deGrasse Tyson's account of how Pluto went from being the 8th planet in our solar system to being designated a "dwarf planet" in the Krupier Belt that exists beyond the orbit of Neptune. I admire people like Tyson who can take complicated scientific concepts and explain them in laymen's terms without sounding condescending. (Another book I have read which does this well is Nigel Calder's Einstein's Universe.) Tyson talks about the controversy around Pluto's demotion, if it can be called that) treating those who disagreed with or even attacked the decision fairly and without rancor. He finally states that rather than trying to define what something is or it not, we should be more concerned with the property of astronomical bodies and what these bodies have in common or in contrast with other bodies. For example, we should be more concerned with planets that have or lack atmospheres, have water or ice (along with the possibility of life), or experience weather patterns. I agree.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

The End of the Line: Romney vs. Obama: the 34 days that decided the election: Playbook 2012 (POLITICO Inside Election 2012)The End of the Line: Romney vs. Obama: the 34 days that decided the election: Playbook 2012 by Glenn Thrush, Jonathan Martin


I was a bit disappointed.

This account was workmanlike, but less than insightful than others I have read. It provides the bare details of the 2012 campaign, but view reasons for think like Romney's enormous hubris or Obama's ability to win back his base despite having so disappointed them during his term in office.

As a Democrat, I can say that the book has a good ending.

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Friday, December 07, 2012

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair GameMoneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got a view of baseball that I've never had before: the general manager's perspective. This book analyzes the success of the Oakland Athletics and their iconoclastic general manager, Billy Beane who is attempting to bring science and sense into baseball strategy and player development. Beane defied the received wisdom of the baseball world using the art of sabermetrics which purports to find the best players according to their ability to get on base and produce runs.

I enjoyed reading about Beane's live as a player and general manager. I'll follow Oakland more closely in the future

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