Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Find: HannaRivka

The other night I was possessed with the idea of finding an old book from my childhood. I guess it was triggered by the "Vinni-Pukh" cartoons JV had stumbled across.

In my library as a kid, I'd had a handful of vintage Soviet publications (in English) that I can only assume were gifts from my Baba and Dede—they were a bit too new to be among the hand-me-down books I had from my dad (a college student wouldn't have much need for children's books). Only one remains, now, and in excellent condition: The Little Clay Hut.

The Little Clay Hut: Russian Folk Tales About Animals. Illustrated by Evgeny Rachev.

I'm glad I still have this one, at least, because the illustrations by Evgeny Rachev are great:

Evgeny Rachev illustration from The Little Clay Hut.
This is the only HQ scan I could find, unfortunately.

I had at least two others. The one I remembered the most distinctly has now been lost to time and room-cleanings—it was a half-inch thick paperback, with a picture of a girl with a lamb on the green cover, titled something like Mary Had a Little Lamb. I've always wondered what happened to it since I think it was a bilingual book and would have been helpful while I studied Russian. Now I just want to find a copy of it for nostalgia reasons.

I didn't find that one last night, but I did find the other book I'd owned that I'd totally forgotten about: Teryosha.

Teryosha, retold by Alexei Tolstoy.
And I found it in a treasure trove of Russian and Soviet children's books: Finland-based HannaRivka, owned by Svetlana Skryabina. I scoured her entire selection of Russian children's books, but my mystery green book wasn't there. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised to find Teryosha! I ordered it straight away.

The others seem to be in Russian, so they're only of interest to book collectors or language enthusiasts. I studied Russian for three semesters in college but almost nothing remains; I hope to take a few courses at Komvux once I finish my Swedish classes. Maybe then I can order and enjoy some of these other gorgeous books at HannaRivka!

Nine Golden Sons vintage Russian children's book from HannaRivka on Etsy.
Nine Golden Sons vintage Russian book from HannaRivka  on Etsy

Selected Poems for Children vintage Russian book from HannaRivka on Etsy

Selected Poems for Children vintage Russian book from HannaRivka on Etsy
Selected Poems for Children vintage Russian book from HannaRivka on Etsy

Selected Poems for Children vintage Russian book from HannaRivka on Etsy

Selected Poems for Children vintage Russian book from HannaRivka on Etsy
The Frog Princess vintage Russian book from HannaRivka on Etsy

Are there any beloved items from your childhood you just can't find anymore? Or have you ever found a replacement for something you thought was irreplaceable? 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Trek Thursday: The Worst-Ever TOS Episode

For a few months, I wrote for a British pop culture site styled on the model of The gig ended, but not before I wrote a massive, 20,000 word article ranking every Star Trek: TOS episode from worst to best. Unfortunately, the article sat in Internet development hell for two or three months before they closed my account ("We're focusing on moving forward with a smaller, dedicated staff of writers.") and so it will never see the light of day.

Until now.

Because I worked a lot on that article, dammit. My relationship may or may not have suffered for the month I spent hunched over the keyboard, finding something to say about even the most blasé and uninspired of episodes (in between the real, paid work I also had to do). I'd hate for it to all be for nothing.

I had the foresight to save the bulk of the writing on my own computer, so even though I may be locked out of my account, I still have access to my material. True, it's not going to be published in a monetized form (while the article was waiting in development hell, I signed up for a program on the site that would pay me a pittance per 1,000 page views), but that's better than not being published at all.

Plus, now I don't have to cram 78 episodes together into one post and I can take all the time and write all the commentary I damn well please.

Without further ado, let's begin Trek Thursday with the worst episode of them all.

#78. The Omega Glory

In case you forgot: The Enterprise finds a planet with "Yangs" and "Kohms," primitive people who are what's left after a planet-wide nuclear war. Surprise! It's a Cold War analogy!

TOS is infamous for plot contrivances. Most aliens are humanoid, everyone in the galaxy speaks English, etc. Ridiculous on the face of it, but coincidences I'm willing to overlook for the sake of a good story.

What makes "The Omega Glory" so awful, though, is that (1) it relies on what is maybe one of the worst plot contrivances of all time (2) as the third act twist. That image up there? That's basically a huge spoiler. It's one thing to beam down to the planet and ascertain within about five minutes or so that this is a parallel universe Cold War where America lost—okay, it's weak, but if you can make some lemonade out of that lemon I'll drink it. It's another to hold on to that and save it as some kind of genius reveal. It was a long, hard think to decide on the worst episode of TOS, but in the end it was the reliance on that reveal that put "The Omega Glory" on the bottom of the list.

People like to hate on Season 3 of TOS ("Spock's Brain" and "Way to Eden" are basically nothing more than punchlines in the fandom), but let's not kid ourselves into believing the first two seasons were anything less than consistent brilliance.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2048 Accomplishment

I missed the 2048 bug until my friend Diana linked me to a Hangul version over the weekend. I hate to admit it but I compulsively played every spare minute I had until this moment today:


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reading Styles Differ Between Digital and Traditional, Study Says

Is the digital world teaching us bad reading habits?

In a nutshell, when you read online, you do a lot of skimming for content, looking for keywords or core ideas, and passing over details (unless you're really interested). That's a style that doesn't work with some of the greats in literature: they often use complex syntax with all kinds of subclauses and periodically go on tangents.

I find it interesting that the woman interviewed for the article, Claire Handscombe, confessed to having such problems focusing on reading. (Also, trouble focusing on The Glass Bead Game? In my experience Herman Hesse is a lot more accessible than other literary giants. Girl, you may want to reconsider that MFA in creative writing if this is the case.) In my experience, it's been easy for me to shift from "Internet reading" to "book reading"; this may be due to the fact that I rarely skim, even online. Sure I skip over some articles in my RSS feed (who doesn't?), but I typically decide by the first paragraph if I'm going to skip the whole thing or not, then give everything else my full attention. Until I hit the next article I don't feel like reading, anyway.

It's no surprise to me, though, that comprehension is demonstrably better when you're reading a dead tree version than when you're reading an ebook version. I don't think that tactile sensation of holding a book, touching a page, or even the smell of the ink is just book fetishizing; I think it helps us immerse ourselves in the reading experience and therefore read better.

Do you think the Internet and social media has changed the way you read?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Autism Acceptance Month PSA

Autism is something near and dear to my heart. Not surprising, considering that JV is a high-functioning autistic. So when April rolls around I cringe inside because the conversation is inevitably coopted by anti-scientific, practically anti-autistic groups.

Autism $peaks is probably the biggest autism-related charity in the US, and is definitely the biggest force behind those puzzle-piece ~awareness ribbons~ you see on cars and websites as well as the "Light It Up Blue" campaign for Autism Awareness Day. If you feel moved to donate to them during this month of awareness, though, your money is better spent elsewhere.

1. They fund and encourage bad science instead of support and services for autistics and their families.

A$ is, among other things:
...dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism...
Except that the most likely cause of autism is genetic, so there isn't any possible prevention or cure for it. That 44% of the pie? It's money invested in science that will go nowhere. The only portion of their budget that even has the potential to perform any good is that 4% of "Family Services."

 Not to mention that people who drink the A$ Kool-Aid are more likely to buy into the "vaccines cause autism!!111!" anti-science as well, which is absolutely and totally false. A few of their board of directors even hold to this nonsense.

2. They have a limited understanding of what autism actually is.

Autism happens along a spectrum with varying levels of functionality. It runs the gamut from people who are high-functioning and who can "pass" as neurotypical (NT) to Rain Man-style savants to, yes, the low-functioning/nonverbal cases that A$ loves to showcase in defense of their claims that "autism is stealing our children."

Except that is only a small, limited part of the spectrum. Implying otherwise is disingenuous. Scare tactics like the ones in their "I Am Autism" video don't help anyone; they only encourage negative stereotypes and baseless fears. Never mind that those low-functioning/nonverbal cases are people, too. Not monsters, not burdens....people.

3. They are more interested in "helping" NT parents than actual autistics.

For a charity that purports to help autistics, they are markedly disinterested in input or suggestions from autistic people themselves. They don't have any autistic members of the board of directors. One of the few autistics they did consult with (John Elder Robison) resigned his role at A$ in November of last year because he'd had enough. As he put it in his resignation announcement:
Autism Speaks is the only major medical or mental health nonprofit whose legitimacy is constantly challenged by a large percentage of the people affected by the condition they target.

Of course, A$ isn't the only autism charity getting money this month. The National Autism Association, a strident anti-vaccination group, will be getting 10% of Chili's proceeds this month. Vaccinations do not cause autism. Any group working towards discouraging vaccinations, no matter what other good they might or might not be doing, is doing more net harm than good. Autism on its own has never killed a single person. Mumps, measles, smallpox, and whooping cough have.

What's a good alternative, then?

If the spirit has moved you to donate to an autism-related charity, I cannot recommend the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network highly enough. They are run for autistics, by autistics: "Nothing about us without us." Their current projects include investigating healthcare discrimination, promoting campus inclusion, assisting autistics in crafting resumes and searching for jobs, and more.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Just Listed: Full Adder Circuit Bracelet

I was cleaning out the bowels of my "jewelry pictures" directory when I realized: I had these gorgeous, touched-up photos of a bracelet done and I had never actually listed the damn thing. Oops!

Green Full Adder Circuit Computer Science Jewelry by Kokoba
Green Full Adder Circuit Bracelet

This is the bracelet based on Project Rae, which I finished up maybe two years ago? (My God, where does the time go?) As you may recall, Project Rae was the beaded representation of a full adder circuit, which in case you forgot, looks like this:

Here is a detailed breakdown of how the bracelet works. In the bracelet above, I opted to make all of the input values true—that is, equal to 1. This results in S and Cout being true as well. Like Project Rae and the original prototype, I opted to represent the output of each gate as well. The black plastic beads represent values of 1 and the faux pearls represent values of 0. As for the gates, the large green tubular bead is the OR gate, the larger (8mm) ocean jasper beads are the AND gates, and the smaller (6mm) fancy jasper beads are the XOR gates.

I like how the Full Adder Circuit Bracelet looks, with the draping chains and the multiple strands. It just takes a LOT of attention to detail to finish: the are the loops to wrap for each bead, then there's keeping track of which chain is attached to which bead and so on. All of that while making sure the design stays around the standard 7-inch length of a woman's bracelet. It goes without saying that the Full Adder Circuit Bracelet is one of the most difficult things I make on a semi-regular basis, so I price it accordingly.

Next up is a gold-toned necklace version, with aventurine and mookaite.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What I'm Reading: Women Philosophers From The Middle Ages To The Enlightenment

Or, rather, Kvinnliga filosofer från medeltid till upplysning, but for the sake of my English-speaking audience I thought I'd give the translated title.

I borrowed this paperback from JV's mother for Swedish practice and also because the subject interests me. Let me tell you how many women you learn about in a survey of Ancient or Modern thought: none. Even the Contemporary class I took—taught by a self-identified feminist professor—was heavy on the dudes. No Mary Midgley or Simone de Beauvoir for us, though we did read Catherine Elgin's Considered Judgment.

Anyway, there doesn't seem to be a translation of this book in English and my Swedish isn't advanced enough yet to comment on the style of Malmström-Ehrling's writing, so in lieu of a proper review, I'm leaving a list of all of the thinkers Malmström-Ehrling has collected into this survey of women's Modern philosophy:

  • Hildegard of Bingen
  • Christine de Pizan
  • Marie de Gournay
  • Anne Conway
  • Catharine Trotter Cockburn
  • Catharine Macaulay Graham
  • Mary Wollstonecraft
The book has a general introduction by Malmström-Ehrling, then gets to the meat of things. Each woman has her own chapter, with a short biography, a general overview of her philosophy, and then selections from her most important works. I'm embarrassed to say that, aside from Mary Wollstonecraft, I had never heard of any of these women. Hopefully I'll get a lot more out of this besides Swedish practice!