Archive for: September, 2014

Reading Diary: The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic: The Adventures of Geo, Vol. 1 by by Kanani K. M. Lee & Adam Wallenta

Sep 05 2014 Published by under book review, science books

This amusing book, Kanani K. M. Lee and Adam Wallenta's The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic: The Adventures of Geo, Vol. 1, is brought to us by the same people as the Survive! Inside the Human Body graphic novel series. As a result it has many of the same strengths but it also suffered from some of the weaknesses that the Survive! series was able to avoid.

The strengths are easy to see: engaging and diverse characters, clear and clean artwork, lively narration and great attention to scientific detail outside the main narrative. The weaknesses of the Plate Techtonics version which should have been easy to avoid given the previous example but weren't include some jumbled flash forward/flashback story telling and an over-reliance on infodump exposition rather than putting the story first and making the science serve the story.

The framing narrative is a day in the life of a boy, Geo, who's on his way to school for a science quiz. He's a daydreamer, of course, and imagines himself a kind of geology superhero who saves the day amid various "disasters." Which is great fun, of course, and perhaps putting the super-heroics -- real or imagined -- more front and centre and less recalling of the information on his immanent exam would have been better. Like the Survive! series, the recap of all the science at the end of the book is very handy as students using the book to prepare for their own exam don't have to try and find the relevant bits mixed in with the rest. The best part of the science at the end were the "What Do Geologists Do" and Geology Activities sections. Perhaps that's an avenue to be explored in later volumes.

Overall this series shows great potential and I hope the authors and publisher can work out the kinks and we can see many more exciting volumes in the series.

I would recommend this book for elementary and middle school libraries as well as children's collections at public libraries. Academic education libraries might find it useful for their teacher training support collections. As well, it would probably make a nice gift for the geo-happy kid in your life.

Lee, Kanani K. M. and Adam Wallenta. The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic: The Adventures of Geo, Vol. 1. San Francisco: No Starch Press, 2014. 40pp. ISBN-13: 978-1593275495

Other science graphic novels and illustrated books I have reviewed:

One response so far

Cool linky stuff for science undergrads (12): How to Read & Discuss a Book

Sep 04 2014 Published by under around the web, ugrad links

I have a son who's currently a physics undergrad, just starting in third year. And another son who's starting first year philosophy. As you can imagine, I may occasionally pass along a link or two to them pointing to stuff on the web I think they might find particularly interesting or useful. Thinking on that fact, I surmised that perhaps other undergrad students might find those links interesting or useful as well. Hence, this series of posts here on the blog.

Since I'm a science librarian, the items I've chosen are mostly geared towards science undergrads (hence, the title of the series), but I hope many of them will be of broader interest.

The previous posts in this series are: 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.

Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

No responses yet

Open Access Rants: On the wagon with Henry Ford & Steve Jobs

Yes, it has become a trilogy. The two Twitter rants I recapped here sparked more angst and anguish in me, prompting me to write a third rant.

As it became ready for Twitter publication and approached 800 words, it also became clear that this particular rant was fast outgrowing what I could reasonably expect people to follow on Twitter, easily over 40 tweets worth of text. As many epic fantasy series can attest, these things can get out the control of the author quite easily. At least I'm not pulling a GRRM and taking 6 or more years in between installments!

I did sent out a tweet last night asking for advice and it was unanimous. Go straight to the blog version.

So here it is. While not unleashed on Twitter, I hope it's taken in the same spirit of fast and loose commentary. With an edge, yes, but also open to discussion and debate. Not a final word, not even necessarily exactly what my own final thoughts will be on the subject, but quick and dirty meant to start rather than end the discussion.

Here goes, exactly as it would have appeared on Twitter:

Initiate final installment in the Open Access Rant Trilogy.

How do we hang together on the goddam bus? How do we start getting from here to there? What roles do the different stakeholders need to play for a truly open scholarly communications system to become a reality? There are already lots of organizations holding lots of meetings every year, all with the goal of making OA a reality. There are also already lots of organizations holding lots of meetings each year hoping to to keep things from happening, or at least slowing down progress.

Sadly, bringing all those people together and making universal OA happen is way above my pay grade.

But I think I can at very least share some small bits of half-baked semi-rational “advice” for the various stakeholders.

Funders: The golden rule. You have the gold, you can make (or at least nudge) the rules. The key is to find a way to aggregate the funds coming from different sources and make sure it ends up supporting the ecosystem not the rent-takers. Biggest problem? Disconnect between how money gets to publishers etc via libraries etc vs how research itself is funded. APCs solve some of that but create other problems too.

Scholarly societies: It seems to me that OA is something where you should absolutely be world-beating leaders, not foot-draggers. Lead, don’t follow. That’s what your membership (and scholarship and society) deserves even if they don’t articulate it that way. Virtually every society mission statement has something about the public good. C’mon, do some good!

Academic libraries/librarians: We’re in a tough spot. If all goes well, our currently well defined role in scholarly publishing (ie. wallet) will largely disappear. We need to find a new role, whether that’s some other kind of wallet, host, archive, publisher, navigator, guide on the side or likely some combination of all of them. My advice? We need to reconcile ourselves to wanting the old wallet role to go away because that’s just best for everyone. Think of it as those stages of grief, playing out over the next 5-10 years. It’s too easy to be in denial or anger, we need to bargain our way into the bigger conversation with the other stakeholders and get to acceptance.

Authors: It’s hard to remember sometimes that the real reason for research isn’t to advance our careers but rather advancing our careers is a by-product of doing good work that advances the human condition in some way. Authors *are* the academy and can work towards saner research reward & incentive systems in academia.

Institutions: Have institutional OA mandates. Support funder mandates. Make it easier for *all* your faculty and researchers to follow the various mandates, full time and part time. Work with *all* your scholars to make tenure/promotion/career path management incentives and rewards more open-friendly.

Commercial publishers: Be the mammals, not the dinosaurs. There’s plenty of money to be made in scholarly publishing. But you knew that already and the smartest among you are already reimagining what open business models can look like.

Publishing pundits & consultants: The good ones see the writing on the wall. Resist the temptation to take your clients’ money for fear, uncertainty and doubt. Get in the business of transforming dinosaurs into mammals.

Open Access pundits: Leadership without the “dancing on the head of a pin” and “my way or the highway” arguments would be nice even if sometimes the fine points are important. Let’s find a way to lead people forward, recognizing that a common goal doesn’t need a common path to get there. I like some of the Bolman/Gallos ideas on political & symbolic academic leadership.

To all the stakeholders: if you imagine that your constituencies aren't ready for this, or that it’s not really in their best interest or whatever rationalization you use to hang on to the status quo just a little longer, just remember what Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Or if you want the same idea from somebody who’s a lot more post-industrial, Steve Jobs, “People don't know what they want until you show it to them.”

This ranty list of likely irrational suggestions is only my own and therefore must be biased, incomplete and at least partially blind. I see myself in many of my suggestions to the various stakeholders. I admit to not being immune.

I welcome all your additions and corrections.

Hanging together on the goddam wagon with Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.

What’s got me all worked up right now? These two: &

3 responses so far

2013 Lane Anderson Award Shortlist: Celebrating the Best Science Writing in Canada

Sep 02 2014 Published by under best science books 2013, Canada, science books

One of the highlights of the year for me is the Lane Anderson Award shortlist announcement.

From their website here and here:

The Lane Anderson designation honours the maiden names of Robert Fitzhenry's mother, Margaret Lane, and his wife, Hilda Anderson Fitzhenry. The Fitzhenry Family Foundation is a privately directed Canadian foundation established in 1987 by Canadian publisher Robert I. Fitzhenry (1918-2008).

The Lane Anderson Award will be administered by Christopher Alam, a partner at the law firm of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP.

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.

I also like the text I used from their website last year:

The Lane Anderson Award honours the very best science writing in Canada today, both in the adult and young-reader categories. Each award will be determined on the relevance of its content to the importance of science in today’s world, and the author’s ability to connect the topic to the interests of the general trade reader.”

The annual Lane Anderson Award honours two jury-selected books, in the categories of adult and young-reader, published in the field of science, and written by a Canadian.

Which given my Canadianness and my very evident love of science books, and especially lists of science books and awards, is naturally something I'm very excited about.

Let's get to the award nominations for this year:

Nominees for the 2013
Lane Anderson Award


Adult Nominees

Manitoba Butterflies: A Field Guide
by Simone Hebert Allard (Turnstone Press)

Manitoba Butterflies sets a new standard for butterfly field guides, featuring 101 different species of Manitoba’s butterflies and over 1,100 photographs. For the first time in any Canadian field guide, the life cycles of all 101 species are detailed with photographs, some of which have never been published before. Each butterfly is presented over two pages in a clear and easy-to-follow format. Space is provided for butterfly lovers of all ages to track the species they find and the various stages of the life cycle they observe.


The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway
by Arno Kopecky (Douglas & McIntyre)

With Enbridge Inc's Northern Gateway proposal nearing approval, supertankers loaded with two million barrels of bitumen each may soon join herring, humpbacks and salmon on their annual migration through the tumultuous waters off British Columbia's Central Coast--a place no oil tanker has been before. The contentious project has aroused intense opposition, pitting local First Nations, a majority of British Columbia's urban population, and environmental groups across the country against an international consortium led by Enbridge and backed by a federal government determined to make Canada an "energy superpower."

Arno Kopecky is a journalist and travel writer whose dispatches have appeared in The Walrus, Foreign Policy, the Globe and Mail, Maclean's, The Tyee and Kenya's Daily Nation. He has covered civil uprisings in Mexico, cyclones in Burma, Zimbabwe's 30-year dictatorship and election violence in Kenya. He lives in Squamish, B.C.


The Peace-Athabasca Delta: Portrait of a Dynamic Ecosystem
by Kevin P. Timoney (University of Alberta Press)

“In the delta, water is boss, change is the only constant, and creation and destruction exist side by side.” The Peace-Athabasca Delta in northern Alberta is a globally significant wetland that lies within one of the largest unfragmented landscapes in North America. Arguably the world’s largest boreal inland delta, it is renowned for its biological productivity and is a central feature of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet the delta and its indigenous cultures lie downstream of Alberta’s bitumen sands, whose exploitation comprises one of the largest industrial projects in the world. Kevin Timoney provides an authoritative synthesis of the science and history of the delta, describing its ecology, unraveling its millennia-long history, and addressing its uncertain future. Scientists, students, leaders in the energy sector, government officials and policy makers, and conscientious citizens everywhere should read this lively work.


Juvenile Nominees

Chitchat: Celebrating the World’s Languages
by Jude Isabella art by Kathy Boake (Kids Can Press)

Award-winning children's science writer Jude Isabella has compiled everything a young reader would ever want to know about language into one accessible, visually stunning book. In lively text, both spoken and written language are explored, including: a basic history of human's use of language; how individuals learn language as babies, and why; how writing systems and alphabets differ; the many sources and uses of slang through the years; how languages evolved in different parts of the world; and why some languages became extinct. Throughout the pages, more than fifty world languages are highlighted and children are offered opportunities to try out some phrases. Each separate topic is covered on a two-page spread, making the content manageable and approachable, and each spread is enhanced with bite-size sidebars that relate to or expand upon the information presented. The entire book is colorfully illustrated throughout by Kathy Boake's striking and unique artwork.


Before The World Was Ready: Stories of Daring Genius in Science
by Claire Eamer art by Sa Boothroyd (Annick Press)

Earth revolves around the sun. Washing hands helps stop the spread of disease. Poisons in the environment affect the entire ecosystem. Today, these ideas are common knowledge but at one time, they were all rejected. As is often the case, it can take years for people to accept a new idea or invention that changes the way they see the world.


Pterosaur Trouble
by Daniel Loxton with Jim W.W. Smith (Kids Can Press)

Follow the pterosaur, a majestic flying reptile, as he encounters a pack of tiny but vicious dinosaurs. A unique blend of digital illustrations and landscape photography brings the ensuing battle to life. Pterosaur Trouble is book two in the Tales of Prehistoric Life series. Dramatic stories + eye-popping visuals = a surefire hit with young dinosaur lovers.

No responses yet

« Newer posts