Month: January 2021

Books Under Review (January 2021)

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Reviewing books is a mainstay of engaged writing, and has, I think, a number of uses to the world. These reviews reflect current cultural memes in some way by guiding how a book is approached, the books themselves, of course, are shedding illumination on some of their historical contexts, and definitely reflect language itself over time. Book reviews, I would say, can really be examples of meaningful societal consideration and can truly have some literary merit (not that I am saying mine have much merit). 🙂

I have been reviewing books for Library Journal for, I think, almost 8 years now, and plan to continue for a time. I get to read new books and I learn a lot. I mean, I get to read books that might not ever ‘come across my desk’ normally but that from which I get to learn a lot of new things about society, technology, history, literature, and sociology. Back in 2015, I even wrote reviews of books as part of a single long article about new books on privacy and surveillance. It was fun and, like I said, I learned a lot and contributed to the discussion of an important (its still important) subject. But, to look at the books being examined in this post, one of the books currently in-progress in the review procedure is for Library Journal and one is for another periodical.

Currently, I am reviewing the two titles below:

1. For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe In A Better World by Michael W Waters and Keisha Morris (illustrator). This picture book is about gun violence and hope for peace to stop said violence.

2. Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI To Google, Facebook, And The World by Cade Metz. This book is about the major personalities behind the building and development of, neural networks, machine learning, and, what we would call now, artificial intelligence.

The two reviews I have underway are due to two different editors for two different publishers – one of which is Library Journal. The subjects of each book are not directly related – but this is part of the fun. Like I mentioned above, I get to read widely and learn from a variety of perspectives and situations. This post is just a snapshot of those perspectives being looked at this month.

#WordPress Banner Designs for #Phantomlandscapes

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Some may talk about a new year, new you…I reject that kind of thinking.

But I am currently going to be riffing along the lines of a new year, new blog aesthetic (rolling on the floor & laughing emoji). To accomplish this, I will be asking for 2 or 3 banner products from designers at places like Fiverr and maybe one other place because I think it time to tighten up this blog and move it out a notch from where it is.

The fundamental design limits being given to the designers will be, at least with this experimental stage, to use a dark-themed look alluding to books and letters, using purple, light purple, black, and grey with a bit of white some place. This is simple, but can evoke a lot of possible responses. I plan to use the ‘best’ one for this blog until I go through another round of design – at which point a logo will also be requested based upon something in that theme I used.

The caveat I will attach to my request to the designers will be that I want to retain all rights to the designs: to use, not use, or manipulate / and will need ask for how much improvement I can expect from a design at $10 up to $50 or $60.

There it is. That is the plan. Watch to see how it goes.

#SocialMedia Futures: #Twitter ?

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Per my post in December 2020, I deleted my Twitter account, playing around with Parler, I then added a new Twitter account (which is pretty quiet for now).

As of this past weekend (10 January 2021), Parler has no live servers on which to operate – so I may approach Twitter with some renewed vigor. We’ll see.

Again, this blog still uses Twitter.

SQL Lesson, Library Carpentry, and the pleasure of maintenance.

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The pleasure of repo maintenance…

What do I mean by that? I mean there is an enjoyable balance between being able to edit public repositories at GitHub and leaving appropriate time for your co-maintainers to comment, edit, and just simply add ‘another set of eyes’ to your changes.

In Summer 2020, I on-boarded as a co-maintainer of the Library Carpentry SQL Lesson on GitHub – which I mentioned in a post in August 2020. The summer before, in 2019, I became a Carpentries Certified Instructor, a logical next step in my relationship and growing interest with the Carpentries community. After that on-boarding, the new SQL lessons maintainers, some of whom had been there a while and are happy when fresh hands show to help maintain a decent number of issues related to the repo. This is mostly a labor of love, all of us, I think, have full time gigs, this, like most of our academic professional engagement contributes to our development as professionals and aids our learning about topics in the field at large (in my, case, the technical services side of librarianship). We used that ‘fresh’ energy to tackle a number of issues with the repository: some as simple as clarifying wording, some about adding better examples, and some abut testing and updating the lesson for reasons of technology shift in one place or another. We reduced the number of issues by half in what is commonly called a ‘sprint’ – wherein we set apart a number of hours to ‘get things done.’ Yay!. It was successful. But there is still more work to do.

I have a tendency to want to jump in quickly and get things done – I still have that tendency because I think and move quickly. Maybe a strength, sure, but this may also be a hindrance and hobble a relationship from time to time. I admit this and want to get better in this area where appropriate. But, one of the true pleasures of these kinds of collaborations is that fantastic and simple solutions are brought to the fore.

My case-in-point is the back-and-forth I had with a co-maintainer I had on Monday, 04 January 2021 about some language clean-up and clarity under the heading, ‘More Terminology,’ I made a number of changes and asked for feedback. I got an ‘all good’ but with the caveat that the qualifier I had already refined from language that was there previously, may not be necessary. I agreed and made the change, as well as a couple other language tweaks.

The result: Tighter and more direct language that should lead to less confusion for the folks who use the lesson over time. The real point is that even in this little edit, it was good to have ‘another set of eyes’ on my suggestion and to wait for the comments to be made. Again, this is not terribly important, the change itself. This post is about the community aspect of the work – which, as the post title says, is a pleasure. Thank you to my co-maintainers.

As a side-bar, I note that many of the changes I make to GitHub repositories, I make from the command line (CLI). This just involves a process of downloading, via some commands in the terminal shown below, the repository from GitHub (or wherever the repo is), and making a local copy of it on your own machine, making changes to the files of whatever form, and pushing the changes back to the repo via other commands. Not in itself that complicated, but thanks to another fellow Carpentries community member’s tutorial last year on this skill, I was able to take my repo skills up a notch and edit repos via the CLI. Another big shout out to the Carpentries community.

Happy New Year / #Life!

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I am busily reading R.C. Sproul’s, Truths We Confess, his exposition on the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646). This book lays out a large amount of orthodox Christian theology and really is a great theology lesson wrapped up in one book. I am not a Presbyterian per se (which is the most common adoption of the WCF in the reformed family), but I am enjoying this reading a lot and learning so much.

In Chapter 19 on the Law of God, there is a powerful declaration on the sanctity if life. It reads like this:

“The sanctity of life is not a Christian issue; it is a human issue. It is rooted and grounded not in the law of the New Testament or in the law of Mount Sinai but in creation, in the creation ordinances” (page 414).

As the year has ended and the new one has started, we asses the old, think about time, and maybe make some plans for the new. These plans do not have to be ‘resolutions.’ Of course not. But these markers in time encourage us to evaluate and ‘number our days.’ (Psalm 90:12). Our lives are fleeting – and yet we know that life is precious. We know this inherently. Life is precious because of the very fact that we have been created by God.

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

This simple statement in the Scriptures gives us the reason for the sanctity of life. This statement also reveals the creation order in that there are males and females and that, by implication (Mark 10:7), life is propagated by the very union only possible when males and females unite (which should be in marriage, but is all too often not). God is a God of life and God’s law is a law that facilitates life. Needless to say, this verse also declares that all humans are male or female, there is no other category. And if each human is created in the image of God (Imago Dei), we can also be comfortable in saying that abortion is wrong. With that verse, we can actually justify WHY there is sanctity to life.

I pray that despite whatever struggles and challenges we find ourselves in in 2021, that we come to fully realize that life is precious and that in order to fully accept that, we must first honor the Creator from our hearts!

image from boldsky.com (accessed 01 January 2021)

References:

New American Standard Bible (NASB) 1995 Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.

Sproul, R.C. 2019. Truths We Confess: A Systematic Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Revised Edition. Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, a division of Ligonier Ministries.