Academia, Love Me Back

Academia, Love Me Back

I saw this piece and I had to share.

U.S. society (and I have to assume this is from a U.S. student and college based on the remarks and comments) cannot evolve forward until we remove these kinds of assumptions.

This professor is a symptom of the greater disease that is affecting future generations in more direct and horrid ways. We NEED to solve them. Urgently. Period.

TIFFANY MARTÍNEZ

My name is Tiffany Martínez. As a McNair Fellow and student scholar, I’ve presented at national conferences in San Francisco, San Diego, and Miami. I have crafted a critical reflection piece that was published in a peer-reviewed journal managed by the Pell Institute for the Study of Higher Education and Council for Opportunity in Education. I have consistently juggled at least two jobs and maintained the status of a full-time student and Dean’s list recipient since my first year at Suffolk University. I have used this past summer to supervise a teen girls empower program and craft a thirty page intensive research project funded by the federal government. As a first generation college student, first generation U.S. citizen, and aspiring professor I have confronted a number of obstacles in order to earn every accomplishment and award I have accumulated. In the face of struggle, I have persevered and continuously produced…

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Getting Ready for November…

Fione would have preferred it if she had never read anything about the Knights and Arthur. She would have liked it even better if her brother hadn’t managed to concuss himself at the last home game. Then maybe Cali would never have walked into her life. And that would have resulted in a lot less trouble for everyone involved.

 

Cali, the re-incarnation of the aetherblade Excalibur, only awakens when there is need of an Arthur. The mystical aetherealm is under siege from the advances of mankind who have enslaved many of those who live there to harness aether and corrupt it for their own use. She had originally intended to bond with Fione’s brother, Marcus, but has been forced to work with Fione until he wakes up. Which means training Fione AND investigating a powerful healthcare company. What is the reincarnated spirit of a legendary sword to do?

Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire Book 1)

Image result for his majesty's dragon

Click HERE to buy it on Amazon.com

Click HERE to buy it as a part of a 3-book collection (again on Amazon).

So, this was something I purchased on a whim because A) it had dragons on the cover and B) it had dragons on the cover.

My shopping habits are not hard to predict.

There’s a reason my entire Amazon feed is made up of Bluetooth headsets and dragon related books. Occasionally there’s some items that work with my Galaxy S7…but only occasionally.

Do with that data what you will, Amazon.

Anyway…

The premise of the book is pretty simple – it is the Napoleonic Wars and there is now air support – in the form of dragons!

I know that sounds ridiculous, and to some extent it is, but the premise was enough for me to grab the first two of the seven book series (I’ll do a review of book two later). Will Laurence, an officer in the British Navy, manages to have a dragon hatch while at sea. Said dragon decides that he is going to keep Will and the pair move off into the British dragon corps. Will and the dragon, Temeraire,  must then pass their training, bond appropriately, and make it so that they will survive the wars despite the odds.

Not a great summary, but that’s pretty much the major points without spoilers.

I’m not normally a fan of historical fiction. I have read a few bits and pieces here and there, but on the whole I prefer created worlds. I know a lot of fictional worlds aren’t really that different from Earth, but with a created world the events are not limited by pre-conceived and air-tight timelines like historical fiction can be.

Fortunately Naomi Novik seems to have things under control and treats this much more as a ‘what-if’ than a hard and fast historical fiction. I don’t know much about the Napoleonic Wars, but what I looked up on Wikipedia (yeah, great research there) matched up with what occurred in the book – except for the dragons. Which is actually pretty neat. Personally, I feel that Novik’s efforts streamlined the integration of ‘cannon’ history quite well with the fictional elements of dragons.

The action scenes are what sell the book so well. Novik does a great job of integrating the action and turmoil of a military conflict – even one that is taking place from on dragon back. There is a lot of chaos and a lot of quick glances at events as Temeraire and Will soar through the skies and struggle against their opponents. The final battle is absolutely superb and a great climax to the novel.

Temeraire and Will are the clear selling points as far as characters. We learn a few things about the dragon corps structure that emphasize the fact that this is a story about Will and Temeraire. There isn’t a lot of space for other characters and those that are there are not nearly as developed as the lead pair. I wasn’t really all that attached to anyone else in the crew, nor to the few little trysts that get thrown into the narrative. I can see some potential in a few of the side characters for later, but on the whole His Majesty’s Dragon is story about Will and Temeraire and that’s what it sticks to.

This is a fun book and a lead into a series that has more depth and, remarkably, is prepared to finish if the author’s blog and website are to be believed.I recommend it as a fun, fast paced book that many fantasy fans will enjoy despite it being a Historical Fantasy novel.

Characters: 3.5/5
Plot: 4.5
Action 5.0
Value: 4.5
Writing: 5.0

Overall: 4.5 / 5

Reading Report

The goal, of course, is to get back into writing and move forward.

I have been. It’s been a chaotic time. A new school year combined with my Epilepsy and my 3.5 year old has made for very little time. Add into that learning how to play Magic: the Gathering and the most successful summer I’ve ever had with LARP camp and I have had very little time to sit in front of a keyboard.

Scratch that – I have had very little energy to sit in front of a keyboard. Most of the time I want to veg-out and rest at the end of the day. I have had a chance to do some reading and will be getting to some book reviews as well, so those will be coming soon.

Now that things are calming down a bit, however, I have had a chance to sit down and do some work and I’m pretty excited to share some details and items from my writing her on my blog and, hopefully, kick this into high gear.

So, like I said on my Twitter (@JolteonEX) expect some items coming forward.

Fear is an Easy Sell

When I’m not writing, I’m a teacher. You can probably guess what I’m certified in – my specialty – without too much trouble. It doesn’t start with M and doesn’t require a Periodic Table if that helps at all – although I am getting better and better with my Stoichiometry (just ask my students).

I’ve noticed a shift over the last several years, and it is something I am concerned about and that is fear.

You see, I have a daughter who turns three in January and she’s starting to give orders. Not real orders of course, but the ‘this goes here, that is mommy’s, put it down daddy’ kind of orders. The ‘I’m trying to make sense of this world that has more to it than gravity and light’ kind of orders.

This means that, soon, she’ll start asking questions. Both my wife and I have discussed this turn and we’re not sure what to respond as she kicks into trying to understand and comprehend that bigger world. Whose perspective will be better for her.

The reality that I see is a wonderful and amazing place to explore. People are, in general, good folks with interesting stories who merely want an ear to listen or tongue to speak – an opportunity to share. There are fascinating stories out there with most people and, if you listen to them, chances are you can find someone or something to relate to with them.

The world is a similar place. There are wonderful places to explore – mountains to climb, trees to crawl through, parks to visit, etc. It’s an adventure that, if you take the time to examine, will give you something to relate to and remember.

Forest Blog

But…that’s not the attitude that most people have. I remember growing up that most of the attitude wasn’t quite as bright and springy as mine, but there was something still there: hope.

Now, though, I see something different: fear.

Fear has replaced that in many of the students that I interact with. I do have the over-the-top macho kids in my room, but when they get confronted, that attitude dissolves. There’s no guidance. Similarly, when I work with some of my co-workers and talk with some of my friends, fear has become a unifying factor. Rather it’s a worry for the future of the country, a job, or what’s going to happen tomorrow, it’s become an overlying part of things.

Yoda Fear

Even the TV shows have it more now. We call the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles more ‘mature’ and ‘deep’ than their 1980’s counterparts – and that’s true. But at one point our entertainment was meant to entertain the kids and not us.

Don’t take this the wrong way – I love shows like TMNT and Avatar: The Last Airbender. My daughter loves My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Daniel Tiger (and Daniel Tiger is NOT in one of those ‘more mature’ categories in the slightest. It does have a sense of hope and excitement). But at one point the excitement came from wondering how Mikey was going to take down the Shredder this week and not if he was going to.

Our heroes are easily defeated. That only used to happen in the two-part episodes.

The same holds true of entertainment for adults. I’m really enjoying Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Once Upon a Time, and Agents of Shield (my TV shows are a bit limited – I have Netflix and not cable is my excuse).

There isn’t anyone to save us anymore and, while some of the shows do examine a person pulling themselves out of defeat and saving themselves, more often we are faced with a failure that we have to deal with.

And maybe that’s true. There is a lot of truth to the fact that, often, we are going to have to deal with meeting in the middle or the short end of the stick. That is life.

I don’t really have a problem with that. I wish there was more hope and adventure to my entertainment than there is – and I might be missing something (feel free to share). But it doesn’t usually feel particularly hopeful when I am watching.

Except maybe NCIS – because at some point, they have to deal with Gibbs and Gibbs doesn’t mess around.

Gibbs

But now, we’re not even getting the stick. We’re learning to be afraid to even reach for it.

It’s fear we’re being sold.

And it is an easy sell.

Look at Game of Thrones. Nothing against Martin – he’s clearly a writer with talent. I personally don’t particularly like Game of Thrones, but it’s popular and well written. But it boils with two things – sex and fear.

It’s an easy sell.

Even worse is the sudden advertisement of giving in to fear. Back during the first trilogy, I don’t know that there was anyone who was excited to be a member of the Sith (and yes, this is a specific cultural example. Sue me). The villains of the movie and the universe as far as Star Wars is concerned. Now, it pops up everywhere.

keep-calm-and-join-the-dark-side-132

Ignoring the Sith vs Jedi argument (that’s for another day as well), now matter how you look at it, they are the created antagonists of the films. We get strong implications (and sometimes visuals) of them casually murdering people. These are not people that would normally be a group that folks would want to join.

But they have embraced their fear and gained power for it. We’re embracing our fears, but it’s leaving us weaker – at least thus far.

I wonder if that isn’t because fear is so primal to our beings. It’s hard to establish a hopeful attitude – it takes convincing someone that there can be something better over the hilltop or beyond the horizon even though all of their current experience says otherwise.  You have to life yourself up to have hope, to examine the best that could be coming and work for it. It takes a tremendous amount of work.

 

Say what you like about Donald Trump, but he is definitely a Presidential hopeful. He’s putting in that effort and he’s trying to find ways to get to that ‘better’ that he sees. So is Bernie Sanders. And that’s all the politics I will mention for this post because I’m not going to get into the conflict of hope that comes from perspective. I’m sure it is one of the causes, but that’s a post in and of itself. Fear has that as well, but to a lesser extent.

Fear doesn’t. Fear says ‘that’s bigger, be scared’, ‘that’s faster, be scared’, ‘that’s different, be scared.’ It’s unifying and, relatively, universal.  And universal means easier to sell, easier to control. Some of those pundits that claim our new culture of fear is part of a government/corporate/etc conspiracy to control us and I can’t help but wonder in the back of my mind if there isn’t some truth to that claim. Fear does make for easy control and focus – hope, joy, and other ‘working’ emotions are not easy to create and hold in place.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the day. I will leave you with this one:

desmondtutu454129

Discussion: Michigan and Snow

I won’t lie – I like the snow.

As a resident of Michigan, snow is a common think. Our state is shaped like a mitten (well, the lower peninsula is) and that implies that tells me we are destined for snow.

I’ve always liked it. When we were younger, my brothers and I could play in it in our backyard and roll snowballs down the hill, etc. It was quick and easy.

This year, we are having a mild start to the winter. We had some snow in November that I got to play with my daughter (she’s almost three) and that was a lot of fun. It was fun enough that I wanted to go out and buy some Carhart snow pants so that I wouldn’t be wearing only my jeans. Which is a lot – I don’t generally buy spendy items like that.  But it was fun and my daughter enjoyed it tremendously. Part of it was her connection to Olaf from Frozen but that’s for another day.

The point being – I like snow and Michigan is, in general, a good place to get it.

This year, however, we have had a fairly mild winter. We had some snow in November and some cold temperatures so far and that is about it. According to the coming weather forecast (and this is Michigan so take it with a heavy grain of salt) we’re going to get some more 50 degree days in the next week or so.

Which is odd.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand why some folks are grateful for the changes this winter. For Michigan drivers, snow is an expectation. People that are commuting into or out of the state complain, but most of the native drivers don’t seem to have a significant issue with it. Sometimes that does mean waking up extra early to shovel my driveway, but we’ve survived worse circumstances.

The point being – snow is a fun and enjoyable thing for most of the Michiganders that I know. The Upper Peninsula folks are even more used to it than those of us in the Lower Peninsula – but then they have a higher snowfall rate than we do.

It can be a lot of fun. Snowballs, snowmen, and sledding down a hill. When we moved, one of the appeals was a big hill nearby for sledding – though I don’t know that I told my wife that one.

Then,  once you are thoroughly chilled and excited – taken care of all of your snow fun and enjoyment – you get to go inside and have a nice cup of hot tea or hot cocoa while you slide under a blanket to gradually warm up. It’s a great way to spend a day!

So, I wonder, how do most feel about snow and cold? The internet is a free place!

Book Review: Greek Key by K.B. Spangler

 

GK Cover

Buy it HERE from K.B.’S A Girl and Her Fed Store (I imagine she gets more for it here).

Buy it HERE on Amazon (Because sometimes it is simply easier)

So, I have talked about the A Girl and Her Fed universe before. If you read any of my reviews about the Rachel Peng books, then you will be running into some familiar faces here.

We have Speedy and Hope as the primary protagonists this time around. Rachel’s not the focus here and we are, instead, introduced to the universe through Hope’s eyes and seeing her try to solve a mystery that has a lot more to do with the origins of how OACET and the ghosts work in the A Girl and Her Fed universe.

I’m not spoiling much in this review, but if you haven’t read A Girl and Her Fed yet, you might want to back out and go read it before you read on because some of this will go into spoilage as to how the rules of the Universe there work.

SPOILER TAG

SPOILER TAG

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The main mystery revolves around an artifact, a piece of the Antikythera mechanism, that is commented on in both the comic and in the Peng novels. They have a piece of a machine that is out of place and out of time for the development of the period. Hope, Speedy, and the Ghost of Benjamin Franklin (I’m not sure if that’s a title or not…maybe I’ll tweet the author to ask) have been discussing the limits of how a ghost can work and how time flows in the A Girl And Her Fed (AGAHF for short) universe.

It boils down to this: ghosts can move backward and forward in time. However, this requires a great deal of power. A ghost gets its power from his/her effect on the world. Also, a ghosts power appears to be limited to the culture in which it was created. This means that most ghosts are quite limited in their power.  Benjamin Franklin’s ghost is very powerful in the United States (as are the other ghosts of the Founding Fathers. And Lincoln…oh dear lord, Lincoln). However, when Hope travels outside of the U.S., Franklin can’t follow / can’t manifest  (side-note: given his years in Europe, I wonder if he can manifest there as well…).

We already know from AGAHF that Franklin can time travel. He did it to help Hope play the stock market so she didn’t have to focus on gaining money and could instead prepare for the coming of OACET and Sparky and a few other slightly more world shattering elements coming to the U.S. (and the world) than whether or not she could pay the bills.  Of course she originally thought he was a drug induced hallucination, but that would be getting off topic and into AGAHF rather than Greek Key.

Panel Post
I’ll just leave this here as an explanation Image is Copyright (C) K.B. Spangler

 

The point being, his power lets him jump forward in time and, unlike many ghosts, he can bring back elements of what he finds in the future. In the comic, he brings back a ring that is linked to OACET so she can call in help from Sparky whenever she needs it. This takes a tremendous amount of power and the ring is only a small thing.

The mechanism piece? It’s a bit bigger. Which means a lot more power would be needed. Not only that, but we’re looking at a time jump that would make Doc Brown jealous.

And without a DeLorean.

Or a Flux Capacitor.

This machine piece that they have found, however, appears to have come from someone a bit more…universal. Think mathematics. Like Universal mathematics.

It’s Archimedes. Yes, that Archimedes.

I told you it was Universal Mathematics.

This has everyone baffled and a bit worried as it was found in a stash that was being supervised by the main antagonist of AGAHF.

Hope, being one of the few who knows the ghost connection in OACET, decides to investigate and she takes along Mike. The pair are psychic and are able to use that ability to tap into the ghost spectrum – though neither is particularly good at it. You do what you can with what you have.

Then we run into an archaeologist, Atlas, (who’s probably not on the up-and-up) and his sister, Darling (who’s definitely not on the up-and-up) and they get involved in examining the mystery as well.

Helen of Troy also ends up entangled.

It’s…complicated.

The story is also a lot of fun. As a fan of AGAHF, I got a lot of satisfaction out of reading the story. Hope is a fun character and Speedy is a highlight as well. They play their typical roles, but those roles are written quite well.

Hope is a strong protagonist. It is immediately obvious that she is in charge of herself and her choices; there’s no damsel in distress here. No one is ‘letting’ her do the things that she does. She is doing them through her action and through her conscious choice. It’s a good message and one that shouldn’t have to be said, but I’m pointing it out because that message is often lost in other media and stories. Hope’s a character that is strong on her own and she happens to be female.

Speedy is still a hyper-intelligent Koala. I don’t really feel the need to elaborate there, but he is enjoyable. However, I’m a Speedy fan and I hear there are those that disagree with him. That’s your choice – I can assure you that he doesn’t care in the slightest.

The mystery of Archimedes’ machine is the central plot of the story and its practically a character in and of itself. The jumping and shifting of ideas and ‘OK, that didn’t work, next plan’ is a lot of fun.

For me this book had a lot to tell. It establishes quite a bit of the rules for the AGAHF universe. The world building is fascinating and I enjoyed those elements a lot.

My major complaint comes from only two elements. My first is Hope’s attraction to Atlas. It seems overplayed and not especially relevant to the plot. I get that it is part of the character of Hope to be easily distracted, but I just did not like the Atlas bit at all. It’s a personal element, but I feel it detracts from Hope’s character to have that be a focus of her distractions. The rest of her jumps, however, are hilarious and/or plot related and I enjoyed them, but the Atlas ones didn’t ping right for me. Maybe it’s my sense of humor.

Which brings me to Atlas himself. As a character and an antagonist (I won’t go far enough to call him a villain) he’s in the gray area. It could be argued that he’s not even really an antagonist so much as a stumbling point. He’s a pretty face and something for Hope to get distracted by given his amazing Mediterranean body and that’s pretty much it. There is some effort at characterization by having him have a rivalry with his sister, but it doesn’t come off as particularly effective. His reveal and subsequent plot related items come off as convenient and/or out of place when reading and that appeared to defeat the purpose of having him in play. He helps the plot along and gives Hope a few things to think about, but it doesn’t really bring out anything new or interesting in the characters and so he falls flat.

On the whole, though, Greek Key is a strong novel with an interesting mystery. Hope, Mike, and Speedy make up for the lack of a traditional antagonist by fighting with the mystery surrounding the Archimedes device. The solution is a fascinating twist and turn as Spangler develops her world and reveals new and fascinating bits about how the world works in her universe of ghosts and government. For AGAHF fans, this will be a lot of fun. For inductees and those new to the universe, it will be an exciting adventure with a strong protagonist and companions that will lead you into a complex and fun world.

Characters: 4.0 / 5
Plot: 5 / 5
Action: 4 / 5
Value: 5 / 5
Writing: 5 / 5

Overall: 4.2 / 5

 

 

Life on Ramen

I have always been about creating. I love to write, to create adventures and characters with my friends through RPGs and LARPs, to produce plays and portrayals through acting on stage. All through my life I have created.

One such creation that I had was called Life on Ramen. It was a sprite comic that I produced while I was in college. Keep in mind – this was during the hay day of sprite comics. We had Bob and George on the one hand and 8-Bit Theater on the other. It was an awesome time. If you had MS Paint and a few sprite sheets, you could make a webcomic.

Mine was about myself and some of my friends and our various insanities. I called it ‘Life on Ramen’ because I was in college and that was pretty much my only non-campus sustenance. I found the comic very funny and I put a lot of work into updating it on GeoCities. You know, back when GeoCities existed.

It was the first piece of something I had created that I shared outside of my personal bubble. I put it up on the internet and I joined some webrings (does anyone remember those? 🙂 ) and I posted it for feedback and fun.

It was something I had never done before – exposed myself like that to a strange audience. I remember being a little scared of it, at least at first, but also excited. I had hoped that I would find some folks who liked it – there were certainly enough 8 and 16 bit Sprite comic lovers out there at the time.

There wasn’t a lot of original content to it, I will admit now. But as I gained new skills and software (thanks Ferris), it improved. I had some fun characters and some, in my opinion, funny humor. There were a lot of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero moments – which I still find funny.

Any how, I thought I would share this memory of my first time putting my work out for public critique and see if anyone else wanted to comment. What was your first time sharing something publicly like? What made it exciting or interesting to you?