Category Archives: Reading

A Convergence of Reading and Thought

“Science is expanding our ignorance
One of the things that science does is a really curious thing.  Every time we use science to try to answer a question, to give us some insight, invariably that insight or answer provokes two or three other new questions. Anybody who works in science knows that they’re constantly finding out new things that they don’t know. It increases their ignorance, and so in a certain sense, while science is certainly increasing knowledge, it’s actually increasing our ignorance even faster. So you could say that the chief effect of science is the expansion of ignorance.
In a curious way, Google is all about answers. So you could say that Google is increasing answers over time, but what’s interesting is that answers are becoming cheap; they’re almost free, and I think what becomes scarce in this kind of place that we’re headed to is questions, a really good question, because a really good question can unleash new questions.
In a certain sense what becomes really valuable in a world running under Google’s reign, are great questions, and that means that for a long time humans will be better at than machines.
Machines are for answers; humans are for questions.
The world that Google is constructing—a world of cheap and free answers—having answers is not going to be very significant or important. Having a really great question will be where all the value is.”

Kevin Kelly

For entertainment I am reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. The premise of the book is that after a terrorist attack in San Francisco, the powers that be abuse technology to track everyone. The rallying cry of the book is “Don’t trust anyone under 25” So I am reading the book from the perspective of the age group that proposes the loss of some freedom is worth the price of safety.

I am also reading it from the perspective of an aging hippy who saw the sixties and seventies fade into the complacency of the eighties. I enjoy the convenience of technology. Debit cards and loyalty cards, cell phones, opening up Facebook every morning to see what my friends and family are up to.

I am of the generation that enjoys the convenience of toll passes and search engines and online banking and shopping. I give little passing notice to the changing ads on my Facebook and Google pages that reflect things I have recently shopped for. I use my debit card to buy gasoline that tells someone, somewhere, that I have been at this gas station on this day. My internet provider tracks where I go on the internet and amazon contains my wishlist of products I would like and books I wish to read. My google calendar and Facebook birthdays sync and seem to have conversations that I am not even a part of.

I am pretty transparent. Is that a bad thing?

I remember a day when the only time you got a long distance phone call was when someone died. I remember my mother writing actual letters to her mother and news would take a week to arrive. I remember my mother using the saying “You never know what goes on behind closed doors.” I remember when there was only one phone in the house and it hung on the kitchen wall. There was no privacy and you better not have phone calls from friends at meal time because that was when everyone gathered at the table and the tv stayed off until you had finished your vegetables and helped clear the dishes. There was only one tv and it was in the living room. The entire family watched it together and on Sunday nights we kids would get to have snacks in the living room and watch Walt Disney. There was no concern over shows (or commercials) being too adult.

When my kids were growing up, we had one computer and it sat in the living room. There was no privacy. Their first phones were tracphones that I bought minutes for. They were strictly for using to call me to come pick them up after band and debate trips. They had no internet or cameras. We owned a set of encyclopedias. We made trips to the public library. I recorded RugRats and Winnie the Pooh cartoons on our vcr so they could watch them over and over.

Now it seems that most of us really do live in glass houses. I have a blog, I am on Facebook, Linkdin, Pinterest, and so many other sites that it takes a spreadsheet to keep track of my passwords. Even when the family is together, we all have our phones, laptops, tablets, and any discussion or argument is rapidly solved with Google. If I want to learn how to do something, I watch a video on Youtube or TedTalks. I used to keep a list of books that I wanted to read and would almost always wait for them to come out in paperback unless I borrowed them from the library.

I remember a time when there was no such thing as a camera in the hall at school. Now it is commonplace. As a student I made sure that I never got in trouble at school (or at least did not get caught) because a call home would have been disaster. I would have been in double trouble. Once for whatever I did and again for the fact that I embarrassed the family in public. Now it seems that the only person not held responsible for behavior is the individual acting.

I tend to think of the past as static. Things were this way or that way and for a period of time and then they changed. I am no longer certain of this perception. It seems as though things have been in a state of change for years and now I question whether it has always been like that and I just did not notice the changes happening, or if things really are changing faster and faster. There seems to be no chance to just stop and catch our breath and wonder about where we are going and if the changes are positive.

Cory Doctorow’s book Little Brother, shows the dark side of what can happen when government abuses the lack of privacy that we have voluntarily embraced. I am not at the point where I would close my Facebook account and withdraw from the internet, but I am starting to wonder if we are asking the right questions. How much sharing is too much sharing? Will there be a cost and what will it be? The days of hiding one’s youthful indiscretions are gone. There is now a record of everything and often we have created ourselves with our selflies and checkins and lists of what we ate for supper. I lead a mundane life and cannot see the government being interested in what recipe I shared or the fact that I searched for the best way to construct a plot. But, if someone wanted to, they could follow my footprints. The could see that I drove to this city on this day, stopped and got gas and a snack, shopped here, ate lunch there. There are probably photos of some of it since security cameras have become commonplace.

We as a culture, never seem to slow down on the path and question what might be lurking over the next hill. Science creates ways to grow more vegetables and we end up with hormones in our food. Research figures out a way to cure a disease and the possible side effects seem worse than the original illness. Like guinea hens we run en masse after whatever newest, latest, discovery.

I witness it repeatedly on Facebook. One person will post something and before the end of the day I will see that same post spread, often without thought of accuracy. We wear our politics and religion like badges and leave our cyber trash behind us. We repeat what we read, share and “like” and comment. How many posts on Facebook every day are disrespectful of the President of the United States? What if tomorrow there was an attempt on the President’s life and the government decided to question anyone who had made negative statements? What if a non-Christian country invaded and decided to round up anyone who professed to be Christian.

I am not saying that it is wrong to speak your mind or that we should live in fear that what we say will be used against us. I am saying that we take so much for granted. The possibility does exist  and maybe we should be making less statements and asking more questions.

If you are interested in reading Little Brother you can download it from Mr. Doctorow’s site. He sells his books but also makes them available for free in various formats.

It can be found here: http://craphound.com/littlebrother/

“Cory Efram Doctorow is a Canadian-British blogger, journalist, and science fiction author who serves as co-editor of the blog Boing Boing. Wikipedia
“Kevin Kelly is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog. He has also been a writer, photographer, conservationist, and student of Asian and digital culture. Wikipedia
Addendum:if you want to know more – http://www.wired.com/2014/04/tails/
“Effectively, this is the ParanoidLinux I fictionalized in my novel Little Brother. “

“Tails is a live system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leaving no trace unless you ask it to explicitly.

It is a complete operating system designed to be used from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card independently of the computer’s original operating system. It is Free Software and based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor, etc.”

To read about, download and/or use Tails – https://tails.boum.org/index.en.html

Book Review of Bullet by Jonathan Lister

I received an ARC copy of Bullet for free in exchange for providing a review. I read a lot of urban fantasy but I enjoy a bit more romance in the story than this book provided. This is the first time I have ever done a book review and it makes me uncomfortable to say anything negative but I want to be honest and hopefully the author will appreciate that.

Bullet is the second book in a series. It took me a while to warm up to the story but I finally did. To be fair, I did not read the first book and I think I would have understood things a bit better if I had not walked in in the middle, so to speak.

What I liked: I enjoyed the almost noir feel. I came to like Leon, though there is room for development there. Leon is flawed . He is stubborn and independent to a fault. He is also totally loyal and fiercely protective of his daughter. He is honorable and if he makes a commitment, he will honor it even if it means great personal sacrifice. Leon has several major objectives he cares about. He cares first for Shauna, his daughter. He cares for his friend David and the job he has taken on to protect him. He cares for doing the right thing  as defined by his own set of principles.

I liked the blending of human and werewolf politics and the action scenes were believable. The author gave a real and gritty feel for the world his characters inhabit. I would love to see more development of Shauna as a character. She spends a lot of time either mad, frightened, or a combination. I don’t mind a little sulky teenage angst but a little happy thrown in would help me warm up to her.

I love the character of Shauna’s grandmother – the matron. It was a relief to have a good and strong female presence to give the girl some guidance and soften the masculine edges that frame her life.

What I did not like:
The author never clearly explains why a werewolf pack wants his daughter so badly, nor why Leon is so opposed to being a part of a pack.

I had difficulty at times with the descriptive language. I kept feeling as though things could have been said more simply and I was often thrown out of the story in order to reread a phrase to see what it meant in context. A  times I wanted to yell “just say what you mean!” This causes a disconnect for me.

The ending left me wondering if there will be a third installment. Lots of unanswered questions and no real a resolution.

Summary:

Would I read more? I will probably go back and read the first book to see if my questions are answered. I read a lot of series books but I rarely read them out of order. Some authors feel it necessary to give too much information about a previous book in a series which is nearly as irritating as not getting enough, but I am a lazy reader. I want to be entertained though I don’t mind if there are some life lessons thrown in. I just don’t want to work hard to feel connected to the characters.

The masculine take on werewolves was a switch for me. I tend to read books with strong female protagonists and while there is a teaser of a possible future love interest for Leon, this is more of a tough guy, beat them silly and move on kind of tale and it may be that I was just not the correct audience. There is a lot of potential here. I look forward to seeing more from this author in the future.

Anne McCaffrey

Years ago I discovered a series of books by author Anne McCaffrey. After reading the Dragonflight, I systematically hunted down every other book in the series until I read them all and still wished for more. A wikipedia quote describes the basic premise for the series “”technologically regressed survival planet” whose people were united against a threat from space” but does not begin to cover the incredible world that Ms. McCaffrey built in these books. The characters were some of the first to become so real to me that I cried when a dragon died because the relationship with dragon and rider was a telepathic bond and the death of either cause for pain so unbearable for the other that the remaining partner often killed themselves. The characters were so well developed (even some of the dragon personalities) that I would disappear into the world of Pern for hours and come back feeling as though I had spent time with friends that I would miss.

The Dragonriders of Pern series was the first Fantasy Fiction I read that was so strongly done, disbelief was suspended so that when I put the book down, I would be surprised to look around me and realize I was back on earth and that dragons sadly did not in fact, exist.

Anne McCaffery was born in Massachusetts but moved to Ireland where she lived in a house she named Dragonhold. Her son is quoted in the same wikipedia article as saying she “first set dragons free on Pern and then was herself freed by her dragons

Wired’s Matt Blum writes that “McCaffrey helped pave the way for women writers in fantasy and science fiction, and was both the first woman awarded a Hugo Award and the first awarded a Nebula Award. Even in her 80s she continued to write, and over her lifetime produced a prodigious number of books and short stories. She was still answering readers’ mail on her website as of a few weeks ago.”

(From the CBS news website)

Anne McCaffrey was a prolific writer who wrote more than just the Dragonriders of Pern series and her voice will be missed. A stroke took her on November 21 at the age of 85, Thank you Anne for hours of enjoyment and creating a love of Fantasy Fiction in this reader.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_McCaffrey

Ten Ways To Use Twitter

I do not use the Foursquare app so I do not check in and let everyone know where I am. For one thing, it would be boring.  The majority of my location tweets would read:  “Home reading or writing on my laptop”  repeatedly, well…obviously not much fun to read.  I don’t tweet a lot period.  My blog is set up so that a tweet appears when I post something new so if you lead as boring a lifestyle as I do, you can “follow” me and be alerted whenever there is a now post.

I use Twitter more as a headline perusal source.  Just this morning I found two new books I want to read,three articles on writing that I have bookmarked to read later today,  and a couple of writing prompts to help get the juices flowing for a new poem or story,  I also found a link to a Google docs template for creating a faux Facebook page for a famous person in history.  What a great way to use Facebook in education. Choose a literary character for English.  Insert a picture of your person, list four people they would have “friended”, make up two Facebook groups they would have joined.  Make up some wall posts they would have made.

My favorite session at TCEA was Four:Forty:140: Four Themes, Forty Ideas, 140 Characters with David Jakes and the biggest takeaway from the session has been rattling around in my brain (More on this later) – don’t let the tools drive education – ask your teachers what kinds of learning experiences they want their students to have and find the tools that will best serve that purpose.  I am a person who loves new and shiny, but this resonated with me and I will be looking at technology through that lens in the future.  Using Twitter and Facebook in education are examples of teacher-thinking and technology.  We forget that technology in education SHOULD exist to support the teacher – not the other way around.  I got off topic here, I know.  Twitter however, fits into my thinking.  It is a way to discover and to listen.  How often have you attended a staff development session where the predominant conversations were negative.  “Why do we have to do this?  I could be using this time to work on grades or lesson plans.  I don’t have time to fit this technology into my lesson.”

What if we could leverage the small bites that twitter puts out and do mini staff development by adding links, videos, short tips, news about what others are doing and how it is working?

Here are some reasons to use twitter.

1. Twitter is searchable.  Like any other search engine, you need to know what you are searching for and how to drill down to get it to tell you specifically what you are looking for.

2. Twitter is customizable – through the use of hashtags (#) you can either search for tweets that  involve a current subject or post a tweet that you wish to be included in a current subject to be found by others.  There is a decent article gives you a beginning understanding of the use of hashtags here

3. Twitter is fast.  Get in – get out.  Don’t have time to read long blog articles?  You can go down your twitter feed list and read quick blurbs and discover articles to read later, recommended by people you choose to follow. Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters and as you type, you will see a count.  When you pass the 140 count, it will show as a negative number.  Links can be shortened by going to websites like TinyUrl and then added without using your entire character limit. Just copy the URL of the link you wish to share.  go to TinyUrl and paste it into the long URL box.  Click Make TinyURL and copy the resulting short link to add to your post.  At a dinner one evening at TCEA a teacher was talking about elementary students coming to the computer lab and their teacher sending a link she wanted them to use.  Getting that long URL typed in correctly took up a large chunk or their lab time.  She is planning on utilizing TinyURL to help students get to preferred links faster and more easily. Simple solution to a problem that I might not have thought about had it not been for this random snippet of conversation. (Like a Tweet, only in the real world)

4. Twitter can be sent to your phone.  You can choose to have specific feeds sent to your phone.  I subscribe to a Twitter feed that comes from our media person at school so I get the results of sports events and emergency notifications.  Helpful for times when I am not online. The user determines which tweets they follow are sent to their phone and you can always choose to stop that piece so you are not locked in to having thousands of texts beeping at you every few seconds.

5. Twitter can be timely – you can search hast-tags and follow twitters temporarily that are specific to a current even or interest.  When you are no longer interested you can Choose to “unfollow” This morning as I scanned through my Twitter feed I found all kinds of tweets about TCEA and was able to get a hint of some of what I missed.  You can’t go to everything but you can hear about it later. (and before – I now wish I had been following a little closer before and during the conference.

6. Twitter gives you the power.  Like everything else on the web, there is spam.  You can get alerts when someone chooses to follow you and you can block and/or report spam.  I have had a few of these but it has not been a huge issue.  I think twitter followers are quick to deal with those folks.

7. Twitter is communal.  As you navigate the Twitter ocean, you join discussions and become part of a community that allows you to skim the surface or become more deeply involved according to your interests.  On your sidebar you will see a list of Twitter trends and suggestions of “Who to Follow”  You can pop in and “eavesdrop” on the conversations or you can participate by clicking “favorite” which will save it as a favorite post.  You can “Retweet” which passes on something you find interesting to people who are following you.  You can “Reply” and start a dialogue”

8. Twitter can improve your writing skills.  If you are like me and tend to be wordy – Twitter becomes an exercise in brevity.  There are some groups on twitter that post flash fiction.  Can you tell a story in 140 characters?

9. You can play games.  Here are links to a few but you can do a Google search and find more.

Twivia –  trivia questions via Twitter.  Twivia asks a question and the first person to @reply the answer gets points, specified in every Tweet. Twivia tweets the correct answers after someone gets it correct. You can even suggest questions to Twivia.

BeatMyTweet
– sends out word scrambles every hour.

10.   Twitter can keep you up on local news and weather.  More and more news sources have added share on Twitter buttons and you can “follow” to hear the latest weather alerts, traffic updates, and news headlines.

I hope you will share some ways that you have found to use Twitter.

Quick addition – I found a drag and drop “Share on Twitter” button.  Just drag the button from this web page to the bookmark bar in Firefox and you can quickly share a link to any web page, even if they don’t have a Share button of their own.  Just click the button when you are on a web page you want to share and it will create a short URl and add it as a twitter post.

Another quick addition – Great article!  15 Twitter Tips for Beginners

Expresso Book Machine

Teleread has an article about the Expresso Book Machine here

Everyone knows I love my kindle but before the kindle I loved books. I mean LOVE books – I still have a set of three bookshelves in my office that are overflowing and books stashed in various places around the house. Our bedroom has a set of bookshelves that frames our window (built by my creative husband) that is just for paperbacks we read for fun.

I love the idea of print on demand books and I can see it going a step further. In a generation of re-mix why not create your own book? You can already create your own reference “book” from Wikipedia. I have an article on how to do that here .

I can envision taking all the snippets and articles that I clip and bookmark around the web put together in a way that makes sense to me and plugging in my jump drive or SD card to one of these “self-print” book machines and printing out a book I can place on my shelf or carry with me to read later. You can already do this with your ereader by creating a pdf of them and then dragging the document to your kindle.

Then go a step further. Ala Carte Text books. Will we see a day when instead of just the ubiquitous copy machine that resides in school offices and teacher work rooms, a machine that allows teachers to print out copies of text books tailored to specific classes or units?

One of the sessions I attended at TCEA was on Opensource Education or just open education if you will. MIT Opencourseware is a website with over 2000 courses online and free for the self directed learner. Combine this kind of thinking with the ability to print your own text book and you see an interesting future.

Daily Lit (reading in your inbox)

I subscribe to a website called DailyLit.  DailyLit is a cool little place on the web where you can subscribe to reading material sent to your inbox in installments.  The choices range from the classics, the Bible, fiction and many more.  I have included a screenshot of the list of categories.

There is now an option to “gift” a collection to someone else.  This might be a great thing to do for someone who likes to read but doesn’t like to create accounts on different websites. Maybe someone you know would like to have a bible verse sent daily – the book of Matthew for instance, is divided into 34 readings.

I subscribed to poems by Emily Dickinson today and as you can see from the screen shot there are 447 installments.  You can configure what time they come to your inbox, as well as how many times a week.  There are discussion forums and you can write a review.

If you set p your own free account very occasionally receive update emails from them letting you know when new books are available. With the coming holidays I hope everyone has the opportunity to stay warm, eat well, and spend time curled up with a good book.

Happy Reading!

(click images for bigger views)

Poetry On The Kindle

PoemHunter.com has a section that allows you to download free ebooks.  They are in pdf format so you do not have to have a kindle to take advantage.  You can read them on any device that supports pdf.  I run these through calibre and convert them to .mobi files and drag them over to my kindle to carry around and read whenever I have a spare moment.

There are over 300 pages of ebooks listed – some classic. If you will look on the right in the sidebar there is a section of top download poets and there you will find Langston Hughes, Emily Dickenson, Charles Bukowski, Walt Whitman and more. You can also find many of the familiar poets at the very end so click on the last page and work your way forward.  If you are feeling more adventurous you might click a random name and discover something new.  If you don’t see your favorite poet listed you can search PoemHunter and you may just find a treasure to download. Some ebooks may only contain one poem, others are entire collections.

http://www.poemhunter.com/eBooks/

for other kindle resources click the Kindle Resource Tab above.

Just added to resource page: Free ebooks at Smashwords

Another Reason To Love Wikipedia

Today as I was researching on Wikipedia, I was preparing to click on the print menu on the side and create a pdf of the page to load on my kindle.  When you click on the little arrow next to print you get a list of tools.  You can create a book, download page as a pdf, or get a printable version. Wait a minute.  Create a book?  Why have I not noticed this before?

When you click create a book you will see this:

Add this page to your book
Adds the currently viewed article (page) to your book.
Show book
Opens a new page which will show a list of all articles (pages) that you added to your book. On that page, you can change the order of the articles in your book and structure them using chapters. Further, you can download the books as a PDF or ODF, or order a printed book.
Suggest pages
This tool analyzes the current set of pages in your book and suggests articles that might be also relevant to the overall topic of your book. This tool allows to create books quickly.
Disable
This will disable the Book creator and delete your book (unless you saved it first).
Adding pages without visiting them
A quick way to add pages is to simply hover on a linked article. If you wait about one second, a small box will pop up with the message “Add linked wiki page to your book”. Click on this link, and the linked article will be added to your book.

Hovering your mouse over links is a convenient way to add pages to your book
Adding whole categories
If you are viewing a category page, you can add all the pages in that category at once. The Add this page to your book link will have changed into Add this category to your book. Click on this new link, and all the articles in that category will be added to your book. Relevant categories may be found at the very bottom of Wikipedia articles. Categories can also be added by hovering category links.

Each successive page will now have this handy link at the top:

When you have completed adding pages to your book, you can download the entire thing as a pdf.  Very nice for my Kindle 🙂
Click Show Book and the following page pops up.  You can tweak your title, sort your pages, preview, order a printed copy if you like, or simply download your book. Then if you are me, you convert it for your Kindle and read at your convenience.

Caveat: I do not advocate the use of Wikipedia at school as teachers have very strong feelings about the website.  I suppose the fact that even I can edit the site could be cause for concern but there are people constantly checking and fixing errors and misinformation.  Try looking up Hurricane Katrina in the set of Funk and Wagnalls I bought when my son was born.

Because Wikipedia is a massive live collaboration, it differs from a paper-based reference source in important ways. In particular, older articles tend to be more comprehensive and balanced, while newer articles more frequently contain significant misinformation, unencyclopedic content, or vandalism. Users need to be aware of this to obtain valid information and avoid misinformation that has been recently added and not yet removed (see Researching with Wikipedia for more details). However, unlike a paper reference source, Wikipedia is continually updated, with the creation or updating of articles on historic events within hours, minutes, or even seconds, rather than months or years for printed encyclopedias.

You should always check more than one website when you are doing research, but Wikipedia is a great place to start.

Book contest on Confessions of a Wandering Heart

There is a contest on “Confessions of a Wandering Heart“.  The prize is a copy of “Deception” the first in a new YA paranormal series by author Lee Nichols.  The protagonist is Emma Vaile who according to Suzie Townsend’s review, “It’s the perfect combination of prep school Gossip Girl-esque drama and paranormal suspense and mystery.”

Sooo I get 1 for being a new follower. plus 1 for linking to the contest on my blog, 1 for twitter, 1 for facebook. 2, for adding her to my blogroll, and 3 for posting about her contest here.  Give me loving please Ms. Townsend.  If I win a copy, I will read it and then donate it to our high school library!

now I’m torn between telling you to run on over and enter and wanting you to stay away so I can win 🙂

Congratulations Ann!!

Maelstrom is available for download as an e-book from FictionWise!

When a genie grants you a wish, you don’t expect to return the favor. Struggling promoter Ricky Landon is on the verge of giving up his dreams when he dumps sexy genie Kalila from a junk store lamp. She grants his wish to manage a talented band, but she has a wish of her own?”

Congratulations Ann (BunnyGirl) – can’t wait to read it!

http://www.fictionwise.com/ebooks/a56972/Ann-Pino/?

Kindle Fodder – ShapeShifter Demo Tapes

I woke this morning to a yard covered in snow and more falling.  The wind is blowing what is already there and I plan to keep my nose and all other parts inside in the warm today.  Spring?  Who knew?

Read an e-book week is over but I am still getting to know my Kindle and checking my mailbox for my prize from Nara Malone.  I filled my Kindle queue with several books from authors that sometimes hang out at some of the same places I frequent, such as Sunday Scribblings and Three Word Wednesday.

I just finished reading ShapeShifter, The Demo Tapes Year One and Year Two.  The Author, Susan Helen Gottfried, blogs at West Of Mars and I “met” her through Sunday Scribbling. I loved them!

Susan’s SS blogposts are outtakes that revolve around the story of ShapeShifter, a fictional rock band, the characters and their relationships and the situations they find themselves in. I had already been introduced to Mitchell and Trevor and the others but this it was fun to get to know them a little better, to see a bit of backstory, and catch up without having to scroll backwards through multiple blogposts. From her website:

The Demo Tapes were born out of the demand of the groupies who hang around the Meet and Greet. They are collections of short fiction that introduce you to Trevor, Mitchell, and the rest of the fictional band, ShapeShifter — as well as the world in which they inhabit.

Susan’s book, Trevor’s Song has not been published YET but I hope it will be – the Demo Tapes were enough to whet my appetite and make me want the full meal deal.  If you are a wanna-be band groupie or would just like to hang out from a distance click the picture of the books to go to a page that will show you how to get them for yourself, either in print or on your favorite e-reading device.

Now where did I put my ShapeShifter t- shirt?  It’s almost time for the concert….

If you can’t see the image – go here:  http://westofmars.com/west-of-mars/the-books/

Sunday Scribbling Springing Forward

Beautiful Sunday even with the silly clock changing mess.  Early service with a wonderful speaker, Gayle Erwin. If you ever have the opportunity to hear him it will be a joy.  After lunch a walk around the track, sun shining, families playing soccer, and trees budding out.  There was just enough of a cool breeze to keep from breaking a sweat.

The prompt at Sunday Scribbling is a life changing book or collection of words.  There have been too many books over the years to choose just one.  The first book I can remember reading is The Witch on Blackbird Pond which makes the list because it made me fallin love with books. The Bible, The Stand, Alas Babylon, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values mentioned by Solitary Panda is on the list, and so many more.  Those are just a few that gave me joy, epiphany, a good cry, and just became good close friends. The Twilight Series.  Yes I know, you now have absolutely no respect for me, right?  It was my introduction to YA literature.  When I was a YA, either it was limited or I just skipped it somehow.  I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in high school.  A friend loaned it to me saying she knew I would never give it back.  I didn’t really understand what she meant but over the next three years I bought four copies, loaned each one out and never saw it again.  It was that kind of thing.  So YA lit was a revelation to me and it came at a time when I had been entirely too serious for entirely too long.  I woke up and now I’m trying to learn to write it. It has been a gift that keeps on giving because of the wonderful “online” friends I have made and the thump on the head that said if your feet will no longer dance, you can still dream and that is what being young in your heart is all about. You can check out some of these talented people by taking a stroll through my blogroll.  You will not be disappointed!

I have begun to feed my Kindle ebooks by authors that I have “met” online.  I’m planning to post about each as I read it. I just finished Paschal‘s Scarred Angels.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I was reading it on my kindle. I absolutely LOVED it – hear that Professor?  You need to publish that thang.  I grew to love the characters  and realized – REALLY realized how incredibly important character is. I knew it, I did.  I now KNOW it.  I just have to learn how to do it. I really enjoyed the book and it was only near the end that I had my ah ha moment. By then I had already gone over the edge.  This merits much more than a paragraph – it has it all going on, relationship, betrayal, redemption, sex, and a little bit of murder thrown in.  I would buy this and pay extra to have a signed copy! Most of all, the author has a deep love for humans – especially the broken and it comes through the words on every page. If you would like a romp through words that are bent and tangled and dancing to their own kind of music you can click the Paschal link above or look for Murat11 on my blogroll.

Now if I have embarrassed Professor P enough I have a couple of shout-outs to some local bloggers.  One is a lovely young woman, mother, and student who shows off her photography at LifeStylesPhoto.  Stop by and give her a little encouragement.

The next is the North Texas Food Bank blog.  The blogger is smart and tough and compassionate (and went to high school with my son).  She is presently at SXSW learning about building online communities. The following is from their about page:

The North Texas Food Bank (NTFB) is a nonprofit hunger relief organization that distributes donated, purchased and prepared foods through a network of feeding programs in 13 North Texas counties. The NTFB supports the nutritional needs of children, families and seniors through education, advocacy and strategic partnerships. Close the Gap is the NTFB’s 3-year initiative to unite the community to narrow the food gap by providing access to 50 million meals annually.

Founded in 1982, the NTFB is a certified member of Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest – The Nation’s Food Bank Network). Last year 26 million meals were distributed. Each month agency pantries distribute food to more than 50,000 families and on-site meal programs serve 435,000 meals/snacks.

Every dollar donated to the NTFB provides four meals for the hungry. Out of every dollar donated, 97 cents goes directly to hunger relief programs.

You want life changing?  Those words could change a life if you follow up with action.  If you are in the area, donate, participate, or at least pass on the info.

Now I’m off to write another chapter for Night Wings. To end this post, I will leave you with a favorite poem.

Blessed Lord, what it is to be young;
To be of, to be for, be among
Be enchanted, enthralled
Be the caller, the called
The singer, the song, and the sung

David McCord

Namaste

What’s On Your Kindle?

I am a Kindle newbie and as with anything new, I have been searching the web, joining groups, and generally learning about my new toy.  I will be sharing resources once a week here.

I am not promoting one e-reader over another.  I chose the Kindle because of the ease and large selection of available books, and because a friend was selling hers and the price was right.

My very favorite feature on the Kindle is being able to enlarge the font size and I was excited to learn that you could read PDF files on it.  The first time I loaded a PDF and found that the whole page was shrunk to show on the screen, I was very disappointed. What good is a PDF on my kindle if I can’t make the type large enough to read comfortably?

I found an Open Source Application that solved my problem. AutoKindle is available from the link below.  It will be a file that needs to be unzipped.  I also created a folder on my desktop for the files it converts.

This is the icon you will need.  Double click it and the first time you run it you will be asked for an input source and an output location.  The output location will be the folder you created.  Your file will be converted to a .mobi file.  Connect your kindle to your PC with your usb cable.  The Kindle will show up just like a flash drive.  Drag your .mobi file into your documents folder on your kindle and it will then show up on your home/contents page.

There may be a few weird formatting things going on and I have not tried this with a pdf that is graphics heavy. I have no desire to view pictures on my kindle – I just want to read and so far AutoKindle has worked wonderfully for me.

The app is only available for the pc.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/autokindle/

Presently reading on my Kindle:

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer
Scarred Angels by Paschal
Content by Cory Doctorow

I just received an email telling me I am the first drawing winner of an e-library preloaded on the cutest jump drive. Thank you Nara, what a wonderful Monday morning surprise!  Nara Malone has a contest running on her blog and more information about Kindles.  She is starting an email newsletter so you might want to swing by and sign up!

Win A Bookcase And Check Out Some Book Discussions

There is a contest going on over at Just Your Typical Book Blog.  You can enter to win a new bookcase.

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About Them:

“Our names are Cheryl and Amber and we read read and read some more. We love discussing our favorite books; and even the not so favorite. We read and review Young Adult Fiction and sometimes even Adult Fiction. We have some authors that we adore and other that we are just starting to know.”

Check them out

Bookcase Contest

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Description from Amazon

“Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.”

The boys and girls who are chosen are taken to the capital and fed, dressed, interviewed, and the entire games are televised – the ultimate in reality tv.  I found myself unable to hate some of the characters who were part of the cruelty and at the same time, disliking some of the “tributes” as the boys and girls are called even though they are the victims.  Like real life, the lines are not sharp – and the good have the ability to do evil while the evil have moments of good.

Katniss is strong and fearless and intuitive where her survival is concerned and you will be cheering her on.  I can’t wait to read the next one.

For a much better review than I could possible write see here:
http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/blog/1790000379/post/90029009.html

and here:
http://professornana.livejournal.com/173630.html

I’ll be passing this one on to my daughter and later donating it to the school library.

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Twilight Update

I finished the entire series and to my shame I have to admit I am anxious for the next movie to come out.  I would be worried about myself but some people are addicted to “Desperate Housewives” and “Sex In The City” and I never could see the appeal.

So I’m hooked on stories about teenage vampires in love – go figure.  If you have just started reading I encourage you to finish because “Breaking Dawn” – the last book, is the best and ends with the resolution of all the conflicts that began in the first book.

What is there not to attract when you would be forever young, you can’t get sick, you don’t need sleep, you’re rich, and you are forever in that state of having just fallen in love.  You don’t have to eat, you are very strong and fast, you don’t have to worry about making a bed or washing dishes.  If you are like the Cullens, you only hunt where the wildlife needs thinning out, and you don’t have to worry about the weather (except of course you can’t go out in the sun.

The characters mature in their relationships and good triumphs over evil if you can use the word good to describe a vampire fantasy story.   That last sentence is strange given the context but there is actually great deal of discussion about values.  Marriage before sex, self-contol, putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own, bravery, family, friendship, cooperation for the greater good; all are present.  The vampires seem more human than humans at times.

Maybe that is finally what held my attention.  I REALLY like happy endings and I would like to live in a better world.  Edward is at rock bottom, concerned for Bella’s soul and Bella believes that Edward might still have one.  The entire Cullen family has created a lifestyle that allows them to exist in the world with concern for not hurting humans.  They spend more time worrying about that than we humans do.

Escape reality for awhile and visit Forks where things are not as they seem.  Have a Caramel Macchiato, a couple of chocolate chip cookies and curl up by the fire.  Real life will be waiting.

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Twilight

Friday night I joined a large percentage of the female population and went to see Twilight with my daughter and some of her friends.  I have NEVER waited in a theater for an hour to get in to see a movie before.  Not even StarWars, Harry Potter, or Indiana Jones.  We were probably in the first dozen or so people let in so we were able to sit near the back which I prefer – I hate getting a stiff neck.  There were a LOT of teenage girls in the theater so I was a little concerned that they would be talking and texting and the usual throughout the movie.  I needn’t have worried though – the minute it started they got quiet and except for the places where they laughed out loud at the movie the only noise I heard was an occasional comment about how something was different from the book.

Those comments made the whole thing a little surreal to me.  When is the last time YOU went to see a movie and heard a lot of teenagers commenting on the differences between the book and the movie?  I have always told my daughter that I would just as soon see a movie first and read a book second because if I reverse the process I am always disappointed. I like my imagination better than Hollywood.

My daughter and her friends had read the entire series.  I have only read the first book and it is a nice romantic story with some violence and vampires thrown in.  I know if I had read it in high school I would have been more enthusiastic – still it was fun to read, fun to watch the movie, and even more fun to listen to the girls who were all completely in love with the “totally perfect amazing, have to see it over and over again”, characters.  I was actually surprised at the amount of grown women sporting “real men sparkle” tee shirts.  I will read the rest of the series and will more than likely go see the rest of the movies as they are made.

This is not a movie for children.  There is violence and the “forbidden love” aspect and while I have heard some comparisons to the Harry Potter series I completely disagree.  Harry Potter does not have sexual overtones and there are messages throughout the stories that promote honesty, loyalty, and kindness.  While Harry Potter is science fiction and talks about magic, there is always this underlying confrontation of good versus evil and good always wins, even though there are trials.  There is a growth process that happens in the main characters as they mature.  Twilight is not about maturing – it’s about sexual tension, and the completely perfect (mainly because it is absolutely unattainable) romance.

It’s a teenage chic flick.

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Thinking About Change?

I always like hearing or reading what Lawrence Lessig has to say. I don’t always completely agree with him but I admire his presentation technique and he always makes me think.

Watch for this quote “they will purchase the voice of the people, and make them pay the price.”
Presentation

I was unable to embed it so I hope you will click on the link and watch – it is a little bit over 12 minutes long.