Chuck Gray

National Novel Writing Month at the Library

National Novel Writing Month at the Library

Library Programs for NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month
This November, write your novel at the Porter Branch! We will have dictionaries, thesauri and books on novel writing available for you to consult. We offer free WiFi, free public use computers and printers. (If you'd like to use a computer, please call 540-659-4909 to sign up ahead of time.) There is no sign up required for the program, just drop in and write!  Have questions? Please call the adult reference desk at 540-659-4909.

First Chapters hosted on LibraryPoint
To submit the first chapter of your novel to be hosted on the LibraryPoint.org website, please email NaNoWriMo@crrl.org.  Attach your work as either a Microsoft Word or PDF document.  Submissions will be accepted throughout November and will be accessible until February 28, 2012.  Only works submitted by the original author with their permission will be posted.

The following chapters have been submitted by CRRL patrons:

Cataclysm 2012 by Dave

Genesis of Titan by John

It strikes me as somewhat counterintuitive that writing should be as difficult as it is.  After all, writing is arguably the most accessible of the creative arts: get a pen, get some paper, get an idea, and write it down.  Simplifying the process to such a degree is, while technically correct, nonetheless laughable.  For example, I spent well over an hour trying to figure out some way to write an opening paragraph for this article that wasn’t “everybody has a story” and it hasn’t even been an especially good opening paragraph. Imagine then the amount of effort that must go into writing an entire novel!  Thank goodness for NaNoWriMo.

No, I didn’t type that on a smart phone; NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  The concept is easy: devote this November to writing your novel.  You know your novel – that one idea floating lazily about in the nether regions of your brain’s “bucket list,” the one that you’ve said to yourself, “Wow, that would make a really great book.”  But you’ve never quite had the time or the inclination.  Well, much like the gym in January, NaNoWriMo gives you the formal opportunity to actually get started. 

Featured Database: Testing & Education Reference Center

Testing & Education Reference Center

I don't want to brag, but our library has some fantastic databases that you need to examine if you haven't already at librarypoint.org/articles_databases.  One of the most useful of these databases is the Testing and Education Reference Center, the ultimate resource for standardized test preparation and career advancement.  Whether you're a high school student going to college, a college student advancing to graduate school, or preparing for a professional exam in careers such as firefighting, nursing, or law enforcement, chances are you'll find what you need at the Testing and Education Reference Center

Your Music in the Cloud

Music in the Cloud

The safety of my collection has been one of my largest concerns as music has made the digital transition.  With CDs and vinyl, you may damage or lose one or more albums and unless your entire collection is stolen, it's unlikely that you'll lose access to all of it at once.  Digital music is a different matter, however.  Unless you've backed up all of your songs to a secondary storage device, one bad electrical storm could separate you from your tunes forever (and remember, backing up means having two copies of each file, not just storing your music on a single portable hard drive by itself).  With the push toward cloud (or distributed) computing and storage, new services are cropping up to help us not only back up our music offsite, but which allow us to take our music with us wherever we go.  

One service that I've been using for years is mp3tunes.com, to which I pay a monthly subscription fee and in turn receive space online to backup all my music to and the ability to stream it to any computer.  New contenders include Google Music (currently in beta testing), iCloud from Apple (coming this fall with their iOS 5 update for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch), and Amazon Cloud Drive, which is available now.

Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson

Robopocalypse

My first thought upon reading the description of Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse was "Terminator rip-off."  But I kept thinking, "Robots and the apocalypse, two of my favorite things to read about in fiction."  I'm not making that up.  And really, anything after Terminator 2 in the franchise doesn't, in my mind, count.  I've always wanted a lot more detail about how the robot uprising occurs and how people struggle in the coming war, especially people who are not John Connor.  After reading Robopocalypse, I want to assure you that it is as far removed from Terminator lore as anything "robot apocalypse" could possibly be.  If you're someone who likes to be frightened and enjoys books where the mundane is made decidedly strange, then you might enjoy Robopocalypse.

Media Ownership in the 21st Century

Image of music CD with locks on it.

Media ownership in the 21st century is a trickier concept than ever before. In light of the growing percentage of our books, music, movies, and software that is purely digital, that is to say, downloaded directly from the Internet, how is ownership defined? When music came on CDs and other physical formats, it was pretty easy to say, “This is my CD. I bought it. I do with it as I please.” Of course, the recording industry would disagree, to the extent that while you might have purchased the medium, you only licensed the media. Now that the medium is largely ephemeral, so too is ownership. Add onto that digital rights management (DRM) that locks down and controls what you do with your “licensed” goods and ownership becomes a ghost of its former self. But do we really care?

Web Browser Updates

icons representing the mozilla firefox and internet explorer browsers

A public-service tech announcement to online CRRL patrons: both Microsoft and Mozilla have released updates to their web browsers, which I recommend you install if possible.  These can be downloaded from the links below.
 

Internet Explorer 9 is only available for computers running Windows 7 or Windows Vista.  It does not, tragically, support Windows XP, likely in an effort by Microsoft to encourage its customers to upgrade from the decade-old operating system.  Firefox 4 is decidedly more inclusive, supporting Windows versions back to Windows 2000 (excluding Windows ME), as well as Mac OS X and Linux. 

Internet Business Solutions

An observation worth noting: I have recently been approached by a growing number of people wanting to build a web site for their business. This would have been a much more daunting process even a few years ago.  However the Web has evolved to meet these needs more easily.  There now exist many online storefronts through which small businesses can be run. Though I am unable to recommend one service over another, either through direct experience or secondary knowledge, here are a few of the more popular selections that can help anyone get started. 

WWW: Wake by Robert Sawyer

For science fiction aficionados, the premise of WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer initially sounds, well, perhaps a bit contrived (even beyond the normal contrivances of science fiction).  But keep reading: the protagonist, Caitlin Dector, is a young blind millennial who has never known a world without the Internet, a world she can navigate with ease through the use of assistive technologies.  Caitlin becomes the subject of an experimental procedure to restore sight.  However, when her vision is "switched on" she does not see the physical world, but an abstract representation of the World Wide Web.  While exploring her strange new ability, she discovers a growing intelligence emerging from within the Web . . .   see what I mean?  My first thought after hearing this description was, "That sounds like the plot of a bad 90s Outer Limits episode."  After cracking the book open however, I found WWW: Wake tells a fascinating story, blending the best of both science fiction and hard science as well as cyberculture, blind culture, information theory, epidemiology, world politics, family dynamics, pedagogical theory, teenage culture, and probably a few other things I'm not thinking of.  All of that in one book.  And it's really, really good. 

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer

If you enjoy dark humor, dry wit, tales of the occult and rooting for the bad guy, then you need to start reading Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard right away.  Cabal is a "scientist" obsessed with destroying death.  Toward this end, he has traded his soul with the Devil for knowledge of necromancy.  Unfortunately, it turns out that Cabal actually needs his soul to perform his experiments and so returns to the Devil, this time agreeing to collect 100 souls within a year or forfeit his own life for good.  To aid Cabal in his quest is a demonic carnival, his vampire brother Horst (one of Johannes' early experimental whoopsies) and an insane asylum’s-worth of escaped psychotics.  Johannes Cabal has one year in which to trick, bribe, extort, charm, bedazzle, bully, bludgeon or otherwise convince 100 people to sign their souls over to the Devil or he is dead and Hell-bound to boot. 

Donating Your Computer's Time

Modern computers are many times more powerful than they need to be for most of the things we use them for.  Simply writing papers, surfing the Web, watching videos, playing games, etc. . . such tasks don't take full advantage of these machines' potential and when they're not in use, well . . . they're not in use.  They could be doing so much more.