Monthly Archives: April 2015

Well Read? Seven Years Later

My reading list So at five years later, I happened to run across a photo and blogged about the progress I had made by that point (47). I decided to go through the photo and mark all the books onto a Goodreads shelf “z-photo-reading-shelf” to better track this.

Of the 77 books, it looks like 62 are marked read. Here are the ones both in the photo and still need to be read. (I really like Goodreads’ multiple shelves function.)

None of these are by female authors, so I’ll have to pass up cranking through the remainders for another time. Maybe.

P.S. I count ten read since March 2013, so I probably had actually read about 57 and just did not count very well.

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From Well Read? Seven Years Later published April 19, 2015 at 11:32PM.

Review: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

PKD writes about my favorite topic which is how we perceive reality. What is real? Can we actually tell? I may need to read more of his books.

Sensation and Perception was my favorite class doing my Psychology major. Well, some days I say it was Tests and Measurements. (Probably the ones where I do something involving tests.) Let’s call it a tie. S&P covers the mechanics and functionality of the senses, how the brain works with them, and best of all: how to exploit the failings of them.

The concept of an alternate reality where perhaps the Axis Powers won World War II found me intrigued. While what if realities are done quite a bit in science fiction, I enjoyed PKD’s take. I especially liked the hinting at our reality in The Grasshopper Lies Heavy and slow unveiling of what it says.

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From Review: The Man in the High Castle published April 17, 2015 at 11:17AM.

Review: Joss Whedon: The Biography

Joss Whedon: The Biography
Joss Whedon: The Biography by Amy Pascale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This biography is essentially a greatly expanded Joss Whedon filmography. Pascale carefully tells the behind the scenes stories about his career.

I arrived late to the Whedonverse. Yes, the fandom has a name. Essentially, I saw Serenity in the movie theater, borrowed Firefly from my roommate, and was hooked from there. Well, maybe not enough to see Cabin In The Woods. I am not that rabid.

Pascale puts into words why I enjoy Joss’ work. Strong female characters. Depth. Ensemble casts. Early movies I had no idea he was involved now make sense why I liked them.

I may have to start checking out the current work of writers who used to work with him to see if I enjoy that as well.

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From Review: Joss Whedon: The Biography published April 11, 2015 at 06:12PM.


You can keep your Confederate flags, BUT you have to stop asking for people to give up their heritage. You have to stop asking people to only speak English. You have to stop asking for everyone to look and act American. Because, after all, if heritage is that important to you, then you understand how hard it is to give up them.

The 150th anniversary of General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox was this past week, so Confederate Heritage stuff has been a little louder than usual. I live deep within the borders of Secessionist country. Four people tired of the United States government were arrested before they could start their terror campaign less than a fifty miles from were I live. Confederate flag bumper stickers are a daily sight. Get a random white dude drunk and how the South Will Rise Again likely will come up in conversation.

While reading A Raisin In The Sun, there is a part where George accuses Beneatha of her impending desire to talk about how great West African culture is and end with the word heritage. I finally made an obvious connection. Kwanzaa is African heritage. The Confederate flag is White Southern heritage. Spanish is Latin heritage. These are all things people desire to keep in their lives because of the pride in remembering from whence they came.

There is a horrible hypocrisy is whining about not being able to celebrate one’s own heritage while demanding others with different heritage give up their own. Then again, we have less than a month until Cinco De Mayo, which most people here drinking half price margaritas think is Mexico’s Independence Day. (Which is September 16th. November 20th is the start of their revolution.)

It should be obvious that if heritage supersedes all the negative associations others have with something, then things we hold offensive should be allowed by those who hold them dear. If not, then for the good of everyone we should give up our offensive heritage just like we ask others to do. Maybe we can lead by example?

Now that I’ve put this down in writing, I think maybe I did float this argument once or twice in my early twenties. It did not take off then. I certainly do not expect it to do so now.

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From Heritage published April 11, 2015 at 03:48PM.

AMLS Rec Engine

Now anyone can tap into the Amazon Machine Learning Service (AMLS)?

I’d love to see Ellucian’s Banner product make smart recommendations based on AMLS. Students register for university classes through Banner. I could see Banner leveraging AMLS to figure out that students who like certain classes might be interested in other classes. There already is a market trying to improve retention by detecting students who have trouble on certain classes or tests or questions get flagged for extra attention. I could see AMLS helping the other spectrum. Students who take a certain class might be interested in certain cooperative education opportunities, clubs, or campus events. Or vice versa, such as students who join the environmental protection club might be interested in an elective class about the impact of biological pest controls vs pesticides.

Or maybe AMLS going beyond class recommendations is more appropriate for Ellucian’s Luminis portal product.

Higher education is full of opportunities for connect students to things about which they are oblivious. Flyers on various walls easily miss students. Enormous daily emails go straight to junk mailboxes. Students (and staff and faculty) deserve smarter ways to connect to the things that will make their experience better. Done right, I could see AMLS filling that need.

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From AMLS Rec Engine published April 10, 2015 at 12:34PM.

Facebook Ads


I hide ads all the time as an attempt to improve my experience. (I also have gone through the Ad Preferences page to ensure I get what I want.) When I hide them, Facebook Ads offers a link titled “Why don’t you want to see this?” with various options clearly missing an obvious one. They have:

  • It’s not relevant to me
  • I keep seeing this
  • It’s offensive or inappropriate
  • It’s spam
  • Something else

The missing option is:

  • I already have it.

For example, I keep seeing an ads for a software package I already have. Over and over and over. I could mark “I keep seeing this.” But, really after the third or fourth time six months ago, I did try it, so persistence is probably warranted. Really, 50 times seeing it later, it seems pointless getting an ad for something I’ve had for months.

Photo from goiabarea on Flickr.


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From Facebook Ads published April 09, 2015 at 06:02PM.

Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books Who Stayed With Me (Riffle)

I posted “My Top 10 Life Changing Books” back in September. Such a list is terribly hard for me, so here is another one focused on a dear to me genre.

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From Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books Who Stayed With Me (Riffle) published April 09, 2015 at 07:04AM.


Salman Rushdie took a bunch of flak for giving beloved books at poor rating.

Well, I don’t like the work of Kingsley Amis, there it is. I don’t have to explain or justify. It’s allowed.

He was operating on Goodreads, but Rushdie has not claim his author’s page yet. And, he says he was unaware the ratings were public.

Is the reasoning behind people getting upset that if they like Midnight’s Children and To Kill a Mockingbird, then Rushdie must also like TKaM? I’d assume the odds are terrible that any of my favorite authors, like the same books as me. Or even close friends.

Mainly because if my rating for a book differs from yours? GREAT. That’s how it should be.

Odds are that I probably disagree with you about something. What I want from you as a friend or acquaintance is an understanding of who you are. And that means determining where your likes or dislikes diverge from mine.

There is one friend who talks about all the movies he watches Saturday night. Those he loves, I cross off my list because I probably will hate it. Those he dislikes, I add to my to-watch list because I probably will like it. I’ve even bought movies just on his complete despise of them. Having opposite tastes and still being friends seems utterly normal to me. But then, I’ve talked books all my life with friends and never found anyone whose tastes exactly mirror my own. Sure there is usually some commonality, enough for us to enjoy some of the same things, but usually there are some gaps.

The more the merrier.


For the nerds:

Goodreads does not include a Rushdie book in any of their books like TKaM.

Breaking down the Goodreads ratings of TKaM compared to my friends of the same…

5 stars: 50% general users, 51% my friends

4 stars: 30%gu, 35% mf

3 stars: 14% gu, 12% mf

2 stars: 3% gu, 2% mf

1 stars: 1% gu, 0% mf

That some 45 people I know rated this book is pretty impressive.

My Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone friends number 49.

5 stars: 59% general users, 50% my friends

4 stars: 25% gu, 32% mf

3 stars: 10% gu, 11% mf

2 stars: 2% gu, 7% mf

1 stars: 1% gu, 0% mf

I find it interesting the pattern looks roughly the same. Half gave it 5 stars, a third 4 stars, an eighth 3 stars, and the rest 2 stars or below. A Game of Thrones and Pride and Prejudice fit the same pattern. Basically, really popular books get really high ratings. Do highly rated books get high ratings because they are good or because lots of people like them?

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From Ratings published April 07, 2015 at 06:32PM.