Thrusday Ten

There’s a lot of Ebola stuff on here, sorry about that.

  • What If You Just Don’t Know If You Want Kids? Many women are certain they want kids someday. A smaller number are positive they don’t. But there’s another group that isn’t the subject of many hand-wringing studies or best-selling books: the ambivalent. The ones who vacillate between “I don’t feel compelled to have children” and “What if I regret not having had children?” (New York Magazine)
  • Hell in the Hot Zone: As the Ebola epidemic rages, two questions have emerged: How did the deadly virus escape detection for three months? And why has a massive international effort failed to contain it? Traveling to Meliandou, a remote Guinean village and the likely home of Patient Zero, Jeffrey E. Stern tracks the virus’s path—and the psychological contagion that is still feeding the worst Ebola outbreak in history. (Vanity Fair)
  • Why Don’t We Treat Teeth Like the Rest of Our Bodies? Dental care is excluded from most insurance plans for a bizarre and antiquated reason, and millions of people suffer as a result. (Atlantic) Note: I do go to the dentist regularly, but it took me a long time before I did. Thanks, mom and dad, for convincing me to go.
  • Forget GMOs. The Future of Food Is Data—Mountains of It: Inside a squat building on San Francisco’s 10th Street, packed into a space that looks a lot like a high school chem lab, Hampton Creek is redesigning the food you eat. Mixing and matching proteins found in the world’s plants, the tiny startup already has created a reasonable facsimile of the chicken egg—an imitation of the morning staple that’s significantly cheaper, safer, and possibly healthier than the real thing—and now it’s working to overhaul other foods in much the same way. (Wired)

Bonus:

Thurday Ten

Today’s bonus links aren’t as fun as previous weeks. Instead, we have an interesting (if with a happy ending) story about the impact of social media and how to follow Scotland’s historic independence referendum. A note that some of the main links might be triggering to victims of domestic violence/etc.

  • Ray Rice and His Rage: The sordid Ray Rice scandal has opened a much-needed dialogue about domestic violence. (New York Times)
  • ‘What is reality?’: A Q&A with the artist who used social media and Photoshop to fake an epic trip even her parents fell for (Washington Post)
  • Comment sections are poison: handle with care or remove them  Comments are often regarded as a right but they can do more harm than good. In the absence of strict moderation, we’d be much better off without them. (Guardian)
  • When You Can’t Afford Sleep: Many low-income workers get just four or five hours of rest each day. Research shows their bodies might never recover. (The Atlantic)
  • Should We All Take a Bit of Lithium? The idea of putting a mind-altering drug in the drinking water is the stuff of sci-fi, terrorist plots and totalitarian governments. Considering the outcry that occurred when putting fluoride in the water was first proposed, one can only imagine the furor that would ensue if such a thing were ever suggested.The debate, however, is moot. It’s a done deal. Mother Nature has already put a psychotropic drug in the drinking water, and that drug is lithium. Although this fact has been largely ignored for over half a century, it appears to have important medical implications. (New York Times)
  • Ticks and Cowboys:  A handful of federal agents stand between the U.S. and a devastating pest. (Modern Farmer)
  • Smartphones Are Used To Stalk, Control Domestic Abuse Victims: But there’s another kind of privacy concern that is a lot more intimate. You could call it Little Brother, though it’s really more like husbands and wives, lovers and exes who secretly watch their partners — from a distance. They are cyberstalking — using digital tools that are a lot cheaper than hiring a private detective. (NPR)

Bonus:

The Thursday Ten

As was the case last week, many of these are depressing. But there are a couple of not-quite-so-depressing ones, plus some nice bonus links. One of the links I’d originally suggested if you only read one article, read that one, but after reading some more (especially the Why I Stayed and the Afghan Girls articles), I feel like there are several y’all should read.

  • How Police Caught The Cop Who Allegedly Sexually Abused 8 Black Women: Prosecutors say Officer Daniel Holtzclaw made a mistake after a series of sexual assaults on black women in Oklahoma City — he profiled the wrong woman. His family says he’s a victim of “solicited testimony” from women who have “personal motives” to lie. BuzzFeed News reports from the Oklahoma County courtroom where, Wednesday, prosecutors described a pattern of sexual harassment and assault. (Buzzfeed)
  • DATAcide: The Total Annihilation of Life as We Know It (Adbusters) Note: This is possibly one of the best I’ve ever read. Exquisite. Though probably, as my sister agreed, because it sounds like something William Gibson would’ve written.
  • How “Empire Records” Became The Unlikely Film Of A Generation: Engineered to be the teen-movie equivalent of the mid-’90s alt-rock zeitgeist, Empire Records flopped in the theaters, only to become a cult classic a generation later. For the first time, the people who made the movie talk about how it came together, why it bombed, and how it found its second life. (Buzzfeed) Note: I am one of those in betweeners who loved this movie. It was everything I didn’t know I wanted. And, to this day, my sister and friends of mine will quote this movie to each other. It’s that good to us.
  • The Afghan Girls Who Live as Boys:  In a society that demands sons at almost any cost, some families are cutting their daughters’ hair short and giving them male names. (The Atlantic)
  • “Son, Men Don’t Get Raped” Sexual assault is alarmingly common in the U.S. military, and more than half of the victims are men. According to the Pentagon, thirty-eight military men are sexually assaulted every single day. These are the stories you never hear—because the culprits almost always go free, the survivors rarely speak, and no one in the military or Congress has done enough to stop it (GQ) Note: Trigger warnings for sexual assault and graphic descriptions of rape. 

Today’s bonus links are animals and books!

  • Scientists uncover five new species of ‘toupee’ monkeys in the Amazon: While saki monkeys may be characterized by floppy mops of hair that resemble the worst of human toupees, these acrobatic, tree-dwelling primates are essential for dispersing seeds across the vast Amazon landscape as they primarily dine on fruit. After long being neglected by both scientists and conservationists, a massive research effort by one intrepid researcher has revealed the full-scale of saki monkey diversity, uncovering five new species. (Mongabay)
  • New 96-Page Murakami Work Coming in December: Haruki Murakami’s next book, “The Strange Library,” sounds surreal and experimental even for an author whose work features talking cats, giant frogs and malicious miniature people. (New York Times) Note: I am buying this. I need to own this. I need to own all Murakami, tbh.

Book Rec Tuesday: Among Others by Jo Walton

Among Others by Jo WaltonAfter reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, I knew that I wanted to find a similar book. something that was a little bit real and a little bit magic. I’d already read Kowal’s Glamourist Histories and much of Murakami’s stuff rides the edge between real and magical (without magic), but I was looking for something different. Basically, I wanted another book like The Night Circus. This turns out to be a very hard thing to find, especially if what you’re looking for is an audio book. I was in a bind, too, because I was at work and I needed something to listen to on the way home later that day.

I’d dug around on the internet, using databases such as Novelist, but it was sending me around in circles – looking for things that the library I was at didn’t own or books that didn’t really interest me. But then, randomly, I stumbled upon Jo Walton’s book Among Others. It’s a book about books – sort of. It’s about science fiction and friendship and growing up and magic. Which is sort of what The Night Circus is about (replacing science fiction with the circus), so that made it even more appealing to me. Or at least it seemed like it had potential. I ended up calling my sister after work and she’d read the book and then spent some time reading reviews of it and I decided that I’d rather listen to it than my other option (a Joe Hill novel). What a good choice I made.

You see, Among Others is amazing. No, really, it’s amazing. Which I think is how I felt about The Night Circus. It’s the story of Morwenna, a teenager who can do magic. It sounds like every other YA out there and though Walton’s novel is usually found in the adult section (though by no means should you keep teenagers from reading it – they’ll love it), it is a coming of age story. But it’s about love – not just romantic love (though there is a some of that as well) but love as it relates to families (immediate and extended), friends, science fiction and the world at large.

What is especially appealing to me, as a book lover and a part-time obsessive fan (the rest of the time is spent working, otherwise I’d be a fulltime obsessive fan), is the fact that Morwenna is exactly that. She is obsessed with reading science fiction. Although the novel is set in the late 1979/1980, it could be set any time – except for the references to specific SF titles scattered throughout the story. Morwenna is passionate about SF and one of the conflicts she runs into is that it’s hard to find SF fans like herself. I’d like to think that if Morwenna were a teenager today, she’d have a lot easier time finding friends.

You don’t need a working knowledge of modern SF to enjoy this novel. You probably don’t even need a working knowledge of classic (as it were) SF to enjoy it – but it helps, especially if you’re familiar (even if it’s just the films) with the Lord of the Rings universe. Waltson leaves SF references throughout the text like leaves in the fall. Sometimes you rake them up in jump in them, reveling in the fact that you know exactly what she’s talking about and other times you gently push them aside because you don’t know, but might want to one day. And, of course, because everyone doesn’t like everything, there are those you stomp on and walk past. But overall, if you have a love for SF, you’ll love Among Others.

Stepping back from the SF, though it’s integral to the novel, you have Morwenna’s story. She can do magic, she doesn’t want to do magic, she has a twin, but then she doesn’t have a twin. She’s run away from home, but things are more complicated that the. The very beginning of the novel sets the tone for the rest of the book, you get a healthy dose of magic and while it’s a bit confusing, everything comes clear in the end – and I wouldn’t change it. Morwenna wants to both do what’s right and to be happy. She wants to be herself, without compromising, which as all teenagers know, is hard to do (especially if you’re not quite sure who you are – which is, I think, in part the heart of Among Others).

Walton’s cast of characters, aside from Morwenna, are deftly illustrated and described. And while this book wasn’t as perfect to me as The Night Circus, I did love it almost as much. All books have flaws and Among Others is not without them (flaws, though, that are in the eye of the beholder in this case). But they do not, in any way, detract from the novel as a whole.

If you can, I highly recommend the audio book version, but the print one should do very well. And as you can’t take notes while you’re driving, if you read the print version, you might be able to list the books you want to read, later.

Among Others is magical realism – it’s a little bit magic and a little bit realistic. But it’s also a love story to science fiction novels of the 70s and early, but even more, it’s a book about loving books – and those are hard to come by. Even if you’re only a tiny bit interested, you should read Among Others maybe you don’t like SF, but you will certainly like Morwenna.

Death of a Comic: Joan Rivers

Originally posted on Saturday, 06 September 2014 at ROPL.org.

On September 4, 2014, the world lost one of the most prominent and ground breaking female comics: Joan Rivers. She broke into the world of comedy, leaving the doors wide open for the many female comics who followed. She continued, up until her death, to make us all laugh. Known for her stand-up comedy, Joan Rivers was also a producer, actor and TV show host.

The library has a small display in her honor, with several of the books she’s written. We also own a DVD of her comedy and life, along with a couple of the movies she’s been in. Be sure to come into the library and check them out.

For more Joan Rivers, check out some of these links:

And, last, from the LA Times: Joan Rivers, an unstoppable comic force to the end

The Thursday Ten

I’ve decided to try something different. Instead of listing all the links I’ve read and thought were interesting, I’m going to limit it to just ten, with maybe a bonus link or two. This first week of September will be my first week attempting this. Feedback is always welcome.

Onto the links:

  • Pop culture’s newest apocalypse: Visions of a smartphone dystopia Two acclaimed new books show how our smartphone addiction is changing the way we think about the end of the world  (Salon) Note: I have read neither book, but the premises of both are similar to many a YA dystopia — though that’s not a bad thing. I do wish the author was familiar with other dystopian novels, though.
  • Hong Kong’s Democracy Dilemma: On Sunday the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress issued restrictive guidelines for the election of Hong Kong’s next chief executive in 2017. Shorn of its technical details, the proposal in effect gives Beijing the means to control who could run for the top office in Hong Kong: Voters would get to cast a ballot, but only for one of just a handful of candidates pre-selected by the Chinese government. (New York Times)
  • What’s missing in the Ebola fight in West Africa: If the Ebola epidemic devastating the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had instead struck Washington, New York or Boston, there is no doubt that the health systems in place could contain and then eliminate the disease. (Washington Post)
  • Shenzhen trip report – visiting the world’s manufacturing ecosystem: Last year, a group of Media Lab students visited Shenzhen with, bunnie, an old friend and my hardware guru. He’s probably best known for hacking the Xbox, the chumby, an open source networked hardware appliance, and for helping so many people with their hardware, firmware and software designs. bunnie is “our man in Shenzhen” and understands the ecosystem of suppliers and factories in China better than anyone I know. (Joi Ito)
  • Death to the Gamer: Tainted by its misogyny and embrace of consumption as a way of life, gamer culture isn’t worth saving. (Jacobin)

Bonus links! Something a little more fun:

 

Book Rec Tuesday: The Glamourist Histories (series) by Mary Robinette Kowal

During September, you’ll notice that I’m going to be experimenting a bit with the blog, including changing a few things up and trying to do better at weekly posting. Today’s experiment, as it were, is a combination between a book review and a book recommendation. I’ll still do my more comprehensive reviews (which I know I’m very behind on), but this is something new and hopefully more regular.

Technically this week’s book rec is actually a series, not just a single book. I’ll probably do more of these in the future as well. Some will be books, others series. Anyway, here’s the first.

The Glamourist Histories by Mary Robinette Kowal

  1. Shades of Milk and Honey
  2. Glamour in Glass
  3. Without a Summer
  4. Valour and Vanity
  5. Of Noble Family

Let me preface this by saying that the only reason I picked up Shades of Milk and Honey was because I’d read some blog posts by Kowal and found them interesting and well written. I’d also heard (read) about her from several authors I like (including John Scalzi) and felt that I needed to check her books out. I’m so glad I did!

Often, The Glamourist Histories (the title of the series) are billed as Jane Austen with magic and in a way that’s exactly what they are. If you love Jane Austen and you love books with magic, you’ll love these. But for me, on the other hand, that description was a complete turn off. You see, I inhabit the minority position of not liking Jane Austen at all. Yes, I know, you’re all totally shocked because basically everyone loves Jane Austen. I don’t. I never have (though the Sense & Sensibility movie was all right, but that might be because I like Emma Thompson) and I doubt that will change.*

But, in spite of my reservations, my desire to read something of Kowal’s was stronger than my desire to avoid Jane Austen related books (this zombie title being the exception). And so, as soon as I could, I acquired a copy of Shades of Milk and Honey. Much to my delight, this was everything I felt Jane Austen’s books wanted to be — only better. I know, I’m not being fair to Austen, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. We can’t all love all the same things.

Kowal creates a world where Austen’s characters wouldn’t look out of place — aside from the fact that there is magic. No, really, magic and it is wonderful. Kowal does everything wonderfully, at least in my opinion. She creates the right amount of tension between our main character Jane, her sister, parents and the love interests and friends. All of Kowal’s side characters are as well developed as Jane. But what makes Shades of Milk and Honey so good is that it, by itself, is a complete novel. Yes, this is part of a series, but there’s no need to read more if you don’t want to.

But why would you want to stop? Short of spoiling you for the ending of Shades of Milk and Honey, I will just say that there are many reasons to continue to read this series. Not the least of them is because the adventures that Jane gets up to are on par with some of my favorite urban fantasy/Victorian “romances” that I enjoy. Yes, I suppose you could also call The Glamourist Histories romances, but they are really Regency romances and I’m strangely fine with that. Apparently if you dump a little magic into a story I might otherwise dislike, I’m going to like it (see: Among Others (I’m currently listening to this on audio) by Jo Walton, which is set in 1970s/80s United Kingdom and Night Circus, my review).

If you want something with a bit of romance, a bit of adventure, a bit of women being generally awesome and a great cast of side characters, please don’t hesitate to check out The Glamourist Histories. It’s fun, lovely and what Kowal does with magic is wonderful. It, like her characters, grows and changes as the story does. I look forward to her next book (#6) which is due out in in April of 2015.

 

*I have a theory that if I had been introduced to Jane Austen via audio book, I might have enjoyed them. I started to read some Jeeves and Wooster, only to quit because I thought they were far, far too dumb. But then I decided to listen to one on audio and fell completely in love. I think, at least for me, certain books are best enjoyed in audio form. Unfortunately, the ship has sailed for Jane Austen. Even though I could get them in audio, I have absolutely no interest in reading them.
>> return to reading