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Archive for June, 2008

How to Survive a Robot Uprising by Dr. Daniel H. Wilson is best described as a luddite love song. This fact alone is interesting as the author holds a Ph.D. in Robotics (and a Master’s in data mining). I suppose that also means that he really knows what he’s talking about. This book gets into some serious detail about the sorts of robot prototypes out there, and the ways to thwart them should they suddenly turn on you. Sometimes this takes some advanced planning (as in the case of the “Smart House”) and other times knowledge can be your weapon.

Really, this book is written in such a way that you start out amused by the concept, but slowly begin to feel worried. Like, just maybe, he’s right, and the toasters will invade tomorrow. The information that Dr. Wilson provides is all true (yes, even the modular robots). That just might be the scariest part. Yes, I really enjoyed this book. It is both informational and entertaining. …And apparently there was some talk of it being made into a film at one point. At least, according to Variety. Mike Myers was supposed to be in it and everything. (I wonder how they would manage that, as How to Survive a Robot Uprising is not written like a novel. I expect that it would end up a bit I, Robot-y.)

Now I want to read Dr. Wilson’s other book: Where’s My Jetpack. Anyway, if you too want to survive the robot uprising, then you may wish to give How to Survive a Robot Uprising a look.

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Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin is a picture book with character. Just look at the cover. Farmer Brown has a rather strange problem. His cows have found an old typewriter and have begun leaving messages for him. When he doesn’t give in to their demands (they want electric blankets) they go on strike. What is a farmer to do?

The first book in a series, this Caldecott Honor book features a cute story of animals standing up for their perceived rights. Adults love this book, and many kids do too. Other kids want to know what a typewriter is. Sigh. The watercolor illustrations that appear throughout really add to the story. The cows’ eyes are particularly expressive. They seem to be constantly surprised about something. Personally, my favorite image is the one from the cover. Everyone is concentrating on that typewriter, even the chickens. The story itself is really well written. My favorite line is, “Duck was a neutral party, so he brought the ultimatum to the cows.”

So, to sum up: cute illustrations, fun story, may need to explain typewriters, nominated for all kinds of prizes, first in a series, and I like it. I hope that you do too.

Read the book – place a hold here.
Check out the author’s website – Doreen Cronin’s Website

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Thursday Thirteen #25
I adore Fred Astaire. I’ve seen lots of his films. I even have a picture of him at my desk. (Yes, I honestly do.) In was inevitable that I would eventually do a Thursday Thirteen all about him. So, here it is.

What is your favorite Fred Film? I’m quite partial to Broadway Melody of 1940, actually.

13 Facts About Fred:
1. Fred Astaire was born “Frederick Austerlitz II.”

2. He was born in Omaha, Nebraska on 10 May 1899.

3. Fred began dancing professionally in 1905 with his sister Adele in Vaudeville. (He had originally begun taking dancing lessons at the same time as his sister to save the price of a babysitter.)

4. In 1930, Fred first met a young lady named Ginger Rogers in New York. They went out on a couple of dates, but that was all. (Fred’s autobiography Steps in Time and Ginger’s autobiography Ginger: My Story each tell a slightly different version of this story.)

5. Astaire married Phyllis Baker Potter on 12 July 1933. They had two children (Fred Jr. and Ava) and remained married until her death in 1954. Phyllis also had a son named Peter from a previous marriage.

6. The first movie to feature Fred and Ginger together was a pre-code film by the name of Flying Down to Rio. This is also the last film that my grandfather ever recommended to me. Take a look at the trailer here.

7. Fred has appeared a couple of times in the Zippy comic strip.

8. Fred was a horse racing enthusiast for most of his life. Perhaps it’s not too surprising then that his second wife, Robyn Smith, was a former jockey. They married on 24 June 1980.

9. According to the IMDB, Fred’s only Academy Award was an honorary one given “For his unique artistry and his contributions to the technique of musical pictures.”

10. Fred’s first sound film (there is some question about whether he did a part in a silent or not) was a small part in Joan Crawford’s Dancing Lady, which he did while he was waiting for Flying Down to Rio to start.

11. Among his many talents, Fred also played the accordion.

12. At the AFI Life Achievement Award Ceremony in 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov said of Fred: “Dancers hate Fred Astaire. He gives us complexes because he is too perfect.”

13. The actual quote, according to Fred, that was uttered after his screen test was: “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Also dances.”

Sources:
Astaire: The Man, The Dancer by Bob Thomas
The Biography Resource Center Database

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Photograph of beach 

A something in a summer’s Day
As slow her flambeaux burn away
Which solemnizes me.

A something in a summer’s noon —
A depth — an Azure — a perfume —
Transcending ecstasy.

And still within a summer’s night
A something so transporting bright
I clap my hands to see —

Then veil my too inspecting face
Lets such a subtle — shimmering grace
Flutter too far for me —

The wizard fingers never rest —
The purple brook within the breast
Still chafes it’s narrow bed —

Still rears the East her amber Flag —
Guides still the sun along the Crag
His Caravan of Red —

So looking on — the night — the morn
Conclude the wonder gay —
And I meet, coming thro’ the dews
Another summer’s Day!

by Emily Dickinson

 

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FairyTales

I love fairy  tales.  It was  my favorite thing when I first learned to read.  I read everything I could by the brothers Grimm  and Hans Christian  Andersen.  When I read  all of those, I started reading every collection of fairy tales from around the world in my school and public library.  Later, I discovered Gail Levine who has rewritten and expanded  a number of folk tales and fairy tales  ( Ella Enchanted  is one title you might know).  I also really enjoy Patricia C Werde’s series,The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Dealing with Dragons is the first book, and it is an interesting twist on the usual princess story. In this story , the princess doesn’t want to live the normal life of a princess, so she goes to live with a dragon. A funny book full of adventures.

The week I discovered a new author Sarah Beth Durst.  Her book, Into the Wild  looks at the world of fairy tales in a whole new way.  Rapunzel, the seven dwarfs, and Cindy ( also known as Cinderella)  have all escaped from the fairy tale world, know as The Wild. In The Wild , everyone  doomed to repeat the same story over and over again. Everyone that has escaped is trying to live a normal life.  Unfortunately, The Wild escapes and captures all of the  former residents.   Julie, the daughter of Rapunzel, that has to keep everyone from being trapped in the stories of the wild forever.

Put a copy on hold now!

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Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters is the first book in the Amelia Peabody mystery series. Miss Peabody is a 32 year-old English spinster of independent means and forceful personality, who has decided to go forth and see some of the world. She makes it as far as Egypt, where she falls in love with everything Egyptian. Except, of course, for the mysterious mummy who seems intent on causing mayhem, and is a bit too interested in Miss Peabody’s companion, Evelyn. The series is currently eighteen books long. So, fear not, you don’t have to worry about just getting interested in the series and then having to wait impatiently for the next book to come out. You have a bit of reading ahead of you before you get to that point.

Crocodile on the Sandbank takes place during the Victorian Age and is quite plainly a love letter to Egyptology. In view of this, it should not come as any great surprise to learn that “Elizabeth Peters” is a pseudomym for Barbara Mertz, Egyptologist and author of Red Land, Black Land and Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs (she is also Barbara Michaels, by the way).

This mystery is full of information about Egyptian archeology and Victorian social mores. This makes me particularly happy, as I love fiction that is informative as well as entertaining. The book doesn’t stop there, however. Oh, no. It also contains romance and comedy. Miss Peabody’s unique viewpoint alone is worth the price of admission. I feel that I should also point out that this is one of my default books to listen to on tape. If nothing in the audio books section is looking good to me, I just listen to Crocodile on the Sandbank again. Barbara Rosenblat does an excellent job with all of the different voices. So, whichever way you choose to follow Amelia Peabody on her first trip to Egypt, you are sure to enjoy yourself while you are there.

For more information about Elizabeth Peters, check out her website: http://www.mpmbooks.com.

Want to learn more? Check out these books:
Crocodile on the Sandbank
Red Land, Black Land
Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs

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Give Me Something to Blog About

If you have been following along, by now you should have a blog of your very own. You’ve probably spent some time coming up with the perfect name and choosing the right theme. Your blog is ready to go, you have a nice cup of tea, and that empty post window is staring you in the face.

What are you going to write about? Feeling like you have writer’s block before you’ve even begun? Fear Not!

First, ask yourself who your target audience is. Are you writing a blog specifically for Mothers of Twins, Fellow Photography Nuts, or Fans of British Music? Perhaps you are planning a personal blog full of wry observations for the world at large. Is your blog specifically a marketing tool for your business?

Whatever the topic, if you are starting out and aren’t sure where to begin, find some other blogs on the same topic and see what they are doing. No, I’m not saying go out there and steal ideas or plagarize, but you’d be suprised how often seeing what other folks are doing might spark a whole new idea of your own. You can find other blogs a couple of different ways, but generally I like to use blog search engines like Google Blog Search and Technorati.

If you don’t have the time to do some blog surfing when you are stuck for an topic, here are a few ideas for you to ponder.

* Do you have any of your essays/craft projects/report cards from your school days? That should give you enough fodder to keep you going for days. Scan them and post them. Discuss the notes your teacher left.

* Do you have some interesting photographs? Post them. Blog posts that include pictures are statistically much more popular than mere text.

* Find a topic appropriate YouTube/Google video and talk about it. This one is especially good for days when you don’t have much time to post.

* What would you do if you ran the world, or at least the governing body for your topic? What would you change?

Do you find that you have all kinds of ideas for blog posts…until you actually sit down in front of the computer? Unless you are better than I am at keeping track of little pieces of paper, get yourself a wee notebook and a pen. Start carrying them with you everywhere. I cannot emphasize this enough. There is nothing more disheartening than losing a good idea.

Is your problem not a lack of ideas, but rather so many that you don’t know where to start? Get yourself a notebook and pen, and write them all down. I find that it’s much easier to manage an overabundance of ideas when I can see what I’m dealing with. Then, choose the one that interests you most and get started. If something else occurs to you as you are going along, simply add it to the list.

I hope that this post has helped you get started. Remember, no one is interested in what you had for lunch…unless you are writing a food blog and are prepared to discuss it in an interesting way (and include lovely photos.) Now get out there and start writing.

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