22 November 2008

Bionicle Taxonomy

Elliot recently finished the Bionicle Encyclopedia by Greg Farshtey

What are the books about?
It gives the details of the bionicles and I really like it.

So there's different kinds of bionicles in the book?
Yes. There are piraka, visorak, inika and dark hunters

Who's your favorite bionicle in the book?
My favorite bionicle - I have lots of favorites - is Makuta and Karzahni. I don't have just one favorite. Makuta almost died creating Karzahni.

What was the most exciting part of the book?
You can see the bionicle pictures and look up information about the bionicles.

Are bionicles violent?
What do you think? They don't really fight each other. The bionicles can do tricky things together and building them is fun

Do you do play often with bionicles?
Yes. They are my top toy to play with. I hope to get some for Christmas

What's the next bionicle that you want?
LEGO Bionicle Takanuva. Because he's the Toa of light and has defeated the makuta twice.

19 November 2008

Typing in Kalahari

I recently read The Kalahari Typing School for Men. I saw it in the library, and recognized Alexander McCall Smith from his work on the The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency . I wasn't aware until after I read the The Kalahari Typing School for Men (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 4) that there was more than 2 books in the series; and although in was clear in reading Kalahari that there had been events transpiring since the first book in the series, I didn't feel I'd missed much.

While an interesting narration of Botswana, in many ways the place seemed idealized. Any difficulties the characters faced were trifling and the characters were in no hurry to address them -  although likeable characters, I didn't connect to them. Mma Ramotswe in this book faces her first competitor, and solves two difficult issues. The competitor is presented with little depth, and the cultural issues of having a person of Zulu origin interacting with the characters are only there by allusion. It seems in this case McCall Smith had the opportunity to discuss the racial/tribal divides of Africa from a Botswanan perspective, but shied away from that thorny topic. Great literature should heartily explore such issues and opinions, so that in doing so the reader is engaged with them and must come to an opinion also. The avoidance of this topic and reference to it in only oblique ways made me mindful of a Mill quote I saw today courtesy of Wordsmith.org:
The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. -John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806-1873) 

What this book did inspire me to do is find out a little more about Botswana. I  will be on the lookout for more reading on that country.

Photo by OxOx

17 November 2008

And the winners are...

Thanks for all your wonderful comments in response to the giveaway carnival! I decided to give away 2 books, as follows.

The giveaways were sent out this week:

Witch Child by Celia Rees (hardcover, teen fiction) goes to Popinfresh, stop by and say congrats at her blog, Popin's Lair. She got herself a copy of Witch Child by Celia Rees. Popsy, I like your explanation of how difficult it was to imagine how to live in that time; I think Rees' book does a good job with getting you into the head of the characters and can help you visualize what they went through. Prithee, read and report soon.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. (paperback, non-fiction) goes to to Dixie, because it is a wonderful book and her blog A few of my favorite things is completely lacking in any sort of book review. I'm counting on Seabiscut's heroic story to inspire her to write one.

Note to contestants: I read all your entries and followed your profiles - thanks so much to each of you for the great comments. Unfortunately, some of you had no contact info on your profiles or your blogs, so even though your entries were great if I couldn't reach you to make sure you met the conditions, you couldn't win. Sorry.

11 November 2008

Time in a bottle

This Veteran's Day, thank a veteran for all that makes you proud to be an American. United States servicemen and servicewomen answer a calling to service of the American republic, so that we who do not serve can live in peace. Whether we as individuals support the government policies or oppose them, I believe our support for the soldiers should be unstinting, and that the commitment doesn't end when the soldier leaves the service.

Thanks Dad.

I have a lot to be proud of this year, as an American. This election year was extraordinary in so many ways, and for me as a mother I hit a milestone of having 2 children who are politically aware for the first time. 4 years ago for the last presidential election, neither understood what was happening very well. This year, both boys were full of questions about the process, they wanted to know about the issues, and they wanted to engage with it somehow. We wanted to do something important, something significant and immediate, that could commemorate the historic political event. I brainstormed with them for a bit while we were discussing how that might happen, and we then decided to make a time capsule and seal it - not to be opened until the next presidential election.

To start with, each of us in the family drew a flag. I had expected a few variations on the stars and stripes but instead they drew family flags, complete with beagles and coffee and bionicles. I then collected up some of the campaign materials I had available for the envelope and tossed them in. My elder son started a tic tac toe game challenging his future self; he made a move and now is eager to see if he can set a record for the Guinness Book of World Records for longest lasting single player tic tac toe game.

We'll see in 4 years what has happened to our time capsule, our economy, and the American status in the world community. I'm proud to be an American.

Time capsule photo by MShades.

03 November 2008

Giveaway Carnival - Book Giveaway

I'm participating this year in the Book Giveaway Carnival and am pleased to offer the following available book giveaways.

Please comment here regarding your interest and why you want what you want - I'll select at least one, and possibly more recipients depending on the quality of entries. I will be reviewing one of these books in November, and request that the winner respond to the review with comments on the book awarded.

Here's the 411 how to win -
  1. Comment below explaining which book you'd like to win and, most importantly, why.

  2. I'll review the entries and select the most compelling entrant to receive a book - if the quality of comments is high, I may award more than one book.

  3. Entries must be received by midnight EST on 11/9 and the recipient will be selected on 11/10.

  4. In November, I'll post a review of the book awarded - return to the review and post your comments.

Available giveaways include literature for a variety of readers:

Witch Child by Celia Rees (hardcover, teen fiction)Let's look at the planets (Poke and Look) by Laura Driscoll (hardcover, nonfiction, young readers)
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy - (paperback, science-fiction) Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. (paperback, non-fiction).

The fine print: Winner receives the book free & clear and I will pay to ship the book to you. Entries from spammers, pornographers, and people unable to read or write in English will not be accepted. (If you are fluent in another language, that's great, but the giveaway books are in English.) If the shipping costs for the prize would be beyond a common-sense threshold, for example more than the value of the book, I may substitute an e-prize of some sort.

02 November 2008

I still hate daylight savings time

Again, I wake today afflicted by daylight saving time. The fall DST ending is at least a little less onerous than the spring DST beginning. But I'll still find myself wanting lunch at 10:30 am and having to leave for work in the dark.

DST is basically a collective action motivated by a misplaced and unproven idea that we can save energy by making better use of daylight. In fact, DST is recognized as increasing energy use and costs. A new perspective on my aggravation at DST has emerged this election season as I see how very powerful collective action can be. A motivated group can have tremendous impact towards achieving a shared goal. What a shame that we waste that collective effort on something with so ambiguously beneficial as DST. What if instead we had a national event to "pick up one piece of litter" or "take a 10 minute walk"? We'd probably make a big change towards a cleaner environment or reducing American obesity with that effort - much more of an impact on those issues than we see on our energy use with daylight saving time.

If someone could show me a well-vetted scientific study showing that DST actually did have significant quantifiable benefits, I'd line up and comply without complaint. But as with many lemming-like popular movements, DST has not demonstrated that it has a real, measurable benefit.

01 November 2008

Resources for Grantwriters on the Internet

I was at an internet marketing conference recently, and during the trip back home I had the opportunity to mentally reminisce about my past online efforts and wonder how I got from there to here. One thing I recalled was the messy early days of internet article publishing; rather than using hyperlinks to send users to an interesting article, articles would be mirrored, or republished entire, at other sites. I was pleased at the time when a page I wrote for a class at the University of Michigan got picked up and mirrored at the University of Miami. It was pretty difficult then to even tell when this had happened. This was back in the days when Google was still in alpha, and the simple interface we love today wasn't available; if I recall correctly, my page was optimized for display in Lynx. There are still a few scattered links in dusty directories online: Indiana State, the University of South Carolina, and Valdosta State University still have the link. After a bit of digging around, I found some of my early html and thought perhaps, with the magic of google docs, I should repost it.

So, from my own personal wayback machine, let's set the dial to February of 1995: Resources for Grantwriters on the Internet.