Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You know it's going to be a long night when...

You cannot tell if the patron at the nearby table is upset with his laptop or talking dirty to it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, July 22 - 28

The Human Body as Touchscreen Replacement
Interesting read

30 Things Librarians Love
Hehehe... yeah...

Keep Cool this National Ice Cream Month with Book-Inspired Flavors!
I would totally eat these.

Because copyright issues are not just a fight between technology innovation and content creation, it's WAY more than that.

Libraries & Privacy in the Internet Age
This is something I work with every day.

That’s Not Very Feminist of You, Bella: Feminism and YA Romance Novels

25 Signs You’re Addicted To Books
#8, 10, 13, & 15 describe me rather well.  My insomnia however is legitimate most of the time.

SEXTadvice
Think of this as an online reference desk for sex questions, which is fantastic since some questions can get awkward to ask at the reference desk (especially when a family comes up to borrow a museum pass).  Alternatively any good adult toy store should be knowledgeable enough to help you with your questions, but this medium may be more comfortable or convenient.

Wayward Manor
"Neil Gaiman" + "Video Game"
I hope my excitement is self-explanatory.  There are also some neat pre-order options for the game.
More: Neil Gaiman to Release First Video Game

Neil Gaiman reading The Graveyard Book
So it's not a free download, but you can stream this video of Gaiman reading his own work to your heart's content.  Sounds like a good deal to me.

On some noticeable changes in pricing recently on Amazon.
 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

'Herland' and gender expression

Reading a book that is considered an "important feminist work" and finding myself largely disgusted with the vision of women was not something I expected.  That is what I got when I read Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  The idea of an intellectual and physical utopia grown out of a society of women is great, I just have problems with how the women are very strictly written in their gender roles.  While the men visiting Herland have issues with the "lack of femininity" largely the only drastic diversion from gender roles by these women are that they are all independent of men and possess physical strength.  They are even ruled by "mothers."  It's like reading women written by Heinlein who are always brilliant and savvy, but for whom babies are a universal ingredient to their life's happiness.

Herland celebrates women, but only women of a very narrow, cisgendered scope that ignores the complexities of gender.  The women all possess the vaulted traits of intelligence, wisdom, strength, and physical female perfection.  They are also all the ultimate mothers, all desiring and cherishing children.  These women are strongly gendered within this.

Women across time, regardless of their origins, vary in their conformity to gender norms.  At the time that Herland was written, "Boston marriage" existed in the vernacular, encompassing a range of alternative relationships and gender expressions.  Women who lacked attraction to men, women who lived independent from men, women who felt like they were in the wrong body, women who simply did not fit the "female" mold.  These were common enough to have a name rather than existing simply as an oddity.

The initial generations of Herland reproduced without controls, not until the more recent generations did they actively work to regulate their population.  Allowing for the many generations of rapid population growth and within the constraints of parthenogenesis over time they could viably have a wide genetic spread across their population.

It is unknown what really defines gender, be it genetics or socialization.  Here we have both factors even if we have a single gender instead of a binary gender system.  Not only that, but physical gender expression does not always match the chromosome pairs.  Why does Herland have no intersex or XX male children?  Why are all of the women gendered as mothers?  Even without a male gender there is still room for variance in gender expression and identity.  In our world non-binary genders do not necessarily mirror the opposing binary genders.  In a utopian culture of intellect and wisdom, would they not accept a wider range of gender expression than that of an ultimate motherhood?
Definitions & Sources:
cisgender - someone who's percieved gender matches their birth gender <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender>

Boston marriage - two women living together independent of men during the late 19th and early 20th century, some in lesbian relationships, some not <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_marriage>

Parthenogenesis - a form of asexual reproduction, also known as "virgin birth" <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenogenesis>

Intersex - posessing variations in sex characteristics that do not allow for clear gender classification <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex>

XX male - men with 'female' chromosomal pairs <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16556678>

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins.  Herland.  Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/32

FEEDBACK:
FORM
peer 1 → A nicely written piece

peer 2 →
This essay is very well written. It has a careful layout and it is almost mathematical in its exposition. About the words, many of these terms were new to me. Thank you for the clarification.

peer 3 →
Good transition between P 1 & 2, but lacking after that. In P2, beginning with 'Women and ending with 'mold' you have a sentence fragment as it does not have a complete thought. In P 3, the first sentence is a run-on. Use 3rd person, not 1st (we). Keep the tense in present form - are instead of were. P3, use a comma after time and in P
4, after the word gender. In P 4, most people think of binary as a numbers system. Binary can be a dictionary correct term, but isn't correct to mean two sexes. Italicize the title throughout. Gender is a noun that cannot be made into a verb. I believe you want to use the word engendered which can be used as a verb.

peer 4 →
Very well written, nothing much to say.

peer 5 →
The content is easy to understand. The structure of his work is easy to read. I apologize if my grammar is poor, my native language is not English. I hope my comments are clear

CONTENT
peer 1 → You articulated and brought into focus many of my thoughts about Herland and it's feminist manifesto, which I think is very much divorced from the realities of the shades of personality that exist even within one sex. As I read it I had a vision of all those pre-Second World War German films with blond blue eyed healthy specimens of Aryan descent striding through the mountains and taking part in mass exercise routines. Wasn't Jesse Owens a real wake up call. Thanks too for all the background.

peer 2 →
I find this essay to be very objective. I think you were almost detached from it, probably not to express any bias. There is concrete information and it is a real mind opener, not only to the book, but to the gender aspect in general. It is a well written essay, full of meaning and insight.

peer 3 →
It is unlikely that during the time 'Boston Marriage' was in the vernacular, it is unlikely to have included 'women who felt like they were in the wrong body'. It would have been too much for that time, even as many people have difficulty hearing about it today. Are the 3 other descriptions an oddity (singular) or oddities (plural)? Note that not all the women become mothers. Your last sentence would have worked well in a concluding paragraph, but not as a question. Your essay is about gender, not 'Herland'. In a much longer paper you could have dealt with these more fully using examples and quotations. Cisgender? redundant definition which should be referenced from a medical source, not Wikipedia which is not exactly a well-thought-of source.

peer 4 →
Although I know where you come from, I don't feel that you really analyze the book. You mostly use it as an excuse to discuss gender identity as a social subject. While it is very interesting, it's also something we've been warned against. Maybe you could have written a comparison between female characters in A Princess of Mars, and female characters in Herland.

peer 5 →
The argument is consistent, from the title of this, until the end. Be approached in a context the problem of gender and the type of woman referenced in the Herland's book. Part of parthenogenesis in which questions because there are only women and not men. I share this concern with you, I think any advanced society should be inclusive and diverse, for greater cultural richness.
So, I wanted to make a few notes in response to the comments made by the reviewers.  First off, I do realize Wikipedia is not the best source of definitions, however when writing a 300 word essay on one of two books that I was to read in less than five days, I simply did not have time to locate and reference the physical books that I wanted to.  For defining cisgender I could have probably used the definition from BasicRights.org but there is a good collection of references and further readings on the Wikipedia definition, and it isn't a word that is popular in medical reference sites at this time.  In my mind, Wikipedia is better than UrbanDictionary or Tumblr for definitions.  As for claiming that "Boston Marriage" was a known phrase in 1915, it was coined close to 20 years before Herland was written and there are documented surveys in the early 20th century where women to admit to feeling misplaced in their own body.  This is a subject on which I have read about in a number of published books, so while I will accept that I may have overstated the inclusion of the phrase in common vocabulary, I will stand by my other statements regarding it in my essay.  Unfortunately the lack on my part does give the appearance of unfounded fact.

As for errors in the actually essay, at this point I have witnessed formatting errors occur between when I enter text and then save it.  It does not matter how carefully I check to make sure that all italics are where they belong or that there is a space between every word, something gets shifted.  Ending an essay in questions is not a great practice, but it is where my lines of thought led me.  I managed an above average grade on this, and I'm glad to have gotten a chance to explore this topic with feedback.

Amusingly, one of the reviewers recognized who I was due to a forum discussion I started on gender definition in Herland.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One of these things is not like the other...

...One of these things just isn't the same


Sometimes it is the little things that make me smile, in this case it is a floppy disk labeled 'RESEARCH (?), PORN, WAR MOVE BOOKS."  A mix of ethics and self-preservation prevent me from actually investigating the contents of this disk that has lived in our disk lost and found basket for the past year and a half.  I already know more than I want to know about some of our patron's porn tastes, I really don't want to know more.

I can't deny curiosity at exactly how much they were able to store on a 1.44MB disk, they are not the most spacious when it comes to saving photos.

Link Smorgasbord, July 15 - 21

How DRM Won
This is a really great article, if you're wondering why anyone would ever have reason to be uncomfortable with cloud or streaming services, it's worth reading.

Broad coalition sues feds to halt electronic surveillance by National Security Agency
Several groups that often have little to do with each other banding together on privacy issues.


Letters to the Editor: Forbes Library needs some help
Letter to the Editor of the Springfield Republican by Jane Yolen about Northampton's Forbes Library's fund drive to improve accessibility. 

Books-A-Million to Install ESPRESSO BOOK MACHINE
Print-on-Demand in a bookstore.

Declaration on Digital Freedom
A statement of rights by PEN International.

unintended consequences: Wiley price hike post-Kirtsaeng
Because text-books apparently weren't costing us enough no matter the format.

Emily’s Friends: Beer Tasting on a Summer Evening
Easthampton's Emily Williston Memorial Library is holding a beer tasting to benefit the library on Saturday August 10, from 5-7PM.  Featuring local brewery, TrĂ¼Beer, tickets cost $10 and each ticket grants for tastings.  Beer at the library, does it get any better?  Ok, I know it does, but I happen to like both libraries and beer, so still makes for a great combination.

And almost no one is surprised, especially considering this was one of the biggest concerns about the purchase even when Yahoo made statements that it would do this.

San Jose State suspends collaboration with online provider
Program suspended due to less than half of the students passing their classes.  Interested to see the final report on the project.

Friday, July 19, 2013

[Book Review] The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic / Emily Croy Barker (Author website, Powell's)
Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her "real life" against the dangerous power of love and magic.

For lovers of Lev Grossman's The Magicians series (The Magicians and The Magician King) and Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy (A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night).
This book completely messed up my weekend plans.  We periodically receive boxes of ARC's for collection development purposes, and I managed to snag this out of our most recent box.  That following weekend I was supposed to finish assigned readings in a timely manner and then write the assigned essay for a MOOC.  Then this book happened.  Assigned readings and essay?  Completed, but far from my best work.

Eminently enjoyable, this is a lovely piece blending urban and high fantasy.  The book also stands as an example of fantasy that isn't aimed at YA audiences (though I would have loved it as a teen) without the use of graphic sexual content as the defining line.

Having read both Lev Grossman's The Magicians series and Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy (at least the two books so far published) I have to disagree with the "official" recommendations.  If you like those books you likely will enjoy The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic, but a better reading experience match up would be against The Night Circus or the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Maybe Tanya Huff's Enchantment Emporium books.  The strongest connection between The Thinking Woman's Guide and The Magicians or A Discovery of Witches is the combination of urban and high fantasy.

For a book weighing in at 576 pages it was a quick read.  But then again, I didn't want to put it down.  Maybe you'll enjoy it too.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Invisible Man, The Invisible Man

I took a risk this past week for my essay.  After reading H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man I got to thinking about the similarities between that text and Ellison's Invisible Man.  300 words is a tight squeeze to discuss the parallels, but I had fun writing this essay.  Based on the feedback, this risk didn't hurt me, but it also didn't pay off.  I still hold that there are some very interesting parallels between these two books, beyond the tendency for people to confuse their titles.  I am also not quite sure how to respond to feedback that my writing is "too sophisticated."

Invisible Man, The Invisible Man
Visibility is the result of layered social equations, and often our actions become the framework through which our whole being is encapsulated, regardless of the conditions forcing our behavior.  H. G. Wells' The Invisible Man is artificially invisible, and Ellison's Invisible Man is culturally invisible, but both are judged by perceptions of their actions.  Both invisible men are guilty of various infractions and misdemeanors, often the result as much of circumstance as to personal flaws, but similarly both men desire survival and acceptance.

These men are "visible" largely only when their actions upset balance. Ellison's Invisible Man has visibility as part of a spectacle, such as in the battle royale, or visibility as a liability, such as to the university.  Wells' The Invisible Man was largely unnoticeable before his transformation except when creating a disturbance, when the noise of the cat resulted in investigation and accusation of vivisection in his apartments.  After his transformation he exists as a disruptive force, drawing attention to himself repeatedly even when his attempts are only base survival, and drawing extreme notice and censure as his ambitions grow.  Petty theft is one thing, assault and battery, not to mention a campaign of murder, are something else all together.

Ellison's Invisible Man survives; he takes his invisibility and ultimately uses it as a shield from the societal exclusion he experiences.  His actions are his visibility, be it as a public voice for an organization, or the narrator sharing his story from a forgotten apartment.  Wells' The Invisible Man uses his invisibility as an excuse to escape moral and societal strictures.  His actions are his visibility, as are the wounds resulting from his actions.  What we do no see we ignore, it lives literally beneath our notice.  It is when the invisible breaks out of bounds into the visible that we take notice and object.
Works cited:
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. Random House, Inc., 1952.
Wells, H. G.  The Invisible Man. C. A. Pearson, 1897.



PEER FEEDBACK

FORM (2)
peer 1 → I must say that your language is a bit sophisticated and may pose a problem to someone who speaks English as a second language. Also, I don't quite understand your first sentence at all.
peer 2 → It would have been nice to see a defined thesis statement in the beginning of this essay. Instead, it seems like you jumped right into the heart of it, without warning. That makes this essay a little jarring, and a bit hard to follow. Otherwise, the sentence structure and grammar are well used, I only saw one error; "Visibility of is the..."
peer 5 → Interesting and insightful points have been made.

CONTENT (2)
peer 1 → The content of your essay is also confusing. You are kind of comparing two different works and I only read one, which we were asked to read. I am sorry, but I don't find your essay insightful.
peer 2 → I'm not sure why you chose to compare Wells' Invisible Man to Ellison's, but it makes for a nice scope. The ideas are original and intriguing, I just wish that it had a better flow. Overall, great idea! I'd like to read more about this.
OTHER COMMENTS
peer 2 → Have an outsider read/edit your essay. Its nice to have a fresh pair of eyes, and from someone who isn't attached to the assignment.

Words No Librarian Wants to Hear

"Most of the text will be boilerplate information that we get from Wikipedia"


*cringe*

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Saving the World and Other Games

This past weekend, despite harsh conditions and overwhelming odds, we not only stopped the Machine Collective from demolishing Earth for materials in building a Dyson Sphere, but we made a huge step towards the regrowth of life on the surface and the eventual re-emergence of civilization out of underground bunkers. 

OK, so maybe I wasn't fighting against real cybernetic hordes intent on the final doom of humanity, but I was having a good time with a handful of friends and about 30 other players running around in character as we played make-believe. 

It was disgustingly hot though, and the wet field made our socks very very squishy.  Also there was the risk of ticks, which are creatures of my nightmares.

Send in the D-Team
LARPing (or Live Action Role-Playing) has a bit of a bad reputation.  It is connected with the much aligned world of Role (or Roll) Playing Games, historically accused of debauchery and Satanic rites (and while I find Mountain Dew repulsive, it certainly isn't Satanic), with the added bonus of actual risk of physical misadventure.  When boiled down, LARPing, like any other physically and mentally engaging activity, can be taken too far, but most of us do it for fun and social interaction.

Gaming has been a fantastic part of my social life for years.  It helps me circumvent quite a few areas of social anxiety and general awkwardness by providing a great excuse to gather with others.  It even helps with the pressure of finding something to talk about by creating its own subject matter.  Either way, regardless of the regularity that I meet with friends to play games, I had never gotten into LARP.

Why did I never LARP?  Well, for one thing if you are a socially anxious creature a LARP can seem a bit overwhelming.  Forget a game with 4-10 people, we're looking at a much larger group than that, and you're not just sitting around munching on awesome homemade bread (thanks, Anne) at a table, you are running around in character.  Conversation skills matter, not rolling a nat-20.  I'd have to remember my stats and abilities, plus possible fictional world knowledge and all sorts of rules.  Additionally most LARPs are long running games so I would be entering a pre-existing community with established characters and all sorts of power differentials (and likely social politics that I'm never good at).   Besides all that, LARPs are made of lots of things I like that can be boiled down to general geekiness.

Still, I just never got to trying a LARP.  Wasn't really sure where to jump in, and didn't really want to do it myself, but the interest was there.  Then two things happened to pull me in.  One is that my friend's started to invite me to one-shot games.  Games where everyone starts basically on the same footing.  The second factor was finding Leaving Mundania : Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games.  I found the information interesting if not written in an overly engaging manner, and if I felt there were things she just didn't quite get (and having since LARPed, I still hold to that opinion) it still brought LARP more to the forefront of my thoughts.  But the true junction between these two is Leaving Mundania did give me the impression that a C'thulhu one-shot would be a fantastic introduction to LARP, and this past fall there was a C'thulhu one-shot that a group of friends invited me to.

If you have no clue what I mean by C'thulhu I recommend going and reading some H. P. Lovecraft right now.  He was a master of suggestive horror, writing stories about creatures man is not meant to know that insidiously creep into your mind and might actually appear creepy until hours after you have finished his story.  The C'thulhu mythos is pulled into pop-culture all over the place, including in Hellboy and World of Warcraft.  For those who want the quick and dirty, the C'thulhu mythos is about elder beings who devour your sanity if you are lucky, your soul and/or the earth if you are unlucky.  In LARP terms this means your character very likely will die and/or go crazy by the end of the weekend, and if there happened to be any survivors from a previous one-shot in this game, they were burdened with disadvantages to balance any advantages they had.

Of my group, 3 of the 4 of us died acting as rear-guard as most of the players ran in terror from a boss, and we were completely OK with it.  It was an awesome death, and less than a quarter of the total players actually 'survived' the whole game.  After 'death' we got to actually sleep, or go to monster camp and try to hunt down the other players until game end sometime Sunday morning (around 6AM I think it was).  TL;DR: oh my god it was awesome.

Alright, so does this have anything to do with libraries?

Definitely.

I want to some day arrange an after-hours LARP in a library.  What system, what setting, which library?  No clue yet, beyond the need for a non-physical combat rules set.  Libraries often have interesting spaces and creative conglomerate architecture.  Some game settings, such as C'thulhu, actually lend themselves well to a space like a library, and the idea of an overnight 'lock-in' is not a new one.  Why not create a living story for members of the community to play within?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hawthorne & Beauty

In this essay I give up any faith in spell and grammar checkers.  So many errors made it into the submission.  I hope I caught them this time around.  Rather than one book or collection of short stories we read a collection of stories by both Hawthorne and Poe, I decided to just write about the readings by Hawthorne, though I ultimately connected the stories to previously assigned readings in this class.
Each of Hawthorne's tales assigned this week is connected by beauty.  Be it a gorgeous woman with countenance flawed by a birthmark, a lady both lovely and poisonous, the beauty of youth past, or simply the creation of living beauty itself.  So often in literature beauty is utilized as a visual representation of inner nature.  In Dracula, Mina and Lucy are considered lovely and good until the vampiric transition overwhelms Lucy's beauty.  In Frankenstein the monster is beheld as beautiful in his innocent state of inanimation, it is not until the creature is brought to life that it truly becomes a monster with monstrous visage, desires and intent.  Fairy tales are famous for the good and beautiful princess and the ugly witch, or other such pairings of good and evil.  Traditionally we see beauty valued.

Hawthorne tosses this concept aside.  We do still encounter beautiful characters, but their beauty does not reflect their whole being.  In The Birthmark the 'malformed' laboratory assistant is the only one who remains able to truly see Georgiana's beauty, while her own handsome husband twists her mind into utter self-loathing.  There is nothing beautiful about Aylmer's monomania and loathing of his wife's birthmark. Rappaccini's Daughter is perhaps the most traditional beauty, fair in body and in heart, if only her essence was not imbued with toxin.  Beauty in Dr.Heidegger's Experiment only led to increasing violence, cruelty, and greed as their youth and beauty was restored.  A of character who would strangle his companions over a woman is reminiscent of a petty and cruel fairy tale villain.  Ultimately true beauty is only achieved briefly, and that in the final tale, The Artist of the Beautiful .

Hawthorne presents us with beauty as its own living force, living on the belief of the beholder.  He shows us beauty as more than a face or figure, but as part of creation glimpsed and shared by those who treasure it most.

Works cited (recorded rather informally I must admit):
Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  Mosses from an Old Manse and other stories.  Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/512

Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  Twice Told Tales.  Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/13707

Carroll, Lewis. (1865) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11

Grimm, J., Grimm, W., Crane, L., & Crane, W. (1882). Household stories. London: Macmillan & Co.

Shelley, Mary.  Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus.  Retrieved from http://librivox.org/frankenstein-dramatic-reading-by-mary-shelley/

Stoker, Bram. Dracula.  Retrieved from http://librivox.org/dracula-by-bram-stoker/
FEEDBACK
FORM (2)
peer 1 → The form of the essay is good. Traditionally, I would prefer more paragraphs to ensure clear transition, but you've managed to be quite clear despite using only two paragraphs. Now that we've discussed the beauty its time to move on to discuss the ugly. :P Of course, there are a few unfortunate typos which you may have been able to avoid had you done a quick revision... but those aren't really a big deal. Your thesis should be stronger, "Each of Hawthorne's tales assigned this week is connected by beauty." is a valid thesis. It is simple and clear and generally OK. But you want more than OK don't you. (I know you do, I can see it in your eyes). Anyways, the problem with it, is that it seems somewhat childish, somewhat "school assignment" level. We know you've been assigned these readings, give us a strong active thesis even something like this, (disclaimer: this is just a suggestion, there are probably a million better ways to do this) "A gorgeous woman with countenance flawed by a birthmark, a lady both lovely and poisonous, the beauty of youth past, or simply the creation of living beauty itself, beauty connects all of Hawthornes tales." Also you should italize titles.
 
peer 2 → Good sentence structure, spelling and grammar. I felt that the paragraphs could have been broken into more than two, but they work fine as they are. A couple of mistakes are seen which were "Beauty inDr. Heidegger's" and "A of character". But this did not detract from the grade.
 
peer 3 → Althought the internal structure seems clear, sometimes is difficult to understand what is introduction, what is development and what is conclusion.
 
peer 4 → There are some errors and words missing... which makes it difficult to decipher what you were saying in a couple of sentences. 
 
CONTENT (2)
peer 1 → Beauty is an obvious theme, but your analysis does it justice. I especially like that you were able to incorporate the earlier readings into your essay as well without wasting word count. Nicely done!
 
peer 2 → The exploration of beauty is a good one and how it is the driving force for all the tales. However some of the examples of connecting beauty to good fail: the converted vampires are more beautiful than in their human state (as was the case with Lucy). Frankenstein was beautiful on the inside. Beatrice was beautiful but inherently poisonous. The artificial butterfly was considered beautiful by all even if on the superficial level. The examples in the essay are very accurate. However we don't get a sense of what the author was trying to say or use beauty to convey.
 
peer 3 → Your argument could be valid but I would need some more examples to give a conclusion about that. If I were you I would improve that.
 
peer 4 → Your thesis and arguments are strong... I enjoyed how you contrasted with prior readings. It significantly strengthens your arguments.
OTHER COMMENTS
peer 2 → One addition could have been Hawthorne's advice on how to deal with obsession with the beautiful. For Giovanni he said that prior to meeting Beatrice, had he not cut himself away from her, he would not have become as obsessed and have eventually ended up seeing her as common place. And in the final story, had Owen pursued Annie, married her and had her presence become commonplace, Owen could have finished his project more quickly.

Link Smorgasbord, July 8 - 14

Better Book Titles
If this image doesn't say it all, I don't know what does.  Some of the titles are more clever than others, but that is to be expected.  See the archive of covers here.
  


The Ultimate, Mega, Essential Website Design Guide – 115 Tools and Resources
A great collection of resources for those interested in web design.

The Weekly Number: Libraries pay up to 550% more for e-book bestsellers than consumers 
Featuring the July update from Douglas County Library System on price comparisons of ebooks and print books for consumers and libraries.

How Young Adult Literature Challenges Gender Norms
Reminds me of my own reading history, except I picked Mists of Avalon off my mom's bookshelf when I was in 3rd grade.

Imagine Amherst Without Food For Thought Books 
Food For Thought Books is one of those bookstores you can't imagine it's community without.  They're the bookstore that you can find the small press titles, the radical ideas, the brilliant and uncomfortable books.  They also have worked as a successful collective for longer than I have been alive.

Absolutely gorgeous collection of books is in peril, help them find a new life.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Frankenstein, or, the Folly of Man

I should have read this book and not just listened to the audio book, but audio books allow listening while cooking dinner or otherwise multitasking.  But for this book my engagement and retention of the story suffered as various long self-bemoaning passages faded into white noise.  For all of that Frankenstein contains some beautiful prose.

The feedback on my essay was generally inconclusive, though overall more positive than negative.  Some reviewers felt that my thesis and essay were clear and concise, that my writing showed "keen element of understanding of the plot weaved by Mary Shelley" and was thought provoking.  Others felt my writing was too simplistic and in need of focus.  Considering my lack of focus while reading/listening to the text, I think such criticisms are more than fair.
Frankenstein is a story about the folly of man, in the dangers of technological innovation without thought for repercussions.  Frankenstein's monster is the result of technology executed with truly the best of intentions, inspired by the death of the doctor's mother and a desire to reduce human suffering (ch.2 & 3).  Dr. Frankenstein is "seeking the mysteries of creation," looking to expand the bounds of science rather than following alchemy's search for "immorality and power" (ch.3).  However he single-mindedly pursues his goal and ended up horrified by his own creation, the doctor tells us that he "will not lead you on, unguarded and ardent as I was, to your destruction" (ch.4), and that the monster was "beautiful" except for his eyes (ch.5).

The end result of this monomania on the part of Dr. Frankenstein is torment and loss.  He creates a new form of life, a one of a kind that desires to belong, that feels and thinks, but is shunned and feared by all.  The monster demands a mate, for he is "shunned and hated by all of mankind" so that he may have one companion whom he can share his life with (ch.17).  In fact the fear and disgust of those he encounters teaches the creation to refer to himself as evil (ch.9).  The results of the doctor's actions in creating his 'monster' are the deaths of those close to him.  Not only that, but his prometheus itself suffers greatly in its existence and of the betrayal and abandonment by Frankenstein (ch.24).

No moral ramifications were considered in the creation of the monster, simply one man's fervor and obsession.  The result of Frankenstein's folly is tragedy, the result of invention without thought.

FEEDBACK
FORM (2)
peer 1 → This is good but there were a few typo's.
 
peer 2 → Very well, the essay has a good structure, nice thesis and conclusions.
 
peer 3 → More attention could be devoted to spelling and grammar. For instance, in the first sentence, the word 'of' needed to succeed the word 'dangers'. Other than that the arguments are very neat, clean and to the point.
 
peer 4 → Form and structure of this essay are well presented and clearly stated. The grammar and word usage is correct. The writer clearly stated the thesis and defended it properly with various quotes from the book. I found one error possibly, "in the dangers (of) technological innovation. Otherwise very proper thesis.
CONTENT (2)
peer 1 → This is good but does not seem to have a clear focus. Also, I am not sure that Frankenstein was motivated by loss. I think his motivation was self agrandismant and by the love of pure scientific advancement.
 
peer 2 → I like the essay in spite of the fact that it is too simple. You didn’t make any inventions and sometimes only scratch the surface. If you write for people who haven’t read Frankenstein, it’s ok, but all of your peers have read the book, and I’m not very interested in retelling the story. I want you to show deeper understanding.
 
peer 3 → There is a keen element of understanding of the plot weaved by Mary Shelley. The notion of an invention without any social or moral ramifications is though provoking indeed.
 
peer 4 → The content is insightful and persuasive. The text supports the argument. I also learned a new word. The thesis is stated and defended and I took to the same thought process while reading this book.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NF Display July 2013

Finally, a new NF display! The space I use for displays was otherwise occupied for the past two months, so the May and June ideas will be used at another time.


I knew I wanted something outdoors, but I needed to avoid the overlap of topics with our summer reading themes.  I've had a concept for a theme based on Obstacle Course Racing and other such events (I blame Heather, but I can't be mad because she's so awesome).  One huge problem, while we have James Villepigue's Obstacle race training bible, that's really our main title that looks at OCR and other non-traditional/creative race events.  And it is always out (now that we can order books again we will need to look at expanding our coverage on this).  I'm also not much of a sports fan.

Regardless of my knowledge of sports (really, I can't tell you without checking what sports go with what seasons), I wanted to do something related to the seed idea tumbling about in my head.  So rather than focus on a mainstream sport, I decided to focus on other areas of sports.  The books dealing with basketball, baseball, golf or other sport focus on side aspects.  Just as the display sign says "The World is my (free) Gym" the display is about the world of sports.

Thanks Heather! www.relentlessforwardcomotion.com

Now, if we had books about truly bizzare or unique sports I would have included them.  We have nothing on our shelves about cheese rolling or Quidditch.  However we do have books on the first under 4 minute mile, on the Harlem Globetrotters, on triathlons, and the list goes on.  I have excluded some sports, forgotten to include others, and perhaps over-represented others in the initial selection.  So this display is by no means a comprehensive alternative look at sports, but instead of mixing of ideas into a conglomerate of titles.
  • Jewish jocks : an unorthodox hall of fame / Franklin Foer and Marc Trac (eds)
  • Obstacle race training bible / James Villepigue
  • Andy Roddick beat me with a frying pan : taking the field with pro athletes and Olympic legends to answer sports fans' burning questions / Todd Gallagher
  • A people's history of sport in the United States : 250 years of politics, protest, the people and play / Dave Zirin
  • Fathers & daughters & sports : featuring Jim Craig, Chris Evert, Mike Golic, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Sally Jenkins, Steve Rushin, Bill Simmons, and others / introductions by Rebecca Lobo
  • People who sweat : ordinary people, extraordinary pursuits / Robin Chotzinoff
  • Hate mail from cheerleaders : and other adventures from the Life of Reilly / Rick Reilly
  • The healthy body handbook : a total guide to the prevention and treatment of sports injuries / David C. Saidoff and Stuart C. Apfel
  • Ultramarathon man : confessions of an all-night runner / Dean Karnazes
  • The perfect mile : three athletes, one goal, and less than four minutes to achieve it / Neal Bascomb
  • Warrior girls : protecting our daughters against the injury epidemic in women's sports / Michael Sokolove
  • First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters, from Taft to Bush / Don Van Natta Jr.
  • Scorecasting : the hidden influences behind how sports are played and games are won / Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim
  • Bad sports : how owners are ruining the games we love / Dave Zirin
  • C.C. Pyle's amazing foot race : the true story of the 1928 coast-to-coast run across America / Geoff Williams
  • Tricksters in the Madhouse : Lakers vs. Globetrotters, 1948 / John Christgau
  • You are an ironman : how six weekend warriors chased their dream of finishing the world's toughest triathlon / Jacques Steinberg
  • Heart of iron : my journey from transplant patient to ironman triathlete / Kyle Garlett
  • A race like no other : 26.2 miles through the streets of New York / Liz Robbins
  • Ultimate fitness : the quest for truth about exercise and health / Gina Kolata

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Awkward Request of the Week

I know, I know.  It is only Tuesday so it may be a little early to announce a winner for the Awkward Request of the Week.  But really, when the patron comes in and hands you a piece of paper because they are too embarrassed to say what they are looking for information on, even if the information is for someone else, the awkward potential is high.

Today's request for information was on "retention enemas."

I had no idea this was a thing.

Thanks to Dracula, Dead and Loving It! (and likely my mom for explaining the joke), I've at least known the basic idea of an enema since early teens, but it is not a topic I have gone out of my way to stay on top of.  This gentleman's education about enemas coincided with receiving a note with the topic, and the lengths of time one should retain various substances (garlic, lemon juice, and coffee grounds).  Awkward pre-teen conversations with mom at home verses awkward conversation with noticeably younger woman at the public library, I think I had the more comfortable expansion of vocabulary experience.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there actually is not a whole lot that myself or any reference librarian can provide on this.  Legally we cannot give medical advice.  Well, beyond "you should talk to a medical professional."  We can help you find information on a topic, and in this case I found several fact sheets for the patron, but we cannot give you recommendations on courses of treatment.  In this case I think the gentleman was perfectly fine with me recommending consulting a medical professional, possibly someone who focuses on holistic medicine.

Oh, and in case anyone else winced at the mention of lemon juice, it seems that it is not a recommended retention liquid.  Also, I fear what keywords from the spammers will show up in my statistics page now.


Update: BYODesktop

So last week I encountered a patron plugged into a port for a public computer on his home desktop.  Queue various techie security paranoia reactions about desktops of unknown security status plugged into ports that use for computers loading profiles off our server.  Fortunately after explaining why wireless was OK and the ethernet use was not he packed up for the day. 

Turns out this was not to be a one time occurrence as he returned the next day when I was out but with a wireless card installed.  This resulted in a slight altercation with staff as he went to the same location in order to use our peripherals, and wireless card or no, they had no good way to be sure the port wasn't being used.

The good news is things have been resolved.  The patron brings in his own peripherals, sets up at a regular table, and can play Steam games to his heart's content.  He's quiet and I see no reason that we can be the only internet access for people with laptops exclusively.  This means we don't have issues when someone wants to borrow a monitor when there are no extras available, and that until we get the computer I'm rebuilding into place we don't have to worry about an unknown computer docked at that station. Personally, I am still amused at someone bringing their desktop to the library, and would be a bit too worried about security if I had to get up for any reason, but whatever works.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, July 1 - 7

Time again to use that 'Gaiman' tag.  I am very excited about the new Sandman comics, I may have to set up a comic pull again for this.  The Sandman is what got me into comic books years ago (and then I discovered comics by Warren Ellis and Allen Moore).

Miracles of miracles! WIPO passes the treaty for the blind!
"By all accounts, however, when the treaty goes into effect, nations with exceptions for the disabled will be able to share accessible content across borders.  Libraries will be considered “authorized agencies” that can make accessible copies without the prior permission of the rights holder."
Also: Miracle In Marrakesh: “Historic” Treaty For Visually Impaired Agreed 

Humble eBook Bundle 2
Some awesome books (that I happen to own across a variety of formats already) are up at Humble Bundle.  The ebooks are DRM free, you pay what you want, the money is split between the authors and charity.  A few of the books are reserved as rewards for giving more than the average donation.  The total bundle is only 6 books right now, but based on my experience with the first one, more books are likely to be added in and you will get access to those if they are added after you donate.

Raffle: Win a set of Before Watchmen
Because who doesn't love free special editions?  If you follow the link I get an extra entry in the raffle and it does ask to sign you up for a newsletter that I really like but is easy to unsubscribe to.

Cue my surprised face.  Oh damn, I guess I'm not all that surprised, but then again I've had my history of issues with Amazon so I would be pessimistic towards them.

A post that asks what is the "real" price of a book, taken from observing the changing price point for titles on Amazon.

How Copyright Makes Books and Music Disappear (and How Secondary Liability Rules Help Resurrect Old Songs)
Abstract: A random sample of new books for sale on Amazon.com shows three times more books initially published in the 1850’s are for sale than new books from the 1950’s. Why? This paper presents new data on how copyright seems to make works disappear. First, a random sample of 2300 new books for sale on Amazon.com is analyzed along with a random sample of 2000 songs available on new DVD’s. Copyright status correlates highly with absence from the Amazon shelf. Together with publishing business models, copyright law seems to stifle distribution and access. On page 15, a newly updated version of a now well-known chart tells this story most vividly. Second, the availability on YouTube of songs that reached number one on the U.S., French, and Brazilian pop charts from 1930-60 is analyzed in terms of the identity of the uploader, type of upload, number of views, date of upload, and monetization status. An analysis of the data demonstrates that the DMCA safe harbor system as applied to YouTube helps maintain some level of access to old songs by allowing those possessing copies (primarily infringers) to communicate relatively costlessly with copyright owners to satisfy the market of potential listeners.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dracula and Carnal Women

I have a confession to make.  I have never been a fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula.   Regardless I voluntarily signed up for a course knowing the required reading and assignments.  So I slogged through it, though at least this time I realized that the whole bloody story is told through journal entries and letters, rather than thinking the letter at the start is a foreword and then trying to find where the story started...

I believe my essay shows that I was less than enthused about the text, however my peers rated my essay higher than I expected.  My second challenge in even selecting a topic is that I find it very hard to read Dracula separate from its life as a cultural meme.  In reading Dracula the text I had to "forget" everything it has inspired, be the result literary, theatrical, or something else all together.  Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Leslie Nielesen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Dracula 3000, etc...  For the purpose of this class these had to exist outside my sphere or reference.

Regardless, the show must go on, and I managed to pull together something.  Perhaps my argument is "a little too vehement," as one peer commented, but when making a case in 300 words I'm willing to live with that reaction.  I suppose my essay could leave one confused about my feelings towards the virgin mother/fallen whore dichotomy mentioned, but my purpose was to discuss how Dracula embraced it.
One of the themes found in Dracula is that of the dangers of the unbound sexuality, in particular in regards to the dichotomy of virgin mother and fallen whore.  The women of Dracula are few, and some, such as Lucy's mother and maids, are largely background and inconsequential characters.  The women of consequence are those touched, or soon to be touched, by Dracula's corruption.

Before the Count's corruption Lucy and Mina are sweet girls much adored by the men in their life.  So adored is Lucy that her rejected suitors bear no animosity towards her or her chosen, but instead remain steadfast in chaste love.  Mina develops intimate friendships with the men, but is like a "mother" or "little girl" (ch.17).  Once turned, Lucy goes from a creature of "sweet purity" to one that is "voluptuous," "sensual," and exudes "carnality," making sexual invites to her betrothed and his companions (ch.16).  While Mina is not wholly turned, she is made "unclean" by Dracula's touch and is scarred by the touch of holy wafer (ch.22).  Had their corruption not been stopped the completed fall can be seen in Dracula's "brides" - the three women who Jonathan first encounters and whom later are destroyed as the men clean out the "den of infamy" (ch.26).

The ruin of Dracula's corruption goes beyond simply becoming sexual beings.  The tainted women are denied any children of their own; instead they become a threat to children.  The vampiric Lucy is drawn to children whom she lures into her arms and then feeds from.  Dracula's brides delight in devouring children.  Once fallen into sensuality these women turn into anti-mothers, creatures of debasement and corruption that lead Mina to ask the men to kill her if she turns saying “it is men’s duty in times such as these” (ch.25).  In this the virtuous woman is upheld, and the carnal cast out.
FEEDBACK
FORM (2.5)
peer 1 → Flow of ideas is continuous and word usage is proper.
 
peer 2 → Argument well written. You are concise yet detailed in your argument. Good job.
 
peer 3 → IT is well written, consitently structured. Perhaps a little too vehement for me, but it is a matter of taste.
CONTENT (2)
peer 1 → It would have been better if you had given more of your thoughts regarding the issues you stated. I mean it was more like an interpretation or description of what was written rather than an analysis.
 
peer 2 → it was a near perfect argument. Good for a speech contest. You nailed the subject in so little words.
 
peer 3 → Interesting take, well supported. I would have preferred a little more ellaboration of the argument even if it meant sacrificing some examples.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, June 24 - 30

Magic Rights Management for eBooks
I made mention of SiDiM last week in my collection of links, as well as it as an example of one of the reasons I distinctly prefer paper over ebooks.  Eric Hellman goes beyond my feeling of disquiet and actually discusses SiDiM on a broader scale.

So this could get interesting.

Amusing and revealing experiment in downloading free programs.

Useful resource, clunky page.

On ebooks, not just in regards to libraries.

Ouya launches for $99; already sold out on Amazon, GameStop
I'm intrigued by this little console, but I'm also not really in the market for any console at this moment.  Either way I will be keeping an eye on it, could be an interesting option for in house video-gaming at the library, or even possibly as circulating hardware.  We circulate e-readers and tablets, that doesn't make a $99 console seem all that unreasonable.  We might need to buy at least a second controller, but I think it would be fun to circulate an Ouya.

Authors for Library Ebooks
"The Authors for Library Ebooks campaign seeks to add author voices to those of librarians and readers in support of equitable access to digital content through libraries."