Friday, June 23, 2006

info viz 6: global warming imagery

In light of the report from the National Academies of Science that "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming"...

I thought it might do to post a few pretty pictures.


(from Flood Maps by Alex Tingle and NASA)
Bye Louisiana. Bye Florida. And downtown Houston is beach-front property.


(from NASA, 2003: "Warming of Arctic May Affect Worldwide Climate")
Icecap shrinking in the last part of the 20th Century...


(from BBC News)
The "hockey stick" graph of global warming -- temps spike lately, huh?

Chinese pyramids

"Chinese archaeologists have discovered a group of ancient tombs shaped like pyramids, dating back at least 3,000 years, in Jiaohe City of northeast China's Jilin Province. The tombs, covering an area of 500,000 square meters (1,000 meters long and 500 meters wide), were found after water erosion exposed part of a mountain, revealing two of the tombs. Six smaller tombs had eroded away leaving no indications of their original scale and appearance, but the biggest tomb, located on the south side of the mountain, could clearly be discerned as a pyramid shape with three layers from bottom to top." (From Xinhua news service - Link; via

Part of the Jiahoe complex -- image from UNESCO.

Here's a page on other Chinese pyramids, mostly near Xi'an (link).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

teaching 6


Blaming the students is not the answer.
I've got a lot to learn about teaching.


Got angry teaching today. Library instruction for an English Comp. class, two sections. The first section had twice as many students as the second, and by the end of the second class, I was disgusted.

The disgusting thing is, I had no tangible reason to feel that way. The students were as passive as ever -- no heckling, no real rudeness.

After nearly an hour of exploring the intricate details of database searching, library catalogs, truncation, and the use of the index, the students just aren't as illuminated with joy and curiousity as I'd hoped. I'm up there moving, talking, asking them questions, and they just kind of sit. And watch me. And listen. And it's clear that this is way, waay more information than they want -- but it's not as much information as they will need. If they only knew how much more there was to say about this stuff, they'd be dismayed -- kind of in the same way we were dismayed by the Star Wars Kid?

Hilarity with a dash of incredulous pity? Well.

Nobody wants to be the Star Wars Kid. So this feeling like I'm the butt of some unsaid joke steadily rises with each class. And my response is to get sterner, gruffer. To point my beard and shake my fist zealously as I shake the ceiling and sling sweat with old timey library science revival hymns bustin out the eardrums of those that have not the ears to hear. And I've started smirking. If they don't respond to my questions, I ask dumber questions. That's not a great direction to go in. That's not, like, real progressive or mature or anything, and I'm not proud.

It's a tricky situation. These classes are guests in my library -- I don't want to come off as smug and cocky and disdainful. I want to welcome them and teach them.

Maybe I should wear a silly hat. Devise a scavenger hunt. Toss out Tootsie Rolls. Hell.


Reading: Jim Carroll: The Book of Nods
Reading: Arthur Edward Waite: The Book of Ceremonial Magic
Reading: Kusen by Livingston Roshi
Reading: Sterling's blog at WIRED, Beyond the Beyond
Reading: Sukdhev's World
Reading: Comics Worth Reading
Reading: Beers of the World
Listening: The Ricky Gervais Podcast
Listening: Wessex Archaeology Events
Listening: The Viking Youth Power Hour
Weather: heavy weather coming -- must remember to park the truck on high ground tonight.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

note to self

The Politics of Libraries

I Historical overview

political orientations of famous figures in librarianship

II The implicit politics of 20th Century libraries


The public library, the university library, desegregation, political rebellion,

Computers for all (Gates grants)

III The implicit politics of 21st Century libraries: where we are heading

Open-source, user-centered, tagging, cellphones, away from hierarchy

folksonomy, personomy, autonomous 'books'

information agency? ANT

IV Universal access: Beyond Democracy

Beyond representation toward democratic (atomized) individual participation

politics of "AI", augmented reality

teaching 5

This from reBang Blog, and I'll take the liberty of quoting the post in full:
"They Won’t Write The Songs

And they won’t design the products. Or author the books. Or develop significant new ideas. Not when the culture in which they’re living thinks it’s okay to copy. And that’s the cultural issue/problem being reported over on the BBC today (Link) and it’s something about which I’ve also expressed concern. From the short report:

Many of the new generation of students raised on the internet see nothing wrong with copying other people’s work, says Professor Sally Brown.

If I had to guess I’d say we’ll have a creativity peek in the short term as artists/musicians/writers/designers use the tools now available to them to do some interesting things. But after that, if there’s no change in the Copy Culture, I expect a long slide into Boring. So stock up on exciting, innovative stuff now." (Link to post)
This is from a designer, a techno-savvy artist who has an eye for social change -- and he seems to me, usually, to be a fairly optimistic guy. And he's expecting a "long slide into Boring" if things go on as they are in regards to the "copy culture"??

That ought to give librarians and teachers pause.

Who's to blame if our students don't understand plagiarism? You've got one guess.

I see instructors gloss over this all the time -- passing out an 'academic ethical standards agreement' and having their students sign that they 'get it' without ever explaining what the hell it means. In my library we push the importance of citing sources constantly -- but it isn't enough. If this is a 'copy-paste' cultural problem, we've got a real challenge on our hands -- even as such noble causes as Creative Commons encourages borrowing and sharing (without explicit cautions?). I heard one student tell a teacher "but it isn't like stealing, it's just words." Just words, but valueless words? How can anyone born after 1975 not understand the importance of giving props to those you sample from?

What am I missing here? I want to read the reBang post as a knee-jerk, reactionary response -- and I don't agree that we're on the long slide, ultimately, toward Boring Culture... but I do think he makes a good point. We've just gotta work harder to impress the importance of originality in arts and in scholarship.

That, or we have to be willing to let our current academic values go through a serious mutation, if not an extinction.

{{But, hey, wait a minute... Look at this post. The interpretation of this story is my own, but the links are the citations. This medium is teaching us to use props and samples, citations and references in new ways altogther -- and just because it's new doesn't mean it's not legit. 2 legit 2 quit!}}


By the by, check out some of Sven's (of reBang) ideas in a previous post (link).


Weather: a moderate "5" on the UV index.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

viking youth podcasts

You'll want to listen to the guys at Viking Youth Power Hour.

They're savvy, they're funny, and they're gutsy. They debate tough topics with comportment, honesty, and ease -- and their shows never lack for zeal or ferocity. Discussions range from the specifics of magickal rites to the finer uses of psychedelics, and from the unanswered questions of the 9/11 attack to intelligent critiques of pop culture icons. It's often fringe, and it's always smart.


Reading: The Social Life of Books
Feeling: kinda lit up.

carnival of the infosciences

I'll be hosting the Carnival on Monday, July 31. Submission info is here (link).

The theme will be "Low Tech Solutions" -- that is, what sorts of horse-sense tools and skills do you use to solve problems in the library? And how do you do it without the coolest, newest, web2.0-est gizmos?

But if you want to submit a post that's off that theme, that's fine too. I'll take a look at anything. Even jokes. I'm easy.

teaching 4

You know that John Cale song, "Fear is a Man's Best Friend"?

Standing waiting for a man to show
Wide eyed one eye fixed on the door
This waiting's killing me, it's wearing me down
Day in day out, my feet are burning holes in the ground

Darkness warmer than a bedroom floor
Want someone to hold me close forever more
I'm a sleeping dog, but you can't tell
When I'm on the prowl you'ld better run like hell
You know it makes sense, don't even think about it
Life and death are just things you do when you're bored
Say fear's a man's best friend
You add it up it brings you down

It's a good song. Teaching classes brings it to mind.

I've found two main ways to be when teaching -- two ways that I am when I teach for the library.

One is -- I project my toughness, my hard skin, my mean eyes out into the crowd. I project a slight disdain for my students. I send an armored voice out against the back walls, and it bounces around like a gunhappy-sonofabitch. A student slides in her seat, sneaks a chuckle with a pal, sighs too loud -- I grow more distant, more disgusted, ever more tired. You don't need me? Well you'd be wrong, sisters and brothers, to think I need you. I know this already, and I'm doing you a favor by being here. I'm the guy you need to talk to. I'm master-control.

Two is -- I see the humor in this situation. I breathe from my center, my belly, and I chuckle plenty. I look them each in eye, and move spontaneously, like I would in my kitchen. This is just a set of tools, and it's very far from personal. Stick with me for an hour, and let's learn how to find information. I'm a messenger. I'm nearly, actually, in the way of the message. I get over myself, quit hanging loose in the doorway, let the information about the information come through as clearly as it may. Better if you don't even notice me. So: right from the center, and with humor if at all. You've got it; you're a smart mob.

So that's the ways it is with me. I like the latter, better. The former cranks up as defensive maneuvering when I feel nervous (and I feel nervous lots when I'm up in front of a crowd). The key to calling that second attitude in is to slow down, breathe from my belly, and, as best I can, try to be centered in the here and now.

I can be the bearded alpha primate commanding attention, demanding understanding from my audience -- or I can just act from my center, be myself, accept the nervousness enough to realize that there are far more important things happening in the room. These students are learning how to use their library, and some for the first time. This is it. Here and now. The only way I can be attentive enough to meet this need is to get out of the way a little more. Play a little, if it takes that, to deflate my own fears and let these people learn.


Watching: John Cale: Fear (Is a Man's Best Friend)
Reading: Libraryola:"Opaque to the Untrained Eye."

Monday, June 19, 2006

happy birthday: Aung San Suu Kyi

Happy Birthday to Aung San Suu Kyi. She's still under house arrest, but maybe she can have some fun today. She's worked hard for the Burmese, so let's remember her for a moment.

comics 9: Superman is real?

'About a decade ago, Alvin Schwartz, who wrote Superman comic strips in the 1940s and ‘50s, published one of the great Odd Books of our time. In An Unlikely Prophet, reissued in paperback this spring, Schwartz writes that Superman is real. He is a tulpa, a Tibetan word for a being brought to life through thought and willpower. Schwartz also says a Hawaiian kahuna told him that Superman once traveled 2,000 years back in time to keep the island chain from being destroyed by volcanic activity. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t, but it does sound like a job for Superman – all in a day’s work for a guy who can squeeze coal into diamonds. Schwartz then tells of his own encounter with Superman in a New York taxi, when he learned firsthand that Superman’s cape is, in fact, more than mere fabric.(From Wired: "The Myth of Superman" by Gaiman and Rogers)'

Could it be that Superman and John Constantine have more than comic books in common? Constantine's creator, Alan Moore, has claimed to have met Constantine in real life on more than one occasion. This, if it is true, goes some way to support Grant Morrison's view of comics as hyper-sigils, fictional characters as sentient.

So be kind to your comic books. And all your books. And your DVDs. And each other. Thanks.