Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language –Deborah Fallows

Nonfiction - memoir
212 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: Yes
Illustrations: Yes (some photos, lots of Chinese writing)
Suitable for eReaders: NO!

Right off the bat, Rainy Day wants to emphasize, Do Not read this on your eReader! You won't be happy if you do. Spend the money and get a hard copy. Trust Rainy Day on this. Please.

Deborah Fallows is a linguist by training and when her husband got a job in China, she immediately began Mandarin lessons. This delightful book tells about learning to speak Mandarin, the most popular of the several spoken Chinese languages.

Every chapter begins with a few words in Hanzi and the translation. You will miss this on your eReader, or it will be too large, too small, or too pixelated (Rainy Day has read of all three happening on one reader). Throughout the book she uses Chinese writing to make a point. You will miss a lot if you can't see it.

This is not a 'how to' book. It is not a primer for learning Chinese; it is wonderful insight into one woman's attempt to learn the most difficult language in the world. And to learn the nuances of her new culture. Where you, and Rainy Day, were raised to say Please and Thank You and Would You Mind – the Chinese find all that not only unnecessary, but rude.

And do you remember having to learn all the pronouns and their uses? Uh, not so much in Chinese. 

Rainy Day can relate, in the smallest of ways, to Ms. Fallows and her problem of hearing the tones. A friend of Rainy Day's went to China, and brought her her very own chop, with the name 'rain' on it. Rainy Day was so excited (she uses it when she signs books) she went to one of the engineers she worked with who just happened to come from China. He smiled, and said it was easy to say in Chinese: Yuh. Rainy Day repeated it. Several times. She could never get the tone. Was she saying fish, at, stupid?? She doesn't know, and decided to leave speaking Chinese to people who had good hearing.

If you plan on learning Chinese, and or plan on taking a trip to China, and or just want a good read about China, get this book. Do not hesitate!

And be sure to read the notes in the back of the book, too.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Steve Jobs --by Walter Isaacson

Nonfiction, Biography
630 pages
Footnotes/End notes: Yes (not numbered)
Illustrations: Yes, photos and chapter heads
Suitable for eReaders: Yes (recommended)

Walter Isaacson has written several biographies, though this is the first Rainy Day has read. It will not be the last.

Everyone knows who Steve Jobs was, and his name will probably still be around 100 years from now. Although he was a person Rainy Day probably would never have called friend, nor he her, Rainy Day is pretty sure he would have been fascinating to know.

The news has had some stories recently about Apple manufacturing in China; at the bottom of page 546, Rainy Day came across this quote from Steve Jobs as he talked to President Obama:

"Jobs went on to urge that a way be found to train more American engineers. Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, he said, and that was because it needed 30,000 engineers on-site to support those workers. "You can't find that many in America to hire," he said. These factory engineers did not have to be PhDs or geniuses; they simply needed to have basic engineering skills for manufacturing. Tech schools, community colleges, or trade schools could train them. "If you could educate these engineers," he said, "we could move more manufacturing plants here." The argument made a strong impression on the president...."We've got to find ways (said President Obama) to train those 30,000 manufacturing engineers that Jobs told us about"."  (emphasis is Rainy Day's)

This book contained a great deal of information, not just about Jobs, but also about Apple and their products and Pixar. Rainy Day admits, she liked the part about Pixar the best – her favorite brother works there. But, she also owns a couple of Macs, and it was interesting to read how they came to be, as well as the iPod, iPad, iCloud, ietc.

There are 571 pages of text, the remaining pages are notes, resources, and index. There are some great photos, both glossy in a section, and many at the beginning of each chapter. Rainy Day's copy is a hardback, which made it very heavy to hold. Rainy Day suggests, unless the photos are super important and or you have a notepad, you get the electronic version for your eReader. The notes in the back are not called out in the text, and are resources.

Mr. Isaacson did a marvelous job, and as much as a Control Freak as Jobs was, he gave the author free reign to write the book as he, Mr. Isaacson, saw fit. He shows both sides of Jobs – the angelic, and the demonic. Steve Jobs is a very well written book about a most fascinating man who quite literally changed our world.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Thinking in Pictures --by Temple Grandin

206 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: Yes (endnotes are references)
Illustration: Yes, black & white photos
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

This is the second Temple Grandin book Rainy Day has read, the first being Emergence: Labeled Autistic (see April 2, 2012). Where the first book was more autobiographical, this book talked more about being autistic, and how she thinks in pictures.

She talks about how she is a visual thinker rather than a verbal or word thinker. She thinks in pictures and has to translate the images into words.  Toward the end, she mentions several other scientists who, she thinks, may have been to one degree or another, autistic. Scientists who are/were brilliant in their field, but lacked social skills, and perhaps even skills that today would keep them out of universities.

She discusses autistics and medications, how many autistics come from families with a history of bi-polar disorder, depression, etc. And how many autistics, especially those that are institutionalized, are drugged into stupor and warehoused, rather than being helped.

Temple Grandin holds a high regard for animals, but does not place them on equal status with humans. She understands that in order for one animal to live, another must die, but that the death should be as free of fear and pain as possible. To that end, has designed and continues to design, humane methods of controlling animals for veterinarian procedures to slaughter procedures.

Throughout the years, Rainy Day has read various books on today's educational system and what it lacks, and what it has, and how it might be changed to make it better (Lord knows, it needs some help!). Rainy Day thinks anyone who is interested in our schools and how to make them better should read Dr. Grandin's books. There are different ways of thinking that deserve different ways of teaching, and unlocking the potential of those who think differently. Different is not less, and sometimes, in some ways, it can be more.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Emergence: Labeled Autistic – by Temple Grandin and Margaret M. Scariano

A True Story
180 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: Yes (black and white photos, line drawings)
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

After seeing the movie, Temple Grandin Rainy Day had to read at least one of her books.

This woman is absolutely amazing. If you have ever known an autistic child, or adult, her book will give you an insight as to what it is like to be one. And seeing the world from their perspective.

Rainy Day cannot imagine what it must be like, but after reading Temple Grandin's book (as well as the YA novel, Marcelo in the Real World), she has a better idea.

This book is Temple's story of how, with much love and a lot of structure, she was able to emerge from her autistic world. How she learned to face her fears, get an education, and now with a  PhD owns her own business and is a college professor.

Temple Grandin thinks in pictures, not words like most of us think. It's a very unusual way of thinking. As her mother told her, she, and her way of thinking, is different – not less.

Leaving the autistic world for the 'real world' was not easy, and I suspect is still not easy for her to live here, but she has done it, and continues to do it. She travels all over the country and the world giving lectures not only in relation to her business (she designs chutes and machinery for cattle) but she talks about autism to groups of professionals and interested people.

From what I gather in reading her website, she is a very gracious lady, who takes the time to read and respond to questions.

If you know someone with autism, Rainy Day thinks you should read this book. She also thinks you should check out Temple Grandin's website. If you don't know anyone with autism, Rainy Day thinks you should read this book. You will learn something worthwhile!