Archive for: August, 2010

IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Vol 32, Iss 3

Some interesting articles, as usual, in the latest issue:

There are also a few articles on the AEG-Telefunken TR 440 computer.

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Friday Fun: 15 Signs You're Talking To A Canadian

Aug 27 2010 Published by under friday fun

Classic, just classic: 15 Signs You're Talking To A Canadian.

Here they are:

  • We Are Completely Comfortable With The Term "Homo Milk"
  • We Correct You When You Say "Soda"
  • We Are Offended When You Ask Us If We Know A Friend Of Yours Who, Coincidentally, Also Lives In Canada. You're from Canada? Do you know my friend Tom? He lives in Canada too. Ever since Canada was invented, we've been asked this question. The American soldiers did this during the War of 1812. Good war, dude. Good war. I think my buddy Jacques lives up in Canada. Vancouver or some shit. Tall guy, eyepiece? You probably know him.
  • We Don't Think "Legalizing Marijuana" Is A Debate
  • We've All Rolled Up The Rim To Win
  • We've Been Jealous Of Someone Else's Toboggan
  • We Think 'Beaver Tail' Is Delicious
  • Our Parents Have Tied Our Mittens Together With A String So We Don't Lose Them
  • We Were Raised, In Part, By Mr. Dressup
  • We Grow Playoff Beards.
  • We Are Angry That We Can't Watch The Same Commercials As Americans During The Superbowl
  • We Know Where To Get Good Poutine
  • When We Hear "In The Five-hole" And "Spending Some Time In The Box", We Don't Think Dirty
  • We Give Directions Using Liquor Stores And Beer Stores As Geographical Benchmarks
  • Canadians Never Think Anywhere Is Cold Outside Of Canada

I would add that Canadian still vaguely pay attention to what William Shatner is doing.

What about you? What are your signs you're talking to a Canadian?

As usual, more detail amusement is available at the original post.

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List of Science & Technology Librarian Blogs

Aug 26 2010 Published by under blogging, education, librarianship, social media

Here's a list of the reasonably active Science & Technology library blogs I know about. I've not included medical library blogs in this post because it's not a field I'm all that knowledgeable about. That list would make a great post in it's own right, but it's not this one.

My definition of "scitech librarian blog" is pretty loose (even on the librarian part of it), but in this case I think casting a fairly wide net is probably the best plan of action.

In no particular order:

I know I said I wouldn't link to any library blogs, but here's a couple that feel more personal. Feel free to let me know about other blogs with a similar feel.

Here's a couple of dormant long time bloggers who've shown Some recent signs of activity:

Read, enjoy, explore! There's lots of great stuff in those lists.

Now this is likely nowhere near complete -- I've almost certainly forgotten someone blindingly obvious. So, who have I forgotten? Who don't I know about yet?

(And no, I'm not doing this as part of some sort of grandiose plan to create a scitech librarian blogging community. Although...just kidding.)

Update 2010.08.26. Added The Science Library by Joe Kraus and fixed Nuthing but Net.

Update 2010.08.28. Added The Patent Librarian's Notebook by Michael White (can't believe I forgot a blog that's on my blogroll...) and Science Resources by Michael Knee.

Update 2011.01.27. Added Social Disruption by Elizabeth Brown.

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Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Summer 2010

The latest issue of ISTL has just been released and, as usual, it's filled with very interesting-looking articles.

The table of contents is below:

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Reading Diary: Sawyer, Turtledove, Bacigalupi and more

Aug 24 2010 Published by under book review, reading diary, science fiction

I'm just finishing four weeks of vacation, a nice break from the regular routine. No, I don't get the whole summer off because I work at a university. I do get four weeks of vacation every year and when you work at a university it just makes sense to take it all in the summer.

Anyways, we didn't really go anywhere this year, for a variety of reasons. And hence, no summer blogging break, only perhaps a tendency to slightly lighter, summery blogging topics. And since we didn't spend much time at a secluded cottage with nothing to do but read, well, I didn't quite read as much as in previous years.

But I did read quite a bit just before and during my vacation. Here's the list, with a few comments after each one.

Burns, Charles. Black Hole. New York: Pantheon, 2008. 368pp.

A very cool and very amazing science fiction graphic novel. I've often though that we haven't seen that much really good original science fiction done in graphic novel form. Somehow horror and fantasy seem to work better, especially if you consider most superhero stuff science fantasy rather than true sf. But Charles Burns' Black Hole is a very good example of sf.

Basically, back in the 1970 a strange sexually transmitted plague descends on some Seattle suburbs causing strange mutations to most of the teenagers in that town. Seen through the reactions and adaptations of four of the teens, it's strange and fantasmagorical in spades, a very alienated and transformative view of the adolescent experience. Recommended.

Klages, Ellen. White Sands, Red Menace New York: Viking Juvenile, 2008. 352pp.

This is the sequel to Klages earlier novel The Green Glass Sea. That novel was set in Los Alamos towards the end of World War II and followed the daughter of one of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project. It was a terrific exploration of the time period, touching on the issues surrounding the creation of the atomic bomb. But, given that the novel was aimed at young adults, it took a more plot-oriented approach, keeping the story the main focus rather than the issue. It was a mature and moving work, to say the least.

White Sands, Red Menace picks up after the war is over and explores life in the southwestern USA during the late 1940s, a kind of lost era in North American history. It explores the lives of two early teen girls and their experiences growing up and navigating the shifting realities of the post-war era. The "adult issue" that this YA novel touches on is the anti-nuclear weapons movement, mostly in a non-obtrusive way. Just like it's predecessor, it concentrates on the story rather than the "issue."

Both of these books are very fine. The are recommended for boys and girls in the 12-15 age range as well as any one looking for a good story. These can be completely read as adult novels.


Turtledove, Harry. The Man with the Iron Heart. New York: Del Rey, 2009. 560pp.

This one's a fairly typical Harry Turtledove alternate history novel. Take an interesting premise, add a large cast of viewpoint characters, mix in a meandering and somewhat formulaic plot structure and spice with a bit of political commentary. What you get is a pretty good summer read.

Which is what I've been doing with Turtledove for years, reading his latest alternate history potboiler while on vacation.

The setting for this one is a world where the assassination attempt on Nazi SS governor of Czechoslovakia Reinhard Heydrich failed. Ultimately, Heydrich was able to convince the Nazi high command to prepare for mounting a strong resistance movement after he realized the war was lost. With a couple of years to prepare, the Nazi were able to create and sustain very significant insurgencies in all the allied occupation zones, causing a lot of damage and casualties.

Yes, Turtledove does want us to see Germany in 1946 as Iraq and Afganistan in 2008. And he mostly pulls it off. The resistance is effectively and realistically portrayed as is te various Allied reactions.

Maberry, Jonathan. The Dragon Factory. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2010. 496pp.

Not zombies this time -- not at all like the first book in the Joe Ledger series, Patient Zero. This book is not quite as violent or over the top, not quite as breakneck or fast-paced, not quite as many violent blood soaked set pieces. Not quite, but still enough to satisfy my desire for a great horror/sf thriller.

This time around, Ledger and his merry band of government operatives battle, believe it or not, Nazis in a race to end the world and implement a kind of final solution from the grave.

Really cool book, by the way. In the end, slowing it down a bit made the book even better than the first.

Bacigalupi, Paolo. Ship Breaker New York: Little Brown, 2010. 336pp.

A seriously terrific young adult novel by up-and-coming new writer Paolo Bacigalupi. The setting is vivid: in a post-climate meltdown future, water levels are much higher on the gulf coast of the USA, leaving much of it submerged, including New Orleans. Further up the coast, hardscrabble crews of men, women and children work at breaking down old oil tankers for salvage. One of the kids is the teen protagonist, Nailer. One day after a huge storm, he and a friend wander off quite a distance and discover a newly wrecked vessel. On board is a teenaged girl, claiming to be the daughter of a wealthy family who would pay for her return.

A great setup for a great novel. There's lots of action and daring do with engaging characters. Nailer in particular is very likeable in a tough and no-nonsense way, a kid who's grown up in the school of hard knocks. Don't worry that the book will feel too much like a kids book for an adult to enjoy -- it is a truly a book that will appeal to anyone from early- to mid-teens onwards to adults.


Sawyer, Robert J. WWW: Wake. Toronto: Penguin, 2009. 332pp.

It's not often you read a book while sitting on a plane with the author. As it happens, both Rob and I were invited to the recent Science Foo camp organized by Google, Nature and O'Reilly. We both flew to San Francisco on the Friday and flew back the following Monday. So, I though it would be cool to read the book while on the same plane as the author. I started it on the trip out and finished it on the flight back. Now, think of the possibilities. I'm reading, a part of the book sucks, and I stand in the plane, point at Rob sitting a few rows behind me and shout, "That man over there is the famous science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer and his latest paperback book SUCKS." Kind of pulling a Slater for the literary set.

As it happened, no such dramatic display was necessary. Wake is excellent.

It follows the story of teenage girl Caitlin Decter, an American living in Waterloo, Ontario with her family. She's blind, and it seems that a researcher in Japan may just have developed a cure for her rather rare condition and restore her sight. The operation is a success. after taking a while to calibrate the Internet-enabled implant that helps her brain process visual signals properly. Well, of course, this means that everything Caitlin sees is essentially streamed out into the Internet...what happens if the Internet is somehow aware and starts noticing...

Anyways, I won't give away any more. I'll only say that this first entry in the WWW trilogy is well worth reading and I anxiously await diving into the next two.

It's worth noting that both of the YA books I review in this post are also perfectly enjoyable by adults with no feeling that they are "dumbed down" for the teen audience. Wake is the corollary in a way, a book aimed at the adult market that would be enjoyed by any of the same teen audience that would enjoy Ship Breaker or White Sands, Red Menace. Buy it for yourself, share it with the kids in your life. I know I did.

Popoff, Martin. Contents Under Pressure: 30 Years of Rush at Home and Away. Toronto: ECW, 2004. 236pp.

Not much to say about this one -- it's a very fine documentary history of the
Canadian progressive hard rock band Rush right from the beginning of their career in the suburbs of Toronto up until their 30th anniversary tour in 2004. It takes an album-by-album approach. There's lots of interviews with the band and people around them to bring an intimate feel to the book.

If you like Rush, you'll like this book. If you don't care too much for them but are interested in learning more, it's a good place to start as it gives a good feeling for their appeal. One thing I would have appreciated is a discography with track titles at the end. It was a bit confusing at times not to have any track listings to refer to.

I also watched the Rush documentary during my vacation -- Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage -- which was also excellent.

Interestingly, I didn't finish any science or technology non-fiction books during my holiday, which is unusual. I usually read one or two information or science books while I off. I did have one going before I started but it's just not grabbing me that much. It's also interesting that I didn't read much, graphic novel-wise. I was sort of expecting to read quite a few but aside from the Burns and another I didn't enjoy much at all (so I'm not bothering to mention), I didn't really feel like it. I have about 8 collections of Walking Dead lined up, so I'm seeing a fair bit of that in the next little while, though.

As far as DVD viewing goes for the vacation period, we gorged on Six Feet Under watching seasons 4 and 5. It's an absolutely classic series, but a little on the depressing side taken in very large doses. We essentially watched all five seasons over the course of about 6 weeks. On a frothier note, we also watched the first season of Six Feet Under producer Alan Ball's new series, True Blood. We watched a bit of X-Files season one, but the very early episodes are a bit hard to get into.

(For those of you who care, this more or less marks my integration of my mostly defunct Reading Diary of John Dupuis into this blog. I'm not sure how much posting I'll be doing along those lines, but it's got to be more that I was doing on the other blog. Reading-wise, you can also keep up with what I'm doing on GoodReads.)

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Music Mondays: Five songs I love: John Entwistle

Aug 23 2010 Published by under music, music mondays

The Who is pretty well my favourite band of all time. Without a doubt. Way back in the seventies (yes, I'm that old) when everyone else was arguing about whether the Beatles or the Stones were the greatest rock 'n roll band in the world, I always argued it was The Who. Townshend, Daltry, Moon were the noisy ones, the famous ones, the crazy ones. But the bassist, John Entwistle, he was The Quiet One. The one who held it all together.

So, over the years I've collected a fair big of Who music, but also solo stuff by Pete Townshend and a bit by Roger Daltry. But also John Entwistle, who's dark humour has always really appealed to me. Most Who albums had one or two tracks written by him, sometimes more. He usually only sung one of them as he realized early on if he wrote more for Daltry's style he'd get more songs on the albums.

Anyways, here we go. Five by The Ox.

  • Too Late the Hero, from his 1981 solo album of the same name.
  • 905, one of my favourite Who songs, an obscure track from the Who Are You album. This version is performed by the John Entwistle Band.
  • My Wife, one of Entwistle's darkest and most misanthropic songs. From Who Are You.
  • Heaven and Hell. A Who song, one of my favourites, again darkly humourous.
  • The Real Me. While this Quadrophenia song was written by Pete Townshend, it really showcases Entwistle's bass playing. Here's a JEB version.

There's a tribute DVD that was released a couple of years ago that's really fantastic. It has interviews, appreciations and quite a bit of concert footage: John Entwistle: An Ox Tale. Left for Live: Deluxe and So Who's the Bass Player: The Ox Anthology are great introductions to Entwistle's music.

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Shortlist for the Lane Anderson Award for Canadian Science Books

Aug 21 2010 Published by under education, science books

From the Eligibility and Submission Requirements page:

The annual Lane Anderson Award will honour two jury-selected books, adult and young reader, published in the field of science by Canadian-owned publishers, and authored by Canadians. The winner in each category will receive $10,000.

Two three-person jury panels drawn from the Canadian academic, publishing, creative and institutional fields will review submissions in the two categories, and the jury will be announced with the winners at an event in Toronto on the 15th September.

The two shortlists will be announced on August 16th, 2010. Closing date for submissions is April 30th 2010 for books published in 2009.

The shortlist has been announced, though curiously it isn't mentioned on their web page.

The six nominees for the inaugural Lane Anderson Award were announced today by Hollister Doll and Sharon Fitzhenry, directors of the Fitzhenry Family Foundation. The award, which is to be handed out annually, will honour two titles - one for adults, one for young readers - published in the field of science. Titles must be written by a Canadian, and the winner in each category will receive $10,000.

Adult

  • The River Returns: An Environmental History of the Bow by Christopher Armstrong, Matthew Evenden, and H.V. Nelles
  • Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis by Alanna Mitchell
  • Top 100 Food Plants: The World's Most Important Culinary Crops by Ernest Small

Young Readers

  • The Insecto-Files by Helaine Becker; Claudia Davita, illus.
  • Big and Small, Room For All by Jo Ellen Bogart; Gillian Newland, illus.
  • Why Do Horses Have Manes? by Elizabeth MacLeod

Given the generally small number of Canadian-authored science books that come out every year, I'd really like to see their list of eligible/submitted works. I definitely would want to be able to purchase many if not most of them for our collection.

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Welcome to the new blogging community aggregator: Scienceblogging.org

Aug 20 2010 Published by under blogging, culture of science

Check it out: Scienceblogging.org. On twitter too!

Thanks to Dave Munger, Bora Zivkovic and Anton Zuiker for coming up with what we've all been waiting for -- a way to keep track of all the new science blogging networks that have been sprouting up everywhere lately.

From Bora's Drumroll, please! Introducing: Scienceblogging.org:

But over the last month or two, the world of science blogging changed. Scienceblogs.com is there, big and good, but not as dominant as it once was. Other existing networks suddenly became more interesting and more visible. They started growing. New networks got started and are still being built at an alarming rate of approximately one per week. This is a good thing - many more blogs are now enjoying increased visibility, traffic and influence.

But there is a problem for the reader - how to track all those networks and all those blogs? They are scattered all over the place. It takes time to go through all the bookmarks and feeds in order to catch everything.

They're also looking for input and assistance:

If you are the owner/manager of one of these (or other) sites, and there is something you want to change, let us know - we want the community input as to how to improve the site.

Perhaps you have multiple blogs on your site/network but no common feed. We may have included only a feed for one of your blogs instead of all, or used FriendFeed as a temporary solution. You can fix that - make a common feed and send us the URL so we can switch it.

You may like the way a pretty logo appears next to the names of various networks, but do not like the ugly red Y of Yahoo next to yours. You can fix that as well - switch from Yahoo pipes to a better feed (RSS or Atom) and your logo will show up as well.

Is your network missing? Let us know. Are you building a new network? As soon as it goes live, let us know and send us your feed.

If you have (or intend to post) images on Flickr with science themes, please tag them with #scienceblogging and they will also appear on the site.

We need your help - we want to include independent bloggers as well. But how do we go about it? There are thousands of them! We cannot include all of those feeds. If we fuse them all into a single feed, that would be a firehose moving at the speed of light. There must be a better system!

Also, check out the first few posts on their new blog.

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Friday Fun: 7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly)

Aug 20 2010 Published by under friday fun, science fiction

Ah, zombies. I found myself feeling a certain, ah, nostalgia for the good old days when I used to post non-stop about shambling dead, decaying wrecks. The good old days, way back at the beginning of July and even earlier.

I seem to be obsessed.

So, from Cracked: 7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly):

  • They Have Too Many Natural Predators
  • They Can't Take the Heat
  • They Can't Handle the Cold
  • Biting is a Terrible Way to Spread a Disease
  • They Can't Heal from Day to Day Damage
  • The Landscape is Full of Zombie-Proof Barriers
  • Weapons and the People Who Use Them. As we touched on briefly above, if Homo sapiens are good at one thing, it's killing other things. We're so good at it that we've made entire other species cease to exist without even trying. Add to the mix the sheer number of armed rednecks and hunters out there, and the zombies don't even stand a chance. There were over 14 million people hunting with a license in the U.S. in 2004. At a minimum, that's like an armed force the size of the great Los Angeles area.

This article actually makes me feel a lot better about the odds of humanity beating back the hoards and preventing a zombie apocalypse. Phew.

Anyways, here's a list of some of my earlier excursions into zombiemania. I really must be obsessed.

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Interlibrary Loan and eBooks: Helping you survive the summer!

A nice post from computer scientist Amy Csizmar Dalal on Five things that helped me survive summer:

5. Interlibrary loan and ebooks (tie). I am almost certain that I have checked more out of the library through interlibrary loan this summer than I have in my previous 7 years at Carleton combined. And this summer, I bought my first ebooks (because I was too impatient to wait for the paper versions to ship, but still). Recently I've expanded my view of which subfields relate to my research, and by expanding my view, I've discovered a whole new set of literature that will help push my research forward (and possibly in all-new directions!). I'm now way behind on my reading, but I'm also looking forward to scholarly reading in a way I haven't for a long time.

We're happy to help. And don't forget, libraries are getting more and more scientific and technical ebooks every day!

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