Friday, April 21, 2006

on steak knives: a point of clarification

The (sigh) in my last post isn't to suggest I am flippantly or reluctantly pro steak knives. It means, rather, that I am begrudingly pro steak knives. After much careful consideration, I think it is indeed best to give steak knives to every patron in the restaurant. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.


Watching: Bee Season

i (sigh) am pro steak-knives

Catalogablog says this:

"I've been listening to the talk Vision: Wikipedia and the Future of Free Culture by Jimmy Wales. During it he made an analogy that hit close to home.

Imagine you are building a steak-house. One thing you need are steak-knives. However, patrons could attack each other with them. So you build your steak-house to keep all diners separated from one another by cages. No one can get hurt.

How often do we build just such systems? Allowing users to tag bib records? They might put in the seven forbidden words. User reviews linked to bib records. What if they write slander and the library gets sued? How often do we picture the very worst that could happen and then destroy our systems due to that remote possibility? Yet, Wikipedia, Amazon, et al. seem to survive. Maybe we could also."

URL: Safety at the Steak-house

Right on.

When talking powerful technologies, this issue is the one that concerns me the most. How do we balance control and authority with democracy and autonomy?

Most of us would agree (maybe even the NRA agrees) that we should not all each-and-everyone have our own personal atomic weapon. Now a bit of metadata in a record and an H-bomb are hardly the same, but where do we stop? In a post-human world where people are information objects, we'd all have a high stake in controlling and categorizing data. Information would become weaponized. Talking about steak knives isn't really too far of a leap to make.

Let's give everybody steak knives. Steak knives for everybody. Everybody gets a steak knife.

I don't mean to sound reactionary, but I think it's important to think through these matters thoroughly now, before we end up in some kind of distopian Singularity. Transhumanism bears on librarianship in ways more important than I really want to admit.

And what troubles me most is that I do actually think the best way to control the use of "steak knives" is to give one to everybody. I must be daft. You must be too. We wouldn't want to say the same if the metaphor made use of atomic bombs.


Surfing: A9 Maps


You know, there are bunches and googillions of good pregnancy resources for women. Also a lot of bad ones...

But here's a good one for men:
The Funky Stork -- "the only guide for the modern expectant father".

Updated to fix broken link (thanks for the tip, TC).


Listening: Wayne Dyer on Dreamland
Reading: Tell Me: 30 Stories by good old Mary Robison

Thursday, April 20, 2006

web 2.0 and library 2.0


Some related links you've seen elsewhere:
Stephen Abram on 2.0 resources
The Library 2.0 Bootcamp
Michael Stephens re: 2.0

And this great good quote (from The Goblin in the Library via Tame the Web): Library 2.0 really is "a DIY aesthetic and a manic demand to constantly change our libraries and our selves."


I think my library is at aproximately "library 1.4". We do great work in terms of reaching out to staff and students (we're a smallish but busy college library), and we're making slow progress toward being an inviting place to spend time (we allow drinks now, but still no food or cell phones). I'd say our web presence ranks at about "Web 0.9" though. We've got a few online tutorials, but besides that it looks like we're old schoolin' straight outta 1996.

And you know what?

That's okay. Our web sites do what they need to, and we work hard enough in real-time person-to-person contact to more than make up for any lack of virtuality.

Would I like to see an RSS feed at least? IM Reference? A wiki for patron use? Stuff like that? Sure. But is it oh-my-god-i-gotta-have-it-now necessary? Hardly.

The most important part of the "Library 2.0" shift will happen on the ground, in the stacks, at the reference desk, and in daily interactions with daily patrons, and in a policy shift toward openness. It will be a real shift, requiring voice, touch, leg-work, and know-how. It's a shift in attitude and service toward greater accessibility, if I read things right.

I can't wait for my webmaster. Let it begin with me.


Shushing: Sadly, polite & quiet cell phone users.
Reading: the bad news from Sudan

teaching 3

The nerd-tension thing...

Teaching, I sometimes hit a spot where I sag, and then the students sag. I'm finding ways to work around this, and so far it all boils down to getting so damn excited about the quirky workings of our catalog that the students are just sort of astounded to a point beyond boredom, and astounded that, yeah, I'm that big of a nerd. Unapologetically. Loving it. Then they're watching me, me up in front, unknown to myself as the social car-wreck I must be, and they all rubber-neck, almost embarrassed for me, watching me hemorrage on Boolean Logic. They get an ear full of databases and such, the hour passes, and we're done.

And it works, hey. Or at least it's a start.

I actually tried to crack a joke about an atlas of geological history. And nobody, actually, laughed. I've always had trouble "out cooling" people, but now I know that I can consistently "out nerd" my patrons -- and I do see that as a great advantage.

I've got another class in an hour, and I'm looking forward to it.
They're pretty good students.


Reading: The Pegasus Librarian thinks on tagging

The Gypsy Librarian

Go. Read. Good stuff.

Patriot Act in the UK?

Definite similarities exist between the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) and the USA Patriot Act, in regards to quashing public dissent, but I was surprised to find that the UK's Anti-Terrorism Bill apparently also threatens libraries and people's freedom to read.

First, on public dissent, see this from the Mayor of London blog (not the blog of the Mayor of London), February 06:

'Danish Embassy protests in contrast with the SOCPA Designated Area Parliament Square and Whitehall arrests and convictions

It is all very well for the Metropolitan Police or the Metropolitan Police Authority spokesmen to talk about "assessing the risks to public safety" and "collecting evidence for possible future arrests" with regard to the demonstraions outside of the Danish Embassy, where violent slogans were shouted and murderous threats were displayed on placards.

The existing public order and incitement to violence laws should have been perfectly adequate to deal with the situation, but the argument that not giving the oxygen of publicity to a minority of extremists by arresting them on the spot, is very sensible.

However, what then, is the justification for arresting, prosecuting and convicting people under the Serious Organsied Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area powers in Parliament Square or Whitehall, who have not uttered anything violent, and who were no possible threat to public order or national security or any hinderance to the operations of Parliament ?

If the Metroplitan Police are to command the respect of the people of London, they should be seen to be acting fairly, and treating all groups equally.

At the moment they do not appear to be doing so, on either "public order" or on "anti-terrorism" issues.'

On the matter of Libraries in the UK, it seems that the "Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2005" also impacts libraries similar to the way the USA Patriot Act does here in the States.

From the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals:

The Terrorism Bill had its second reading on Wednesday 26 October 2005 and contains clauses (2 and 3) which are likely to be problematic for libraries and information services in all sectors. They cover the dissemination of terrorist publications, and in view of the wide and uncertain definition of what may constitute a terrorist publication, librarians and their governing bodies/institutions would be at risk of prosecution as the clauses currently stand. Lord Carlile, in his capacity as independent reviewer of anti-terrorist legislation, has expressed a concern about the potential for these clauses to criminalise academic and parliamentary research and serious journalism: his remarks may be said to apply equally to libraries and information services following their normal lawful business. Concern has also been raised about clause 17, defining offences abroad, which puts on an equal footing, for the purposes of the Bill, things done in the UK and the same things done at (say) a university campus in overseas country. '


Weather: Flash Flood Watch

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I'm testing a Blogger service that claims I can post to my blog via e-mail.

If your reading this, the service works.


Listening: The awesome and funky musical score of Samorost2
Linking: the dabbling in vexes, silly magick, tricks are for kids

Interview: Shivanath: Evolved Occulturist

Shivanath writes for Key 23, and has written a number of texts regarding yoga, mysticism, and the environment. He kindly joined us for an interview, and jammed on matters related to magick, libraries, technology, and history.


me: > What have you been working on lately?

Shivanath: Well, my life is quite divided.
I'm an environmentalist / sustainability activist on one hand
a spiritual agitator and wizard and yogi on another
and I also wrassle technology for money
it's hard in this culture wearing three roles

> Let's talk magick. What is it? Why should anyone care?

in 1997 I had this to say
"magic is action on the liminal edge between the ordinary and the impossible"
and over time I've found that definition to stand well
as for why you would care? well, where are your limits?
do you want to move beyond them - if so, action on the edge of those limits - surfing the edge of the possible...
it's a way to start expanding your role and your creativity and your potentials
making more crayons
and less lines

> The history of "the occult" and the history of libraries seem closely tied. Why do you think that is?

"Grammyre" was the old english word for magic wasn't it?
Language, you know... it's The Big One
men and beasts
women speak more than men do - they use more different words, more often, and to more different people in a day on average
(make of that what you will)
I guess I see two sides to it: the mantra / kaballah / enochian "magical language" aspect, and the whole "culture of knowledge" aspect
Newton and Leibniz, these alchemists and kabalists and students of the Western Tradition cook up calculus and the whole world is transformed.
they do this because they can build on the knoweldge of the Greeks, of the Indians, of all of these
"If I have seen further than other men it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." and try to do that sans library!

> John Dee had a great library. What kind of magician was he?

"Hey, John, we're expecting the Spanish Armada in a minute... any chance you could... you know.... DO SOMETHING?"
(John Dee puts down his chess game.)
"Well, marm, I could invoke the Awesome Angels of Enoch and ask them to sink it, how would that be?"
I mean... depending on your read, this really happened. I've read that Dee literally said "ok, I'm off to go sink the Armada" and bloody hell he comes back later and finds there's been a storm and it is indeed sunk. Now, if that's true (and how would we know, never mind the cause./effect questions), what does it mean?

> What about magick in the East? Is there overlap between Western magick and, say, the Yogic tradition?

(rolls up sleeves)
There is no magic in India that I'm aware of.
At all.
It's a category that does not exist because there is no "mundane."
The bedrock reality of India is basically a 1.2 billion person Hogwarts. Each of those altars and shrines, the little Ganesh nook in the store, the Sarasvati in the school room, all of that is "magic."
Indians do these rituals because they are working.
As Swami Havabanana (my alter-ego, who operates Swami Havabanana's Ashram and Finishing School for the Troubled Teenage Daughters of the Very Very Wealthy) says
"Never, ever worship an idol. If all that thing does is sit there, why is it worty of worship? See my Ganesh? Working working working all the time for the benefit of all beings. Nothing idol about it."
and, I mean, yes I'm being funny, but there's a point here: we're a magical culture in every domain, to the hilt, and always were. This whole rationalist thing the westerner is stuck in looks like mental illness.
it's like hysterical blindness on the grand cultural scale.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOUR PEOPLE DO NOT SEE GOD IN ALL THINGS? oh my god.... those poor people....
It's a bit of a crisis really.
We're quite upset.

> I feel ya, bro.


> As a librarian, I have some conservative tendencies when it comes to organizing information, so the term "chaos magick" raises my neck hairs... Is it allied with Entropy, Pattern, neither, or both?

There's Peter Carrol's Chaos Magic, which is quite profound if weird and a bit dark. And there's Phil Hine's chaos magic which is an amalgamation of natural and sympathetic magic. And then there are the goths and punks and their chaos magic.
culturally I do not think the love of entropy, decay and darkness are all that useful
Libraries, though, have a bit of the Angelic Order about them - this renessance dream, allied a bit with (for example) formal systems in mathematics - this dream of a perfect fit between theory and practice
no "in between" texts
and Godel and Chaitin and co. have really shifted math away from that kind of thing.
Chaos is not and never was *random*. In fact, the delight of chaos math was that apparently random or highly ordered complex systems could be produced from simple underlying equations. Z = Z^2 + C (in the complex number plane) produces the Mandelbrot set. And that's simple math indeed!

> So does technology and magick have a future together?

I swear half of all pagans are system administrators.
I have friends who swear by "neurofeedback" which is literally plugging EEGs into a computer (for visualization) and then doing energy work on people's blocks.
I think it's insane personally: I know computers. I want this closer mental / spiritual link with computer technology why?
Internet explorer just barfed - I have to restart it according to this error message.
damn that was funny

> Synchronicity... what you gonna do?

so let me tell the other part of that story, which is that the "mini-astral" of the interent is a great place for the results of magic to manifest.
what could be easier than doing magic to get data and finding what you were looking for in an inspired google search
same for people: somebody's working on Friendster and Tribe and Myspace
building networks, conduits for connection
you could do magic there and nobody would even realize what you were up to becaues the effects, however fast and real, just fit into the new media so perfectly. it's not "fred is a powerful wizard" but "I find these cool folks on myspace - see fred? he's neat isn't he?"

> That plays in heavily to being a librarian, I must say... sometimes, it seems like the information itself is pulling you forward, and unlooked for sources pop open! Apopheniac.
> Can we go back to John Dee for a moment?

Dee's story is very informative.
where did you want to take the Dee thin?

> Edward Kelley. Do you think he forged the Voynich Manuscript? And was he, on balance, good or bad for Dee?

oh god.
ok. Forged is an interesting word, given that the book is just what-it-is.
I mean, unless it's a physical relic of some elf's encyclopedia or something, a human being wrote it.
so was it Kelly, I just don't know. But the whole thing seems plausibly channeled or copied from a book that somebody saw in a dream, vision or other psychedelic state. Perhaps not a forgery but a knock-off of a dream book? I just don't know.
Kelly, though. Oh man. I think that he was essentially half-parasitic, half-symbiotic on Dee.
Dee just didn't have the Second Sight to the degree required to talk to these Angels directly, it appears. But the problem is looking through a muddy telescope gives you dirty pictures.
Kelly's thing about "now the angels say I should sleep with your wife, John"
I mean... you know?
Maybe they did.
Maybe they said "Kelly, if you tell Dee that again, this game is over mate! and Kelly did it anyway."
You know about Jack Parsons?

> The rocket scientist OTO dude?

yes, the same chap.

> Don't know much about him at all.

so, hold on to your butt. Parsons takes the role of John Dee, and L. Ron "Scientology" Hubbard takes the role of Kelly, and they recreate a slab of Dee's work.

> Huh?

Jack's letters to Aleister detail some of the meeting and the discussions. I seem to remember that Crowley's quite against it.
Yeah: Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard did magic together.
All of this is way back in the day mind you.
And I think it's clear to see that Parsons gets shafted by Hubbard. This is important because I think it suggests that the Seer somehow feeds off the energy of the magician and, in fact, might be a necessary evil.

> Back to technology. What's up with transhumanism and all this talk of the Singularity? Is it magickal in your estimation?

Shivanath: ok. Again, yes-and-no. There are "high planes" in the Indian tradition - pure lands the Buddhists call some of them. Places where energy is higher, life is easier, enlightenment is sometimes a default base state for all beings. Trees which grow the things you ask them politely for, jewels the size of baseballs, diamond mountains and dakini maidens and great warrior men.
I think that the Transhumanists are trying to bring that here one hack at a time and I don't think it will work.
As my good friend Guy Sprio says "We were attracted to the physical plane for it's density.*" and I think that is very true and insightful. We came here for *this experience, not because it was a pure land in waiting.

> Can you suggest any novel ways magicians and librarians might collaborate for the greater good?

let me ask you a question: what has come from the collaboration between technologists and librarians?

> Wow. So much has come from it, so much so quickly, that it's hard to sum up. We've got better ways to connect more people to more information more quickly than ever before, though.

Western Tradition -> Leibniz and Newton -> Calculus -> Experimental Science That Really Works in Matter -> Engineering -> Electricity -> Computers -> Libraries.
You're already collaborating with magicians. They write your software.

> Okay. One more question.
> What're your plans for the rest of '06?

I'm going to Burning Man and I'm going to try and build a lot of hexayurts, possibly a whole village of them.
Architecture for Humanity published the design in their book, "Design like you give a damn" and I'd like to extend an open offer to people to collaborate on manufacturing a few dozen or a hundred units, and we'll all camp in comfort and splendor!

> That sounds fun.

I'm also working with Guy on his global meditation for peace projects, and I'll try and get a link to you soon for more info on that.

> Thanks Shivanath!

You're very welcome indeed. This was fun!


no child left behind?

Update: If I could spell worth a darn, I wouldn't have had to add this update. Aggh!

Update: Notice the word "potentential" "potential" in the Statesman article below. This is a vicious cycle wherein low expectations by administration leads to abandonment of students, and those students in turn don't achieve at a high level. This situation sucks. And it can hardly be called education.


By way of Disinformation:

"No White Child Left Behind

An Associated Press study has revealed a bit (well, a lot) of skullduggery in the reporting of No Child Left Behind test scores. Under NCLB guidelines, schools with small numbers of a certain ethnicity - white kids in Camden, NJ, but black, Asian, and Hispanic kids everywhere else - aren't required to report those kids' test scores."

What's going on here?

From the Statesman Journal:

"Many states, including Oregon, are helping public schools escape potential penalties by skirting the No Child Left Behind law's requirement that students of all races must show annual academic progress.

With the federal government's permission, schools deliberately aren't counting the test scores of nearly 2 million students nationwide when they report progress by racial groups, an Associated Press computer analysis found.

Minorities, who historically haven't fared as well as white people in testing, make up the vast majority of students whose scores are being excluded, the AP found. And the numbers have been rising."

So, in fact, millions of (minority) children are being left behind -- on purpose? To tilt the numbers? To meet this standard?

The AASL says that "all students, especially those living in poverty, need assignments that are relevant" to build literacy skills -- please read this AASL brochure. As it happens, many minority students live in poverty.

Librarians can help somehow, right?

Another article on the matter at InfoToday.

At the official NCLB site at No mention of libraries in the site index...


Feeling: cranky

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

i've never met the guy, personally

I haven't had a chance to read Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling yet, but I am eager to, and I did order it for a library. I think Bruce has lots of valuable insight in regards to "ubiquitious computing" and design. Maybe it's due in part to his lack of training in computer science and designing -- the on-the-outside-looking-in thing has actually been valuable to him and to us, his readers. Or maybe he's just lucky.

I listen to his lectures when I can find them online, and I've read a few of his books. I have no idea what the man is like in person (never met him), but he certainly carries a rather striking air of cool confidence in his mediated persona and throughout his "visible" personomy. I came across Shentou's recent post over at Livejournal while looking for spime talk, and I don't think his dis on Bruce Sterling is warranted; is Sterling overly "impressed with himself"? I don't know, but I do know that personal disses take us away from debating the content of a message.

I don't hear very many people talking about the kinds of things B.S. talks about, especially in regards to all the Viridian stuff. William Katavolos, maybe. And an organic farmer I worked for in Mississippi. Maybe that Negroponte, with his tough little wind-up laptops for Africa. Very few folks seem ready to think and write and talk about some of the system overhauls that Bruce is willing to employ in his Viridian Manifesto. Furthermore, he's actually putting the ideas into practice. "Real is the new virtual."


using a book

Talking with another librarian yesterday, it occurred to me that I make lots of assumptions about our patrons (who are mostly young undergraduate students). [I assume they know how to use books. But on reflection] I don't think they all really know (or think about, or care about) how to use a book. So here's something on "how to use a book", to keep it real.

.Look around. Where's the book? What kind of books are immediately beside it? What's above it and below it?

.Pick it up and feel of it. Turn it over in your hands. Thumb through it. Smell it, if you like. It's an old fashioned "object", but it's still useful as hell.

.Now down to business. Start at the end. Look at the "index". See anything related to what you're looking for? Thinking Think of synonyms for what you're looking for, and look those up too. Is it a good index (can you find what you need, or not?)?

.If the index is good for you, flip to those indicated pages and start scanning for your terms. Read the topic sentences. Get a feel for where it's going and what it's saying about your topic of interest.

.Maybe it doesn't even have an index. In which case, flip to the front of the book. Look at the table of contents. Do any of the chapters hit on your concerns?

.If so, go to the chapter and read the first couple paragraphs. Then scan the topic paragraphs sentences -- just sort of skip along the surface. If you get a sense that you're getting "warm", slow down and read the whole paragraph, or page, or chapter, or even the whole book -- if you think it's warranted and worth it, go deep.

.Alright. Good. Take down some information. What pages did you use? Write this down. Write down the title and author or editor. Get all your necessary citation information.

.Now look around again. Look at the books beside the one you started with. Similar topics? Yeah? Pick up another likely looker and



Listening: Steve Earle's Copperhead Road

Monday, April 17, 2006

rpg's in the library and an rpg library

I took at a chance at a small military library, and spent a few hundred dollars on "gaming" materials. I had seen evidence that we had a strong contingent of gamers on base, and I suddenly had some unexpected funds "fall out" of the squadron and into my lap.

I think I ordered the standard White Wolf core rule books, the basic Dungeon's and Dragons (the newest incarnation -- 3rd Edition?), the Star Wars roleplaying stuff, and several GURPs supplements. I figured that would be enough to satisfy the tastes of most, and give them, through the GURPs material, the tools to modify any of the games they liked. I'll have to describe the base environment some other time (military librarians can do a lot to help our servicemen and servicewomen, but often they don't get the support they need [read: the servicemen and servicewomen often don't get the support they need] from the highups in the hierarchy. There's lots of reasons for that, and it warrants a future post.).

Anyway. I hoped these materials would circulate -- but what a surprise it was when we couldn't keep the books on the shelf! My hope was that our "gaming night" programs would continue after I left (the program was for any games from Scrabble and Monopoly to Yu Gi Oh! and Mage: The Ascension) and little social gaming communities would evolve and sustain themselves.

Now a different but related topic.

I last "gamed", as in played a table-top RPG, in 1997 or so. But for a while in the 90s, I really enjoyed it. Some of my friends created their own worlds, own rules, and their own RPG games. Reams of unpublished game notes (from test-games, sketches of characters, notes on the history of an imagined land or a secret society, and all kinds of related background information) sat in dusty corners of their apartments... Probaby all this stuff was eventually thrown out.

I thought: wouldn't it be great if there were some kind of library for these materials? I mean a library of this mostly unpublished worldbuilding. And it would be archived online. Gamers could scan in documents or upload files into an archive that would be freely available for others to see and use, learn from, write about, develop further.

But I'm not a gamer anymore and don't have enough energy or sustained interest to create such a thing. Does anyone know if there's anything like this already out there?

It occurs to me that gamers could use wikis for this -- but then we'd need to somehow link them all, so that we could search across all game databases. It would be a shame to lose these games forever just because it's not commercially published by one of these bigtime houses like Wizards of the Coast. There's just too much great material out there for it to be lost for all time -- too many richly imagined worlds and characters.


Listening: Jimmy Wales at the Long Now Foundation

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Update: another Sterling talk: Conjure Sci-Fi Convention in Brisbane.
Thanks Anonymous!


I'm always looking for good lectures I can listen to related to libraries, technology, politics, science, etc. Here's a list of sites I frequent for good audio/video:

bell hooks

MondoGlobo podcasts

Terence McKenna audio library

Free seminars from the Long Now Foundation (variety of great speakers)

Dreamland from Whitley Strieber

SirsiDynix Institute webinar archives

Bruce Sterling at SXSW, March 06

Web lectures by Stephen Hoeller
of the Gnostic Society

Noam Chomsky's Audio & Video library

More Terence McKenna (and the Shulgins, etc.)

C-SPAN's Booknotes archives

Public domain audiobooks
from LibriVox -- a great library of podcasts -- many categories and subjects


Reading: abt the Gospel of Judas

boxing resources

Just a few starting points for info on boxing:

Boxing in the Sports Research Collection at Notre Dame Libraries
University of West Georgia's selected books on boxing
The Awesome Library's boxing resources -- lots of biographical info.
Wikipedia's article on boxing, with great external links
The Boxing Times -- Hardcore insider's coverage
World Boxing Association -- great for current news and statistics
WBA's Women's boxing site
Boxing at ESPN