June 11th, 2021
|04:52 pm - Anonymous commenting turned off|
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March 7th, 2014
There is a certain class of books that ends up being disproportionately stolen or missing from public libraries. (Maybe I shouldn't even use the word "stolen," because that implies forethought and malice that aren't necessarily present -- books that ends up borrowed and never get returned for whatever reason.)
Some of them are outright conspiracy theory books; some of them are books that summon up a lot of not-quite-relevant research to advance some theory that seems very unlikely; some of them are reasonably legit-ish books about US government collaboration with Nazis and fascists and that sort of thing, which, well, clearly the US government has done a lot of questionable and secret stuff even if it doesn't always match up with what conspiracy theorists say.
Problem is, because these books end up missing so often, they're the books that end up being "library use only" or "no copies available."
Which looks a lot like a conspiracy to keep these books hidden from people. If you're the sort of person who believes that sort of thing.
So when I have to tell people that a particular book is not available, I do tend to get the OH REALLY I WONDER WHY reaction.
(The same is true, incidentally, of those Kevin Trudeau "cures your doctor doesn't want you to know about" books that were briefly popular before everyone realized he was just lying. Some people didn't get the memo.)
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March 3rd, 2014
Remembering with sadness that somebody already wrote a really good YA contemporary magical-realism Orpheus and Eurydice story. (It's All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry.)
The general feeling of desperation-slash-inspiration that there are not enough books out there like the ones I want to read still stands.
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March 2nd, 2014
|12:04 am - The Wind Rises|
I don't think The Wind Rises will go down as one of Miyazaki's great movies; but I think it's a very good movie at what it does.
Miyazaki's great early movies, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, were about pure-hearted young people resisting having their talents co-opted by military/industrial/nationalist systems. The Wind Rises is about a pure-hearted young person who knows that his talents are going to be co-opted by military/industrial/nationalist systems, and who doesn't resist. I've thought a lot about whether it's too easy for Nausicaa and Sheeta to succeed, if Miyazaki is a little too optimistic about the possibilities of pure-heartedness and soft power. Maybe this movie is the one that says yes, it's too optimistic, but the alternative to that optimism is terrible.
Film Critic Hulk has a good take on the movie, one I generally agree with. I wonder if I'm reading the movie too sympathetically given what I know of Miyazaki, and Miyazaki's previous movies. I'm not sure if it's possible to make a movie that's anti-war that also glories in the sheer beauty of war planes the way The Wind Rises does, and it's certainly not as left-wing as I might have wished; still, it's a movie that's willing to ask complicated questions, and not give them simple answers.
( A bit spoilery?Collapse )
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February 25th, 2014
At the risk of oversimplifying a very complex and thoughtful debate on how second language acquisition works: there's a majority viewpoint that says it's really important to practice speaking, because you learn how the language works by trying to say something, and saying the wrong thing, and getting corrected, and learning the rule and how to apply it. And there's a minority viewpoint, which I happen to subscribe to, that says that it's much more important to hear a lot of language that you can understand, because that's how you build up a subconscious mental model of how the language works, and it's not productive -- maybe even counter-productive -- to spend time doing things like conversation practice if you haven't yet built up that mental model.
A class built on that model looks like this at the very beginner level: a lot of teacher talk, and very little student talk.
So it feels pretty weird for me to be in a relatively traditional class given that I don't believe relatively traditional classes work.
(Reasons I am in this class anyway:
1. I believe that I've acquired at least a fairly good chunk of the language, and therefore I'm at a point where getting more speaking practice can be pretty useful
2. It's cheaper than taking a Skype class from someone trained in TPRS, which is the method in the YouTube video
3. A good traditional teacher at least provides some comprehensible aural input, so at the low-intermediate level where the podcasts aren't working that well anymore (the ChinesePod intermediate podcasts just throw all this weird vocabulary at you when ideally they should be recycling a fairly small set of words) and TV is still too fast, that may be the best option.)
Weird, yeah, but it's not a bad thing. It means I don't really mind being corrected, because, meh, acquisition is slow and there's lots of stuff I haven't acquired yet, and it's not something that can be forced by drilling a rule a lot. It means that rather than getting impatient about the amount of review that we do, I just appreciate getting more easy comprehensible input, trusting that I'm going to do enough reading to broaden and deepen my vocabulary. I can treat it as an opportunity to practice speaking, and practice listening, without being locked into the idea that I can learn a language from going to a class for 90 minutes a week.
It's so expensive that I don't know how I would justify it for more than the 8 weeks I signed up for, but we'll see...
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February 24th, 2014
|11:35 pm - Mandarin moment|
I was having a hard time understanding what my classmate is saying, because his accent is not great, and he doesn't do tones. (Good thing: I have more classmates!)
The teacher said "I sort of understand what you're saying, but I really hope you didn't mean to say it."
My classmate was trying to say, "I bought a pair of shoes (xiezi) but they are too small."
What he actually said was, "I bought a pair of children (haizi) but they are too small."
I have THOUGHTS about language acquisition but it turns out I'm too tired to write much that's coherent.
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February 14th, 2014
|01:13 pm - My librarian power|
My library has the young adult fiction shelved on the back wall, not on freestanding shelves, so that when you face the back wall you can see the entire collection at once.
I know the collection very well, well enough that I can look at any shelf in the young adult section -- from too far away to read the titles -- and visually identify several of the titles and authors by their spines.
Thus, if you ask me for a certain YA book, and we actually have it in the library, there is an excellent chance I will be able to walk in a straight line -- with minor course corrections around the tables -- and pluck the correct book off the shelf without missing a beat.
I've actually managed to impress quite a few people with this.
Which I can only explain by saying that a lot of people around here don't have high expectations of their librarians.
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February 10th, 2014
|10:33 pm - Mandarin class!|
You know what was really strange to realize?
I haven't been in a beginner language class since 1998.
(If you don't count a semester of high school Japanese II, I haven't been in a beginner language class since kindergarten.)
No, wait, Old English in college. But learning a dead language is not the same as learning "My name is Emily, I have three sisters, I ate lunch at the restaurant."
I was placed in the Beginner 3 class, with only one other person. I keep thinking that my speaking ability is so bad because I don't have much practice, and I can never think on my feet that well when it comes to speaking -- even when it comes to simple topics -- but really, it's more a case of massively underestimating just how much time and effort it takes to get to the point where you can think on your feet in another language. Because actually, there was a pretty substantial difference between me and the other person in the class -- he didn't really even try to do the tones (why would you not try to do the tones, especially when they're right there in front of you? Tones are fun!) and I'll admit that Mandarin phonology is ridiculously tough for a monolingual native English speaker, but if you listen and pay attention even a little bit you can tell that 'shi' is closer to 'shih' or 'sheuh' than to 'shee.'
(I know I can't really do palatal or retroflex consonants right, but my teacher said my pronunciation was really good for someone who'd just been self-studying up to that point!)
I'm really glad I decided to take this class, because what I need most at this point is low-key, low-pressure opportunities to practice speaking until I get better at thinking on my feet, but also -- I mean, the point here is not that I am so great, right? The point is that it's really damn silly that I was feeling like I wasn't good enough to go to a Mandarin class and be forced to talk to other people in public, because the point is that you're not good yet. The point is that you want to get better.
I went through my high school French and Japanese classes, and some of my Japanese classes in college, being alternately embarrassed and egotistical about being really good at this stuff ("Some" because doing classical Japanese will knock the ego right out of you.) But it's really hard to unlearn that and go back to the place where you can say that wherever you are on the road is the right place to be.
The best writing advice I ever got was that you can't be real and authentic as a writer as long as you're trying really hard to only show off your best self for other people. Probably should've taken that to heart when it comes to language learning, too.
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February 8th, 2014
I finished a chapter of a book in Chinese! \o/
It's a book called "Empress of the Wild Dogs," which is about a pack of wild dogs around the area of Tibet, and it's about a 6th grade level or so. There were a lot of hard words in it. (I will switch to something easier next for a while, but I really liked the challenge.)
I do feel bad that my speaking ability is so far behind my reading ability, but hopefully things will work out with this Mandarin class I'm going to visit next week...
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January 31st, 2014
|09:23 pm - On a lighter note|
There's a game I like to play called "Judge my grocery cart!" where you try to guess how strangers or the grocery cashier would judge you by the contents of your grocery cart.
Today I came out of Whole Foods with:
Gochujang ("Korean sweet & spicy sauce")
Five spice powder (cinnamon, cloves, star anise, fennel, white pepper)
6-pack of beer
Some sort of ginger-honey mixer, for mixing with rum.
If you were to assume I was going to make a lot of Asian food and get quite drunk, you wouldn't be that far off...
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My intentions were good. Complicated, but good, in that if I was going to do a craft for Black History Month I did not want to do something half-assed or based in some monolithic idea of 'Africa,' which is mostly what you will get by browsing the "kid's crafts to learn about Africa!" books.
Which led me to adinkra.
I had previously had some failures with doing potato printing, so I was determined to do it right this time, using real artists' materials.
Of course, as soon as I hit the art supply store and saw the price of real artists' materials, I downgraded my sights from Speedy-Carve to the cheap little blocks of battleship lino.
Keep in mind I had up to this point not done any printmaking, any lino carving, or the like. I was armed with a set of Speedball linoleum cutters and my own self-confidence. (I generally have great faith in my ability to learn any craft up to public-library-craft-program standards within a couple of hours or so.)
It is actually really difficult and time-consuming to accurately carve linoleum.
It is much easier, it seems, to carve out your finger instead of the linoleum (though to this point I have given myself only minor injuries.)
I was going to delegate part of this to my colleague because I'm on vacation next week, but it seems like too much to ask her to take on.
Anyway, I am feeling better about this as I'm getting more practice in, but I should learn my lesson and recalibrate my sense of "I'm sure it couldn't be that hard!"
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January 28th, 2014
Horn Book on the ALA Youth Media Award Winners
Debbie Reese: "The American Indian Library Association's book awards are not included on the ALA page."
From comments: "Is it time for the annual conversation about race/inclusion and these awards? It seems, somehow, to get *more* striking each year: the movement through the Coretta Scott King Awards, and the Pura Belpre, and the Stonewall Book Awards– all honoring some of the year’s most distinguished titles… and then we arrive at the “most prestigious” awards and we are back to the white, straight world."
Last year was a good year -- the Printz books had gay characters and Latino characters and Haitian characters and characters with Asperger's Syndrome. (And they were really good books, for the most part, whatever quibbles I have with the winner, In Darkness. This year, there seems to be a lot less diversity. (And another year without any nonfiction or poetry!)
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January 27th, 2014
|11:45 am - ALA youth media awards|
I didn't really read any middle-grade books or picture books this year, so there's a lot of stuff I'll be skipping over by necessity!
Two YA books got Coretta Scott King author honors, March: Book 1 by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, a graphic novel about John Lewis and the civil rights movement; and Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers. I wanted to get to both of them but didn't manage to. (I also didn't manage to get to the award winner, P.S. Be Eleven, the sequel to One Crazy Summer, which I loved.)
Rose Under Fire was selected as the best teen book for the Schneider Family Book Award for books about the experience of disability; on one hand it's a great book, and it's a great book in how it deals with trauma and recovery, and I'm happy that it was recognized for something this year, but it doesn't particularly center the experiences of disabled characters.
Handbook for Dragon Slayers won as the best middle-school book, and it sounds great.
The Pura Belpre author award went to Yacqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which is a great book that touches on bullying and family relationships. The Lightning Dreamer got great buzz from a librarian colleague of mine, and it got an honor.
I read ZERO of the Stonewall winners and honor books this year, which makes me sad, but I'm really looking forward to reading Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, one of the two winners, about a trans boy who's a DJ at a community radio station. (Sad that If You Could Be Mine didn't get a nod, though!)
For the Printz award for best Young Adult book, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick won. It's a really smart, thoughtful, beautifully written book about love and sacrifice being reincarnated or recapitulated across generations -- I'm not sure why I didn't get more behind it in my own Printz predictions; I think the big Printz bloggers were a bit dismissive of it and I went along with the crowd.
The honor books were Eleanor and Park (love!), The Kingdom of Little Wounds (which I skipped because it looked long, dense, and grim), Maggot Moon (which I just... didn't get?) and Navigating Early, which got a fair amount of Newbery buzz but I figured was too young for the Printz.
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January 25th, 2014
Question: Can the novella I just read in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction fill me with enough pure rage that I succeed in finally finishing a short story for once in my life?
Let's find out.
If nothing else, it was a blow to my sense of paralyzing perfectionism.
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January 22nd, 2014
On persistence and the long con of being a successful writer, by Kameron Hurley.
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I generally like this post that's been going around Tumblr referencing specific studies about fat and health and moral panic, but:
Food deserts are a thing.
If you consider every deli that has a couple of bananas and onions to be a grocery store, like the studies reference by the New York Times article, you can prove that food deserts are not a problem.
But there are places that don't have real grocery stores with a reasonable selection of fruits and vegetables nearby. And there are places where the real grocery stores nearby have produce that is old and rotting. (Grocery stores in rich neighborhoods buy fresher produce than grocery stores in poor neighborhoods).
Food deserts aren't a problem because of fat people. But it is probably healthier to have access to a good variety of decent produce than to not have access to it.
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January 17th, 2014
I am allergic to a really common ingredient in hair care products.
I am allergic to a really common ingredient in high-end organic hair care products.
I think I need to do a hair elimination diet to find out what this ingredient IS. If I have to buy DevaCurl stuff my whole life ($$$$$$) because it doesn't make me try to claw off my own scalp, I'm just going to switch back to drugstore hair products that make my hair frizzy and sad.
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January 16th, 2014
I think my oven is too hot (I KNOW my oven is too hot) and scrambled the eggs in my lemon bars.
No wait. The TOPS are scrambled and the middles are not set.
Ugh my oven.
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January 15th, 2014
|01:17 pm - There is a lemon bar that never goes out|
Tomorrow I am presenting on Eleanor & Park for Mock Printz!
Now, here's the thing: I LOVE Printz time. It makes me so happy. I'm like people who actually see a lot of movies every year and have strong opinions on what's good and what's bad when Oscar season comes, except the Printz committee is consistently smarter and more interesting, as a group, than the Oscar voters. And the people who do Mock Printz with me are great.
And these are the kinds of feelings that inspire in me a great passion for, say, making lemon bars.
Except that I have to stay out late tonight, so I have to figure out how to squeeze in a lot of grating and juicing, etc, into late tonight and early tomorrow morning.
And then bring the lemon bars in to work, and then manage to get them to the central library without forgetting them in the fridge.
Oh, and I have to put the playlist on my iPod, too!
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January 2nd, 2014
|03:30 pm - Miscellaneous media consumption|
* Gravity was excellent -- I would say the best movie I've seen all year, except that I saw it last night, which makes it the only movie I've seen all year. Especially when superhero movies have lately been making up such a huge chunk of my movie viewing, it's pretty rare to see a movie where you get such an intimate and visceral sense of vulnerability, and frailty, and the certainty of death, and what it's like to have to narrow your vision to the one thing you need to force yourself through just because the alternative is giving up and the alternative is terrible and irrevocable.
And the 3D was actually good and rarely gimicky, and did not make me feel sick, although I was annoyed that I couldn't find a 2D showing. (After, I know, waiting months after it came out to actually go and see it...)
* Watched Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries on Netflix -- it was lots of fun, and I'm looking forward to figuring out where I can dig up episodes of the second series, though I found it perhaps a little overly weighted on the side of "heroine has all the correct opinions despite living 100 years ago" and "everyone is loyal and devoted to heroine without sufficient apparent motivation" for my tastes.
* Pretty excited about the new season of Community though I won't be able to see it until tomorrow morning!
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