Blogs

Mortage Matters

I've been shopping for a house since December, and so far I've found it an interesting game. One of the bright, if not the brightest, spots in this game has been Holden Lewis' Mortage Matters Blog. It's just fantastic. I love his style, and the blog format is perfect for this type of reporting. I learn not just which way mortage rates are moving, but why they're moving, and which way they're likely to move in the future. Things just make sense here. If you're in the market for a new house, or thinking about refinancing, I doubt you'll do any better than this site.

Viruses and the technologically challenged

The NYTimes has an article today called "Geeks Put the Unsavvy on Alert: Learn or Log Off" about how viruses lately seem to be spread (or caught, depending on your POV) by the same people's computers over and over. Tech-savvy people are getting more and more peeved at the supposedly knowledgeable folks who just can't help clicking on an attachment no matter how many times they've been told not to.

I wonder if libraries a serious vector for computer viruses. All those public terminals add up. I'll bet that a lot of libraries don't disable or remove email programs, leaving themselves open to viruses and all the maladies that go with them.

Story about the cage

My first library job required me to work in a cage. It was January 1990 when I discovered that one of my college roommates would not be returning to school (small liberal arts college in Ohio). I needed a new job because I was leaving the theatre department's costume shop where I had been previously employed. (I still can't sew, but I can catalog and organize costumes.) I new she worked in the library and that her boss was named Bev.

I went to the reference desk and asked for Bev. A small, 60ish woman approaches the desk to ask how she can help me. I explain that my roommate wasn't returning to school and that she probably didn't tell them. So, here she was, heartbroken that her employee wasn't returning (it turns out, she was a favorite)--here I was, needing a job. I ask to take her place on a trial basis--2 weeks. Walking away, I realize that I forgot to ask about the job.

The next day, I was showed the cage--the place where a computer, a modem, 2 desks, and the Government Document Librarian's office was located. The cage extended the length of a very long shelf and had a metal caged door that was locked--because of the computer, you see.

I became the student assistant for government documents. The library hadn't computerized its offerings, so I even got to use card catalogs. It was my by far one of the best jobs I ever had. I got to weed the collection, train other students, and process all of the government documents. Storage was on the top floor of the building where the college archives were located. In the summers, I would have to change into long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to work because the air conditioning was so strong.

I miss that cage. The modem made that modemy-sound when I had to logon to the network. I miss all those World War II posters and ration stamps that I organized. The librarians were always talking about books they had read and always seemed to be involved in local politics. I miss the praise I received from Bev when she said, "I'm glad you found us because you are even better than your predecessor."

Atlas shrugged

Well, no, the assistant director shrugged when I gave him my atlas order. And he filled it. The citizens of Malden will now rest assured that the Soviet Union and East and West Germany no longer exist. I'm not touching the Middle East or Africa with a stick. My geography isn't that good, and it changes daily anyway.

I scared the hell out of a patron. She brought me a call number and said, "Do you have this book?" And I said, without batting an eye, "Someone checked it out last night." I know because I looked all over creation for it. It wasn't readily apparent on the shelf (that is, I didn't write down the title and the call number was partially obscured, blush) so I went into the dark and scary closed stacks, where I still didn't find it, and then it turned it up right where it should have been the first time.

It's Black History month. Try to find a book dealing with a prominent (or in the case of my remembered call number, not so prominent) African-American this month @ our library. It's near impossible.

The thing that is bugging me is parents are coming in for their kids, and finding books that are less than age appropriate for their kids. I know this is not a new phenomenon. But this being my first outing in a library, public or otherwise, it still bugs me.

I did get to give mom and son a little tutorial about how risky the web can be for information. That made my day. I felt all official then.

I gave up my proofreading job three years ago. There was a lady that wanted me to proofread today. Right. She also wanted me to show her how to use a mouse, open a file, and how to get capital letters to appear on the computer screen. This was after she assured our paraprofessionals at the circ desk that she could use a word processor.

I guess, since this is the second day in a row it has happened, I have to draw my line in the sand. I'll help with little questions, like, I pressed this button and my formatting disappeared, how do I get it back? But when they start asking how to type, they probably shouldn't be on the computer. I have stuff I have to do. It doesn't involve proofreading your letters, lady.

There was another patron who had the decency to call and ask if we'd type papers. I told her no. At least she asked, and didn't demand. And she didn't show up expecting us to do it.

Tomorrow's supposed to be bad weather. I wonder how busy it will be. I work the information desk early, and the reference desk late. I am reference beyoch lately.

I am becoming one with server.

I got OS 9.1.2.5.3.8.65.77.3.7.4.2 working with our Windows 2003 server. I wonder if our print software really does work with it. I have my doubts.

A crazy country (USA)

United States of Absurdity. Sometimes I wonder what the world really thinks of us. Now the big flap is over Janet Jackson's half-time show. A woman is suing over the "injury" she suffered while being exposed to Janet's exposed breast. story here We're litigious and exasperatingly immature. When are we (USA) going to grow up?

In moderation

Do you guys know how hard it is to give away moderations points? COMMENT, COMMENT, COMMENT!! LOL

Next fiscal year

Next fiscal year we're planning on the time access software. It's a little too pricey to give a go now, unfortunately. Or maybe that is fortunate. It'll give us some time to get patrons accustomed to the idea.

My next plan is to get one of the old computers working, and make two more filtered internet terminals. I might just have to format c: (boy have I been doing that a lot lately) on the existing one (it's so old it has a serial mouse) just to get all the porn and crap that might possibly be on it off. Honestly, I'm sure there are viruses on there that our no longer supported virus software can't possibly catch.

I won't make my OS X mistake again though... I'll make sure our version of Fortres is compatible with 98 before I touch it.

I will also turn the terminal around, so that the screen is visible from inside the library. And it will be monitored for dirty things, which do in fact slip through our filter.

Less work specific: Yesterday a lady came in and stated, "You guys get new technology all the time, do you have any older computers you're selling?" I didn't laugh too much. But I smiled and thought, "Yeah, that's why half our computers are running Windows 98." I told her money was tight.

Bill and Melinda Gates money, over here, over here!

We do need internet education. I mean, we have internet education classes @our library (sorry, couldn't resist). People love them, and there is a waiting list. People still come in every day and need help locating the address bar in a browser. The assistant director, I feel, is right... You can only help so much. I'm not there to teach basic computer skills, I'm there to teach information skills. That being, if someone needs help with Google, fine. Or better yet, InfoTrac. But if someone can't close a window, well...

The same lady that told me we get new technology all the time needed help typing quotation marks. I didn't go to library school to be a typing teacher. Is it unreasonable to require some sort of familiarity with the technology (granted, typing isn't really the technology here)? You're not going to break a book by not knowing how to read the words. You can however mess up a computer.

How do you police that though? And how do you say no? I think it's in the nature of the librarian to be helpful when it comes to someone trying to learn something.

First time!

Hey, I just realized I've never posted in this crazy thing. I'm not sure I have much to share at this time, but I can't leave a feature unexplored. I have a LiveJournal and also a Blogger account but I am too lazy to post anything there. It's a bad precedent for the future state of this journal.

Feel free to leave me a comment or friend me or make me feel like I matter in some small way.

I'm back...

Well, I needed to take a few months off from everything extracurricular due to some pressing business projects. Since I'm self-employed, work hours extended to the evenings and weekends. If it's not my daughter or wife that I'm paying attention to, then it's my work. Everything else falls in when time permits. I've read lisnews everyday, just not a chance to comment, moderate or author. But I'm back. And it feels good.

Filters

Don't get me wrong, I like porn as much as the next girl (that came out wrong), but the more I think, the more I think the unfiltered terminal has to go. I have to do a test today, or tomorrow, or if I ever have time again, just to see the limits of the filtered terminal.

Which means I'm going to have to do searches for things that are dirty. Which I really don't want to do at work. I guess if that's part of the job, though. I just want to make sure, really sure, the filter isn't too restrictive. It doesn't seem to be, being primarily an offensive image blocker, not text.

The vernacular form of the verb to fornicate (a phrase borrowed from someone on one of my husband's newsgroups) isn't blocked by this filter. That's as it should be, if you ask me. But further investigation is necessary.

People have complained about the unfiltered terminal. People being what they are, leave nasty images on the screen for the next user (who may actually being doing something legitimate) to find. This bothers me. Plus the pop ups. For those you who have never gone to a porn site, they open sixty bazillion windows when you click on a link. Sometimes, there is no way to get these windows the hell off your screen, short of shutting down or hitting task manager (which of course, they can't do with our security software).

People aren't going to like this. The assistant director had a good point yesterday, when you give the public something, it's impossible to take it away. But I think it's a lot like kindergarten... We'll just have to explain that four or five people blew it for the rest of you, sorry.

Patrons have complained, about the porn, about the state of the machine. The machine demonstrates the chaos theory though. I cleaned it two days ago. Yesterday, the cookies and the spyware was a mess again. The cost in staff time of maintaining that one terminal is just silly.

What concerns me more is the time management software. People are not going to like registering with their library cards to use the terminals. But they'll have to deal. You need to have a card to take out a book. If anything, those computers are a lot more delicate, abused, and harder to replace than a book.

People might pay another $20 for a new copy of Mystic River. They're not going to want to pay $1,000 for the computer they zorched. But we've had computers zorched. And I sure as hell want to know who the last person that used it was. Not that I'd necessarily blame them, but to see if there is a pattern of destruction.

What worries me about the time software, too, is the difficulties the people might have in using it. People are endlessly confused about our print station. This will tie in the same way. There is going to be a learning curve.

On the other hand, people are endlessly confused by our sign up sheet. Evidently, if someone is already signed up for the time you want, it is acceptable to cross off their names and put yours in. Or if you really want to use terminal 7, it's okay to put your name in terminal 5's box. Then you can get all p'o'ed at the person using terminal 7 when they don't get up at exactly 2:00 and terminal 5 has been open for half an hour.

Ah, if only there were perfect solutions.

Peace in our time?

ALA, like Neville Chamberlain, has embarked upon a policy of appeasement with Castro's Cuba. Placation with furrowed brow, rather than an unseemly resolution that would neatly tuck the organization in the same bed of George Bush and John Aschroft. ALA will pass on this ménage a trois.

Instead we (at least I) get this email. Pasted with the pride only Chamberlain could have felt when his BOAC parked him, his haughty moustache, and his Berchtesgaden stationary amid a crowd of Londoners wanting peace. They didn't know better....we do. So I offer this reply given to me by ALA.

And so we have "peace in our time"?

Sequels

I Spend Too Much Time Here II


What the heck am I going to do with fifteen moderator points?!?


Why Every Librarian Needs a Palm II


OK, I now have the USDA Nutrient Database, CIA World Fact Book, and IMDb all on my new Palm. As well as four hours of MP3s (all from CDs that I own, I'll have you know). This just rocks, and the IMDb is the one that gets the most use, I must admit.

LC and Dewey Celebrity Deathmatch

Okay, so LC isn't one person. It would be cool to see Melville Dewey (or how did he want it spelled, Melvil Dui?) take on all the Librarians of Congress. Or even just his contemporaries. Today I got a call from my alma mater, Salem State College. It seems some student said they returned a book that belonged to them to us. Problem being, Salem State uses, like many academic libraries, LC. Our circ staff would have blown a gasket had they found that. I told him that if we had gotten it, it would have been returned to the library within about a week or so, and it's been a month.

Bummer for some SSC kid.

I also, at the egging on of the assistant director (and not because I wasn't just a little curious to see it), installed OS X on the Mac in the public access area. Whoops. Our security software doesn't work on it. Looks like 9.1.3.4.5.2.4.2.4.7.4.3 goes back on it tomorrow.

I do like that it has a terminal window with a tcsh shell that you can tool around in. I can do limited tooling.

best.reference.question.ever

funny old math teacher: hello aaron
me: hi there.
fomt: where on the internet can i find a picture of janet jackson's breast?
me: tee hee.

no moderation

I can't moderate! I have a gajillion moderator points and no comments out there to mod...it doesn't really matter to me but I think that this is one area where the Slashcode doesn't scale as well to a smaller number of users. With fewer people using the site, there are less flamewars/comments, hence less work for those who would be happy to moderate if they were so inclined.

bats in the belfry

Okay, they weren't in the belfry. There was a poor little bat stuck in the assistant director's office last night when I went up there to vent about how freaking stupid one of our computer vendors is. I have to thank that little bat, who was tired and scared out of his little bat mind, for getting my mind off the evil cheapo power supply they stick in these computers and on to his little plight. The custodians set him free once he perched low enough.

Today I have to call the aforementioned vendor and ask them exactly what they did, if anything, to the computer. My guess is they're going to say it didn't exhibit the problem there. Whether they actually tested it, I don't know. I somehow doubt it. I am going to tell them to hook up a voltage meter to it. The last thing I want is the power supply pooping out and taking the motherboard, chip, and possibly drives with it.

Mr. Server came down and up and down and up and down and up yet again without incident. I can get the Macs and Mr. Server to see each other, but they are having a very hard time with communicating. We also aren't set up for DHCP on the print server. I think that is causing a problem with the macs, who seem to want us to be. I don't think it's the problem, but it's a problem. I need a book on Appletalk and Windows specifically. I've done the seed routing and installed the protocols. Upgrading the Mac OS might help too.

I worked reference all alone yesterday. It went fine, except for a slight snafu at the internet terminals. But what's unusual there? Time management software, here I come.

Teachers vs. Educators - Labels Used in the News

I get google news updates for various keywords. I used to teach high school physics and math, so I like seeing what articles Google is finding. I search for "educator" and "teacher" and get separate emails for each. What I notice is that, usually, "teacher" is associated with a lot more negative news than is "educator."

  • teacher arrested
  • teacher charged (or accused)
  • teacher sentenced
  • educator awarded
  • educator remembered
  • educator honored

Yes, there's some positive and negative used with both terms, but the headline news Google finds tends to be as I describe above. It's odd. I don't like it.

Alfred (Nobel) would turn over in his grave

...if he heard about President Bush and Prime Minister Blair being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. AP story here . I thought I was hallucinating when I saw the headline.

Lest you get the wrong idea

I am not, really, an environmentalist. We recycle. Yes. I work at a library where every last scrap of paper is used, but more due to budget constraints than environment, although it's a nice side benefit. But today, we are putting a deposit down on a mondo-cool Toyota Prius.

The Prius is a gas/electric hybrid car. It's a big one, too, an actual full sized car this time around, not a compact. Toyota's coming out with a whole line of hybrid versions of their regular old cars. I think the Rav 4 is now available, and the Highlander will be available next year.

Tell me (open for discussion here) do your libraries require card access to use the internet? We currently don't, but we're wondering about perhaps changing that. Just to eliminate some fights in the long run. And hopefully increase library usage. I mean, library usage, not "free internet" usage.

This isn't a Toyota advertisement, I'm just really psyched about that.

Back to libraries tomorrow, dear LISNews readers. There is a print server with my name, for better or for worse, written all over it.

The Language Police

The issue of censorship is a much like a rented mule, used and beaten six ways to Sunday. My contention has been that the "jack-ass" of soccer moms and deacon daddies is disingenuous and that "hidden" liberal censors are as much, if not more culpable.

Diane Ravitch's, The Language Police (A. Knopf 2003, 0375414827) vindicates my position with a cogent and clearly documented history of her personal experience working with the bias review boards within American test and textbook publishers. The travesty of this "censorship" is its scope and impact upon our children as compared to the flavor of censorship ALA prefers to attack. The "censorship" Ravitch exposes is much more insidious, involving a captured audience of nearly all American school age children to be "educated" by social engineering review boards.

Ne're a word from ALA.

The Council on Interracial Books for Children, National Organization for Women, American Library Association, NAACP, and bias review boards for every major textbook and test publisher are all major players in "censoring" what our children read. For the edification of my "freedom of speech" colleagues this book is a must read. Anything less is willful ignorance.

Some Language Police nuggets:

(tests)

* A passage on peanuts and George Washington Carver was pooh poohed because bias reviewers opposed the term "African slave". They also objected to the historically correct fact that Spanish and Portuguese explorers defeated "native tribes".

*Bias reviewer rejected a passage about economic necessity of nineteenth century women who quilted for family income because portrayed women as "soft" and "submissive".

* An inspiring piece about a blind man who climbed Mount McKinley was purged because it suggested that "sightless" people might be somehow disadvantaged in mountain climbing as compared to sighted folks.

* The bias reviewers did like Aesop's The Fox and the Crow, just not the gender of the characters. They proposed making both characters the same sex or the fox female and the crow male.

* A Native American animal fable edited by William J Bennett was tossed out because it told of animals "emerging from the darkness to find sunlight". Apparently bias reviewers felt some type of racial bias with this.

* An eco-friendly story (or at least one would assume) about a rotting stump that provided shelter and food for animals was chopped because the writer made the mistake of comparing it to an apartment. Seems the bias review board felt this contained a negative stereotype of people who live in apartments.

(textbooks)

* In 2001 Houghton Mifflin added new criteria for their editors regarding African Americans. Stories about slavery, Underground Railroad, dialect, or depictions of athletes, musicians or entertainers should be avoided. Asians should not be portrayed as prodigies or valedictorians, Latinos not as migrant workers or illegal aliens and "disabled persons" not as pirates, witches or criminals (no more Captain Hook)

* Barbara Cohen's Molly's Pilgrim, a story about a Russian Jewish immigrant girl's first Thanksgiving in America, was accepted by a textbook publisher. Unfortunately all mention of Jews, Sukkos, God and the Bible had been removed on behalf of atheists who would object.

*Stephen Vincent Benet's The Devil and Daniel Webster was "edited" as well. For example, "Help me! For God's sake, help me!" was changed to "Help me! I beg of you, help me!" . Walter Van Tilburg Clark's The Ox-Bow Incident had one of it's lines "By the Lord God, men" changed to "By heaven, men". Again, the atheists.

*Not only are McGraw-Hill illustrators required to maintain a 50-50 balance between sexes in their art, they are required to include captions when a women were not full participants. George Washington crossing the Delaware must include a caption pointing out women were excluded from important military roles until the late twentieth century. Some other guidelines forbid:

  • women wearing aprons

  • mothers shopping
  • fathers looking calm in trying circumstances
  • girls watching boys play ball
  • only girls playing with dolls
  • girls jumping from snakes
  • pioneer women doing domestic work
  • women as passengers on sailboats
  • women as nurses, teachers and yes librarians

    The list of "outlawed" words is lengthy. In fact it is a dictionary in and of itself. A sampling:

    • Able-bodied
    • Adam and Eve
    • America/Americans
    • Backward
    • Birth defect
    • Bookworm
    • Career woman
    • Clergyman
    • Costume
    • Cowboy
    • Courageous
    • Craftsman
    • Disabled
    • Downs Syndrome
    • Elderly
    • Eskimo
    • Fairy
    • Fat
    • Fisherman (sorry Hemingway)
    • Gay
    • Girl
    • God
    • He
    • Heroine
    • Idiot
    • Inconvenienced
    • Jungle
    • Kaffir
    • Lazy
    • Maid
    • Man
    • Maven
    • Middle East
    • Minority group
    • Mothering
    • Mysterious
    • Normal
    • Papoose
    • Polo
    • Regatta
    • Seaman
    • Senile
    • Snow Ball
    • Soda
    • Sophisticated
    • Stickball
    • Swarthy
    • Wife
    • Yacht

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