Tuesday, December 13, 2011

TimeLess Reads for Teens or Books that Always Find a ReADer

Click on the titles to see reviews and other recommendations on LibraryThing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"There's an app for that" - but are we getting the best?

The dramatically titled article  "The Personal Computer is Dead",
from the MIT Technology Review written by Jonathan Zittrain, was one of the most thought provoking articles I've read in a long time.  Zittrain describes how the move from personal computers to platform dependent devices such as phones and tablets has restricted the development of software. Zittrain's article focuses on how software is being increasingly controlled and limited by the platform creators (Apple or Microsoft) and how we are no longer getting free access to all the ideas out there.

Anyone can create an app for the iphone - if apple lets them.  But you can't create something that challenges apple's own software or otherwise breaks their rules (the cartoonist Mark Fiore had his app intially banned for ridiculing public officials).  The Android marketplace isn't much freer.  There is still the ability for many people to participate in developing software, but many of the new devices do not allow for opensource software development. Opensource has given us many  successful programs in the last few years, such as Firefox, which I am typing this in and you are very likely reading it on.  The control that the platforms have over new devices may not mean going back to the 'cathedral' or top-down creation of all software, but the bazaar just got a whole new set of cops that don't have to answer to users.  

Most users aren't thinking about what innovations they may be missing because of the current system. While open source is alive and well and available to those users willing to take a little more time,  convenience wins out for many users even if it means they aren't free to change to a new platform or even to really own the content they've purchased. 

If it were just Angry Birds and the latest track from Katy Perry, this might not be such a concern, but more and more the important information in our lives is held by a third party. Financial information certainly, but also our writing, our relationships, our artistic endeavors.  In the name of convenience we often lose freedom and control. 

The analogy of the Cathedral and the Bazaar is often used to talk about computing, read the essay that spawned the analogy here:
The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Steven Raymond

Or, for a much more fun read, get a crash course in the history of computing couched in a post-cyberpunk (and  proto-steampunk) thriller replete with nano-technology, psychedelics, and top hats: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. 

- Lisa Shaner 12.8.11

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Youth in Times of Crises

The Role of Youth - NYTimes

This video by John Savage and Matt Wolf is mostly a teaser for an upcoming movie the pair is making, but sparks some interesting questions about the role of teenagers in history and today. 
How will this generation shape the future?

(photo from Rebel Without a Cause)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Award Winning books for Teens

The end of the year lists are starting to appear, including lots of best of lists.  Here are a couple focusing on books for Teens, YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association, creates a variety of lists including the 10 Best Fiction Books for Teens 2011.

A recommendation from Catherine Sullivan on the list: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.  Combining music, time travel and the french revolution this well written book "spans centuries and vividly depicts the eternal struggles of the human heart." (Amazon)
Come check this book out from the library. 

Another list from YALSA is the winners of  The Alex Award, which goes to books written for adults with teen appeal. 

A recommendation from Lisa Shaner from this list is The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni:   Sebastian lives in a geodesic dome that also serves as a museum venerating Buckminster Fuller.  His homeschooling by his grandmother has kept him isolated from others his age until he meets Jared.  Suddenly Sebastian is seeing a whole new world of girls and rock n' roll and must negotiate between the life he was raised for and the one beckoning from outside the dome. 

Terry Pratchett's  combination of fantasy, humor and biting satire is one of the favorite authors of International's Book'em Reading Club. This year Pratchett is also the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award which honors a single author for their contribution to young adult literature.  Nine of his books, including A Hat Full of Sky, Small Gods and Going Postal, were specifically chosen for the award.  Get your first taste of his quirky humor - or revisit a favorite book.