Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Her review

Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew HerInto the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Her by Rowland White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really well-written book about the development and first flight of the Space Shuttle. It had me on the edge of my seat despite knowing generally what happened 🙂

But reading it made me think of the classic rant A Rocket to Nowhere and while the engineering behind the Shuttle was amazing given all the compromises they had to make, it’s hard not to think of the whole program as a big missed opportunity.

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Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within review

Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness WithinJoy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within by Chade-Meng Tan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A nice introduction to meditation. I used to consider myself a fairly cool-headed person, but it turns out when I have the stress and fatigue that come with a new baby, that is less true 😦 So I picked up some tips that will hopefully help, even if I don’t think I’ll follow the program he lays out for really getting good at meditation.

He does make the point that it doesn’t take that much time (a few hours!) to get benefits from meditation, so maybe I will give it a real shot at some point. The book is interesting and worth a read!

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Sourdough review

SourdoughSourdough by Robin Sloan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Similar in spirit to the author’s other book Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – there’s a whole hidden world among us, only this time it’s about food instead of books. I enjoyed it a lot but one of the computer-y parts stuck in my craw a little. Still, if you liked Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, you’ll like this!

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No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind review

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing MindNo-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting book! It touches briefly on “natural consequences”, but here are some of the more interesting bits:
– The goal of discipline is to teach, not to punish. Which isn’t to say that you don’t have to punish ever (although natural consequence are best as opposed to punitive ones), but that shouldn’t be your first priority.
– When your kid is experiencing a strong emotion (including a tantrum), the first step should be to connect with them. Probably their “lower brain” is in control, which means being rational with them won’t work, but being firm/yelling at them is just going to scare them. Hold or touch your child, get below their eye level, and comfort them.
– Try not to invalidate their emotions – it’s not really their fault they have strong feelings, it’s where they are in development. (consider how irritating it is if you’re angry and someone says “Hey, there’s no reason to be angry!”) Acknowledge their feelings.
– But how they’re reacting to their emotions may not be OK – i.e. it’s OK to feel really mad, but don’t hit. Instead try to help them find ways of dealing with their anger.
– Talk less in the moment. Listen more to what your child is saying, and let them know that you’re listening by repeating things back to them.
– When your kid does something wrong, ask yourself three questions: Why did my child act this way? What lesson do I want to teach? and How can I best teach it?
– If you’re overly emotional it’s OK to stop the bad behavior but withdraw and collect yourself before going through those steps.
– It talks about being consistent but not rigid. You should set consistent rules but it’s OK to make exceptions for special occasions (especially when you’re traveling!) (this is a fine distinction that I’m not sure I 100% understand)
– The book has an interesting view on tantrums. The usual advice I’ve read is to not engage and just ignore the tantrum until it’s done. This book says that almost all tantrums are caused by emotions in the “lower brain” that kids can’t consciously control, and it’s important to show your child that you love and support them even when they do bad things, so still try to connect with them. But it’s OK to stop them from throwing things, etc. A useful phrase I saw is “I see you’re having trouble controlling your body, so I’ll help you with that”.
– For older kids, having a discussion about why they did what they did and how they can make things right is far superior to lecturing them. You want your kid to learn these skills for herself. Plus if you lecture/punish them the focus quickly becomes “My parents are the worst!” instead of “I feel bad because I did something wrong”. (and you want them to feel a little bad!)
– If kids are acting up, odds are it’s because they’re either Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired (HALT!)

Thankfully the book acknowledges that it’s hard to take this approach, but the more you do it the more your child will learn to handle her emotions.

Anyway, it’s worth a shot. We’ve just started disciplining Vanessa a little bit. If this approach actually works I’ll come back in 3 years and update the review to 5 stars 🙂

(thanks to Patrice for lending it to us!)

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Hard Choices review

Hard ChoicesHard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Man, Hillary was busy as Secretary of State! The book is long and certainly interesting in parts, but it wasn’t really a page turner for me.

It is interesting reading about Hillary’s philosophy about American power – basically, that it can be a force of good in the world, and the various sections of the book do offer evidence for this.

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Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything review

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin EverythingSoonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly Weinersmith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very good book! Each chapter takes a look at the current state of an emerging technology, what might come in the future, concerns with the development of that technology, and how it would change the world. The technologies run the gamut from things I expected (cheap access to space, fusion power) to…well, things I didn’t (programmable matter, robotic construction). The chapters are long enough to really get into a lot of details, which is great since I’m familiar with the basics of some of this stuff.

Oh, and one of the authors is the guy who writes Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, which is like the second-geekiest comic I read (xkcd is #1), so there are comics intermixed and the whole thing is pretty funny.

Highly recommended! (honestly, it’s really closer to 4.5 stars, but the other author is a professor at Rice and she talks to a number of other Rice professors so I’m rounding up 🙂 )

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