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Doing some thinking (smell the neurons burning?)

Perhaps I'd do better (gulp) to stick Win98 back on the old unfiltered box, find a way to really lock it down, and set it up to run our Time Access software. That would be one less burden for the circulation staff to deal with.

I'm getting ahead of myself. People seem to have a hard time with our high tech sign up sheet (a grid with computer numbers on the top, and times on the side, where you put your name in the appropriate time slot for the appropriate computer... difficult, huh?), so the more I think, the less I hold out any hope they'll ever figure out the Gatekeeper software. That means the burden falls on circ and info. To make it easier, I'd probably hook the circ registration computer to the print server, and install the staff control software there. That would make three, maybe four if I can get Win98 to work with it, computers that allow for time access. I suppose we could do our Macs the way we do our old unfiltered and word processors... Take a placard you sign up for at the circ desk and put it on the computer. I think that's the only way to make it fair.

It's like being in first grade again... It's all about being fair.

Then ten minute email could be the no-fun (I mean, Linux) box. No one likes to play with that one much. It has no Flash, so no games, no nice displays of eye candy. Great for email.

My worry is signing people up and people fighting about who's next in line. I'll have to see exactly how the one time use numbers work. We could do it by card, I suppose, but I think we'd run into the same problem. It might be better if someone at circ can physically see who's going to what computer.

One person complained about the Mac and the Linux box dumping her out yesterday. I just visited the site she was talking about in my beta version of Opera with no troubles. I did discover the Mac frozen on a porn site (pics never loaded, froze just before that point), though, so I wonder about the veracity of the site she was looking for. Unless someone snuck in after her (also very possible).

Okay, enough thinking for now. Have to get ready for work and put it all into practice.

when is the best time to come to use the internet?

That's my favorite question I get at reference. Even over "Do you have any books?" and "Where's the photocopier?" The fact of the matter is, there is no good time. There's always someone waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

The idea of time management software is back on the table. The other librarians didn't like the idea of shutting down the computers from 2-4 so that kids would be encouraged to do other things for that time period. Like read. Ride a bike, go pogoing (outside, preferably). Do homework... like, real homework, not the line I got the other day, "I'm doing a report on shoes. I need to go to Google images, and then to Skechers.com." Sure.

The fact of the matter is, the kids might want to use the computer for legitimate research during that time period, but there's so many people using it for other stuff (innocently or otherwise) that those kids never get a chance to. That's hardly fair either. So if I do get this software, perhaps I should set up an hour in the morning, and a half hour in the afternoon. The problem being, everyone wants to print.

Right now we have three computers that print. I am trying to rig a Mac so that it can, but it's just not happening, not till I get OS X on there and configured. The Linux box has the capability, but not with our print station. I sense musical computers in my future. Perhaps with the Linux box going email only, and two OS X boxes running with the print station? You know... that could work.

Money's tight. Mondo tight. That makes it hard. There are two P4 chips in this room of my house. That's one more than is in my library. There is a pocket pc in my kitchen that is more powerful than the 486s in the basement of the library. It's tough. We have no funding for hardware. People are telling me how it sucks they don't have this terminal or that word processor working.

My assistant director nicely took me aside and said "You only have two hands." I am glad he understands. It's true, and I know it, but it doesn't always stop the pressure. I really would like everything working for people. There are priorities, I guess. There are also alternatives. There is a cyber cafe twenty yards down the street, after all. A librarian who shall remain nameless mentioned to me that s/he wouldn't be adverse to charging a small fee for internet access. I don't particularly like the idea, and I don't think s/he really did either. But we've got to keep running somehow.

Didn't mean for this to turn into a whine fest, but it sort of did. My apologies.

Tried to install SuSE on the old unfiltered, and alas, it didn't have enough memory to run YaST. So I've ordered, out of my own pocket (so I can play with it too, on my own time), Peanut Linux. It should run fine on limited memory. It'll be something to play with. In the meantime, I'll throw OS X out as a card only terminal. I feel the need to get something out there.

e-mail ref vs. Almanacs: Call for Comments

What are your feelings and professional conduct regarding e-mail reference questions that could be answered in TWO SECONDS from an almanac or an encyclopedia?

Here at my library, several times a week we get e-mails with a variant of the question "When did Alaska become a state? (Ans - Jan 3, 1959 AK was admitted to the Union.)" These e-mails often come from out of state and appear to be for school projects, tho not always.

We always give them an answer, and I think that's appropriate. For an obvious school assignment, we sometime send them to a web page with the answer or note its easy availability in almanacs and encyclopedias.

However, I can't help but wonder, isn't this a wasteful FOR THE PATRON/STUDENT way to answer the question? If they're asking the question from their school, they could have the answer in six seconds from a book. Sending the question to us may mean hours or overnight (we check ref e-mail twice a day) before they get an answer.

I know sometimes teachers say "you must have an Internet Source" for your answer, but is this how we want to teach our kinds how to seek information? Ignore the solution at their elbow to ask questions of strangers thousands of miles away?

Really cool projects

One of my social studies teachers had her students create their own countries. She asked if I would display their posters in the library. OF COURSE!!! So, I taped, stickied, and otherwise affixed posters to the one free wall I have and even stuck a few onto the circulation desk. Really makes the library look sharp. Now, if the vinyl recliners would just hurry up and get here ...

Preservation grunt March 4

Dub a nice recording of Canadian pianist Adrienne Shannon to CD, apparently recorded in a studio sometime before June 1975. The documentation is skimpy but it does say it is Dolby Noise Reduction encoded (and it is!).

Hmmm, how did I catalogue multiple source tapes for one broadcast again? I know I'll look up a previous similar record I have entered. Here's an example... but where is the text I added months ago? Argh, stupid database! Thank goodness for paper backup. Now I know why they insist on maintaining the card catalogue.

Look in the vertical files.

Re-enter my previously entered data.

Hmmm. That still doesn't solve my cataloguing problem. Oh there's one.

Now I will print this record out and put it in my cataloguing manual so I don't have to go through this again. Where is the three hole punch? Someone has pilfered it. I am thwarted again. I only want to document my work flow like a good information worker should.

...

pogo sticks @ your library

Yes, there were young men pogo sticking in the lobby of the library. These are the same young men playing hide and seek in the basement the day before. Today, if they pull any crap, I call the police. I feel guilty calling the police (they must have better stuff to do), but obviously the kids aren't impressed by us.

So yes, I fully expect to be calling the police today, or more likely, tomorrow. Sigh.

I put more memory in the unfiltered box, only to discover that the computer is dumb and doesn't recognize any more than 32 MBs of memory on that machine. I put a 64 MB stick in. I can't see that it supports that low a number, but I'm going to try to squeak SuSE 8.2 on there, I guess. At any rate, there's so much crap on that hard drive it's probably worth a zorch and reinstall of any operating system.

I need to do more tweaking on my Penguin box. Someone has managed to get the icons back on the tool bar. Not that there's much you can actually do with that, but I'm interested in how they did it. Most of the toolbar functions are disabled, anyway, so it doesn't do them a whole lot of good. Also, my default fonts were reset when I was playing with the ini files,so everything is very small. That's one problem with Linux. The fonts are tiny.

I'm pondering taking the second hard drive out of the unfiltered, too. I mean, why do we need two hard drives in it now? It's an internet terminal.

God, the idealist in me wishes I didn't have to get rid of the unfiltered terminal. It's agonizing, really. But I don't want to clean that crap. I don't have time to clean that crap. When I can devote all my time to IT and cease working reference and info (and therefore cease having the librarian job I wanted) I guess then we could probably have unfiltered terminals again.

It kills me though, because I bet it's three to five people ruining it for many.

A sampling of my comments on other blogs

Here are some comments I have recently posted on other blogs, just to
give you an idea of my views on a few topics. I'm not posting these
because they are the last words on their subjects, but because I think
they are reasonably well-argued and come from a more or less
conservative point of view.

  • I stumbled across a posting on a blog I had never read before
    asserting that "Bush misleads public about cause of deficit", blaming
    Bush's tax cuts for the deficit. Read my response (scroll
    down to "Soaking the Rich"). Those who advocate redistribution of
    wealth through progressive taxation must
    hope that the rich stay at least as rich as they are, for the sake of
    those to whom they wish to redistribute.
  • I respond (after the thread had gone stale, unfortunately) to
    Scott Burgess's critique of a pro-life scholar arguing against the
    cloning of blastocysts for research (mine is the inadvertantly
    anonymous comment near the bottom at February 24, 2004 06:57 PM).
    It occurs to me now that I'm not certain of how physiologically
    comparable the blastocysts in question are to human embryos produced
    by natural conception. If they aren't such that they could naturally
    develop into fetuses under the proper conditions, then I would have
    to reconsider at least parts of my argument. Apart from that question,
    I do stand by my assertion that the purpose and method of their
    production is irrelevant to the question of their rights.
  • Keith Burgess-Jackson was kind enough to post my email to him with observations on some forms of objection to theism and to Christianity in particular.

Now you can see just how wise or retrograde I am (depending on your point of view). You can also set me straight through the comments feature.

Something "useful" from the right

Blake Carver has
commented
on the difficulty of hearing the voice of the intelligent
right over all the other noise online. I want to post links to a few
blogs I think worth reading.

These blogs don't express only views I agree with (that
would happen only in my blog, if I had one, and then only about half
the time), but I find that they don't rely on emotionalism or
rhetorical bluster. In my view they present consistent,
well-though-out positions.

There are quite a few others (and I didn't even get theological, either). I could go on, but it's late.

By way of a BTW, I don't listen to talk radio (though I suspect I'd like Hugh Hewitt's show), I don't prefer Fox news over CNN or MSNBC (the only real broadcast news for my money is the Newshour with Jim Lehrer), and I may never read a book by Ann Coulter. I don't like cant or rhetorical fluff when there's no substance to back it up (unless it's very, very funny).

UPDATE: nbruce says you should check out Eamonn Fitzgerald's Rainy Day, (a favorite of mine inadvertantly left off this list) including this sample post.

Interview with Walter Cronkite

Wanted to share this great interview with WC in the San Francisco Gate . Quite a guy at age 87; makes Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Larry King, Peter Jennings even, look about as substantial as flotsam. Check out what he has to say about Janet Jackson, gay marriage, Bush, etc.

Virtual Terror Networks

This entry could also have been titled either "weird science" or "your tax dollars at work."

The folks at Secrecy News have posted the following article from Los Alamos Science -- a journal published by the National Lab at Los Alamos:

"Understanding Why -- Dissecting Radical Islamist Terrorism with Agent-Based Simulation" by Edward P. MacKerrow, Los Alamos Science, Number 28, 2003 (1.5 MB PDF file):

http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lanl/pubs/las28/why.pdf

According to the article:

"The Complex Systems Group at Los Alamos has been examining questions related to the "why" behind terrorist organizations in the Middle East. Borrowing tools from the field of computational economics and sociology, we are developing agent-based models that simulate social networks and the spread of social grievances within those networks."

a little further down it says:

"We can expose our agents to a variety of determinents-- new government policies, different media exposure, economic pressures, and others--and quickly generate hundreds of new scenarios. Thus, we can conduct computational experiments that can be analyzed statistically and objectively to increase our insight, support decision making, and aid policymakers."

I honestly don't believe myself to be a luddite -- I am blogging, after all -- but I find the idea of making real world policy based on a computer simulation of human behavior frightening. It seems like many variables are beyond measuring to be useful.

The Los Alamos author does say that he doesn't intend to PREDICT terrorist activity, only to analyze scenarios. If his product is taking serious by decision makers, I'm not sure they'll keep that distinction.

On a lighter note, we got our snow, about two inches worth. Supposedly will turn to rain later today.

Crazy Talk

In my efforts to make the internet less fun, I am pondering filtering and putting either a) the OS X Mac on the floor as a card only terminal or b) sticking SuSE 8.2 on the old Win98 box that used to be unfiltered. Here's how old the Win98 box is: it has a serial mouse. The good news: our serial mouse wielding word processor gave up the ghost yesterday, so I can bulk the memory some by stealing from Peter to give to Paul.

If I thought I could rig SuSE 9 on it I would, but I think it might be easier to keep it simple as possible. Besides, my husband has the SuSE 9 disks at his work now. God, I love open source.

I have a screamin' headache, and get to work 1-9 today, so it's a long day for me. Sigh. I do have sick time, but there's the unfortunate bit that someone is taking a personal day today, and that, well, god, I hate using sick time.

I am discovering that being a librarian, in some cases, is about limiting access as much as it is about giving access. The kids I threw out the day before came in yesterday, and I took their ball (again) and I imagine they got thrown out shortly thereafter. Then there's the whole filtering thing.

Keeping Up With The LISNewsterz

Yesterday morning I decided that would be the day I would read every single comment left on LISNews. I've been slacking lately, letting a lot of comments slide by, unread, even on quite days. I picked a bad day.

For years it was easy to read every comment, we just didn't get any, so it was not much of a challenge to keep up. That may be changing, or it may just be the top of the bell curve. I'm not sure what the record for comments in a single day is, but I know the average for last month is 26 comments a day, January was only 16. We're only 2.5 days into March, and we've already got 85 comments, 55 of which were left yesterday. Yes, these are numbers that a busy site like Slashdot would laugh at, but they're pretty darn high for little ol' LISNews.

Now it may not seem like much to read 55 comments in a day, but just try, go ahead, see how long it takes. I've got a much different view of the site than most folks do; the super secret back end code lets me keep an eye on things from above. It lets me watch the comments come in, see what's being moderated, and keeps an eye out for abuses, which, luckily, we don't have much of at this point. So even with my super powers it's still no easy task trying to keep up. It's also not easy moderating sometimes.

One of the super powers that comes with an author account is the ability to moderate freely. On most days most people get somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 moderator points. That is I manually update the Db field that gives points to people. Slashcode is designed for Slashdot, and it doesn't really scale down very well. For those people who do participate frequently, the code frequently grants them points, for the vast majority of the people who do not, they'd never get any points. It could be argued they don't deserve the points, but I do my best to encourage participation from everyone, and hopefully that helps. I'd like to think it helps avoid things like this comment from an Anonymous Patron:

"Why am I so completely unsurprised by the moderators rating Conservator's comment as flamebait? Fang-Fang's streak of ad hominen attacks against opposing views remains unbroken, and remains a hit with moderators."

I've seen comments like that on Slashdot for years, and I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see them here as well, but I am. There is no great moderator conspiracy here @LISNews. There may be one @Slashdot, I just don't know, but I do know there isn't one here. This comment in particular was moderated as flamebait by one person, and that was the only time it had been moderated. As a matter of fact, it's one of the very few comments in the past week that modded down at all. And to be fair, Fang-Fang has gotten more than his fair share of negative mods. In general, the vast majority of moderations are up, this one comment was an exception, rather than a vast left wing conspiracy. The moderation system is not perfect, but for the most part I think it does a good job, and I like it.

So to answer your question, Anonymous Patron, I don't know why you are so completely unsurprised by the moderators rating Conservator's comment as flamebait, take a look at all the other comments, I think you'll be surprised. And, by the way, that was me that moderated your comment as flamebait.

The day of the Penguin

Today the Linux box went live. Except for a slight problem (which I think is memory based) of lines appearing all over the screen when the box goes to "sleep" for more than a minute or so (that's nicely fixed by a ctrl-alt-backspace), it seems to be working okay. I played around with the filter some, and got it to at least block naughty things.

I will be interested to see how this goes. I think it will be spurned like our Macs. Hey, it's not designed to be fun, it's designed to be functional. Which it is.

I also discovered some disturbing things on our unfiltered terminal. I can not take the time to maintain it unfiltered. Besides, a good seventy percent of the cookies on that machine had "XXX" in the URLs or things that were otherwise... well, simply not what one should be viewing @ your library.

If I ever had the crazy idea to put my credit card number into a public access terminal, I sure as hell wouldn't do it after today.

The unfiltered terminal is going away without a squeak. The first person who comes to circulation (and ultimately to me) and says, "I can't view my porn!" is going to probably throw me for a loop, but hey. I just don't want to see us get burned. I could have spent hours working on that machine. And that's silly.

It was actually rather fascinating to watch people react to the "no internet today" concept... I put up signs on all the machines that they were being upgraded. And people bounced from machine to machine like pinballs, looking for one that didn't have the sign on it. Then they started, after I had them down a few hours, asking whether or not it would be up by a given time.

To paraphrase and otherwise modify an earlier journal:

Dear Public,

Don't tick off the systems librarian, for ultimately she decides when you get your internet access back.

--the Library

People were getting demanding: "Can't you make one work for me?" I wasn't about to tell them I could make them all work. Bwahahahahaha! Theoretically, they were all working. That's what "upgrade" means, folks. Read the signs. They work, but not as well as they could. These people complaining we were down would be the first to complain that the computers aren't fast enough, too.

They still aren't blazing fast, but at least they're defragged, updated, virus scanned, and have all sorts of fonts on them. Not silly fonts, international fonts. Fonts that are actually useful. Not wingdings.

26.2

No. No library discussion here. Just "sharing" thoughts about an upcoming race.

26.2

Updating the collection

I ordered this most wonderful book titled Core Collection for Young Adults. It comes with a CDRom that contains all the titles in various formats. Now, what I want to do is compare what is on the CD to what I already have without going through the mess one title at a time. I run Follett and don't see anything on there that will let me do this. sigh. Of course, I can't do this at home because I can't access my collection info from home.

Meanwhile, each student on the newspaper staff created a newsletter for me. Their teacher is being mean and making me pick the best. They are all wonderful so this will be a very hard assignment.

oh, the humanity

Funny how certain people make the humanity level in a room go way up.

After a very nasty remark about our Black History Month display by one patron, we got hit with some kids that seemed to think it was totally appropriate to play hide and seek in the basement of the library. I got them out quickly. Somehow when this happens, it blurs the lines of what's appropriate in a library for me again.

I mean, of course those two examples were inappropriate. Those were easy. But when you compare them with the high school kids that just sort of sit at the tables and talk, usually fairly quietly... Well... things get a little blurry for me. If they have a book we generally don't bother them. If they don't, I guess technically they're supposed to go.

But this certain group of kids is always polite, always restrained. There's just a lot of them -- doing next to nothing.

Today I take down the internet computers. One of our word processors is down. People are not going to be happy, but they're unhappy when they get on and things are amazingly slow because there are twenty four million cookies on the machines.

I am thinking the first Tuesday of every month might be good for this sort of maintenance.

I ordered memory. Wooo hoooo. A lot of it. Now we can revive a Mac or two and get the circulation computers running comfortably. I was hoping I could find some in some of the older computers to put in some of the newer computers... alas, the memory that one pulls out of a donated 486 isn't even particularly useful as paperweights.

The Look of Lactose Intolerance

I am always having strange comments directed towards me. Here is a recent one that takes the cake. Just a few days ago I was in the music room. Our elementary music teacher and I collaborate for a 20 minute music/library time. It is great. We sing songs, do puppet shows, read stories, etc.
Anywho – Music teacher says to me, “Are you lactose intolerant?��Why, yes,� I say, “Why do you ask?��Oh, you just look like you would be,� he answers.
My question to you, reader, is what is the look of lactose intolerance? I am not puny, but not huge. As Goldie Locks might say, “Not too big, not too small, but just right.� I am about 5’4� and 130 pounds. Pretty normal looking gal – I think.
Maybe it is my features. I have blonde hair and blue eyes. I have had many people tell me that I look like Reese Witherspoon. Reese has a cute chin. My jaw is mannishly square. I look more like a Tracy Flick than an Elle Woods.
So what is it about me that oozes an inability to digest ice cream? I don’t broadcast my affliction to the staff. At our last carry in, I did not forgo dairy all together. I just hope that I am not leaking horrible gas while I am telling stories. No wonder the kids are quiet. They are intoxicated by nauseous fumes!

Fake blogging

This has been a "blog-of-interest" among some people I 'know' over the past few days (all bloggers):


http://www.iudaybyday.blogspot.com/

I guess this kid had a class assignment to try to reach a certain number of hits, and he went about it by writing a lot of incendiary stuff, posing as a redneck frat boy. He came out today to say it was all for an assignment but he certainly had me fooled.
I am an active blog reader (not so much with the writing), and I guess this serves as a reminder that you don't really know 'who' you're reading, or who's reading you...
Cross-posted with Yahoo blogging article

Life-long Mathematical Learning

The following remark came to me via a third party (of course) -- I quote: "Nobody goes into a library after they graduate." Now, this comes from a man who teaches mathematics at my high school. I don't know about anyone else, i.e. non-librarians, but I have had zero reason to step into a math classroom after graduation, and libraries are my second and third homes.

It just so happens that Oregon ranks 5th in the nation for library visits and reference transactions, and 2nd for circulation, According to the National Center for Education Statistics.

What do you say to a guy like this?

Springtime in Southeast Alaska

For the past several days here in Southeast Alaska we have had unexpected sunshine with daytime temps around 40. For us, that is a lovely spring day and some people are already breaking out shorts. I myself don't switch to shorts until we hit the 60s -- high 50s if I'm hiking.

Hope other people (especially slashgirl) are getting some nice weather coming their way!

If the weather folks are right, we'll have rain and snow in a day or two, but even so, it will have been a good run of good weather!

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