Monday, April 7, 2014

The Joys of Researching: Armenia, LibGuides, RPGs, and Persian music!

Enjoy this little quickie, y’all! I've been in a pensive mood lately thanks to a few random, slightly forced into circumstances that I am not complaining over.

I cannot tell you how much fun it is to research. Most people think, "Oh gracious in a pastry! You are just running into dead-ends, starting over, and looking at stuff that doesn't even help! And it's boring!"

Nein. What was that saying? "It's not the destination, but the journey that is most rewarding."

So I have a few topics as of late that requires further investigation. For my LibGuide, I am working on building a resource site as an introduction to Persian/Sufi poets. I will post it when I'm done at the end of the semester. Through that process I have been teaching myself how to use databases that are available to me through the University of Alabama. At Ringling (where I got my BFA) and my current library, we have none. So on my search for finding videos that “sing” the poems, I came across this guy, Homayoun Shajarian. Oh my goodness, talk about a voice that gives you goosebumps! He sings classical Persian and surprisingly he sings from all of the poets minus Omar Khayyam (we’ll the man was a scientist first, so…).

Here is his newest song, singing Simin Bebahani’s poem “Why did you leave me?”.


Then thanks to a friend, I got dragged into a game using the Savage World base and the Victoria RPG setting. At first I wasn’t sure I had the mental state to actually pull this off since my characters from my book are demanding a lot of my time, and my school projects are draining. Nope, this was exactly what I needed. I haven’t played Dungeons and Dragons in a year, so I need a game. Our DM (dungeon master), a history teacher, to me makes the perfect guy to run this kind of setting (1880s – late Victorian era). He has been exceptionally flexible in me using D&D 3.5 rules for my character’s dog. And in trying to find digital version of the 3.5 rules for my character’s dog, I ran into a music group AGAIN that I overlooked the first time. How could I? Modern 80’s music! Oh yeah!

Futurecop!  (love the unicorn logo!) This should be the kind of music playing on the radio!


So, the research for my character’s background begins like most of my characters that I write about, but this guy, really makes me feel thankful for all that research I did for my Georgian character in my book. This guy is Armenian, and I am delved into his role as deacon in the Armenian Apostolic Church which was as foreign to me as eating monkey brains. By the time I got as far as I am now, I learned a lot about this country’s history and I am thoroughly impressed at how they’ve isolated their language and their religion. I did not know Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity, nor did I know that scientists study the language because it is so unique and it shares almost no resemblance to it's neighboring countries's languages. I found some wacky things along the way when researching names, but overall, it has been a fun experience, which is making me write a novelette for his background.

I’m sure the DM won’t mind. :P

Happy writing!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Women in Technology Part 3 of 4!

As I flipped through Fast Company, again, I came across an excerpt from an article written by Jillian Goodman who works for Fast Company. Of course their website did not have the full article. But SALON did (thank you!).

On October 14, 2013, Jillian Gooodman wrote an article that talked about how Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and some guy from Miami Heat (wait, athletes are educated? Really? Then why aren’t they proud and showing off their learning skills and being rolemodels for children? Isn’t that why we pay them millions of dollars?), came together and talked about how they feel it is important that every school child knows how to code.

This idea launched Code.org, a website for educators to help prepare lessons to teach coding to students. During Computer Science Education week (in early December), one hour a day should be dedicated not only to the history of computing (where Grace Hooper from my previous technology entry is mentioned), and the founders are taught, but also learning how to do basic coding (like HTML markup language). Computing in the Core, developed hour long lessons to teach kids to code in various platforms. Their goal to not let coding be for a dedicated few, but for everyone.

Eventually their goal is to have coding as an option in for highschool instead of math or science. According to the excerpt in Fast Company Magazine, schools in Tennessee were already implementing this.

Melodie Hillier, TechStart's Event and Program Manager at the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, reported that last week, her company introduced Code.org to 21 Hillsborough County school teachers. So this is already here in Florida!

My thoughts were, “oh, this is the way for the government to make more minimum waged jobs. Taking away specializations in the computing field.”

My husband had a different outlook on the article. Since he has been in computers for over 18 years, he said that honestly, there is nothing wrong with the idea, just the way they are going about it. He rather see kids learn now what coding is like so they don’t waste their money in college “thinking” they want to be programmers, engineers or comp science majors. They get there and are overwhelmed at what it REALLY is.

I countered with this: even still, there’s a huge difference between computer science and computer programming. One is more physics and math based than the other. Why have this wipe out a math or science class, when you need those basics to be a computer engineer? Why can’t they offer is as an elective?

The answer, lack of money going to schools.

What is your take?

And then I wondered if they were going to focus on teaching girls to code or is it just another subject matter that they will flaunt towards boys. Because we all saw what happened with Tinker Toys, oh no, lets sue a company trying to show girls that it’s awesome to be engineers.
Within my research to see if there were any endeavors to teach girls code had launched around this time, I came across two programs:

Girls Teaching Girls Code is a mentoring program that has its upcoming code camp in April 2014. They tell it better than I can.

Girls Who Code Seshma Raujani is a huge advocate for closing the gender gap in STEM based subject areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and was the first South Asian woman to run for Congress. In 2012 she started this endeavor to show girls that coding is fun and a very important need in the future of technology. She uses stats from the US Department of labor who estimates that by 2020 there will be 14 million computer-based jobs, and she wants women to fill half of them. According to the same stats, 14% of the women graduates are going into a computer science related field. While back in the 1980s, it was 37%.

I wonder what happened?



------------ LS560 Below----------
(2014). Girls Who Code. Retrieved from http://girlswhocode.com/

(2014). Teaching Girls to Code. Retrieved from http://www.girlsteachinggirlstocode.org/

Goodman, J. (2013, October 14). Zuckerberg, Gates back teaching coding in school
Does every child need to learn computer science? Fast Company Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2013/10/14/zuckerberg_gates_back_teaching_coding_in_school/

Hillier, M. [MelodieHillier]. (2014, March 10). Last week TechStart introduced @codeorg to 21 Hillsborough teachers. Excited to visit their classrooms in April! pic.twitter.com/qzDVT6KxgD. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/MelodieHillier/status/443044476181688321/photo/1


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Wasted week, but I found K-Pop!

So my husband has returned home from his trip with a friend that came from Australia.

Of course, I thought I would get SO MUCH done while he was gone. You know the important things like:

1. Writing without any disruptions.
2. Cleaning the house.
3. Shopping.
4. See a couple of friends.

Well, yeah right. One of my professors turned into a dinosaur and nearly stressed me out over a paper. I spent all of my time working on it.

I have at least worked on a couple of random scenes that needed my attention. I did hang out with a coworker over tea and Lebanese food. And I did do the fastest clothing shopping ever for my husband. Oh, and I did get the bathroom cleaned.

When it was too late in the night after working on homework (like 3am) and I needed to calm my mind. I found myself catching up on my Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series (because that crap is hilarious (you have to start from the beginning). I am in love with Melvin, one of the villains.  His best like is, "Who wants a hug?!" said with the most evilest of laughs.

I've always loved J-POP (I still die for X-JAPAN), because even in the 90's Japanese music videos were a billion times better than the crap we have here in the US. Randomly, for whatever reason. I ran across K-POP (Korean pop). Don't ask me why, and I found this group called T-ARA.Like Japanese music videos, they have "drama" versions of their songs where they make like mini-films. Holy poop on a stick. I am in LOVE. This are the two music videos, which are "Cry Cry" (Part 1) and "Lovey Dovey" (Part 2) put together. Thanks to Haqita ChanHan for adding the English Subs!



Enjoy all!
Now back to writing!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Women in Technology Part 2 of 4


Okay, fellow readers, let's continue on the Women in Technology Theme! This will take the place of another year I horrifically neglected to share something for International Women's Day (it's called being busy) and of course for my LS 560 course. 

This one comes from Fast Company Magazine that led me on a wild goosechase to find the full article. Which is usually the trend for this magazine. Fast Company comes to the house in my sister’s name, which is strange because she’s all into fashion…and this magazine is far from haut couture. Each glossy page is flooded with pictures of hipsters who wear clothing far too tight, paying $20 for a frap-crap-hold-the-fat-sprinkle-the-blood-of-laboures-iced-latte-but-not-latte coffee from Starbucks, with egos the size of China, talk about how they cannot poop without their iPhones.

But like with every publication, if you sift through the garbage, you might find something interesting.

So this issue surprisingly had an snip-it of an article about Middle Eastern women in computer science which took me forever to find it on their website.

Image from Fast Company.

So other than bitter cold and the Winter Olympics, St. Petersburg, Russia hosted a computer convention That Microsoft puts out called the Imagine Cup.  There waltzes in a group of Arab women from Oman and Qatar, and people are surprised that the female gender from the Middle East can do more than just produce babies and wear hijab. 


Asya al-Jabrl, 22 year old student from Muscat, Oman had a crying frustrated 9 year old cousin who couldn’t learn. His tears moved her and after he got tested for dyslexia, she gathered two other students (Marwa al-Habsi and Safa Almukhaini, both 22) and created ReadX. It won them a spot at the Microsoft sponsored event.

Another group of women from Qatar came led by Latifa al-Naimi, a 20 year old computer science student from Qatar University. Her team developed Artouch, a device that allows museum-goers to connect with artifacts on exhibit in her country. 

Sheika al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani

 It was inspired by Sheika al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the former Emir of Qatar, who has plastered the pages of Bloomberg Business Week and Forbes magazine as the “art culture queen of the world”. She has developed the art culture in Qatar, emphasizing its education.



 

The attendees of the event seemed surprised, but the female teams did not see anything special about it. Both said that back home, coding is taught starting in high school for anyone to pursue, and that they do not care if they work in an all-female team or a mixed one with boys.

Even though Imagine cup welcomes teams from the participating 71 countries, only 3 teams had women in them – one from Oman, Qatar, and the last one from Portugal.

What, wait? Seriously? America, I expected better. :/ Shouldn’t we be leading innovation created by women? Isn’t that what we try to portray to the world, that we value our educated women??? Guess not.

In the same article, as they continued on about how the Gulf States, are really pushing for their women to be educated, it moved back to us, in the US. It shared an image that went viral in June 2013 from an Apple Convention in San Francisco. As you can see, there are no women in line to use the bathroom.
Image by: Dan Akerman/CNET
Hrm, take what you want from the photo, but means a lot when women were there at computer science’s inception, creating languages and computers. Why are movies and books about jerks like Steve Jobs getting fandom like he was a god? Strong dedicated women get forgotten, but foul-tempered narcissists get recognized? What kind of a message are we sending to both girls and boys who represent our future?

Something wrong with this picture (literally and figuratively).


Thanks to (LS 560 Info):

Lemon, Gayle Tzemach. (2013) Arab Women's Tech Advantage: Middle Eastern countries sent two all-female teams to Microsoft's Imagine cup this year. That's not as surprising as it sounds. Fast Company. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/3018610/arab-womens-tech-advantage

Microsoft Imagine Cup. (2014) Retrieved from https://www.imaginecup.com

Qatar’s Culture Queen Mar. (2012) The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/21551443
 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Women in Technology Part 1 of 4


Okay, fellow readers, nicely folded into the usual baking, library thoughts, and travel news, there will be some tech-based entries for a few months for my IT class. Since it has been a few years that I had done my yearly "women doing awesome stuff" post - my topic for these tech posts are "Women in Technology - Doing Awesome Stuff".
 

I cannot even begin to write anything about technology unless I begin with the woman who taught computers to understand words.


December in 2013, was the 107th birthday of the first female computer programmer, Rear Admiral Grace MurrayHopper, USNR, (1906-1992).

Hold on! If you dare to call yourself a "super awesome computer geek" and do not know who she is, stop and take a moment to slap yourself (really hard). Feel the burn? Continue reading.

Grace Hopper graduated with her degree in mathematics at Vassr College (and taught there from 1931-1943) and then got her PhD at Yale University in 1934. That same year she joined the Navy Reserve. Immediately she was assigned to work on the embryonic electronic computer (means that they can think for themselves). She worked her way up the ranks and finally became Rear Admiral in 1985. Top this day, she is the oldest woman in the armed forces at the age of 76. After she retired in 1986, she stayed teaching about computers, programming and concepts related to time (such as nanoseconds [see below for video]) until her death in 1992. 

Her only regret was not being able to see the 21st century. She wanted to celebrate December 31, 1999, and look back at how far computers had developed, thanks to her knowledge, skill, and dedication.

She loved numbers and puzzles, and coined the term “bug in the computer”, because when she was working at Harvard in 1945 on an experimental machine called the Mark I, something malfunctioned. Opening it up, she found an actual bug in the computer.

She changed the world of early computers by creating COBOL (Common Business Orientated Language), which means that the computers can respond to commands typed in words rather than a number sequence. She worked on Mark II and Mark III and designed and created another computer called UNIVAC I (still in use). 

USS Hopper (DDG-70)

USS Hooper (DDG-70), a Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, is named after her. 

I so want a battleship named after me!

When she retired in 1986, she said this, “Our young people are the future. We must provide for them. We must give them the positive leadership they're looking for.” 

That day, she was given the highest award possible by the Department of Defense - the Defense Distinguished Service Medal - one of many awards she received from both the Navy and computing industry.

Today, there is a foundation named after her to celebrate women in the computing field and the same organization pairing up with the Anita Borg Institute to host a convention bringing women, who are far and few, in the computing field, together, to be empowered, share ideas, and network. 

 
Grace Hopper explaining nanoseconds.

A huge thank you to the many men and women who serve in our armed forces! Naval History and Heritage, website where I got most of Grace hopper's information from, also has a great feature up for February about African Americans in the Navy. Wonderful website, worth checking out! 



Props: For my instructor, citations are below.

Alter, Charlotte. (2013). GoogleDoodle Honors Grace Hopper, Early Computer Scientist: Kicks off Computer Science Education Week with Tribute to Woman Who Taught Computers to Use Words. Time News Feed. Retrieved from http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/12/09/google-doodle-honors-grace-hopper-early-computer-scientist/#ixzz2rEUNKmkE

Anita Borg Institute. (2014) Grace Hopper: Celebrating Women in Technology. Retrieved from http://gracehopper.org

Dickason, Elizabeth. (1992). Looking Back: Grace Murray Hopper's Younger Years. Biographies in Naval History: Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, USN, 9 December 1906 - 1 January 1992. Retrieved from http://www.history.navy.mil/bios/hopper_grace.htm
Dickason, Elizabeth. (1992). Remembering Grace Murray Hopper: A Legend in Her Own Time. Biographies in Naval History: Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, USN, 9 December 1906 - 1 January 1992. Retrieved from http://www.history.navy.mil/bios/hopper_grace.htm





Sunday, January 12, 2014

My Favorite Reads from 2013

I made this list for my sister, who wanted to know what I enjoyed last year since she wanted a few ideas. I asked her what she liked and she gave the vague answer of "anything". Be careful when you say "anything", you'd be surprised at what you get.

Honestly I was surprised that I read enough to put together a Top 13. There were others, but they didn't make the list for numerous reasons. 

Now note that some of these books came out in 2012, but we did not get them in the library until 2013. Also some were recommendation from friends, so they might be older. But there is nothing wrong with discovering a book that had been poorly misrepresented/promoted, or just fell under the radar - a lot of delightful finds never make it to the NY best Sellers because that list is manned by people who play slight of hand. Sad. 

From (in my opinion) great to awesome: I did mention the sensitive context for the squeamish people.
13. Quiet: Power of Introverts in World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. (01/2013) Non Fiction book about the surprising role of introverts in home, business, pleasure and parenthood. As an introvert, I enjoyed it. 
 
 
12. The Drake Sisters Series by Christine Feehan. (In order: Magic in the Wind, Oceans of Fire, Dangerous Tides, Safe Harbor, Turbulent Seas, Hidden Currents) (2005-2010) Paranormal Romance. If you don't read Feehan's work, she is violent. I love her because she is not afraid to talk about bloodshed on page one. These sisters are witches, and each book, each of them gets a man (what romance is about). The stories are unique, each couple different, BUT there is kidnapping, rape, trafficking, drugs, forced slavery, etc. Not by the men to the sisters, but by the "villains" to the sisters. Her sex is rather pornographic.
 
 
11. The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Chol-hwan Kang. (08/2005) Non Fiction. A great account of Kang's unimaginable suffering in the camps and how he is unable to adjust to life after he finished served his time. The ending felt a bit rushed, like he was holding back, but worth the read. This whole book is about torture.
 
 
10. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. (04/2013) Historical Fiction. This book has made numerous reading lists across America about a little known fact about the American West, there were orphan trains and bridal trains. This book is about a surly foster girl who chooses to do community service hours at a home of an old woman. While in her attic, she stumbles across a past, and helps the woman find something she lost in her life, her child. It's a touching book. Ending was lacking, but you're satisfied. There is child labor and child molestation in this book, but not in super detail.

 9. People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry. (05/2012) True Crime Non Fiction. It is based on the true events about the disappearance of Lucie Blackman, a girl from the UK who goes to Japan and works in those restaurants where girls sit and chitty-chat and pretend to be a "girlfriend" without the sex. Parry goes to Japan to cover this story and it is so engaging because not only it involves Japan and their strict customs, but Blackman's psychotic family as they storm to Japan and try to figure out something. The killer is a grade A psychopath that makes Ted Bundy look like a pansy.
 
 8. Safe Haven by Nicholous Sparks. (12/2012) Contemporary Romance. If you want a safe romance (no in-depth sex scenes) with a thriller twist, here it is. I don't normally read his books because they are just so, boring. But this one was different. After killing her husband in self defense, she runs away to Safe Haven to start over. She meets a single dad who owns the local bait and tackle shop. Life is good and she's settling in when suddenly a stalker comes what seems like out of nowhere to track her down. Who is this guy? Someone you'll never expect. There are two great surprising twists in this story.
 
7. The Origami Yoda Series by Tom Angleberger (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper Strikes Back, The Secret of the Fortune Wookie, Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet, Princess Lablemaker to the Rescue). (2010 - 2014) Middle grade children's chapter book. Want a super nerdy fun read? This is it! A bunch of loser guys at this school comes together and with the power of origami Yoda, they win (not really) the day. Too funny!

6. Below Stairs by Margaret Powell. (12/2012) Biography. The true accounts of the maid who inspired Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey. Wonderful little biography. She was a fascinating woman herself. I did a blog review last year after I read it. 
 
5. An Angel for Christmas by Heather Graham. (10/2012) Paranormal Romance. Nothing gets Christmas started best like when a dysfunctional family finds a bleeding cop facedown in the snow in their driveway. Who is this guy? Is he really a cop? but here's a crazy murderer causing havoc. She falls in love with the cop, but is he real or a ghost tangled in an ancient war between good and evil? This book is very rated G. The only "oh!" moment is the mention of a shower and she's wearing a towel in the hallway. Oh my!

4.The Aisling Grey Guardian Series by Katie MacAlister (You Slay Me, Fire Me Up, Light My Fire, Holy Smokes). (2004 - 2007) Paranormal Romance. This will make you spit milk from your nose because it is so damn funny. Aisling finds out the hard way that she is a mate to a dragon, not just any dragon, but the king of thieves, who loves shineys...much more than her. Throw in a cast of weirdo paranormal misfits, a demon reject as her sidekick, and a creepy taxi driver who shows up in every country she goes to, you have a wacky adventure. I could not stop reading it, it was so funny. Sex scenes are not pornographic, but there's biting.

3. Tiger Lily by Jodi Anderson. (07/2013) YA fiction. Ever wondered about Tiger Lily from the Peter Pan stories? Anderson brings a fantastical, gruesome, realistic, spin the the life of the people in Tiger Lily's village, and who Tiger Lily was to Peter Pan. I enjoyed it because it talks about how when we destroy a person, we really destroy people. If you know who the Zuni Berdaches were, then it would make sense, but regardless, your heart will ache in this story. It was beautifully written. No sex, but it hints to a rape.
 
 
2. The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda Riley. (04/2013) Fantasy/Fiction. A beautiful love story about a woman who digs a strange creature out of the mud during a storm in 1950s midwest. This creature slowly becomes woman, then into a man. And they embark on one of the most sweetest love stories I have read in a long time. It is WEIRD, but beautiful. Has mild sex scenes and drug use (during the 70s).
 
1. The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop (Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, Queen of the Darkness). (1998-2000) Dark fantasy/Horror. For me, there will NEVER be a better trilogy of books written in MY lifetime. This was one of the few books that have left me so empty, I cried because I didn't want it to end. To me this is the epitome of what dark fantasy/horror should be. Welcome to a miserable world where the dark has been skewered by those with no power, through blood packs with the Lord of Hell's wife (whom he is divorced from), the "humans" have enslaved those with power, mostly men who have the power of the Jewels, to meager slaves, robbing them of their pride and sanity. They hinge on one hope that the "Queen of the Darkness" will be born and bring order and peace again. It's really a story about a father who has been torn from his sons. As the future queen is born, the Lord of Hell goes through "hell" to bring her to him, especially when he finds out she is being tortured as a child by family who think she's crazy. The young girl, meets her "mate", who is a slave. He gives his life to protect her and enters a shattered realm of madness to save her soul after she is brutally raped and killed. Knowing that his mind is going, he shatters his jewel to call his father (Lord of Hell) and his half-brother (another slave in a distant land) to take her and keep her safe. Recovering, she joins her "blood father" (Lord of Hell) and she grows into a Queen to be feared and adored. She frees her mate from the bowels of insanity and together they rage war, with her new kingdom. Gorgeous book, and I cried like a baby at the end. Bishop wrote one of the best "goodbye" scenes I have ever read. WARNING: This book if not for the faint of heart. There is rape (towards men), child rape, child prostitution, slavery, torture (like you cannot imagine), burning, and "bitch" is used quite often. Book 1 is brutal, B2 is much calmer as the Queen grows up, going to the point of cute and funny, a nice break from the horror of B1. Book 3 is rough, but not as bad as Book 1.

Now go out and READ!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year 2014!

Well, another year has arrived! Welcome aboard to 2014!

Alot has happened since I wrote a blog entry:

I finished my first semester of graduate school and will be starting a new one Thursday.
I am currently stressing myself out over writing my first magazine article. I need to turn it in ASAP.
I did a lot of baking that I neglected to put up here...I will render that.
I received two beautiful thoughtful gifts for the holidays.
We went on our first cruise (it was awesome).
I attended my first professional workshop a month ago and I am still getting over the jitters.

What I am looking forward to in 2014:
Surviving another semester of school.
Hosting my first event for April is for Authors. An emerging authors information workshop. 
My husband ever-so-kindly taking me out for sushi for my birthday/Valentine's Day (they are a day apart).
The South Florida Fair!
My sister coming to visit in a few months.
More baking!
More writing!
And hopefully someone will love my vision enough to ask to read my manuscript.

Merry New Year! Make it AWESOME!