29.9.04

Call to action

Legalizing Torture: The Republican leadership of Congress is attempting to legalize extraordinary rendition.

"Extraordinary rendition" is the euphemism we use for sending terrorism suspects to countries that practice torture for interrogation. As one intelligence official described it in the Washington Post, "We don't kick the sh*t out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the sh*t out of them.”

Write your Representative about this NOW! (þ: Crooked Timber)

What more proof do you need?

Do this Browser Security Test and then click on the link I have to download Firefox. Really. It's worth it just for the peace of mind. (þ: Librarians in Black)

27.9.04

Why we need to stop the USA PATRIOT Act

Salt Lake Tribune - Opinion: "Free societies win because freedom and justice are stronger than their opposites. Even if we eliminate our own freedoms at home and fight brutally abroad, we will still be only a third-rate oppressor. We can never out-torture or out-spy or out-suppress al-Qaida or the dictatorships of the world. " (þ: Library Link of the Day)

Notable Quotes

"I hate it when villains quote Shakespeare."

John Chriton, Farscape

26.9.04

Why read?

Read on: "And this is the real pleasure of reading: not just the search for facts and information, which we can get just as well from other forms of media, but the connection to another human mind and heart that we can only experience when we enter a world that someone else has created."

No matter how often I use e-mail or IM or iPod, no matter how much tv I watch or how many movies I go to, this is the reason I read. The immediacy of touching the pages, turning them at my pace, allowing the characters to come to life in my mind is something that is not allowed by the other media.

Now excuse me, I have a book to finish.

24.9.04

Links Galore

23.9.04

I really hope this isn't true

Dear Tyler Hamilton ... The newest reports say that he gets to keep his Olympic gold because the second test couldn't really be done (the sample deteriorated). The Spanish tests, though, came back positive so there's still suspicion.

I have a friend who is a big Lance Armstrong fan - he was an early wearer of the Live Strong bracelet and still wears it all the time. Me? I admire Lance but Tyler's performance last year in the Tour just amazed me. Tyler broke his collarbone the first day of the Tour, continued to compete, won a stage and ended up fourth overall. As good as Lance is, he hasn't competed like that.

Which is why I really hope that Tyler is cleared conclusively.

22.9.04

Call to action

Support reader privacy."The US Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on the SAFE Act (S-1709), authored by Senators Larry Craig of Idaho and Richard Durbin of Illinois.

The SAFE Act both increases the effectiveness of antiterrorism efforts and protects the civil liberties of law-abiding U.S. citizens and residents. It is a bi-partisan bill supported by Republicans and Democrats.

Among other things, the SAFE Act restores the protections for the privacy of bookstore and library records that were eliminated by Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

The SAFE Act is supported by virtually the entire US book industry (publishers, distributors and booksellers as represented by companies large and small plus the American Booksellers Association, etc.), plus the American Library Association, the writer's group PEN, over 350 cities and counties as well as four states, and over 170,000 people who have signed our petition."
(þ: Stephanie)

21.9.04

Technology run amok

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German telecommunications company said on Tuesday it is developing the first mobile phone that will alert users when their breath is bad or if they are giving off offensive smells. The phone will use a tiny chip measuring less than one millimeter to detect unpleasant odors, a spokeswoman for Siemens Mobile said. A research team in the southern city of Munich is developing the device using new sensor technology.

"It examines the air in the immediate vicinity for anything from bad breath and alcohol to atmospheric gas levels," the spokeswoman said. "Some people take smelling good rather seriously." (þ: Thing One)

My only comments on this book

Many have already commented on Kitty Kelly's most recent venture in bioporn. If you didn't see last Tuesday's Hardball interview, read the transcript here.

20.9.04

In my never-ending search to replace Google

Usually I use Mamma for websearching, but today, thanks to Free Range Librarian, I've learned about A9. According to their site, "We provide a unique set of powerful features to find information, organize it, and remember it—all in one place. A9.com is a powerful search engine, using web search and image search results enhanced by Google, Search Inside the Book™ results from Amazon.com, reference results from GuruNet, movies results from IMDb, and more." Can't wait to try it out!

Don't be a dodo

Terry Teachout blogs about the decline of the US Postal Service (Who knew that people weren't writing as many letters? Apparently not the US Postmaster General!) and compares it to the death of the classical music industry, "improvements" in news reportage/gathering, the rise and fall of CDs, among other things.
Of course I may be wrong. But the point is that if you aren’t willing even to contemplate the possibility that the way you do what you do may be rendered obsolete by technology, you’re a sitting duck for somebody else in the same line of work who, like it or not, is prepared to think about the unthinkable.
When I think of the ways my profession has changed just in the short time in which I've been a librarian...

Change, however, is not always for good. The push-pull of new toys needs to be balanced with the "why is this good for society". All too frequently, however, that's not the case. Witness modern radio, where live dj's have been replaced by remote programming.

Notable Quotes

There's one other benefit to fine writing, even if consumers don't know they're buying it. We are slammed by too many things happening in real time, as theorist Richard Powers writes. I'll just offer a handful: split screens, multitasking, news strips beneath the TV news, muting ads to have a hasty conversation, my pedometer talking to me as I walk to the fridge listening to my MP3, top 10 lists of lists, the notion that all stories have two sides.

Only when you are lost in a magnificent book, film or other work of art are you "in the flow." You have left real time behind. As Mr. Powers writes (evoking great emotion in me), "You hit that last sentence and look up. Humbert Humbert is in the train seat in front of you. Charles Bovary is beside you in the hospital waiting room. La Belle Dame sans Merci checking you out as the doors slide open and you step off at your floor."

Time is transcended. For once, we rest.

"The good things in life shouldn't be free", Heather Mallick

19.9.04

Sigh

In case you thought I was kidding when I blogged about this, the Little Professor reports that she's >:-(.

Interrupting my day of rest

I've changed some things on the sidebar. For example, I've placed a link there to encourage you to change from IE to Get Firefox! Why? Because it's safer than IE and just as easy to use.

The other changes are mostly on the things I'm watching and listening to, as well as some sites I find fun. wordful (þ: Language Hat) will even help you chose a name for your blog!

Now back to being lazy.

17.9.04

When it rains...

Last June, before summer vacation, I oversaw the packing of 107 boxes of books (about 4000 items). Why? Because my library was being expanded by about 1/3 and the books were in bookcases along a wall that would no longer exist.

Over the summer I kept hearing about the horrors of the construction: the cost overruns, the delays, the mess, the noise. I stayed far, far away.

September 7 was my first day back in the library and it was everything I expected. 107 boxes of books that had been neatly packed, labelled and stacked were strewn around the library in no particular order and with no particular care. Some had even been repacked (not so neatly). The wall was indeed gone and in its place were spaces for an ADA-required lift to the (new) 8th floor, a door to the (new) inside stairs on the west side, a (new) fiction nook, and a (new) extension to the conference/research room. The lights were clearly temporary and there was an aura of "half-finished work" about the place.

I started to plan how I'd attack the reshelving, got some stuff out of the storage space and went home.

September 8 was The Day Frances Visited New York City. Walking to work with water filling the roads and sloshing over my shoes up to my ankles was my first clue that not all was well with the world. As I approached the building, I saw a wave of water escaping the front door, quickly followed by a broom. "OK," I thought, "it's just water that got in when the door was open for the contractors."

Wrong.

It was whitewater rapids cascading down the east stairs. It was a plume of water descending through the elevator shaft. It was tiny rivulets of water on the (new) west stairs. And it was 1.5-2" of water pooling on the 7th floor. What saved the library? The fact that eight years ago, during the first renovation, they'd laid greenfield cables under the floor and hadn't removed them during this renovation. However, another inch or so and I'd be as underwater as the rest of the floor.

Breathing an ill-advised sigh of relief, I went back to the cafeteria to get something warm to drink. On my way back, something prompted me to look in the conference room. Sure enough: a rather persistent leak was emerging in the corner. A corner that hadn't had books unshelved. A corner in which we had all the art books (aka "the 700s").

Springing into action, a contractor and I removed an additional four bookcases of books from harm's way. A colleague and I then moved all 107 boxes to tables and study carrels so that they, too, could remain above flood level.

Needless to say, very little else got done Wednesday. Thursday as spent trying to rearrange the library shelving so as to maximize the new space. That and tracking down missing summer orders, many of which had mistakenly not been placed. Friday was more of the same, but plans were afoot to start reshelving books on Monday.

Over the weekend our electrical system shorted out, killing our intra- and internet access. So when I got to school Monday the 13th, all I could do was shelve. About half the books got reshelved then, with the notable exception of the art books (the corner was still leaking the occasional droplet of water). Tuesday, the rest got shelved, again with the exception of the art books.

Wednesday we regained intranet access and I was able to enter all the patrons into the catalog. Today, Friday, two weeks after school started, I am finally able to work on-line cataloging the new books and chasing down the last of my missing orders.

Still to be done? An inventory (with luck, everything that came off the shelves went back on). And all the other start-of-year things that I'm woefully behind in accomplishing. Still, I can teach and check out books and that's all that really matters, right?

Until Ivan Visits New York City this weekend, that is...

Links Galore


16.9.04

Exactly what do you mean by "diversity"?

If you live in New York City, or commute in, often you are overwhelmed by the free handouts. When I leave the subway in the morning, people handing out Metro and amNew York are standing there, ready to increase my reading matter. Yesterday a representative of the New York Sun was also there, and I took a copy. In it, I found a series of letters responding to an article written by Mr. X, telling him You Are Not Alone.

Why did Mr. X feel alone? He was a - gasp! shock! horror! - Upper West Side Republican. In a city that celebrates diversity of religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, size, economic status and a bunch of other "othernesses", being a Republican is anathema.

This is particularly true in education, as illustrated in The American Enterprise. My Republican colleagues and student at work have to decide if they should be closeted or suffer continual comments ("such a nice girl, it's too bad she's Republican" is one I've heard several times).

Given the animosity, the blind rage and hatred of President Bush, I expect to hear more of this as November nears.




Touchstones

Bookslut pointed me to the Guardian article about touchstones: What kind of book marks a watershed in a woman's life? That was the question I was asked to address when the Orange prize for fiction, in association with Radio 4's Woman's Hour, commissioned a piece of research to establish a list of books read by women at formative moments in their lives - books they return to again and again.

Then So Many Books jumped on the bandwagon, listing Books: For All of Life's Moments Big or Small:
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Dune by Frank Herbert
Job: A Comedy of Justice Robert Heinlein
A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far (poetry) by Adrienne Rich
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
A Room of One's Own (nonfiction) by Virginia Woolf
Mind of My Mind by Octavia E Butler
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Some time ago on The Readers Place we started a post about touchstones from our youth. This was based on a lecture I'd been to on Wonder Tales, where we came up with a list that included:
Wrinkle in Time
Lord of the Rings
Wizard of Oz (both book and movie)
Peter Cottontail
Puss'n'Boots
Wind in the Willows
Peter Pan
Alice in Wonderland
Mary Poppins
Secret Garden
the works of Thornton Burgess

As I've compared the TRP and the Guardian-inspired lists, I've been thinking about what a touchstone really is. Is it something that is so embedded in your being that you can't imagine yourself as yourself without it? In which case, I'd have to add Goodnight, Moon to the list. Is it something that becomes an integral part of you, as many of the above have become? Is it like a security blanket, something you can put aside for long periods of time but that you pick up when you need to calm down/feel better about life/re-find your center? Or is it something to which you return again and again, finding both your old and new selves in the pages, learning new meanings as you age and experience more?

In A History of Reading, Alberto Manguel talks about reading for Borges. He'd start a book and Borges would finish it for him, from memory. Then they'd move to another, seemingly prompted at random from within Borges' brain. Manguel posits that our brains are the original hypertext: that each time we read (or listen to) something we make new connections with old and new favorites. The Guardian list, and the other lists mentioned above, seem to be making the same point as Manguel did. Which still doesn't answer the question of what comprises a touchstone. Perhaps there is no one answer, it's too personal.

Speaking of personal, what about aural touchstones? What songs and/or albums make up your interior aural landscape? Food for thought and fodder for another post.

13.9.04

Notable Quotes

A novel is not an allegory, I said as the period was about to come to an end. It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don't enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won't be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel. This is how you read a novel: you inhale the experience. So start breathing. I just want you to remember this. That is all; class dismissed.

Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

11.9.04

The death of privacy?

last month, Tom Watson blogged about a series of events that led him to reflect onPrivacy and Revelation. His comments about how easy it is to get medical information that should be private reminded me of when I was in hospital a few years ago - I could wander the halls and get a sense of what was going on with almost every patient on the ward. There was no check on who my husband and parents were, just an assumption that if they said that they belonged to me they did, and therefor had a right to know how my care was progressing.

However, I don't think that the spate of "here's my story about (depression/mental illness/personal trauma" books is related to a lack of privacy. It's more a death of the concept of the personal, and what belongs in that space. Too many people are used to this public airing of personal woes, thanks to the likes of Phil Donohue, Dr. Phil and Jerry Springer. We've become a culture of public confession and it's expected for us to grieve, rant and deal with life in front of whomever is watching. Even people not directly related to an event can get in on the act (think about how many times have you seen the neighbor down the street interviewed on tv, saying "I had no idea that Johnny was a serial killer, he mowed my lawn just yesterday!").

There is some value to raising awareness, as Katie Couric did with colon cancer. Presuming, however, that 'everyone' wants to know about the ups and downs of your moods... of course, this is a serious case of the pot meeting the kettle as I'm presuming that anyone actually cares about my opinion on this.

But the larger point, the one about the death of privacy, is valid and worth pondering. We assume that we have a veil behind which people cannot peek, yet we allow that veil to be pierced all too frequently. Even JD Salinger has a paper trail now.

Links Galore

10.9.04

It's about time (let's hope it lasts... and deepens)

The cover story of the New Statesman asksCan Islam Change?.
The Muslim world is changing. Three years after the atrocity of 9/11, it may be in the early stages of a reformation, albeit with a small "r". From Morocco to Indonesia, people are trying to develop a more contemporary and humane interpretation of Islam, and some countries are undergoing major transformations.
It's not just 9/11, it's Darfur, it's Beslan, it's the fatwa-driven reactions to almost anything that presages change and modernization.

Karen Armstrong's The Battle for God is a good look at how all fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim or Jewish, react in much the same way to challenges. Now, however, with radical Islam wanting to take the bloody route back to the Caliphate (and possibly earlier - would they really want to not reconquer the Iberian ?) as well as impose their vision of life on all of us, the stakes are higher.

It's good to know that some are allowing these recent tragic events to shape their thoughts.

So when are we going to do something about this?

Genocide and the UN: "I don’t have much time for Colin Powell, as a rule, but it’s only fair to note that his willingness to describe what’s happening in Sudan as genocide contrasts very favourably with the appalling behaviour of the Clinton administration over Rwanda."

Good for Colin Powell, and John Danforth. But Clinton sent troops to Yugoslavia, while NATO sat on its collective hands. Despite having overextended outselves in Iraq, we still have troops elsewhere that could do something in Darfur. Where's the outrage? Where are the protestors?

During the recent Republican National Convention, not one group of protestors issued a call to action to just do something. If our goal was to protect the Iraqis from Saddam, the very least we can do is insist that something be done here.

9.9.04

WTF? : (

Does IM Make U Dum?: "B4 the Net, it wuz unheard of 2 use shorthand like this, unless U were writing a classified ad."

I remember those ads. And I remember not being interested in taking shorthand in school. Who knew?

Seriously, though, I see the impact of IM/texty/whatever you call it on my students. When they e-mail, they use it all the time; luckily, most of them know enough to not use it in actual papers and on projects in school. A few, though, seem to have a problem telling the difference between appropriate and inappropriate writing.

I don't think it makes them look dumb, however. It makes them look like middle school and high school students.

When I see a message from someone my age, however, I worry. I don't have a problem with getting a short text message on my cell from someone that says that they'll be "l8". But an entire message written like that? It's as nails-on-a-blackboardy as reading something from an adult where they confuse your/you're, too/to/two or (as one of my friends has discovered) weather/whether.

I wonder if it's an attempt to act young. It can't be a lack of education because this type of writing didn't arise until recently. And there can't possibly be that many former stenographers out there! (þ: NEXTGENLIB)

8.9.04

Updated Job Description

Yesterday I listed the books I read over summer break. One of those books was Simon Winchester's The Meaning of Everything, about the Oxford English Dictionary. Today, being lazy as usual, I came across this: Life as a library researcher. Part of me wishes they offered summer internships. I'd love to do this for a while!

(The second article in the newsletter, "Court in controversy: a lexicographer's brush with the law", appeals to the part of me that was Pre-Law in college. I've already changed careers once, maybe a second major shift is in the offing?)

Not sure if I'm quite this geeky!

ISSN for Weblogs: "You can apply for and use an International Standard Serial Number for your Weblog. Your blog will then officially exist in the worldwide standardized encyclopedia of periodicals." (þ: Simon World)

7.9.04

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

It's the offical end of summer: school starts today. My main goal this summer was to rest and relax and reading was a major part of that plan. So here's a list of what was read:

Fiction
Yoga Hotel, Maura Moynihan
Lucky Girls, Nell Freudenberger
The Lemon Table, Julian Barnes
The Train Now Departing, Martha Grimes
Little Black Book of Stories, A.S. Byatt
The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler

Non-Fiction
The Language Police, Diane Ravitch
All the President's Spin, Bryan Keefer, Ben Fritz, and Brendan Nyhan
Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi
Parallel Myths, J.F. Breulin
The Meaning of Everything, Simon Winchester
Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson
Idiot Proof, Frances Wheen
When Good People Write Bad Sentences, Robert Harris

Young Adult/Children's
Stormchaser and Beyond the Deepwoods, Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
People of Sparks, Jeanne DuPrau
Midnight for Charlie Bone, Jenny Nimmo
Homeward Bounders and Merlin Conspiracy, Diana Wynne Jones
The Stones of Green Knowe, L.M. Boston
Eragon, Christopher Paolini
Running Out of Time and Among the Hidden, Margaret Peterson Haddix
Mister Monday, Garth Nix
Confessions of a Not It Girl, Melissa Kantor
Chasing Vermeer, Blue Balliett and Brett Helquist


Mystery
The Winds of Change, Martha Grimes
Devil's Hearth and Witch's Grave, Phillip DePoy
A Cry From the Dark, Robert Barnard
Burglar on the Prowl, Lawrence Block
Black and Blue and Walks the Plank, Ian Rankin
Amber Room, Steve Berry
Bookman's Promise, John Dunning
Eyes at the Window, Evie Yoder Miller
The Rule of Four, Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
Unsigned, Unbound, Untitled, Uncataloged, and Unsolicited, Julie Kaewert
The Intelligencer, Leslie Silbert

Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Hat Full of Sky, Terry Prachett
Lyra's Oxford, Philip Pullman

Stay tuned and see what descends from Mt. Bookpile next!

6.9.04

Interesting question

Squeamers: "When did liberals become such political hypochondriacs?" asks James Wolcott. He posits that it might have something to do with the loss of the traditional Democratic base, the factory/union workers and the transformation of the party into the Party of Yuppies, but agrees that this is too facile an explanation.

Watergate might have something to do with it: the extreme sense of betrayal people felt at the lengths to which CREEP would go to re-elect Nixon.

The increasing lack of across-the-aisle fellowship in our government is another factor. Can you imagine this scenario now?
LAMB: Well, what was Bob Dole doing endorsing a Democrat?
STROTHER: Incredible. What that is, is an example of what was compared to what is. The Senate at one time was a completely different institution. I learned about the Senate from these two guys, Monaghan and Dole, of course, but from John Stennis and Lloyd Benson.

They were a group of people who admired and respected each other, and Dole found out that I was filming Monaghan, walked by the room, said hey would you like to film me saying something about Russell Long, that`s an easy thing to do, and came in the room and sat down next to Monaghan, and I saw that as a great opportunity. But it just shows the difference in the violent partisanship that exists now and the comradery that existed in the late `70s and early `80s.
I can't.

Noam Chomsky's convinced that we already have Osama, and that he'll be "captured" in time for a November surprise. Ralph Nader's getting a lot of his support from Republicans who want to ensure Kerry's loss. There's a vast right-wing conspiracy against liberals.

Sometimes I think the British system, with the shadow cabinet issuing responses to the government-in-power's policies and statements would be best. It can't be worse than what we have now!

Notable Quotes

"Where am I? What does it mean to say: the world?... Who tricked me into this whole thing and leaves me standing here?... Why was I not asked about it, why was I not informed of the rules and regulations but just thrust into the ranks as if I had been bought from a peddling shanghaier of human beings? How did I get involved in this big enterprise called actuality?... Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint?"

Soren Kierkegaard

5.9.04

It's the end of the world as he knows it...

The seventh sign: Hear ye, hear ye, I come to proclaim the end of the Internet. The signs have been on nigh for some time--classmates.com pop-ups, the rise and fall of Friendster, the Star Wars kid--but those were mere harbingers of a greater, more insidious threat.

My mom has a blog.
I come from one of those "early adopter" computer literate families (first computer: Commodoer PET, my sister works in Academic Computing and my father taught a course on "How to Build a Computer and Use It") and yet, oddly enough, I'm the only one with a blog. How would I feel if my mother started a blog? I don't know. Let's hope I don't find out. (þ: Confessions of an Ideosyncratic Mind)

4.9.04

How?

The events yesterday in Russia (Beslan) are just... horrific? mind-blowingly tragic? Words are failing me. Every time something like this happens, be it Columbine or Munich or New York, I am filled with sadness and wonder at the evil that exists in this world. What do people hope to achieve? Or is it because they lack hope, and so wish to deny it from others?

The loss of the children, the anguish of the community, the sense of helplessness - my meager writings are inadequate to the task. The solution is equally unclear. "Give in" to the demands and they become a neverending stream. Ignore them and the ante gets upped and upped. I'm at a loss. And others feel the same.

Couldn't have said it better myself


3.9.04

Links Galore

  • Doing some September back-to-school clothes shopping? Check out La fraise.com. My fave? "There are 10 types of people in this world: those that understand binary... and those that don't." (via BoingBoing)
  • Opening Hooks, the hook project ""The idea behind this site is simple, to compile as large a collection of great opening hooks from as many titles, authors, and genres as possible." (thanks to NeatNew)
  • Can't get enough of VH1's "I love the 70s/80s/90s"? Tired of today and the future? This site is for you: Nostalgia Central.

1.9.04

Push or pull?

Peering beyond the technology hype: "It is extremely difficult to predict which technologies will become part of everyday life in the future."

Well, duh. Part of the problem is that technology doesn't need to be cool to be useful. For example, the alphabet or writing are a form of technology. Not cool, however. Cutting edge and/or better than the competition doesn't always work, either (can you say "Betamax"?).

The problem I have, and I've said this before, is that we don't always need the technotool, but we're sort of forced into it. Cell phones, ubiquitous as they are, are not necessary to life but if you don't have one people look at you cross-eyed. They do help, particularly if you have ever paid $11 for a one-minute phone call on a pay phone. But necessary? Hardly.

Ditto the iPod, the Palm, TiVo and innumerable others. Yes, they make life easier. Do they make life better? I think the jury is still out.

Still, this article has some good points about what does and doesn't "make it." As for the Next Great Idea? Still waiting... (via elearnspace)