Scott Hanselman

Book Review - Kindred by Octavia Butler

May 23, '06 Comments [0] Posted in Reviews | Z
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I'm going to be posting a number of book reviews this week as I used a chunk of the weekend while Z slept to catch up on my reading. Some'll be technical, some not.

I've just finished a haunting book called kindred by the amazing and prolific Octavia Butler. This is the 25th anniversary edition from 2004 - this book was written in 1979.

The premise is that Dana, a modern Black woman, is called back to the early 19th century to save the life of a white ancestor. In the present her husband is White and at one point is pulled back with her. The dynamics of their relationship change dramatically as it is assumed that she is a recently enslaved freewoman from the North travelling with her owner (in fact her husband.)

Their relationship is tested as they are forced to live dramatically different lives. Most painfully to watch is how quickly and believably they slip into their expected roles, that of slave and slave owner. As an interracial couple they've typically swept awareness of their differing ethnicities under the rug, but those differences and associated race memories are pulled to the forefront when the extraordinary circumstances drag on.

There are sadly few books to compare this to, although the language has similar texture to that found in The Intuitionist. (Another racial allegory that I recommend, using science fiction and alternate reality to explore difficult questions.)

I would suggest this book to nearly anyone, but especially young people over 15-16 of any race, as long as a parent, mentor or book group that is well-versed in the time period can help some of the deeper nuances. I really would have enjoyed teaching this book at the high-school level either for Social Studies, History or English Literature. I took a number of Black Studies classes in college, did some teaching/tutoring, and looked into the PSU Black Studies major when computers found me. Perhaps one day I will teach again.

This is a fantastically powerful book and well worth the read. My next Octavia Bulter book will be Dawn.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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The Immediacy and the Remoteness

April 22, '06 Comments [6] Posted in Z | Coding4Fun | Movies
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Orb4Remote1Ok, you've sold me. I poo-pooed in the past, but I'm digging it today. I'm away from home and local news in the hotel I'm in is crap. I've got TVs and movies at home I'd like to watch.

Orb.com, while sporting the worst of user interfaces, is the bomb. It was obviously written by folks who know their server side. ;)

I've used BeyondTV in the past for this same thing, forwarding ports outside and auto-transcoding video streams, but the setup of ORB was so very easy and it just works.

I've got the Windows Media Center PC running over yonder in Oregon while I'm here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in a hotel. I want to watch a show that the Media Center taped back home. I'm connected to the 'net via a Verizon Wireless Cellular Phone PC Card.

Orb detects my connection speed and transcodes the video to the level appropriate for my connection. (This can be overridden as well.) The quality of the video over this cellular connection is pretty sweet.

Orb3There's some kinks to be worked out around seeking within a stream, but this is a no-brainer: Microsoft, buy them, build it into Windows Media Center. (Of course, this is too niche and no one cares about remoting TV, right?)

Remote2

Other than BeyondTV (BeyondTV Link) what are the competitors?

Of course, an alternative to getting video from my house is to get it from the cloud. Why get my copy of a show when there's a cloud copy?

As an aside, being away is hard, but Webcams make it easier. Watching Z react to my voice over the phone is a blast.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Interracial Couples on TV

April 17, '06 Comments [13] Posted in Movies | Parenting | Z
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HelloiammixedWhen I see things changing like this, it makes me smile and feel better for Z's future.

More and more on TV there are interracial couples that aren't called out as "The Mixed Couple." Sometimes it's a little played out when entire movies are created about how shocking a mixed couple supposedly is. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was ground-breaking in 1967, but Something New just pandered to racial stereotypes as did FX Network's recent reality show "Black.White," succeeding in little except making both families and their respective races look ignorant. Perhaps it was a West Coast thing. It would have been interesting had they picked families from integrated neighborhoods with a little more savvy.

Life and love are a lot more complicated than just Black and White. Here's a list of popular TV shows with mixed couples on right now.

Grey's Anatomy, ABC, Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT
The couple: Dr. Cristina Yang, played by Sandra Oh; Dr. Preston Burke, played by Isaiah Washington.
Their relationship: Top surgeon falls for intern. Opposites attract.

Lost, ABC, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT
The couple: Bernard, played by Sam Anderson; Rose, played by L. Scott Caldwell
Their relationship: Viewers didn’t know Rose’s husband was white, but they did know she had unwavering belief in him.

ER, NBC, Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT
The couple: Dr. Neela Rasgotra, played by Parminder Nagra; Dr. Michael Gallant, played by Sharif Atkins.
Their relationship: She’s an ER doc; he’s just back from Iraq. Was the quickie wedding a good idea?

My Name Is Earl, NBC, Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT
The couple: Earl’s ex-wife Joy, played by Jaime Pressly; Darnell, played by Eddie Steeples.
Their relationship: He works in the Crab Shack; she’s after Earl’s lottery winnings. Earl and “Crabman” remain best buddies.

There's a great organization in Seattle called the MAVIN Foundation. It's a non-profit that is focused on celebrating the mixed race experience. It is known for its work hunting for mixed-race blood marrow donors.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Z Leaving on a Midnight Train

March 27, '06 Comments [12] Posted in Javascript | Parenting | Z
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Forgive my singing in this video clip, but this was just too cute not to share. Z turns 4 calendar months old on Wednesday and he's a different guy every day. What a blast we're having. He's jabbering on, finally sleeping through the night and talking to himself to wake us up in the morning. He is absolutely hilarious and we're loving the time we spend with him. I don't know how you folks with kids can concentrate when you are away from them. My wife misses her job and her interaction with adults, but she's said she wouldn't trade this opportunity for the world.


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We're a little bittersweet as he's growing up so fast. Every day that goes by is another day that he won't be that age. I mean, he'll only be under a year for, well, a year. That's only 365 days of baby, and really only 6 months of tiny baby. We already miss the little 2-week old Z. I wonder what it'll feel like when he's 15 or 30.

All that said, I'm really looking forward to him walking around and developing opinions. We read to him now, but he's not paying much attention. I'm sure he's a little sponge, but when he starts talking and really interacting it's going to be a freaking blast.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Z Rolls

February 23, '06 Comments [8] Posted in Javascript | Parenting | Z
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Z turned 12 weeks old on Tuesday, and I'm on the first trip-away-from-home since he was born. So what happens? He rolls over. Sure, it was probably the weight of his head that took him completely over, but he's been trying to roll over during "Tummy Time" for at least the last two weeks. Fortunately my Dad was there and my wife used the new digital camera to video it in 640x480. The video is 8 megs, but I squished it with Windows Media 9 Encoder down to 800k. Sigh. I'll be home soon!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.