Saturday, March 23, 2013

It's a twister?

One of the things I didn't realize before I moved to Bangladesh is that it's one of the more tornado-prone areas in the world (second to the U.S. tornado alley). In fact, it's home to the deadliest tornado in records history, the 1989 Daulatpur-Saturia tornado. Yesterday, there was a tornado that swept through southeastern Bangladesh, killing at least 20 people. I have no doubt that one of the reasons Bangladesh has 5 out of 10 of the most deadly tornadoes in history is because they are overcrowded. Packed to the gills would be a good descriptor.

March to May is summertime in Bangladesh. It's the beginning of the Bangla new year, and summer is the first season. It's hot and dry now, with dramatic, violent storms. It's going to get hotter, then the rainy season will start.

10 days until Thailand. I've been spending excessive amounts of time looking at (have I mentioned that I love train travel, because I do), Lonely Planet, and planning what I'm going to buy at Ikea. Also, planning how to ride the public transport in Bangkok (I also love riding buses/metro systems, I'm weird like that).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Glow

It speaks a lot of a book when I can't even get through the entire audiobook without being a)bored, b)offended, and/or c)annoyed. Congratulations Glow, you accomplished all three things.
In the future, two ships are sent from our dying Earth, the New Horizon and the Empyrean, to colonize New Earth. Midway through the journey, the Empyrean unexpectedly attacks the New Horizon, separating Waverly, a strong-minded girl of 15, and Kiernan, her fiance and the likely successor to the Captain's chair. Waverly is held hostage aboard the Empyrean, told that the New Horizon was destroyed and that she must integrate into her new life. Kiernan, meanwhile, is aboard the New Horizon, which suffers much damage to their engines, but is still flying. He battles against odds to rescue the crew trapped in the engine room, but Seth, Waverly's former crush, thwarts him at every step, turning the remaining children against Kiernan.

From the get-go, I was annoyed with the narration. Chapters alternate between Waverly and Kiernan, and the audiobook has two narrators to help complete the effect. Their voices, however, don't belong together. Kiernan, voiced by Matthew Brown, uses a high-pitched, child-like sounding voice, which gets incredibly grating when it seems he's constantly fighting with the other boys on the New Horizon. Waverly's narrator, Ilyana Kadushin, is lower pitched and steadier. I found myself cringing whenever it changed to Kiernan.

The part that offended is a basic premise of the plot. The New Horizon and Empyrean populations were separated according to their religious beliefs. Those on the Empyrean are religious and believe in God, while those on the New Horizon are secular. This premise leads to the fact that those on the Empyrean attach the New Horizon because of their religious conviction. The moral of the story (I'm sure, like I said, I can't listen any more), is that those who misuse religious authority for their personal gain and glory, or to manipulate those around them are evil. While the moral is true, the execution, and, as I said, the premise is weak. There isn't a rational reasoning behind why you would segregate those two groups of people, especially for the decades it would take to reach New Earth.

As a person of faith, I grew tired of their depiction of religious attitudes. Having traveled the world a bit, I have run into more people than not who believe that faith and religion are a personal choice. Especially here in Bangladesh, where the Shabagh Square protests have morphed into a battle between secularism and the more radical Islam preached by followers of Jamaat (read here for a little background), I was tired by the trope that religious factions could overtake populations that do not support them. Really, what offended me was that basic premise that we would separate ourselves like that. Maybe it's because I'm from America, and we believe in religious freedom,* or maybe it's because I'm religious and I believe that human beings are inherently good and deserve the benefit of the doubt, but either way, I didn't care for the topic.

Don't own this for the library, and I probably wouldn't get it because of the content (you think I'm conservative? Try some of our parents), but also because there are better dystopian science fiction novels out there, that I think my students would enjoy more.

LibraryThing Review:

In the future, Earth is dying. Two ships are sent out on a decades long journey to colonize New Earth and continue the human race. Waverly, a strong-minded 15-year-old and her fiance Kiernan, the likely successor to the Captain's chair, were born and raised on the New Horizon. They know nothing of violence or need, as their every care is provided for on their home ship. Their lives are forever altered when their sister ship, the Empyrean, attacks without warning and separates the two. Waverly is held hostage aboard the Empyrean, told that the New Horizon was destroyed and that she must integrate into her new life. Kiernan, meanwhile, is aboard the New Horizon, where he battles against odds to rescue the crew trapped in the engine room,  trying to reunite the two ships and the families who were stolen
Glow, the first in the Sky Chasers series by Amy Kathleen Ryan, combines elements of dystopia and science fiction with the very real situations presented by first love, loss, and being ripped away form everything you know and love. Where Glow falters is in the basic premise, which is shaky and unconvincing. The addition of  a love triangle seems unnecessary and contrived, which distracts from the otherwise solid storytelling. Glow is recommended for YA readers in grades 7 and above.

*Even though we sometimes don't seem to follow that ideal. I know what's portrayed in the 24-hour media, but I also have lived

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Don't tell me what to learn...

I got riled up this morning after reading some blog posts shared in listservs* and posted on my friends blog.

First, I read an article called Why You Should Not Learn HTML. From the get-go the title annoyed me. Not because I don't agree. Personally, a basic understand of HTML makes my life easier, but most librarians can do their jobs well and not know a lick of HTML. I use Blogger, Google Sites, and other make-your-own websites, but knowing how to go in and change the HTML to better display it when, for some reason, it just won't put the picture where I want it to be, is an invaluable tool. From a teaching perspective, I absolutely need to understand HTML, because our curriculum requires that I teach it. So, for me at least, yes, I should learn HTML.

Second, I read my friends blog which summarizes a post by Wayne Bivens-Tatum and a rebuttal to it. Bivens-Tatum argues that librarians don't need to learn to code. Or, more accurately, that knowing a programming language is not necessary to being a librarian. For me, knowing a programming language isn't essential, but, again, it is certainly helpful. Being able to parse through code to understand why the dang patron import isn't working makes my life easier. Or, as Meggan says it better
...scouring the code did allow us to talk to the web designer in a way was more intelligent than taking the car to the mechanic and saying, “It just won’t go.” 

Now you're asking what I was riled up about. Being a librarian means knowing a lot of things about a lot of different topics. For me, there is no one set, robust definition of what being a librarian is, because it changes from library to library and from librarian to librarian. Trying to pigeonhole the profession into a specified description that everyone must fit into takes away the beauty of librarianship, which is that we can be masters of any knowledge, if our patrons need us to be.

The question we should be asking ourselves is, for us to best serve our patrons, do we need to learn HTML or know a programming language? My answer, for my situation, is unequivocally yes. Your answer, for your situation, who knows.

Oh, and don't ever tell me what I should or should not be learning, I will choose that based on my understanding of the needs of my patrons.

*Google insists this is misspelled. The listserv I received it from is from the University of Michigan School of Information, which I graduated from in April 2012. It's made up of current students and alumni.

Review: Would You Mexico people picnic at granny's grave?!

First off, let's talk about this title.

Would You Mexico people picnic at granny's grave?!: and Other Dynastic Delights

It's ridiculous. And long. Also, to be completely honest, I had no idea what dynastic meant when I first read the title. I thought this was a book about dinner rituals (dining, dynastic, you see the connection, right?). It's not. It's about families. What families are, wedding rituals, divorce traditions, step families, half families, dowries, siblings, etc. There is one ever-so-brief mention of same-sex couple families, which I was somewhat worried about with our very conservative parents if there was a longer discussion of it.

This book reminds me of the Eyewitness books of my childhood. Random artifacts with interesting snippets, short stories, websites to find out more (although the internet wasn't really available like that when I was a child), generally facts to whet your appetite and little more.

I did enjoy this book, once I realized what it was actually about. Books sometimes tend to focus on one particular culture or one small subset, but this book had a wide range of ideas about families. Like I said, it included a short discussion on same-sex couples, but it also included discussions about polygyny (one man, multiple wives) and polyandry (one woman, multiple husbands), which I found fascinating. Especially considering both are practiced nearby (the example the book gave for polyandry is in Bhutan, which is a short 1 hour flight from Dhaka). Overall, I felt it was a good introduction to family and lifestyles around the world, especially for students who have never been outside their country. Aimed towards students in grade 3 or 4.

LibraryThing Review

Families are complicated. Filled with crazy people, half-relations, interesting genetic traits, and traditions that date back centuries. Sometimes you're born into a family, sometimes your adopted in, and sometimes you have school friends instead of a family. "Would you Believe..." explores all of these relationships, and a few more.

Richly designed, with clear pictures, pleasing layout, and uncluttered, but still full of information, pages, "Would You Believe..." is a good introduction to familial relationships for students grade 3 and above.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Blog post ADD

This week I had many thoughts, but none were quite long enough or detailed enough that I wanted to write a full long blog post about them. Enjoy this short list:

Shahbagh Square Protests

They've escalated. Over 100 people dead. Jamaat has brutally enforced a 3 day strike. Still out in the country, still fine, thanks for asking. Students are concerned, but mostly because they don't like Jamaat's violent tactics. From what I can see, the world community is on their side. I talked with one student who was really mad because it makes Muslims seem like they're violent, and the vast majority aren't.

International Mother Language Day

The men wore punjabi (the longer tunic-like shirt) and the
women wore saris we all bought together. I even went to
a tailor and got a blouse made, although I still had to wear
an undershirt, they do love showing belly skin.
The international girls with the two local girls in the center
they went shopping with us for the saris, it was wonderful

In 1953, the Bangladeshi people fought to have their language recognized, instead of being forced to speak Urdu (the Pakistani language). They have since celebrated this day on February 21st.

 I bought and wore a Sari, which we all know is a dream come true for me.


Last week we had formal mid-term exams. This is new for me, and I must say I don't care for it. Formal, sit-down, out-of-context, routine-breaking exams. I enjoyed the fact that I could sleep in on the days I wasn't proctoring  Also, I went to Dhaka and got some new books. Lots more work for my assistant to do.


I am white. I've always joked the glare off my white legs could flag down aeroplanes* (I'm watching Sherlock, it makes me write British). We had a pool party yesterday to celebrate the end of the exams and I stupidly didn't put sunscreen on my shoulders or back. Pre-sunburned myself for Thailand. I'd take a picture, but no one wants to see my naked back.

Lenten Tradition

I'm not a Catholic, although I did cry a little when Pope John Paul II passed away**, but I wanted to give up drinking caffeine, and lent is a socially-acceptable and easily explained way to do that. From the withdrawls I had, I could tell I'd been drinking too much. It's been almost 3 years since a full-caffeine Dr. Pepper, I think I can do this too.

*Aeroplanes is misspelled, Google wants me to replace it with Aristophanes, which is just silly, doesn't Google speak English? Actually, my Gmail account is in British English mode, which is why I have a "Bin" instead of "Trash"

**And did a little dance when Pope Benedict XVI stepped down. I can accept that you were in the Nazi Youth, most people had no choice in that, what I can't accept is how you've treated people since.