Go Read a Banned Book

Since reading is what I usually list when asked for a hobby, and I’m the daughter of a librarian, and I live in Texas (the Round Rock school district even), it’s no wonder that Banned Books Week jumped out at me as something to mention here. It’s held every year in the last week of September – that’s this week!

So, I started digging around online for more information.

A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. So why would someone challenge a book about penguins? Reasons given were: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group.

Now, I’m not necessarily ready for my six-year-old daughter to go check out Forever or even Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret (both frequently challenged books many times over the years); but, I’m certainly glad both titles by Judy Blume were available in my junior high school library growing up. And when she does get to an age where she’s learning about her sexuality, I expect book authors will fill in some of the holes I miss or she’s too uncomfortable to ask about even after we talk about the subject. That’s the way it worked for me growing up.

Speaking of Judy Blume and my youth, it turns out that my very favorite book of hers, Tiger Eyes, was actually self-censored by the author, and yet still turns up on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000.

Some of the other books I’ve read that have faced challenges over the years include A Wrinkle in Time, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Outsiders, Brave New World, Sleeping Beauty Trilogy (ok, so that one I probably wouldn’t want in the school library), Cujo, James and the Giant Peach, Carrie, Where’s Waldo (really? That was challenged?) and the classic, How to Eat Fried Worms.

And there are many more that I should have read that have been challenged, such as: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men, Bridge to Terabithia, The Catcher in the Rye, Ordinary People, Slaughterhouse-Five, Lord of the Flies and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, just to name a few.

So, in honor of Banned Books Week, I’m going to go out and read one of them. Check the list for one that you’ve been missing in your personal library and join me!
Well, my Barnes & Noble didn’t have the penguin book, but I was able to find out it is a picture book. Somehow I doubt the illustrations put the two male penguins in any particularly compromising positions, but will keep my eye out for a copy to make sure. <wink>

Instead, I went with Bridge to Terabithia, a book that made the “10 Most Challenged” list in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2002 and 2003. I’m guessing it has been on that list even more since it was first published in 1977 (and won a Newbery Medal in 1978), but that’s as far back as I could find records. It has apparently been challenged for using offensive language and promoting Satanism.

Were the people who said that reading the same book I read?!

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The Topic That Won’t Die

Today in Austin, TechCrunch is hosting a Roundtable: The Web Starts At The Grass Roots. I admit that I’d heard something a while back about it — mostly that tickets to the after-party were going fast. Lots of people wanting to see and be seen, I figured.

But, not being a regular TechCrunch reader I apparently missed the more important call for speakers at the roundtable. In hindsight, even if I had seen it I probably wouldn’t have submitted my name. TechCrunch and their partner in this event, Austin Ventures, both seem to exude to me this start-up-company, insiders-only vibe in which, as a basic corporate cog, I would not have felt worthy of being included. My bad.

Gosh darn it, though, some women should have done it!

I didn’t think about it at all until I opened my newspaper this morning and read “High-tech roundtable has 18 panelists but no women.” In that story TechCrunch co-editor Erick Schonfeld said:

“After posting about the event on TechCrunch, ‘I had lots of people contact me, and they were all men. We were putting this together on the heels of our TechCrunch50 conference, and my resources of time were limited.’”

After reading the article, I fired off a snide comment on Twitter. Soon, other comments and questions about the event started crossing the twitterstream. Then I saw that you could comment on the newspaper story online, so I did that, too. In those same comments, and in Twitter, two men I have nothing but respect for [ @daddyclay @mikeneumann ] pointed out the part of the story I excerpted above.

Zing! Point taken.

If there was an open call for people to join the roundtable and absolutely none of the Austin women who work in tech and social media responded, then that’s our bad.

What I really wanted to explore here, though, is why does this topic rankle me so much? I’ve always deliberately avoided joining many women-focused organizations, opting for the International Association of Business Communicators over the Association for Women in Communication, for example. In issues of gender I’ve generally thought it made more sense to integrate into the broader professional group than to branch off into a specialized organization. I want to be thought of as equal. How could I do that if I set myself up as different?

Does the fact that I’ve found myself upset by this topic enough to blog about it and write an op-ed about it mean that my long-held views are changing? Is it due to that fact that I’m now the mother of a girl and more likely to fight for her rights than mine? This deserves some self-reflection, I think.

In the meantime … maybe I should start a side business running a tech-women’s speakers bureau!

Yeah, right, like I need another job to add to my list.

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I’m In. Are You In?

Have you heard about Blog Action Day? It’s coming on October 15.

According to my emanciPET.org calendar, that’s the day before Feral Cat Day. The good news for you is that I’ll be doing a special post here on Blog Action Day, but not Feral Cat Day*.

If you have a blog, you can join in, too!

I often feel a bit overwhelmed by all the needs in the world and all the places I’d like to donate and help. Too many choices often leads me to no decision.

If you feel the same way, don’t think of this as one more group calling for your help, but rather as one very easy way you can do a little something.

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*(that’s not to say that feral cats are not a good issue, just that I won’t be doing a special blog post about them)

Trying Out a New Look

Saw that they had added some new themes for those of us using IABC eXchange and thought I’d try out a new look. What do you think? I liked the fact that it was easy to customize the main image in the header.

Opted to go with the same image I’ve been using on my Twitter page since Earth Day this spring, but there were several other potential designs. And, as I surfed my Flickr photostream this evening I found a few more that I’ll add to this set when I get a chance tomorrow.

Feel free to comment here, or in Flickr, on any other designs you like better.

Conversations & Connections – Day 2 of VW08

Due to a need to get back home at a somewhat reasonable hour, I was unable to stay past lunch today; but, there was still a lot of great content delivered and connections made at VW08.

I ducked into the speakers’ lounge to grab a bagel and some fruit for breakfast and found myself at a table chatting with virtual world thought leaders Christian Renaud, Steve Prentice and Tish Shute discussing the challenges for wider virtual world adoption. At the meetup the night before, I’d also gotten to chat with another thought leader, Eric Rice, aka Spin. I knew Eric first by reputation and then through our mutual following on Twitter, but this was the first opportunity to sit across from him and talk. He introduced me to EyePet and I introduced him to Handipoints – not a bad exchange.

Such real world connections are something Reuben Steiger mentioned as part of his pre-keynote opening remarks this morning. An early virtual world evangelist and employee at Linden Lab who now leads Millions of Us and their Virtual Greats program, Reuben spoke of the very first Second Life Community Convention in 2005. At the time, many wondered if all of these virtual personalities would really want their real life personas to meet. Not only did they want to then, but they’re doing it right now in Tampa at the fourth such gathering!

The morning kicked into gear with a keynote “interview” of Colin J. Pharris, Phd, of IBM Research conducted by Erica Driver formerly an analyst at Forrester now with her own company, ThinkBalm. This sort of presentation is a comfortable format to watch, even if you know all the questions will be softballs and many are set up specifically to provide a segue for the speaker to make planned announcements or plug certain products. There were no Sara Lacy-style incidents, but still a lot of background twittering encouraged by the use of the VWExpoQandA Twitter account to solicit questions from the audience.

Next I stopped by the Enterprise track room to meet Anders Gronstedt who was part of a panel on how companies are using virtual worlds for sales training and onboarding. While we’d exchanged e-mails and spoken on the phone before, I’d never actually had the chance to shake his hand – another proof-point that no matter how much we embrace virtual platforms and social media, we will always continue to desire real human interaction.

That interaction may become even further and further integrated with new technologies, though, as discussed in the Augmented Reality panel I attended next. While the gargoyles of Snow Crash and the talking billboards of Minority Report instill a certain uneasiness about augmentation, the panelists point out that any one of us who owns a cell phone these days – especially if it’s a smart phone – already live with augmented reality. We walk down the street sending text messages to friends and pulling up Google maps to see where we’re going. And luckily it doesn’t require weird headgear such as this. Panelist Blair MacIntyre, who I had the good fortune to meet yesterday at lunch along with his fellow panelist
Marc Goodman, joked that he was probably the only one in the group that really could be found in such photos somewhere on the Internet. His team is forging new ground, however, including such feats as bringing a Second Life avatar into a Real Life office space.

At lunch today, I happened to sit with Doug Maxwell from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division of the Navy. Not only a fellow Second Life resident, he also happens to be a fellow Louisiana native. It was interesting to hear about the unique and not-so-unique challenges his team has faced as they launched into Second Life and expanded into OpenSim. As a Dell customer, it would be interesting to see how the Navy and Dell might find ways to work together in virtual environments, so Doug and I will definitely be keeping in touch post-conference.

After that conversation, I did a quick run through the Expo floor on a photo safari. Similar to how I did it at SXSWi, I went around capturing “Dells in the Wild”. You can check them here, and I’ll probably throw a few into the Digital Nomads group on Flickr.

Now I’m flying home with a “City of Angels” snow globe in my bag to add to my girl’s growing collection!

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How Was Your Day? Report from Virtual Worlds 08

I flew to Los Angeles yesterday to speak at and attend the Virtual Worlds Conference and Expo – finally. This is the fourth such conference and I’ve never quite been able to swing it to get here. So, I sprang at a chance to fill Roo Reynolds’ spot on a panel talking about enterprise use of virtual worlds after he moved from IBM to the BBC – thank you Peter Haik for asking me!

Day 1 has just wrapped up. I called home to tell my girl goodnight and hubby asked the “how was your day?” question, so I thought I’d share a bit of that here before I forget.

I suppose it actually started yesterday when I attended the VIP reception for speakers and other such important folks. (I almost typed that without laughing – seems strange to be in the same “VIP” designation as some of the other folks here) It was a great opportunity to meet some of the people I know through Second Life and Twitter, such as Ian Hughes, in real life. Congrats on your award for virtual world innovation in the enterprise, Ian!

This morning started off with a keynote from director John Landau. I’m looking forward to seeing how his movie Avatar turns out. Sounds like they’re blazing new territory to create it. He also talked about a new Buffy the Vampire Slayer virtual world.

Next up was my panel, Virtual Worlds in the Workplace, where I was joined on stage by two CEOs and a PhD. The crowd looked a little sparse to me at first, but it filled in a bit more. And, as I looked around at the rooms of other panels later in the day, it seemed to be pretty well-attended in comparison. I think I managed to sound reasonably intelligent, and heard some good feedback from audience members after we were done. There was a reporter from Cox Newspapers there who asked me some follow-up questions, so maybe we’ll all read about it in their Sunday papers this weekend. [Update: the article ran in my local paper today – check it out here.]

Next, I went to the session titled “How to Convince The Boss You’re Not Off Your Rocker:
Getting Buy-In For Enterprise Immersive Internet Initiative” by Erica Driver. No big takeaways for me, but she did have a good point about focusing on one business problem/one audience at a time. What I remember most was that she quoted me from my panel session before when answering a question from the audience!

After that I thought there were no more sessions that interested me, but decided to stop by the one about bringing celebrity brands to virtual worlds. It turned out to be rather good, with several big names in the entertainment industry such as MTV and the William Morris agency represented.

Then, I went to make the rounds of the exhibitor booths and must say I was rather disappointed in the lack of promotional giveaways. Not to sound greedy, but it just makes these things fun to get t-shirts, notepads, pens, or other nifty new knickknacks. There was still plenty of conversation and lots of demonstrations going on, however, which made this a rather odd choice of venue for the last keynote of the day.

I felt so sorry for Steve Parkis, Senior Vice President, Disney Online when he started trying to speak with all of that going on behind his audience/in front of him. But, I must say (and told him so) that I was very impressed with how well he pulled it off. He was engaging and entertaining. It’s all that much easier to do when you’re talking about things like a new virtual world for the Cars movie characters coming next year, but still no mean feat.

After that, I grabbed another free beer – something else that Steve had competing for his audience’s attention, but he worked nicely into the presentation – and thanked many of the exhibitors I saw using Dell products in the booths. Hey, it keeps me employed! And now, after finishing this recap, I’m heading over to the Metaverse Meetup a couple of blocks away. More to come after tomorrow!

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