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AkLA 2007: Trends in Science Fiction

Sunday February 25, I attended this AkLA session:

New trends and authors in science fiction. Georgine Olson

Even for long-time readers of SF, things are changing rapidly. Here's a quick overview to help you keep up with (or ahead of ) your fans (especially the 20-30 somethings who regard authors like Ray Bradbury and Ursula Le Guin as "literary").


Unfortunately, I needed to leave this session early to go to the endnote luncheon which, while excellent, was in another building.

While I was there, I learned some good tips from Georgine:

  • People are into series, especially today
  • Sci-Fi book covers can provide some useful information. If people seem large, then the book is likely strong on characters. If the people are non-existant or dwarfted by a piece of technology, then the story is likely tech-driven.
  • Most kids these days (KTD (tm)) regard Asimov the same way I regard Melville.

The heart of Georgine's presentation was quick book talks on books and/or series. Her only visual aids were color printouts of book covers printed off Amazon. This low-tech approach to science fiction was both ironic and practical.

While I cannot reproduce her handout out of copyright concerns, I can tell you that Georgine used the following sci-fi categories that you might find useful:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Nanotechnology
  • Space Opera - Home of one of my favorite series - Miles Vorkosigan
  • Domestic or Near Future SF
  • Futuristic Mysteries
  • Miltiary SF
  • Political Intrigue
  • Time Travel
  • Ecological SF
  • Romance / SF Crossovers
  • Space Colonies

As a selection aid in SF, Georgine recomends Locus Magazine, which she calls THE magazine for fans and professionals in the fields of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

If you're dying to have her handout, look for her on your favorite search engine and ask her very nicely.

I really appreciate living in a state where our conferences are small, but still allow for a lot of variety!

AkLA 2007: Want a good OPAC? Talk to Darla!

A short but interesting program at the 2007 Alaska Library Association annual conference was a brief demo of the Bering Strait School District (BSSD)'s Koha based Intergrated Library System ILS. The public catalog is available online.

AkLA 2007: Why Pay Money for It?

Mike Robinson of University of Alaska at Anchorage did a very nice show and tell about open source software for home and library.

I think the presentation lived up to his blurb:

"There are a lot of great open source applications that are perfect for libraries. This session will cover range of software packages from nifty tools for the reference desk to jazzing up your website with blogs, wikis, forums, etc. These are applications that anyone can use. No geek talk! Well, maybe a little."

AkLA 2007 - The Unshelved Guys!

The keynote speakers at the 2007 Alaska Library Association conference were the "Unshelved Guys", Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum. I was laughing too hard for most of their presentation, especially after their "Unshelved Library Simulator" to take great notes, but here are some impressions and funny quotes.

"Librarians prefer the shadows", Gene Ambaum, explaining why he didn't want to take the spotlight.

Explaining Unshelved to non-librarians "It's like Cheers, only with books!"

Econ 101 by OCLC Western

One of the talks I attended at the Alaska version of the OCLC Western Users Group Meeting was Econ 101, presented by Pamela Bailey.

A few points out of this interesting talk:

Discussions about library economics revolve around:

  • Public value versus public good
  • Justifying our costs
  • Defining our worth

Libraries calculating their return on investment should consider:

Snapshots Alaska by OCLC Western

While attending OCLC Western User Group meeting for Alaska, I attended a presentation by Margi Mann called "Snapshots Alaska."

As you might have guessed, it was a lot of statistics about libraries in Alaska. They were presented in a quiz format which kept interest high throughout Margi's presentation.

Here are some highlights:

AkLA 2007: Where People and Libraries Intersect

For the next several days, I'll be posting about events related to the 2007 Alaska Library Association conference being held in Juneau.

The next few entries will relate to the OCLC Western User Group Meeting for Alaska that was held February 21st. If you have a chance to go to one of the remaining meetings, I'd strongly recommend it. Don't let the title of "Mapping the User Centric Environment" keep you away.

The first session I went to was the keynote presented by OCLC Western Executive Director Pamela Bailey. Ms. Bailey is an extremely engaging and funny speaker. And very well informed and thoughtful. If you're organizing a state conference, you might consider inviting her to speak on user issues.

The session was called "People and Libraries, where do they intersect." Ms. Bailey used a quote about the "curse of knowledge", namely "when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it." This causes problems that Ms. Bailey used her MySpace using daughter to illustrate.

Patrons and libraries intersect at the point of need. Libraries need to cater to individual preferences and deliver results in formats that users want.

Who are these users? Book lovers, digital immigrants and digital natives. Digital natives are people born after 1980 who have not known a time without the Internet, cell phones, etc." Digital immigrants are folks like me and possibly you who use technology to get what they want. Ms. Bailey cited her eBay using mother as an example.

Ms. Bailey offered a then and now perspective on libraries:

resources scarce
attention abundant
visible mediation
can't count on visiting library

attention scarce
resources abundant
self service, invisible mediation
can't count on visiting library web site

Another major theme of Ms. Bailey's talk was the idea borrowed from someone I don't remember, that libraries need to synthesize, specialize and mobilize.

The idea is to pull resources together from inside the library and out, then localize your service, then offer the results in many different formats and methods.

She offered the example of the UK National Library for Health.

1) They synthesize diverse resources.
2) They specialize by selecting content, they direct users to appropriate service and present content locally.
3) They mobilize by delivering their resources via Word, RSS, e-mail and other formats.

The rest of the presentation focused on Open WorldCat. Ms. Bailey noted that Open WorldCat would be worthless without good detailed cataloging that facilitated faceted browsing, among other things. She suggested that we should kiss a cataloger. I did make a point of thanking my cataloger, but no kissing was involved.

One of the more interesting Open WorldCat facts was that 102,000 users reached library catalogs and library pages via search engines as a result of Open WorldCat. And that was just in January 2007. Usage has been similar for the past seven months or so. I really like seeing traditional libraries integrated with the open web in this way.

Libraries 5, Netflix 0

In this world of Netflix of which I'm happily a member, it is important to note times when libraries can outperform the commercial sector.

I've come to depend on Netflix for finding rare movies. But today Netflix disappointed me. I've been listening to the podcast of a nonviolence course at Berkeley "PACS 164B - Nonviolence Today." For several weeks now the class has been discussing documentaries about nonviolent revolutions in the Philippines, Serbia, Chile and other places.

While the discussions have been fascinating, I haven't be able to listen to the films' audio portion because copyright concerns require their exclusion from webcasts. So I wrote the course instructor and he kindly provided all the titles that he will be using this semester, including ones already screened. Except for one film just made that isn't yet available to the public, there were five titles.

I went to Netflix to add them to my lengthy queue and was disappointed to find that NONE were available through Netflix.

My disappointment was short-lived as I hopped over to Open WorldCat, a publicly accessible version of a global library catalog. All five films had records with multiple copies. When my library opens tomorrow, I'll start borrowing the films two at a time.

If you'd like to explore these films for yourself, here are the titles along with the Open WorldCat links:

The good war and those who refused to fight it
Bringing down a dictator
Raiz forte Strong roots
Peace Pilgrim an American sage who walked her talk

If you've seen any of these films, please use the comments link to let me know what you thought of the film(s).

And let's all rejoice together that even when the corporate sector fails us, we still have libraries!

What are your three reasons?

NJ librarians are trying to get the most commented video on YouTube. Watch the video, then make your comment giving your three reasons for loving the library. Must be a registered YouTube user to comment, but registration is free.

Librarians and friends, unite in an affirmation of library love!

What are MY three reasons? You'll have to go to the video and look up my comment under AlaskanLibrarian!

New Discussions at FGI: February 19, 2007

This past week the FGI (http://freegovinfo.info) volunteers and February Blogger of the Month Chris Zammarelli found time to post the following stories:

Chris' Posts:

Volunteer Posts:

This week we also launched a new tool for finding and using government information which emphasizes librarian-added value to government information. Find out more at http://freegovinfo.info/node/938 and join the 100 plus people who already using this browser toolbar.

We're continually on the lookout for audio/video spots promoting depositories, government information or the Federal Depository Library Program. Please send a link to your video/radio clip and we'll add it to http://freegovinfo.info/video.

If you use Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com ) or some other RSS reader, consider subscribing to the FGI Feed at http://freegovinfo.info/blog/feed to get FGI stories as they are posted. Over 160 people already have.

Republican Heroes

Republican Heroes

Today I salute those 17 House Republicans who put nation and democracy above party. 17 Republicans who chose to stand with the 63% of Americans who oppose escalation in Iraq by joining Democrats in voting for H CON RES 63.

So, here is a huge thank you to these Republican heroes:

Michael Castle, Howard Coble, Tom Davis, John 'Jimmy' Duncan, Philip English, Wayne Gilchrest, Bob Inglis, Tim Johnson, Walter Jones, Ric Keller, Mark Kirk, Steven LaTourette, Ron Paul, Thomas Petri, Jim Ramstad, Fred Upton, James Walsh

I wish my representative were among this stellar group, but he choose to stick with the President, rejecting the advice of the Iraq Study Group and nearly ever other outside group that has analyzed the President's plan and concluded it was either more of the same or simply unhelpful.

To my friends and colleagues in the anti-war movement, I beg you to remember these names when you consider throwing epithets at Republicans, twisting the name of Republicans (Re-pugs, Rethug, Rethuglians and worse) in ways that not even President Bush would utter about the Democrat(ic) party in public.

If we are to transform our presence in Iraq and build a coalition against future so-called "preventive war", we need Republicans as much we need Democrats and Independents. Maybe more so, since they are our best chance of influencing the executive branch till 2009, at least. Our side won't be able to have dialog, much less agreement with our side reviling theirs. While many on their side call us "comforters of the enemy and worse", it is still up to us to be respectful in our dialog. Why? Because we're the ones who want change. The current climate favors the status quo because it promotes hardness of heart and perceives change as surrender to the other side.

In addition, no true peace movement can be built on a platform of insult and hatred. If we cannot offer peace while being steadfast in our positions, why should anyone take us seriously? It shows us to be inconsistent. By contrast the verbal violence of Vice President Cheney, Rush, Ann Coulter, etc is completely in line with their apparent belief that any problem can be solved with enough violence. We must make our actions conform with our proposed solutions.

Unwarranted Praise harmful?

The NPR talk show OnPoint carried this story on the dangers of unwarranted praise:

Po Bronson: The Problem with Praise
Aired: Friday, February 16, 2007 11-12PM ET
By Tom Ashbrook.

Government Information Toolbar

The web site Free Government Information has created a browser toolbar for Firefox/IE to help people find government information and people to assist in finding it.

Read about the toolbar and its benefits, or just download it and start playing.

New FGI Discussions: February 12, 2007

This past week the FGI (http://freegovinfo.info) volunteers welcomed Chris Zammarelli, February Blogger of the Month. You can read his bio at http://freegovinfo.info/node/917 and we are very happy to have him.

Chris (codename shrillczar) and the volunteers found time to post the following stories:

Chris' Posts:

Volunteer Posts:

We're continually on the lookout for audio/video spots promoting depositories, government information or the Federal Depository Library Program. Please send a link to your video/radio clip and we'll add it to http://freegovinfo.info/video.

If you use Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com ) or some other RSS reader, consider subscribing to the FGI Feed at http://freegovinfo.info/blog/feed to get FGI stories as they are posted. Over 160 people already have.

Very. Funny. Movie. With. A. Library.

This week, my wife and I watched a hysterically funny movie that revolved around Mahatma Gandhi.  The movie is called Lage Raho Munna Bhai. As implausible as it sounds, it's a comedy revolving around Gandhi. It had me in continual laughter and my wife found it pretty funny too. It's in Hindi with English subtitles. More info about the movie can be found at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0456144/. There is a review (with spoilers) at http://www.mettacenter.org/?p=67.

If you don't want to click away, here is my take on the movie. The basic plot is about a small time gangster named Munna who has fallen in love with the voice of a DJ and her show "Good Morning Mumbai!" One morning the DJ announces that whoever wins a quiz on the life of Mahatma Gandhi will win a visit with the DJ at the radio studio. To win the competition, Munna rounds up his gang and has them kidnap a few history professors. With this a few other tricks, he wins the quiz. While visiting with the DJ, he passes himself off as a history professor and accepts an offer to give a lecture on Gandhi to some of the DJ's friends. Munna realizes the only chance he has to keep from being exposed at the lecture is to study Gandhi's works as hard as he can. He does so for three days and sleepless nights, setting the stage for the rest of the movie.

Where does he study? At a Gandhi Library/Archive! It's a lonely building with a serious statute of Gandhi in front. When Munna walks in, he sees a vast array of books on shelves and spilled onto tables, all covered with dust, seemingly deserted. He calls out and a friendly librarian pops out. He explains that the library/archive doesn't get many visitors, shows him where the reading area is and fixes him some tea.

It is very funny in its own right and interesting for the amount of English spoken by by Hindi speaking characters. The scenery both human and seashore is very nice. And the idea that the best way to change someone is to express your hope that he "gets well soon" is fantastic and should be immediately applied to our political problems. I'm just thinking how to do it. According to my personal understanding of Gandhi's works and the reviews I've seen, the movie is pretty true to Gandhi's teachings and its wonderful watching thugs put it into practice! Especially when they don't quite get the concept as when making a gracious request while holding a knife on someone. But they're trying!

Give it a chance, you'll be glad you did. I think you'll enjoy this movie even if non-violence leaves you cold.

Iraq: Change Course w/o Withdrawal

This article in the Jan/Feb 2007 Military Review:

Waiting for Godot in Iraq by F.J. Bing West

might help bring about a change in direction on the recent LISNews Iraq Virtual Symposium.

I think the one thing everyone agrees on is that in as much as we have influence in Iraq, we have a responsibility to stabilize the country. Some believe that this can be done by further occupation and permanent bases to "have a strong footprint." I and others disagree. Still others wish we'd all stop and start writing about library videos or something.

What I find interesting about this article, which I've reread twice over the past week, is that it sets forth a possible path to peace and stability in Iraq without a military withdrawal. Yet the suggested course is different enough from what we're doing now that I think might deserve a chance.

Mr. West's diagnosis with what's wrong in Iraq boils down to:

If you cannot identify the insurgent, and you are on the tactical defensive waiting for him to shoot, and you cannot imprison him when you do arrest him, you are not going to prevail. And that’s a military reality, not an economic or political one.

Mr. West writes with seemingly good documentation that insurgents are not well identified and often released. He notes that even with as many Iraqis as we're holding now, we (US & Iraqis) are holding fewer people on criminal charges than before Saddam emptied his prisons on the eve of war and that despite having at 20-fold higher incidence of violence, an Iraqi actually only has half the chance of being imprisoned than someone in the United States.

So the sketched out part of his plan is more aggressive law enforcement, better identification of captured insurgents and other criminals and longer custody until violence drops.

Mr. West also states that our government must be much more open and honest about what is going on in Iraq and not attempt to manipulate numbers.

Read the whole article before you condemn the argument.

I don't agree with everything in the article, and I do have concerns about the approach. My two biggest concerns is that 1) it depends on Iraqi good will to keep people, especially shia death squad members, locked up and 2) For some reason it sounds like what we tried to do in Fallujah the last time we leveled the place. Also, since it is an article rather than a full plan, Mr. West calls for benchmarks but doesn't specify what those benchmarks should be.

But in outline it sounds like a reasonable creditable plan. Please take time to read this 11 page article and get back to me.

His approach also appears to incorporate more of the successful best practices of counterinsurgency than the President's plan.

While I still believe in redeployment combined with out-of-theater training, if something like this was seriously proposed with details of how it was supposed to work along with metrics that would show how we knew it was working, I'd give it a year and not attend any marches in the meantime.

What do you think. Remember, please read the article first.

New FGI Discussions: February 5, 2007

This past week found the FGI (http://freegovinfo.info) volunteers saying farewell to January 2007 BOTM Deb Liptak. Thanks Deb! If you would like to spend a month blogging for FGI, please drop a line to admin "AT" freegovinfo.info.

Even with Deb's departure, the volunteers found time to post the following stories:


The volunteers were happy to hear about Rep. Conyer's investigation into whether Presidential Signing Statements are actually being used to violate Acts of Congress. We wish Rep. Conyers well. We also continue to encourage the President to either use his veto pen or sue Congress the next time he gets a law from Congress that he believes is unconstitutional.

We're continually on the lookout for audio/video spots promoting depositories, government information or the Federal Depository Library Program. Please send a link to your video/radio clip and we'll add it to http://freegovinfo.info/video.

If you use Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com ) or some other RSS reader, consider subscribing to the FGI Feed at http://freegovinfo.info/blog/feed to get FGI stories as they are posted. Over 160 people already have.

Best Practices in Counterinsurgency

This September 2004 article in Military Review:

Best Practices in Counterinsurgency
Kalev I. Sepp, Ph.D.

Analyzed dozens of 20th century guerrilla wars and came with this chart of helpful and unhelpful counterinsurgency practices:


  1. Emphasis on intelligence.
  2. Focus on population, their needs, and security.
  3. Secure areas established, expanded.
  4. Insurgents isolated from population (population
  5. Single authority (charismatic/dynamic leader).
  6. Effective, pervasive psychological operations
    (PSYOP) campaigns.
  7. Amnesty and rehabilitation for insurgents.
  8. Police in lead; military supporting.
  9. Police force expanded, diversified.
  10. Conventional military forces reoriented for
  11. Special Forces, advisers embedded with
    indigenous forces.
  12. Insurgent sanctuaries denied.


  1. Primacy of military direction of counterinsurgency.
  2. Priority to “kill-capture� enemy, not on engaging
  3. Battalion-size operations as the norm.
  4. Military units concentrated on large bases for
  5. Special Forces focused on raiding.
  6. Adviser effort a low priority in personnel assignment.
  7. Building, training indigenous army in image of
    U.S. Army.
  8. Peacetime government processes.
  9. Open borders, airspace, coastlines.

I'd like to see some debate on whether the current plan of escalation-lite has more successful or unsucessful best-practices.

Obviously I start from the view that current plan starts with more of the unsucessful practices that failed to work in the past and won't work now.

Specifically, I believe the President's plan incorporates seven of the unsuccessful practices (1,2,3,4,5,7 & 9), and only three of the successful practices (3, 11, 12), given my most generous reading of the President's plan.

This isn't an academic exercises. This is based on an examination past guerilla wars. We know what works and what doesn't.

Ironically, some of the highly valued best practices (Amnesty and rehabilitation for insurgents) cannot be carried out under any US Administration because we're too hostile to the idea and would chop any Iraqi gov't at the knees that tried it. We have already blocked two or three amnesty programs. This despite the fact the proposed recipients killed many more Iraqis than Americans. If the Iraqis were willing to grant amnesty, I think we should have let them try.

So about comparing the current plan with identified best and worst practices, am I misjudging the negatives of the current plan? If so, which ones and how? Am I not giving the President enough credit for successful practices? If not, which successful practices do you think the President is carrying out and what evidence can you provide that they are?

Finally, for those not familiar with Military Review, it is published by the Army's Combined Arms Center and I think can be depended on not to print the ravings of America haters.

As with most DoD journals, the individual articles should be taken as representing the view of DoD or the publishing service. But I think it's fair to say they're into publishing stuff that's useful to warfighters.

Iraq Myth Busting from the Cato Institute

Crossposted from Alaskan Librarian

In a daily commentary and in testimony before Congress, Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute demolishes Administration myths about the need for the continued military occupation of Iraq.

The Jan 31, 2007 daily commentary explains in very clear terms why the idea that al-Qaeda will find a happy home in Iraq if the US leaves. After explaining the basic math and why the Sunni loath al-Qaeda only somewhat less than the United States, Mr Carpenter explains:

The notion that a Shiite-Kurdish-dominated government would tolerate Iraq becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda is improbable on its face. Even if U.S. troops left Iraq, the successor government would continue to be dominated by Kurds and Shiites, since they make up more than 80 percent of Iraq's population. And, in marked contrast to the situation under Saddam Hussein, they now control the military and police.

At best, al Qaeda could hope for a tenuous presence in predominantly Sunni areas of the country while being incessantly stalked and harassed by government forces -- and probably hostile Iraqi Sunnis as well. That doesn't exactly sound like a reliable base of operations for attacks on America.

Mr. Carpenter's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 11, 2007 open with his numerically sound explanation for why al-Qaeda will never inherit Iraq. He goes on to explode other Administration myths of the supposed consequences of leaving like:

  • The Terrorists Would Be Emboldened Worldwide
  • The Conflict Will Spill Over Iraq’s Borders and Create Regional Chaos
  • Leaving Iraq Would Betray a Moral Obligation to the Iraqi People

Mr. Carpenter's testimony ends with an exploration of the costs of staying in Iraq. These include:

Damage to America’s Standing in the World - "Even the September 2006 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq conceded that the U.S. occupation of Iraq had served as a focal point and inspiration for Muslim extremists. Equally worrisome, it had also served as a training arena for such militants to hone their military and terrorist skills. An Al Qaeda letter intercepted by the U.S. military indicates that the organization itself regards a continued U.S. military presence and, consequently, a long war in Iraq as a boon to its cause."

Straining the All-Volunteer Military - "Even some hawks are concerned about the negative impact of the Iraq mission on the all- volunteer force (AVF). They should be concerned. In December 2006, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army’s chief of staff, bluntly told a House committee that the active-duty Army "will break" unless there was a permanent increase in force structure. And that is before any contemplated additional deployments to Iraq."

Costs in Blood and Treasure - "The tab for the Iraq mission is already more than $350 billion, and the meter is now running at approximately $8 billion a month. Furthermore, even those appalling figures do not take into account indirect costs, such as long-term care for wounded Iraq war veterans."

Along the way, Mr. Carpenter asks questions that I'd like to see asked of the Administration and Congress every day until plain answers are obtained:

"It is essential to ask the administration and its hawkish backers at what point they will admit that the costs of this venture have become unbearable. How much longer are they willing to have our troops stay in Iraq? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years? How many more tax dollars are they willing to pour into Iraq? Another $300 billion? $600 billion? $1 trillion? And most crucial of all, how many more American lives are they willing to sacrifice? Two thousand? Five thousand? Ten thousand?"

Go ahead and read these. If you find fault with Mr. Carpenter's facts or conclusions, tell me why.

The only fault I find is that I believe the United States must remain committed to provided some level of reconstruction aid to Iraq until their oil and civilian infrastructure is back to the way it was in January 2003. We also need to remain committed to the autonomy, if not outright independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. Unlike Mr. Carpenter, I do subscribe to the "you break it, you buy it." I just know that you can't fix a watch with a hammer, no matter how sincere your desire to fix the watch is. The right tool for the job. And with four years of blank checks and rising violence and decaying infrastructure, the occupation is definitely NOT the right tool for the job.

We really, really need to try something different.

Library News Way South of the Border

Over at Alaskan Librarian, I've prepared what I hope is a mostly accurate summary of library stories from South America. I'm continually amazed that librarians so far away who speak a different language are so concerned about the same things we are.

I *shouldn't* be amazed, but I am. Thanks to the Internet we can really see we're not so different after all.


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