Monthly Archives: February 2018

Jurassic Park

by Michael Crichton

Billionaire John Hammond invests significant amounts of money in specific paleontology projects and the latest genetic engineering technology, and shrouds the results of these investments in secrecy on a tiny island off the coast of Costa Rica. After several years of construction, Hammond invites a few of his consultants to the island for a weekend to see what he’s been working on. At first, they are astonished to find that Hammond’s genetic engineering endeavors have recreated dinosaurs, amazed at the possibilities of technology, and thrilled to learn more about the behaviors and habits of these extinct creatures. Everyone except Ian Malcolm, a mathematician that predicted the demise of the endeavor before it even started. However, when the power systems go offline, leaving two tour cars stranded by the T-rex enclosure, the tiny flaws in the system begin to grow exponentially. As the people in the control room try to bring the park back online and under control, paleontologist Alan Grant draws on his knowledge of extinct dinosaurs to try to save himself and two kids touring the park. Although Hammond maintains the feasibility of the park and absolute control over every aspect, the escalating problems and mounting death toll suggest otherwise.

“Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton tells a fantastic and believable story about the possibilities of technology and the simultaneous limits of human ability to wield the power technology offers. Crichton has done thorough research into genetic engineering, paleontology, and chaos theory (a branch of mathematics dealing with dynamic systems), which creates a novel that supports its own premise, tries to close most of the logical loopholes, and leads the reader to believe in the possibility that Jurassic Park could actually exist in reality. In addition to building a believable storyline, the logical explanations and attention to detail also create a reading experience in which the reader feels smarter after having read the novel because they now have basic information about chaos theory, dinosaur behavior, DNA, and other elusive concepts. This is further aided by the specialized knowledge of each character, which makes them inept but acceptable for trying to fix the problems of the park that are well outside their unique areas of expertise. All of this is set in a framework of rapid action, unanswered questions, and shifting perspectives between characters, which builds suspense and urgency by giving the reader more information than what the characters have.

This was a fantastic book, and I can see why it was turned into a movie. Having seen the movie first, I was surprised at the ways in which the plot of the movie diverged from the storyline of the book. The book allows more room for explanations and details, which I appreciate because it enriches the story and increases the plausibility of Jurassic Park. And yes, I will admit that I felt smarter for having read the book because now I can casually mention chaos theory in conversation. Fast-paced and utterly enthralling, this book is hard to put down.

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Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace

by Jessica Bennett

Despite being decades past the women’s liberation movement and federally enacted legislation to ensure equality in the workplace, many women still encounter work-related sexism on a regular basis. And despite the advances in technology and ever-quickening pace of work, much of this sexist behavior still looks the same as it did for women in the past. From blatant sexism like the continued wage gap, to the more subtle disparities that emerge from double standards (men who follow up on requests and timelines are seen as strong leaders, while women engaging in the same behavior are judged more harshly for nagging), to the missed opportunities when women aren’t even included in discussions, sexism remains a significant factor in women’s professional growth and opportunities. After fighting this battle again and again and again, what other options do women have? Bennett lays out tips, tricks, and responses for handling workplace sexism, all grounded by the support of a “feminist fight club,” a group of women who consult on each other’s professional dilemmas, usually while enjoying wine and cheese. Whether mirroring the behavior of other, balancing air time in meetings, or reframing ideas, her suggestions are broadly accessible for women – and men – who want to see women succeed in the workplace.

“Feminist Fight Club” by Jessica Bennett brings a millennial perspective to an ancient problem: women work harder, are judged by higher standards, and have less access to social capital that means they struggle to get ahead while constantly behind. Perhaps to emphasize the reality, relevance, and importance of workplace sexism as a modern problem, Bennett writes in millennial lingo and short segments (maybe to accommodate a Twitter-length attention span?), and includes sarcastic comments and illustrations throughout. Introductions to chapters are 1-3 pages, and the remaining content of each chapter consists of paragraph-length snippets. While this at first seems like a unique and innovative approach to writing feminist theory that appeals to millennials, it soon starts to feel gimmicky and disjointed. The quick transition between ideas leaves little time to digest the material, and hardly makes a clear connection between one segment and the next. Although she tries to appeal to a broad audience, many of her experiences and suggestions come from her background in corporate settings, which doesn’t necessarily translate to other work environments. Her efforts to bring discussions about workplace sexism into the modern era are valiant, but limited.

I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. I was intrigued by the formatting early on, but quickly grew bored with it, and later grew bored with the content. Maybe I just don’t like thinking about work outside of work, but I felt tired reading this book. I do appreciate her efforts to modernize the discussion of sexism, and although she does throw in a few comments about intersectionality, her perspective felt narrow to me because it was based on her limited experience. I will admit she did have a few helpful tips. Maybe worth a read.

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