Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Zombies on Disc

So... as promised, my current driving entertainment: fluff on cd. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies was just the beginning.

But why not start there? Interestingly, there was a semi-serious bit at the beginning about what Jane Austen might have thought of such a thing. They seemed to be on to something, but never quite dared draw a conclusion. I'm not sure I dare either, but I will say this: she just might have been amused. Maybe. Otherwise, of course, she'd be horrified, but she just might have enjoyed the joke.

Also, I once tried to read this, and couldn't get through it, but listening had me laughing aloud while driving. I think it was the accents. How can you not laugh at zombie-fighting dialogue delivered in a posh British accent?

Since then, I've gone through quite a few audio books from the library. My favorite discoveries are The Harrison Investigations series by Heather Graham and the Bishop/SCU series from Kay Hooper. In both cases, "series" is a loose term (luckily, as so far I've only heard one book from each, both from somewhere in the middle of the series) for a group of stand-alone books connected by themes and/or background characters. You might learn more about the world by reading the series together, but you don't need to for the individual plots. They're also both mysteries, with supernatural elements. Guess we know what I like now.

The biggest flop was probably Tony Hillerman. And he had such potential, too! But despite a good mystery, by the end I was just about ready to kill Jim Chee and his friends myself, for being macho idiots. Women are perfectly capable of doing anything you can do, Jim Chee. Especially the ones who have the same badge and gun you do. A little respect, that's all I ask.

And no, treating someone as only a potential damsel in distress is not respect. Nor is it unacknowledged love, as far as I'm concerned. It's macho stupidity.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

I went into this knowing it would be a sad book. I went into it already accepting what I knew the ending would probably be, and yet it still made me cry. Well done, John Green.

Also, while I'm handing out kudos... well done, general public, for restoring the faith in you that I lost after My Horizontal Life. Right now - and actually for an impressively long time - The Fault in Our Stars and The Book Thief have been big, popular books. Yes, the fact that they were/are being made into movies probably contributes to that, but still... that just means Hollywood is recognizing them too. And these are good books! Well, The Book Thief has been one of my all-time favorites for years, but we'll get back to that.

The Fault in Our Stars is not really what Hazel would call a "cancer story" - though in some ways it is. But it's not about the cancer, it's about the people. It's about Hazel and Augustus and the life they build together, however brief that may be. And that's what makes it beautiful.

Interestingly, there are some common themes in both The Fault in Our Stars and The Book Thief, threads people apparently want as they both exploded into popularity at roughly the same time. I know the dangers of generalizing, but let's just run with this for a while to see what happens.

The Fault in Our Stars is narrated by a terminal cancer patient, in a community of cancer patients. The Book Thief is narrated by Death, in the midst of WWII. And yet, neither of these books are about death. They're about life, and the human spirit, and how beautiful these things can be no matter how or when they end. They are, perhaps, even more beautiful because they are so fleeting.

Also, both have a girl as the main character. What happened to "boys only read about boys"? Or are we saying boys don't read anymore. I don't know whether to be encouraged that finally it's being recognized that a mainstream book doesn't have to have a male main character, or discouraged that maybe people still believe only girls read about girls, but have given up on boys reading. I think for now I'll settle on the positive: whatever the reasoning, here are two popular books with female main characters, and there must be boys out there reading them.

A third point: these are well-written books, with serious subjects. I love fluff as much as the next person, but these are the books that should be remembered. These are the books that should get attention - and they are. Because we, as a whole, are smarter than we tend to give ourselves credit for. I'd like to hold up both of these books for anyone convinced that America's schools are going downhill and America's younger generations are being consumed by television and the internet. We still appreciate some wonderful books, and judging by how fast they're selling, quite a few of us are even still appreciating them on paper. But even reading electronically does not detract from the art of the writing... although... the designer in me has now wandered off on a tangent of the best way to digitally format some parts of The Book Thief...

... and on that note, I'm going to end this review and go chase after the rest of my brain. Hmm, brains. Perhaps my next review will be on the completely different Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, my current driving entertainment.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Chance to Relax

Labor Day weekend was... well, a while ago, but also a lot of fun.

In a calm way.

It was great to get a bunch of friends together and then just... enjoy. Never underestimate the value of reading in company. Or coloring.

Also, this happened:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

All or Nothing

I must admit I got desperately bored last winter. I'm the kind of person that really needs to be doing something – preferably something useful – and there was little to do. I didn't even write blog posts, because, well... about what?

So I set out to fix this problem. I sent out another round of resumes to every place that looked like it might be fun to work for, whether they were hiring or not. I tracked down Rochester's Habitat for Humanity. I looked up book clubs at the library. I signed up for an online class through Coursera. I begged my church for more ways to get involved.

Unfortunately, everything worked. Or maybe fortunately, but it still hasn't done much for this blog. Between working 40 hours a week at Landmasters (where I get to play with fish and learn all about building things), trying to make Habitat and book club meetings (where I've become far more social than I ever was in Boston), being part of the Good News Committee at church (somehow joined inadvertently while working on the website :-) ), and trying to keep up with my app-building class, I still haven't written any blog posts. But at least there's a lot to write about now.

Which is why I'm going to drop all of the above, and talk about my sister instead.

Because she's awesome.

And I can.

And she coauthored a paper on
annoynimity anonymmity anonymity on the internet (does anyone else have trouble spitting that out?), and then went to a human-computer interaction conference in Paris for its presentation. And she's already impressed her grad school before even starting there, and she's already got a job lined up for after she moves.

I've been proud everywhere else, so I might as well brag here too ;-)

random link

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Year

I'm not going to promise regular updates, because I've no idea how the rest of the winter will go, but it is definitely time for more frequent updates. So let's try that: my new year's resolution (one of many, really) is to bring this blog back.

No more Boston stories... but perhaps there will be Rochester stories. Even if it's only how the RMSC had to pull a few ceiling panels out to fit Sue into their exhibit (she was very impressive) :-)

No more Emerson stories... but I am tentatively designing a new website for St. Pius, so we'll get to see that.

And as for the job search... it's ongoing. I'm keeping resume and website updated; I've redesigned my website; I've refocused my search. I'm no longer looking for a publishing house. Instead, I'd like to be the digital publisher for a small organization or company. Web design is fun! And so is the creation of an epub file, despite some tediousness in the process. I'm looking to learn app building.

So: 2013. Let's see how it goes!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Not Dead Yet

Still not sure what to turn this blog into - especially since my audience generally consists of my parents (currently living with them), my sister (too busy being a senior in college to update her own blog), and my aunt (I suppose I should just call you more often?).

Edited to add: Laura, I apologize. Are you still reading too?

Anyway, for now I'd like to share an article I found through LinkedIn:


There's plenty of good points made, although people have been analyzing ebooks for quite a while now and making many good points - some of them contradictory.

I guess the main idea to focus on is that the ebook is something new. It won't work like print books or online music sales, though both can be used to inform how we shape the market of this new product.

And I agree that DRM often causes more problems than it solves - and that proprietary formatting is little more than an egotistical, unnecessary complication. How would you like it if you could only buy movies made specifically for your brand of DVD player and television? Or if you could only get gas from the dealer that sold you your car? Or - so long as we're making comparisons - could only get books that were compatible with/sold by the furniture brand that made your bookshelf?

Friday, July 6, 2012


Any Potter fan would expect the answers to two questions before any further discussion of this site: Where were you sorted? And… What wand did you get?

So let's get these out of the way. The wand first (you need a wand before you can be sorted, after all):

My wand is blackthorn and unicorn hair, 10 inches, unyielding. And yes, this means something— there's a test to determine this result, and explanations of wand woods, cores, lengths, and descriptions that can be unlocked. Which brings me to… no, I promised. Questions first; then discussion.

So for the second question— yes, the rumors are true: I was sorted into Slytherin. There's actually quite a long introduction to the common room, which leads me to my first concern: Is it a good idea to have unique content only available to a quarter of the users? Especially if there isn't an equal amount available for each house— and there doesn't seem to be. Steph was sorted into Gryffindor, and her common room intro was short, basic, and gave no information not available in the books. I was sorted into Slytherin, and my intro was long, fascinating, and gave little details  not available in the books. I don't know Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw's intros. Are they as long as Slytherin's, and Gryffindor is just short because readers are already familiar with it? Or do they vary in length?

Another comment on houses: Slytherin has won the first house cup. That's actually part of why I held this review so long, to see how the cup was handled.
Points are awarded for unlocking information, collecting things, winning duels, and successfully brewing potions. Unlocking information and collecting are once-offs; once it's done, it's done. The only way to lose points is to mess up a potion.
Normally, the hourglasses recording house points can be viewed in the great hall at any time— but in the last few days before the cup was awarded, they were hidden.
The reward for winning? Slytherin will be allowed into book 2 early. Yes, I may be gloating a little bit.

Over all, I think it worked pretty well. Hiding the point count was a surprise, but now that I think about it, probably a good idea. Instead of people obsessing over exactly how the other houses were doing, they could simply focus on earning as many points as possible in the remaining time. I haven't dueled anyone, so I couldn't tell you how that works (though spell casting is more difficult than it looks), but I did contribute to the effort with a few potions. At first glance, they appear time-consuming, but they're not really. Spend a couple minutes on one screen, wait half an hour to an hour, then spend a couple minutes on another screen. The countdown can run in the background well you're doing other things, and therefore can actually make a good timer ("I'm allowing myself to goof off for one hour— so I'll start this potion, and then may read a book until I need to finish it, after which I'll go back to work.")

I do have a second concern here, though: collectibles don't regenerate. Neither does the money, and it can't be earned, either. I see the logic behind this: Pottermore is about expanding the book experience, not power-gaming. But what about ten years from now? I have this account, and I'll want to go back to it occasionally, maybe even every time I read the books. So what happens in the long run? What am I supposed to do with the site when I've found every collectible, unlocked all the information, and spent all the money? I can reread the new pieces, sure. But if the site does nothing else, it could be come nothing more than a tedious way of accessing a free encyclopedia. I couldn't even brew potions— not after running out of money to buy ingredients.
Still, who knows? Maybe this will be fixed somewhere down the line. Maybe in later books, I will be able to sell the potions or earn money some other way. Maybe after completing book 7, the whole journey can be reset. We'll have to wait and see.

Now back to what I was going to say about the wand, and could say equally about the sorting: these tests are impressive. They are involved enough that I believe they actually are judging something, but not so obvious that you can equate answers directly with the possible result and cheat. They are multiple choice, but the number of possible answers ranges from 2 to at least 7. There are many questions. And they are not the same questions from one person to the next— again, making it hard to figure out the system and cheat.

Now for the overall: What is Pottermore? Was it a good idea? And is it the start of something new?

What is it?
Well… it's Pottermore. It's certainly unique; it's easier to say what it is not. It is not a social site. It is not an online game. It is not an online book. Pottermore is a framework, a part of something. It is incomplete without the books, but combined with them, it is a fun experience. It's like reading the books with matching ambiance, while the author peaks over your shoulder and occasionally explains details or reminisces about bits that were cut.

Was it a good idea?
Yes. But…
Is it the start of something new?
Probably not. This works because of sheer volume. There are so many books in this created world, so many fans of them, so much that the author wrote and created outside of just what was in the books, so much that was kept secret before the site's opening. It's a perfect storm. So I'm not so sure it's as big for the publishing world as I had hoped it would be.

Still, it's pretty fascinating. I'm a total Potter fan, I admit it.


Unfortunately, this does affect publishing.