Category Archives: Blog

Three books that I plan on reading…

I love year end lists. I always end up finding new things that I didn’t know about.

io9.com recently posted their best science fiction books of the year and I found a few books that I want to read from that list. I haven’t read a good SciFi book in a while so this should be entertaining. I think the last book I read that could be considered scifi was…Soon I Will Be Invincible, which merits its own blog post so wait for that.

Book number one: Ted Chiang’s The Life Cycle of Software Objects

The cover alone draws me in. It’s so beautiful in what it’s trying to depict – a robotic embryo. I’ve been fascinated with robots and AI for a while, as evidenced by a previous blog post . In this novella, Ted Chiang attempts to depict the development of artificial intelligence and based on the review from io9.com, it looks like he’s taking a different approach to it. Rather than treat AI as something that can be created and then developed into intelligence overnight, he acknowledges that intelligence is developed and nurtured over time. A few scifi works have referenced this idea, and many have even referred to AI as something that they nurtured then let loose on the world, but I think this work takes it to a whole nother level. I can’t wait to read it and it’s apparently available fully online here.

Book number two: Charles Yu’s How To Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

I’ve actually been meaning to read this book for a while. From what I’ve seen of it (from the reviews and perusing the book on the shelves), it’s a very meta type of novel. I love the idea of meta, self referential crap like that. Especially in terms of novels, I think having a meta narrative is interesting because it shows the author is capable of writing something intelligent and creative and still acknowledge their flaws. I love it. This book looks to be a fun adventure into science fiction tropes that everyone is familiar with, but taken from a different perspective. I should definitely check this out, as it is just sitting on the shelves at work. I’m pretty sure no one has checked it out yet, so I’m going to do it and enjoy the heck out of it.

Book number three: Ian McEwan’s Solar

I must confess: I haven’t seen nor read Atonement, Ian McEwan’s other famous work. However, this book kind of drew me in. The idea behind it anyway. It just sounds like such a departure from Atonement that I have to read it. It’s about a scientist who comes up with one great idea and coasts on that one idea for as long as he can. Then, he discovers a new use for it and it somehow makes him famous again…I don’t quite know the plot, but all I know is that is speculative science, mixed with possibly a good depiction of human relationships. (let’s get serious, most SciFi writers can’t write relationships well..so let’s hope a literary author dabbling in scifi can do better) I’m in. I love books in which actual human relationships are depicted and they just make SENSE. Nothing is fake about the relationships and they just work.

I hope I have the time to read these books. I’m still working on Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From . It’s very good so far, and I’ll probably post about it as I read it. I liked his other works and his ideas, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy this book as well.

SUPER DUPER BONUS TREAT POST – Radio Interview

So much for postaday2011…

I thought I would put this out there for those of you interested in hearing my awesome voice: I was interviewed this afternoon on KUCI for a show called Our Digital Future, about the future of librarianship and information science.

I felt like I rambled on, but thats just cause I’m super critical of myself. If you’d like to hear the interview, you can find it here.

I pretty much talked about random things that I enjoy, my research interests, etc.

For those of you new blog followers who came here from the show: Welcome! Enjoy your stay here, and I’m sure you’ll be entertained.

American Wussy

While cleaning up the library, I saw a banner on the top of the Wall Street Journal advertising an article called “Are American Wusses or Just Fond of Trash Talk?” and it obviously got me excited. The banner depicted what we would normally consider the geekier end of the spectrum of masculinity. Right there,  I knew this was going to be an amazing article. By showing these stereotypical depiction of what many would consider loser males (who are the main heroes in many films/books), the article is calling into question the very nature of masculinity that is depicted in American culture.

It’s interesting to see that in the article, the author finds many instances that seem to show that America is a county built on idealized masculinity. We had a pioneering spirit. We venerated men like Daniel Boone, frontiersmen who went out and explored a continent. Gov. Rendell of Pennsylvania is quoted as saying that “our country was founded by incredible risk-takers…We seem to have lost our boldness.”

The traditional view of masculinity is something to be admired – however, can’t we argue that it was a product of the times? Men had to act a certain way, and perform certain functions, because society and culture asked them to. We have transitioned into a new society in which these actions that were once necessary are no longer important or even purposeful.

The author of the article also mentions a book called “Sissy Nation” by John Strausbaugh. Strausbaugh brings up World War II as a turning point for American masculinity – having witnessed the horrors of war, men return home and seek civility and normalcy. A very interesting argument and to me, it makes sense. The population reacts to what they see going on around them – if they see something horrible, they will react in a different way to make sure they do not have to experience something so horrific again. However, as I mentioned before, why does this reaction have to be colored in a negative light? It seems easy to say that certain actions are ruining masculinity, but we have to be conscious of the context and the history of the change.

One final note: the origin of the word “wuss”, as well as emasculating terms.

There are different origins for the word “wuss”. As mentioned in the article, it became popularized by the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, in which they explain the derivation as “part wimp and part p____”. (I won’t put in the word, but I’m sure you can figure it out)

It seems ridiculous that using a female body part as a derogatory term for a man can be so disrespectful. I guess that it makes some sense. By identifying the male as somehow female (or less of a male), they are being emasculated – their virility, strength, masculinity is called into question. This can be seen in the way men react to being called a “fag” or “queer” – their manhood is being questioned, so they react negatively.

There’s something to be said about men’s reactions – why is this such an emasculating act for them? Why do they take such offense at being questioned? I can’t really answer that question myself. Perhaps in a later post we can discuss this. Personally, I take offense at people who take offense.

Source: Are Americans Wusses or Just Fond of Trash Talk? – WSJ.com.

Pareidolialy Yours

While looking for something cool to post about regarding cartography and urban planning (another one of my interests), I came across this recent blog post about pareidolia – finding meaning in seemingly random patterns.

We’re all familiar with the concept of pareidolia. There was even a recent episode of Glee that discusses it. I can’t think of specific instances that I can find an article about (mainly cause I’m being lazy), but here is a Wikipedia page discusses various religious icons showing up in the world.

The examples they present in this post are great. While at first glance I wouldn’t think of these objects as necessarily resembling any one place, I can see the desire to do so.

It’s similar in concept to the uncanny valley. When you come across something that FEELS familiar, we want to attach something to it. Something that we know. For some people, the most comforting image to attach is something religious. For them, the thought of seeing religious imagery out and about reinforces their beliefs.

When I see a pattern in something, I don’t associate it with anything. I just acknowledge that there is a pattern there. I find comfort in recognizing patterns, because it makes it seem that there is some order in my world.

Source: 494 – It’s a Dog-nosed World: Accidental Cartography Revisited | Strange Maps | Big Think.

2010: Conferences in Review

Now seems like a good a time as any to write a review post of the past year. Things have been up and down for me professionally, but I think overall the year has been kind to me.

Let’s talk about the conferences I attended.

I started the year off working on a presentation for a graduate seminar in Milwaukee. It
went alright. I played the stereotypical Californian – managed to sleep past my presentation time. Oops? The session itself was less theoretical than other sessions – I think this has to do with the topic of educational tools.

I also presented at a teacher academy at my work. The session was very well attended and we got some great feedback from people about our topic. It was a topic near and dear to my heart: pathfinders. I oddly like looking for new sources of information for people so that was great to teach teachers new tools they can use for their students.

The two biggies of the year were this past fall: Internet Librarian and CLA.

At Internet Librarian, a friend and I presented on Digital Etiquette and communication tools. Essentially, we talked about what people should do and how they should act when they are online and communicating with students. It was a very stressful presentation, until I was in it and I just relaxed and went with it. It was also my first experience with a conference. As in, really attending and participating in all conference activities. It was great and I got to meet a ton of interesting people.

CLA was a bit more laid back than Internet Librarian. I didn’t have a presentation, just a poster session to prepare for. However, it was attending this conference that encouraged me to become more involved with the librarian community. Very few of the sessions presented felt fresh or innovative. Topics were rehashed and very little new information was presented. The contrast between CLA and Internet Librarian was so strange – Internet Librarian looked to the future, CLA felt stuck in the present.

I look forward to attending more conferences this year, and hope I can make it to ALA Annual in New Orleans.

Resolved: Be more productive!

Recently, a friend of mine reminded me that I’m a hoarder. Not of physical objects (despite what the look of my room might suggest), but of ideas.

Despite my addiction to my iPhone, I still carry around a moleskine notebook and a pen – allowing me to write our ideas for new projects, sketch pages that I want to create, outline papers/presentations, etc. I’ve always loved the physicality of writing something down on pen and paper.

Looking through my notebook, I’ve noticed how so few of my ideas are followed through. It kind of depresses me that I have all of these ideas, but I never get around to doing them. So, in this new year, I will make a resolution.

In addition to the WordPress challenge of a daily blog post, I will aim to accomplish one of my projects/goals a month. The first project will be planning out and starting the research on a paper for the LITA Student Writing Award. I don’t want to talk about what topic I want to write about (not that I’m worried about people stealing it), but I just don’t want to jinx it.

The paper itself is due on the 28th of February, giving me plenty of time to work on it. Maybe I’ll get lucky and win the award and/or get it published somewhere and/or present it at another conference somewhere. I’d love to make up for my bad paper presentation in Milwaukee last year.

So for now, this is the beginning. 2011 will be a productive year for me. I can feel it. I’ll be done with my MLIS in May, hopefully start applying for jobs, getting offers, or even applying for PhD programs. Who knows! All I know is that I don’t want to let this year go by without doing anything.

If I’m going to do anything, I’ll do it with my whole heart. All in, All the time.

Albums of 2010

I’m currently listening to Robyns Body Talk. It’s such a great pop album. I want to dance to it all day and night, even when out and about in public (i.e I’m dancing to it right now at Starbucks….). Listening to this got me thinking about what some of my favorite albums of 2010 have been. So here comes that post.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is easily my FAVORITE album of the year. Hands down, it’s such a great album. I rock out to it at least once a day. Kanye West has crafted a really well thought out, beautifully written and produced album. Each song stands on its own (except for my least favorite – So Appalled). It’s been the album I’ve been looking forward to for most of the year and when it came out, I jumped out and bought it IMMEDIATELY.

The Suburbs by the Arcade Fire felt like a throwback to Funeral, which is my favorite album by them. Neon Bible was good, but there was just something that didn’t rub me the right way about it – it was too electronic if I recall correctly. Plus, the themes presented in The Suburbs are something that I can connect with – the feeling of growing up in the suburbs, just the emotion you feel being there. It’s such a wonderfully feeling album – I love FEELING music.

I’ll probably think of more albums later, but at the moment, these are the three that I am feeling right now.

Fin de Siecle Vienna

One of the best classes I ever took at UCLA was a seminar lead by a German PhD student. I also happened to meet a pretty good friend in that class.

The topic was fin de siecle Vienna – turn of the century Vienna. Given that I took it just after the turn of THIS century, the topic of the class was 1890-1910 Vienna. It was such an amazing class. I loved everything about it – I was introduced to some amazing artists, some awesome ideas from the time, and just great people in the class who were GENUINELY interested in the topic.

I ended up writing a couple of papers on Gustav Klimt and his works. Klimt and other artists like him..there was just something about their use of ornamentation in their work. I’m sure many people are familiar with Klimts “The Kiss” – the image of two lovers at the edge of a cliff, embracing and kissing each other, while wrapped up in gold. Beautifully and totally cliche now – there’s even a LLADRO figurine (which will soon appear on my wedding registry..whenever that happens).

My favorite work of Klimts though is one of his portraits of Adele Bloch-Bauer. There’s just really something beautiful about it. I’m also a sucker for details and obscure things – the outline of her body is shown by the eyes, the movement implied by the lines along her dress, the many eyes on her dress – a reference to Egyptian myth? Ugh. Love it.

Okay BACK on track…I speak about this only because I came across this link to images from 1895, depicting ideals, concepts, events, etc. Some of them are lovely and have a lot of myth and story behind them. I wish I could spend the time cataloging them and figuring out all of the references. This might be a project to do in my (very little) spare time.

There was also just something special about Vienna at the time – it was one of those cities that was so metropolitan for the day and age and could be an incubator for new ideas. While I’ve always been a fan of Europe, something in that class really got me excited to some day visit Vienna, walk around and visit the sites and sights we talked about in class. Some day, I will make it to Europe on my epic backpacking trip. Not sure when, not sure how. But I will.

Source: 1895 Viennese Archetype Images

Modern Masculinity

I don’t really have the correct words to talk about this post. I’ve been pondering it for weeks now and just haven’t come up with what I really want to say about it.

I’ll just try to go all stream of consciousness and see whether or not I am able to produce a logical, intelligent post. Come join me for the fun!

It seems ridiculous to point out the ridiculousness of mens magazines. Being an avid bookstore browser, and an even more avid magazine section browser, I’m very familiar with what kind of material is covered in mens magazines. The content stays the same, month to month. In fact, I remember seeing a post on a blog I follow in which they show that a magazine actually recycled their cover from a few months back.

The types of things you see in mens magazine are just not something any normal man can/should really accept. I’m sorry, but the average man cannot afford the outfit that you have put on that model. Nor can the average man even pull it off. I’m not saying that mens magazines should appeal to the lowest common denominator, but at the same time, they should not idealize what men can wear/do/purchase, etc.

There’s apparently been a trend towards a more touchy feely approach to masculinity, one in which we focus on being a respectable, responsible man. I love this idea. I think it’s gotten to the point where many men don’t act that way – their goal is to just hook up, move from partner to partner, and maintain life in their 20s – as if they are in college still.

I’m not some sage in modern masculinity, but I do feel I’m a pretty decent example. I’m clearly not the most masculine person I know, nor am I the most feminine person I know. I’m that healthy medium, in which I can work in both realms. I cry when things get difficult, but I also tough it out when I need to.

It seems that we have created this ideal of masculinity in which any sense of emotion or sign of supposed weakness is derided. I hate that. I hate that we aren’t allowed to show our weakness, because we fear being mocked. I flaunt my weaknesses sometimes, because I want people to be aware of it and call me out on it. I love criticism (if its constructive).

But at the same time…we can’t accept this new touchy feely form of masculine too much. I think men should still follow what is traditionally considered masculine traits, but at the same time be accepting of what could be considered feminine traits. Work out your muscles! Work out your emotions! as long as you don’t let one thing overcome you.

The end of the Slate article is interesting – essentially, the author feels that by forcing this other ideal, this “new masculinity” of responsibility, loyalty, granola-y stuff, we will engender a hatred and distrust of it. We won’t be creating men who accept these ideals, but rather men who go against these ideals.

Masculinity (and on the other side of the coin, femininity) is such a strange concept. Two social constructs…how do we deal with their ever changing definitions?

Source: Real Men Cry and Do Laundry

Announcement: New Series – Masculinity

Somethings going on…

Almost everywhere I turn to, I see some new post about masculinity and the changes that is transpiring regarding our perception of it. It’s all very exciting to think about.

I’ve been working on this blog post about the new masculinity for weeks, and I just can’t get it written. Mainly because I’ve been trying to incorporate fifty other articles into it. In light of this, I’ve decided to create a new series of blog posts here, specifically addressing masculinity. I’m pretty excited for this. I wonder how long I can maintain this series though. Or if I will retire it someday to start another series.

The main goal of this blog was to have a professional outlet for my thoughts about information science. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. The main focus of this blog will be culture, with aspects of information science and information society sprinkled in. I am a sociology major after all =)