Faculty Bookshelf: An interview with Steve Bein

Faculty.Bein2Steve Bein is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, teaching classes on Asian philosophy.  Dr. Bein sat down with Kate Pitcher earlier this year to talk about books, reading and his writing life.  Dr. Bein’s second novel in the Fated Blades series (Year of the Demon) is newly published by Roc (an imprint of Penguin Publishing) this October.

What are your current research interests?

My recent projects have been in compassion, environmental ethics, and applied ethics.  My upcoming project is a book chapter on a Japanese philosopher called Watsuji Tetsurō.  There I’m writing about problems of how we self-identify in the face of climate change.

What is your favorite literary genre to read for pleasure?

At heart I’m a science fiction and fantasy guy.  They’ve got the most potential to be philosophically provocative.  But when I’m reading for pleasure, I also have an eye for reading the kind of stuff I’m currently writing.  So for Daughter of the Sword and Year of the Demon, I’ve been reading urban fantasy, historical fiction, and anything with strong female protagonists, because my books have all of those elements.

Do you read one book or multiple books at a time?

I read multiple books at a time.  (In my line of work, there’s not much choice!)

What book(s) are currently on your nightstand or e-reader?

I make it a point to read some philosophy and some fiction every day.  In philosophy I’m reading a lot of Watsuji Tetsurō right now.  In fiction, Kurt Vonnegut’s Sucker’s Portfolio and Hugh Howey’s Wool.

Tell us about a book that changed your life:

Introduction to Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki is the first book I read on Zen, at fourteen.  It’s the book that put me on my career path. It taught me the importance of mental discipline, and that you didn’t necessarily need to replace one religion for another. The essential message is that your problems are problems because they are problematic for you.  Stress is not objective.  It’s not like weather; it’s not inevitable.  You can manage it.the-hobbit-tolkien

As for fiction, I read The Hobbit when I was a kid and I was hooked on fantasy after that.  Tolkien led me to Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, Robert E. Howard, all of that stuff.  From there I got into the sci fi side: Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, writers like that.  But I think The Hobbit is the snowflake that triggered the avalanche.

Name a book you just couldn’t finish & why:

I was asked to review a first novel, The Name of the Wind, which was advertised as Tolkienesque.  In my review I wanted to write, “it’s exactly as Tolkienesque as my work is Tolkienesque, which is to say not at all.”  No one is Tolkienesque—not until they redefine an entire genre and influence everyone in it.  My review of that book was, “Harry Potter without an interesting school, interesting adventures, or interesting friends, blathering on endlessly while taking superhuman efforts to remain a virgin.”

What were your favorite books as a child?

The Black Stallion, Choose Your Own Adventures, typical kid stuff. Thousands of pages of comic books. So many Conan novels. I was just at the right age when comic books made the shift from kid’s fare to adult fare.  Batman, Wolverine and those guys were my mythology, but then graphic novels came into being, so I could follow them into high school and beyond.

Do you have any favorite books related to your academic background in Japanese philosophy and history—books that non-experts would find accessible?

SophiesWorldZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is brilliant, and very accessible.  Robert Aitken is also very accessible; he’s one of the guys who brought Zen Buddhism to the United States.  The Mind of Clover stands out as a good choice.  On the Western side, Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s World is a lovely little introduction to philosophy.

You also write fiction –how do you manage the difference in the writing process (or is there a difference?) between creative and scholarly writing?

They’re different but they inform each other. I think the demand for research in my academic life has trained me to do a lot of background reading for my fiction—which is a good thing, because historical fiction is heavily research intensive.  On the flipside, the fiction acts as a reward system for the academic scholarship; in fact, I’m sure I never could have finished my dissertation without it.  I was writing a novel at the time, and my system was to write 500 words a day for the dissertation before I was allowed to do any fiction writing.  A year later I had a finished dissertation and a novel manuscript in hand.

And then there’s the obvious: no matter what you write, I think the more time you spend writing, the better you get at it.  In my philosophy I want to be clear and lucid; in my fiction I want to write with panache.  Not a lot of philosophers focus on the latter, but in my opinion, writing clearly, lucidly, and with flair is no bad thing.

If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be?  What would you want to know?

Plato, and everything.

Social Networking for Professionals

Crossing over the personal and professional self
Crossing over the personal and professional self

Become familiar with some of the social media technologies the savvy professional will need, including social networks, social bookmarking, and other relevant web 2.0 applications. The focus of this workshop is to encourage students to establish good habits that lead to a professional online representation of themselves. Participants are encouraged to take advantage of presenting themselves in a positive manner in order to reap the benefits later in life.

Wednesday, October 2nd
2:30 – 3:30 pm | Milne 104

Mobile Apps for Research and Education

GOLD.MobileApps.FlickrUserdavidherroldExplore (mostly) free smartphone apps that will help you research scholarly articles, organize your notes, access important documents on your phone and much more. We will explore apps for multiple platforms, as well as offer an opportunity for participants to share their favorite apps.

Tuesday, October 1st
1:00 – 2:00 pm | Milne 104

Evenings at Milne Library Receive Consistent Research Support

Our new Academic Excellence Librarian, Daniel Ross

Our new Academic Excellence Librarian, Daniel RossWhile Milne Library welcomes Daniel Ross as our newest librarian, the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) gains essential research coverage in the evenings. The newly created position of Academic Excellence Librarian provides a true win-win situation – both the library and the CAE benefit from evening supervision, extended and dedicated research assistance, and fresh eyes to work on developing programs that bring together all support services offered by the CAE.

Daniel Ross is no stranger to working late night hours at Milne Library – first as a SUNY Geneseo history student (Class of 2009) and then as our most recent part-time Evening/Weekend Manager during Spring 2013. After graduating from Geneseo, Dan completed an MLIS (Master of Library & Information Science) at Drexel University and has now returned to the Rochester area to build his professional career.

As the support services in the CAE –

– continue to grow and strengthen, the development of an Academic Excellence Librarian position seemed the perfect fit to more cohesively tie the CAE together as one unit.  This can be done through evening oversight of the center, marketing and development of center-based workshops, and compilation of usage statistics (i.e., how, when and why students are using the center). To this end, Dan Ross brings fresh ideas, organizational skills, and a solid understanding of what it means to be a Geneseo student.

Dan began his position on September 12 and we are excited to (re) introduce him to the college community.

Creating e-Portfolios for the Job Market

GOLD.ePortfolio
Photo Credit: Flickr User Transguyjay

An e-portfolio is a means of showcasing your accomplishments in digital format. It demonstrates your skills and competencies and is a reflection of who you are. Come and learn how to create your own free e-portfolio and add various forms of digital content, such as documents, videos, presentations and photos.

Thursday, September 26th
1:00 – 2:00 pm | Milne 104

Workshop: Critical Inquiry in Research

Photo Credit: Flickr User C_Knaus
Photo Credit: Flickr User C_Knaus

Great leaders gather information and critically analyze the facts before making good decisions. Attendees at this workshop will discover helpful tips and strategies that are used in any kind of database to help improve their searches, save time and determine the best quality resources for their research.

Tuesday, September 24th
1:00 – 2:00 pm | Milne 104

Scholarly Publishing across the Disciplines: Interviews with Geneseo Faculty

CostelloPeckInterviewThe Milne Library Scholarly Communications team and librarian liaisons for the campus academic departments interviewed 87 faculty members in one-on-one conversations during the academic year 2010-11 and part of academic year 2011-12.  The results of these interviews were analyzed and documented in a series of reports which will be issued over the next few months.

The interviews conducted with Geneseo faculty members were intended to be a survey of the current research and publishing practices on campus, giving us a glimpse of the issues affecting Geneseo faculty, including the changing scholarly publishing environment, digital and online scholarship, peer review, publishing with undergraduate researchers and open access.

faculty interviews wordle.SMThe first two reports in this series (both released today) document the issues and responses surrounding faculty and undergraduate students involved in research and publishing and the quickly changing environment surrounding digital scholarship and its value on campus and in the disciplines.  In particular, we look at ways in which the library may be able to meet the needs of new initiatives on campus.

To read the reports, please visit the Milne Library Scholarly Communications’ webpage at http://libguides.geneseo.edu/AcrossTheDisciplines

We welcome your feedback about the reports.  Send any comments or questions to Kate Pitcher at [email protected] or by phone at 585-245-5064.

Milne Library Scholarly Communications Team

 

Gallery Reception, September 19th

RenSliderImageArtist|Professor Ren Vasiliev and Milne Library invite you to attend the official opening of her art exhibit,

The Sublime and the Ordinary
Thursday, September 19th
5-7:30 pm, Milne 208

Please join us to meet with the artist, and take the opportunity for questions and answers. Light refreshments will be served.

“The sublime: the fading of the sensible, or the sense you get when you realize you’re unable to make sense of something.” ~ Trevor Paglen, geographer, writer, photographer

“The ordinary: with no special or distinctive features; what is commonplace or standard.” ~ The New Oxford American Dictionary, 2005

Don’t miss out on the Lamron’s story of Dr. Vasiliev, “Geneseo’s Unexpected Artists.” The exhibit, a collection of photos and collages, will be displayed in Milne’s Gallery until October 31, 2013.

ERIC (eric.ed.gov) has a new look

ERIC
Screenshot of the new ERIC interface.

The public access version of ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) has a new website and a new logo.

The website’s new interface is much more “google-like” where users can search for keywords, author, and title at the same time in the search box or they can use single terms.

The streamlined approach means the advanced search screen is no longer available, however, users will still be able to limit to peer reviewed or full-text available content at the start of their search.

ERIC2
Screenshot of search results.

In addition, the results page allows for further refinement by letting users narrow their search to publication date, descriptor, source, author, publication type, education level or audience.

Additional features and content will be added on an ongoing basis, hopefully based upon browser feedback.

For more information visit ERIC or click on the note from the Commissioner.

ERIC
ERIC [online image]. (2013). Retrieved August 22, 2013, from: http://eric.ed.gov/

MS Access: Creating and Using Tables

GOLD.MSAccessMS Access is a database application that allows you to enter, store, retrieve, and print data related to a particular topic or purpose. This workshop will focus on the design and creation of tables used to store a collection of related information in a rectangular arrangement of rows and columns.

Wednesday, September 18th
2:30 – 3:30 pm | Milne 104