Archive for: November, 2009

Friday Fun: 10 Dirty Restaurant Tricks

Nov 13 2009 Published by under friday fun

Ok, I know this one stretches any reasonable definition of the word "fun."

But in my defense, I think a few good cringes is a great way to celebrate Friday the 13th.

Over on Slashfood, one of my favourite foodie blogs, there's a couple of recent posts on 10 Dirty Little Restaurant Secrets and 10 More Dirty Restaurant Tricks, basically focusing on the disgusting and revolting shortcuts that restaurants take to save a little time and, mostly, money.

A couple of my "favourites" from the second post, based on reader comments to the first post:

10. Reusing Leftovers

70s waitress said: "When I worked in a diner in PA in the 70's, people loved their bread stuffing. Little did they know that it was made from all of the leftover rolls that were on diner's plates and in the breadbaskets that went back to the kitchen to the dishwasher. Often the dishwasher would pick the half eaten rolls off the plates with her dirty hands, sometimes drop them on the floor, and then throw them into a big can under the work table. To this day, I will never order anything from a restaurant that has bread stuffing!"

*snip*

8. The Waitstaff Nibbles on Your Entree Before It's Served to You

dinergrl said: "YES... WE EAT OFF UR PLATES B4 THEY COME OUT!!! We dont get breaks & get hungry too!! So if u order something & it looks tastey we may grab off it! Ex. fries, clam strips, cut up pieces of chicken... nothing big though... even our managers do it!!"

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IEEE Women in Engineering Magazine, December 2009

Nov 12 2009 Published by under literature roundup

As usual, some interesting stuff from the December 2009 issue of IEEE Women in Engineering Magazine (v3i2).

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YorkWrites: Celebrating York Creators and Innovators

Nov 11 2009 Published by under acad lib future, personal, yorku

I don't usually talk about local York stuff here, but I'd like to make an exception for the event we had last week (Tuesday, November 3rd) here at my library, The Steacie Science & Engineering Library.

The event is called YorkWrites and it's sponsored jointly by the Libraries and the Bookstore. Essentially, it's a big party in the library, with food, drink, music and speeches. In the past it was held at the Scott Library, the humanities & socials sciences library, but for 2009 we thought it would be nice to try a science and engineering focus.

What's it about:

YORKwrites is an initiative of York University Libraries and York University Bookstores, with a two-fold objective:

  • to celebrate all recent scholarly, research and creative works produced by the York community and promote them, internally and externally.
  • to document the scholarly, research, and creative works produced by the York community. This includes work by faculty, students, alumni and staff.

You can get more of an idea by poking around the website, our RefWorks publications database and the YorkWrites Blog, where we've been profiling York researchers.

There's a brief story here and here is the story in the York daily enewsletter, YFile, with a fairly nice picture of me.

There was much that was new and notable in 2008-2009 from the Faculty of Science & Engineering, such as the development of a prototype space elevator and the discovery of snow on Mars, not to mention the award-winning Mars rover project.

*snip*

Faculty, students, alumni and staff were on hand at the Steacie Science & Engineering Library last week for the YORKwrites 2009 gathering to toast each other on their research, publications and creative accomplishments. President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, Walter Tholen, interim dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering, and Michael Siu, associate vice-president research, science & technology, were present to congratulate those whose output raised the profile of York.

"We owe York authors a great debt. It is through their work - scholarly, scientific, professional or creative - that the wider world learns about York," said Shoukri. "This is an important initiative and a cause worth celebrating."

One of the things we did a bit differently this year was to shift a bit of the focus to the kinds of things science people do as opposed to the focus in previous years which was more on monographs. What we did was put up a bunch of poster boards at the back of the library and get faculty and grad students to lend us some of their posters that we could put up for the event. This particular initiative was a great success as we got about 35 posters given to us, more than double what I was hoping for. We ended up improvising and putting a bunch of them up on the walls & windows.

In any case, there's some video here of Paul Delaney's toast to the authors and more pictures here.

It was a great event, a great party and a wonderful opportunity to raise the library's profile on campus and to forge closer ties to the faculties we serve, opening the door for further opportunities to collaborate. Some part of the future of libraries is in building collaborations and raising profiles and working together with stakeholders across campus. Be visible.

It was also great that some small bit of the spotlight was focused on all the great work that the people here at Steacie do every day.

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Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papdatos and Annie Di Donna

Nov 09 2009 Published by under book review, mathematics, science books

As graphic novels go, Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth is every bit as good as Maus or Watchmen, if not quite as game-changing. The only other things out there that I can think of that are similar are Chester Brown's Louis Riel or Ho Che Anderson's King: A Comics Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

That's high praise and it's well deserved.

So what's Logicomix all about? The core is the story of Bertrand Russell's and his work -- the search for the foundations of mathematics, the most basic kind of truth: logic. His search takes us through the history of mathematics and philosophy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, both in terms of following the course of Russell's life and loves but also encountering many of the main figures in math and philosophy of the era: Frege, Hilbert, Godel and Wittgenstein all make appearances (the authors take some chronological and historical liberties to get Russell to meet all these people). Russell's relationship with Wittgenstein is explored in particular detail. Russell also deals quite a bit with the relationship between logic an madness both in his own family and in logicians in general.

But that's just the surface story.

Interestingly, Logicomix the story is structured like an onion, with different and distinct layers. Russell's personal and professional biography is the innermost layer, the core, but there are also two outer layers that add a real depth and resonance to the story. The layers interweave the history and philosphy of mathematics and logic, the rise of Nazism, Greek tragedy and the relationship between obsessive logic and insanity.

Next out from the centre is the internal framing story -- Russell giving a speech to a group of pacifists just as World War II is getting started. It is as part of this speech that he recounts his life story, the innermost layer. The point he is trying to make with his life story as it relate to pacifism is all about the relationship between rationality and irrationality, the core of the scientific world view and the place of logic in human affairs.

The next layer out from the core is the story of the authors and artists creating the comic. Yes, the comic is also about it's own creation, with the authors and artists as characters talking about what they hope to accomplish in telling Russell's story, ingeniously contrasting his search for truth and logic with one of the comic's creator's participation in staging a Greek tragedy.

The writing itself is crisp and assured. Each of the layers uses a different tone and voice, one that is suitable for the story it is telling. For example the outer layer, the story of the comics creation, uses a light-hearted, colloquial tone. The pacing is tight; there's no wasted words, no padding or flab for a fairly long book.

The art is perfect -- clear and clean yet very expressive. Light when needed, dark and moody when that is needed as well. There are several gorgeous set pieces sprinkled throughout, especially the scenes where the authors are strolling around Athens, talking about their project. The WWI scenes starting on page 245 are brutally dark and effective. My advanced reading copy only has 12 coloured pages so I can only comment on the colouring in a limited way but what I've seen is very good. On the other hand, reading the rest in black and white I didn't feel the least bit deprived. Even in b&w, it's gorgeous.

Buy this book. Buy one for yourself, buy one for your library. The holidays are coming, so buy a bunch of copies for all your comics-loving family & friends as well as all your science-loving family & friends. Most of all, if there's a precocious kid out there that just might be enthralled and inspired by Bertrand Russell's story, well, this book is perfect. Let's just say that my own reading of the book was delayed a bit when I told my older son about it -- he quickly kidnapped it and read it twice before I got my hands back on it.

I recommend this book without hesitation for academic libraries that collect biographies in science or philosophy; this would be a great first graphic novel for your history and philosophy of science collection. High school and middle school libraries are also a perfect and natural fit, as is pretty well any public library.

Doxiadis, Apostolos; Christos H. Papadimitriou; Alecos Papdatos and Annie Di Donna. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009. 347pp. ISBN-13: 978-0747597209

(Advanced reading copy provided by publisher.)

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Best Science Books 2009: Amazon

Nov 06 2009 Published by under best science books 2009, science books

Amazon has come out with their Editor's Picks for 2009. There are three categories that have books that are relevant to us here.

Science

  • The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
  • Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origin of Species by Sean B. Carroll
  • Complexity: A Guided Tour by Melanie Mitchell
  • Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist's Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions by Susan R. Barry
  • The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo
  • Every Patient Tells a Story by Lisa Sanders
  • The Mathematical Mechanic: Using Physical Reasoning to Solve Problems by Mark Levi
  • Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster by Allan J McDonald
  • Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine 1880-1930 by John Harley Warner
  • The Monty Hall Problem: The Remarkable Story of Math's Most Contentious Brain Teaser by Jason Rosenhouse

Outdoors & Nature

  • The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley
  • Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability by David Owen
  • Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places by Bill Streever
  • Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager by Langdon Cook
  • Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto by Stewart Brand

Business & Investing

  • Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan
  • SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good by Rosabeth Moss Kanter
  • Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod

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Friday Fun: Jane Austen + Sea Monsters = WIN!

Nov 06 2009 Published by under friday fun

Bookgasm has a very fun guest post by Ben H. Winters, author of the recently published Jane Austen pastiche/adaptation/expansion Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

Since writing SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS, I've gotten a ton of feedback about how nice it is that I've made Jane Austen appealing to certain readers -- meaning readers who previously suffered a persistent allergy to The Classics. I am complimented for taking the prim and decorous Jane Austen and making her a) really violent, and b) really funny.

The first compliment I will gladly accept. Over the decades since SENSE AND SENSIBILITY first appeared, it has been noted by scholars and casual readers alike that the book is sorely lacking in shipwrecks, shark attacks and vividly described decapitations. I believe it was the poet and critic Thomas Chatterton who admired the novel's careful plotting and social critique, but lamented the total absence of vengeful ghost pirates.

Sounds pretty funny to me!

I do have a copy kicking around the house of the previous one of these Austen reworkings, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It's pretty amusing, but not exactly the kind of thing where you actually need to read the whole book. I expect the Sea Monster one is similar. And if you head to the Amazon page, you'll note that these reworkings of public domain texts are rising from the dead faster than, well, zombies. War of the Worlds, Wizard of Oz and Huckleberry Finn seem to be just the tip of the iceberg. The P&P&Z people seem to have created a monster.

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Best Science Books 2009: Publisher's Weekly

Nov 04 2009 Published by under best science books 2009, science books

Every year for the past 3 or 4 years I've been linking to and posting about all the "year's best books" lists that appear in various media outlets and highlighting the science books that are mentioned. From the beginning it's been a pretty popular service so I'm happy to continue it.

For my purposes, I define science books pretty broadly to include science, engineering, computing, history & philosophy of science & technology, environment, social aspects of science and even business books about technology trends or technology innovation.

This year, the first list is from Publisher's Weekly, which even has three sciencey books in their top 10 for the year!

  • A Fiery Peace in a Cold War: Bernard Schriever and the Ultimate Weapon by Neil Sheehan
  • The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
  • Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
  • Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou with art by Alecos Papdatos and Annie Di Donna
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer
  • Green Metropolis by David Owen

As usual, if you see a "best of the year" list out there that has some good science books on it, let me know and I'll be happy to feature it! Drop a comment or email me at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.

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Comments not coming through

Nov 02 2009 Published by under admin

Just so you all know, the last couple of comments I've received are stuck in limbo. I can see them on the admin side but they're not showing.

Unfortunately, my work computer just died and I can't seem to access my email, even via the web interface.

Hopefully, all will return to normal soon.

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