#20

by John Vornholt

After the horrible writing I suffered through on the last book, I needed something reliable. As expected, this was a good Star Trek story and the writing (and/or editing) was well done. The book takes place shortly after Undiscovered Country and features Spock, his niece, and the beginnings of the Romulan reunification movement.

a bit of book news

Fans of the chick lit genre have had a fairly easy time of finding new books to read. Regardless of the publisher, one can almost pick out a book from the genre by the cover. For the most part, books that specifically target women readers are a guaranteed success, and nearly all major publishing houses … Continue reading “a bit of book news”

Fans of the chick lit genre have had a fairly easy time of finding new books to read. Regardless of the publisher, one can almost pick out a book from the genre by the cover. For the most part, books that specifically target women readers are a guaranteed success, and nearly all major publishing houses have jumped on the chick lit bandwagon with their own targeted imprints. Therefore, it is no surprise that now a handful of publishing houses are creating imprints that focus on women readers but are decidedly not chick lit books.

One such imprint is Voice, created by Hyperion's publisher Ellen Archer and Viking's Pamela G. Dorman. Voice is aimed at women aged thirty and older, and it will not include anything resembling chick lit. The imprint will focus on issues that concern women who have chosen to balance their careers and family, and which are not covered elsewhere in the mainstream media. Archer says, "I felt that I, as a 44-year-old woman, working, married and a mother, did not see my life reflected in any of the media stories."

The first five books will be released next month, including a book by Vanity Fair contributing editor Leslie Bennetts that argues that women who choose to be stay-at-home moms lose out on the financial, intellectual, emotional, and medical benefits of a career outside the home (The Feminine Mistake). Another book included in the first round of releases is an anthology of essays edited by Karen Stabiner about life after the children leave home (The Empty Nest).

Archer and Dorman plan to use a panel of ten professional women to assist them in adjusting the focus of the imprint. The panel will meet twice per year, and will also serve as a way of getting out the word about new titles. Friends and colleagues of the members of the panel will be sent copies of the books.

Studies have shown that more women buy books than men. Generation X women and older with careers and families tend to have more available money that could potentially be spent on buying books. It remains to be seen if these women are as interested in non-fiction books that focus on issues specific to their demographic or if they prefer to escape into the surreal world of chick lit.

loafin’

College a cappella is a genre of music that does not get the attention it deserves.

College a cappella is a genre of music that does not get the attention it deserves. It began with the Yale Whiffenpoofs in 1909, and it is set apart from barbershop and traditional choruses. The repertoire of most college a cappella groups consists of popular music, usually arranged by the members of the group or borrowed from other groups.

Unlike traditional a cappella songs that were written without instrumentation, the arrangements of popular songs interpret everything from guitar licks to keyboards using only the voice. There are several professional vocal bands (such as The Bobs), but most of the groups performing this style of music are centered in the college or university setting.

picture of the Penny LoafersOne such group is University of Pennsylvania’s Penny Loafers. The co-ed group was founded in 1986 and have released several recordings on their own as well as being featured on compilation albums. In 1999, they were featured on the Best of College A Cappella. After listening to their 2005 album Side A, it is apparent that they have continued to produce solid arrangements of pop and rock songs.

The Penny Loafers’ Side A is impressive in that the arrangement and execution of most of the songs are spot on a cappella replicas of the originals. However, there are a few production issues that throw it off. Occasionally the levels for the vocals doing the instrumental bits are not balanced so that they blend into a uniform sound, and there is a tendency for them to overwhelm the lead vocal.cover of Side A

An example of this is the beginning of “Don’t Leave Home.” Unlike the original performed by Dido, the sparseness of the intro is lost in the Penny Loafers’ arrangement due to the instrumental vocals being at the same level as the solo. They jump out at the listener in a way that they shouldn’t.

In contrast, “Take Me Out” blends everything just about right. Occasionally individual voices can be picked out, but otherwise it is a melodious blend of sounds that pay homage to Franz Ferdinand.

The best track on the CD is “Such Great Heights.” Given how well the group pulled off the Franz Ferdinand tune, it was no surprise that they would give the Postal Service’s song the same treatment. The original tune combines driving electronica with emo vocals that result in something almost zen-like. None of this power is lost in the Penny Loafers’ a cappella version. If anything, the impact of this song is enhanced in the new format.

You can view the full track listing as well as pick up a copy for yourself on the Penny Loafers website. The group is currently wrapping up work on a new album called Quicksand that will include songs originally performed by Kelly Clarkson, Snow Patrol, and Beck, just to name a few. For a taste of that, check out the video of the group performing Sia’s “Breath Me” live in concert.

stay away from innocence (#19)

Book-on-demand with potential ISO editor for some red pen action or more.

by Duane Simolke

It took author Duane Simolke over twenty years to turn his short story idea into a novel. Let us hope that it does not take that long for it to evolve into a good novel. The Return of Innocence is desperately in need of an editor.

The story told in the book is fairly simple and has all the elements of a decent fantasy novel. Sasha Varov and her family are exiled from their home country of Jaan because her father tried to stop an evil wizard from doing what evil wizards do. Several years later, Sasha sneaks into Jaan on a simple mission of buying seeds. While there, she winds up killing the evil wizard and then returning home.

Unbeknownst to her, that act has made her a hero among the general populace of Jaan, although it opened the way for the evil wizard’s even more evil brother to step in and take his place. One year later, Sasha must return to Jaan for more seeds, but on the way her plans are altered and instead she decides to assist a group of rebels seeking to rid Jaan of the wizard.

There are dragons, demons, and plenty of sword fights to make a fantasy reader happy, but in the end it’s still too much work to get past the stilted writing and abrupt scene changes. In addition, the author’s attempts at humor are incongruous and uncomfortable. Take this exchange on pages 25-26:

“I—” Her fear and confusion increased when she finally recognized her captor as Wuhrlock’s brother, Tay-lii. She had seen him once, during their journey to the Tarran Isles. He was sitting on his horse, surrounded by his soldiers and staring at the exiles. But now he stood right in front of her. “Why don’t you kill him?” she finally asked.

Men can’t kill sorcerers. I learned that fact years ago. It must be a woman, and she must have been born within the territory that the sorcerer has claimed. Women are naturally rooted in the powers of Theln’s ground, because the ground absorbed Erran’s powers when she fell into it and became the first human.”

“Sounds kind of far-fetched, like a convenient plot device in a book,” Sasha stated, but then realized she probably shouldn’t start a debate during such a time.

It is a convenient plot device, and one of many that are not used well. The author is too busy throwing in a dash of mysticism here and a smattering of romance there to really develop anything fully, or even explain what is there. When it is apparent that a scene was added in order to flesh out the story into a book, one almost wishes that it had been left as it was because all it does is detract from what could be an engaging story.

The author frequently has the character tell the reader what the character is thinking or feeling, rather than giving that role to a non-entity narrator. It is usually jarring and throws off the flow of the prose. This is yet another element of the book that could be improved with editing and refinement.

The ending of the book is anti-climactic and contrived. All along the reader can anticipate the eventual outcome, and the tools for that outcome appear six scenes prior. Despite all that, certain plot points are never fully explained. The whole thing is wrapped up with a little too much “and they lived happily ever after.”

The Return of Innocence might be worth reading once it has been put through the ministrations of a reputable editor and publisher, but until then it is best left on the shelf, unless the reader is a masochist.

are you ready to rock?

Yup, these “girls” have got some rhythm. Here are thirteen tracks of all-female tribute band goodness.

The marketing for Girls Got Rhythm might make one think that the performers on the album are more of the novelty types than real musicians, but the opening licks of “Thunderstruck” makes it quite clear that is not the case. These “girls” have more than just rhythm — they know how to rock.

Assembled on this album are some of the best recordings done by some of the best all-female rock tribute bands. There are a few AC/DC groups (Thunderstruck, Hell’s Belles, and Whole Lotta Roses), and a couple of Kiss bands (Black Diamond and Kissexy), and the rest of the album is made up of a wide range of classic rock tribute bands from Cheap Chick (Cheap Trick) to Zepparella (Led Zepplin).

Tribute bands are not the same thing as cover bands. There are a lot of bands that play an occasional cover tune or make up their entire live performance with songs originally performed by other people. Tribute bands focus on one specific band and seek to emulate them in every way, from each note and arrangement of the music to the clothing they wear. With that in mind, it is no surprise that this album rocks in the way one might expect from a compilation of classic rock tunes.

cover of Girls Got RhythmGirls Got Rhythm is a mixed bag of rock styles, and, for example, it feels a bit odd to go from the lush sounds of Zepparella’s “The Lemon Song” to Kissexy’s hormone-driven power-rock “Lick It Up”. There was some effort in making the compilation flow from one song/style to the next, but it is still a little rough in places. Essentially, this CD is an assortment of all-female tribute bands, and the ultimate goal is to introduce the listener to what is out there. In that, it succeeds quite well.

There are a variety of music fans who will enjoy this CD. Fans of the genre or the original bands will enjoy hearing a slightly different take on their favorite songs. Music fans looking for an introduction to the genre of tribute bands will find this to be a valuable overview of and even smaller subset of all-female tribute bands. And finally, anyone who simply enjoys a bit of estrogen in their rock ‘n roll will definitely need to include this CD in their collection.

Girls Got Rhythm is a nice reference to AC/DC, and it fits better on the spine than These Women Will Rock Your Socks Off, but in all honesty, the latter would be a more appropriate title for this compilation.

battlestar galactica: the end

As much as I would like to, I cannot watch any more of the Battlestar Galactica episodes. On Sunday, over a week after I watched the miniseries, I finally was in the right mind frame to watch episode one. It was good, and not nearly as tension-filled as the miniseries, but I could not shake … Continue reading “battlestar galactica: the end”

As much as I would like to, I cannot watch any more of the Battlestar Galactica episodes. On Sunday, over a week after I watched the miniseries, I finally was in the right mind frame to watch episode one. It was good, and not nearly as tension-filled as the miniseries, but I could not shake the dread I felt at the thought of having to go through all twenty-three episodes of the first two seasons.

Ever since I was a young child, I have been easily frightened by visual images. I have overcome my fear of the Ghost of Christmas-Yet-To-Come; a fear that began around age six when I first saw Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. However, I still carry other visions that get the adrenaline pumping just from thinking about them. For fifteen years I had trouble using the toilet at night due to a scene from Stephen King’s IT that I stupidly attempted to watch. Even now the paranoia kicks in on occasion, and I have to remind myself that these things aren’t real and I’m safe.

So, you can see why I try to avoid watching scary movies or viewing disturbing images. These things stick with me for too long.

The trouble with Battlestar Galactica is that I am interested in the characters and the story arc. I want to know what happens, but the Cylon element is just too scary for me. Walking alone to my car on Sunday evening, I could almost imagine that a Cylon was right behind me with its red eye sliding back and forth. I knew then that I had to stop watching. It is just too much.

I have been very impressed with what I’ve seen of the series. I can see why folks like it so much. The future technologies seem much more realistic and related to current technology than those presented by Star Trek, for example. I just wish I could watch it, too. But, I know what’s best for me, so I’m stopping now. However, I do plan to read the episode summaries on the Battlestar Galactica wiki. Even though I won’t be watching any more, I still want to know what happens.

#18

by Diane Duane

As I read more and more of the old Star Trek books, I have come to realize that anything written by Diane Duane is going to be a winner. This book is no exception. She is able to present the family aspect of the Enterprise crew much better than most. In this story, the command structure is much more apparent than in other stories, due largely in part by the plot device of leaving McCoy in command of the Enterprise. The Doctor handles it well and with good humor. As with Duane’s other Star Trek books, linguistics plays a significant role in the story line. I really should read some of her non-commissioned work.

women in digital librarianship

In the August 2006 issue of Library Journal, Roy Tennant writes about the gender gap in digital librarianship. It’s a concern that I have been pondering on a more personal level for quite some time. I totally geek out over the shiny toys being pumped out by the Library 2.0 geniuses, but when it comes … Continue reading “women in digital librarianship”

In the August 2006 issue of Library Journal, Roy Tennant writes about the gender gap in digital librarianship. It’s a concern that I have been pondering on a more personal level for quite some time. I totally geek out over the shiny toys being pumped out by the Library 2.0 geniuses, but when it comes to creating my own contributions, I falter. Even just writing about them makes me nervous. Who am I to pretend to know something about these things? I’m just the person who pays the bills.

This is not entirely an accurate picture of my work, but a great deal of it does involve managing budgets, as well as staff. Occasionally my Dean will discuss my scholarship direction and interest in library technology, and inevitably the phrase, “but I’m not an expert on that!” will come out of my mouth. He wants me to publish, and I find myself floundering around trying to find something – anything – that I might know more about than the average librarian. The problem is that I am the average librarian.

I’m not Michael Stephens and Jenny Levine, jetting off to here and there to bring the wonders of Library 2.0 to the commoners. I’m not Sarah Houghton with my hands buried up to my elbows in library technology. I’m just a normal person with some HTML skills and an interest in technology. I’ll never be a Mover and Shaker.

This is the mental block that gets thrown up every time I think about my role in digital librarianship. I’m always going to be on the second or third wave of folks implementing new technology in libraries.

What I need are the tools to become more technologically savvy. I’ve looked into some of the options offered at my university, but aside from seeming rather intimidating, I worry that they will be too broad for my needs. What I would really like to see are some training sessions like what Michael and Jenny have been doing, but at a higher level. For example, how about something for folks who already know about RSS feeds but don’t have the skills or tools to use them in more creative ways? That would be very useful. Or maybe a crash course in MySQL databases with PHP interfaces. I can think of a lot of uses for that just in my daily job.

Some of us are lucky enough to live relatively close to Library Science programs. If the iSchool at the University of Washington offered a day or two long continuing education course on MySQL and PHP in the library setting, I would attend.

Maybe that’s something that Tennant and his posse should consider. We can’t wait for a new generation of women to grow up encouraged to be interested in technology. We need to do something for the women who are currently in the profession, as well.

usage statistics

The following is an email conversation between myself and the representative of a society publisher who is hosting their journals on their own website. Can I access the useage information for my institution? We subscribe to both the print and online [Journal Name]. Anna Creech Dear Ms. Creech, At the most recent meeting of the … Continue reading “usage statistics”

The following is an email conversation between myself and the representative of a society publisher who is hosting their journals on their own website.


Can I access the useage information for my institution? We subscribe to both the print and online [Journal Name].

Anna Creech


Dear Ms. Creech,

At the most recent meeting of the [Society] Board of Directors, the topic of usage statistics was discussed at length. As I am sure you are aware, usage statistics are a very coarse measure of the use of a web resource. As just one example, there is no particular relationship between the number of downloads of an article and the number of times it is read or the number of times it is cited. An article download could represent anything from glancing at the abstract, to careful reading. Once downloaded, articles can be saved locally, re-read and redistributed to others. Given the lack of any evidence that downloads of professional articles have any relationship to their effective audience size or their value to readers, the Board decided that [Society] will not provide potentially misleading usage statistics. We do periodically publish the overall usage of the [Society] website, about 10 million hits per year.

Regards,

[Name Removed]
[Society] Web Editor


Dear Mr. [Name Removed],

Your Board of Directors are certainly a group of mavericks in this case. Whether they think the data is valuable or not, libraries around the world use it to aid in collection development decisions. Without usage data, we have no idea if an online resource is being used by our faculty and students, which makes it an easy target for cancellation in budget crunch times. I suggest they re-think this decision, for their own sakes.

We all know that use statistics do not fully represent the way an online journal is used by researchers, but that does not mean they are without value. No librarian would ever make decisions base on usage data alone, but it does contribute valuable information to the collection development process.

Hits on a website mean even less than article downloads. Our library website gets millions of hits just from being the home page for all of the browsers in the building. I would never use website hits to make any sort of a decision about an online resource.

Provide the statistics using the COUNTER standard and let the professionals (i.e. librarians) decide if they are misleading.

Anna Creech


UPDATE: The conversation continues….


Dear Ms. Creech,

Curiously, the providers of usage statistics are primarily commercial publishing houses. Few science societies that publish research journals are providing download statistics. In part, this is a matter of resources that the publisher can dedicate to providing statistics-on-demand: commercial publishing houses have the advantage of an economy of scale. They are also happy to provide COUNTER-compliant statistics in part because they are relatively immune to journal cancellation, as a result of mandatory journal bundling.

In any event, after careful consideration and lengthy discussion with a librarian-consultant, the Board concluded that usage statistics are easy to acquire and tempting to use, but are in effect “bad data”. I certainly respect your desire to make the most of a tight library budget, but also respectfully disagree that download statistics are an appropriate tool to make critical judgements about journals. Other methods to learn about the use of a particular journal are available- for example, asking faculty and students to rate the importance of journals to their work, or using impact factors. I am sure you take these into account as well.

I will copy this reply to the [Society] Board so that they are aware of your response. No doubt the Board will revisit the topic of usage statistics in future meetings.

Regards,

[Name Removed]


Dear Mr. [Name Removed],

I never ment to imply that we exclusively use statistics for collection development decisions. We also talk with faculty and students about their needs. However, the numbers are often a good place to begin the discussions. As in, “I see that no one has downloaded any articles from this journal in the past year. Are you still finding it relevant to your research?” Even prior to online subscriptions, librarians have looked at re-shelve counts and the layer of dust on the tops of materials as indicators that a conversation is warranted.

I suggest your Board take a look at the American Chemical Society. They provide COUNTER statistics and are doing quite well despite the “bad data.”

Anna Creech

#17

by Gene DeWeese

I was browsing my shelves late last night because I wasn’t yet tired, although I should have been. That’s when I discovered that this book is the sequel to the one I read earlier (Chain of Attack). The Enterprise goes back to the anomaly to find out why people coming near it and similar openings seem to be experiencing terror and paranoia. Spock and Kirk believe that this may be the reason why there was so much destruction in the area where the anomaly/nexus left them in the last book. The author does a good job of explaining the physics theories that are the basis of the existence of the nexus and the cause of the terror, but it wasn’t as interesting to me as the first book.