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Book Reading Challenges

2016 January 17
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by pam artiaga

These are a couple of book reading challenges I set myself because… well, because.

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Japan

2015 November 22
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by pam artiaga

I ended my Japan trip fully intending to post a blog about it, but I’ve been struggling with what to write. It took me 3 weeks just to get started on this, and 2 more weeks to finish it. I just have a lot to say about my trip, and I want to include them all in this post, though I’m sure I’ve missed some things.

Consider that a warning on the length of this post.

Here goes…

General Observations/Thoughts on Japan

Before going to Japan, I had two assumptions about the country.

  1. that its facilities are very advanced and its services very efficient
  2. that the people are snobs or maybe detached/robot-like

My first assumption is of course correct, there isn’t a single doubt about that. As for my second assumption, let’s just say that after a day in Tokyo it was soundly disproved. I’m not sure how I came to that assumption. I guess I thought that advanced/efficient society = robotic society (*cough* Singapore *cough*), but I could not be more wrong about that. Japan has so much character, and it’s such a pleasant thing to see in a very advanced and disciplined country.

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Understanding is the first step to acceptance…

2015 May 25
by pam artiaga

…and only with acceptance can there be recovery.

I’ve always loved this statement by Dumbledore in Goblet of Fire, but until now, I’ve only ever considered it in the context of Harry’s experience during the events preceding Dumbledore’s uttering of that very ‘quotable quote’.

Now, Ireland has voted to legalize gay marriage. It happened a few days ago, but I’m still seeing it on my news feed. Every time I do, I think to myself “what do you know, when you actually give the public the control, they vote in favor of compassion and acceptance”. Then I think of the Philippines and some Middle Eastern countries and have to amend it to, “when the public is educated then given the control, they vote in favor of acceptance”. That reminded me of Dumbledore’s statement, especially the first part:

Understanding is the first step to acceptance

I have always thought this, though I’ve never associated it to the quote, but it applies to every marginalized culture or group of people in the world. LGBTQ+, minority religions, minority cultures in a particular country, women in general… If the public is educated and made to understand, they wouldn’t go about denying the rights and lives of others. (Those who have the luxury to do so should f*ckin educate themselves. That is at least a step, however small.)

Or maybe I’m just being naive.

Huh.

/epiphany?

Ursula Le Guin on Gender and The Left Hand of Darkness

2015 May 3
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by pam artiaga

I read The Left Hand of Darkness a few months ago and in my review, I said that while a lot of critics praise this novel for how it deconstructs gender roles, that was not what really interested me about it. I did not find her points on sexuality and gender striking or revolutionary because:

  • The pronouns used for the supposedly androgynous Gethenians is ‘he’. ‘They’ would have been more appropriate
  • Heterosexuality was the only gender portrayed

Now, I am reading Le Guin’s 1987 rehashing of her 1976 essay Is Gender Necessary? Here, she expresses regret about not portraying homosexuality and is quite adamant that she should have used the gender-neutral ‘they’.

It’s so very validating to have the author come around and make the same corrections that I thought she should have done. Left Hand was published on 1969 and I’d told myself that while not revolutionary today, the novel was probably ahead of its time. I had also hoped, without really thinking whether I would know one way or the other, that Le Guin would have realized the shortcomings of her novel. It’s really great to find out that she has recognized the very shortcomings that I, as someone living in 2015, saw.

In this 1987 redux of her essay, Le Guin had this to say:

It doesn’t seem right or wise to revise an old text severely, as if trying to obliterate it, hiding the evidence that one had to go there to get here. It is rather in the feminist mode to let one’s changes of mind, and the processes of change, stand as evidence – and perhaps to remind people that minds that don’t change are clams that don’t open.

This lady, really.

RMS

2015 March 30
by pam artiaga

Last Saturday, I attended a talk with Mr. Richard Stallman of GNU and Free Software Foundation fame. (Shout out to Daryl, who organized the event.) I wasn’t going to blog about it, but today I was asked for my reactions and I realized I had a lot to say, thus this post.

The talk was called “Copyright vs Community”. It consisted of:

  • one part the concept and history of copyright
  • one part Mr. Stallman’s beliefs on free software
  • and two parts vitriol. (Ha!)

The guy had a lot of choice words to say about big companies and proprietary software, most of them, to me, rather tunnel-visioned. He seemed like a horse wearing blinders. But I don’t want to dwell on that or the vitriol he spouted due to said blinders.

Going in to the event, I knew that I would be very interested in what he had to say. I was right. I don’t necessarily agree with all of his points, but they were interesting and worth thinking about. Leaving the event, and aside from the… *cough* awkward moments, I gathered three important points that he was trying to convey:

  1. Things that perform functions required by humans for their daily ‘going about their business’ — including software — should be free, free to be shared, and free to be modified
  2. Things that convey ideas, such as encyclopedia, text books, and research papers should be made free for non-commercial distribution
  3. Art-related things, such as books, should be free to be modified after a period of time (the copyright period), and anyone who bought the work should be free to share it with friends

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Nerds and New World Orders According to Mr. Cab Driver

2015 March 26
by pam artiaga

This is a conversation I just had with the taxi driver on the ride home. Paraphrased, but not translated because he already spoke in English.

Taxi Driver: Twenty-seven? (He had asked for my age.) You dress quite simply. You look like a nerd.

Me: *snigger quietly*

Taxi Driver: (Probably thinking I was offended) Forgive me for saying so.

Me: I take that as a compliment.

Taxi Driver: Thank you! Good. Some people take it as an insult, but it’s a good thing. It means you’re a bookworm.

After that, I was torn between trying not to laugh out loud and ignoring a small paranoid voice in my head saying “he’s got you pegged, next he’ll figure out where you live!” (Yes, I know I was headed home on the cab he’s driving. Small paranoid voice in my head is not very sharp.)

This was only a small — but definitely very funny — part in a conversation that consisted of:

  • the arrogance of his child who is working as a call center agent, and how he wished they would’ve taken a course in IT
  • the rise of a New World Order (TM) — according to him, the whole world will crash and 5 super powers will emerge: Russia, USA, China, and 2 others. I told him maybe Japan (at this point, he had me interested enough that I began to reply in something other than noncommittal “hmm’s”), he said it could be England and France. (I don’t think it could possibly be France, but whatever.)
  • the threat of a U.S. stock market crash — he even asked me if I knew what businesses would go down first if the stock market crashed. I felt like I was being quizzed, and I had to admit that I knew very little about economics to tell. He said it was because I was too young, which led us to:
  • the Great Depression — he wondered how the stock market could possibly crash, and then how so many in the US could go so hungry when it is a big country and they have good land. I told him it was probably because of the imbalance in wealth. He said that the rich are surely going to help the poor, otherwise they will be mobbed. I think he was too optimistic… or thinking about France during the revolution.

He had some points I didn’t quite agree to, but that was, as best as I could remember, the most entertaining taxi ride I’ve ever been in.

Table Top / Medieval Day

2014 April 6

Yesterday, the guys from Folk Fiction hosted a Medieval-themed TableTop Day  to celebrate well, Table Top Day and the upcoming premiere of Game of Thrones Season 4.

I hate to use cliche phrases, but I don’t know how else to describe it: The event was a resounding success.

I had loads of fun throughout the whole event. It is probably going to be the main topic of everyone’s conversation for the next week or more, so I’m just going to pose the few pictures I took.

 

The Iron Throne

Folk Fiction’s version of the Iron Throne, made not out of swords, but of the souls of those who died fighting for it.

banners

The Banners

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The Next Book

2014 February 13
by pam artiaga

The place was secluded and can only be reached by doing a series of secret tasks. It was very peaceful, reminding me of afternoons spent at my hometown lounging around on a lantay under the trees in front of our house. The light had a sepia-like quality to it. Maybe because it was almost dusk, or maybe it was because of the sunlight going through the withered brown leaves, or maybe because…

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Genomic Imprinting

2013 October 9
by pam artiaga

I’m on chapter 15 of Genome by Matt Ridley, and I’ve learned something very interesting, genomic imprinting. So far, this is the concept that I had the hardest time digesting properly. The basic description is easy to take in, but there are a lot of questions that I can’t answer by myself with the knowledge I already have.

How does it happen? Why does it happen? How, exactly, does the imprinting process go?

Well, I called on my trusty friend, Google, and found some good and easy to understand articles on imprinting . Here’s one from some unnamed website. This one is from the University of Utah. This has the easiest to understand explanation of imprinting, so I’d read this one first. It has pictures, too. And this is an article from Discover about the size of ligers and tigons and what imprinting has to do with them. Very interesting read.

I’m having a little nerdgasm reading up about genomic imprinting. It’s very cool. I even wrote down some notes on my copy of Genome. Kinda proud of myself for that. You can now count me among the people who annotate their books.

Fantastic Nine

2013 September 14
by pam artiaga

News broke out two days ago that J.K. Rowling, our queen and goddess, will be writing a screenplay based on her spin-off book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The story will be set about 70 years before Harry’s time and will follow the adventures of Newt Scamander as he studied the fantastic beasts in his famous book.

I’ll skip all my excited exclamations — but oh my god, J.K. Rowling is going to write a screenplay! — and get to the point of this post: the top 9 beasts I would like to see in the movie.

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