It’s not very often that a new genre comes down the pike for arts and literature. You may have heard the term “steampunk” bandied about but didn’t investigate. It’s kind of like Goth only without the sad faces, black (the only color fit to adorn a tormented soul) and boo-hoo defeatist music.
Also in a Victorian setting, what sets steampunk off is an emphasis on advanced modern technologies utilizing non-transistor and vacuum tube methods. Think Phinneas Fogg cross-pollinated with Q from James Bond. Like a more elegant cast of the short lived television series Wild Wild West sans stagecoaches.
Steampunk has proven quite popular melding with Internet culture as evidenced by this sweet modded computer at left.
Here are what Library Journal considers the top ten steampunk novels.
We’ve been playing a lot of Canadian Spotting in our office as we gear up for the Winter Olympics, so I was gleeful when I came across a list of Canadian Authors which included Cory Doctorow–co-editor of the popular blog BoingBoing and author of several books including the YA bestseller Little Brother.
I will say up front that Little Brother has made me an extremely paranoid little lady. If you ever needed a book to slap you into paying attention to privacy and online security issues, this is it. Little Brother begins when a very technologically savvy high-schooler (aka Hacker) named Marcus skips school with his friends to play their favorite ARG (Alternate Reality Game) when they are interrupted by a bomb blowing up the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Marcus and his friends are picked up by the Department of Homeland Security within minutes of the attack and spend the next several days being interrogated and tortured. Upon his release, Marcus discovers that they are still imprisoning his best friend and have completely stripped San Francisco of personal privacy. So he begins to use those hacking skills the DHS was afraid of in order to create an underground movement to bring down the DHS–actions that soon lead his peers to proclaim him a hero and the American media to declare him a terrorist-supporter.
Check out Cory Doctorow’s website for Little Brother where you can download a free copy of the book and other readers’ remixes (Remixing ain’t just for music anymore, baby!). You’ll also want to mark your calendars for the ICON 35 conference held in Cedar Rapids on Nov. 5-7, 2010 where Doctorow will be the guest of honor!
“Could someone just tell me what I need to know without trying to convince me that I need the latest gadget, assuming I have all the time in the world to trudge through geek speak, and wasting my time with a lengthy explanation of how it all works?” Christina Tynan-Wood, a female geek, could hear these subliminal pleas for help whenever a friend asked her a question about technology–a question they usually chased with a “I’m sorry to be so clueless (page xviii).” GIRLS! YOU ARE NOT CLUELESS! You had the brains to ask the question, right? Well now Christina has made it easy to find the answer–Ta da! How to be a Geek Goddess: Practical Advice for Using Computers with Smarts and Style.
Finally everything a girl needs to know to feel technologically confident in ONE BOOK! Christina explains what you should know before buying a computer, how to set up wireless, how to organize your desktop, what security software you might need, how to shop online, and so much more! Her writing is fun, conversational, and full of illustrations and screenshots. Only downfall is that the book is very PC-heavy (which she admits up front), so some of the very useful topics, such as installing software, will not apply to Macs. Despite that, How to be a Geek Goddess is must-read for all women who want (or need) to be in control of their technological life. You may also want to check out Christina’s website at www.geekgirlfriends.com.
Okay, lets get our geek on!
I always feel a little like Marty McFly when I listen to old-time radio shows on my iPod or computer. Here are several websites that give free downloads and/or streaming of a variety of programs:
Wizzard Radio hosts about 85 different podcasts relating to old Radio Broadcasts including:
Radio Lovers allows listeners to revisit the listening experience of hundreds of vintage radio programs such as western hero Hopalong Cassidy and comedy classic Amos & Andy.
My favorites are the Agatha Christie Radio Mysteries. Unfortunately, the site no longer produces new feeds, but you can still download old episodes from the website.
Since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final installment in the seven-part Harry Potter series, was released two years ago this summer, I have been receiving the same question over and over again by those who know I am a Potterhead: “Sooo what will you do now that Harry Potter is over?” And my answer usually is: “Well, the same things that Star Trek fans do.” For a more descriptive answer, I recommend they read Harry, A History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli.
In Harry, A History, Anelli shares her experiences of how the Harry Potter fandom was born from her “front row seat” as Webmistress of the beloved Harry Potter news site The Leaky Cauldron. Over the years, Anelli’s work as a top fan journalist has resulted in her development of friendships with the key Harry Potter insiders including publishers, editors, musicians, actors, and even the grand authoress herself, J.K. Rowling, who gave Anelli an exclusive interview for the book. Anelli gives new insight into how Harry Potter was created and published, but most of the book focuses on how Harry Potter fans developed their community online, and thus, has played a significant role in the evolution of global commerce and intellectual property rights on the web.
As a die-hard fan, I was already familiar with “potterwar,” the fan-organized boycott against Warner Brothers in response to their attack on Harry Potter fansites, but I was fascinated by the section on how the organized worldwide releases of the later Harry Potter books were due to Americans buying Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second book in the series, from amazon.uk (which displeased both amazon and the U.S. publishers) before it’s release in the United States. Anelli does a wonderful job speaking to a variety of audiences and Harry, A History will appeal to both long-time and new Harry Potter fans alike, in addition to those interested in contemporary culture and the digital generation.
If you are interested in the history of Harry Potter and the Harry Potter fandom, you may also want to check out We are Wizards–a documentary focusing on several fans including Anelli. The film is currently viewable for free on hulu.com. Beware, this film does contain adult content.
Defiance – Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber
The extraordinary true story of the Bielski brothers who turn a band of war defectors into commanding freedom fighters and motivate hundreds of private citizens to join their fight against the Nazi regime. Midwest Tapes
Revolutionary Road – Leonardo Dicaprio, Kate Winslett
Frank and April Wheeler are a young couple living in suburban Connecticut in 1955. On the outside their lives appear to be perfect, but they really aren’t happy. They decide to break away from the ordinary and move to Paris, but can they do it without breaking their marriage apart? Midwest Tapes
Gran Torino – Clint Eastwood
A Korean War vet stops a young Hmong teen from stealing his prized car, and reluctantly proceeds to reform the boy, learning about himself along the way. Midwest Tapes
Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail – Reuben Cannon, Tyler Perry
After a high-speed freeway chase puts Madea in front of the judge, her reprieve is short-lived as anger management issues get the best of her and land her in jail. But Madea’s eccentric family members, the Browns, rally behind her, lending their special ‘country’ brand of support. Midwest Tapes
Confessions of a Shopaholic – Isla Fisher, Hugh Dancy
Rebecca Bloomwood is a charming New York City girl who has a little problem that is quickly turning into a big problem: she’s hopelessly addicted to shopping and drowning in a sea of debt. While Rebecca has dreams of working for a top fashion magazine, she can’t quite get her foot in the door – that is, until she lands a job as an advice columnist for a financial magazine published by the same company. Midwest Tapes
While the Frugal Librarian, or as we affectionately call him, “Froogs”, is psyched about the release of Window’s Vista’s successor, Windows 7, later this year, there is a very good and super-affordable alternative called Ubuntu to tide you over. You may have heard words like “open-source” and “Linux” get tossed about by your bespectacled acquaintances. The benevolent nerds of the world in the spirit of competition put together very sophisticated quality pieces of software that benefit you for absolutely no cost. Sometimes they rival packages that cost hundreds. Though the 2010 census may prove me wrong, there are more Homo Sapien Nerdicuses in the world than there are Microsoft employees. Ubuntu is such an innovation.
Ubuntu is an operating system that you can install on your computer instead of a release of Windows. ESPECIALLY Windows Vista. You’ll find it outperforms its competitors, is user friendly, and most hacker attacks are pretty much jokes, since they’re designed to affect everyone except you. There are dozens of such Linux operating systems, but Ubuntu is considered the easiest to adopt.
If you’ve got a computer lying around, install it on there just for kicks. If you use the internet, check email, and print like the vast majority of people, you are going to be fine, save a hundred bucks, and not wrestle with license keys.
We’ve got several books at the library on how to navigate this transition. They’re circulating more than they used to. If you can’t download the install disc, some of these books at the library have an install CD in the back flap. Ideally you’ll want to download this week’s latest release of Version 9.04 “Jaunty Jackalope” to compare notes at the water cooler with your newfound friends. If you do, don’t be surprised if you’re invited to join their Warcraft guild.
Let’s get stingy with it… The frugal librarian is also too lazy to leave the house to find value.
Become a regular checker of, or subscribe to the RSS feed of slickdeals and dealhack. These sites have user-submitted deals that are RED hot on hundreds of merchants. We’re not talking “save 10%” kinds of stuff. Ridiculously low blowouts that require action within a few days. So if there’s a knickknack for which you’ve been on the fence for a couple months or something you’re kind of interested in, keep it the back of your mind and wait for it to come across these sites
And for the one-two cheapskate combo punch, check retailmenot and currentcodes for the secret codes you enter while buying to get additional discounts. Well, they were secrets before astute shoppers or those that subscribe to those merchants insider deals newsletters leaked them to all us common folk altruistically.
Too phobic to shop online? Completely understand. Most of the insurance companies out there are offering packages for online identity protection and peace of mind. $2-$3 a month for $30,000 in coverage is pretty reasonable. Shoot, you’ll probably save twice that in gas and time getting dressed.
A lot of people buy new computers at the moment of need. See, that’s what “the man” wants you to do…purchase from an uninformed and vulnerable position. You’ll deal with their markup because you’re brokedown.
It’s not enough to visit more than one brick and mortar store or check out two major chains’ weekly specials. Look into refurbs and save a ridiculous amount of money.
Refurbs are returned goods that have supposedly been restored to good-as-new condition. According to technology consulting firm Accenture, more than 2/3rds of electronics returned to retailers meet manufacturer’s specifications, but simply not the consumer’s expectations. Just because someone else gave up after turning the item on or didn’t like a scuff mark on front, why be picky in the face of huge savings?
Refurbs come in all varieties of electronics, even the highly-touted IPod, and even have refund and return guarantees. Stick with a well-known company, however.
Target – pre-owned electronics
Geeks.com – computers (I got a great computer this fall for $229, shipping included)
Dell Factory outlet
Sony retail outlet
Amazon Warehouse Deals
November 16-22 is National Games and Puzzles Week.
Have you ever wanted to learn how to play chess?
Try The Art of Chess by Colleen Schafroth.
Have you ever needed help with a crossword clue?
Try the Merriam Webster’s Crossword Puzzle Dictionary.
Have you ever wanted to play a fast-paced video or computer game?
Try Kung Fu Panda or I SpyTreasure Hunt.
Have you ever wanted to see if you are Mensa material, i.e., the top 2% of the population in I.Q.?
Try The Mensa Genius ABC Quiz Book by Alan Stillson.
Have you ever wanted to put a jigsaw puzzle together but didn’t want to go out and buy one?
Try our collection at the Main Library. You can check out these 500-2000 piece puzzles just like a book! Where are they? You can find them the northeast corner of the first floor, behind the Reference section.