Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My 2013 Book List...

I have a love-hate-ignore relationship with my Goodreads account - I'm really bad about adding books to it and noting the date when I read them. So I didn't make my 2013 Goodreads reading goal...oh well, more to perfect in 2014 ;-)

Anyway, I looked at the books that I read (not a complete list) and came up with this list of ten books (very much more or less - except not less) that I really enjoyed in 2013. Not in any particular order, they are:

  • All the Paths of Shadow / Frank Tuttle. A fantasy/steampunk novel about a young royal sorceress who is trying to meet her King's requirement to eliminate the shadow cast by a tower during his big speech, while at the same time dealing with the magic and political tensions accompanying a meeting of countries in the region... very enjoyable, although one character initially comes across as a bit of a caricature.
  • The Royal Sorceress / Christopher Nuttell. Also a steampunk/magic novel about a young royal sorceress, but much darker (and a bit more of a mashup) then Paths. Has a sequel out, and no doubt more in the works.
  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore / Robin Sloan. Bookstores, ancient secret societies, scanning, data mining, Google, San Francisco, and much more. A really fun read.
  • The Maker's Mask / The Hawkwood War / Ankaret Wells. Interesting world-building, a geeky engineer heroine, some really funny lines, romance, The Swarm, decaying colonial tech, virtual reality, cold monsters, clans, a snarky hermaphrodite bodyguard to die for, multi-person marriages, secret societies, and more. Wells recently published another book set 200 hundred (or so) years in the future, Heavy Ice. After you read MM and HW, be sure to read the freebies and outtakes at Well's website.
  • Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant / Tony Cliff.  I read this book initially as a web comic (webcomic? I need to make up my mind...) and loved it. The setting (early nineteenth century Turkey), the art (glorious colors and detail), and the fun story and characters are really appealing. It recently came out in print from First Second Books, and I highly recommend it. Delilah Dirk is a sword-wielding adventurer with gravity-defying hair who ends up dragging Turkish Janissary (and tea snob extraordinaire) Selim into her wild orbit.
  • Tea with the Black Dragon / R.A. MacAvoy. An old friend from way back when, I purchased and read this book the first time right after it came out in May of 1983. I still have my copy - its one of the few books I brought with me when I moved from Tucson to Corvallis in the early 1990s. I loved this book! So, when Mark and I took our recent baseball/Presidents trip, I brought along an Overdrive ebook copy to re-read 30 years after my initial reading, wondering how it held up. It held up big time. Some clear differences that 30 years have wrought: yoga and Zen were still exotic in the early 80s, and the technology stuff is a bit outdated of course, but that doesn't make any difference, and in fact the plot is still sadly relevant. And the story - the characters! Highly recommended. From the back cover of my print edition: "Together they find magic, adventure and romance as they search for Martha's missing daughter in the baffling world of computer wizards and electronic crime."
  • Decrypted / Lindsay Buroker. I had a hard time deciding between this and the last two volumes of her Emperor's Edge steampunk series, but this one won out, and the two series meet up at teh end of Forged in Blood. In Encrypted, academic language expert Tikaya serves as a code breaker during her country's war with Turgonia; after the war she is kidnapped to translate a mysterious alien alphabet. In Decrypted, she returns to her home country with her fiance, Rias - which is more than a bit problematic... nice worldbuilding and a sense of humor. Extremely highly recommended for fans of Lous McMaster Bujold, by the way; there is definitly a Cordelia-Aral vibe going on here.
  • Revenant Eve / Sherwood Smith. I loved the first two books in this series, Coronets and Steel, and Blood Spirits. Coronets is a bit of a Graustarkian (think Prince of Zenda) mashup, with a great heroine. Blood Spirits continues the political and magical story. Revenant Eve has the heroine, Kim, going back in time as a ghost to help an ancestor of her fiance. She goes back to Napoleon-era Haiti, England, and France. I've been on a Napoleon kick every since our brief trip to France (although as a 40-year reader of regency romances, the Napoleonic Wars have always been a bit of an interest to me). I love just about everything Sherwood Smith has written, including her dense space opera series, Exordium, that is slowly being made available in slightly revised editions as ebooks.
  • Cold Steel / Kate Elliot. Speaking of Napoleon and Haiti, this last volume of Kate Eliott's Spiritwalker Trilogy was very enjoyable (although she continues to have a bit of a problem with her endings). The series takes place in a Europe that has been devastated by an ice age - magic has an African/Celtic feel, and the spirit world overlaps with the physical world in cery dangerous ways against a background of war that parallels the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Fledgling / Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I cannot believe that I never read any of the Liaden novels - a big drawn-out series of SF/space opera books with the occasional "space regency" tossed in. This was recommended as a good place to begin the series, and I found it very enjoyable. 
  • River of Stars / Guy Gavriel Kay. I love Kay's big, immersive, worldbuilding. You can just get lost in his books and his language.
  • Honorable Mentions: Two books that are installments in series I am very much enjoying. Michelle Sagara's Battle (House War, Book 5) and M. Edward McNally's The Channel War (book 5 of the Norothian Cycle). You can find my full Goodreads books-read-in-2013 list here (its not a complete accounting of what I did read in 2013, but its something...).
There it is! Comments and book suggestions welcome! 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Initial Thoughts about #Metaliteracy

I've started a number of MOOCs, none of which I have completed (I wrote a post after failing to complete the first one on some thoughts about MOOCs and libraries), although all of which I have learned from. Right now I am taking participating in a MOOC about metaliteracy (look here for more information about what metaliteracy is - the tl;dr definition is "Metaliteracy is an overarching and self-referential framework that integrates emerging technologies and unifies multiple literacy types."

So - I'm behind. I've managed to watch the lectures so far and do some of the readings, but I'm behind. I don't want to talk about that. What I do want to slowly start talking about is the gradual change I am seeing in myself, as I very slowly move away from a more traditional information literacy approach to a changed version that is strongly informed by both metaliteracy and the concept of critical information literacy. (I'm actually supposed to be collecting metaliteracy-related resources this week for the class- I'll try to do that next week (late, as usual...) but I really wanted to post this so I'd have it in my head.)

So last April March February, I had a chance to talk about some of this on campus, when I was invited to give a talk at the WSU Writing Center's Multimodal Composition Across the Curriculum series, Composing the New Classroom: The Teaching and Learning Remix Series. My topic was "Exploring the Connection Between Information Literacy and Technology-Assisted Research" On my campus, the English Composition program is embarking in very exciting ways into a multimodal turn, which I'm really excited about. Meta-literacy (and CIL) are natural partners and modes of connected processes.

You can see from the slides that my understanding of metaliteracy and critical information literacy is still at the tyro level (that's why I'm trying to take this MOOC, after all!) and that I'm probably trying to cram too much into the talk - metaliteracy, critical information literacy, multimodality (sketchnoting!), and tech tools - but I see them as connected, and this talk was very helpful for me in mapping out areas of interest for future study and application. I'll try to write more as I progress in the MOOC and my own self-study.

That's it for now - I just wanted to get this up, and try to find more time to explore this topic as the MOOC continues....

Multimodal Composition Across the Curriculum

Multimodal Composition Across the Curriculum

Monday, March 25, 2013

Lorena’s List: Five Great Technology Tools for Academics (and everyone else...)

Back in February I did a talk for the WSU Writing Program's Multimodal Composition Across the Curriculum series. My topic was Information Literacy and Technology-Assisted Research (I talked about metaliteracy), and I'll post my slides in my next ID post, but in the Q&A I had a bunch of questions about technology. So the convener of the series, Jennifer Lin O'Brian,  asked me to write up a list of my favorite five tools. It was hard to limit myself, and you will see I cheated! The original version of this post can be found here, and I recommend taking a look at the other posts in the Composing the new Classroom (#CtNC) blog. I've been to every session so far, and it has been an excellent series!

1. A reference management program: Zotero [Or EndNote, Mendeley, CiteULike, etc – see this ]
Reference management software helps you keep track of material – books, articles, webpages, documents, multimedia, etc.  You can keep an electronic copy of an item (if available), bibliographic data, and your notes on the item together in a searchable database.
For information on Zotero classes at WSU, see http://libguides.wsulibs.wsu.edu/zotero ; for  information on EndNote classes see http://libguides.wsulibs.wsu.edu/endnote ; for information on other reference managers, contact Lorena O’English (oenglish@wsu.edu ; wsulorena on Twitter, Skype, GTalk, Yahoo IM)
2. A Notes program: Evernote [Or Google Drive, OneNoteSpringPadSimpleNote, etc.]
The advantage of something like Evernote is that you can access information on multiple devices (desk/laptop, smartphone, tablet). Depending on what device, you can also add in voice notes, images, photographs, etc.  I love the IPad and Android versions! Most of these have freemium options – some functionality for free, more for fee.
3. A screencasting program: Screencast-o-Matic [Or ScreenrJing, etc.]
Screencast-o-Matic lets you make videos of what is going on your computer monitor, then save the video and/or upload it to YouTube, etc. SoM has a browser version and a desktop version (the desktop version requires a paid subscription, but its not very expensive). Screencasting is great for quick how-tos/demonstrations, reading a student’s paper and providing comments orally, and so much more! You’ll find it’s as valuable for personal purposes as it is for academic uses (I use it to show my Mom how to manage her Kindle via the Amazon website, for example.
4. A Read it Later/Read it Nice application: InstaPaper [and/or ReadabilityEvernote ClearlyPocket, etc.]
I love these! I use InstaPaper to save articles that I want to read, but that I don’t think I need to save in my Zotero library – I can read them online,  or I can send them to my Kindle and wirelessly download them (I also use it to read/send scholarly articles if they are available in HTML format, but it does not always work).  Instapaper keeps an archive of all the articles I have saved on it online.  Although IP offers a “read it nice” option, I mix up my products and use Readability – it strips out ads and increases the font and the whitespace, making on-screen reading much nicer.
5. An easy on your eyes application: F.lux
This is so useful! A free program that “warms up” your monitor as its gets darker, so it’s easier to read on screen at night. Not good if you need exact colors, but you can turn it off temporarily.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

My Favorite Book in 2012

I'd have to say it is the conclusion of Galen Beckett's Wyrdwood series, The Master of Heathcrest Hall. The first in the series was The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, the middle volume was The House on Durrow Street. I highly recommend the whole series - its a mashup with magic, fantasy, theatre, and Regency romance, and was creepy, gripping, and romantic. I found it by accident, and I never understood why I heard so little about this series! (Beckett is actually the nom de plume of author Mark Anthony). Find more at http://wyrdwood.net/mrsquent/ .