Some nice gentleman on Tech Report wrote a brief script for me showing how to keep Safari from shutting down in OS X. I know little of scripting. I should probably learn, because on more than one occasion in the past few weeks it would have come in right handy.

Another person was very nice on the Opera group and suggested how I can get the damned "Opera was not properly shut down" dialog to go away.

What is it with the public and shutting down browsers anyway? I had three people come to me last week and ask me how you shut Opera off... Their history was gone, their webpages were gone, the browser was ready for the next person with no indication anyone had ever been there... and they wouldn't leave till the browser was shut down. They wanted a desktop. Silly rabbits.

The timed access software is looking more appealing. The OCS stuff can do a lot, and I know it works with our hardware. I think I'd opt for the cheapest iteration, which is a ten seat license, no ODBC interfacing with Horizon (I don't see why at this point. Why spend the money till we're sure how well this is going to work?) and no sign up software. That should bring us to well under $1500, I think. We can upgrade later. My question is really what staff computer I should hook up to the server. Logically I'd want to do reference, since that's where the computers are, but the reference desk isn't always staffed. Then I'd logically want to do circulation, but I fear that would bog down the circ computers with too much software that they don't really need. So I guess that leaves information.

This I'm not thrilled about for a few reasons. The most significant of which is the computer is slow enough. I think I might take the extra stick of memory I get from Crucial and stick in the info machine instead of the registration machine (which rarely gets used, except for logging in new patrons). Then, perhaps, the software will all run a little more smoothly.

The pros: Information will know who's over there. We'll have their card information. We can give them their one time use numbers, and see their faces, and know how long they've been over there. This way, if there are any arguments, well... we know.

OCS is also making the software Mac compatible in the next few months. Yeee haaaa! This means Linux gets delegated to ten minute email (no one, I've found, except a true computer geek, likes to spend much more than ten minutes on the Linux box). Sigh. What am I saying about myself?

The Prius is a week old. We love it. Getting 400 miles to an 11.9 gallon tank of gas. Lovely.

The dreaded P*A*

I have to admit I haven't been all that well-informed about the Patriot Act. Since I haven't been working as a librarian for the last 3+ years, I haven't paid as much attention to issues that might bear upon libraries as perhaps I ought to have. The Patriot Act is one of those issues I sort of glossed over.

You should know that I am one of those "be skeptical of government" conservatives, the kind who have some definite libertarian leanings, which means that by default I am inclined to dislike things like the Patriot Act. After all, I think that subversives like Gary Kunsman and Joel Miller have a real point when they claim that the state exceeds its authority and impairs liberty in the "war on drugs". Doubtless I make some fellow conservatives angry when I say that marijuana should be legalized (n.b.: my pot-smoking days are well behind me). I favor the availabilty of strong encryption to normal U.S. citizens (what was the previous administration's ban on cryptography all about, anyway?). So up till now I've I've been grumbling about the state further eroding liberties when the Patriot Act is mentioned.

This evening I finally read the anathematized Section 215 of the Patriot Act to see for myself how bad it is. I confess I'm rather disappointed. Section 215 replaces 3 sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 with two new sections. As far as I can make out, this is what it says:

  • The FBI Director, or another designated high-ranking FBI official may apply for an order to have materials related to an investigation to protect against international terrorism or against espionage;
  • if the investigation is of a U.S. citizen, it may not be triggered simply by actions protected under the First Amendment;
  • the application must be made either to "a judge of the court established by section 103(a) [of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act]" or to a U.S. magistrate designated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme to hear and rule on these applications;
  • the application must specify that the investigation for which the materials are needed either complies with subsection (a)(2) [of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978] or is intended to protect against international terrorism or espionage;
  • if the judge issues an order to produce the materials sought, the order should not disclose the purposes of the investigation for which it is issued;
  • no-one may disclose that the FBI sought or obtained materials under this [amended] section [of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978]
  • a person producing materials under this provision shall not be liable for production to others, nor have they waived any privileges in other contexts by producing the materials sought;
  • twice a year the Attorney General must "fully inform" the select intelligence committees of the House & Senate about all requests for materials under section 402;
  • twice a year the Attorney General must provide a report to the House & Senate Judiciary Committees detailing how many applications for materials under this provision were made, and how many were granted, denied, or modified.

As I read this, it looks to me as if requests under Section 215 must be made by very high-ranking FBI officials (i.e. high-profile, highly-scrutinized, publicly accountable people). The request must be made to a very narrowly defined set of high-ranking judges. The Justice Department must give an accounting of its requests to intelligence and judiciary committees (on both of which sit *gasp* Democrats) of the House and Senate. What's more, Section 224 seems to say that Section 215 (as a non-excluded section of Title II of the act) sunsets on December 31, 2005.

Somebody help me here. Did I misunderstand what I read? Did I read the wrong section? Did not the FBI have power before to subpoena library records? What's all this about accountability to Congress? Please note that these questions aren't merely rhetorical. I'm not trying to set up a straw man. I'm not saying I like this section. However, I feel like I had a right to expect something much more nefarious than this based on the build-up from the civil liberties & library communities. I feel cheated. Surely I'm missing something.

I always have comments enabled in my journal. Somebody enlighten me, please. I want to dislike this act.

Budget request - graphs are a beautiful thing

Well, I must brag about the report I created. There is a cover sheet with a title and Table of Contents. Then, the one page typed Word document. In the document, I quote state standards for replacing the collection, prices for books, what I currently receive, and what I need (about $3,000 more than what I get now). Next follows a printed PowerPoint slide with three pie charts showing visually what I talked about in the Word document. Finally. three pages from Titlewise (Follett) showing the age of my collection (currently 43% at 20 years or older).

It is a work of art.

"Validation" of nonsense

So, I'm surfing LISNews, just making sure I'm up on all the comments, and I find one in the Cataloging Pornography thread. Someone had posted a query as to whether putting a work into the collection creates some kind of validation. I had written the following reply, but I couldn't post it because I had previously moderated that thread.

A day of triumphs and silliness

Well, not much was done in the computer department yesterday, being that the young adult librarian was ill so our half staffed day was chopped to even less than half staffed.

Most people were good. I did a little shushing, woke a lady up (twice) and had a very nice gentleman say we had a beautiful library and he'd be coming back. The good news: he said it right in front of my boss.

Vacation time!

Finally! Freedom from being around all those lovely nymphomaniac and alcoholic undergraduate students that I see day after day and have to hear the exploits of...

Mel Gibson deserves better / A few good Bush Admin policies

1) According to Human Events and the Dallas Morning News (subscription required), several Hollywood studio heads have decided to "blacklist" Mel Gibson. Refusing to work with him for producing "Passion."

I hope this isn't true, even though I don't think people should be *forced* to work with anyone they don't want to. Many Hollywood executives continually invoke freedom of expression to defend their works. I'd hate to see them deny that same freedom to Mel. They don't have to bankroll his Bibical blockbuster, but they shouldn't avoid casting him in Lethal Weapon #whatever if he's the best guy for the job.

Aside from the loss of integrity resulting from "blacklist attempts", any efforts to keep Mel Gibson from working can only result in the portrayal of him as a martyr for the Faith.

2) Since I stand with Gandhi in believing that opponents should be commended when they pursue commendable policies, here are a few kudos for the Bush Administration:
a) Quick dispatch of troops to Haiti. At one point, I had believed that the President would fiddle while a country not even 600 miles away burnt to the ground. Instead, several thousand Marines have been dispatched and are currently patrolling Port-au-Prince. This seemingly has brought quiet to Haiti with the apparent disbanding of rebel groups. I hope this early promise continues.

b) Acceptance of 15,000 Hmong refugees. This morning NPR reported that the United States had agreed to "15,000 Hmong refugees who have been living illegally on the grounds of Wat Tham Krabok, a famous Buddhist temple in Thailand. The decision was prompted by a sense of obligation to the Hmong -- originally from Laos -- who fought alongside Americans during the Vietnam War."

From what I've read, the Hmong were somewhat the Kurds of the Vietnam War. People who fought bravely at our side, then largely abandoned when their usefulness came to an end. I'm glad to see that President Bush is addressing this injustice.

Thanks for putting up with the double journal entry.

Tough Day On The Web

The reactions to my call for RIGHT librarians has been quite puzzling for me. First, let me digress…

The LISNews search engine is even worse that I thought. I did a search for RIGHT and another for right, and was returned zero results. The original title of the story was Are you on the RIGHT side?, so I would think a search for one of the 6 words in the title would return that as a result. Ths is more than a little frustrating. I don't know how I'll fix it, but I'll try to figure something out. I'm in the middle of setting up the new server, so I'm a bit preoccupied for a few days, or maybe a week. On that same note, expect LISNews to be a mess for a few days next week as I move the code to the new server. I expect LISNews is going to take more time to move than all the other 30 domains combined.

So anyways, like I was saying, I got a lot of email responses to my query, more than I expected, and they were also much nastier that I expected. The comments left on the story were actually better than I had hoped, with some people for, and some against. Someone actually understood my incoherent and rambling writing as well. It was the email responses I got that puzzled me, about 12 in total. Normally when I propose a new idea, or write for responses I get 1 or 2 if I'm lucky, so 12 is just a landslide for me. At least half were from people I didn't know. They were some pro, some con, and some just wanting to know more. A few others were from folks who I would consider acquaintances (or Ecquaintances) and where not anything to write home about, but 2 really stuck out.

They were both from people who I've fully supported in different ways in the past. They're both people I'd consider well know, smart, and very active in the profession. They're both people who are unapologetically left sided as well. And they both pretty much ripped my head off for even proposing such an idea. One was not really against me exactly, but more of a rant against the right in general, but the other was aimed squarely at me. This person was insulting to me and LISNews. I've gotten some nastiness from this person in the past, so I probably shouldn't have been surprised to see it again.

So, these emails, coupled with the general tone in the comments this week, the shear volume of comments & stories, and a few other things have left me feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and rather negative towards LISNews. The current version of LISNews is just barely over 4 years old, and it's running pretty well without me now, so I think it's safe to take some time off, rethink what I'm doing with the site, and just focus on the server. It's going to be a significant amount of work to get all the LISHost members sites moved to the new server, so even if I wanted to I'd be short on time to devote to LISNews.

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" 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.

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!).

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.

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
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):

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.

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.


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