Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, October 21 - 27

Google Sparking Interest To Quantum Mechanics With Minecraft
Kinda neat.

Full Screen Mario: Making the Case For Shorter Copyrights
TL;DR - there are some really fantastic things people do just because it is something they love, and that copyright term creates some huge hurdles.  That being said, some people also do things because they want to capitalize on an opportunity.

Call Yourself A Hacker, Lose Your 4th Amendment Rights
Now, I don't call myself a hacker, but that is only because I don't consider myself skilled enough.  That being said I've definitely done things that can be considered 'hacking'.  Hacking isn't just breaking into a secret database.  It's about seeing something and wondering how it works and how to find new operational parameters and options.  That something needs not be a computer system and I think the mindset that goes along with this is an important part of creative exploration.

Mango Languages - Spanish for Librarians
Now my library does have a subscription to Mango Languages, which I think is a great resource to offer.  But the product is not cheap and so is often not something that libraries can afford to offer.  I also know I have forgotten much of what I learned during my six years of Spanish taken in my adolescence.   This little package is free.  I love that a resource like this exists to help librarians better server their patrons.

Troll-Killing Patent Reform One Step Closer
Worth following.

Top US Lobbyist Wants Broadband Data Caps
Ugh.  No.  Please no.

Mass. libraries strikingly free of censorship
I'm totally down with that.

World Book Night
World Book Night is about sharing the love of reading and making reading accessible.  I've signed my library up as a distribution point and will be signing up to give out books.  Check out the list, they have a fantastic selection every year, and it can be lots of fun to give the books out.

32 Books That Will Actually Change Your Life
Some excellent books on this list.

Celebrate Fall with Six Book-Inspired Beers!
:D

Here Is The One Perfect Book For Every Single Myers-Briggs Type
No clue how well matched these are, but some good books on the list.

Get Your Game On @ the library : Collaboration between the Learning Commons and the Office of Information Technology
I'm working with one of the authors of this presentation for a different conference program on gaming in libraries, and I absolutely love what she's done previously.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

[Book Review] Podkayne of Mars

Podkayne of Mars / Robert Heinlein (Powell's Books)



So it seems Heinlein attempted to write "young adult" (or possibly what the book industry is now calling "new adult") fiction.  Our main protagonist, the cheerfully ambitious and optimistic Podkayne Fries, is on her first journey to another planet, leaving her home planet of Mars with her politician uncle and her brilliant yet likely psychopathic little brother.  Shenanigans happen, with a not exactly happy ending, but then again, Heinlein has left his novels with ambiguous endings.

Now, Heinlein passed away some years ago, and even if he hadn't the words of my review wouldn't be of any consequence to him.  But I really feel he had no business trying to write a teenage girl (or even a teenage boy, though we have limited experiences with Clark).  There are a few parts where I feel he did actually manage to hit a decent voice (largely in terms of the self-absorption we all tend to go through during those years), but largely Poddy was painfully unbelievable as a cusp of adulthood girl.

Perhaps part of the younger reading group, Podkayne of Mars lacks much of the standard political, economic, and moral discourse present in other works by Heinlein.  The discourse still exists, but written in a much lighter hand than normal.  As someone who is familiar with a range of Heinlein titles the lack of sexual content was almost shocking, however I don't mind the lack of incest (even with his justifications it still makes me go "ew").

The ending of the book is the most interesting part, and perhaps where we learn that the story might not really be about Podkayne so much as it really is about her brother and humanity.  The book actually has two endings, the one Heinlein originally wrote, and the one that the publisher essentially demanded.  The version of the book I had contained both endings so I was able to compare them.  Both endings have power, but it is Clark's introspection that I really like out of the modified ending.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cherry Wheat (or let's see if we can go 2 for 2 on brewing)

I started a batch of Cherry Wheat over Labor Day weekend.  My second time attempting to brew felt markedly more comfortable than my first time.  I also managed to not break anything and to not do anything as stupid as putting my hand in the chilled wort.  On the other hand, this was definitely the brew of forgetfulness.  Seriously.  I actually put it away in the closet and realized a half hour later that I forgot to add the yeast.  At least I realized, I guess.

I was going to bottle on the 29th, but the nasty cold that worked its way through my department finally hit me.  While still sick, I was at least more functional/less medicated on October 4th, so it struck me as a good time to take care of bottling.  I am kind of puzzled how cat hair got inside the bottling bucket, but that's part of owning a cat, and everything got sanitized before I used it anyway.

With the Pumpkin Wheat it smelled pretty much just like I expected when I cracked it open.  This batch... well, it smelled beery, but not how I expected even taking into consideration that the cherry extract had not yet been added.  So we'll see.  The ABV of 4.73% is under projected, but then my specific gravity readings did not quite match up with the projections either.

Speaking of forgetting things, I almost started bottling without adding the simple syrup or the cherry extract.  And then there's the multiple times I forgot to check if the spigot on the bottling bucket was open or closed...

I do most of my bottling in these half liter brown Heinkein bottles (the labels say ""Hors concours membre de jury paris 1900" and "Grand Prix Paris 1889").  The larger bottle size is nice because it means fewer bottles are needed and I have these awesome cases to hold them in.  However with the Pumpkin Wheat I discovered the downside to using unique bottles - it's awkward to give them as gifts.  With that in mind this time around I deliberately bottled a portion in normal sized bottles that I won't be upset to not get back.

Fast forward two weeks.  I finally get to try the beer.  Huzzah!

This batch did not come out how I expected.  When I think of "Cherry Wheat" I think of the Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, a rather sweet and light tasting beer.  This batch came out more... beery?  Rather than a light and sweet flavor it had more of a sour cherry taste.  It wasn't bad, but wasn't what I expected.  As for whether to call this a success or failure I relied on a tried and true measure of feedback on consumables, I brought it with me to game.

For a quick note of explanation, I take part in a quasi-monthly Star Wars role-playing game (character sheets, dice, the whole nine yards).  We all generally bring some sort of food item (homemade bread, not so homemade pizza, apples, various sundry munchies).  One of the participants had experienced the Pumpkin Wheat and informed me that if I ever felt the desire to share my brewing again he would be happy to help out, and another felt that the best way to test the beer would be to bring it with me to game.  I feel that the response can be generalized as "damn tasty beer" (as well as disappointment that I had not brought more).

Next beer to tackle is a stout.  Not sure which yet as I have a few options.  My brew supply store has a Pumpking Stout clone (Imperial pumpkin stout, so yummy), as well as the standard coffee and chocolate stouts.  So we'll see what happens there.

Link Smorgasbord, October 14 - 20

Stallman: How Much Surveillance Can Democracy Withstand?
I felt this was well laid out and argued, but I am biased towards this side of the arguement.

Books With "Questionable Content" Being Deleted From ebookstores In Sweeping Ban
TL;DR - someone discovered that books labeled as erotica might be smutty and created a huge stink, in the wake of said stink everyone else also overreacted and there was of course collateral damage.

Why Microsoft Word must Die
Charles Stross on Microsoft Word.  Perhaps a bit strongly worded, but well explored and explained as to his reasons behind his stance.

In digital age, librarians are needed more than ever [infographic] 
Great infographic on libraries in a digital age.

How shared endorsements work
Or more importantly, how to turn them off

Coming to an Advertisement Near You…it’s You! 
On further personalization of ads and use of gathered information.

Neil Gaiman “”We have an obligation to tell our politicians the value of reading in creating worthwhile citizens.”"
This is more than just Gaiman talking about why libraries are important, but his words are in here among others.

Parental complaint spurs suspension of book's use at Alamogordo High School
A parent felt that Neverwhere was too adult for her high school age child.  Not linked here but there are some stories about other parents responding with essentially "just because you object doesn't mean you should ruin it for everyone else."  Personally I do believe that Neverwhere is a mature story, but not in terms of "adult content."  It has been a favorite novel of mine since I was in my early teens, and I'm actually not even sure what in the book would push it into the PG13 category if you look for smut or gore.

7 Unconventional Reasons Why You Absolutely Should Be Reading Books
Because I totally need justification to read more.  :D

Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming
More Gaiman, apprently its that sort of week.  A rather fantastic speech about libraries.  I rather do like it when he talks about libraries in general.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NF Display October 2013

October marks a full year of my non-fiction displays, and also my last display at my current library.  I'm not sure when I will next do a display, but hopefully I will have opportunities again in the near future after I settle into the new library.  Displays have served as a small distraction task, one I can do when I need something to fill the time or am just to overwhelmed to do anything involved.  I get to be creative and productive while hopefully raising interest in our collections.

For once I went somewhat traditional for this month's holiday and went with the paranormal, with a strong focus on ghosts.  As books go out, and they have started going out quite immediately, I expect to branch the selection out a bit.

Who ya gonna call?
  • The encyclopedia of witches and witchcraft / Rosemary Ellen Guiley
  • The new encyclopedia of the occult / John Michael Greer
  • Paranormal people : the famous, the infamous, and the supernatural / Paul Chambers
  • The haunting of America : from the Salem witch trials to Harry Houdini / William J. Birnes
  • The haunting of twentieth-century America / Joel Martin & William Birnes
  • Supernatural : your guide through the unexplained, the unearthly and the unknown / Colin Wilson
  • Spook : science tackles the afterlife / Mary Roach
  • Best true ghost stories / Hans Holzer
  • Historic haunted America / Michael Norman
  • Ghost : investigating the other side / Katherine M. Ramsland
  • When the ghost screams : true stories of victims who haunt / Leslie Rule
  • An experience of phantoms / Scott D. Rogo
  • Haunted encounters : ghost stories from around the world / Ginnie Siena-Bivona, Dorothy McConachie, & Mitchel Whitington (eds)
  • Paranormal America : ghost encounters, UFO sightings, Bigfoot hunts, and other curiosities in religion and culture / Christopher David Bader
  • America bewitched : the story of witchcraft after Salem / Owen Davies
  • Real ghosts, restless spirits, and haunted places / Brad Steiger
  • Ghost hunters : William James and the search for scientific proof of life after death / Deborah Blum
  • A history of ghosts : the true story of seances, mediums, ghosts, and ghostbusters / Peter H. Aykroyd
  • Ghosts among us : uncovering the truth about the other side / James Van Praagh
  • Relax, it's only a ghost : my adventures with spirits, hauntings, and things that go bump in the night / Echo Bodine
  • The World of Ghosts and the Supernatural : The Occult, the Unexplained, and the Mystical Around the Globe / Richard Cavendish

Link Smorgasbord, October 7 - 13

MakerBridge
Awesome set of resources.  Go look and play.

How the Bible and YouTube are fueling the next frontier of password cracking
I find stuff like this really interesting, and good to keep in mind.

DCL Ebook Report for October 2013 
The landscape is improving.

Self-powered ereaders could be in the offing
This is kinda cool.

From the Sony Walkman to the humble zip: The past century’s top 100 inventions that changed our lives (yet most of us take for granted)
Gadgets and such.

Young People Are Not as Digitally Native as You Think
Not surprising, but then from my point of view I might experience this more than others.  Interestingly by their metric I would have been considered a 'digtial native' when a teen (let alone now).

A Map of Internet Freedom Around the World
Always good to know that while it could get better in the US, it could be a whole lot worse.

Galleys in Stores? Unfinished Work For Sale
It's a bit of a conundrum.  I love having ARCs and galleys, but I also respect the fact that they are not representative of the author's final work and that they often really don't want the ARCs out in the wild.

The Single Best Overview of What the Surveillance State Does With Our Private Data
Pretty good infographic.

What do we get for that DRM?
On the movement towards DRM for HTML

"The saddest part of that discussion, however, is the question. What are we users—and what is the W3C—getting from building the risk of programmers being jailed into the core infrastructure of the Web? I have no doubt that browser vendors eager to cut deals will incorporate DRM into their offerings. Does that make it a good idea for the W3C to offer its name, its facilities, its intellectual property agreements, and its umbrella from antitrust prosecution to such a project? Why not leave the companies to pursue their own directions, and take on the risk of legal action themselves?"

Mom gets mature book banned
Neverwhere banned from a High School reading list and described as "seasoned with a very adult dose of horror."  Really?  I can think of things aimed for actual children WAY creepier than that.  Neverwhere has been a favorite of mine since I was in my early teens and I was a total wimp about creepy things, I couldn't even watch X-Files (well, the later stuff was significantly less creepy, but the first few seasons had episodes that would keep me up at night).

Abandoned: Mark Twain Branch Detroit Public Library
Beautiful and sad

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Last Day

I said goodbye to my workplace of the past three years today.  This whole week has been a goodbye.  Going away work party, exit interview, early goodbyes by staff who wouldn't be there today.  I got some goodbye flowers with a 'thanks for all you've done' note that made me tear up.  I even said goodbye to the guy who takes my pike ticket almost every morning.  It feels a little surreal.  Maybe it will sink in on Tuesday when I start my new job?  The last two weeks have been a blur of frantically trying to adequately wrap everything up so things could be neatly handed off to my yet to be hired replacement (and juggled in the interim by the under-staffed Reference department).

Wrapping up three years is hard.

For the better part of three years I have been the entirety of my library's IT department, and for the large part the entirety of the technology budget.  Some of my knowledge has been openly shared, but 99% of the time it doesn't matter, it comes to me whether I'm at the library or on vacation in Colorado (yeah, that happened).  Three years of decreasing staff resources in the Reference department that I was a part of, pulling me on to the Reference desk to the point of detriment of my technology duties and shrinking my tech back up in the case of my absence.

So I have three years worth of familiarity with the system, knowledge of the quirks that I almost don't notice anymore to quantify and organize.  All the ideas for the future, all the regular maintenance, all the projects stalled or in progress.  All the passwords and accounts.  Just quantifying the regular maintenance and immediate tasks that will have to be taken care of in the interim was a task in itself, and the resultant list was was pretty impressive for something that's truly just a device to hold the status quo (sorry guys, but I did lots of things, hope my replacement is hired quickly).

As it turned out, despite how often it felt like I never got anything done, I really was doing a quite a bit, just in lots of alternating pieces.  Like a box of rainbow Nerds.

Fortunately I had a good idea that this was coming months in advance, so I was able to start slowly bringing things together a bit more.  Avoid starting any big projects (not that there was time for me to start any big projects anyway).  Picking up the still relatively new (yet filled with progress notes and other scribblings) tech plan and doing a complete overhaul to get it up-to-date.  Ok, so maybe over-hauling the tech plan counts as a big project, but not something I could leave undone if I wanted to leave things in good shape in my wake (the resultant document was 10 pages, plus almost as many pages in appendices, and that was with cutting out some of the wilder future ideas).

This whole last month has been interesting.  Our director left and the head of the Reference department became the Interim Director (and is currently on probation to become the full director).  I think she will be fantastic for the library and between that and some of the the other efforts including talks with the union, things have been improving.  You could say it was in part for health reasons that I sought other employment.  Over the past two years we have been plagued with air quality issues in the building that my asthma flares up in response to.  I'm also generally proud of the work I do, and feeling that I am unable to do my job has been a significant source of stress for me, and there have been issues across the whole staff where we feel that we are not valued or respected as employees.  I want to see where things go, how things change over the next few months or year at the library.

That being said, I think the right move still was to move libraries.  Economically it makes significant sense.  In terms of family and life planning it makes more sense.  The library I am moving to is beautiful.  The drive will be significantly safer during inclement weather.  I think I will have both more creative opportunities and more opportunities to grow professionally.  I actually like that I will be working with a smaller service population.

Amusingly the library didn't seem to want me to go, as five minutes before I was due to leave and right after I finished my final project, we had a computer crisis that kept me late.

I'm going to miss this library and the staff.  It's scary to jump from a familiar job to a new one, no matter how similar the job descriptions may be, the unknowns always exist.

So next week starts a new leg of the journey through my professional career.  We'll see what it brings.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, September 30 - October 6

Students Hack School-Issued iPads Within One Week
File under the "color me not surprised" heading.

What Valve's Announcements Mean for Gaming
I'm totally seeing in-house library applications with this.

Librarian Shaming
This is fun.  Some time soon I'll be adding my own contributions

The New Scribd
Scribd is trying out subscription model books.  Cheaper than Oyster and supposedly with a better selection (but from what I've heard that doesn't take much).  Personally not a particular fan of subscription access to books (or really to much, I'd rather own than rely on Netflix).

Testing Seattle's Porn-Friendly Public Libraries
I thought this was neat.

The Abomination of Ebooks: They Price People Out of Reading
My reaction to this article is pretty much "Amen!"

The Big Six Publishers and Library Lending: An Update
TL;DR - it's still a hot mess.

Penguin Drops Side Loading Requirement for Kindle Lending
Still not happy with Penguin, but at least that slightly improves the user experience.  Also, this means I get to update my OverDrive instructions again.

Kindling the Fire
On how to get other reader applications on your Kindle fire in case you want to consume non-Amazon content.

Your Digital Trail: Private Company Access
Good read/listen.  Also a bit creepy. 

Lavabit Tried Giving the Feds Its SSL Key in 11 Pages of 4-Point Font; Feds Complained That It Was Illegible 
*snicker*  So maybe it was petty, but I do feel people have the right to privacy and dislike that the ruling was essentially "everyone pays."

Brian Kenney: How to Make a Make-it-Happen Library
Interesting and relevant reading.

unfashionable libraries
Library accessories are fashionable, but rarely to libraries benefit from this.

Wreck-It Ralph: How Nadar became D.C. libraries' biggest headache (and pissed off a whole neighborhood)
meh

W3C green-lights adding DRM to the Web's standards, says it's OK for your browser to say "I can't let you do that, Dave"
dammit
Also feeling a bit let down by Tim Berners-Lee, I feel this is so against what he and others were striving for as internet was initially being grown and developed.

Monday, October 7, 2013

[Book Review] Fortune's Pawn

Fortune's Pawn / Rachel Bach

Devi Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It's a combination that's going to get her killed one day-but not just yet.That is, until she gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn't misnamed; it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she's found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her plan. But the Fool doesn't give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.
I'm generally a fan of bad ass women in space, so this book caught my interest.  If that was all I looked for in a book this would have been pretty fantastic.  Devi is badass, ambitious, and good at what she does.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Fortune's Pawn is told in a past tense first person.  So you get lots of "I should have realized" type statements.  We get a little bit of internal monologue, and various snapshots of emotional status.  Then at the end of the book her memories are removed, which to me completely invalidates the whole thing.  You can't reflect on events that you don't know happened.  Now I realize that the story doesn't end with Fortune's Pawn, and that there is a sequel.  For all I know she gets her memories back in part two, but this book should not rely on something that may or may not happen in the next book to insure a feasible narrator.

I'm not sure what I think about Devi.  She's definitely ambitious and good with her guns, but her arrogance grates at me.  In almost every violent encounter she runs out of ammunition, what gun bunny only has one spare clip?  And if you're knife has a use-life measured in seconds I feel like at least a second one stashed in that amazing armor would be a smart idea.  It's hard to get a good feel for Devi as a person, she's written largely as a one dimensional character with some awkward attempts to give her more depth.

One thing I do like is that Devi owns her sexuality.  She doesn't give a shit that people consider mercenaries promiscuous and easy, she considers it her business who she sleeps with and that who she sleeps with is nothing to be ashamed of.  I'm tired of slut-shaming, and I've encountered a shocking amount of it in romance novels.  That being said, the author needs to decide if they're writing a romance novel or not, and if she is she needs to commit.  If she doesn't want this to be a romance novel the sexual tension needs a serious reworking.  Nothing against sex in my science fiction - I actually usually find the sex is better written in science fiction.  But the way Fortune's Pawn is written, if Devi was a man we'd be hearing about all her romance-novel style spontaneous erections at things like how well the love interest washed vegetables.

In other news, the Kirkus Review for this book includes the summary "Rollicking space opera starring a tough, sexy, armor-clad space chick who smells like rotten meat."  Which is just too awesome for words. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's in your wallet?

As it turns out, a library card is damn useful to have in your wallet.  Especially when you lose your wallet.  Why's that?  Because unless you have a personal business card in your wallet, there is likely no quick way to get in touch with you.

Tonight while covering the Reference Desk I got a call asking about a patron.  In particular, if we could get in touch with this patron.  While visiting a store a patron had left their wallet behind.  The store manager opened the wallet and upon finding a library card proceeded to call us.  Now, we cannot give out patron information, but I was able to call the patron and let them know about the location of their wallet.

Just make sure to let your library know when your phone number changes!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Link Smorgasbord, September 23 - 29

Bruce Schneier: NSA Spying Is Making Us Less Safe
"It’s sheer folly to believe that only the NSA can exploit the vulnerabilities they create. Additionally, by eavesdropping on all Americans, they’re building the technical infrastructure for a police state."

Downloading Is Mean! Content Industry Drafts Anti-Piracy Curriculum for Elementary Schools 
Because D.A.R.E. worked so well (if you think I'm serious I have a bridge you might be interested in buying).  I'm glad to see that it acknowledges Creative Commons but I definitely feel it largely gives the wrong impression and overly simplifies the admittedly complicated matter of copyright law.  I think they'd be better off teaching kids "don't be a dick" (in more polite wording) and save the subject of copyright for late elementary school or middle school.  Also, perhaps the curriculum could be drafted without major input from the MPAA and the RIAA?  It could just be me, but I feel in the wake of the copyright litigation brought against consumers that they might be just a wee bit biased.

Banned Books Trading Cards 2013
I love this idea.  Also wondering what made me think that I had the wrong dates and that Banned Books Week was mostly in October.  Clearly my original dates were the correct ones.

Censorship and Invisibility: A Boomer Perspective 
I think this is an important article to read.

Is your library plus-size friendly?
Valid points to think about.

Why Old Programs Don’t Run on Modern Versions of Windows (and How You Can Run Them Anyway)
Because I'm not the only one who has a favorite DOS game.

Is Texas's All-Digital Library Really the Future of Books?
Some about the new all-digital library.

DCL September Pricing Comparison
Library ebook availability for best sellers is improving, it still generally costs an arm and a leg.  One downside to the report is it does not highlight titles with 26 check out or 1 year licensing to libraries.

Android users can now lock their lost devices remotely
This feature of course is released after our second library tablet goes missing.

5 Tools to Create an Online Comic
I need to do an event/activity at the library with these at some point.

Library DVDs versus Netflix Streaming
:D

'See Something, Say Something' Campaign Creates Massive Database Of Useless Info From Citizens Spying On Each Other
And of course, something that is harmless or completely within your rights now may be interpreted differently down the road.

15 Classic Children’s Books That Have Been Banned In America
Also examples of why people confuse the hell out of me.

Bezos on Publishing, DRM, Transition to ebooks
Unlike Bezos I don't believe that sharing Kindle accounts solves the issue of ebook lending.

Booksellers and the ABA-Kobo Partnership
This has been interesting to follow.

Banned Books Week: Challenged and Banned Comics
Some of my favorite comics/picture books are on this list.  That and I love Gaiman's response to a challenge against Sandman, "I suspect that having a reputation as adult material that’s unsuitable for teens will probably do more to get teens to read Sandmanthan having the books ready and waiting on the YA shelves would ever do."

Banned Books and Censorship - Quiz
A bit of history and recent events mixed together make up this quiz.  Neat to take if only to read the questions.

Amazon curtails program in Maine
Amazon cuts its affiliate program in another state collecting sales tax on companies with in-state presence.  Likely a small impact for most individuals, but I know a number of businesses that supplement their income through Affiliate links, as well as authors who use them for exposure and sales.