Hidden Figures makes superheroes out of mathematicians

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A few years ago, I was Freshly Pressed for writing a blog post about math.

I’m really proud of this because not only was I Freshly Pressed, I was Pressed for writing about something I am so uncomfortable with.

When I heard about the movie Hidden Figures, I knew I had to see it. I mean, who would have thought that in 2017, a top grossing movie would be one about black women doing math for NASA?

If this movie was made in 1998, it would have been Ben Affleck flying into space to rescue us from an asteroid. (And, I don’t want to miss a thing.)

But it’s 2017 and nerdy is the new flash. As Hidden Figures so inspiringly taught us, math is the backbone of today’s technology.

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As a daughter of an programmer, it was also really exciting to see them roll the first IBMs (International Business Machine, whoop!) into NASA. I practically squealed when Octavia Spencer’s character steals a book on Fortran from the white segregated library. Not because it was so ballsy but because I’ve never heard Fortran mentioned in mainstream media. And when she whipped out those punchcards… oh no you didn’t!

Sure, the scripting was cheesy but it was thrilling to see three minority women confidently take on math and out-calculate not just any men, but NASA’s top engineers. I hope it inspires a whole new generation of girls and women to never back down from a difficult equation or a top spot in the conference room.

Writing less to say more

51lvoalt-2l-_sx323_bo1204203200_A few months ago, I moved into my first home! It’s a 600 square-feet condo, which isn’t considered small for Toronto these days, but certainly, it cannot be called big. So I whittled down my book collection and swore that I’d only buy ebooks going forward.

Those who read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up will recall that she says you should buy books and read them immediately. She tells her readers to throw out books they never got around to reading because they will likely never read them.

But that has been the case for me. In my cleaning, I found a copy of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. And I thought I’d hang onto it because he’s supposed to be a classic and I so rarely read classics.

But I regret not reading Hemingway sooner because his writing confirmed for me, that the best writing is simple. You don’t have spell things out with big words, fancy jargon and flowery descriptions. And when you’re as good a writer as Hemingway, you don’t need any of those things to convey exactly what you want the reader to feel.

fbf7be6f9c3dabeafe5bd13af1023e70I had always heard that Hemingway had a way of writing simple prose. He’s often said to have written the six-word story: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” As I learned from reading The Moveable Feast, six words from Hemingway can hit you like a bag of bricks. And in today’s 140-character world, brevity is important.

But enough crushing and gushing over Hemingway’s word count — The Moveable Feast is just a great read. I don’t love Paris but I love his Paris. Can there be a theme park where you get to play a broke writer who drinks with other tortured writers of the time?

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Judy Blume returns for adults

23899174It’s been a hard week watching the U.S. elections. As a Canadian, I wish our neighbours to the south best of luck and suggest that they hide themselves in a good book until they have a better idea of what Trump stands for — and proceed to fight for their rights.

I recently finished Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event and thought it was, meh. My mistake is in thinking it’d be anything close to Summer Sisters, Judy Blume’s epic first adult book.

The story centres on a teenage girl named Miri Ammerman growing up with a single mom in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the early 1950’s. In the span of two years, three airplanes out of Newark Airport crash in Elizabeth earning it the nickname, Plane Crash City.

In the Unlikely Event is still full of believable and relatable, adolescent characters who are traversing the trials of growing up. This, Judy Blume will always excel at. But I just didn’t feel enough for the characters and I really didn’t like the ending. The story came up short for me. I’ll just stick to Summer Sisters, thank you.

It probably didn’t help that I took a two week break from reading In the Unlikely Event. I had planned to take it as plane reading materials for a trip to Asia but then decided against it. Who wants to read about plane crashes on a plane?

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E-readers aren’t sexy (but still awesome)

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I recently came back from a brief, two-week trip in East Asia which included stops in Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo. It was loads of fun! But I made the mistake of bringing a book that I didn’t really like and it made all the waiting in airports super painful.

I know, First World Problems, right?

Well, I really felt sorry for myself because I could have brought my Kindle and bought any other, better, book on the fly.

On a side note, I’d like to congratulate my cousin L. on buying his very first Kindle and welcome him to the weird club of e-reader readers. L. bought the Kindle because he had always wanted one and found out that it qualifies for same-day shipping with Amazon Prime. A fan of new and shiny objects with touch screens, he opted for the Kindle Paperwhite with a built-in light.

I was a little surprised L. bought an e-reader because he’s an early adopter and unlike other portable devices, the e-reader never got its sexy back. It’s more or less still a bonified etch and sketch. Newer versions of Kindles and Kobos have added a fancy light and other high(er) tech upgrades like uh, page numbers and less flickering when turning pages.

In fact, e-readers haven’t even been sexy enough to replace books — which some people argue are unsexy in their own right.

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Alas, I’m still a big believer in e-readers and, after all these years, I STILL use my Kindle Keyboard. Yes, it’s got a KEYBOARD and no touchscreen. Isn’t it beautiful?

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I can buy books and read them while in bed – without even getting dressed. Also, I can travel with a dozen Russian novels in my back pocket.

So, welcome to the club L. Feel proud because now you can read Fifty Shades on the subway without getting weird looks. (No really, don’t do it.)

P.S. For all you other Kindle owners, check out Buzzfeed’s article on “21 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Your Kindle.