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The Dark Reaches
by Kristin Landon
292 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction/SF/Romance

I picked this up from the library on pure whim. It's pulpish soft SF--fluffy to the max, but more to my taste than equivalently pulpish hard SF. Landon skims over space battles but doesn't shy away from gore (Exhibit A, the captured Cold Minds pilot). I'm vaguely interested in the worldbuilding, though not enough to seek out Landon's other books. The romantic relationship was interesting, not compelling.

Sorry I don't remember anything else... it's been a few months, and it was quite a forgettable tale. Warning for some serious backlog spam up ahead.
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The Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro
245 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Literary

Stevens is an English butler of highest repute and ability now serving a modern American employer, Mr. Farraday, who inherited Darlington Hall after Lord Darlington's (untimely?) death. The tale is structured, like Ishiguro prefers, as a rambling first-person narrative. Stevens reminisces at length, through convoluted verbal hedges and self-denials, about his long time in Lord Darlington's service and his complicated relationship with Miss Kenton, the housekeeper.

This was mandatory reading for me, and I had high expectations of Ishiguro. It's important to note that narrative structure is about the only similarity between Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go (his wonderful dystopic SF novel); still, I did enjoy Steven's distinct voice.
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How are you keeping track of your personal library? I've been cataloging with Libra, but it's long out of active development and the new Amazon search changes make it really impractical. I have some limited experience with AACR2 standards and am willing to use those for my personal collection, if I could find a free program to do it in. Are there any open-source library cataloging programs, casual or professional, out there?
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* Via [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, musical stairs on YouTube!

* Also via [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, A Regency Romance in 2 Minutes.

* Michael M. Jones puts out an open call for submissions to his new anthology, Scheherazade's Facade: Fantastical Tales of Gender Bending, Cross-Dressing and Transformation.

* Recent Strange Horizons pieces that are excellent: poem "Thirteen Scifaiku for Blackbirds" by Joanne Merriam and story "Minghun: Unlikely Patron Saints, No. 5" by Amy Sisson.

* [livejournal.com profile] yhlee (Yoon Ha Lee) has an awesome story up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies called "The Pirate's Daughter," about words and poetry and music and awesomeness.

* Another enrapturing story of music from Beneath Ceaseless Skies: Michael Anthony Ashley's "To Kiss a Granite Choir," Part 1 and Part 2.

* Quite the depressing, and truthful, article about grad school in the humanities.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
* Via Fancy Brand, prolific tumblelog by a friend of mine: a Tibetan musical score.

* Cardboard sculptures--just amazing, the level of detail.

* Video of a wheelchair dance competition.

* A flash-style piece by [livejournal.com profile] shweta_narayan on Strange Horizons, "Charms."

* Also on SH--"Origin" by Ari Goelman, a superhero story that I actually like.

* The 3rd Asian Women's Blog Carnival! Especially check out [livejournal.com profile] laleia's post on perfect Chinese daughters (so, so true) and a riveting trailer for the film version of The Stoning of Soraya M. It's rated R, and though I'm normally not a fan of violence or horror, I really want to see this. Unfortunately, it's only showing in select theatres and none of them near me (not even in Philly).
keilexandra: (glomp)
A very happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] buymeaclue! May the coming year, and years, be filled with words and horses.
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Acceptance: A Legendary Guidance Counselor Helps Seven Kids Find the Right Colleges--and Find Themselves
by David L. Marcus
244 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Education

An interesting and compelling addition to the admissions case study subsubgenre, in the tradition of Jacques Steinberg but from the guidance counselor's (GC's in admissions lingo) perspective. Smitty sounds like a wonderful counselor, although I have some qualms about his ethics (handpicking all of his counselees, "special projects"). And of course it's ironic that he started a private consulting practice charging $330/hour immediately after retiring from the public school system. Good advice here, reiterating much of Harry Bauld's excellent advice [review forthcoming] on essay-writing and useful-but-not-brilliant tidbits like taking the ACT (considered to be more straightforward).

What I found interesting, in a personal level, was that Smitty didn't even know of Deep Springs's existence despite his decades of work in and intimate knowledge of the admissions world. I suppose he never recommended TASS/TASP to his students, either, which is a pity. Lee (a Korean-American overachiever) would have thrived at DS, based on his portrayal in the book, even though after a semester at NYU he claims otherwise. --Well, everyone thinks that their college of choice is the best ever after they've attended and experienced it. Other colleges could be just as "good" for you, and possibly--le gasp--"better" in an objective sense.

Anyway, as far as college admissions books go, this is definitely one of the better ones. And up-to-date, covering the competitive 2008 cycle, which counts for a lot.
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Skin Trade
by Laurell K. Hamilton
486 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Romance

Miracle of miracles, I think Hamilton is becoming increasingly more readable. Her most recent Anita books have had noticeably less sex and more plot. I approve and will be going back to read some of her earliest Anita Blake books if/when I have the time/inclination. I find that it's best to approach Hamilton like an episodic TV show; Anita reminds me of what I imagine Buffy would be like. (Note that I have no actual experience with Buffy.) If you think too hard, it's unrealistic that Anita keeps getting into this much trouble, every single book--but these books are not meant for heavy thinking. I do appreciate Hamilton's overarching plot and the small movements in it.

Not much of Jean-Claude or Nathaniel in this one, though, which is sad to me.
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The Black Jewels Trilogy: Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness
by Anne Bishop
1204 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

I found the omnibus edition of this at Half-Price Books and couldn't resist, given how much I've heard about Bishop's original series. While I was devouring all 1200+ pages, I kept describing it as "cracktastic" (and then having to explain that term)--because oh, its reputation is so true. Jaenelle is the most blatant Mary-Sue I've actually liked; Saetan/Daemon/Lucivar aren't much better as Gary Stus. (Speaking of which, can the demonic allusions be any more obvious and irritating?) The power dynamic became annoying at times, but it was also comforting to know that she would always save the day. This is definitely dark fantasy, complete with explicit scenes (sex, violence, or both) and magnetically disturbing anti-heroes. On an academic level, it's also a good case study of a matriarchy, and I've been collecting those. I think I may have some issues with gender roles; it feels very rigid, and wrong in that sense, but I can't articulate why.

Bishop's strength, by far, is characterization. I can think of no other explanation as for why I enjoyed reading the series so much, but can't say I loved or even really liked it. I hear that the later books can be messy--which should I avoid, if any?
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Rosa Lee: A Mother and Her Family in Urban America
by Leon Dash
279 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Nonfiction/Documentary

This book is a semi-compilation of a Pulitzer-Prize-winning article series Dash wrote for the Washington Post. It tells the story of Rosa Lee, a typical (or so Dash presents her) example of the black urban underclass. Her story starts off as compelling and poignant, but about a third of my way through the book, Dash's disjointed storytelling became merely repetitive and boring. The "plot" is a depressing cycle of multi-generational poverty/welfare/drug use, i.e. a case study of a poor urban black family. Ultimately, interesting for the academic sociological information, but not remotely entertaining for me as a "regular" reader.
keilexandra: (glomp)
I was chatting with my parents today--in Chinglish, this does not happen very often due to the language barrier--and I discovered that my mother reads romance novels in Chinese on the Internet. I promptly told her that I would get her an English romance novel as a belated birthday present.

So what book should I get her? Preferably something I can nab off BookMooch, so popular is fine and probably preferable. We're starting from a clean slate, since my mother has read NO English romance novels EVER. This is the important bit: reading level. I know she's not comfortable reading English novels, so this needs to be something very accessible. Grammar is not an issue so much as vocab--simple/common words are good. And, of course, it has to be a compelling read.

Thoughts, recommendations?
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Happy birthday, [livejournal.com profile] mrissa! I wish you continual balance in the coming year.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
* [livejournal.com profile] shwetha_narayan's wonderful poem "Apsara" is now up at Goblin Fruit for the summer. First link should be permanent, second is where you can read the poem right now (ETA: may also be permanent, and better formatted, if it goes in the archive).

* Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night," with audio--perhaps the most famous English-language villanelle.

* Via [livejournal.com profile] yhlee, The Periodic Table of Typefaces.

* Geeky article about Lenovo's new keyboard design. Nothing like Dvorak's complete overhaul, just some interesting usability tweaks. I will say this: I love my caps lock key for easily marking out book titles. I really want a big delete key, though... So annoying on this laptop to sloooowly reach up to hit it in the corner.

* Color illusion!

* Notable Unshelved strip.

* Isaiah 55:12--"...and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."

* A compendium of beautiful--no, gorgeous--libraries.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Diamond Star
by Catherine Asaro
495 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/SF/Romance

I didn't realize how starved I was for good fluff; I sped through this newest Asaro in a single night despite its flaws. I'm not a rock fan, so the premise didn't excite me, but I do adore the Skolian Empire world. Diamond Star involves an all-too-predictable addiction arc. I have little sympathy for Del being broke when he can splurge whenever he wants. Del himself treads a thin line between amusing and annoying. I love Asaro for both politics and relationships, but in this particular book, I wanted more space opera and less obstinate romantic misunderstandings. As [livejournal.com profile] buymeaclue would say (I hope I get this right): less boyfriend, more roller derby.

Still want more books like The Moon's Shadow, about Aristos politics. Especially Jai/Tarquine. Or even about Kelric, who is more interesting when he's not perceived from the POV of a rebellious teenage rock star. Dehya is really interesting too; I'm not so fond of Roca, but her story seems to have come to an end with Eldrinson's (natural) death.
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The Shape of the River: Long-term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions
by William G. Bowen & Derek Bok
472 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Education

I meant to finish reading this, I really did; but again, library time constraints beckon. For future reference, I got to page 112, a little under 1/4 of the way through. I will try to write up what I wrote with relative objectivity, but I shan't hold back from interjecting (biased) commentary. From skimming the rest of the book, Bowen and Bok seem to have done a great job documenting the success of minority students admitted to highly selective institutions, years after they graduate (or don't graduate).

For those who don't know, Bowen & Bok are two former Ivy League presidents (of Princeton and Harvard, respectively) better-known within higher education for their later, controversial work on SAT scores and admissions expanded to all races; in comparison, this earlier publication consciously simplifies the world to black and white. In the later study, B&B found that when using white as the baseline, blacks and Hispanic [not necessarily Latin@, since federal race classifications include Spain origin as Hispanic] students received a significant boost while Asian students were actually negative, i.e. in order to be considered equivalent to a similar white applicant, s/he had to score higher on the SAT.

All data in this study was based on a detailed database combining information from 28 colleges and universities, who are listed on p. xxviii-xxix. B&B do a reasonably good job of straddling the fence, providing evidence for and against both sides of the affirmative action debate. I'll be discussing mostly the information that I want to remember, i.e. anti-, but first I'll summarize the opposing details and encourage you to read the book for yourself. In essence, the black students who would not have been admitted under a hypothetical race-neutral process go on to exceptional achievements despite their weaker academic skills.

So let's start with the definition of race-neutral: it is NOT admitting by the numbers. B&B grouped black applicants by SAT ranges and posited that they would have the same probability of admission as white applicants in the same ranges. This causes the overall chance of admission for black students to drop from 42% to 13%, versus an overall chance of 25% for white students. The real-life Berkeley example bore out this hypothesis remarkably, although B&B make no mention of the large increase in Asian students as a result of race-neutral at the UCs (31-3). Similar drops in enrollment would occur at the most selective law and business schools (45), where "black applicants [to business schools] were 2.7 times as likely to gain admission as whites with comparable records. Hispanic applicants were 2.8 times as likely to be admitted" (45-6). For med school, the median pre-med science GPA for accepted students was 3.1 for blacks vs. 3.6 for whites; correspondingly, "the median test scores of blacks accepted to medical schools was lower than the median for whites who were rejected" (46). This establishes that regardless of what happens later--and much does happen later--admitted black students (and presumably Hispanic students) are less qualified in comparison to white students (and presumably Asian students). Speaking of which--I find myself constantly wondering how Asians fit into this world, as Hispanic students are much more similar to black students in profile than Asians are to whites. "The real racial divide in America was and remains black and white" (xxvii, Shelby Steele qtd. by Scott Shepard 11)--I absolutely, positively disagree. Such a statement--from someone implied to be one of the "scholars from the black, Hispanic, and Asian American communities" (xxvii)--erases the existence of Hispanic, APA, and Native American peoples from "America" and the importance of a multicolored discussion of race.

Prior to affirmative action in the late 1960s, "the selective colleges would rather be selective than integrated" (qtd. in 5)--nothing wrong with that wish, in my mind, as the selective colleges should not be lowering standards for the sake of diversity. "Harvard [Law School] began admitting black students with test scores far below those of their white classmates....and black enrollment began to rise" (5). That cause and effect seriously concerns me with its lack of acknowledgment of racial discrimination--to discriminate on the basis of race, which is exactly what happened. A graph on p.27--before recentering, but nevertheless interesting: at a combined SAT score (out of 1600) below 1000, about 10% of whites and 20% of blacks gained admission (I am estimating based on a graph, so bear with me). The gap is largest in the "1200-1249 range, [where] the probability of being admitted was 19 percent for white candidates, as compared with 60 percent for black candidates" (26). Finally, at the 1500+ mark--close to perfect scores--about 70% of whites and 100% of blacks gained admission. Even in the '90s, admission at the most selective schools was never guaranteed by "high stats"--except for those few and exceptional black candidates, it seemed. "To sum up, black candidates are consistently admitted at higher rates than legacies, who in turn are admitted at consistently higher rates than non-legacies, but the 'advantage' enjoyed by legacies is concentrated at the upper end of the SAT range" (28-9).

Socioeconomic AA would not "substantially cushion the effect of ending racial preferences" (Thomas Kane, qtd. in 47), because while URMs are disproportionately poor, "they still make up a minority of all college-age Americans with low incomes" (47). B&B also briefly references the prohibitive cost of implementing such a program to the same degree as current racial AA. To which I say: well, yes, and remind me why a poor black person is more deserving of admission than a poor Asian person, other factors held constant? Socioeconomic AA is not meant to substitute for racial AA; it is meant to help those who will always need more help. In capitalist America, there is no doubt whatsoever that the poor student is always disadvantaged over the identical well-to-do student. Even Questbridge, which I wholeheartedly support, helps only the very tippy-top of the poor students (it is more useful in guaranteeing affordability than in affecting admissions, since most Questbridge finalists would have been admitted on stats and extraodinary personal qualities anyway). [/soapbox]

B&B does unequivocally disabuse the notion of academic "mismatch." Average college GPAs may differ by over half a point (72), but black students still go on to do well in life after college (no doubt aided by affirmative action at law/med/grad schools, says my cynical mind). Interestingly, the SAT remains useful in significantly predicting both academic performance in college and postgrad achievements, although the prediction is stronger for whites than for blacks. Graduating from a top college does affect one's postgrad prospects within higher education. James Thomas, former dean of admissions at Yale Law School: "Someone who has played--and succeeded--on a tough field lets us take a little more risk and admit someone who strikes our faculty as having that something that's going to make a difference in the world. Does this mean that we don't take someone from an off-the-beaten-track school? No, but that person has to have every single thing in line--there's no margin for error" (personal correspondence, qtd. in 101). Note: Blacks who are "specially" admitted go on to disproportionately achieve exceptional accomplishments. I have not discussed that data here because it is irrelevant to the basis of my position on affirmative action, although I have read every word of it.

A very good book, highly recommended as long as you aren't afraid of social science stat-talk (and even if you are). Alas, it didn't change my personal opinion. (I'm still waiting for someone to come up with a brilliant argument that will push me across the fence.) The ends never justify the means, and however beneficial AA is/would be, its very existence remains discriminatory and hypocritical to statements of nondiscrimination.
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What Colleges Don't Tell You (and Other Parents Don't Want You to Know): 272 Secrets for Getting Your Kid into the Top Schools
by Elizabeth Wissner-Gross
307 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Education

A different perspective from the usual ex-adcom tell-alls. There's some good advice in here about fit and parenting, but also some crazy and borderline-ethical approaches to "packaging." The "272 secrets" format is really gimmicky. Useful advice is buried among the dross, though, if one reads with a strong dash of salt. Best read in conjunction with other books of the genre, especially Hernandez's adcom perspective (which is quite derogatory toward "packaging").
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
How to Read Literature Like a Professor
by Thomas C. Foster
314 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Nonfiction/Literary

Light-hearted and interesting. Topic: exactly what the title implies. Not as insightful as I'd hoped--the analysis bounces between obvious and really obscure--but definitely "lively and entertaining." Do the case-study analysis at the end; I didn't due to time constraints, but I wish I had.

Also includes a useful list of Christ-figure signifiers, for those of us who didn't grow up in the Western tradition. I will quote a paraphrased version here:

1. crucified, wounds in the hands, feet, side, and head
2. in agony
3. self-sacrificing
4. good with children
5. loaves, fishes, water, wine
6. 33 years old
7. employed as carpenter
8. humble modes of transportation, feet or donkeys preferred
9. walked on water
10. portrayed with arms outstretched
11. spent time alone in wilderness
12. confrontation w/ the devil, possibly tempted
13. last seen in the company of thieves
14. aphorisms/parables
15. buried, but arose on the 3rd day
16. disciples, 12 at first, though not all equally devoted
17. very forgiving
18. redeem an unworthy world
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A thought that has fluttered through my head several times, having just been captured: what kind of "space" is the Internet? If someone makes a public blog post or a public comment, is that content automatically public? Obviously you can't plagiarize, the words are still inherently copyrighted, etc. But what about linking, referencing, alluding to? On one extreme, the right of free press is vital; what if any author had the legal right to request that a negative review of his/her book be taken down? And on the other extreme, if one is compiling a blog carnival or a linkspam or whatever, is there an expectation of permission first? How does this interact with privilege?

I've always operated on the assumption that any public post is just that--public, free to briefly quote and free to link to. In fact, I find policies specifically requesting that linkers ask permission first to be kind of presumptous--like the author of a published book asking that all reviewers run their reviews by him/her first (thereby filtering out unwanted or negative reviews). Even if this never becomes ingrained in law, the very expectation in etiquette remains problematic in the context and spirit of freedom.

Thoughts? Disagreements? I don't pretend to know much of anything about this matter, except what is "logical" to me (and what I find logical is inherently shaped by my experiences, majority/minority/etc.).

Comments are screened. Civility rules, as always, but feel free to disrespect me civilly.

A triple!

Jun. 18th, 2009 04:23 pm
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Happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] afuna and [livejournal.com profile] sethdickinson and [livejournal.com profile] yaoi_in_exile! I can't believe I have three friends who share the same birthday.

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