Archive for: December, 2009

A year of books

Dec 31 2009 Published by under book review, personal, science books

I did this last year and the year before and it seemed like an interesting and maybe even useful thing to continue this year.

Trends in my reading this year? An increase in books on social media and a bit down in terms of science and fantastic fiction. A lot of that has to do with working on the My Job in 10 Years book and the reading I've been doing for that. A lot of it also has to do with the reading I did for the Sunburst Award. I was on the jury for the 2009 award (winners!) and so I did a ton of reading for that in the first half of the year. That didn't leave me that much time for other reading; it has also left me a little burnt out on fiction reading. Note that I'm not listing any of the books I read for the award as the list of submitted books isn't publicly released.

Overall, a pretty good year in reading books, but with no one book really standing out. One nice thing is that this year's Buffy DVD watching extravaganza (my wife and I watched the whole series for the first time between November2008 and July 2009) got me back into reading graphic novels a bit more than in the last few years so that is happily represented here. I think in 2010 I'll be moving a little more into non-Buffy-inspired fare...

I'll link to the reviews I've written below. I'm quite a bit behind on that score right now, so I'll try and catch up a bit, maybe with with capsule & group reviews.

So, without further ado, here's a list of all the books I've read this year, more-or-less in order:

  1. First Principles: First Principles: The Crazy Business of Doing Serious Science by Howard Burton (review)
  2. All those Moments: Stories of Heroes, Villains, Replicants, and Blade Runners by Rutger Hauer and Patrick Quinlan (review)
  3. Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser (review)
  4. The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World by Jacques Cousteau, Susan Schiefelbein
  5. Losers Town by Daniel Depp (review)
  6. Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes by Mark Bittman
  7. Blasphemy by Richard Preston
  8. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy by Lawrence Lessig (review)
  9. What's So Funny by Donald E. Westlake
  10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Vol. 1 by Joss Whedon, Others, Eric Powell, and Joe Bennett
  11. The Rising by Brian Keene
  12. Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters by Bill Tancer
  13. Year's Best SF 12 edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
  14. The Long Way Home (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Vol. 1) by Joss Whedon and Georges Jeanty (review)
  15. Mindscan by Robert J. Sawyer (review)
  16. Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter (review)
  17. Beyond Reach by Karin Slaughter (review)
  18. Destined for an Early Grave by Jeaniene Frost (review)
  19. Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry (review)
  20. The Mall of Cthulhu by Seamus Cooper (review)
  21. The Good Humor Man by Andrew Fox (review)
  22. Berserk by Tim Lebbon
  23. No Future For You (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Volume 2) by Brian K. Vaughan, Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, and Cliff Richards (review)
  24. Wolves at the Gate (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Volume 3) by Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon, Georges Jeanty, and Jo Chen (review)
  25. Time of Your Life (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Vol. 4) by Joss Whedon, Jeff Loeb, Karl Moline, and Eric Wight (review)
  26. The Werewolf's Guide to Life: A Manual for the Newly Bitten by Ritch Duncan and Bob Powers (sort of a review)
  27. Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick
  28. Zugzwang: A Novel by Ronan Bennett
  29. Monster Planet by David Wellington
  30. Shambling towards Hiroshima by James Morrow
  31. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papdatos and Annie Di Donna (review)
  32. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror: 18 edited by Stephen Jones
  33. Predators and Prey (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Vol. 5) by Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson, Steven S. DeKnight, and Drew Z. Greenberg
  34. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Vol. 2 by Various
  35. The Removers by Donald Hamilton
  36. The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book that Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen
  37. Conan the Invincible by Robert Jordan
  38. Community: The Structure of Belonging by Peter Block
  39. Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization by Jeff Rubin
  40. Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run by Alton Brown
  41. A Flash of Hex by Jes Battis
  42. Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters by Scott Rosenberg
  43. The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture Is Reinventing Capitalism by Matt Mason
  44. I Hate New Music: The Classic Rock Manifesto by Dave Thompson
  45. Moyasimon 1: Tales of Agriculture by Ishikawa Masayuki
  46. Pulp Masters edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg
  47. Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone. by Mitch Joel
  48. Angel: After The Fall Volume 1 by Brian Lynch and Franco Urru

Notable non-fiction, in no particular order:

Notable fiction, in no particular order:

I hope this list provides a little inspiration to all my readers to compile their own reading list for the year. I look forward to seeing them -- feel free to drop a link in the comments.

(I've been recording every book I read since 1983 and on my other blog I've been occasionally transcribing the list on a year by year basis. I've stalled a bit the last couple of years, but I'll try and do a few more during the holidays this year. This list will also be re-posted there eventually.)

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What humanizes libraries isn't books; it's librarians!

A nice quote from Rick Salutin's most recent Globe and Mail column, In praise of words, not books, which I actually read in a print edition of the newspaper this morning. Yes, we get two daily print newspapers, The Globe and The Toronto Star. My teenaged sons read them too.

Anyways, the point Salutin is making is that true knowledge and wisdom aren't communicated by static media like books or articles, but by human interaction -- conversation is key in that human culture is essentially oral. Of course, you can define oral culture to include a lot of technologically mediated forms of communication. I'm pretty sure Salutin would count Twitter and Friendfeed and Facebook are essentially part of an oral culture rather than a purely static or text-based one.

The full quote:

What humanizes libraries, for instance, isn't books; it's librarians! I once asked [author Alberto] Manguel, a very warm person, if he ever thought books might have an ugly downside. "No," he said instantly. Yet his series in praise of reading opens with a recreation of the teenaged Manguel in Argentina meeting writer Jorge Luis Borges, who has gone blind and asks young Albie to read to him. The voiceover says he learned to love books at those sessions. But what you see onscreen is a living exchange of feeling between two people. It was speech that forged their bond, not print, and not books.

Of course, I'm biased, but I definitely think the best thing about libraries are the people who work there -- the student assistants, the support staff and even the librarians.

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From the Archives: An update on my Computer Science & Engineering blog

During my winter blogging break, I thought I'd repost of few of my "greatest hits" from my old blog, just so you all wouldn't miss me so much. This one is from September 24, 2007. This post follows up on my initial 2007 post which I reposted yesterday.

It's worth noting that the blog has evolved such that it's hardly about or for engineering or computer science students at all; it's more for the sessions I do for "science for non-science students" courses. Also, the use of Meebo has been a huge hit for me, really creating a new way for me to interact with students.

=====

Way back in September I posted about an experiment I was running with a new blog directed at Computer Science & Engineering students here at York.

I'll excerpt myself a little to remind everyone what I was hoping to accomplish:

I've created yet another blog, this one I'm aiming at Engineering & Computer Science students at my institution. I have two main ideas for this blog: first, as a place to locate my IL related links and other information. In the past I've used static web pages and was pretty happy with them. However, over time (and mostly over my sabbatical) I thought that I might want something a little easier, a little more flexible, a little more interactive and mashupable. And I saw an example of what could be accomplished at Heather Matheson's OLA presentation.

It took me a while, but I think I've got something I can live with. It uses WordPress instead of Joomla; but it also incorporates some rss feeds like my linkblog and the new book lists from my library. It has Meebo so students can touch base with me directly. Mostly I like that I've been able to move over the old IL instructional pages I did in FrontPage with relatively little fuss and bother. The classes I've used it for so far seem to like it and the reception from faculty too has been positive. It just looks cooler.

Second, as a place where I can highlight York science profs in the news and post some interesting links to engineering/CS stuff I think is neat, useful or interesting. I plan on using the WordPress pages feature to add digested versions of the full blown pathfinders we have. As well I want to create a list of all the different IL pages so anyone can find them without scrolling or searching.

So, how did it the experiment go?

Overall, I have to say that I'm very happy with the experience.

Some things that I thought went really well:

  • Easy to create & maintain. I really like the WordPress interface. It's very easy to create a blog and set up a bunch of cool widgets for RSS feeds or whatever. The array of themes is impressive (although since I am using a local implementation, I only have a few choices). The wysiwyg authoring tool is certainly good enough for what I need. For the most part, I was able to transfer the old FrontPage versions I created a few years ago into WordPress by just copying and pasting the HTML code and altering it to my current needs. I think that there's also something to be said for how cool and "with it" the blog looks compared to a simple web page.

  • The stats. Since September, the blog has received 3,087 visits and 6,851 page views. Both those numbers make me very happy. No need to go into detail, but the posts I expected to be popular were (ie. bigger classes generated more hits than smaller ones), the keywords I expected to lead people to the blog did and the ebb and flow more-or-less matched the assignment due dates for the courses I was doing sessions for. I'm still getting a handful of hits every day.

  • Meebo. I love Meebo! During busy periods, I was averaging two or three IM sessions per week, sometimes more (by session I mean either live chat or a message left by a student). I was even getting students using Meebo to ask about courses that I wasn't doing a session for. Whether they were students who had my session in one of their other classes or not, that I don't know. Either way, it's still pretty cool that they found me and I was able to help. I even ended up chatting with a couple of librarians about using Meebo.

  • Class management. And speaking of Meebo. You know how when you do a lecture-style IL session there's always a bunch of students at the back of the class using laptops, probably doing email or playing poker? You know how hard it is to involve them? As well, we all know that a class can start with good energy then peter out after a while. Well, Meebo helped with both those things, believe it or not. After a few sessions, I got into the habit of starting every IL class by firing up Meebo on the demo PC I was using and inviting the students on the laptops to surf to the blog. Well, of course a whole bunch of beeping and other weird noises resulted as Meebo notified me that people were coming to the blog and starting to chat! Windows opening, weird chat sessions exploding all over the place. Of course, this is all quite amusing to the students. It also gets their undivided attention right at the beginning of the session and also lets them see what the Meebo widget is all about. I'd have to say that this little opening stunt got me at least 20 minutes of really good attention and energy in the class. I usually asked the students if they wanted me to leave Meebo open so they could ask questions during my demo but they always declined because they thought it would be too distracting.

  • Findability. One cool thing -- if you Google the course number for the majority of the sessions I did, my blog posting comes within the first few results. For many of them, it's number one, even before the course web page. A little disconcerting for the profs, I think, but great for the students -- and the profile of the library. In the sessions I would just say, "Hey, don't worry about remembering the url or the page or anything, just Google your course number!" Even a day after first publishing the post it would appear at or near the top of the rankings.

  • Profs Liked it. It looks cool, has all the main resources, is in a format that students can relate to, what's not to like? Just today I had a Prof remark to me that based on my blog he's considering using WordPress for his own course management needs.

Some things I'm still figuring out:

  • Branding. Although the blog is branded for CSE, in the end most of the classes I used it for were Natural Science, STS or other courses. So, I think I need to re-brand the blog, starting with a new name. Initially, my idea was to create a separate blog for the non-CSE areas but that's probably needless duplication. I think I'll end up with a name something like "York University Science Library Blog: Featuring Engineering, Computer Science, Natural Science and STS." Yes, we have other science library blogs for other areas.

  • Clutter. The design is still a bit busy for my liking. I probably need to pare it down a bit, maybe take out a few of the widgets. Way back when, Jane suggested embedding slides in the posts rather than just recording my notes/links as part of the post itself. That idea probably has a lot of merit and I may give it a try next year.

  • Informational Posts. By these I mean newsy posts about York or various profs. I didn't do as many of these as I hoped and I'm still not sure how useful they are. On the other hand, it's been really handy for demonstrating how blogs can be used to institutional outreach. The jury is out on these posts. I'll probably do a few more during the spring and early summer but I'll re-evaluate in the fall.

  • Sidebar content. Not sure how used or useful it was. I like that it gives students a reason to come back to the blog after the course is over but on the other hand it may just add clutter and distraction.

  • Resource Pages. I never did get around to creating mini-pathfinders for the various subject areas on some of the WordPress pages. We'll see how my thinking on that evolves over the summer.

If any of you out there on the Internet have any suggestions, feel free to jump in. If you're a prof or student, especially if you were involved in one of my sessions, I'd also really like to hear what you have to say.

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From the Archives: Check out my new blog for York Computer Science & Engineering students

During my winter blogging break, I thought I'd repost of few of my "greatest hits" from my old blog, just so you all wouldn't miss me so much. This one is from September 24, 2007. It's my initial thoughts about the blog I've been using to post my IL session notes.

It's worth noting that the blog has evolved such that it's hardly about or for engineering or computer science students at all; it's more for the sessions I do for "science for non-science students" courses. Also, the use of Meebo has been a huge hit for me, really creating a new way for me to interact with students.

I'll be re-posting my 2008 follow up post tomorrow.

=====

This post is aimed a little more at the Engineering & CS profs and students out there; I'm interested in what you might think about this project.

I've created yet another blog, this one I'm aiming at Engineering & Computer Science students at my institution. I have two main ideas for this blog: first, as a place to locate my IL related links and other information. In the past I've used static web pages and was pretty happy with them. However, over time (and mostly over my sabbatical) I thought that I might want something a little easier, a little more flexible, a little more interactive and mashupable. And I saw an example of what could be accomplished at Heather Matheson's OLA presentation.

It took me a while, but I think I've got something I can live with. It uses WordPress instead of Joomla; but it also incorporates some rss feeds like my linkblog and the new book lists from my library. It has Meebo so students can touch base with me directly. Mostly I like that I've been able to move over the old IL instructional pages I did in FrontPage with relatively little fuss and bother. The classes I've used it for so far seem to like it and the reception from faculty too has been positive. It just looks cooler.

Second, as a place where I can highlight York science profs in the news and post some interesting links to engineering/CS stuff I think is neat, useful or interesting. I plan on using the WordPress pages feature to add digested versions of the full blown pathfinders we have. As well I want to create a list of all the different IL pages so anyone can find them without scrolling or searching.

I've also used the blog for some non-Engineering/CS classes, explaining that the current blog is just a prototype for future blogs in other areas. For example, I do a lot of Science & Technology Studies and Natural Science (NatSci are breadth courses for non-science students) courses and the posts don't really belong on the CSE blog. I would like to eventually create one for Nats/STS but I don't want to commit to it until I have a better idea of how successful the idea is. If you were a non-CSE student, would you be ok with your courses web page being hosted on a CSE blog?

I'm also particularly interested in what other librarians out there have done with IL or subject-focused blogs, how you've done things differently or the same. If you've preferred WordPress or Blogger or if you think that a more sophisticated CMS like Moodle or Joomla is the way to go. As usual, either drop a comment here, Meebo or email at jdupuis at yorku dot ca. Feedback, suggestions, ideas, pros, cons are all more than welcome; the blog is plainly a work in progress and I full expect it to evolve some more in the coming months.

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Friday Fun: So what Lovecraftian horror came down your chimney last night?

Dec 25 2009 Published by under friday fun

Now here's a question: What do you leave by the fireplace on Christmas Eve for a great old one to snack on? Probably your neighbours' kids.

Anyways, Tor.com has posted an amusingly creepy Christmas story by Charles Stross, Overtime.

It's certainly not every treacly Christmas story that has a passage like this one, describing the aftermath of an office party:

Whoever sat on the copier lid that time didn't have buttocks, hairy or otherwise--or any other mammalian features for that matter. What I'm holding looks to be a photocopy of the business end of a giant cockroach.

Maybe I'm not alone after all. . .

Or this one:

The incinerator is a big electric furnace, with a hopper feeding into it beside a hanging rack of sacks that normally hold the confidential document shreddings. I park the pie tray on top of the furnace (which is already cold enough that I risk frostbite if I touch it with bare skin) and hang the empty stocking from one of the hooks on the rack.

Ghastly hunger beyond human comprehension is the besetting vice of extradimensional horrors--if they prioritized better they might actually be more successful. In my experience you can pretty much bet that if J. Random Horror has just emerged after being imprisoned in an icy void for uncountable millennia, it'll be feeling snackish. Hence the tempting tray of comestibles.

Well worth a read. Enjoy your holidays!

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Best Science Books 2009: Physicsworld.com

Dec 24 2009 Published by under best science books 2009, science books

Not surprisingly, a very fine list from the AIP's Physicsworld website:

  • The Physics of Rugby by Trevor Davis
  • First Principles: The Crazy Business of Doing Serious Science by Howard Burton
  • Oliver Heaviside: Maverick Mastermind of Electricity by Basil Mahon
  • Atomic: The First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb by Jim Baggott
  • Lives in Science by Joseph C Hermanowitz
  • 13 Things That Don't Make Sense by Michael Brooks
  • Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung by Arthur I Miller
  • Perfect Rigor by Masha Gessen
  • Plastic Fantastic: How the Biggest Fraud in Physics Shook the Scientific World by Eugenie Samuel Reich
  • The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius by Graham Farmelo

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Best Science Books 2009: The Washington Post

Dec 23 2009 Published by under best science books 2009, science books

A nice list from a bunch of categories from the Washington Post, although some of items in the the science section seem strangely unscientific:

  • Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou
  • The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
  • The Art and Politics of Science by Harold Varmus
  • A Brain Wider Than the Sky: A Migraine Diary by Andrew Levy
  • The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T. R. Reid
  • The Fatal Strain: On the Trail of Avian Flu and the Coming Pandemic by Alan Sipress
  • Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio
  • The Natural History of Unicorns by Chris Lavers
  • Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps -- And What We Can Do About It by Lise Eliot
  • Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention by Stanislas Dehaene
  • The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

5 responses so far

Best Science Books 2009: Salon

Dec 22 2009 Published by under best science books 2009, science books

One of the five non-fiction books chosen by Salon was a science book.

  • The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes

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Music Mondays: Allman Brothers guitar summit

Dec 21 2009 Published by under music mondays

Every year The Allman Brothers Band hold court at New York's Beacon Theatre for an extended run and 2009 was a very special year for them as it was the 20th anniversary of the event.

And being a jam band, they celebrated with a wide array of guests each night. Perhaps most notable were two nights with Eric Clapton -- notable because given the ties between the Allmans and Clapton and both their propensities for collaboration, they'd never appeared together on stage before.

Check out here for tons of Youtube coverage and directly for the songs with Clapton: Little Wing, Dreams, Why Does Love Got to Be so Bad, Layla, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed and Stormy Monday. Each song has multiple version on Youtube, some truncated, some continued over multiple videos, so you might have to hunt around a bit for the best version.

For me, one of the coolest things about these performances is that we get to see three generations of great players together on the same stage: Clapton, Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, all three amongst Rolling Stone's 100 greatest guitarists. Clapton is #4, Haynes is #23 and Trucks is #81. Also related to the ABB, Dicky Betts is #58 and the late Duane Allman is #2.

One response so far

Best Science Books 2009: Inside Tech

Dec 19 2009 Published by under best science books 2009, science books

A nice list of technology/business books:

  • Googled: The End of the World as we Know it by Ken Auletta
  • Inside Larry & Sergey's Brain by Richard L. Brandt
  • The Twitter Book by Tim O'Reilly and Sarah Milstein
  • The Accidental Billionares: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich
  • Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the most Popular Website in America by Julia Angwin
  • Behind The Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry by Marc Benioff and Carlye Adler
  • Smasher by Keith Raffel

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