Friday, March 27, 2015

NetGalley Open For Business

One of my goals for the year is to read more; whether it be reading for pleasure, school, or work I just want to READ.

To help keep me on track, I've hopped back on the NetGalley website as a "professional reader" to help encourage me to both read and review the material that I am reading.  I've already got one neat badge and hope to unlock more as I go.  :)

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Two Book Tuesday

I do have two titles for Two Book Tuesday this week.  My favorite thing about this week is how odd the two books are, lol.

First, we have a book that I desperately wanted to find and read.  Sadly, I couldn't remember the title or author, and I barely remembered the cover art and general premise of the story.  Emily B., a co-worker of mine, was kind enough to help me dig through the depths of the internet until we found it!  So, the first book for Two Book Tuesday is The Cure by Sonia Levitin.

A strange mixture of science-fiction, dystopian fiction, and historical fiction, I first read The Cure when we lived in Baltimore, MD.  If you are a fan of the recently-popular Divergent series, then The Cure is right up your alley with "factions" and forced conformity into these factions.  Deviants are criminals with only two options: to die and be recycled or to accept a mysterious cure that is supposed to bring them back into the fold.

Gemm, a deviant and the main character of the story, chooses to take the cure and suddenly finds himself living the live of a 16-year-old Jewish musician in 1348 at the beginning of the Black Death.  As a young reader, this book was such a great experience that is has stayed with me over a decade later and is a title that I re-read every few years.

The absolute terrible part of this whole search process is that the library no longer owns this title and I need to look elsewhere if I decide that I want to read it, which I do.  I cannot put into words the sense of betrayal I felt that this book was no longer available at my library.  I have to wonder if this is how most patrons feel when we go through a period of healthy weeding of our collections.

And the second book I have for you this week is Beauty written by Hubert, with art by Kerascoët.

Apparently, I placed an Inter-Library Loan request for this title a few weeks ago and it finally arrived...  The strange thing is that I don't remember anything about the request or the book itself!  So, I find myself with the opportunity to read a pretty great looking graphic novel that I may not have otherwise picked up.

I'll let you know how it is.  :)

PIN or PIN Number?

Did you know that PIN stands for Personal Identification Number and by saying PIN Number you are essentially saying number number?  Well, it does and you are!

Working in a public library means that I have the opportunity to work with people having different levels of technological know-how. I've had users ask "Mouse? Isn't that a rodent?" and others asking "How do I code an app?" There is a pretty vast range of computer knowledge in our patron base and as a library worker it is my job to meet users at their level and be able to communicate and assist them on that level.

Sometimes, this means saying PIN Number because a patron might not know or understand what a PIN actually is.

As with any opportunity to teach, I use these interactions to explain what a PIN actually is or to help familiarize the patron with the program or internet browser they are using. One of the most rewarding parts of working with the public is being able to give them knowledge they didn't have before and the ability to use that knowledge.

So, do you say PIN or PIN number when talking to the public?

Which do you say?

PIN Number
Poll Maker

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

3 Things College Students Should Do Each Year

I've only been a college student for three semesters now, but there are three things that I could not be successful without and I wanted to share with you the most useful things I use as each semester begins...

1.  Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA

This is a completely free way to get money from the government to help pay for school and there's been talk about making the whole process more simple (which would be a godsend).

As soon as you (or your parents) have filed taxes for the year, fill out the FAFSA forms.  The quickest way to do this is at and fill out the application online FAFSA forms for federal aid.  The sooner you do this, the more likely it is that you will get financial aid from the government.  If you are interested in attending a specific school, don't forget to add it to your FAFSA application so the school can get your financial aid information.

Remember that you will need your social security number, so make sure its handy if you don't already have it memorized.

2.  Speak with your advisor

Even if you know what degree you are want, it is a good idea to talk with your advisor at the start of each semester.  Ask for their advice on classes that will work well taken together or what order they suggest you take classes in.  Oftentimes your advisor will be able to provide helpful tips and plans for scheduling that will help ease the stress of college life.

3.  Get a planner (and use it)

If you do nothing else I've suggested, do this.  Buy yourself a planner that has monthly, weekly, and daily options to keep track of class times, important due dates, schedule time to study and STICK TO IT, and most importantly give yourself time to relax.

With all you are taking on at school, you need to give your mind and body time to regroup so that you are well-rested and ready for the challenges life throws your way.  Spend an afternoon outside, ride your bike or take a walk; if it's raining outside, curl up in a chair with your favorite author; or take a few hours to spend with your friends catching up.

Trust me, your sanity will thank me for the few minutes you give it to relax.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Agent Carter Is Not Your Darling

Originally, this was going to be a one-time post about five fictional women in media (television, film, books, etc) that inspired or influenced me in some way but then I realized that there were more than five of them.  I couldn't choose just five, so this may become an ongoing series of posts about awesome ladies!

First we have Margaret "Peggy" Carter from the television show Agent Carter.  First seen in Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011 as a no-nonsense British officer working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR), Peggy was responsible for rescuing the scientist Abraham Erskine, creator of the Super Soldier Serum.

Now, I realize that the show could be better, but with the bar set so low for female lead media, I believe it did a pretty good job.  While the show has many faults ranging from a predominantly male cast, no memorable characters of color, and a somewhat superficial stance on feminism, Agent Carter does have one brilliant thing going for it... Strong ladies.

(image source: @AgentCarterTV)

After the end of World War II, Peggy Carter continues to work for the SSR and, as far as the audience knows, is the only female agent in existence.  Most other women in the agency have been relegated to telephone operators and/or secretarial positions.

Although her abilities are continuously ignored by her male counterparts and superior, Peggy is quick-witted and sharp enough to use their underestimation of her to her advantage.
  • When ordered to watch the phones, Peggy calls the operator and instructs her to forward all calls to the briefing room; there will be no keeping Peggy from important meetings.
  • To further her own agenda, Peggy serves coffee and is able to glean vital information about her investigation when her male co-workers dismiss her to the background.
  • When Howard implies that she is overly emotional due to being on her period, she verbally smacks him down with a quick, "You don't get to use my reaction to your lies as a reason for your lies."
Peggy Carter is a tough, resilient woman who stands strong even when no one is on her side.  She doesn't put up with being mistreated by the men or women around her and will protect her friends from the same mistreatment.

Even through all of the vicious fights (and believe you me, Peggy can kick butt harder than most of the boys) Peggy never forgets that she is a woman; she uses feminine things like perfume and lipstick in the line of duty as easily as she uses her fists or a gun.  There is something very empowering about seeing a woman kicking butt and taking names which I appreciated.  It makes me feel like I can be strong too.

And while Peggy learns that she doesn't need to do everything alone, she doesn't need the men around her to rescue her from danger.  She is quite capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much.  Throughout the show, Peggy gives us little gems and tidbits of advice that are applicable in everyday life, but my favorite quote is this:
"I know my value. Anyone else's opinion doesn't really matter." --Peggy Carter.

These are just a few things that I like about Peggy Carter.  If you're interested in her then you should watch the show.  Also, I will be posting about other women from this show, because they deserve to be talked about.  Who would you like me to write about?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review of Kingsman the Secret Service

Believe it or not, until my sister reminded me, I had entirely forgotten that it was Spring Break this week!  With my Tuesday evening suddenly free, I decided to go to to the theater and see Kingsman: The Secret Service since I'd heard how fun it was.

Please note that this post will contain spoilers.
If you have not yet seen the film, you may want to skip this post.

From the opening scene, Kingsman is a fun movie to watch.  It isn't afraid to be a little silly (bouncing rocks become the introduction credits and heads explode into fireworks) while earning its well-deserved R rating with lots of up close and personal killing.  The close combat fight scenes were absolutely mesmerizing to watch.

Although there could have been more effort put into character development, I enjoyed all of the characters.  After Harry Hart (aka Galahad) my favorite character is Gazelle, who should not be referred to as "sidekick" because without her I don't believe that Valentine would have been successful.  He doesn't have the stomach for it.

(gif credit goes to allthekingsman on tumblr)
A double amputee, Gazelle wields her killer prosthetic legs with perfect precision.  Her disability isn't discussed or explained, but it doesn't disable the character and Gazelle is a deadly adversary throughout the film, unafraid of getting her hands (or feet) dirty in support of Valentine's plan.  None of Gazelle's duties involve demeaning or objectifying the character; in fact, Valentine treats her as an equal throughout the film!  She is an intriguing character and I was sad to see her die.

I appreciate that Gazelle was not turned into a sex symbol in the film.  However, as many other films have done, promotional posters for Kingsman have male characters posed between her spread legs.  All you can see of Gazelle is her butt and legs and I think that this type of poster is both overdone and annoying.  I would have preferred hot/sexy promotional materials to have Gazelle being the bad-ass that she is, standing strong with a blade at someone's throat.

And Gazelle isn't the only woman in this film showing up the boys.  Roxy is a Kingsman candidate alongside Eggsy and is the only successful recruit of her class, beating out all of the boys to become the next Lancelot.  Canonically, we do not learn much of Roxy's past but it has been suggested that she isn't 100% heterosexual and I think that a female, bisexual Lancelot would be brilliant!

The mentor relationship Harry Hart has with Eggsy Unwin was wonderfully handled and seeing the parallels in their fighting style was both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.  Even in death, Harry Hart's legacy will continue on in his protégé as Eggsy comes into his own as a Kingsman.

1. Beyond the fairly innocent request for a kiss, I absolutely HATED the interaction between Eggsy and Princess Tilde.  Her offering to have sex (and then anal sex) with Eggsy as a reward for saving the world was distasteful to me.  It added nothing to the story and just didn't need to be in the film; I am quite content to pretend that it never happened and Eggsy left with Merlin to rendezvous with Roxy.

2. Yet again Hollywood has produced another film with a predominantly white, male cast.  Consider me (not at all) shocked.  While I enjoyed what each actor brought to the film, it would have been fantastic to see POC representation beyond that of the villains.  Although, there is the possibility that the sequel could have better representation since the old regime died with Arthur and a new era has begun in both Roxy (a girl) and Eggsy (a commoner).

In conclusion:  If you enjoy good spy movies then you should go see Kingsman: The Secret Service.  I give it a solid 8/10 for being an entertaining film, well-worth the money spent on a ticket.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Death's Best Friend

"Despite rumor, Death isn't cruel -- merely terribly, terribly good at his job." --Terry Pratchet (Sourcery).

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Inspirational Speech from Buck Frobisher

Sometimes, you just need a random word of encouragement, something to make the days easier to get through... Well, on this day, the 11th of March, Buck Frobisher (of Due South) has words of inspiration for you. This speech always makes me smile and I wanted to share with y'all.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Best Advice for Writing

The best advice I have ever received, in regards to writing strong women, was to just write women.  I write stories as a hobby, but looking back at my work the main characters have predominantly been men.  Simply put, this is because they are easier for me to write; I don't feel like there is some standard I need to meet.

This is not OK.

As creators, we should not be afraid to write female characters.  We should write strong women.  Injured women dealing with their pain.  Women who cry because they aren't afraid to be emotional.  Women who don't need romance to feel good about themselves.  Women who love being in love.  Strong women.  Frail women.  Black women.  Aboriginal women.  Crippled women.  The list goes on and on...

We should be writing women who are human.

I'll leave you with this quote:
"Screw writing “strong” women.  Write interesting women.  Write well-rounded women.  Write complicated women.  Write a woman who kicks ass, write a woman who cowers in a corner.  Write a woman who’s desperate for a husband.  Write a woman who doesn’t need a man.  Write women who cry, women who rant, women who are shy, women who don’t take no shit, women who need validation and women who don’t care what anybody thinks.  THEY ARE ALL OKAY, and all those things could exist in THE SAME WOMAN.  Women shouldn’t be valued because we are strong, or kick-ass, but because we are people.  So don’t focus on writing characters who are strong.  Write characters who are people."  -- MadLori

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Drifting In Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim is one of my all-time favorite films.  It is an entertaining film about people working together to find a solution to a problem that is bigger than any one country or government.  But, that's one topic that is an entirely different post which, if you follow me on Facebook you will have seen me laughing about accidentally writing.

What I'd like to talk about in this post is drifting, because I've seen a number of discussions about how angry people were that Jaeger Pilots weren't able to magically read each-other's minds and immediately know everything about each-other.

What do I think drifting is?

In my opinion, drifting is connecting on a deeply intimate level with your co-pilot to find similar experiences or emotions that bring the two individuals together as one stronger whole.

For instance, when Yancy tells Raleigh that "I'm in your brain, I know" this statement is more indicative of their close relationship as brothers than reading Raleigh's mind.  Yancy does know what Raleigh is thinking, because he knows how Raleigh thinks not because he can read his brother's  mind.

One of the strongest complaints about drifting in the film is why Raleigh wasn't instantly aware of the chain sword when he and Mako first drifted.  Personally, my Brother's remarks on the topic are my favorite, that it was stupid/lazy for a pilot to know that their machine had been modified and NOT find out about all of those changes immediately.

Travis Beacham, the writer for Pacific Rim, posted the following picture to visually illustrate the drift and said,
"For your reference. A half-assed verbal illustration of what a drift with a new partner might be like. Red for one mind. Blue for the other. Purple for blended thoughts. Enjoy."
(click on the picture to go to the original post)

Looking at this discussion, one can clearly see that these are two individuals that are processing different input and thinking about different things and yet, are still able to come together in order to move forward towards their common goal.

There are a number of other indications that the drift is not mind-reading.  Travis says that the drift is fluid and is driven by emotions, fantasies, memories, etc.  The id of one pilot cues the other pilot's id and so on and so forth (1).  Raleigh did not know about the chain sword because it wasn't something that Mako thought about, even subconsciously, until the moment that she needed it.  As individuals, they were thinking about different (arguably, more important) things up to that point  (3).

Travis also stated that drifting can be difficult if the pilots do not share common memories to use as reference points.  This can make or break a pilot team, because two minds are learning how to communicate in this entirely foreign way with another mind (2).  Pilots need there to be common ground in order for their two minds to come together and successfully drift.

To sum things up, drifting is an open communication between two minds, a dialogue if you will.  It does not mean that a pilot immediately knows everything about their partner.  The more times a pair drifts and the longer/deeper the drift, then the more they will learn about each other.

If you'd like to read my review of the Pacific Rim Novelization, you can find that post HERE.

(1) Travis Beacham, what-memories-do-you-share-when-you-first-drift
(2) Travis Beacham, why-do-jaeger-pilots-talk-out-loud-to-their
(3) Travis Beacham, coelasquid-hey-i-actually-finished-a-comic-on-a

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Two Book Tuesday

Just a short post this week since spare time has been quite sparse.  :)

I've been spending most of my free time studying for Midterms and haven't had much time to spare for "fun" reading, so this post will be about two books that I was really excited to add to my want-to-read list.

"Spork" by Kyo Maclear is a children's picture book about, you guessed it, a spork!  Poor little Spork doesn't fit in with the rest of the cutlery in the drawer; the spoons think him too point and the forks too round.  Will he every be picked for mealtime?

The art style for this picture book is right up my alley and is something that immediately drew my eye to the title.  In addition to teaching young children about tolerance of others and learning that individuality is a-ok, "Spork" looks like it could very easily be one of the cutest little books I've read this year.

And the second book that I'm excited to read (I've just checked it out from the library) is "Mort(e)" by Robert Repino.

"Mort(e)" is a very unique take on human extinction...  The Colony, a race of intelligent ants that have been working for thousands of years to eradicate humans are taking the next step in their war effort.   They turn the surface animals into high-functioning beings who will rise up to kill their human masters.

The main character of this novel is Mort(e).  A former housecat turned war hero, Mort(e) is looking for his pre-transformation friend - a dog named Sheba.  In order to find his long lost friend, Mort(e) will travel to one of the last human strongholds and there he will discover the source of EMSAH (a human bio-weapon) and perhaps will find the answers to his questions.

Really, it sounds like the coolest animal point-of-view story that I've read since "Raptor Red" by Robert T. Bakker.

Once the craziness of Midterms has passed, I plan to crack open "Mort(e)" and read it in the evening, while keeping "Spork" for my next 15-minute break at work.

Are you reading anything interesting?