Saturday, June 29, 2013

[Book Review] Best Erotic Fantasy & Science Fiction

Best Erotic Fantasy & Science Fiction / Cecelia Tan & Bethany Zaiatz (eds) (Powell's Books)



The best fantasy is subversive.

Fantasy is not the now, not the reality that we encapsulate.  Fantasy goes outside and explores our dreams and nightmares, or delight and disquiet.

Taboos.

And all of this is before we explicitly mix in sex.

The tales in Best Erotic Fantasy & Science Fiction are unexpected.  Sometimes uncomfortable.  Well crafted and exploring worlds and desires familiar and alien.  These well-crafted stories subvert the status-quo and in doing so form excellent fantastical fiction.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BYOD - Desktop Edition

At this point I really should not be surprised at the ingenuity that patrons display in finding a way around the various rules and restrictions.  Not only have I worked in a library for several years now, but I play games, and I know exactly how far gamers will go to work rules in their favor if there is any room for ambiguity.   I once got into an argument with a patron who felt that by-passing our time management software by using a virtual computer application on his flash drive was not "circumventing" anything in our computer use policy (unacceptable use includes "violating the automated reservation procedures or using someone else's library card").  I had to threaten to remotely shut down the computer before he would comply in any manner, at which point he left in a huff.

Today I was taken by surprise in a new way concerning our computers.  For some time we have had an empty computer station.  The monitor, keyboard, mouse, and even power cords are all there, but no computer.  One of our older computers died and with all the various other tasks on my desk and lacking a new computer for that location, rebuilding an older machine to fill that location has been a lower priority task.  Actually I have found the station to be quite useful when configuring other new machines.

Either way, this station has been empty for ages.  Sometimes it is used as workspace, for papers, a laptop, or by a kid coloring while its parents use the public computers.

Then I walked by while helping someone and noticed that someone was using a computer there.  Not a laptop, but a desktop.  The tower was big, the type meant for custom gaming rigs, though I have no clue about the hardware it contained, and was all hooked up to the peripherals at that station and to that station's Ethernet connection.

We don't have a policy explicitly stating that you cannot do this.  It never occurred to us that someone would.  But then we don't have a policy explicitly saying (at least I don't think we do... we might by now) "don't leap off the second floor mezzanine."  In this case I felt this was a little too direct connection to our server for me to feel comfortable about, especially on a machine that I have no knowledge of its security.  A desktop top is not what I tend to consider a "BYOD" item.

Fortunately he didn't make too much of a fuss when I approached him.  Now to see that the next thing someone comes up with.

Link Smorgasbord, June 17 - 23

Xbox One 'may not work' in unsupported countries
I am not sure if this still stands in light of the turn about on many of the restrictions.  Either way seeing Japan excluded from the list of supported countries made me wonder all over again what they were thinking (on top of existing disbelief).

How to Block the NSA From Your Friends List
On some of the other options for social networking and privacy

Your Feedback Matters - Update on Xbox One
A 180 on a number of issues with the Xbox One, which comes as a relief to the libraries that lend video games.

Great article by Corey Doctorow

Remember When The Patriot Act Debate Was All About Library Records?
One thing that has been driving me crazy are all the meme's depicting Liberals celebrating the Patriot Act when it was signed into law and only now getting upset. The liberal circles I circulate through were all incredibly upset about the Patriot Act.  Not only that, but in response to the Patriot Act many libraries actively stopped keeping certain records in defense of privacy.  To libraries, privacy is an important part of freedom to access.

The title says it all.  About the various hindrances of borrowing ebooks from the library and associated issues.

HathiTrust to partner with DPLA 
A great use of the discovery portal of the DPLA.

New DRM Will Change the Words in Your E-Book
This is very close to one of the reasons I remain attached to physical books - the words printed on the page remain printed on the page and the book remains on the shelf until someone comes and removes it physically.  I confess to no surprise on this development, it definitely qualifies as an interesting implementation of DRM, but I dislike the mutability of digital books.  On the other hand, maybe developments in this direction could lead to a simpler process for borrowing library ebooks as it could remove the requirement for the cumbersome authorization processes currently in use.

Win a signed copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Online raffle for a fantastic book (if you're curious, here's link to my review)

Patent Infringement Suit Includes Linking URLs In an Email
/sigh

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Boil, boil, toil and trouble

I've been meaning to brew beer for ages.  Several years ago my other half purchased me a starter kit with all the equipment and we just never got to it for various reasons.  Time, space, and a level of intimidation about the project.  What really helped was a well written book on brewing (Brewing Made Easy) that put the process into a better light.  I also discovered a new brewing store in Sunderland, DIY Brew, with friendly and helpful staff.  Finding this shop was key for me because I had an unpleasant experience at the other local brew store I had visited, and would much rather have a connection with a local store than buying all my supplies online.  Another really cool thing about DIY Brew is they have a fantastic collection of recipes freely available both online and in-store.  I decided on going with a Pumpkin Wheat since I had a can of pumpkin to use up and we happen to really like pumpkin beer.  If this is well I intend to pursue the somewhat more expensive to make Pumpking clone kit they have.

So on Friday, June 21st, I took the dive into my first batch of beer.

The process of getting my first batch off the ground was not without its missteps.

Problem #1: Electric stove.  We'll just leave it at that.

Problem #2: I thought I had a pot of at least 3 gallons.  2.5 gallons of water will not fit in a 2 gallon pot.  I now own a lovely 4 gallon stainless steel pot.

Problem #3:  No sooner did the pot of water reach the designated 170 degrees, than did I manage to knock the tip off of my thermometer and my digital thermometer seems to be suffering from more than a dead battery.  My other half was out already on errands but the brew store was out, so he ordered (and paid for) one, and then picked up two thermometers for me on his way home.

I definitely took too long to cool down the wort.  The first problem was that it took a few attempts to plug the drain, the second problem was that I used my limited ice before I could properly do an ice bath.  Next time I will throw in extra ice trays the day before I brew to have significant ice for an ice bath.  The improper sealing of the drain worked very well as the slow drain allowed for replacement of warmed water with cold.

Oh my god the sediment.  I don't know if this is solely because of the pumpkin, if it's a normal part of the wort, or if I just didn't stir nearly enough.  I've come across mention of transferring the beer to a secondary fermenter as an opportunity to improve the clarity, but I need to research this before going ahead.  I am fine with a murky beer, but I'd rather not have undissolved hop and pumpkin sludge to contend with.

I definitely was not using the wine thief properly to test the OG, but I think it would be easiest to just get a turkey baster for future testing.  What I did that was really stupid was go "oh, I sanitized this container for testing, I'll just dip it to get the liquid..." and then put my hand in the cooled wort.  *headdesk*  On the other hand, the OG is pretty much spot on.

 Today, June 23rd I noticed a few bubbles in the airlock, right on time.  Go yeast, go!

I've got about a week to decide if I want to move the beer to the carboy or not for the rest of the fermenting process.  Besides that I'm just waiting the 3-4 weeks for the yeast to do its thing (or for this to all fail horribly).

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Alice, a Stranger in a Strange Land

For Week 2 of Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World we read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  I found it markedly difficult to settle on a topic for this mini-essay as there is so much to pull on in these books.  Ultimately I settled on Alice as a study of experiencing alien culture.
Going beyond its place in children's literature, Alice in Wonderland reads as a study in encountering the alien.  The first challenge in imagining how someone truly alien would react to a culture is to fully step away from our beliefs, preconceptions, and cultural memes.  The world of adults starts out as something alien and often impenetrable to children, with its own rules and unimaginable consequences.

Alice, our protagonist, is a cultured young girl educated in etiquette.  As someone who grew up in a Western culture, the rules of etiquette of Alice's world would not be entirely alien to me.  Yet, again and again she acts in a manner that can be classified as rude (or illegal) in our modern world, such as entering and exploring homes without invite, regardless of the rules of Wonderland.  She insults her companions through breaching taboo subjects and inflicts much suffering on the poor lizard Bill with little if any regret.

Behaviors require context before they earn a label.  In the United States showing someone the bottom of your foot has no particular meaning, however when I studied dance styles from the Middle East I learned to deliberately avoid showing the audience the bottom of my foot due to the insult it carries in some cultures.  Alice never knows the context or interpretations her actions may carry, be it talking about her dear cat or witnessing in a court case about stolen tarts.  Lewis Carroll has not only turned the rules of logic upside down for the entire world, but has provided a point of view even further from the norm, giving us a glimpse of what it could be like to encounter an alien culture.

Carroll, Lewis. (1865) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11
FEEDBACK
FORM (3)
peer 1 → Very well written and the form is very clear and easy to follow.
 
peer 2 → Your essay reads very nicely. Other than a few missing commas (you can catch them by reading your work out loud), the only thing that jumps out is that your concluding paragraph doesn’t read like a concluding paragraph. You’ve introduced new material in it. This is really the place where you want to recapture your thesis statement (which you have done with the final sentence in that paragraph), and wrap up any final thoughts on the topic. Even separating out the last sentence into its own paragraph would have helped. Overall, good work!
 
peer 3 → I enjoyed reading your essay as it flowed well, was well constructed and the use of grammar and context were appropriate. Your essay had a good introduction, you built your argument then finished the essay appropriately with your conclusion. I know we are supposed to find something to suggest you do better in the form, but I really couldn't find anything. : )
 
peer 4 → Score 3. I don't have 30 words to say about this, but everything looked great. I found no fault in your form. I don't see how you could improve it.
CONTENT (2.5)
peer 1 → I think you could have used more quotes as examples to back up your arguments, but your arguments flow with logic and the conclusion and thesis are solid.
 
peer 2 → You have a very interesting argument, and I really liked how you brought in your own experiences to help explain your position on how Alice in Wonderland is like encountering an alien culture. However, are you judging Alice by our 21st century values, or by those by which Lewis Carroll may have lived? Alice was accepted by his culture, as evidenced by the popularity his works had. And besides, you may have found where I lived as a child as somewhat foreign to your own sensibilities because if no one answered the door after the first knock, it was rather customary to go on in hollering, “anybody home?” Everybody did it, and nobody ever, ever locked their doors!
 
peer 3 → As mentioned in the previous section, I enjoyed reading your essay and liked the way you contextualised points you were using to build your argument. I found your motif and theme fascinating and this has certainly given me food for thought, however, you seem to be alluding to incidents in Wonderland and I couldn't pick up on anything from Through the Looking Glass. I would have like to have seen more direct referencing to the books to further back up your points. this could have been achieved by either stating "in Wonderland/Looking Glass" or you could have included specific quotes to augment your points.
 
peer 4 → Score: 3 Original idea, and well thought out. I liked that you didn't rely on direct quotes to illustrate your points. This did not affect your score (obviously) but I would have liked to see you extend your theory with examples from Looking Glass as well. I think that would be a really interesting read!
OTHER COMMENTS
peer 1 → Keep up the good work :)
 
peer 2 → Sharing your personal experience and thoughts about your subject matter made your essay better. In an essay so squeezed for space as our are, this was an effective alternative to adding researched material. It gave it a unique perspective. Keep up the good work!

The Brothers Grimm & Clever Deception

As part of Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World I write weekly short essays (270-320 words).  Our first week looked at Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm from 1882 (full text available via Open Library).  For credit on any submitted assignment each student then peer reviews 5 other students' essays on From and Content, each graded on a scale of 1 to 3, with 2 as the expected adequate work grade.

What struck me very early on in this translation and edition of the Grimm's Fairy Tales is that they by-and-large were stories of utterly horrible people.  That seemed as good of a starting point as any for a short essay.
The fairy tales collected by the Brothers Grimm are not by-and-large morality tales, but instead often tales celebrating clever deception and manipulation.  Often the rewards go not to the virtuous or deserving but to the one who thinks on their feet and is not caught.  For example, Clever Gretel is selfish, The Six Gentlemen take advantage of the situation, the man in The Raven steals the magic items, The Wonderful Musician is cruel, The Gallant Tailor is a remarkable bluffer, and the list goes on.  Lucky Hans is manipulated by a parade of individuals, each of whom profit and he remains happy.  The cat in The Cat and the Mouse simply eats the mouse and the problem disappears. In all of these cases the manipulator triumphs, be it stealing dinner from her employer, hoodwinking the king out of all his gold, or earning a bride. 

Some tales the manipulator is punished.  In The Goose Girl or The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats it can be argued that the "villain" was punished not because of their lies and deceptions, but because they were not clever enough to remain uncaught.  The Three Men Little Men in the Wood mirrors the betrayal and punishment of The Goose Girl.  Similarly in The Frog Prince the princess is caught in her deception and forced to carry through on her promise, though she was ultimately rewarded.  Once again the list goes on.

A handful of the tales even focus on the rewards of loyalty or avoid deception overall, but they make up at most a quarter of the tales in this collection.  Faithful John, The Twelve Brothers, The White Snake, The Fisherman and His Wife largely avoid trickery as key plot vehicles.  Fairy tales and fables, including those collected by the Brothers Grimm, are often touted or presented as tales of morality.  This translation belays that assumption and instead presents tales of clever deception.

Grimm, J., Grimm, W., Crane, L., & Crane, W. (1882). Household stories. London: Macmillan & Co.  Retrieved from http://openlibrary.org/books/OL14013824M/Household_stories
This first essay earned me a 4.  Adequate, and even with feed back of "well done," but with definite room for improvement.  On a fresh read (ie. not a "is this enough to submit?"), I'm surprised at the number of "well done" comments given, I find my tone in this essay a bit pretentious and not all that interesting.  I think the topic has potential for some very interesting literary analysis, but it was not accomplished by me in these 300+ words.  To be self-honest, the entire essay relies far too much on listing relevant stories and does little to connect and develop concepts.

FEEDBACK
FORM (2)
peer 1 → In my opinion, the writer's form is good. The grammar should be improved and there are also typing errors, I believe. The aspect that the writer does well is the usage of adjectives. However, the overall structure of the essay is not comprehensible.
 
peer 2 → Very good essay. But please keep a watch on your grammar and proofread. For ex: " the one who thinks on their feet and is not caught. "
 
peer 3 → mmmmmm! well done. your language structure is good and the sentences are well constructed and i love the way you choose your words too however, you might want to reading through your work before submitting and make sure they void of errors e.g "thinks on their feet and is" in my own part of the world its a wrong English.
 
peer 4 → I think that in second paragraph there should be ‘In some tales’ instead just 'Some tales'. Everything else is clear to me and I understand it well so I think it is very nicely formed.
CONTENT (2)
peer 1 → The aspect that the writer does well is naming the things the tales have in common. However, the writer should give examples of their conclusions. The essay does not show a deep understanding. Therefore, it should be better elaborated.
 
peer 2 → Interesting aspect of morality depicted in the essay. May be, the brothers try to depict various human natures in the tales. Loved your writing.
 
peer 3 → Your argument is so strong that it kept me thinking about other fairy tales that i have read, after comparing them i came to the conclusion that you are right and the examples you mentioned are just perfect to fit into your argument but i think you should try not to repeat your points in each paragraph instead you can boost your essay with other valid points. Welldone
OTHER COMMENTS
peer 2 → Thank you for the essay. It showed me a new aspect of brothers Grimm tales.
 
peer 3 → Avoid repetition and you will do better.
 
peer 4 → I like the insight of this essay into the categories of 'morals' in Grimm's fairy tales. Maybe the format of essay is too short to go more deeply in all of them so maybe I would like to know more about one category of fairy tales, for example, deeper analysis of category of fairytales that are' celebrating clever deception and manipulation'.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

[Book Review] The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane / Neil Gaiman (Powell's Books)
"It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang."

The package with my preordered signed copy showed up at 3:30 in the afternoon.  By 5:15 I had devoured the book.  I plan on reading it again, slower and with more care, I know I read this short novel very quickly.  It is nothing like American Gods or Neverwhere or really anything else but at the same time is quintessentially Gaiman.

It was like he reached into my brain and pulled out a beautiful nightmare.  Creepy yet endearing and sentimental with the clear logic of a lucid dream.

Later after another reading or two I may be able to put better words down, deliver more thought out or in depth revelations.  But I'm not sure that my doing so would not be a disservice.  Not everyone will love this novel, but if I were to try and contextualize and summarize this book for a future reader I would be giving my own context and perhaps tainting their own discovery.

This is a book about a man who was once, and perhaps may still be, a boy.  A boy with a family.  A boy who encounters the impossible, the unimagined.  This is the story of a boy who befriends three women and who visits a pond that is ocean enough when it needs to be.

Additional Links:
Neil Gaiman
A Deceptively Simple Tale Of Magic And Peril In 'Ocean' (NPR)


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

We'll miss you XBox, even if you won't miss us

EDIT 6.19.13: Microsoft has reversed their decision on lending restrictions and the once every 24 hour online checkin.  Your Feedback Matters - Update on Xbox One

Today I had to break some bad news to the Boys & Girls department at my library.  Actually, I broke the news to quite a few librarians on the statewide mailing list.  Namely that as things currently stand, we probably will be unable to lend XBox One games.  This came as unpleasant news for a number of my associates.

Technically publishers can set permissions for a game to be played regardless of console registration, and it looks like they did away with the "used game" fee idea.  We don't know how game companies are going to run with this.  We don't know yet how well advertised the single-owner vs used game model will be for the XBox One games.  But unless they present the user access clearly and right up front, buying XBox One games for circulation may just not prove worth it.  Not every library lends video games, so maybe only losing a few thousand sales per popular game (not counting people who try before they buy).  No big deal, right?

It really probably is not considered a big deal, if it even occurs to the game companies or Microsoft.  Or if it does, library purchased games may be thought of as "lost sales." Library purchases of video games are not of such volume to argue consideration or even significant discount as we do for books (paper ones at least).  Price of video games is one of the biggest reasons library video game collections are so limited.  However, more libraries are starting to buy video games for their patrons and this blocks off one of the our options.

I thought this every time they said "Xbox Go Home" during the demo.
Now, I do own games that I have no hope of ever reselling.  I'm reasonably happy with Steam as a platform.  But those are games I play on my PC.  I have always found the experience and interactions of PC gaming different than console gaming.  If I am going to play a computer game I own at a friend's likely they also have their own computer and maybe a few other friends are bringing theirs over.  Social PC gaming for me has always been a group of individual users.  Additionally Steam has incredible sales, I'm less likely to be upset about the inability to resell a game that I paid $5 for than one I put out $50 or more for.  One of the joys of console gaming is the different environment it invites.  You can bring your game over to a friend's, you can bring friends over and share the game on a single device.

Libraries are more than just places to borrow books or to use the internet.  Video games fit within the social scope of libraries.  I don't just mean console games when I say that.  Every day after school the computers are filled with kids playing Minecraft or World of Tanks.  And the fact remains for a number of the kids who borrow video games from us we are their internet access.  This may bother me particularly because I remember when Microsoft was the computer company that went out of its way to be accessible to anyone even if it was through public or school computer labs.  I can attribute much of my computer literacy base due to the computer lab donated to my elementary school.  We knew this was coming, but I still find it disappointing.




Additional Reading
Microsoft talks game-sharing, 'always-on' Xbox One

Sony hammers Xbox over price, used games
The Xbox One is coming – sell your used video games now

Monday, June 10, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, June 3 - 9

How Windows Red can fix Windows 8 (InfoWorld)
A proposal for design and structure for the next Windows OS.

"Less than 1% of printed works globally are accessible to the blind. This is because laws around the world bar printed material from being turned into formats useable by the blind and visually impaired, or for such material to be shared across borders.

That’s why 186 countries will soon convene in Morocco to finalize a Treaty that would empower the world’s nearly 300 million blind citizens with the same rights to read, learn, and earn that the sighted enjoy. However, huge and powerful corporations – many wholly unaffected by the proposed Treaty – are working to fatally weaken it or block its adoption.

Ask the President to compel US negotiators to fight for a strong Treaty that gives blind people equal access to books and doesn't burden those who want to provide them. Please sign today!"

Dummy-Proof Step-by-Step Guide to Encrypting a USB Drive (Spiceworks)
A rather nice simple how-to for those who are curious.

White House effort targets 'patent trolls'
I can't say that I have a whole lot of faith in this making a big difference in how patents are being abused, but I hope it is a step in the right direction.  It does not address the fact that company can patent page-turn animation or other patents that really don't qualify as the "novel, non-obvious, and useful" that is supposedly part of patent law.  There are companies who's entire business model is based on owning and developing patents, and other companies need to develop their own patent portfolios even if the patents they develop or purchase are never used by them.


EU outlines proposal for network neutrality guarantees
"The Arab Spring showed us the power of the internet. So I am determined to support and champion that network. A network that is open and unified, and delivering democratic values. Across the world, and here in Europe.  That is why we have our No Disconnect strategy, helping global activists use ICT tools in their fight for freedom. And that is why I am determined to safeguard media freedom and pluralism, including in the digital age."
See also: Speech: The EU, safeguarding the open internet for all

Seems to be a real thing, if perhaps coming across as poorly organized and met with intense skepticism by the target retailers.

Does Your Smartphone Sync with Your Values? Behold: The Fairphone!
In Europe, and still in start-up phase, but it is encouraging to see this sort of trend.

Free eBook Formatting & Marketing Guides for Writers
Nice little resource

Big Six Matrix for Ebook License Comparisons
I've posted the price comparison charts for library ebook costs and availability, but this is a nice chart showing the further layers of complexity and restriction libraries face in lending ebooks.

Windows 8.1 unveiled: Lots of touchscreen tweaks; Desktop users will be dissatisfied
Yup, the article title pretty much hits it.  Yes, the Start button returns... but without the Start menu and just behaves as a shortcut for the Metro UI.  I'm sort of wondering why they bothered on that front.  Overall still seems to be a system that embraces the things I least like about tablets and puts them on a desktop.

Golden Book Gown
I have no clue what I'd ever do with a dress like this, but I would love one and would make opportunities to wear one!

Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide'
An eloquent article on privacy as something worth holding on to.
"Privacy, in other words, involves so many things that it is impossible to reduce them all to one simple idea. And we need not do so."

Friday, June 7, 2013

[Book Review] Pirate Cinema

Pirate Cinema / Cory Doctorow (Powell's Books)
"Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by reassembling footage from popular films he downloads from the net. In the dystopian near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever; the punishment for being caught three times is that your entire household’s access to the internet is cut off for a year, with no appeal."
 Leave it to Cory Doctorow to write an smashingly brilliant, action filled, novel about copyright.  Written about an uncomfortably possible eminent future Pirate Cinema provokes thought while it entertains.  On top of spinning a story from a subject many of us remain ignorant or at least thoroughly confused by, he stands out by writing a solidly believable teenage narrator and experiences.  If you've ever wondered why I, or anyone else, may pay attention to copyright law and argue against many anti-piracy measures while also maintaining that intellectual property does have value, give this book a read.  Cory Doctorow has even made it, along with his other titles, available for free download.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Unpacking from Book Expo America 2013

There are a few constants about BEA, one is books and the other is your feet may take days to forgive you.  Depending on your self-restraint (and willingness to pay a $39 service fee per box on top of the shipping costs) your shoulders may also hate you.  I have two tips for anyone considering going: wear the most comfortable, supportive walking shoes you own, and if you're not dropping off your books to the shipping center make sure to take a minute here and there to organize the books in your bag (it really does make a difference).

Last year I loaded all my pickings into a box in the shipping area and it was great.  Except at the end when I decided "screw this shipping charge" and hauled the box out of the Javits to NY/Penn Station, and then had to load this box into the overhead storage compartment.  I didn't want to deal with that heavy of a load this year so I went to BEA promising myself to exercise restraint when offered books.  This promise turned out to be a good thing because this year the shipping center included signs that the boxes were not allowed out of the shipping area.  It also turns out it is a lot easier to turn down a book when you've been carrying a mostly full book bag around all day.

This year BEA started out with me getting a free bottle of Hennessy when I checked into the VIP Librarian Lounge.  RandomHouse decided they wanted to reward the first 100 attendees to check in at the VIP Lounge, and who am I to object?  The importance of this Lounge is you can sit down, find something to snack on, and access some free wi-fi.  As I mentioned earlier, the Javits is huge, and it happens to be filled with several thousand people most of whom are lugging tote bags full of books and other loot.  From there I began my day of collecting book bags, books, and random give-aways.

I definitely "scored" a few things due to awesome booth staff, including a staffer who checked for extra Hobbit tote bags featuring Smaug thanks to my tattoo and securing a few books before their official give away time at other booths, perhaps because I was friendly and willing to chat about whatever with them.  I also think I entered into close to 20 iPad mini raffles by dropping off my business card.  While largely a similar experience to last year, points of BEA were drastically different, including improved handling of in-booth author signing lines, missing food giveaways and no roaming Happy Hour at the different booths.  Instead official bar kiosks were set up with convention hall price drinks with only a few booths providing their own drinks, and in one case some rather rude staff trying to enforce a "private party" in the middle of an open to the public booth.  Here's a hint, if you're worried about "keeping out the riff-raff" your open area in the  middle of the convention might not be the best place for it.  But I digress.  Lots of fun was had, including a surprising number of conversations with complete strangers and some of the marketing methods employed.

What happens when you put Mad Libs in the public bathrooms (and that is not my handwriting):
Also, who can resist Wine Tasting for Dummies?


One of the highlights (that isn't getting free books) of BEA each year is catching what ever talk the Unshelved guys put on.  If you ever get a chance to hear one of their talks, take it.  I actually had intended to go to all sorts of talks during the course of the conference, but ultimately only made it to Unshelved's "Surviving the Public" talk.  Last year's was "How to Ban Books."  I love their humor.  I was unable to stay through Saturday which meant I missed Neil Gaiman.  If I am unable to acquire a ticket to see him in July at Porter Square Books I might cry.

So back to my adventures in author stalking and book collecting.

I got to meet Dr. Ruth Wordheimer Westheimer




Chuck Palahniuk is possibly one of the coolest authors I have ever met.

Jim C. Hines may be resigned to more people recognizing him for his adventures in examining the ridiculous world of "sexy" women book covers than for his writing (oh, and I found more... including a group photo with Mary Kowal, John Scalzi, Patrick Rothfuss, and Charles Stross plus the Flickr compilation...).  I love that he and a whole group of authors who I admire were willing to have some fun getting a little uncomfortable (and likely making some others uncomfortable) exposing issues with how women are presented on cover art.  I however associate him with his writing before those photos, and in particular Libromancer which just happens to be one of the books that brought me to settle on my blog name.  He writes delightful novels and has a great sense of humor.



Who else did I meet?  Oh, only some guy named Buzz Aldrin.  So it was only for a few seconds while my book was signed, but I met someone who walked on the moon.  It's staggering to me. 

I also managed to get in line for Richelle Mead's latest book, Gameboard of the Gods several days before it goes on sale.  I am about half way through and absolutely loving this novel.


Here is the "What to Read instead of Fifty Shades of Grey" pile.  Under Her Thumb is by D. L. King, the editor of Carnal Machines and promises to be both woman and sex positive.  The Killer Wore Leather is reportedly hilarious and clever.  Then we have Carrie's Story and Safe Word, an "American Story of O" that predates the Fifty Shades craze.  I have not read Carrie's Story, though I'm hoping the comparison to Story of O is mostly in regards to the kink aspects of the relationship, not to abuse of devotion and uninformed consent.  Tristan Taormino is a sex educator of some renown who's most current book is The Feminist Porn BookOliver's Hunger might not techincally belong in this batch, but it was described to me by another author sharing the boot as "seriously hot paranormal romance" and I know some people who may be interested in that title.

I guess this is the Sci-Fi/Fantasy pile.  I've been wanting to read Wool for some time now, and it is an example of indie-publishing going very right.  Enchanted has caught my eye at work, but like so many books I just have not gotten to it yet.  Both of those are also signed by their fabulous authors.  The other two are ARCs that are likely both fantastical and ridiculous.  I cannot wait to get into them (sorry mom, you have to wait to borrow them).



And some more signed books (with some repeats noted earlier).  I had no idea that Fortunately, the Milk was signed, and may have squeed when we were shown.  Sometimes being first in line makes the waiting that much harder.  Fortunately, the Milk has absolutely delightful illustrations that I have fallen in love with just based on a quick skim.  I may have also already used My Dog: The Paradox to suck several other people into following The Oatmeal

The upside of my more limited selection of books this year is I hope to actually read a reasonable number of them before next year's BEA if I'm able to attend.  So fingers crossed on attending next year (or more specifically, managing another free registration since I cannot afford to go otherwise), and in the mean time, I'm working through my new books.








More fun with legacy devices - Star TSP100 Receipt Printer

These little printers have served us very well, and even better ours connect via USB.  Over the past two years I have started to upgrade the PCs that use these printers to Windows 7 and the installation CD only goes up to Windows XP.  Star Micronics still supports and produces this printer line, so newer drivers exist, and I went ahead and downloaded the most recent version of the drivers at that time (5.1 or 5.2).

This worked fantastic when tested.  Only one problem, after a handful of prints (you know, some point after I was done testing), it would simply fail to print and the job queue would fill.  If the printer was powered off, then turned back on it would resume printing.  So I contacted Star Micronics help and got the following answer.
"You need to downgrade the software to version 4.  Turn the printer off and go into control panel and programs and features.  Also close everything else out.  Uninstall the tsp100 setup.  Go into devices and printers and make sure the driver is gone from the list.  Also highlight any printer and choose print server properties at the top and click drivers and make sure there is no tsp100 listed there either.

Go into the c drive and program files and remove anything that says star micronics and then restart the copmputer.  Use the link below and click tsp100 drivers and download the 64 bit option and save to the desktop.  Unzip the folder and run the installer.  Then connect the printer to a different usb port and power on and windows will detect and install."
And like that the problem was fixed.

So fast forward to approximately now.  Drivers are now at 5.3 and compatible through Windows 8, so we thought maybe the updated drivers would have fixed whatever caused the issue with the earlier release.  If you are also thinking this but have yet to install anything, stop now.

1. Uninstall any and all drivers for the printer.  If you are unfamiliar with uninstalling software and hardware go to Control Panel, then Programs, then Uninstall a Program.  Select the program in question from the list (TSP100 Setup Version 5.3.0) and hit Uninstall.  You may have to restart your computer.
2. Download futurePRNT V4.0 from Star Micronics Support Database.
3. Extract the folder tsp100iiu_v4_0_0 to where ever is convenient
4a. In the tsp100 folder select Autorun and go through the installation
 OR
4b. In the tsp100 folder go into Windows, then Installer, and run setup.
5. First connect, then power on the printer.  Allow the computer to process the new device.
6. If for some reason the printer registers as an "Unspecified" in Printers and Devices, right click and choose Troubleshoot.  The first option should be to install drivers which should fix the problem (you do not need to set the printer as default.


Monday, June 3, 2013

[Book Review] Revelations: Book One of the Merlin Chronicles

Revelations: Book One of the Merlin Chronicles / Daniel Diehl (Goodreads)
"In Revelations, the first book of The Merlin Chronicles, archeology student Jason Carpenter discovers a mysterious orb that has housed history's greatest wizard for 1,600 years. Forced into an uneasy alliance, Jason and Merlin are sucked into a web of deceit, intrigue, and murder in a race to outwit and outrun Merlin’s ancient nemesis, the evil sorceress Morgana LaFay, a gang of drug smugglers, and a 500-year-old Chinese necromancer. It’s a race against time to complete their quest before an army of dragons is unleashed on a vulnerable and unsuspecting 21st century world."
For some reason I assumed this would be a YA novel, possibly based on the cover art or the title, both of which would fit right in on a shelf of teen oriented books.  If you are reading my review take this opportunity to learn from my initial mistake so that you are not surprised at the texture of the novel.  Don't expect something that read's like Harry Potter or even a Mercedes Lackey novel (which I often find mixed into the Teen collection at libraries).  Instead Revelations turned out to be an intricate and academic fantasy pulling on real life and fable.  I did have some issue with the focus on the power of Christ, but I am willing to concede to some bias based on personal history with Christianity, and the story did expand to discuss other religions with equal examination.  This is a great read for anyone who wants more from their fantasy than wish fulfilling magic or who enjoys tales incorporating established fable, not just fans of the Arthurian legend.