Thursday, August 18, 2011

Smithsonian sponsored Nationwide Free Museum Day on Sept 24, 2011

Just wanted to share the link to the Smithsonian sponsored Free Museum Day on Sept 24, 2011.  You have to sign up for a specific museum and the museum passes (for 2) will be sent to you directly. 

Find out more at

Contest Winners

Congratulations to the winners of The Things We Cherish by Pam Jenoff!
The Things We Cherished: A Novel

nfmgirl and Beth (bookaholicmom)

Janie1215 won the Historical Romance  Blog Tour set with books by Paula Quinn, Laurel McKee and Sue-Ellen Welfonder.

I've emailed the winners and they have until Sunday evening to send me their mailing addresses.  Thanks for participating!

Sorcerors and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating Innovative Technologies That WIll Transform Our Lives by Frank Moss

 The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives
The Sorcerors and Their Apprentices: How Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives by Frank Moss
The blurb:
From the most recent director of the famed MIT Media Laboratory comes an exhilarating behind-the-scenes exploration of the research center where our nation's foremost scientists are creating the innovative new technologies that will transform our future.

If you've ever read a book on an e-reader, unleashed your inner rock star playing Guitar Hero, or driven in a vehicle with child-safe air bags, then you've experienced the astounding inventions that come out of the MIT Media Lab.  But the geniuses at the Media Lab don't just make cool stuff--they make cool stuff that's going to change the world.

One of the central messages of the Lab is the need for unfettered research -- where resources are not tied to specific projects, but rather researchers are free to pursue new ideas and figure out what works.  We discover how some of the brightest minds in the world approach invention and innovation -- from creating a culture of curiosity and constantly field-testing new prototypes to cross-pollination of ideas across disciplines.

Rather than focusing too much energy on building machines that behave as smart as or smarter than humans, we should devote most of our efforts to building machines that help us to be the best human being we can be for ourselves and others. - Frank Moss
In The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices: How the Digital Magicians of the MIT Media Lab Are Creating the Innovative Technologies That Will Transform Our Lives, Frank Moss shares anecdotes from the unique and deeply innovative MIT Media Lab.   He gives us an insider's tour of a laboratory that encourages collaboration between scientists, academics, and business.  The academics that Moss introduces us to are vastly different from what I'd expected -- most of the productive members of the Media Lab go beyond one specific discipline and combine different areas of knowledge -- an anti-disciplinary approach -- to come up with an unexpected and innovative application.

Here are just a few of the innovations we read about:
  • CityCar - a networked, digitally controlled, stackable, foldable electric vehicle that was created to make our urban spaces more livable, sustainable and safe.
  • PowerFoot, a prosthetic ankle that gives amputees the ability to walk at normal speed and effort as well as other biohybrids created by the Biomechtronics group under the guidance of Professor Hugh Herr.
  • Chumby - created by CollaborRhythm in the belief that if patients understand how their medications work, they will be more likely to be responsible about adhering to their medication schedules is a compact device resembling a digital clock with a touchscreen, wifi connection, and embedded computer that is approachable for the computer illiterate.  Chumby reminds you to take each of your pills and then demonstrates just how each medication works in your body and in conjunction with the other medicines.  If you haven't taken your medication, it also shows the impact on your body on a cellular level, so that you can see the damage even if you feel well.
  • Nexi - a mobile, dexterous, sociable robot that can learn from and live together with elderly people and provide companionship and help.
  • Merry Miser - a personalized phone app that gently reminds you of your previous purchases at a store, the overall satisfaction/dissatisfaction, and helps you make informed choices and control impulse purchases.
But beyond the specific technological innovations, the book is also a fascinating read as it shares the innovations in ways of thinking about technology.  I recommend The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices to techies, regular readers, and anyone interested in learning more about science, creativity, and how we think.

ISBN-10: 0307589102 - Hardcover $27.50
Publisher: Crown Business (June 7, 2011), 272 pages.
Review copy courtesy of Amazon Vine and the publisher.

About the Author:
Frank Moss is the former director of the MIT Media Lab, director of the New Media Medicine Group, and Professor of the Practice of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT.  After earning PhDs in aeronautics and astronautics from MIT, he held research positions at IBM and Apollo Computer, and he cofounded several startups, including Tivoli Systems, which he later sold to IBM for $740 million. Today, he focuses his talents and energies on helping the Media Lab develop technology to address social issues and improve quality of life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott

The Upright Piano Player: A Novel

The Upright Piano Player by David Abbott

The blurb:
Henry Cage seems to have it all: a successful career, money, a beautiful home, and a reputation for being a just and principled man.  But public virtues can conceal private failings, and as Henry faces retirement, his well-ordered life begins to unravel.  His ex-wife is ill, his relationship with his son is strained to the point of estrangement, and on the eve of the new millennium he is the victim of a random violent act that soon escalates into a prolonger harassment.

As his ex-wife's illness becomes grave, it is apparent that there is little time to redress the mistakes of the past.  But the man stalking Henry remains at large. Who is doing this?  And why?  David Abbott brilliantly pulls this thread of tension ever tighter until the surprising and emotionally impactful conclusion.  The Upright Piano Player is a wise and acutely observed novel about the myriad ways in which life tests us -- no matter how carefully we have constructed our own little fortresses.

Just how much does a successful man's life change when he retires from the company that he's built?  When Henry Cage's successful career and influence are gone,  he becomes just another elderly man among many.  David Abbott demonstrates the small ways in which Cage's life and luck has changed.  The crush of the crowds on New Year's Eve leads to a random and vicious act of violence.   I found myself sympathizing with Henry Cage as he finds himself uncomfortable in his new life - from his interaction with his housekeeper to the incident that gets him expelled from his favorite breakfast place.

Abbott has made Henry Cage complex and sympathetic.   As he tries to behave with integrity, he faces unexpected meanness and tragedy.  The Upright Piano Player is gripping, moving, and unsentimental.  It's a fascinating read that will stay with you long after you've finished the novel.

ISBN-10: 0385534426 - Hardcover $22.95
Publisher: Nan A. Talese (June 7, 2011), 272 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
David Abbott worked forty years in the advertising industry as a copywriter and creative director.  He was a founding partner of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, the United Kingdom's largest advertising agency.  This is his first novel and he is at work on his second.


Double Day is generously sponsoring a giveaway of 2 copies of The Upright Piano Player.  To enter the giveaway, please share your favorite character in literature and why you like him/her so much.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
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3.  One winner per household.

The contest is limited to US only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on Sept. 15, 2011.