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review 2017-10-21 18:31
Artemis
Artemis - Andy Weir

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I loved “The Martian”, so of course I was bound to request this one. To be fair, I didn’t enjoy it as much, but it was still a good, fun read in several ways.

I found the characters in general likeable enough, in definite ‘shades of grey. The ‘heroes’ of this story are seldom all white, and go about their business with good intentions and shady ways. The businessman who moved to the moon to help his ailing daughter, but is a crook on the side. The economist who almost single-handedly set a whole country as the only entry point to the Moon, and won’t shy away from closing eyes on criminal deals as long as they help keeping Artemis afloat. The city’s policeman (Artemis has something like 2,000 inhabitants, minus the tourists, so Rudy does the job) who’s keeping order by breaking a few arms at times if he deems it’ll be a better punishment than prison. And, of course, Jazz Bashara herself, porter by day, smuggler by night, of sorts, running her little operation with no one the wiser.

(Granted, not everyone is a complete a-hole here, Jazz’s father for instance is a law-abiding citizen who doesn’t want anything to do with his daughter’s shady side; on the other hand, Jazz clearly has him to thank for her own ethical side, the one that makes her never renege on a deal, and puts her in the (trustworthy criminal’ category, so to speak.)

The story itself starts in a fairly typical way for heist stories: Jazz needs money, her criminal activities aren’t bringing in as much as she needs, nor quickly enough, so when a dangerous but particularly juicy deal comes her way, she shoves her qualms in her pocket and accepts it. Only it turns out she’s bitten more than she could chew, and finds herself embroiled in an almost conspiracy, forcing her to gather all her wits, resources and allies in order to find a way out. All in all, the kind of story I like to read: maybe not the most original, but with high potential for action, fun, quirky characters, and, well, capers.

There isn’t as much technical detailing in this novel as there was in “The Martian”, so it’s definitely not hard to follow. The whole caper(s) resting on scientific knowledge and using the moon’s gravity and peculiar sides to work within the plan, that was really interesting for me. Maybe the welding-related descriptions were a little too long at times, though; at least, I didn’t care as much about those as I did about other scientific explanations.

I liked the overall diversity in Artemis. This small city has, from A to Z, a multicultural side that I think worked well, and didn’t rest on the usual ‘Western world colonises space’ (Kenya and its space company holds the entry door to the moon, Artemis’s administrator is a Kenyan woman, the policeman is Canadian, Jazz and her father are from Saudi Arabia, many of Jazz’s contacts are Vietnamese or Slavic, etc.).

I wasn’t totally on board with the way Jazz told the story, though. The wit didn’t work as well here as it did in “The Martian”, mostly, I’d say, because there’s too much of a dichotomy between Jazz’s ‘voice’ and her age: sometime in the middle of the story, we learn she’s 26, but from her tone, attitude, expressions and way of being, I would’ve thought her late teens/20, and not older. There -is- an immature side to her character, so in itself it’s not like her voice doesn’t fit at all, yet it didn’t feel ‘right’ either.

Conclusion: 3.5 stars. Disregard the author’s previous best-seller, take this story as it comes, and enjoy the heist parts, the assembling of Jazz’s motley crew, the description of Artemis, and the outings on the Moon in an EVA suit that can spring a leak just any time due to the characters attempting bold moves and daring rescues.

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review 2017-10-21 17:43
Neurodiversity in Higher Education, David Pollak (ed.)
Neurodiversity in Higher Education: Positive Responses to Specific Learning Differences - David Pollak

Neurodiversity is a label for the concept that there is not merely one way of thinking but many. This doesn't mean variation of opinion. It means fundamental variation in mode of thought and processing of information that does not constitute an intellectual impairment. Things covered by this umbrella term include amongst others: Dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, AD(H)D and autism/Asperger's Syndrome. The term originally arose within the online autism/Asperger's Syndrome (AS henceforth) community.

 

This book represents an excellent introduction to its topic. Whilst some of it is UK specific, most of the material applies across national boundaries. The UK-specific material is about the law and the existing specific support services. The remainder can be imported to any country where there is willingness to adapt within the Higher Education sector (HEIs henceforth).

 

Key concepts are the medical vs. social models of disability, the responsibility on institutions to pro-actively adapt to the needs of disabled students and adoption of a constructive culture amongst the lecturing staff and the consequent need for education of the same.

 

Medical vs Social Model: The medical model is that there is something wrong with the disabled person and this should be fixed where possible. The social model is that disability arises because of the barriers put in place by society that prevent people who are different from that society's concept of "normal" from fully participating in society. These concepts are generally taken as being fundamentally in conflict. An example from outside neurodiversity is the Deaf community which tends to believe that its culture is under threat of extinction from modern medicine which is increasingly able to cure or mitigate severe forms of hearing impairment. Within neurodiversity the AS community is for the most part extremely hostile to the concept that the have a medical problem that is in need of a cure. The opposing forces are mainly the USA's medical insurance industry which cannot make money out of a condition that requires lifelong support and intervention and parents who "just want their child to be normal." These forces are so strong that AS has been removed from the latest edition of the USA's psychological diagnostic manual, the DSM V and many desperate parents subject their children to quack practioners' harmful and ineffective "cures."


I do not believe that casting medical vs. social models of disability as complete polar opposites that necessarily must conflict is necessary or fully accurate. For instance many people with AD(H)D can and do benefit from drug therapies. It should be entirely down to the individual to decide whether to go down this road. The decision should be an informed one and social pressure to conform to standards of normality should not be a factor. On the other hand, "curing" AS means effectively destroying one personality and replacing it with another. I can't really see the distinction between this and murder.

 

Pro-active adaptation to the needs of disabled students: This means that waiting for a student with a specific disability to rock up at an institution before considering what needs to be changed for them isn't good enough: best practice needs to be implemented across the board regardless of whether any specific disability is represented within the student body at any given time. This is a legal requirement for HEIs in the UK. This approach has enormous benefits for the affected students, who face less of a battle to get the adjustments they need and reduced institutional hostility towards them. Many of the adaptations are beneficial regarding more than one type of disability are incidentally beneficial to many students who aren't legally classified as disabled in any way.

 

Staff attitude and awareness: without this, most of the necessary adaptations for neurodiversity simply are not possible, since the greatest need neurodiverse people have is to be treated with respect and understanding. Everything else follows from that - with relative ease if pro-active measures have been adopted by the institution. By contrast, attitudes that perceive neurodiversity as a bogus label for people who are stupid/badly behaved are guaranteed to prevent maximum achievement. It is strongly recommended that appraisal/promotion of staff be linked to engagement with appropriate training.

 

The book itself is good, providing as much clarity as is possible in an area that remains fundamentally murky - definitions of many neurodiverse conditions remain varied and controvercial - and offering some insight into the problems these conditions can cause, especially in the context of HEIs. It mostly focuses on undergraduates but some space is given to postgraduate students. Occasionally it is vague or assumes knowledge. (I still don't know what "over-learning" is and I'm guessing what "multi-sensory learning" is.) Most of the advice on best practice is hearteningly specific, though. The chapter on assistive technology is showing its age already. The book was published in 2007 and in the time since then smart phones have become ubiquitous and revolutionised this topic along with so much else. One enduring point raised, though, is that one person's necessary assistive technology is another person's useful but only socially requisite toy. (Pretty much all computer technology falls into this category.)

 

This book is worth the time of anybody involved in education, giving or receiving, largely independently of at what level, and additionally to anybody interested in neurodiversity at all or disability generally.

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review 2017-10-21 17:24
Slow Heat by Leta Blake Review
Slow Heat - Leta Blake

Professor Vale Aman has crafted a good life for himself. An unbonded omega in his mid-thirties, he's long since given up hope that he'll meet a compatible alpha, let alone his destined mate. He's fulfilled by his career, his poetry, his cat, and his friends.

When Jason Sabel, a much younger alpha, imprints on Vale in a shocking and public way, longings are ignited that can't be ignored. Fighting their strong sexual urges, Jason and Vale must agree to contract with each other before they can consummate their passion.

But for Vale, being with Jason means giving up his independence and placing his future in the hands of an untested alpha--as well as facing the scars of his own tumultuous past. He isn't sure it's worth it. But Jason isn't giving up his destined mate without a fight.

This is a stand alone gay romance novel, 118,000 words, with a strong happy ending, as well as a well-crafted, non-shifter omegaverse, with alphas, betas, omegas, male pregnancy, heat, and knotting. Content warning for pregnancy loss and aftermath.

 

Review

 

Leta Blake is a very good writer and this is a compelling world that she has built.

The heroes are a fascinating. The fated mated troupe is examined with care as is the aspects of age difference, fertility, and gender.

There are no women but this book is a lot of about women's rights or really the truth of being in the body that gives birth.

It is a heart breaking book but you will be believe in the HEA.

Why it is not a higher rated book for me is that I wanted more of the love story and some of the body issues of men giving birth just ... bleh. lol And I couldn't settle in with the tone of the book but I can see someone else really loving it.

 

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review 2017-10-21 16:18
Reread of Brother's Ruin by Emma Newman
Brother's Ruin - Emma Newman

Series: Industrial Magic #1

 

The second novella in Emma Newman's Industrial Magic series came out last week, and I was just hazy enough on the details of the first one that I decided to reread it before reading the second (plus novella so it's short). If anything, I think I enjoyed it more this time around and felt more forgiving towards some of the things that felt too convenient before. This is basically an alternate history that takes place in the Victorian era where the industrial revolution is being helped along by magic and magic used in industrial settings. The story takes places in London.

 

My first review can be found here.

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review 2017-10-21 16:00
C = B * log2(1+S/N): "An Equation for Every Occasion - Fifty-Two Formulas and Why They Matter" by John M. Henshaw
An Equation for Every Occasion: Fifty-Two Formulas and Why They Matter - John M Henshaw
Oh man, I once had a heated debate with someone, who was convinced that vinyl gave better sound quality than CDs because it contained higher frequencies than 22.05 kHz. And that those frequencies would "harmonically" influence the lower frequencies, even though he accepted his ears could only detect  <  20 kHz. He was insistent that he could hear the difference, despite his ear essentially being a low-pass filter (well ok band pass, but you know what I mean). Apparently they don't teach linear superposition in some engineering courses.
 
One of the glaring absences is the mentioning of the contribution of Boltzmann who was the first person to formulate the logarithmic function to connect the average uncertainty with the probability of random variable. Shannon had extended this result into the communication scenario to propose two theorems-source coding theorem and the channel coding theorem-that are the basis of the modern communication technology; Shannon’s treatment became “Shannon’s Law.” Until then nobody really knew what they were doing before Shannon. It was all very ad-hoc.
 
 
If you're into Computer Science, read on.
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