Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Thursday, February 17, 2005
$20K to write YA?
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:35 PM

A friend forwarded this to me, thinking some in my readership might be interested, and I agree with his assessment:

The Boston Public Library is offering a 9-month Fellowship to an aspiring children's or young adult writer as a Writer-in-Residence. A private writing room and a $20,000 stipend are included. Twenty hours per week and occasional progress updates on site are required as is a finished product at the end.

The BPL website has more information on the Children's Writer-in-Residence Program, including a link to the PDF application.

The application deadline is April 1st (make your own jokes), the chosen candidate will be notified June 1st, and the residency period is from September 1st through June 1, 2006.

Spread the word, or apply for it yourself!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Science Fiction Convention Attendance 101
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:19 PM

Someone recently asked me:

I have never been to Boskone or any science fiction convention before. What do you advise for the best way to take advantage of such an opportunity, particularly for a newbie?

I hope she doesn't mind me blogging this, partly for the benefit of other readers, though more because I'm sure other more experienced readers can contribute other, better suggestions:

  • Many conventions have panels in the first evening with advice for first-time congoers. Curiously enough, I don't see one in the preliminary Boskone schedule this year.
  • It's often useful to at least skim through the program early on to make note of any program items you particularly want to attend. You may not get to them all, but it feels worse to have missed something in ignorance. Printed program schedules should be available at registration.
  • However, that's not the final word. Keep an eye peeled throughout the con for newsletters. A typical 3-day con can have up to 7 or 8 issues over the weekend with program changes, scheduling updates, and other timely notices.
  • Places:
    • The newsletter can generally be found at the freebie tables, along with other flyers and promotional items. The tables are worth perusing. While they mostly have announcements for other conventions, movie posters, and advertisements for books and magazines, you can often find some real gems on the freebie table, such as Klingon and Esperanto language assistance or even, occasionally, free books and magazines.
    • Another useful place to familiarize yourself with is the consuite. If you need a little downtime, want to sit and have a nosh, maybe read or schmooze or just hang out... the consuite is the place to go. Just as it sounds, it's a suite for con attendees providing food, beverages (nonalcoholic) and comfy chairs. Nothing you should make a meal out of, but good for a break.
    • If possible, take some time to see the art show. I generally don't go on Friday nights because I tend to find some artists haven't finished their setup, meaning I'll have to come back later anyway to see it all. But don't put off the art show until too late, because the show closes early on Sundays for the art auction. If you see something you wish to buy, art show volunteers can help. Oh, and art shows usually have bag checks of some sort to prevent people from walking off with anything.
    • For your shopping (and browsing) pleasure: Besides the dealer room, some cons (though generally not Boskone) also have a dealers' row: a hotel floor set aside for dealers that can't or won't fit in the dealer room. Since these are regular hotel rooms, they're often open longer hours and can offer changing rooms or other innovative uses of the space. Check the program so you don't miss half the shopping.
    • Not Boskone, but if the con you're attending holds a masquerade, I recommend seeing it -- at least once. People create some really spectactular costumes and presentations. I never miss 'em and always enjoy myself.
  • Times:
    • If you're only going one day (instead of the full weekend), I recommend Saturday, when the most will be going on. Most things start at 10am.
    • There will be timeslots with several conflicting program items you desperately want to attend. Without time travel or multiple bodies, accept that there's no way to see or do everything you want at a con.
    • It is generally acceptable to leave panels in the middle if you do it in a nondisruptive manner (unless it's a workshop, kaffeklatch (see below) or something one signed up for in advance). Because there's always so much going on, if you find a panel dissatisfying, why waste your time? And with the same caveats, few people mind if you slip in a little late.
    • Likewise, there will be timeslots where you find nothing of interest on the schedule. Use those times to visit the art show or dealers room or consuite. Or even leave the convention center and get a real meal.
    • In the evenings, after the scheduled program ends, comes the parties. Much fun to be had, with further opportunities for food, drink (sometimes alcoholic) and socializing. Open parties are generally recorded on a party board near the freebie tables, and usually the last newsletter each evening will also include a party list you can carry along. Wear comfortable shoes: it's often easier to take the stairs than wait for an elevator. [Tip: start with the parties at the highest floor and work your way down!]
  • Since you specifically asked about opportunities to take advantage of at Boskone, I must mention Kaffeklatches: Up to eight congoers have coffee/tea and snacks with one of the program participants. It's a great opportunity to get to know the guests, with more interaction than through the usual panels or autographing lines. [Boskone also holds literary beers, for those who prefer stronger libations, but in those cases I think you have to buy your own.] These require advanced signup at the con, and the list can fill up fast for the more popular authors.

Finally: Healthy multiday convention attendance is brought to you by the numbers 5 and 2: in each 24-hour period, get at least 5 hours of sleep, at least 2 meals, and don't confuse the numbers. Since I started congoing, many people have renamed it the "5-2-1 rule" for your recommended daily allowances of sleep, meals and showers.

I hope this helps; sorry for the lateness of my response. And again, I'm sure other readers have other, better suggestions. Please share them in the comments (or write them up in your own blogs and send me the link) and maybe I'll get enough for a sequel post.

The perfume and suppliance of a minute
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:30 PM

A friend just pointed me towards Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, a perfume manufacturer with lines inspired by Alice in Wonderland and world cities, plus (you knew this was coming, right?) a Shakespeare Collection. I immediately checked the latter and, yes, they offer a "Rosalind" perfume.

When I told Ian this news, he replied:

"Strong enough for a man, yet made for a woman?"

Alas, that's not how they describe it (dew-covered berries and fresh green grasses with a faint breath of spring flowers), but I think I prefer Ian's idea for such a frangrance better.

PS: Just thought I'd clarify that I'm not actually interested in obtaining these or any other perfumes. Ian is quite sensitive to scents, and I'd rather he continue breathing, if at all possible.

Out of the blue (I am curious, y'know?)
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:35 PM

This post has been brought to you by the letters X, NC-17 and C&D:

I know several fellow bloggers among my readership take an interest in intellectual property issues, particularly when laws are misused to shut down legitimate legal speech. So get a load of this case.

In order to avoid the legal hassles that might ensue if innocent children accidentally stumble across pornographic fanfiction, many writers and archive sites label their fics using widely understood ratings. To wit: G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17.

Anyway, this week, one or more fanfic writers have received cease & desist notices from the MPAA for their misuse of the rating codes. [One recipient's comments]

Some are wondering if this isn't a hoax (Fandom wank). Not only has this practice been going on for years without incident, but so far only smallfry individuals have reported receiving notices, rather than major archive sites. Others question the MPAA's legal standing (Heidi on her blog & fandom_lawyers) pointing out that the MPAA's trademark specifically states its use for motion pictures, and besides there's no profit in fanfic to go after. Meanwhile, a few people are having fun suggesting useful (and silly) alternate ratings systems (maeglinyedi & electricandroid).

Regarding the timing, Ian heard rumors that Harlequin books may be considering MPAA ratings for some new lines of romance novels, which may explain the MPAA's sudden interest in prose fiction. But I haven't been able to confirm that.

Still, I've got enough other things on my plate to spend any more time investigating this, but I thought some of you might be interested. If you write or run across further information about this, let me know and send me links so I don't miss it. Thanks!

Friendly browser snark
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:40 PM

I keep hearing people rave about how much better Firefox is than Internet Explorer. Given IE's bloat and vulnerabilities, that's probably true. However, so far, all the features they praise are ones I can do out-of-the-box in Opera. This web page, explaining FireFox from the perspective of an Opera user, maps pretty closely to my experiences.

Furthermore, after using Firefox for a month at work, I encountered enough inconveniences (Opera features I use regularly, inaccessible or unavailable in Firefox) that I got permission to install Opera at work.

For the record, I've been using Opera since version 3.something (my earliest bookmarks date back to August 1998) and like it so much I consider it worth paying for (including several upgrades -- they're currently on 7.54). If you're curious, Opera is available free, as adware.

I thought about appending some Opera advocacy links and reviews, but y'all can find those yourselves if you're interested. After all, there are so many of them...

Morning memorandum
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:30 AM

So, I went to the John Adams talk last night. Fascinating. The speaker has written two books on marginalia -- one already out and one forthcoming -- so much of her lecture was spent putting John Adams' practices in context as compared to his contemporaries.

To make a long lecture short (since I'm trying to get this out before I leave for work) Adams only wrote extensive arguments in about 100 books of his 3000 book library, mostly doing so at the end of his life and exclusively to political and nonfiction works. These weren't arguments with the author dashed off in the heat of first reading, but more likely thoughtful rebuttals intended for dissemination, both by loaning to family and friends and later because he had already made plans to donate his library to a public collection after his death. Puts the practice (and the man) in quite a different light. This was leaving a legacy, not acts of uncontrollable passions.

After the lecture, Ian and I went to the BPL's exhibit hall to see Riot and the Rule of Law: The Boston Massacre, John Adams and the Trial of 1770. It's only open through March 5 and I highly recommend it! Loads of primary source documents about the Boston Massacre and trial, including depositions by witnesses and pages from John Adams' diary during the trial. I'm incredibly glad that I had the opportunity to see these artifacts.

Run for your lives!

I don't know why, but yesterday I briefly imagined an alternate present. What if Tim Burton had gotten movie rights to the Lemony Snicket books? In general, his filmmaking shows the right gothic-humor sensibility, but Burton has certain... stylistic habits which I wonder how they would've expressed themselves:

  • Would he make it an animated film or live-action? [I think the Nightmare before Christmas/Corpse Bride -style might do well rendering Brett Helquist's art.]
  • Johnny Depp as Uncle Olaf? Different, but not impossible.]

What other changes might we have seen? Do you think it would've worked?

Finally, this is so me!

Piled Higher and Deeper, February 15 2005
                    Copyright Jorge Cham

Just between us, I consider it a plus that my husband's birthday is the week after Valentine's Day. I'm not cheap. I'm resourceful.

Anyway, must dash, but I wanted to share these with you.

Out of the mouths of babes
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:55 AM

I meant to blog this earlier. I suspect some of you will appreciate it.

One of my husband's Sunday school students told him:

"When I grow up, I wanna be a reference librarian. No, I wanna be a systems librarian: that's even better!"

Heh. This from a third-grader. Hook 'em when they're young!

And, as long as I'm blogging in this vein, it's a little late but LISNews shares classic librarian pickup lines along with effective shootdowns from McSweeneys.

Monday, February 14, 2005
Seldom Seen Cites: Valentine's Day
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:40 PM

Well, Boopsie went to the cardiologist today, so I think I just got one of the weirder Valentine's Day gifts ever: an ultrasound of my cat's (healthy) heart. [Can anybody beat that?] Of course, Ian also got me a more traditional bouquet of red roses.

Meanwhile, here are a couple scholarly journal articles for those seeking educational yet thematic reading:

"A light-hearted look at a lion-hearted organ (or, a perspective from three standard deviations beyond the norm)" by Doctors Matthew J. Loe and William D. Edwards appeared in two parts in Cardiovascular Pathology:

Authors' abstract: Throughout history, the heart has been associated not only with its life-sustaining function but also with its close ties to the human emotions. In this literature and internet review, we attempt to gather and organize information from both of these perspectives as they relate to the heart in the following 11 categories: (1) fun facts, (2) medical photography, (3) history, (4) languages (etymology), (5) nonmedical English expressions, (6) death, (7) the arts, (8) movie titles, (9) song titles, (10) Shakespeare, and (11) the Bible. These data may be useful to those who are engaged in teaching about the cardiovascular system.

Part 1 (in the September 2004 issue) covers the first five topics, and Part 2 (in November 2004) covers the last six topics.

"How do holidays influence relationship processes and outcomes? Examining the instigating and catalytic effects of Valentine's Day," by psychologists Katherine A. Morse and Steven L. Neuberg, appears in the December 2004 issue of Personal Relationships:

Authors' abstract: Might Valentine's Day, despite its marketing as a holiday to enhance romantic relationships, paradoxically facilitate their demise? Because Valentine's Day provides a useful opportunity for exploring the potential influences of recurring culture-wide events on relationships, we asked college students in romantic relationships about relationship stability, quality, beliefs, and processes, both 1 week prior to and 1 week after Valentine's Day. As predicted, those participating during the time period straddling Valentine's Day were more likely to break up than were those participating in comparison time periods. This increase in relationship dissolution appeared attributable to the catalyzing effect that Valentine's Day had on moderately strong and weak relationships already on a downward trajectory: These relationships were particularly likely to dissolve during the Valentine's Day period. We view this research as a useful illustration of how to conceptualize and empirically investigate the effects of holidays and other cultural events on relationship dynamics and outcomes.

Finally, I found two articles from the Journal of Consumer Behaviour:

"The role of social power relations in gift giving on Valentine's Day" by Rugimbana, Donahay, Neal and Polonsky (all male names!) was published September 2003:

Authors' abstract: This study investigates motives for gift giving by young males on Valentine's Day and advances previous research on this ritual by controlling for the giving context (occasion and relationship). The study is consistent with previous work by Goodwin et al. (1990) which found that motivations based on obligation, self-interest and altruism do indeed exist. More significantly, however, this study points to the finding that individual motivations for the gift-giving ritual on Valentine's Day may be more intricately intertwined and have deeper manifestations in the perceived social power relationship between the genders. The study recommends that marketers delve beyond the immediate horizon of individual motivations and become even more acutely aware of the 'intrinsic social power messages' that arise from the conjoint influences of motivations. This would have great potential for marketing even more meaningful gift products to both givers and receivers.

Back in November 2001, Dimitri Mortelmans and Sofie Damen hit upon one of my pet peeves: "Attitudes on commercialisation and anti-commercial reactions on gift-giving occasions in Belgium."

Authors' abstract: Gift-giving occasions, like Christmas, Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, are being ritually celebrated in the same period every year. But a transition is going on. Every year gift-giving occasions start earlier. Well in advance, shops are decorated with Christmas items, Valentine hearts, Easter eggs, etc. This paper examines how people experience this increasing commercial pressure. For example, what do they think of the attention the media and the shops give to ritual gift-giving occasions? Do people react differently if they have a more critical attitude to the commercialisation of gift-giving occasions? These and other research questions are examined in a research project on gift-giving, which started at the University of Antwerp in 1999.

Happy reading!

John Adams Marginalia
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:50 PM

Since my original notice was buried in the midst of a lot of ALA Midwinter flotsam, I just want to remind Boston area readers about an event tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 6pm:

"Adams in Opposition: In the Margins of His Books" -- Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Rabb Lecture Hall. (617-859-2386).  Speaker: Heather Jackson.  Though it is no longer common for readers to leave personal notes in the margins of books, we are singularly blessed that John Adams did just that.  Heather Jackson will address the idiosyncratic and often argumentative and oppositional nature of Adams' marginal notes in the context of common eighteenth-century practices. Book historian Heather Jackson is a Professor of English at the University of Toronto, the editor or coeditor of several volumes of Coleridge's works, including four volumes of marginalia, and the author of Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books and forthcoming Romantic Readers.
Part of the Lowell Lecture Series

The MBTA Trip Planner estimates I can get to the BPL about 5 minutes after six. Anybody know how punctually these talks usually start?

You don't say
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:23 AM

An IM on my screen when I awoke this morning:

BuddyName (2:24:59 AM): You're up late....
BuddyName (2:32:03 AM): Assuming it wasn't Boopsie just hitting the keyboard to make this active, got a sec? Would like feedback on something.

At that time, Ian and I had been in bed for about four hours, and our alarms didn't go off for another four hours.

However, Boopsie has been without food since 10pm, in preparation for a vet appointment she has at 8. And now I'm suspicious.

Has Boopsie been using our computers while we've been away? Did anyone else notice any strange computer activity from me during the wee hours of the morning? Any poorly spelled messages complaining of hunger?

I've read Beth Hilgartner's Cats in Cyberspace though I'd never expected such actions from any cat I've lived with. Boopsie, if you want to go online, all you have to do is ask, you know?



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