Review: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Book Review: The Year of the Flood was an amazing book. Not only did it surpass my (rather high) expectations, but it also went far beyond. Margaret Atwood obviously knows her craft, and although I didn’t read the first book in the trilogy (this is the second), I think this book is fabulous as a standalone dystopian.

The format of this book is quite unique. There are poems or hymns from the God’s Gardener’s Handbook (or something or the other) at the beginning of each part in the book, and a speech by Adam One, the leader of God’s Gardeners, a religious group that is central to the plot development of the story. These and the beautifully-narrated chapters of the book combine together to create a fabulous blend of world-building, and without even having to read the first chapter, we are already shown the setting and what sort of a world these characters live in. I think that you truly need to be practiced at writing to be able to tell and show so much in a few stanzas.

If you’re looking for a very unique dystopian, you’re looking in the wrong place. Margaret Atwood seems to have taken a few leaves out of Lois Lowry’s plots, added a few adult elements to it, and created a new story altogether.

Toby and Ren, the main characters, both end up with the God’s Gardeners out of their own free will. And while the life of the ‘pleebos’, the street children who shoplift and live out in the open, might seem extremely unstable and very undesirable, the life of a God’s Gardener isn’t so great either. God’s Gardeners are a bizarre blend of extreme peace and Christianity, as well as obsessive health freaks and vegetarians. At first sight (I must admit, Margaret Atwood makes them sound more appealing than I do, but then again, I’m biased after reading the book), their lives seem Utopian, with no materialistic values and almost total equality and peace, but after a while, readers realise that this religious group is, in fact, rather dystopian. I won’t reveal much more here, but that seems lifted out of The Giver to me.

However, the speculative nature of the book really appealed to me, since I’m currently reading Matched by Allie Condie and comparing it constantly to The Year of the Flood–I think Margaret Atwood’s book is so much more thoughtful and has more of a social commentary than Matched. I often read dystopias for the political conflicts and the totalitarian aspects more than anything else, and in this aspect, The Year of the Flood was far more sophisticated and developed than Matched. Or maybe that’s just my opinion, since heaps of people seem to have loved Matched.

The characters were also marvelously well-developed, and the chapters with Ren and Toby’s backstories and how they ended up with the Gardners were ones that I tore through. I love it when authors add aspects of a character’s history to the book–it creates a new dimension for the character, and it makes them so much more real and relatable.

Finally, I’ve been reading a lot of YA recently (more so than before), and I found this book a very refreshing break from the constant romance/boy-girl tension so prevalent in young adult books. The Year of the Flood went a lot deeper than what I usually read, and it’s the sort of book that I’ll be thinking about and craving years from now.

Overview: I loved The Year of the Flood. The social commentary and characters were both marvelous, and Margaret Atwood’s writing, as expected, was fabulous. The lack of overly-heavy romance was very refreshing, and while The Year of the Flood wasn’t the most original dystopian I’ve come across, nor is the plot extremely complicated, it made me think a lot and question many things in my own life. Four and a half stars.

 

Researching Ways to Improve Business Technics and Profits

There is only one true reason why any of us go into business for ourselves and that is to make money. There are a lot benefits to being in business. Some of these benefits can include more free time with family and friends, being your own boss or setting your own schedule. Even though these benefits are excellent incentives to start a business we are always in it for the money.

There is not a single business alive today that can survive without money. This is exactly why your business contact manager should always be looking for new and improved ways to increase business profits.

With countless ways to research the best ways to increase profits you would think that every business would be successful. Unfortunately this is not the case and is a very important reason to be careful in implementing new methods for making money. Just as there are great ways to improve profits or just make money there are also ways to fail in making money or increasing profit.

Even with an economy in recession it is not difficult to increase profits if you know where to look. We can all be thankful for the vast communication system that we have today.

The internet alone is a great resource for information. If there is a way to improve or expand your business, it can be found on the internet. Another source for information is your competition. If you know what your competition is doing to be so successful then this gives you the ability to find a way to improve your business until you are taking out the competition. The greatest source for information on improving your business is your customers. You can simply have your customers fill out a survey asking about their service experience or what they think could be improved about your business. Your customer makes your money so it is extremely important to keep them happy and coming back.

The research can be time consuming, so don’t be afraid to outsource the research to a marketing specialist or a business consultant. The business contact manager would be a perfect individual for the research, as every business contact manager, should be customer oriented and focused on improving the business. Every business needs to be flexible as times change, so there will always be a need for increased profits and business improvements or changes.

Babylon A.D. Review

Diesel fails to establish any sort of connection to the audience, so much so that at times we want him to fail, if only in hopes to spice up his extremely bland mission. The girl in question, the damsel in distress if you will, is Aurora, a very young (and strangely pretty) woman with either a very advanced form of dementia, or maybe just crazy. It’s partially explained that she has some sort of mental powers, the ability to operate a decades-old Russian submarine for example, but we never get a full story on this and it comes across as more of an annoying, naïve little girl than a supernatural vixen.

The third act plays very much like any one of the Saw sequels: it’s the last 20 minutes where we are revealed how everything happened in long, sprawling monologs set to quick-cut flashbacks. And much like the Saw sequels, none of this makes any sense – secondary characters do idiotic things for little or no reason, some main characters die, followed by an ending scene that completely destroys any faith one had in the last 80 minutes. Characters are introduced in the third act simply to attempt to make sense of all that has happened, some main characters are dropped because they have served their purpose, and one character that has only been seen or mentioned in snippets throughout the film turns out to be someone extremely important to the finale.

Filmmaker Mathieu Kassovitz recently came out to the Internet to try to explain that this atrocity is due to studio interference, and not to a sub-par script and terrible performances.  If anything, the apparent Fox meddling helps the movie a bit – the presumably forced action sequences shortly pull you back into the story, but it’s not long before the flaws of Kassovitz’s screenplay comes roaring back to life. But when a movie is in such a state that the director publicly denounces it, you know you’re in for an extremely forgettable, and laughingly bad, motion picture event. If nothing else, Babylon A.D. delivers on that front.

Rating: 1 ½ / 5 stars

Calculating the Cost of Graduate School Part 3

It might be helpful to separate these into sub-categories and trying to break things down further, like including a section for Transportation Costs with subsections for Car Insurance, Car Maintenance, Gasoline Expenses, or Bus Tickets, Subway Tickets, etc.

Don’t forget to take living costs into account, because even little things like a daily commute by bus or train can quickly accumulate into staggering annual expenses, driving grad school costs into the stratosphere.

 

Lost Income

 

Unless you’re considering attending grad school online (which will allow you to maintain or get a full-time job) you’ll likely have to give up your regular income while studying, which is essentially an added cost of attending grad school.

Many students work part-time jobs, complete work-study programs or serve on assistantships, but some are forced to focus entirely on their graduate studies and rely on other means of income (like credit cards and student loans) to fund day to day living expenses. You’ll want to avoid relying on outside financing for daily living expenses at all costs, as doing so is a recipe for financial disaster.

Be sure to account for the loss of income you’ll be faced with (if any) while calculating the expected cost of your program, and if it looks like you won’t have enough to scrape by, think about delaying going to grad school for a later date when you’ve saved up enough money to cover your expected daily expenses.

 

Student Loans

 

Before you can finish the budgeting process, you’ll have to factor the costs of acquiring any student loans into your educational expenses. Remember, some student loans require a down payment to get access to money, while others are offered with no up-front costs, but all of them have financing charges in the form of interest attached.

Determine what your monthly and annual payments will be once you’ve graduated from your degree program and estimate whether or not your income will allow you to even make those monthly payments. The worst thing you could possibly do would be to take on a huge amount of student loan debt, graduate from a program that doesn’t provide reliable job prospects and end up defaulting on your student loan debt because of it.

 

Can You Afford Graduate School?

 

By planning ahead, attending a less expensive program, locking in some scholarships and grants, taking out student loans, then doing everything possible to reduce daily living expenses, just about everyone can afford to go to graduate school. However, make sure that you don’t just automatically assume that you can afford to pay for the cost of graduate school without calculating it out in advance, as that’s a sure-fire way to put yourself into a financially impossible situation.

To really think long-term, perhaps a more important question than whether or not you can afford grad school right now, is whether or not you can afford it in the long-run. To determine whether or not attending a graduate program is really worth it, you’ll have to calculate your expected return on investment.

Calculating the Cost of Graduate School Part 2

School Fees

Some schools levy fees on top of tuition expenses, with costs associated for things like parking spaces, library access, graduation ceremonies, receiving a copy of your degree and other administrative line items that can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.

Make sure that the school you’re planning on attending isn’t pulling a bait and switch tactic to reduce the appearance of their costs by offering a low tuition rate, but piling a ton of fees and other hidden expenses on top of it.

Virtually every grad school will levy fees for administrative costs like printing transcripts, mailing things, and allowing you to apply for their programs, but some try to nickel and dime their way into profitability. Don’t bleed your bank account dry by attending a school that has too many associated fees.

Textbooks

Although some scholarships and grants do exist specifically to cover  book costs, many graduate students are forced to completely fund their textbook costs on their own, and these are not trivial expenses.

Books may not sound like they would cost that much, especially if you haven’t been to college in a while, but if you’ve recently come from an undergraduate program then you’re likely well aware that the price of books for each class can easily (and most likely will) top $100.

Graduate school textbooks are virtually guaranteed to be substantially more expensive than books you’d read for pleasure, so don’t neglect to factor their expense into your estimate of graduate school costs, or you could be caught blindsided when it comes time to actually paying for them!

Equipment Costs

Depending on the subject matter of your studies, don’t forget that you could be required to purchase other necessary course materials like a laptop, computer software, advanced calculator or even chemistry supplies which will significantly add to the cost of your graduate program.

These expenses can add up pretty quickly, especially if you require technical equipment or sophisticated computer software, so make sure to include the projected costs for any related equipment while planning out your budget. If this particular line item ends up being the one that drives your program costs out of reach, look for need-based scholarships and grants to cover their expense.

Living Costs

Living costs can be one of the most expensive elements of attending graduate school, especially if you choose a graduate program that is in a city or area where the cost of living is high. Try to estimate your living costs by combining rent for accommodations, expected cost of food, transport, clothing and entertainment.

Calculating the Cost of Graduate School Part 1

How Much Does Grad School Cost?

Graduate school can be extremely expensive, which is one of the main reasons that some people choose not to go. Although completing a grad program can help you improve career prospects, develop new marketable skills and provide substantial boosts to your income, the up-front cost of graduate school is still a major barrier to entry for some students.

During the process of selecting a graduate program, make sure that you complete enough research to accurately estimate the cost of grad school. Factor expenses like tuition rates and financing options into a formula that you can use to help determine which schools you will actually apply to, based on the affordability of their programs.

Look to decrease your graduate school costs by leveraging assistantships, scholarships, grants or other forms of financial assistance, but remember that most of these streams of financial assistance are not guaranteed. When figuring out how much graduate school costs, don’t forget to factor in living expenses like gas, food, rent and other expenses when putting together your total estimate.

To help you find out how much graduate school costs we’ve put together this helpful guide. Following these simple steps will allow you to determine an accurate price of graduate school programs you’re interested in applying to, as long as you make sure to include each of the following elements as line items in your calculations:

Tuition Costs

Take a close look at each graduate programs tuition rate information. Typically, you can find tuition rates by credit, by the hour, or by program on a school’s website. First off, you’ll need to find out how long it will take to complete the graduate program you intend to apply to, so that you can determine total tuition costs to earn your degree.

Secondly, look for protection from inflation by finding out if the school offers a tuition guarantee which will protect you from having to pay higher tuition rates each year as the costs increase. Don’t assume that tuition will remain flat, as tuition rates for professional programs have jumped by 60% in the last decade alone!

Compare and contrast the tuition rates of graduate programs you’re considering to see which one best fits into your expected budget. Tuition is likely to be the biggest factor in determining whether or not you can afford graduate school, as it will be the bulk of your educational expense, so be sure that you know exactly what the total tuition price will be before you move on to the next step.