Thursday, September 27, 2007

Vampires and Werewolves team up?

Title: Eclipse
Author: Stephenie Meyer

This is book three in the vampire/werewolf series by Stephenie Meyer and it's quite tasty.

Edward's return to Forks is throwing Bella's friendship with Jacob for a loop. Edward quickly becomes the overbearing, controlling (read: bastard) boyfriend who forbids Bella to visit Jacob.

However, Jacob foils these plans by "kidnapping" Bella. Shortly after that, Edward realizes what a jerk he's being and decides to no longer prevent Bella from being with Jacob.

Going on in the sidelines is a rash of killings in Seattle, which gets progressively worse. Edward and his family realize that a vampire is at large. What they don't realize until very nearly too late is that it's not just one vampire, not two, but almost 20! And they are all after Bella.

Victoria, the vindictive vampire who is out for revenge after Edward killed her lover, has been biting victims to make an army of young vampires. She sends her second in command to steal clothing from Bella's room in order to give the new vampires Bella's scent. And now they are headed to Forks.

With so many vampires, the odds are even at best for the seven Cullenses (the good vampires). That's when the werewolves offer to join the fight.

The battle rages. Will the vampire-werewolf team triumph over Victoria? Or will Victoria succeed and kill Bella? You'll have to read the book to find out (or take a wild guess...).

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posted by Kate at 11:20 PM


Thursday, September 20, 2007

the hardest math problem, ever

Fermat's Last Theorem
by: Amir D. Aczel
bookmark: resubscribe notice from National Geographic Adventure Magazine

Remember the Pythagorean Theorem? x^2 + y^2 = z^2 -- that one? It says that a square number can be broken down ino the sum of two other square numbers. Three hundred and sixty years ago, a French jurist named Pierre de Fermat, who dabbled in mathematics in his spare time (those crazy jurists!!), was reading about a related problem on breaking a square number into the sum of two squares, when he jotted this note in the margin of the very rare book Arithmetica, written by a third-century Greek named Diophantus:

On the other hand, it is impossible to separate a cube into two cubes, or a biquadrate into two biquadrates, or generally any power except a square into two powers with the same exponent. I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which, however, the margin is not large enough to contain.

Two conclusions arise from this: First, Fermat's local library probably hated him. Second, he seems to have kind of a wry sense of humor.

More importantly, this simple statement came to be known as Fermat's Last Theorem, and went on to become perhaps the most vexing problem in all of mathematics. We don't call it his Last Theorem because it was the last one he wrote--we're not even sure when he wrote it, and that copy of Arithmetica has long since been lost to the ages. It's referred to as his last theorem because all of his other theorems had already been either proven or disproven--decades or even centuries ago. This one stumped everybody.

In fact, it proved so vexing that it would take over three hundred years and the work of dozens of mathematicians working all fields of mathematics to solve it. So vexing that entire new branches of mathematics, even new numbers had to be invented before we could even approach the solution.

Aczel manages an incredible task. He collapses four millenia of mathematical history into 136 pages (the book is hardcover, and I carried it around in my back pocket for a couple days) that are... gripping. I'll readily and happily admit that I'm probably the biggest geek on this blog (we have lots of book geeks, a law geek, a theater/singing/dance geek, and a champion of libraries, but I'm a straight-up math and science geek. ~e is my closest competition here, and I think even she'd agree I have an edge), but I'm also fond of telling people that I'm not very good at math. You don't have to be. Anybody who's made it through high school algebra, and maybe a touch of calculus, can understand this book. Aczel explains everything you need to know to understand how Andrew Wiles eventually developed a solution to the Hardest Math Problem Ever. When he gets to the more advanced stuff--math that is truly understood by maybe a dozen people in the entire world--he gives an explanation that is general enough to give the reader a basic idea of what's happening, without actually going into so much detail as to lose anyone. For all the math explained in this tiny book, there's hardly any numbers anywhere. Aczel could explain these concepts to an English major, and they'd still come out of it feeling more enlightened than befuddled.

That's what is most fascinating to me about this book. I mean, sure--the book has it all. Political intrigue, suicide, deception, theft, deceit, betrayal, centuries of history and scientific progress, secret societies, and lots and lots of math, but it's crammed neatly and tidily into a very small volume. It's easily readable by anyone with a good grasp of math, and not too daunting for anyone else. The book is entirely unlike the problem, which had everybody stumped for so long that many of the brightest mathematical minds this world has ever seen simply dismissed it, believing that it would either never be solved or at least not in their lifetimes.

Aczel writes:

What is interesting about Fermat's Last Theorem, however, is that it spans mathematical history from the dawn of civilization to our own time. And the theorem's ultimate solution also spans the breadth of mathematics, involving fields other than number theory: algebra, analysis, geometry, and topology--virtually all of mathematics.

And in that, the book is exactly like the problem

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posted by reyn at 7:58 AM


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Doctoring in Haiti

Title: Mountains Beyond Mountains
Author: Tracy Kidder

This excellent book tells the true story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard Medical School graduate who selflessly devotes himself to healing the poor.

Raised in more-or-less poverty, Farmer has a deep sympathy for and desire to help the poor. As a young man he travels to Haiti, discovering the horrifying conditions there. Later he returns and builds a clinic, Zanmi Lasante, in Cange. There, a disease all but eliminated in the US runs rampant. TB afflicts many Haitians, and worse, some of those strains are MDR-TB, or multi-drug resistant TB.

Throughout the next 20 or so years, Paul and his friends also set up clinics and programs for dealing with MDR-TB in Peru and Russia. He helps to change the World Health Organization's treatment policy for TB, which sometimes actually increases the likelihood that a patient will end up with MDR-TB. He also treats sufferers of AIDS, writes grants, flies all over the world, gives lectures, writes books and articles, answers hundreds of emails a day, and still finds time to personally treat patients. The man is amazing.

I have already looked up the website of Farmer's nonprofit organization, Partners in Health (PiH), with the intent of donating money in the near future. You always read about philanthropic organizations where very little money goes to the recipients and most goes to administrative efforts. Not so with PiH. Its administrators do not make much to begin with and commonly donate money to help with PiH's efforts. Paul himself seems to survive on very little income, instead giving much of what he has to help PiH.

All in all, Farmer's selflessness and the dedication of Partners in Health is simply amazing and inspiring, and this book is well-worth a read.

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posted by Kate at 10:57 AM


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Now with Werewolves!

Title: New Moon
Author: Stephenie Meyers

In book two of this delicious vampire series, the Cullens family (the vampires) leaves Forks, Washington. Bella is a magnet for danger, and Edward feels that he and his family can no longer add to that. So they leave.

Bella is left wallowing in the deepest pits of despair. After months of excessive amounts of schoolwork as distraction, she visits a friend and Quiluete Indian, Jacob Black, to get help restoring two very old motorcycles. Bella has discovered that when she puts her life in danger, she can clearly hear Edward's voice yelling at her to knock it off. She wants to keep hearing his voice, and she figures a motorcycle is as good a way as any.

Jacob immediately agrees to help, as he, like every male in these books, has a crush on Bella. Bella soon finds that she enjoys his company immensely and he is the only one who can bring her out of her depression. However, she does not return his romantic feelings.

Then, one day, Jacob refuses to see her. She is told by his father, Billy, that Jacob is very sick. But the sickness lasts a month or more, and she occasionally sees Jacob in town. Then, Jacob visits her in the middle of the night, telling her that she should already know what has happened to him. He cannot tell her, but she can guess it. Remembering a story he'd told her about the Quiluete tribe and the pact they made with the vampires, she realizes he has become a werewolf. Being accustomed to vampires, she has no trouble accepting a werewolf.

But a nasty vampire named Victoria is stalking Bella. Jacob and his pack try to protect her. Then Alice, Edward's sister, returns to tell Bella that Edward has gone to a vampire family in Italy in a suicide attempt (he thinks Bella's dead). Danger and accidents abound. Friendships are re-established while others are broken.

It's a big mess, and I can't wait to find out what happens in the next one!

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posted by Kate at 7:24 AM


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Like a vampire book? Me?

Title: Twilight
Author: Stephenie Meyer

I never thought I'd read a vampire book, let alone one that I simply could not put down. However, when the third book of this series beat out Harry Potter 7 on the NYT bestseller list after only a few weeks, I thought I had to try it.

Isabella Swan, or Bella, is a high school senior who has just moved from sunny Arizona to live with her father, Charlie, in Forks, Washington - the location with the most rainfall in the United States. Everything is far too green for her and she is having a horrible time.

But then she meets Edward Cullens. Edward and his adopted siblings, Alice, Jasper, and Rosalie, keep to themselves. They "eat" lunch by themselves - they get food, but they always throw it away untouched.

At first, Bella thinks Edward loathes her. Later, she discovers that he finds her so tempting the he is trying to avoid her at all costs. He's a vampire and she smells more delicious to him than any other human ever has. Of course, that translates to him being madly in love with her. She feels the same.

Then some different vampires come to town, ones who haven't trained themselves to be around humans and only to hunt animals. Edward protects Bella from one of them, and soon this vampire, James, has decided that he must suck Bella's blood. He stalks her endlessly, eventually attacks her, and bites her, but Edward saves the day. He sucks the poison out of her blood, and is able to stop himself from draining her fully.

How romantic.

Hmmm, this review makes the book sound pretty cheesy actually. It is at times but it is also really good. I'm already "devouring" the second one!

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posted by Kate at 9:32 PM


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Fraternity of Death

I read a book. Sort of.

This'll be combined take on two books in a series (although the second book takes place during the senior year, so I don't know how much more the author can do. I read the first one a while back and now am most of the way through the second. Both copies were galley proofs.

I have a weakness for anything vaguely greek related, even if it's fictional really really secret society greek-y such as the 'Rose & Grave' organization in this book. I kinda got hooked into the first book when the main character mentioned Cleveland related stuff that you wouldn't know unless you'd been there or lived there; I'll assume that the author lived there before she ran away to be famous.

These books are decent light reads. They have that teen drama guilty pleasure feel, but the language and sex keep them in the grown-up section. A good dose of girl power gets added in since the story focuses on the first group of girls allowed into the boys club, which of course includes high ranking government people and CEOs and such.

There's also good boy friend, and a bad boyfriend (very P&P, a major addiction of mine)...

posted by ~e at 5:33 PM