Treehouses, Huts and Forts

I chose to review this book because I love building things, and I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the zero people who actually read these posts. All my life I have built things, and I actually built a treehouse in Maine once.

How to Build Treehouses, Huts, and Forts gives you step-by-step instructions to build all sorts of shelters. For treehouses, it gives you instructions on how to pick the right tree, how to make the platforms and floors, as well as some carpentry tips. After that, it gives you materials lists and how-tos for the more difficult parts of the different builds. The book also tells you how to make a catapult, tennis ball cannon, and treasure chest, along with several snow forts.

One of the treehouses in the book is a Mountain Stream Hut. It is basically a bridge with a roof over the center. I really like it due to its simplicity and practicality. It can be used as a bridge for hikers and backpackers, or even an overnight shelter. And, as the book points out, if you build it in some woods, you can cut down a few trees to make it, rather than buying the supplies at a hardware store. I would really like to build this “hut” somewhere.

This book reminds me of several other books I have about building treehouses and huts because they are very similar in content, only with different house designs. I also have a book that doesn’t really tell you how to build treehouses but has many different pictures of awesome ones people have built. I have a treehouse book called Treehouses and Playhouses You Can Build by David and Jeanie Stiles, the same people who wrote this book.

I think the author of this book is trying to get kids outside and building things, and attempting to provide most of the important information that they would need.

This is a great book, from my treehouse loving, totally unbiased point of view. I would give it a solid six out of five, with an extra helping of maple syrup goodness. Hey, syrup comes from trees, I thought the joke might work.

Snow Crash

I was at Green Apple Books a little while ago and was browsing their science fiction section when I saw a book with a sword on the cover. I was like “ooh, a sword, and picked it up. The book was called Snow Crash, one of Neil Stephenson’s first books. I began reading it, and I really liked the futuristic-ness of it.

The book starts out in a world where cities have seceded and become corporation-run city-states. Outside of the city-states, you can pretty much do whatever you want. There is a virtual world called the Metaverse, where you can be safe from all the nasty bits of Reality, until someone programs a virtual information-virus that turns programmer’s brains to mush. The virus-makers then proceed to suck out all the blood of the programmers and use it to spread the virus to a ton of other people. They aren’t going to stop until the whole world is infected, and the only people who can stop them are the main character, Hiro Protagonist, a teenage delivery driver named Y.T., and a group of semi-special ops soldiers from the Mafia. The Mafia is a corporation that runs, among other things, a high-speed delivery pizza company.

One of the characters in the book is a teenage girl who goes by Y.T, or Yours Truly, so you never know her real name. She is a Kourier, a kind of high-speed parcel-delivery person. Kouriers ride skateboards and use a “Magnapoon” or “poon” that magnetically latches on to vehicles to travel around and deliver things. I would like to meet her because she is confident and very snarky at times, but she is really nice underneath her cynical exterior.

This book is similar to The Giver, and The Hunger Games in that they are very futuristic and dystopian. Snow Crash was published originally in 1983, and so far the present is eerily similar to the future that the book talks about. Large companies and corporations control a lot of daily life, and can’t be punished or controlled easily. If we continue on this route, our country might end up like in the book.

The author is trying to give a warning as to what could happen in our high-tech future.

This book was really good but quite confusing. There were a lot of long words that even I, a person with a large vocabulary, didn’t understand. I could guess what most of them meant from context, but some I had to look up. I would recommend a minimum reading age of 13, just because the words are so big and the dialogue is hard to follow in some parts of the book due to the complex subject matter. Other than that, it is a great book and I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Dealing with Stress

In The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,  some of the techniques Siobhan gives Christopher to deal with stress are to slowly take deep breaths, and count the cubes of cardinal numbers. Some of the situations I find stressful or overwhelming are public speaking or speaking in front of a large group, or doing any sort of timed writing exercise. I, like Christopher, have techniques for dealing with stress. When I have to speak in front of a large group I usually take deep breaths and focus on one point in the audience, rather than the mass of people watching me. With writing, I tend to try and convince myself that I can do it despite what my subconscious is telling me.

Trips

The longest trip that I have gone on by myself that I can remember is taking BART and the bus home after school. It was pretty fun and once I started I felt more independent than before. The only thing I got stuck on was figuring out which bus to take because there were several lines that I could take but I didn’t know whether they would stop where I wanted to get off. The weirdest situation I have ever gotten into on public transit was this one time on the bus when this guy got up in my face and started shouting random words at me. I just kind of ignored him and he went away. It scared me a little bit because it wasn’t exactly nice to have some random crazy person shouting in my face.

Lies

The first time I was lied to by someone with authority over me was the lie most children are told. That Santa is real. It’s not a bad lie at all, and it makes most kid’s childhoods better. I first started realizing that my parents were lying when I began to read books that told stories where he didn’t exist, and when that one know-it-all friend everyone has insisted “Santa isn’t real. My parents told me so.” Eventually, I came to accept that fact, but I wasn’t mad that my parents lied because I had had many fun adventures trying to catch him. My favorite one was when I was six or seven. I rigged up a motion-sensitive camera to try and get pictures of Santa leaving presents under our tree. When I got up in the morning, the camera was on the couch with a note that said something along the lines of “stop tryna catch me you silly kid” except more nicely.

I have lied to kids younger than myself many times, usually to keep them from bothering me while I read or did homework. I would say something like, “hey, you’re not supposed to be over here right now. *teacher’s name* told me so,” or “your parents are looking for you, go find them.” I don’t think that those kinds of lies are particularly bad, but that could just be from my point of view and the little kid is actually devastated that they trusted me. They probably had forgotten about the whole thing less than two hours later, so I didn’t feel too bad about it.

Pocket Stuff

Some of the things I have in my pockets on a daily basis are my phone, wallet, and keys. On my keys I also have a flashlight and a USB drive that I installed OS X on. That allows me to use any computer as a screen and run my stuff off the thumb drive. My wallet has some money, my library card, my Clipper card, and my school ID.

These items show several things about me. My keys and clipper card show that I’m somewhat independent. My thumb drive and phone show that I’m a techy person, and who doesn’t need a flashlight? My library card shows that I like to read. I don’t know why I carry my school ID around, because I don’t know what it’s for.

Aspergers Syndrome

The symptoms of Asperger Syndrome are categorized as behavioral, muscular, and mood. The behavioral symptoms are aggression, compulsive behavior, fidgeting, impulsivity, repetitive movements, social isolation, and persistent repetition of words or actions. The muscular symptoms are the inability to combine muscle movements and poor coordination. The mood symptoms are anger, anxiety, and apprehension, as well as depression, intense interest in a limited number of things, learning disability, nightmares, or sensitivity to sound.

There is a wide spectrum of difficulties that someone with Aspergers has to face. They might find it hard to understand that conversations are a two-way process, or have problems interpreting gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice. They also have difficulties with unwritten social rules, like when it is appropriate to touch someone and what things are OK to talk about in public.

One thing I find difficult in my daily life is staying on task. I have a tendency to get distracted and forget what I was doing, especially when I’m on my computer. I remember something I had to do a few days ago and finish that, but in doing so I get completely sidetracked. In order to keep myself on task, I try and stop to think about what I’m supposed to be doing. It helps keep me working on one task at once so I don’t get distracted.

The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings

I chose to review this book because I just applied to the Architecture and Design program at SOTA. My uncle, who is an architect, sent me this book for Christmas. It is called The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings, by Marc Kushner.

It is a collection of buildings that show how architecture can shape your life. Architecture is not only used to define space but also to affect how people feel about that space and about themselves. It can be humorous and whimsical or serious and imposing. It can lift you up or bring you down. The buildings are divided into several categories like Extreme Locations, Reinvention, and Nature Building. Extreme Locations focuses on buildings and structures in remote places on Earth, even the moon. Reinvention is about taking something you would never associate with a house, such as a factory or a freeway, and turning it into a residence. Nature building is a compilation of structures that are built in or among nature, not on top of it. Other categories include Pop-Up, Shape Shifters, and Fast-Forward.

One of my favorites in the Nature Building section is a treehouse covered in mirrored panels that camouflage it into its forest environment. The mirrors are coated with a substance that makes them visible to birds so they don’t fly into them. Another favorite is the Aqua building in Chicago, which falls under the Shape Shifters category. The architect designed the floors to extend out to the balcony on each level in swoops that create a sort of ripple effect on the sides of the building, directing the wind away from the people who are on the balconies. I also love a ski jump in Sweden that is basically a diagonal bridge structure that cantilevers off a hill.

There really aren’t any characters in the book, since it’s a compilation of pictures, computer renderings, and descriptions. That said, if you consider buildings to be characters the treehouse in the previous paragraph would be my favorite because it’s like a secret hideaway. I would love to see the treehouse in person. The combination of treehouse and sci-fi makes me think of it as a sort of stealth treehouse.

This book is awesome since it has so many interesting and unusual building designs—great for coming up with new ideas for houses or other structures. I would give it 4/5 stars.

This book is similar to the ten other architecture books my parents gave me to prepare for my SOTA audition in that they all talk about how architecture shapes our world.

I think the author, who is a practicing architect himself, is trying to connect people with architecture and show them the directions the practice might go in the coming years.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

I chose to read this book because I had heard from several people that it was amazing. I had also heard that we were going to talk about Henrietta Lacks in science class later in the year and wanted to be prepared for the discussion.

The author, Rebecca Skloot, describes the life of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who lived from 1920 to 1951. She had terminal cervical cancer, and a sample of her cells was taken during her treatment, without her knowledge or consent. Normal cancer cells can only survive outside of the body for a few days, so much to the surprise of the doctors, hers didn’t just survive, they thrived! Her cells reproduced faster than they died off, enabling researchers to grow them for testing new drugs. Before then, scientists could only theorize that these “immortal” cells existed, but now had proof that they were real. Doctors named her cells HeLa for Henrietta Lacks. Until this book was published, that was the only way she was known, when she was known at all. Since then, no other “immortal” cells have been found. Lacks’ cells allowed cancer researchers and pharmaceutical companies to make billions off all sorts of new drugs, but they didn’t even think to compensate the Lacks family.

Skloot first learned about Lacks during a high school science class. Her teacher was talking about HeLa cells, and she asked where the term came from. He told Skloot that the term came from a woman named Henrietta Lacks, but not much else was known about her. Years later, after Skloot had become a writer, she remembered Lacks and set off in search of her story. But before Skloot could talk to Lacks’ daughter, Deborah, she had to prove to the family that she wasn’t just another white doctor, coming to lie and take advantage of them, as many doctors had done before. For example, the surgeon who operated on Lacks took her cells without asking, then the doctors asked to do an autopsy after her death, but took more samples of her cells instead. Once she had earned the family’s trust, Skloot and Deborah traveled around together, uncovering the history of one of the most influential women–who wasn’t a scientist–to ever influence medical science.

Deborah Lacks seems like a smart, strong-willed woman who didn’t let anyone boss her around. For example, when she and Skloot went to the Crownsville mental hospital to uncover the fate of Deborah’s sister, Elsie, she refused to let the hospital personnel turn her away, insisting that they had no right to since she filled out the appropriate forms. I would love to meet Deborah, due to her upbeat attitude and stick-to-it-ness, but I doubt she would want to meet me, due to my being an annoying white kid.

This book is similar to To Kill a Mockingbird (TKM), in that both books strive to expose injustices towards the African-American population during the mid-1900s. Even though TKM is fiction, it describes an actual problem in society at the time, which was that African-Americans were unfairly tried for crimes they didn’t commit, then sent to jail, or lynched. The Immortal Life shows another aspect of racism that was more subtle, but still there. Doctors would take and experiment on cells of African-American patients without their informed consent. Henrietta Lacks was just one of many. Within the African-American community, unverified stories about “Night Doctors” kidnapping African Americans off the street long fed a deep distrust of doctors and the medical establishment. Scientists (or Night Doctors) did, in fact, test drugs and new operating methods on slaves without using anesthesia, and medical schools bought African American corpses for research from the South in barrels labeled “turpentine.” These stories were also justified by other events that occurred before, such as the Tuskegee syphilis study, where 600 Tuskegee men, 399 with syphilis, 201 without, were studied to see the effects of the disease. The doctors lied and told the men that they were being treated for “bad blood” and continued to study the disease’s effects, with no interest in curing them.

I think Skloot is trying to show the world who Henrietta Lacks really is, and all the important things her cells helped discover. I think she feels that the woman responsible for many medical advances should be known by more than her initials, that she wanted this remarkable woman to be recognized for the scientific advancements she indirectly helped create. She is also trying to expose the horrible mistreatment of African-Americans by the scientific community.

I absolutely loved this book. Skloot constantly goes back and forth between the time of Lacks and when she is researching her, but does it so well I could easily separate the two in my mind. She also would end chapters in places that would leave me wanting to know what happened next and described the characters so well that I could really picture them. It helped open my eyes to the injustice towards the African-American community in the past and the issues that continue in the present. I would give this book a 4.5 out of 5. I will, however, advise parents to only let your child read this if they’re older than 12. I’m not gonna be CommonSenseMedia on this, and freak out about every little detail. I’m just sayin’ you might not want your eight-year-old reading about incest and gynecological issues.

Cibola Burn

This review is about the fourth book in The Expanse series, called Cibola Burn. If you haven’t read my reviews on books 1, 2, and 3, you should read them first. I chose to review this book because I absolutely love this series and want to review every single book.

Cibola Burns continues the story of the gates to other solar systems, with a new focus on a conflict between illegal settlers and an Earth-based science corporation called Royal Charter Energy. The settlers race through the gates as soon as they hear there is a life-sustaining planet on the other side. RCE has the “rights” to the planet and feels that the settlers need to leave. When the RCE ship arrives the settlers blow up its transport shuttle. The RCE security chief gets mad and declares martial law and shoots a few colonists he thinks had blown up the shuttle. The violence keeps escalating to the point where James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are sent to make peace. Things go horribly wrong, an alien power plant on the other side of the planet blows up, and the excrement impacts the ceiling-mounted air circulation device.

One of the characters in the book is a man called Adolphus Murtry, the RCE security chief. I wouldn’t like to meet him because he is ruthless and a little bit psychopathic, and demonstrates this by shooting someone–who he suspects of blowing the shuttle up–in the head. He is a horrible man and doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone whom he dislikes.

Cibola Burns reminds me a bit of The Martian, in the sense that people are stranded on a planet with no way to get home. However, in The Martian, it is one man stranded on Mars. In Cibola Burn, it is the population of a colony, some scientists, a sadistic security chief, and the crew of the Rocinante stranded on an alien planet that is doing it’s best to kill them. There are death-slugs, moons that are actually defense turrets, and a bacterial infection that loves salty water so much that it takes up residence in people’s eyes, blinding them.

I think the overarching theme of the series, and this book, in particular, is that humans might fight viciously with each other, but in times of extreme need, they band together, no matter their differences.

This is an amazing book. I love the characters and the plot, it is written very well, the language is easy to understand, but it has fewer space battles and epic explosions than I would like, so I will only give it 4.9/5 stars.