Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Curriculum Vitae is not a Resume

I am applying for an academic library job tomorrow. Although I currently work for a university my job is much more corporate in nature. I got the job using a standard resume format that is what they show you in the employment offices of your major universities. I sent a similar resume to a few colleagues at the University for proofreading before I turned it in and soon found that I had woefully underestimated the amount of detail expected in a Curriculum Vitae (CV).

I now feel like my CV will be in much better shape (if I can finish it by tomorrow), but I can't help but feel for those who must read the damn things when hiring for an academic position. I'm going to end up writing every little thing that I have done for the past four or five years and I have some difficulty believing that anyone is going to care about most of it. It feels like I'm going to end up pretty much padding the resume because I don't have a wide variety of actual teaching and publishing experience to draw on. I'm going to write about training manuals that I created, short informal presentations that I made to employees, blogs I created, documents I delivered, etc. Will that be useful or sufficient for the hiring committee? We shall see.

Oh well. Once more unto the breach!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Step Right Up and Test Your Beliefs!

I just took the Belief-O-Matic test from beliefnet.com:

http://bntest.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Quizzes/BeliefOMatic.aspx

The results are not exactly surprising, but I wonder how many religious people find that their beliefs don't quite match up with their chosen religion. Would taking a test like this encourage them to try out another faith? Somehow I doubt it.

Anyway, these are my heathen, atheistic, highly secular results:

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (97%)
3. Nontheist (83%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (78%)
5. Liberal Quakers (75%)
6. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (66%)
7. Neo-Pagan (64%)
8. Taoism (58%)
9. Reform Judaism (57%)
10. New Age (48%)
11. Scientology (45%)
12. New Thought (44%)
13. Sikhism (42%)
14. Mahayana Buddhism (39%)
15. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (39%)
16. Bahá'í Faith (35%)
17. Orthodox Quaker (32%)
18. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (27%)
19. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (27%)
20. Islam (22%)
21. Orthodox Judaism (22%)
22. Jainism (20%)
23. Eastern Orthodox (18%)
24. Roman Catholic (18%)
25. Hinduism (16%)
26. Seventh Day Adventist (14%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (2%)

So apparently I need to stay away from Jehovah's Witness Churches. Will do!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

UK Library Salaries

I put together another spreadsheet of UK Library Salaries. I have made it available through Google Docs here:

http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pGH4iEPN7pqh1pzjsDfnpCg

The Lexington Herald-Leader makes this salary info available on their website. All the salaries at UK can be searched here:

http://www.kentucky.com/601/story/353631.html

I've pulled out all of the salaries that have "LIBRARIES" listed as the college and I sorted those salaries from highest to lowest. Some librarians that are listed as reporting to another college, like the Law Library Director, are not included in this spreadsheet.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Floccinaucinihilipilification

I have a new favorite word . . . now if I could only figure out how to pronounce it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Librarian Hostility Towards Computers

Dorothea Salo mentioned this article in a recent post. I'm going to lift the abstract and repost it here just so you don't have to go clicking around to find it:
I feel somewhat like Daniel must have felt in the lions' den, and if I respond in something like an ominous roar, let me make clear that I address myself primarily to card-carrying, dogmatically convinced computerators who have wrapped themselves in the security blanket of the computer, and do not dare to think about the basic problem that it presents to librarianship. If this kind of computerator gets mad at some of the things I say, it is because his ego is involved in the computer, the worst form of slavery for man; if he does not, it indicates he is still capable of independent thought about the basic problems, and there is some hope.

This article is from 1972 when computers were still relatively new and the internet was in its infancy so a certain level of mistrust is to be expected. It is nice to know that we've come a long way even if some of us have been dragging our feet for most of the journey.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Paul for Ghost!

I know I already posted this:

http://www.picturesforsadchildren.com/index.php?comicID=177

. . . but this storyline is so filled with goodness that I can't help linking to the next few panels as well:

http://www.picturesforsadchildren.com/index.php?comicID=178

http://www.picturesforsadchildren.com/index.php?comicID=179

I am just glad that someone has taken the time to accurately portray the political process in comic form. Of course, Pictures for Sad Children is always good so be sure to read the archives.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Coffin Couches

I was looking around online to see how wide most couches are and what is one of the top results in Google for couches? Why this, of course:

http://coffincouches.com/

If I was looking to spend $3,500 on a couch I would be sorely tempted, but, alas, I think I'll be a little more frugal than that.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sweet, sweet, Gaimany giveaways

I love the chance at free stuff and I love Neil Gaiman so I couldn't help but post this contest:

http://fashion-piranha.livejournal.com/23000.html

Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone, but posting this might give me an extra chance to win stuff. Umm, that's probably a big MIGHT since the entry rules are slightly unclear.

Anyway, the Gaimany offerings increase as entrants increase so be sure to sign up just so winners will have a nice selection of items to choose from.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Multiverse

Mmm, multiversey:

http://blogs.wnyc.org/radiolab/2008/08/12/the-multi-universes/

Ah what beautiful, mathematical madness!

I've long been convinced of the lack of free will, but the explanation of the multiverse from that podcast made much more sense to me than other craziness I have read. The swiss cheese example is quite nice, although it should almost be a sponge or some other, more elastic, holey object.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Maine's Library Use Value Calculator

The Maine State Library has created a nice value calculator for their library system:

http://www.maine.gov/msl/services/calculator.htm

From the Maine Library's standpoint the nicest part about it is that it makes the clear connection between use and dollars. I would be quite surprised if library users were able to walk away from the calculator thinking they're not getting their money's worth from the tax dollars that they spend.

From the standpoint of other libraries, they owe Maine some words of thanks for opening up their code and making this tool available to other libraries.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hososcope Madness

I was going to initially write this post about the ridiculous horoscope I found in my paper this morning, but I have stumbled upon even more ridiculousness in the process of "properly researching" this post.

OK, so I read my horoscope just about everyday because it is on the same page as the comics and it is always funny to see how absurdly inaccurate it is. My favorite horoscopes are always about me and "my companion" or "my partner." Keep in mind that I am a single guy who has been single for, well, for a very long time.

Since I read my horoscope so often, I have been accustomed to a certain level of inanity there. Today's horoscope, however, hit cheap fortune cookie levels. Yes, today my horoscope commanded me to eat a good breakfast. It didn't foretell of a joyous breakfast that would be had by me, or hint at revelations to be found in my cereal bowl. No, it said something like "prepare for your day with a healthy breakfast." Apparently, the heavenly bodies have decided to stop telling us what will happen to us, and instead take a more active role by shouting out demands from the sky. Lovely.

Now sure, that was amusing, but you may notice that I stated the horoscope "said something like" rather than quoting it word for word. This is because I left my paper at home and the library in which I work no longer subscribes to the local newspaper. This is ridiculous in and of itself, but we'll set it aside for a moment. It turns out that although most of the newspaper is available online the printed horoscope is not. Apparently, the writers of such prophetic insight as "have a good breakfast" do not allow their work to be freely distributed online. Honestly, with their level of prowess, I can see how they would want to keep their skills for paying customers alone. But of course an online newspaper would be practically worthless without a horoscope section so the Lexington Herald-Leader has managed to find a free one online.

As a member of the Virgo sign, the sexiest sign in the heavens, I always look there first and although none of the Virgo predictions found through the Lexington Herald-Leader bear any resemblance to each other they are all equally humorous. First we have the "Accuweather" horoscope:

http://www.kentucky.com/horoscopes/story/470007.html

I have no idea what these horoscopes have to do with the weather, but that's the label in the header so I guess we'll go with that. Let's examine it in a bit of detail:

Your spiritual side is accented today. Contemplating what's important to you and finding your roots will result in greater self- confidence later on. Don't take an aggressive attitude toward persons in authority or elderly relatives.

Obviously my choice of outfit this morning brings out my "spiritual side." I haven't been able to take two steps today without the office movers who are relocating my furniture commenting on how full of spirit I am. Oh yeah, and thinking about some vague stuff will improve my confidence. So far we have the basic ho-hum silliness of most horoscopes. A little wacky, but nothing outrageous. Then we move on to that last sentence that gets a little too specific for its own good. I am told not to be aggressive towards "persons in authority or elderly relatives." Alright, not smacking around the boss is decent advice, but why am I to leave only my elderly relatives alone? Should I feel free to yell at my brother, sister, and parents, all of whom are a bit younger than most members of the AARP? For that matter, is all the rest of humanity fair game? I guess so. Right after this post I'm off to challenge anyone in the hallways, anyone who doesn't control my budget or promotion, to a round of fisticuffs.

What I first thought were two additional online horoscopes in the Herald-Leader are, in fact, just copies of the original with different formatting and/or web addresses. It looks like the horoscope is important enough that you need to have three chances of finding it:

1. http://www.kentucky.com/horoscopes/story/470007.html
2. http://www.kentucky.com/483
3. http://www.kentucky.com/horoscopes/

I must tip my hat to the Herald-Leader for ensuring that I could not avoid facing my dark future of spiritual accents and aggressive behavior towards passersby, all after a healthy breakfast, of course.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

ping.fm

Hmm, this is a nice little online app that lets me update my status and make mini-posts in many places at once: http://ping.fm/.

I first saw it on the SLA Blogging Section blog a while back, but finally got around to checking it out. I still haven't quite finagled a way to get it to update my gtalk status, but it worked really nicely for MySpace and Facebook and Twitter and a few other things.

The current beta code to get access is "dreamofping," but if that is no longer functional a quick web search will probably get you the most recent code.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Georgia State copyright lawsuit

Georgia State University has not yet buckled under to the publishers that are suing it for copyright infringement. See the Chronicle of Higher Education's article here:

http://chronicle.com/free/2008/06/3583n.htm?utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

I had not previously seen any specifics on how Georgia State was sharing online material. I don't see how material shared through Blackboard or other content management systems that require students to log in and prove they are students can possibly be in violation of fair use. At least, not unless they are violating one of the other fair use principles and copying large portions of works or charging for it or something.

This statement from the Chronicle makes me a little concerned: "The university admits that it was offering the material online to students through the following means: electronic reserves in the library, the Blackboard/WebCT Vista course-management system, department Web pages, and other Web sites." Offering material on "department Web pages, and other Web sites" sounds a lot like putting material up for use by anyone who has web access, including non-students who are not necessarily eligible for free use privileges. Georgia State may have to revisit that policy when or if they settle this case. I don't see how they can really be held liable for access through Blackboard and Electronic Reserves.

I am happy that Georgia State is at least putting out the pretense that they will take this case to court. I had heard far too many lawyers suggest that this case was likely to be quickly settled since it didn't benefit either party very much to go to court. This is a case that will effect all academic institutions and I'd like to see libraries and their parent colleges and universities band together here to take a stand. The last thing I want to see is for this to go to court and for the publishers to win, establishing a precedent, but the next to last thing I want to see is that universities set the precedent of allowing publishers to quickly and easily bully them into submission.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bill Gates just as annoyed with Microsoft as the rest of us

An email from Bill Gates that turned up during an Anti-Trust lawsuit a few years back has been circulating around the web:

http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/microsoft/archives/141821.asp

It is a little comforting to know that Gates gets just as fed up with Windows as the rest of us. He is only referring to the installation of one specific piece of software here, but I've got to say that the Microsoft Help and Support site has always had terrible usability. I've gotten to the point that I totally ignore the search functionality built into the pages and instead go straight to Google if I have any kind of support issue.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Good Investment Goals

I will never find better investment goals than the one articulated in this comic:

http://www.qwantz.com/archive/001076.html

(I had the comic inserted in the blog, but couldn't get it to format correctly and then the linked image stopped working and I just got annoyed. This is why I gave up and just left the less interesting html. I feel bad, but take the time to click the link.)

I laughed a long time at that. So maybe I'm a little immature .

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sheldon

Today's Sheldon comic strip made me laugh out loud (For reals! You can tell because I spelled it out rather than loling):

http://www.sheldoncomics.com/archive/080514.html

Kellett is a master of the poetic arts.

Monday, May 12, 2008

T-shirts

I feel compelled to purchase this shirt:

http://www.topatoco.com/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=TO&Product_Code=BEAT-READING&Category_Code=BEAT

But at the same time I think I would feel bad about wearing a shirt with swears on it. Also, I now own like 5 or 6 t-shirts from webcomic artists so I have no real need for more t-shirts. Maybe if I take the time to clean out the 15 year old threadbare t-shirts from my dresser drawer I'll reconsider, but I guess for now I'll pass.

Must . . . fight . . . urge to . . . click buy.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Recycling Sucks

This video brings up some of my biggest fears about recycling:

http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/92358/detail/

Those fears being that recycling is a stupid waste of time that doesn't do jack squat for the environment. Now you can probably poke holes in some of Penn and Teller's arguments, but I've heard a lot of these points made on their own before.

Recycling is definitely inefficient. That is the reason why it costs so much money to recycle everything except aluminum cans. Actually, recycling aluminum costs too, but it is cheaper than mining new aluminum. Yeah, there's a reason that recycling plants cost the city rather than bringing in income. It's because recycling aluminum doesn't cover the cost of getting rid of all the other recyclables!

Meh, it is pretty easy so I guess I'll keep it up, but I wish they'd find something cheap and environmentally friendly to do with my recyclables. Maybe throw them in a landfill?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Final Blue 2.0 Activities

Yay! I made it to the final set of Blue 2.0 activities. I'm going to try to finish these in less than a half hour when I get to legitimately go home for the weekend. Luckily, I already have at least three social network accounts so this should be a breeze.

Facebook

Here is my Facebook profile page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=622809383.

Facebook is the social networking site that I currently use the most. I have more friends and contacts there and I just prefer the look of the site. I AM starting to get fed up with all the stupid applications that people want me to add. No, I'm tired of being a zombie and don't feel like screwing around with that any more. I don't want to be a pirate. I don't want to be a ninja. I don't want a garden. Stop asking me already! Well, at least I'm only getting spammed by people I know, unlike some other sites, such as:

MySpace

I think this is my MySpace page, but I'll have to check the link when I get home: http://www.myspace.com/jovialpessimist.

For some reason Lexmark doesn't care if I go to Facebook, but it totally blocks Myspace. Why do they do this? I dunno maybe the same reason they block the comic http://alienlovespredator.com/, but let me view the non-stop sex jokes and scantily clad cartoon ladies at http://www.leasticoulddo.com/. Yeah, basically it's because our IT department has no plan and no idea what it should be doing. Anyway, the look of MySpace profiles are much more original than Facebook's, but that doesn't usually mean they look good. Plus, the barrage of music from everyone's profiles is a little annoying, but it is a good place to keep up with a band and also not a bad place to check out some music.

For my last networking site I'm using LinkedIn. This is my profile there: http://www.linkedin.com/myprofile?trk=hb_side_pro.

I don't really like the site. It's boring, it's a hassle to use effectively, and it seems to be designed strictly to market yourself. I guess that is what it is designed for, but I find that aspect a little repellent. I'm glad all your business buddies think you're great, but why do I care? I suppose it's partly because I am suspicious of self-promotion and don't do much of it myself. It may work really well for those who are self-employed, but I choose not to have that type of job.

Oh well, so there are annoying parts to all of these websites, but there is certainly some value there as well. I do find it unlikely that many kids are going to use these kind of sites to contact and interact with their libraries, but I'm willing to be proven wrong. It is nice to be able to find old classmates and people you worked with without having to do more extensive searching. I've caught up with a few people who I would have totally lost track of without these sites.

Done! Four weeks of activities in less than an hour. Yeeee-haaaaw!

Blue 2.0 Slacker Catchup Time

Alright, I'm not motivated to start any other big projects right now so I'm going to see how many Blue 2.0 activities I can get through in an hour or so.

I've had a flickr account for a while and you may have already seen my happy hour pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/94418552@N00/sets/72157603953660545/

I have tried some strictly free photo sharing sites and I must say that I prefer flickr to anything else I've tried so far. I do find it a little non-intuitive to figure out how to bring up my photo sets and share them. I had to click around for a few minutes before I a set link to my Blue 2.0 photos.

Since I'm not really happy with the quality of my microphone and I didn't have anything interesting to talk about, I'm just going to talk about my favorite podcast. It is the podcast for the NPR show, This American Life. They always have the most intriguing stories about weird people and places and they always manage to look at their stories in a slightly off-kilter manner. I am now totally addicting to the program and have to listen to it every week, even if they're just playing reruns. Luckily, they do have their whole audio archive online so I can slowly make my way through many of their early shows that I didn't catch the first time around. Oh yeah, and did I mention that they're doing this crazy live show that will be broadcast to movie theaters all over the country? It's an odd thing to do, but I think I have no choice but to check it out, especially since This American Life will be playing at two theaters in Lexington. Well, I had to plug the show. Does this make me a non-profit shill?

OK, this brings me to the YouTube portion of weeks 9 & 10. Unfortunately, YouTube is blocked at work for me, but I did just watch this the other day:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl6hNj1uOkY

It was actually linked from Neil Gaiman's blog where he mentioned that there is a sharper version of the video here:

http://www.andrewthomashuang.com/MOV_Doll_Face.htm


I think it's a really nicely done little animation/movie/whatever you want to call it. It does hit you over the head a bit with the message that you can destroy yourself attempting to achieve the beauty portrayed in the media. However, the mechanical motions of the jack-in-the-box robot and the way it interacts with the human face are really quite striking. I'm going to have to go back to Andrew Huang's site to see what else he has done.

Ha! Who says the time estimates for these activities are too low? I just completed the activities for weeks 9 & 10 in less than a half hour! Well, it helps that I already had a flickr account and some familiarity with podcasts and YouTube, I suppose.

Oh well, on to weeks 11 & 12 in my next post!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Professionalism of Librarians

I just read Dorothea Salo's post on whether or not Librarianship is a profession. I was interested enough that I also read these other three posts she linked to from other people with slightly different viewpoints:

http://www.lisjobs.com/blog/?p=278
http://www.lisjobs.com/blog/?p=286
http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/index.php/2008/03/29/quacking-the-duck/

For the most part, I agree with Dorothea. The idea of Librarianship being a profession is useful only insomuch as it drives up the worth of librarians. You can make all the arguments you want about librarians needing the theoretical basis gained from an MLS to handle more advanced library work, but mostly that's just a load of bull. There are those with MLSes who are not very good librarians and there are "paraprofessionals" without degrees who are excellent librarians. The main difference between jobs that are "paraprofessional" and "professional" is the pay rate and the prestige (prestige could probably use some sarcasm quotes). I have helped several MLS graduates find work in paraprofessional positions, but I am always a little chagrined that they did not find themselves better jobs. This is not because the jobs are beneath them, but because the compensation for these paraprofessional jobs is kinda awful. Then again, I work in one of those cities where a local library science school is continuously pumping out graduates into an already flooded market.

This is the real problem with de-professionalizing a field of work. If you set the standards for your profession too low, then it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the higher salaries and better benefits that you think your profession deserves. Librarians have had this problem for a long long time. The general public does not understand that librarianship is a profession or requires specialized skills, which is why everyone is always so surprised when you tell them you need a Masters to be a librarian. This is not, by any means, a new perception of the public. What may be new is that public institutions are starting to question whether or not they need a professional librarian to run their library. They figure maybe they can get by with a circulation clerk that gets paid $10.00 an hour. Unfortunately for the "profession," sometimes they can.

I haven't discussed at all the poor treatment of paraprofessionals, just because they don't have an MLS. Let me just flat out say that it is a stupid thing to do. Good work and good ideas are good, no matter what the professional status of the provider is. That will always be the case, even if the professionalism of a librarian ceases to have any practical meaning.

The real problem with a lack of "professional" status for librarians is that when that status is gone it will be much harder to define librarian skills in a way that makes us deserve more pay than the paraprofessionals. If I thought that would mean the paraprofessional pay would increase to the level of professional librarians I might be OK with that, but we sure as hell all know that isn't going to be what happens. It's the librarian pay that's going to sink and it started out at a point that wasn't so great to begin with.

Professionalism isn't all it's cracked up to be, but I'll be happy to use it as a crutch during my next contract negotiation. Wouldn't you do the same?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Beware Epiphanies

Damn you, Dave Foley! Now I too am concerned about unexpected epiphanies:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

As soon as possible is no longer a useful phrase

Despite a fairly straightforward definition the phrase "as soon as possible" is no longer very helpful when used in conversation. According to the definition, ASAP is designed to be used in situations where you should drop everything and run to complete the referenced request AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Unfortunately, in my daily encounters with ASAP requests people are not using it with any of the urgency with which it should be associated. People will often ask me to get them an article ASAP, but when I tell them I can have it in an hour for a cost of $20 (paid by me, not them) or they'll need to wait a couple of days they almost always choose to wait. I've even sometimes had to wait weeks for books on loan, but even though the requester asked for it ASAP they had no problem with a wait of a few weeks. On the other hand, some people will ask me to find them a list of 10 or 20 articles and then be surprised that they take more than a day to round up. Those are never the same people who request things ASAP.

What most people are really asking for when they say ASAP is that I simply don't ignore their requests for days or weeks before getting to it. That's a reasonable expectation, but also an expectation that I would comply with even without the unnecessary use of ASAP in the request. If you have something that needs to be done within a certain amount of time then let me know what that actual time frame is and I can decide whether or not I need to rush, but don't just throw ASAP around willy nilly because by now I've learned not to pay it much heed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Blue 2.0 Fun Week

I'm just catching up on my Blue 2.0 activities. There were a bunch of options in the Fun Week that I had already played around with so I thought I'd pick a couple of new things to use. I had been meaning to use Rollyo to create a Printing and Imaging search for my job. I finally got around to doing that:


Powered by Rollyo


I also created a weeworld me that now appears as my image in the about me section of this blog. I think it looks a little bit like me, but the scrunched down version that blogger forces for size reasons isn't that great. I should probably create something a bit more simplistic.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Wire

At last night's Blue 2.0 happy hour there was some loose talk about how everyone likes The Wire. Having never seen it before, I was somewhat dubious. However, it turns out that I, like all white people, do indeed, enjoy The Wire:

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/2008/03/09/85-the-wire/

Apparently, only black members of "gangland" don't like the wire:

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/10/what-do-real-thugs-think-of-the-wire-part-nine/

Who knew?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Free Online Books

Neil Gaiman recently had a poll to determine which of his books HarperCollins would make available to read online. I was happy to hear that my favorite book of all time, American Gods, won. Yay!!

The Guardian has an article about why HarperCollins is doing this that I found somewhat interesting. This is kind of a nice promotional tool to encourage readers to check out a book and then maybe come back and buy it if they like it. I do think that the reader interface that HarperCollins is using could use some work. The inability to jump to specific pages and the general lack of variable display options makes it uncomfortable to read such a long book on your computer. This may be intentional on HarperCollins' part so that you are basically forced to buy the book to get a comfortable reading experience, but they should really rethink that model. If you're going to give something away for free, then don't also attach uncomfortable shackles to it.

Anyway, here's a link to the book so you can check it out for yourself:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Videogames in Libraries

Do video games belong in public libraries?

I think the answer to this question is an emphatic MAYBE.

Some points in favor of video games as part of the core library mission are that video games have become cultural and artistic creations, and at least some of them serve educational purposes. I'd have a little bit of trouble defending this statement that video games are artistic creations simply because they haven't made that leap in the general public consciousness. They are far more likely to be considered as toys rather than art. I would imagine that movies started out in a similar way in that at first it was simply amusing that we could get a few crude moving images on the screen. Only later did film become an accepted art form to the point where the Oscars are now at least as prestigious as other major artistic awards. I admit to skimping on the film research to see if that is totally accurate, but it seems to have a core nugget of truth. In any case, current video games are reaching a level of artistic presentation that is quickly approaching the art of film making. If films are suitable for library collections, then why not video games?

The main problem with video games is that the primary mission of libraries is to educate and inform the populace. Modern libraries are beginning to stray from that mission somewhat, but the reason that our tax dollars go to libraries is that libraries can educate us and give us information to improve ourselves and become well rounded citizens. So maybe the real question here is should libraries stock romance novels, popular movies and the latest Britney Spears album. I'm leaning towards no and in that case we probably have to kick out almost all of the video games too. I enjoy having a library as a provider of all the media that I don't feel like purchasing, but the library's purpose is not really to be my personal Amazon.com. Is most of the collection of modern libraries designed to promote education and information? My guess is that the overwhelming answer is no. So perhaps as long as we are just using libraries as storehouses of all possible media then video games do belong there too. Just try not to examine that argument too closely.

Firefox Feed Annoyance

I've had a problem using the little orange feed button in Firefox for a while so I thought I'd post about it and see if anyone else has had a similar problem. I did some quick Google searches and didn't see anybody else with the problem except for maybe this guy: http://www.photopost.com/forum/showthread.php?t=135391.

The problem only happens at work so if I'm at home using Firefox everything is just fine and dandy. I am also running Windows 2000 at work instead of Vista and XP which I have at home. I doubt the OS is the problem, but that's the only major difference I see. In any case, when I click the feed button that is supposed to bring me into Google's options to add feeds, I instead get something like this in the address bar:
feed://http//strayinghome.wordpress.com/feed/ and then an error page. If I change the "feed://http//" part to just "http://" then I go right into Google's add page and everything works fine. So I've got a workaround, but it's still a little annoying.

Anybody have a suggestion or have you even seen this problem before?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Response to Mike Allen

In today's opinion page of the Lexington Herald-Leader Mike Allen started out his article (link will expire in a week or so) by making more sense than most people who are heavily involved in the gun control debates. He takes the reasonable stance that neither allowing conceal and carry permits to apply everywhere nor legislating much more restrictive gun permits are going to do anything to stop school shootings. Honestly, I can only see either of those types of legislation being effective if they were taken to their utmost extremes. If we were to force everyone to be armed at all times or if we had a nationwide purge of all firearms, that might be sufficient to effect the number of school shootings. Anything short of that is laughable and even those options would have many other unintended and likely negative consequences.

In any case, Mike Allen starts out talking sense . . . until a couple of paragraphs later he goes off the rails in an unexpected way. He goes straight from making a reasonable and well thought out argument to suddenly blaming school shootings on an imaginary "unraveling of the family, the general devaluing of human life and the rise of violence in popular entertainment." Allen fails to give any evidence that any of those three things are actually occurring in American society and instead expects us to accept them as givens. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much reason to accept these givens. Let's take them one by one:

1. Unraveling of the Family - The divorce rate has been going down since the early eighties. Even the number of single parents has started dropping in the last few years. There is also a huge argument to be made that a single parent family does not necessarily equal an unstable family life. There are plenty of stable couples raising children who simply choose to remain unmarried (or cannot do so legally in the case of homosexual couples) and there are truly single parents who are professional adults and doing just fine with their family life. In any case, you're going to have to give me some specific arguments to back up what seems to be an unfounded idea of an unraveling of US families.

2. General Devaluing of Human Life - So apparently Allen is a pro-lifer. If not, he's going to have to explain what the hell he's talking about here. The last I checked people still thought murder was bad and were shocked and saddened by recent school shootings. The vast majority of people were not randomly killing each other. In fact, the violent crime rate has been steadily decreasing for decades. I suppose if you want to call every abortion a murder then those numbers change quite a bit, but that's a whole different argument. Even if you want to consider abortion, keep in mind that the abortion rate is at a 30 year low. Allen does nothing to expand on this argument, so maybe he realizes it's a little silly.

3. The Rise of Violence in Popular Entertainment - This is the only one of Allen's argument that has any sort of evidence to support it and even that evidence is pretty shaky. It's hard to objectively decide whether violence in popular entertainment has been increasing, but I will admit that it seems quite likely. Video games have become "more violent" or at least more realistically violent as the images have become clearer and gained in resolution. Movies have had violence in them for quite some time and technology may have once again increased that level by using CGI instead of more expensive special effects. The link between violent media and real world violence has, however, not been definitively shown to exist. As I mentioned before, general violent crime has decreased which I would not expect if violent media caused violence. School shootings seem to be one of the very few types of crimes that have actually increased and I don't recall seeing a rash of school shooting movies or video games recently. Allen is going to have to give me some more definitive evidence than a Saw tattoo on the NIU shooter before I accept this as a causal relationship.

So Allen's school shooting causes seem to be largely imaginary with perhaps a little wiggle room left in that violent media argument. So what solution does he propose to these "problems." Well, it turns out his solutions are largely imaginary as well. He is "not advocating governmental censorship, but rather a renewed awareness in the entertainment industry that rights bring responsibilities, and a heightened conscience for all of us consumers who determine with our dollars what a civil society will and will not accept." Yeeeahhh, good luck with that, buddy. Assuming that increasing amounts of violent media is a real problem for a minute, why do you think that media might be increasing? As I mentioned, it's partly an issue of increasing technology, but it's also because consumers keep buying it. I understand that you are trying to change that trend with this column, but one column does not a successful economic model topple. Without governmental regulation or a huge self-imposed set of industry guidelines, this anti-violent movement is doomed to fail.

Good luck with your fight, I've got to go shoot me some aliens and government agents in Half-Life 2 and then I'm gonna watch me that movie 300. Yee-haw!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Happy Hour Madness

This is just another example of the danger of omnipresent cameras:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/94418552@N00/sets/72157603953660545/

Look to future Blue 2.0 Happy Hours for future antics.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jonathan Coulton the "Godfather of Geek Rock"

Jonathan Coulton is quite the geek rocker. You may have sen him referenced by or appearing with John Hodgman. I just started listening to him recently, but I do quite enjoy his songs. You can acquire many of these finely crafted pieces of music for free by downloading them from his website. If you like them, throw a little cash his way.

If you'd like to see him appear in Lexington, then demand that he do so here:







Mr. Coulton suggests in this article that he will attempt to perform in any city with more than 100 requesters. As we are now at 13 in Lexington, KY, we only have 87 more to go! Yay! The Louisville group is a little closer 100 so you might also click there if you don't mind the drive.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Del.icio.us

Now with more Blue 2.0!

I already had a delicious account so I just tagged a few interesting things Blue 2.0 and added Blue 2.0 to my network. I really like delicious for giving me a place to put favorite websites when I don't know which computer I will want to view them from next. If I know I'm looking at something that I'm only going to use at home or at work, then it's easier for me to just put a site in my Bookmarks or Favorites, but if I want it anywhere then delicious is the way to go. Here's my account: http://del.icio.us/SatansParakeet.

I also already had a LibraryThing account: http://www.librarything.com/profile/SatansParakeet. I also added the LibraryThing widget to my account just for shits and giggles.

I just recently created a spreadsheet of the salaries of library employees so I went ahead and created a Google Spreadsheet for that, as well: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pGH4iEPN7pqir617MX4FKYQ.

I think those salaries are from the 2005-2006 calendar year, but I'm not entirely sure since the Herald-Leader doesn't give a date for their source.

Alright, I'm going back to do the actual word processing activity now. I'll mess around more with my new toys later.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Stop the Religious Secrets!

Mormonism and Scientology have been under a lot of scrutiny recently. This scrutiny of Mormonism occurs because of Mitt Romney's religious affiliation and the scrutiny of Scientology occurs because of some high profile Scientologists and the "War on Scientology" being waged by "Anonymous."

The feeling that these two religions are kinda crazy and more or less cults is quite widespread. I tend to argue that any cult, given enough time to mature, will become an "acceptable" religion, but most people believe that there are big differences between the two. I hear many people condemning the crazy belief systems, and who doesn't get a giggle out of Xenu and his Thetans or the Conversion of Dead ancestors to Mormonism?

The real problem that drags these religions one step closer to being a cult than most other modern belief systems, though, is that they try to keep secret what it is that they do believe. Scientologists have a very active legal division to their church that attempts to stop the public dissemination of their core beliefs. Mormons have secret teachings and their Temples are not open to non-Mormons. This air of secrecy makes it easy for outsiders to believe that these religions have something they need to hide and much of the evidence indicates that they do, indeed, have "secret" practices worth hiding.

This secrecy makes it difficult to say with any certainty what the tenets of these respective faiths are and what the intentions of their congregations members might be. This is the exact same reason that the Skull and Bones Society and the Masons get similar bad raps. I don't think this practice of secrecy is likely to change for either of these religions any time soon, but I do suggest that the leaders of these religions give transparency some thought if they want to lose their "cult" status.

You have nothing to fear but your own beliefs!

LibraryThing Widget

I took a minute and added the LibraryThing Blog Widget that you can use in some different ways, but that I have set up to simply show five random books from my catalog. I guess this is another reason to keep "adult" titles out of my public catalog. The whole setup process was incredibly easy. That's one of the things I love about LibraryThing, they try to make everything as simple as possible.

I tried to do something similar with flickr so that it would show random photos from my collection, but flickr didn't seem to have an easy widget to do that and I couldn't get the slideshow option in Blogger to be limited to only my photos. Oh well, there are only about a billion flickr widgets out there so maybe I'll try doing it with somebody else's java later.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Wiki Creation

I set up a wiki, again as part of the Blue 2.0 activities. Right now I don't think I have any need for it, though.

I do already have a wiki I created for Webmaster Section of SLA's IT Division. I've got to say that I prefer the default look of PBwiki to the look of SLA's Confluence wikis by quite a bit. PBwiki is clean and uncluttered while Confluence pushes a lot of options on me that I don't really need and the flow between pages kind of sucks.

In general, wikis are nice when you want many people to be able to edit a single web page. They seem to be quite useful for times when you have an active group of users that all want to contribute to information on a topic or just the general creation of a site. I have seen them used when I think a regular web page is more appropriate. Sometimes people are using wikis just to say they used them, which I think is a little silly.

So PBwiki is probably missing a lot of useful advanced options (why else would there be pay versions available?), but it only seems to be missing stuff that I don't need. Too bad I don't have any use for it right now, hence my wiki's name: Unnecessary Wiki :o(

Stop Micromanaging my Budget!

Anybody who's reading this probably knows me, and you are probably aware that I run a small corporate library for a Fortune 500 (at least it was last year) company. This means that I have most of the control over almost half a million dollars of company cash. It sounds like a big fat pile of dough, but you might be surprised how little that actually buys.

In any case, I have been left on my own to negotiate 10 and 100 thousand dollar database contracts with vendors like LexisNexis, Elsevier, and Nerac. They even trust me enough (or don't care enough not to) to sign off on increases in those contracts without much additional scrutiny. This all seems pretty good so far, doesn't it? We'll set aside, for the moment, the fact that I've been unable to initiate any new contracts even if I was able to cancel other services that would make up for the cost.

So here is the problem. Just recently, a manager who sits three levels above me decides that we're going to cancel our newspaper subscriptions. This unilateral decision saves our half million dollar library an absolute maximum of $350 a year. Whoop-dee freakin' do! Thanks a bunch for making that call for me. I'm sure that $25 a month will save the company from bankruptcy and restore our budget solvency, despite the fact that it's going to cost me nearly $25 an article if our employees need any of that information.

The second, similar, problem is that the library has needed new computers for a long time. Our two publicly accessible computers are still running Windows NT and one of them has a monitor that needs major gamma correction on a daily basis to even be usable. Is it too much to ask that we spend $500 on a new computer to bring us into this millennium? This is not to mention the staff computers that are in better shape, but are still running Windows 2000 and are definitely starting to show their age.

Hell, I've got stuff that I'd be happy to cut to make up the cost, but I know that every time I've made cuts in the past, all I get are those cuts. I don't get any new spending ability, I don't get any new leeway in purchasing decisions, nobody with any clout even really notices that a cut was ever made.

All in all, it's really no way to run a company.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

RSS Activity

Alright, I have continued along the Blue 2.0 program and was happy to find that I had already basically completed the "Explore a Feed Reader" activity. As soon as I saw Blue 2.0 had a feed I went ahead and added it. I believe that was some time before the first set of activities.

I did use Google Reader (hereafter abbreviated as GR) instead of Bloglines, since that is my reader of choice. I used to use Bloglines, but became a GR convert sometime last year.

I'm going to give a couple of reasons why I prefer GR, in case anyone out there is deciding on which reader to use. Keep in mind that I haven't used Bloglines in several months so it's possible that they've updated their interface and have picked up some of these GR advantages. In any case:

1. Read or Not? - When viewing a feed in GR individual posts are only marked as read once I have scrolled past them. In Bloglines all posts would appear as read as soon as I viewed the first entry.

2. Oldest or Newest First? - In GR I can choose, on a feed by feed basis, to view by oldest or view by newest. So feeds that I don't keep up with on a daily basis I can set so that the new posts appear first. Feeds that I obsessively read every post from can be viewed with the oldest showing up first so that I don't miss a single delicious morsel, and so I don't see posts referring to older posts that I haven't had time to read yet.

3. It's Purty - I think GR looks a little nicer, but they really are quite similar.

4. Other Fun Bits - I don't use most of this stuff very much, but you can view your reading trends, apply tags, and quickly clean out inactive feeds.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Typ0s

Alright, so I just added this blog to my feed reader and I took a look to make sure my posts were coming through correctly. It was at this point that I noticed several substantial typos, grammatical errors, and simple proofreading problems in my posts. One sentence from my most recent post had a totally reversed meaning because I accidentally said congressmen dislike voting "for" rather than "against," which was what I actually meant.

This kind of stuff really annoys me in other people's writing so I'm going to attempt to proofread myself a little better. Luckily, almost no one is reading this blog except for me so I'm mostly just annoying myself. Yay!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Awesome!

There are just so many things wrong with this light switch (hat tip to skepchick.org, original source: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/01/inappropriate_iconography.php):



Let me count a few of the wrong-ish things:

1. Just the fact that we are displaying a religious icon on a lightswitch in the first place.

2. The obviously inappropriate placement of the switch.

3. The unhappiness (or at least lack of happiness) of the children as they take a weird sidelong glance at the "switch."

4. The inscription on the plate that is somewhat worn, but seems to repeat the bible quote "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother." It's just a nice indoctrinating message for prominent placement in what was presumably a child's room. Another good argument in favor of Christianity being a cult.

. . . and I'm sure there's more, but this is plenty for now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stupid Economic Stimulus

Hey look, I'm no economist, but this stimulus package we're accelerating toward has every sign of being total crap. Mostly, it looks like we're going to cut everyone in the United States a $600 check and then hope that spending turns the economy around. Yeah right! Just the same way the last seven years of Bush's tax cuts really kept the economy moving!

I'll be just as happy as the next guy to have an unexpected $600 windfall, but I'd rather not do it by piling on an extra $100 billion to the U.S. debt load. I heard one economist indicate that right now we're looking at about a $2 trillion dollar economic downturn and that throwing a hundred billion dollars at it is like taking an eyedropper to fight a house fire. That seems like an extremely likely comparison to me. If I take my newly found $600 and buy a new PlayStation and maybe even a couple of games, how much good does that do the economy? If every American follows suit and buys a PlayStation, then we do quite a bit to help Sony, but some of us would prefer a nice Xbox 360 or a hard-to-find Nintendo Wii (even if we do have to spend $600 on eBay for it), not to mention all of us who just aren't gaming fans. The point is that the money will be spread out in a million different directions, not even counting those who sock it away in savings account, and the overall impact becomes quite small.

I know it's hard for politicians to be excited about voting against bills that give cash directly to their constituents. After all, it kinda makes you look like a surprise visit from the police during a teenage beer bash, but c'mon stand up to the disapproval and do what's right for us kids. Don't hand us free money and expect us to rebuild the economy with it, because damn it we've got drugs and booze to buy and maybe a little gas to get us to the shindig.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

#$%&#* AIM

It's official. I really hate AOL.

So in continuing our Blue 2.0 tasks I was trying to re-establish/set up an AIM account. Now, I'm pretty sure that several years in the past I had an AIM ID set up so I started out by requesting password information to my old hotmail email account. I didn't get an error message saying that they didn't find my email, I didn't get a warning that it might take a week for the password to get sent, I only got a message saying my password was sent and asking me to log in again. So I check my email and I have no AOL messages awaiting me. It being currently about an hour since I first tried and I still have yet to receive any message from them.

No big deal, maybe I'm remembering incorrectly and I never really set up an account with them or maybe their notification system is really slow. I'll just set up a new account. 15 variations later on my favorite username, Satans_Parakeet, and I still haven't found an available username. This is made increasingly frustrating by the fact that Windows Live Mail is taking about five minutes to load every screen I go to. That's one more reason that I don't use my hotmail account much. So I finally find a crappy l33tspeak version of Satans_Parakeet that works, satansparak33t. BTW, this is after several failed humanity verification checks where I'm supposed to psychically know that spaces are not necessary (Maybe I should know that since they usually don't, but c'mon, they only warn you of that once you've already failed. Why not warn me beforehand?) and that the o shaped character is a zero, not an oh (Never, EVER, use os or 0s in character verification software. That's a major rookie mistake). So finally I have an ID set up and working and 15 seconds later I get an email telling me that. Woohoo! . . . but that makes me even more annoyed that I still haven't seen an initial password reminder email.

Oh well, I suppose it could've been worse, but it could have been a heck of a lot better. Luckily I already had my Meebo account set up so it was easy as pie to add my new AIM name to it. Yay! Bonus points rule!

First Post

Hello world?

That's probably not really appropriate since I'm hardly coding anything, but it amuses me nonetheless.

So I'm getting into the public blog biz in order to participate in the UK Library system's Blue 2.0 program. I've had a oft neglected blog at work for some time now, but nothing that the whole world could see. I don't expect to do much library or other work-related posting here since I have too many preferable communication lines for those kinds of posts. I do see the value of a blog for the easy posting of news and informational items of interest. It definitely makes sense to me.

I suspect that this space will tend to be used by me as a general rant space when I see stupid thing that are worth yelling about . . . hence the name. It took me a bit to come up with a unique blog name that was interesting and appropriate. Not surprisingly, "Suck It!" and "Stupid Crap" were already taken. This title is probably a little more tastefully subtle anyway.

In any case, you'll see a few more Blue 2.0 posts in the coming days and weeks and I'll see if I have the inclination to do more than that.

Ciao!