It starts with a marriage unraveling: Don, a realtor, and his wife Claire, a one-time novelist and now stay-at-home mom, are having problems, emotional, and, as it turns out, financial. Both wander off and start acting out in uncharacteristic ways, mostly at night, with semi-strangers. This being a small town (Grinnell, Iowa), they know the back stories of these strangers. And, also because this is a small town, the people they become involved with are also involved with each other.
But there’s more going on here than bored partners considering infidelity in the heartland. There’s a retired professor with dementia who’s supposed to have written a brilliant novel, and his wife has called their son home to clean out his study and try to find it. There’s an octogenarian who’s ready to die, but has some very specific ideas about where, when, and how. There’s a young woman so undone by the death of her lover that she wants to die too, in hopes of meeting her again. There’s plenty in the way of dark themes, but there’s a lot of humor as well. Here, a young actor attempts to work his magic on a woman he’s just met in a bar:
He leans in, and Jesus Christ, he thinks, I’d like to f^(# her too. The truth is, he knows, this is when he feels most alive: when a woman is about to fall for him. He looks at ABC, a deep kind of gaze he’s mastered in the past year. He thinks it says this: I want to make you happy.
“Are you gonna puke?” ABC asks. “You look like you’re gonna puke. Let’s get some air.”
Yes, the human foibles are on full display here. And there’s even a gun in Act I that goes off in Act III. The combination kept me up till 3:00 on New Years Eve to find out how it would resolve.
author photo: Grinnell College]]>
Established by a presidential proclamation more than 25 years ago, this annual global event held each year on the third week of November, raises awareness about geography and geographic information system (GIS) technology and the important contributions they make in many aspects of society.
“Cal Poly’s Geography Awareness Week gives students the opportunity to see how geographic thinking is used in San Luis Obispo and beyond,” said organizer and Kennedy Library Numeric and Spatial Data Specialist, Russ White.
According to White, National Geographic created Geography Awareness Week to excite people about geography and GIS as both a discipline and as a part of everyday life. National Geographic estimates that more than 100,000 Americans actively participate in Geography Awareness Week every year.
“Through events and workshops and Cal Poly’s access to GIS resources throughout the year, we can encourage people to be more geographically minded global citizens,” White added.
This year, Kennedy Library hosted its first humanitarian mapathon in an effort to support the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and their goals to map the most vulnerable areas in the world. After a brief training session, the volunteers at this event went to work mapping parts of the developing world using the free and open source Open Street Map (OSM) software.
“I originally heard of the mapathon as an extra credit opportunity for my GIS class. I didn’t know what we would be doing exactly until I got there and I’m glad it ended up being a really fun and interesting event,” said Maddie Smit (ENVM ‘17). “It was nice to be able to see the work others had already done on this Open Street Map project and how I was directly contributing to their efforts.”
In addition to the mapathon, during this year’s Geography Awareness Week, Kennedy Library hosted a GIS map gallery, which featured maps from students and faculty who use geography and GIS in a variety of disciplines. These map prints represented various subjects, themes, and styles to demonstrate the different applications of GIS and spatial analysis in areas of Engineering, Biology, Natural Resources, History, Landscape Architecture and others.
“I think geography is important because it is an overarching discipline,” said Matt Dinwiddie (FNR ‘16), who worked on one of the maps featured in the gallery. “Almost every major at Cal Poly uses geography but they probably don’t realize it and the impact it has.”]]>
Aaron Englund, the main character in After the Parade, has escaped his family, at least in the sense of removing himself physically from them — although his mother abandoned him before he had a chance to grow up and leave. Naturally, this has left some deep scars, though he manages to remain an open-hearted person. He’s formed a relationship with an older man that, while not entirely satisfying to him, has been stable for twenty years. Ultimately, though, he decides that he needs to get away, start over, and finally deal with the emotional fallout of his broken childhood. Through an acquaintance, he gets a job as an ESL teacher at a barely functional school for adult immigrants in San Francisco. He rents a garage apartment — closer to a garage than an apartment — from a married couple whose arguments become the soundtrack to his home life. Here, he takes one last walk around the neighborhood where he lives with his soon-to-be ex-boyfriend:
He passed the house of the old woman who, on many nights, though not this one, watched for him from her kitchen window and then hurried out with a jar that she could not open. She called him by his first name and he called her Mrs. Trujillo, since she was surely twice his age, and as he twisted the lid off a jar of honey or instant coffee, they engaged in pleasantries, establishing that they were both fine, that they had enjoyed peaceful, ordinary days, saying the sorts of things that Aaron had grown up in his mother’s café hearing people say to one another. As a boy, he had dreaded such talk, for he had been shy and no good at it, but as he grew older, he had come to appreciate these small nods at civility.
Aaron meets a variety of unlikely characters on his way to becoming his own person: an overweight baker, a sardonic private investigator, a man with tusks. I found his story involving and his character memorable.
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing is about a very different family, the nucleus of which is much more tightly connected. The Eapens are Indian Americans: Thomas, the father, is a brain surgeon who may or may not have chosen the only possible medical specialty which requires him to leave India — and his extended family — to practice. His wife, Kamala, still has one foot in her life in India, though she’s so poorly treated by her in-laws that it’s hard to imagine why she’d want to be anywhere near them. Their two children, Amina and Akhil, have their struggles with 1970s New Mexico growing up, but are more American than Indian. There’s enough disaster, heartbreak, and medical misfortune (brain tumor, narcolepsy, depression) in this story to supply several novels, but because of the uniquely well-drawn characters and touches of humor, it avoids melodrama.The story shifts between 1970s India, 1980s suburban New Mexico, and Seattle during the dot.com boom, and features a chosen extended family of Indian Americans who live near the Eapans. Here, Chacko Kurian, who functions as an uncle, passes judgement on Amina:
“Too old for marrying anyway — why worry about it now?”
“Chackoji, don’t start,” Sanji warned.
“What start? It’s not a conversation, just the plain truth.”
Delivered at least twelve times in every get-together, Chacko Kurian’s plain truths could have stamped the joy out of any festivity if anyone were to take him seriously. Springing from lost dreams (to pioneer heart surgery with a fleet of like-minded sons) and found realities (a daughter who was as uninterested in his line of work as she was in trying to make him happy), his edicts were always promptly dismessed by the others, giving him the air of a king ruling the wrong kingdom.
I’d love to see Mira Nair adapt Sleepwalker’s Guide as a film, but in the meantime, I loved both of these books, and was sorry to see them end.
Ostlund: Franchon Smith, The Chronicle
Jacob: Bloomsbury India
Webster’s public talk was part of a one-day colloquium on polytechnic libraries, hosted by Kennedy Library and the Kennedy Library Advisory Board (LAB). Below are some of the key takeaways from his keynote presentation, “Building the Library of the Future”
Before we can visualize the modern library, we have to look back at how libraries have evolved over time, according to Webster. “Why are we being bypassed if we are?” Webster asks.
Libraries are without a doubt rapidly changing environments. 25 years ago, libraries used to be collection-centric facilities. “As technology came on board in the early 90s we became much more client focused,” Webster said. By the early 2000s we saw the impact of technology on teaching and learning. “We saw a rise in the demand for facilities to support projects and group work,” Webster explained. About a decade later, “we started to recognize that the library was a node in the learning process.” Consequently, libraries have become maker-spaces and put more emphasis on collaborative opportunities.
The demand for digital delivery is on the rise according to Webster. “On-demand, shared resources are changing the dynamic of what a library collection can be in the 21st century.” As a result, Webster believes open access resources will be game-changers becauses libraries need to become more open enterprises. “Open access is shaping the policy agenda,” Webster said.
As it often times has, technology has also played a prominent role in shaping the modern library. “Students are more technology rich than ever before.” Webster believes technology at libraries will become increasingly mobile and will continue to reduce costs of production and distribution at libraries.
Despite these trends, Webster believes that every library is unique. “There is no secret formula, every institution has its own needs, priorities, and communities,” he said. However, there is one commonality between all university libraries: “The future of the university is intricately intertwined with the future of the library,” according to Webster.
Listen to the podcast recording of his talk “Building the Library of the Future” at Kennedy Library:
Audio transcript: KeithWebster
Keith Webster is Dean of Libraries and Director of Emerging and Integrative Media Initiatives at Carnegie Mellon University. For more on the ways he’s shaping academic library innovation visit his blog: Library of the Future.]]>
During this casual conversation, Bridger reflected on the origins of her research into the history of ethics for 20th century science.
As an undergraduate at Brown University, Bridger focused her research on labor history.
“Labor history may seem like a far field from the topic of Cold War science but in retrospect these two topics have a lot in common,” Bridger said. “We don’t think of nuclear physicists as workers or as part of labor history but we probably should.”
According to Bridger the questions she was asking about labor history were very similar to the questions she asks in her book.
“The questions that I was asking about labor history had a lot to do with how people think about what they’re doing. How do you understand your labor in a context larger than yourself?” Bridger added.
Another experience that shaped Bridger’s research interests was her stint as a professional investigator. In between undergraduate and graduate school, Bridger worked as a professional investigator for the city of New York investigating police misconduct cases.
“I think that job in retrospect oriented me to think about questions of ethics and questions of professionalism in ways I maybe wasn’t fully aware of,” Bridger said.
One of the defining features of Bridger’s work according to the author is the sharing the perspective of scientists grappling with ethical dilemmas rather than philosophers or political scientists confronting these issues.
“I wanted to examine how scientists themselves have thought about questions of ethics as they relate to their own research,” Bridger said. “How do they generate and debate these ideas and how do they act in response to these ideas.”
From a historical standpoint, Bridger and Shelley also talked about the era Bridger focuses on her in book.
“The heart of the book looks at the Vietnam War era,” according to Bridger.
Instead of focusing on the notorious Manhattan Project, Bridger deals with the period after the Manhattan Project to answer the question: “What happened to the Manhattan Project Generation?” In addition, Bridger felt the escalating conflict in Vietnam spawned a lot of ethical challenges. “[The War in Vietnam] created a second moment of ethical crisis,” according to Bridger.
“One of the big themes that runs throughout Professor Bridger’s book is how scientists in these different eras tried to navigate this difficult terrain,” Shelley said.
During the conversation, Shelley also asked Bridger how she would advise today’s young scientists based on her research.
“Having some transparency and some democratic deliberation is almost always a good thing,” Bridger advised.
Listen to the podcast below for more of the conversation between Bridger and Shelley:
Last month, Kennedy Library invited Jenison, who was featured in the documentary film, Tim’s Vermeer, to talk about the connections he’s forged between art and science. Jenison was joined by Pegi Marshall, an assistant professor of scenic design in the Theater and Dance Department.
Jenison became intrigued with the relationship between science and art after working on his documentary Tim’s Vermeer. In it, he attempts to understand how 17th century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer manages to paint so photo-realistically—150 years before the invention of photography.
Though Jenison has a background in developing imaging technologies, Jenison ultimately relies on a simple mirror technique, using a comparator mirror, to recreate Vermeer’s paintings. He demonstrated the comparator during his Cal Poly Science Café event.
According to Jenison art and science are both sides of the same coin. “Most art is based on some sort of technology,” he explained. “You can be very elegant and artistic in technology and you can be technological in your art.”
Jenison points to Leonardo Da Vinci as an example of how an interest in art and science can be complementary. “In the renaissance, there wasn’t really a separation between art and technology,” Jenison said. “Leonardo was a great painter, artist, and scientist.”
Jenison believes that the technology will become more accessible for artists if the technology is presented in intuitive ways. “We try to make things work in the computer like they work in the real world,” he explained. Jenison thinks we are close to the point where artists will rely more on computers and less on tactile art. “It’ll be interesting to see if anyone actually wants to pick up a paintbrush in the future.”
With the applications of technology expanding in the art world, Jenison believes that the expansion of technology enables more and more people to become artists. “Eventually we’ll all be artists,” he adds.
One developing technology in particular will have widespread implications, according to Jenison. “Virtual reality headsets are going to be the next big disruptor,” Jenison said. “It’s possible the whole planet will be covered with people drooling out of one side of their mouth with their virtual reality goggles on.”
Watch the video interview with Tim Jenison.]]>
Open Access Week at the Kennedy Library gives the Cal Poly community the opportunity to learn about the widespread benefits of open access through a variety of interactive workshops and events.
“Open Access” to information is the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need.
According to the library’s Open Education Library Fellow, Dana Ospina, open access has a broader scope: “These events focus on more than just scholarly access. We try to encourage open access for everyone. Whether it be open education resources or open data, there are many different ways to participate.”
In this workshop, Library Data & GIS Specialist Russ White leads a hands-on session focusing on open-data tools that faculty and students can take advantage of for learning.
“I’m excited to host a workshop where anyone can walk in and try something that they have no experience using. I want to break the barrier between open-source tools and students. It’s not until you can’t find the resource that you need that you realize how useful and important it is to have open data and software, ” White said.
The theme for this year’s OA Week is “Open for Collaboration.” White believes that this mantra is an important aspect of open access.
“When data and software become open and people come together, I think some pretty unique and unexpected things can happen,” White said.
Professor Laura Hosman (Political Science, STS) plans to present on her solar-powered educational learning library, SolarSPELL. This project explores why open access and education are not just a luxury in some parts of the world but a necessity.
“Human beings like to take things like open content for granted,” according to Hosman. Working with a small group of Cal Poly faculty and students, Hosman and her team provided access to books, videos, and other valuable educational content through an all-in-one, self-powered, offline digital library.
“A large aspect of the Solar Spell project could not have taken place if we didn’t have access to open access materials. There is really no limit to how useful and beneficial open access resources can be,” Hosman explains.
Officers from Cal Poly’s Free Culture Club plan to lead a discussion on an issue close to home for many students: textbooks.
Cal Poly’s Free Culture Club believes that often times the cost of course materials can be a large financial burden for students. They propose utilizing open access course materials to alleviate this burden.
“We would like to prompt professors to consider alternatives to expensive, proprietary course materials,” club president Liam Kirsh (CSC ‘17) said. “Using materials under less restrictive copyright licenses gives professors the right to modify content to better fit their class and gives professors and students the right to freely distribute copies of the material,” he adds.
Participating in Open Access Week can be as simple or as involved as you like. All of the events mentioned above will be taking place in the library. See all times and locations. If you are unable to attend these library events but would still like to get involved, you can join the open source community through a virtual Wikipedia edit-a-thon co-hosted by SPARC and Wikipedia.]]>
Opened October 1, 2015, Cal Poly students, faculty and staff now have access to advanced video production tools at just the push of a button.
Modeled after Penn State’s original space, the Kennedy Library One Button Studio in room 304 is a simplified video recording system that requires no technical knowledge or previous video production experience.
Users simply insert a USB drive and push a button to begin recording a video. The One Button Studio automates lighting, microphone and camera settings, then compresses and renders the completed video into a .mp4 file that is saved onto a drive. The system resets itself when the drive is unplugged, ready for the next person.
The finished product is a polished video recording that requires little time and effort to produce.
“When I walked into the studio for the first time I was surprised at how simple everything was laid out,” said Robert Torres (AERO ’16). “Since everything is automatic, you can focus on your video and not have to worry about how you are going to make it.”
Faculty can utilize the studio to record their lectures, research papers, or to produce video introductions to online courses.
“I think it’s great that the Kennedy Library is experimenting with new technologies. Libraries need to make not only information, but also tools accessible,” said Sheree Fu, College of Engineering librarian.
For students, the One Button Studio could be useful for practicing a presentation for a class, producing studio components of larger video assignments and creating e-portfolio introductions or content.
“At Cal Poly, a lot of our classes include video assignments. Now that we have the One Button Studio, we have an easier way to complete those projects,” said Robert Torres (AERO ’16).
Students can also take advantage of the One Button Studio for the upcoming Elevator Pitch Competition sponsored by the Kennedy Library in partnership with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Cal Poly Entrepreneurs. With prizes up to $1000 for the perfect pitch, students should hurry to make a reservation for the studio before the October 14th deadline.
Kennedy Library thanks the Orfalea College of Business and Dean Scott Dawson for generously providing funding for Cal Poly’s first One Button Studio.
Say what you want about his ability to annoy: he’s a great writer. His latest, Purity, is no exception. Set in Oakland and Felton, California, Bolivia, East Germany, and Philadelphia, and full of seemingly unrelated, one-of-a-kind characters, it has a plot (including a long-buried body in the yard of someone’s parents’ vacation home) to keep you turning pages, all 500+ of them. It also has multiple Big Issues to sink your teeth into: feminism, the wages of fame, the nature of morality, and the effect of the internet and social media on all of the above.
Two of the most central characters are Purity “Pip” Tyler, a recent college graduate with an eccentric but devoted single mother and a pile of student loan debt, and Andreas Wolf, a Julian Assange-like leaker of government and corporate secrets via his group, TSP, The Sunshine Project. Pip is being recruited for TSP by one of Wolf’s admirers.
Here, Pip takes matters into her own hands and cockily emails Wolf directly:
Dear Andreas Wolf, what’s your deal? A person named Annagret who I hardly know tells me I can be a paid intern with your project. Is this like a sex opportunity for you, or what? Do you guys have a keg of Kool-Aid? The whole thing frankly sounds deeply creepy to me. I don’t care very much about the work you’re doing down there in the jungle or whatever, but Annagret doesn’t seem to think it even matters if I do. Which really makes me wonder. Yours, Pip Tyler, Oakland, California, USA.
Despite her wariness, Pip does join the Project when Wolf promises her that it can also unlock a very personal secret for her. There are many more characters and complications, central and otherwise. Franzen skilfully weaves it all together, and comes up with one of the most satisfying yet realistic endings that I’ve seen in a long time.
author photograph: Chris Buck for the Guardian]]>
The first is Kanopy, a media streaming service that offers 12,000 films and videos from more than 800 filmmakers. Their key partners include PBS, Criterion, New Day, California Newsreel, MEF, Kino Lorber, First Run, GreenPlanet, Psychotherapy.net, Great Courses and many more.
Interested in using Kanopy in your courses? The “Netflix-like” interface makes it easy to find relevant and interesting materials for all disciplines, and you can easily customize your own clips and create playlists for targeted instruction.
“Access to streaming content is a boon to all curricula engaged with media, whether from the angle of media production, history, culture or language,” said Brett Bodemer, College of Liberal Arts librarian. “It takes only a few seconds to see the depth of foreign language film offerings, including the likes of directors such as Besson, Kurosawa and Fassbinder.”
Statista is a new tool that allows for quick and easy access to summary statistical data on a wide range of topics and industries. Just as the library provides databases for discovering scholarly content, Statista serves a similar function for those seeking quantitative facts, figures and data.
Do your students need to discover, extract and visualize global iPhone sales from 2007 to 2015 by quarter or want a quick look at global prices for a Big Mac? Statista provides access to 1 million statistics – ready to use in PPT, XLS and PNG.
“Statista provides students with a large amount of well-vetted market research,” said Mark Bieraugel, Orfalea College of Business librarian. “The infographics section is truly a solid resource for students of all levels.”
Numeric and Spatial Data Specialist Russ White says, “Students can quickly search and incorporate data and graphics from authoritative sources, and present these alongside other forms of supporting information in their writing. Since the data are downloadable, students also have the option of exploring alternative visualizations or presentations of the data.”