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Showing posts from June, 2013

[Book Review] Best Erotic Fantasy & Science Fiction

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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.

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 ther…

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.

The NSA's Prism: why we should care 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 …

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 Pumpkin…

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 b…

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 adva…

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

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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…

Link Smorgasbord, June 10 - 16

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NEW GAIMAN TIME!

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Don't expect to hear from me much until I finish Ocean at the end of the lane.


In the mean time, here's Amanda Palmer's review.

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

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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…

Link Smorgasbord, June 3 - 9

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

We the People petition: Side with the blind over obstructionist companies to secure a Treaty for the Blind that makes books accessible globally. "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 d…

[Book Review] Pirate Cinema

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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 …

Unpacking from Book Expo America 2013

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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…

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 dri…

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

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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 ex…