Friday, June 30, 2006

Here's to unilateral censorship, so much for being professional

One of my colleagues pointed this story out for me from the San Antonio Express-News for 6/29/06. Title of the story is "Incarnate Word Cancels NY Times Subscription Over Story." Apparently, the Dean of Library Services at University of the Incarnate Word felt that he did not agree with The New York Time's coverage of the administration's financial surveillance. His way to express this disagreement? He cancelled the library's subscription unilaterally. Here's his shameless declaration of "it's my way or the highway:"

"Since no one elected the New York Times to determine national security policy, the only action I know to register protest for their irresponsible action (treason?) is to withdraw support of their operations by canceling our subscription as many others are doing," Mendell D. Morgan, Jr. wrote in a June 28 email to library staff. "If enough do, perhaps they will get the point."

So in other words, it's perfectly ok to deprive the rest of the community of a source of information just because your politics clash with the publication. If librarians throughout the nation went on this principle, we would have empty libraries because there is always going to be some material expressing a view or idea that is disagreeable to someone. Just because he is the dean does not make him one to self-righteously decide what his patrons and community reads. Could we then remove items that other patrons object to, but that he appreciates? As if this lack of professionalism and display of pettiness was not enough, his university pretty much has chosen to stand on the sidelines and give a weak statement on supporting the First Amendment. Apparently the First Amendment rights of the rest of the academic community are not an issue. There is simply no excuse to blatanly censor or remove a source from the library because you disagree with the politics of that source. To do so is to renounce the name of librarian in order to become yet another self-righteous censor who somehow thinks he knows better when it comes to what the rest of the community should read. To say this person, regardless of his politics, gives a bad name to our profession is to put it mildly. You want to cancel your own personal subscription to the NYT and urge your friends to do the same? That is perfectly within your rights to do so. No one is saying the dean has to renounce his political beliefs. But depriving everyone else in a library, which is supposed to be a place of learning that welcomes all views, is immoral and unprofessional.

Update note (07/03/06): The subscription has been reinstated. However, he did not do it out of a sudden change of conscience or coming to the senses. In fact, he sees his actions as perfectly acceptable:

In announcing on Friday that the subscription would be reinstated, Mr. Morgan said that he did not believe his use of the university library as a forum for personal protest was inappropriate, but that he did regret having failed to consult library staff members.
Oh, so in other words, it is perfectly acceptable to use your position of power, which is actually more like a position of trust, to bring in your personal vendettas and agendas. How very magnanimous of him. I wonder what library school, if any, he went to. So in other words, he just reinstated it because he got a little too much heat.

Classic leading man quiz

Once again, it's Friday, and odds are readers of this blog know what that means. Yes, it's another one of those little quizzes, and this one is for movie fans. Interesting, mostly because it actually is pretty accurate of my personality type. And I actually do like Bogart, and like him, I don't stick my neck out for just anybody, and I am a stickler for that little something called honor. Anyhow, why don't you folks go try it out yourselves? The site has one for leading dames too, for the ladies. Anyhow, my results then:

Humphrey Bogart
You scored 45% Tough, 0% Roguish, 47% Friendly, and 9% Charming!

You're the original man of honor, rough and tough but willing to stick
your neck out when you need to, despite what you might say to the
contrary. You're a complex character full of spit and vinegar, but with
a soft heart and a tender streak that you try to hide. There's usually
a complicated dame in the picture, someone who sees the real you behind
all the tough talk and can dish it out as well as you can. You're not
easy to get next to, but when you find the right partner, you're caring
and loyal to a fault. A big fault. But you take it on the chin and move
on, nursing your pain inside and maintaining your armor...until the
next dame walks in. Or possibly the same dame, and of all the gin
joints in all the world, it had to be yours. Co-stars include Ingrid
Bergman and Lauren Bacall, hot chicks with problems.

Find out what kind of classic dame you'd make by taking the
Classic Dames Test.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 87% on Tough
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on Roguish
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 80% on Friendly
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 6% on Charming
Link: The Classic Leading Man Test written by gidgetgoes on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Barack Obama's Remarks Asking "Had Enough?"

If readers will bear with me, as they may know, I am not one to talk politics much. However, this speech is definitely worth reading. I found it via the Orwell's Grave blog, which reprints the part asking "had enough." However, the rest of the speech is well worth the reading. I was particularly moved by Mr. Obama's meeting with the 105 year old lady as he thinks about all the things this frail lady has witnessed. More importantly, what can we learn when someone like her travels a far distance to make her voice heard in a time when many people have no trust in their government whatsoever to take care of their needs? Mr. Obama opens his speech by recalling questions people asked him as he ran for office. One of the questions:

And the second thing people would ask me was, "You seem like a nice young man.

You teach law school, you're a civil rights attorney, you organize voter registration, you're a family man - why would you wanna go into something dirty and nasty like politics?"

And I understood the question because it revealed the cynicism people feel about public life today. That even though we may get involved out of civic obligation every few years, we don't always have confidence that government can make a difference in our lives.

I have to admit folks; he's got me there. Because I don't think I would ever run for political office precisely because it is something dirty and nasty. I don't have a good opinion of politicians overall. Once in a blue moon someone like Mr. Obama may come along and make me think, but even then I keep a wary eye. The thing that also attracted my attention to this speech is that it was graceful. Not once did he call names regarding his adversaries or say anything disparaging like so many politicians on both sides often seem to do. When addressing the shortcomings of the current administration, he states that the problem is not that conservatism and Republicans have failed, but that their system has worked too well. He does so without actually insulting anyone but striving to bring people together:

Yes, our greatness as a nation has depended on individual initiative, on a belief in the free market. But it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, of mutual responsibility. The idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we're all in it together and everybody's got a shot at opportunity.

Americans know this. We know that government can't solve all our problems - and we don't want it to.

But we also know that there are some things we can't do on our own. We know that there are some things we do better together.

We know that we've been called in churches and mosques, synagogues and Sunday schools to love our neighbors as ourselves; to be our brother's keeper; to be our sister's keeper. That we have individual responsibility, but we also have collective responsibility to each other.

That's what America is.

And that is what disturbs me. That the nation as a whole seems to have forgotten that we should have regard for others as well. That in the end, whether wealthy or poor, we all get ahead together. That a society is measured by the compassion it shows to the least of its members. Then again, I try to have faith, but at such moments I get to see another story like this one. The Black voter in that story is more worried about abortion and gays than whether she can get things like affordable health care or education, and she is a mother. The story comes from the Stories in America blog. Here are some parts of the interview (the bold text is the interviewer):

The Republicans are often criticized for using gay marriage and abortion to get you to vote for them. Meantime, they refuse to raise minimum wage or work to make healthcare more affordable and accessible.

I don't vote according to party. I vote according to each individual issue. I don't care if they don't give me healthcare. I'll never support abortion. I have two children and in the past, I've had an abortion and I've asked for forgiveness for that. I don't think that should be ok for a 17-year-old.

Which is fine, she should be able to vote for who she wants, but to simply ignore the question on wages and health care, given she has two children of her own (she defines herself as an entrepreneur), makes one wonder. And the most disturbing answer:

So gay marriage and abortion are your top issues and Republican policies on the economy and the poor don't matter?

I've lived in this community all my life under Democrats and Republicans. My neighbors have been living in poverty for years and nothing ever changes.

It seems Mr. Obama and the few who want something better for this country have their work cut out for them. Maybe it is time to tell a new story, a new narrative that shows us that things can change. Why do we have to accept that people will live in poverty for years? And what can we do to help our fellow man change that situation, and in the process, get all of us ahead? Maybe it starts when we can get a voter like that to see past the smokescreens of divisive issues to what may be serious. No one says she has to abandon her values. But it is time to look at a bigger picture, and maybe, just maybe, we can do it one person at a time. Mr. Obama, towards the end of his speech, looks back at Ms. Lewis, the 105 year old lady, and asks,

And I've wondered - if she is lucky enough to live as long as 105-year-old Marguerite Lewis, if she someday has the chance to look back across the twenty-first century, what will she see? Will she see a country that is freer and kinder, more tolerant and more just than the one she grew up in? Will she see greater opportunities for every citizen of this country? Will all her childhood hopes be fulfilled?

What will would we see if we could look back in time years from now? How will we answer such questions? I would like to think we would eventually find a more tolerant, freer, kinder place, but will we?

Monday, June 26, 2006

So, who actually said it?

I know; it is not Friday, and I am posting a quiz. However, this is not one of the funny quizzes I do now and then. I will admit that I am not a fan of Ann Coulter. For one, I do not like what she represents, and I certainly do not like the shrill way in which she does it. However, as it is, as far as I can tell, still a free country, she has the right to say it even if it means many of us then exercise our right not to listen. I came across this little quiz which puts 14 quotations on a list, and the reader can try to identify who said it: Ms. Coulter or Adolf Hitler. I missed 4, two per person, which makes me wonder a bit about the turn the rhetoric in this country may be going. I was a bit amazed at how close their language and ideas are, though I have to observe that the old dictator does have a better vocabulary. At any rate, don't take my word for it, go try the quiz out yourself and decide.

A hat tip to the Leiter Reports blog, which refers to the quiz here.

How not to identify a body, Texas style

This story from the Houston Press shows what happens when an investigator decides to just take a guess. From the story,

A middle-aged male bicycle rider was killed by a car on June 5 in the portion of the county covered by Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts. The county has no coroner, so Metts was dispatched to the scene.

Already there were Clyde Knox, owner of Slinky's tow-truck company, who heard about the accident on his police scanner, and his son David, known as Slinky.

Knox, says Metts, recognized the victim's sneakers and said it was his son Billy. Which was the official ruling until the next day, when Billy showed up at his father's house, indisputably alive.

The dead body did have a wallet, so no matter what they say, I would think that could have been, oh, I don't know, a clue? Well, not according to him. When asked, here is what the investigator said:

Q. But how could the investigator, which is you, not open the person's wallet to double-check?

A. Hindsight's 20/20. You and everybody else could look back now [and say] "Well, shoot, I would have done that." No, you wouldn't have if you were on the scene. You know, like they say, if a frog had wings he wouldn't bust his butt every time he hopped. That's hindsight.

And why not? Are we to assume he thinks we are all brilliant investigators like him? The article does not state anything about the body being in such a gruesome condition that no one would want to touch it. It seems this was a little embarassing moment. What was that song the Scarecrow used to sing in the Wizard of Oz?

I'd unravel ev'ry riddle
For any individ'le
In trouble or in pain [or dead?]

New Report on Prison Conditions and Impact on Society

I saw this, and I figured it may be a good item for students in one of the classes I taught who are exploring prison reform topics. I will certainly be pointing the professor to the link, so he can pass it on to the students. The report is Confronting Confinement, and it is written by the Commission on Safety and Abuse in American Prisons.

A hat tip to Marylaine Block's Neat Stuff on the Net for the week of June 23.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Now, this mezcal is not for whimps

I am sure some readers have heard about little worms in bottles of tequila, or so they say. Actually, the worms are found in mezcal. In fact, tequila is a type of mezcal. A big difference is that tequila carries a governmental designation. In a way, it is like bourbon whiskey, which by law has to have certain elements and is made in Bourbon County, Kentucky. I learned that on my travels to the parts of the Bourbon trail. I don't think some of the bourbon makers would agree with the part of the wikipedia entry about it being similar to scotch, but I leave that to drinkers to sort out. Back to this, I recently hightlighted that very expensive bottle of tequila. Now, if that is not enough for you, or you want something more than a measly worm, then boy, do I have the mezcal for you: The Scorpion Mezcal. Like the brand suggests, it does have a scorpion in it. According to the official site:

"All Scorpion brand super-premium and premium quality mezcals are carefully handmade in small quantities and individually numbered. These single-barrel mezcals allow consumers to fully appreciate the true flavorful and aromatic expression of fine100% agave spirits. Distilled in a small artisanal palenque, these mezcals exhibit the same complex subtleties as a cognac, and are far superior to bulk-made tequilas. As a distinguishing feature, all varieties of SCORPION MEZCAL come with a real scorpion in the bottle."
You can look at their FAQ. Rest assured, the scorpion is completely harmless, and it has had its stinger removed. Heck, even the FDA approves of the product. Now, if you are wondering if this is just some cheap brand, actually Scorpion has won various awards for its quality. So, if you are ready for an adventure and something more than a whimpy worm, this may be for you. I will admit, I may not eat the scorpion, but I am more than willing to try the mezcal. For those who may choose to eat it, here is the advice the company gives: "The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved our scorpions as being no more harmful than any other food product that can be consumed. We do not recommend eating the scorpion but if consumed please chew it up adequately before swallowing."

A hat tip to the Liquor Snob for the story.

The States I Have Visited, So Far

Through serendipity, I found this website that allows you to create your own map of the United States. It has a few other cool things as well. It is clear that the Itinerant Librarian, and his more serious cousin the Gypsy Librarian, still has some driving to do. At 23 states, there is still much to see. I would love to add Alaska to that list. In fact, it is one of those places I would love to see before I die kind of place. I sometimes joke around with the better half that if they had a good opening up there, I would learn to wear a parka. Seeing California does not make me too enthusiastic (I could not care less about Hollywood and L.A.), but I would love to see the wine country. At any rate, now readers know.

create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourCalifornia travel guide

Thursday, June 22, 2006

So, I am too old to learn about leadership? Just asking.

I think I would file this under "stuff I probably should keep my mouth shut about were it not for the fact it is offensive and disturbing." I did debate briefly if I should just let the matter drop, after all, ALA is not exactly my cup of tea, and to be honest, I would rather let others fight it out over it. However, after being pointed to Ms. Leslie Burger's Emerging Leaders Initiative, and reading Mark Lindner's post on another nail for the ALA coffin, I knew I could not keep quiet. How could I keep quiet when my organization (who knows for how long? Renewing those dues is less appealing over time) alienates me yet again. So here goes.

For openers, I am older than 35. As Maxwell Smart would say, "missed it by that much" (readers can add the appropriate hand gesture to go along). Mark brings up the question of the age in relation to new librarians, and his commenters add some other questions, some of which I had as well the longer I gave this some thought. Let's go with the age issue first. In the initiative's criteria, it states that you have to be young (under 35). I am older than 35, but as I said, not by much. I am relatively new librarian to the profession as I am now about to complete my second year as a librarian. Meredith Farkas, commenting in Mark's blog, writes:

"So I guess you must not be a fan of library residency programs for minorities either? I just think it's designed to get a group that is underrepresented in ALA leadership a leg-up. They are trying to reach out to young people because they know that we are the ones who they will need to keep around (and engaged in ALA leadership) or risk losing their membership base. The reality is that many more young people feel alienated by ALA than do Baby Boomers and they are very smart in creating a program that encourages young people not only to stay with ALA, but to get REALLY involved in its governance. If it makes a bunch of young ALA members happy and pisses off a few boomers, they'll still be ahead of the game. I'm not defending them, but I do think it's one of the politically smarter things they've doen recently. They have to secure their future existence."

So, on the basis of those words, it is ok to piss off one generation in order to make the other happy? And then people wonder why the generations, for lack of a better label, have their conflicts. It's "politically smart" to alienate one group of people in favor of another? So, is this the message then from ALA, that they should court the young and hip as soon as possible since the boomer geezers don't matter? I am not a boomer, by the way. I fall within the Generation X, but I still find such reasoning disturbing. Is that really the rhetoric that the (supposedly) premier organization for librarians wishes to convey? And no, I am not against any of the minority programs. As a minority myself, I was fortunate there were one or two little programs around to help me get an education. This is not the issue, and pitting it in such terms is unfair and inaccurate given that the initiative claims to be geared to new librarians. At least, that would be given if we look at the criteria in terms of those having a recent MLS (another term that is questionable, "recent") or in an MLS program currently. However, librarianship is supposed to be a field that is inclusive and diverse. At least that is what the organization claims in all those slick campaigns. Hey ALA, let me point something out. Not all new librarians are 35 and under. Not all new librarians go straight to library school after a bachelor's degree either. Some of us took a bit of a longer path to get to this profession. Does that not count? Are you telling us that our experiences would not bring anything to the table of a leadership initiative? Does this mean that these other new librarians could not benefit from getting "on the fast track to ALA and professional leadership"? I would not mind getting on the fast track, but in essence the organization is telling me I am too old. Is the training's content then some secret that only the young can appreciate and grasp? I am just asking.

Then there is the economic issue. It is a well-known dirty little secret that if you want to participate substantially in ALA, that you must either have money yourself or work at a place that is able to support you financially given all the required travel. This was brought up by another commenter on Mark's blog, Laura of The New Rambler. As Laura points out, "going to Annual and Midwinter is not financially possible to many people." A lot of employers do not pay enough, if they pay at all, for their staff to travel anywhere for professional development. I certainly could not afford those two conferences in one year, and let's not even mention that for the initiative, it is a year when the conferences are literally on opposites coasts (Seattle for Midwinter, Washington, D.C. for Annual). Now, I like to think that I am a fairly average librarian, so I can only imagine what those worse off than me may think. The few times I think about the dirty little secret, I have to wonder who does the organization really serve? Is it all its members or just the ones who can afford the travel? Now, I am fortunate that my academic job is non-tenure line, so I don't carry the boulder of having to be involved in some national organization so I can put it on my vita to make some committee happy. If I did, I would be out of a job eventually because there is no way I could afford the travel on my own, and my employer would not be able to afford the bill either. What I really want to note is the (seeming) assumption that you have to travel to be a good participant. Laura goes further to say, "this opportunity will be more available to those who have money, either on their own or their libraries." Now, I will be direct and say that I am not one of those people who think money is evil. If you got it, more power to you. But, I have to ask, how many small rural libraries or small college libraries, who maybe managed to hire a new librarian (assuming he or she is under 35), could benefit from this program but would be shut out because they could not afford the travel costs for that person? Now under "how much", Ms. Burger's site mentions:

"Workshop participation is free. ALA Divisions, Roundtables, and Chapters are invited to sponsor applicants with a suggested $500 stipend toward expenses for each conference. Your employer may also wish to contribute toward transportation and lodging."

So, the workshop is "free," but is it really free? And notice that it is only suggested that chapters, etc. contribute a small stipend of five hundred bucks. I do kind of wonder how far that little stipend would go in terms of the various travel related expenses, and before someone says, "well, the candidates are supposed to find their own money, not expect it all from a stipend," go back to my question. What about the small places which can likely be the biggest beneficiaries of such a program but can't afford it? Does this mean that only those in a large well funded public system or, say, a Research I campus with large endowments are the ones who should be going? Again, I am just asking.

Before I go on, a little note in the interest of full disclosure. I was selected to attend the regional Texas Immersion for instruction librarians this summer. Unlike Ms. Burger's initiative, that one is not free. My library generously picked up the registration, which is pretty steep. Now, I am not saying they should not charge for the program, but it does not take away that it is a fairly hearty expense. My luck also lies in the fact that it is happening in town. Otherwise, I could pretty much forget about such a program even though it is something directly related to what I do, and it would greatly benefit my institution. Given the registration is not cheap, I know my workplace could have used that money for a few other things. For instance, another librarian could have been sent to ALA Annual this summer with that money. My director would likely deny it, but I am aware that someone somewhere is really pulling on worn out bootstraps so the library's instruction librarian can do this training. To put it nicely, we are not exactly well funded. Now, I am sure some "altruistic" ALA apologist will say, "you see, your campus found the money for that. I am sure if they really think the leadership initiative is important, they will scrape the money for it." It should not be that way. It should not be a choice of whether we acquire a resource for the library to serve our patrons, or deprive the librarians and staff of some training, or other hard choice just because it would make you a better ALA member if you are involved. And one has to bring up involvement since the initiative is designed to get people to work on committees, etc., something that can then become more of an expense.

In the opening statement to her webpage, Ms. Burger has this quote: "Did your boss or your colleague just hand you this article? 'This sounds like you,' she said. 'You are young and new to the profession and are eager to get involved.'” As a matter of fact, that would not be far from reality for my boss, who often has an eye for making suggestions of things we should do. In fact, a reason I applied to Immersion is that a colleague said to me, "you should apply for this." Maybe she would not point this particular initiative to me; I can think of a couple of colleagues more worthy, but I am not sure which one of them, or me for that matter, can say, "sure, I can make it to the two coasts in a year." Actually, my boss would likely say it to me if it is on the basis of having a recent MLS. And by the way, we are only talking the money/financial costs. If you are a librarian with a family, maybe a small child or two, taking time to maybe a small child or two, taking time to do the actual travel, say a week for an Annual conference, may not be as easy. Is that then another assumption? That the younger folks are more likely to be unattached and therefore have less "baggage"? One more time, I am just asking.

This also leads to another question: how recent is recent when it comes to having that recent MLS? Is two years recent? Three years? Five? I finished my MLS two years ago, and I am still learning a lot of things about librarianship and the profession. Is that too much time since having been in library school? Is the idea here that only people with a recent degree or still in school are the only ones who keep up with the literature, the technology, the theory? Is the underlying assumption then that if you have been out of school for a while, that you have somehow become deadwood and therefore not able/interested/willing to learn something new? Yet again, I am just asking.

Like Mark, I do wish them well, and I say that sincerely. I hope they get an excellent pool of people. For the record, I have never the President-Elect 2006 personally, and, at this point in time, I am somewhat willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Like much of ALA, to me, she is just some semi-mythical figure that helps run a behemoth organization that publishes some of the journals I read to keep up. And I don't say with any disrespect intended. She really is, to me at least, just a picture and someone who runs things. Whether I still give her the benefit of the doubt over time, that is open. I am the guy who will question stuff. It does sound like a great program, if you are young, "fresh," and have the cash. Anyhow, I am just asking. In the meantime, I guess I better find my learning about leadership someplace else.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

And here's a burger to go with that tequila. . .

Recently, I highlighted a story about the $150,000 bottle of tequila. Well, when you are drinking, and I assume you do so responsibly, it is always wise to eat something. It's the idea of helping your body not absorb the alcohol as fast if you have some food as well. Most people favor light snacks like peanuts and pretzels, or a light finger food like buffalo wings. Of course, you can also drink with your meal. Well, I have found something you can have with that tequila: a hamburger. Now, it is not just any old burger. Oh no, for that tequila, only the best will do, and the folks at a Florida restaurant have just the right thing. According to a story in the Associated Press for June 21, 2006, a Boca Raton restaurant is selling a $100.00 hamburger. So, why so expensive? Well, expensive for someone on a low librarian's salary. From the story:

"At about 5 1/2 inches across and 2 1/2 inches thick, the mound of meat is comprised of beef from three continents — American prime beef, Japanese Kobe and Argentine cattle.

The bill for one burger, with garnishing that includes organic greens, exotic mushrooms and tomatoes, comes out to $124.50 with tax and an 18 percent tip included."

Now, that should get your mouth watering. As for this casual guy, I would rather have a nice homemade burger grilled in the patio. More affordable too. Bon appetit.

Friday, June 16, 2006

My supervillain type, in the Marvel Universe

It's Friday, so readers know odds are good there is a quiz in here someplace. This one goes well with all the comics compilations and graphic novels I have been reading as of late. So, if I were a villain, this is my result. I'd say not bad. So go ahead and try it out. You know you want to. . .he he he.

Mister Sinister
You are 50% megalomaniac, 43% charismatic leader, 6% brute, and 33% deranged genius!

Who was he?

Nathaniel Essex was a brilliant 19th century scientist who
became obsessed with humanity's "increasing mutation". However, his
controversial experiments brought only ridicule and rejection by his
contemporaries and his own wife. Transformed by the mutant Apocalypse,
Essex began a new immortal life as the manipulating Mister Sinister! By
helping to match powerful bloodlines through selective pairings,
Sinister hoped one day to create a mutant capable of doing what he
himself could not, destroy his former master Apocalypse.

As for you...

As if it was not enough that you should be born with an above
average intellect, your sheer genius is made more threatening by your
manipulative, calculating nature! Left unshackled by your lack of
morality, your actions know no bounds in your quest for ultimate power.
You may be seen as controversial and unorthodox, but only you can truly
comprehend the far-reaching consequences of your actions! After all,
other people can only imagine for as long as they live; you, in
contrast, have learnt to live forever...

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 76% on megalomania
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 88% on charisma
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 11% on brute power
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 9% on deranged genius
Link: The Marvel Supervillain Test written by Korgath on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Imagine that, getting fired for doing your work

The story of the library director's firing at Gwinnett County, GA has been picked up by a good segment of the blogosphere's library sector. That is usually my cue to stay as far away from it as I can. In fact, initially I was just going to let it be. However, I started thinking about it, and I have been drafting for a couple of days. The fact seems to be that the board fired their director in a very public way for basically doing her job. It is not something to stay silent about, and I can only hope that if that board is elected, that in time they are all voted out. I also hope more in the profession denounce this. The more I read into the story, the more it concerns me. The situation is an example of what a politically-charged, close-minded minority that misuse the concept of "family values" to impose an oppressive agenda. By the way, this column by Jon Carroll, which recently appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle for March 20, 2006, makes an interesting point about the people who basically hijack the concept of "family values." Carroll was writing in the context of the American Family Association and their recent boycott threats to the Ford Motor Company over some ads. However, his writing on who really embraces family values is insightful. Here is a snippet:

"The people who hate America are the members of American Family Association and its ideological fellow travelers. They're the ones who do not believe that all people are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these rights are life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. They're the ones who believe that this country was founded on hate and fear; they're the ones who want the hate and fear to continue."

I have often wondered about this, people who claim to be all about "family values" who make it their national pastime to spread hate and fear, often in very dishonest ways. The particular group out there in Georgia seems to fill this bill nicely, unfortunately for the rest of the community.

Now, one of the group's grievances was the selection of award winning YA books. They use what can only be described as a sensationalist flyer to "expose" the presence of these objectionable books. Readers can visit the group's site here, but I am not linking to the flyer. Readers can see the flyer there. Now, I have a healthy respect for parental rights and duties. If you want to watch what your child reads, it is your right to do so with your kids. When you try to impose your views on the rest of the community, and you do so with hysterical rhetoric which is less than honest and clearly meant to be inflammatory, you lose that respect. What gives groups like that the right to pretend to know what I may or not allow my child to read? It looks like self-righteous arrogance, not to mention an usurpation of other parents' rights.

Then the group also feels slighted because the library bought popular materials in Spanish. Imagine that. On the other hand, given the artificially created anti-immigrant climate going around, maybe I should not be too surprised. Like Jane, of A Wandering Eyre, I do have to wonder if I am in the country I thought I was. We could cite Census data regarding the growing Hispanic population in the country; we could look at trends and factors that can help justify acquiring Spanish materials in public libraries. I could give you reasons why studying and being familiar with foreign languages, whether Spanish or say, Middle Eastern languages, may be important, and as a result, you may want to be acquiring such materials as well. But at the moment, that could be another post.

What concerns me at the end of the day, when all is said and done, is that the community in essence allowed the firing to occur. According to the article, a crowd of patrons was enraged about the decision. My question is this: where were those people earlier? While the small minority was sowing the seeds of discord, where was the rest of the community to support their director? What did they do to answer and counter the critics? Or maybe I am just an optimist. Maybe the "citizens for family friendly libraries" group does reflect the community as a whole. Yet the evidence points to the contrary, so I have to ask. At the end of the day, the small group may claim a victory, but the community as a whole loses. I wonder what kind of director that community will find down the road. Well, the ball is on their court for that.

As for me, that county is just a faraway place. It concerns me as a librarian and a professional. The message seems to be that if you are a progressive, forward-thinking librarian interested in catering to the community (as in providing popular works that actually circulate, for instance), and overall bringing the library into the 21st century, then you are not wanted here. Which makes me feel a bit like John Berry in his recent editorial for Library Journal for June 1, 2006 where he said "I'm Glad I'm Not a Director." For me, it's because I am not one for little political games. Brownnosing is not part of my repertoire. Let me be clear, if I think you are full of shit, I will be the one to tell you when everyone else just says you are just providing fertilizer. Add to this that I have no patience for little groups who operate, often behind the scenes, to move an agenda, particularly if it is an oppressive and hypocritical agenda that favors a few close-minded folks afraid of reality. A library, especially a public one, should be for all in the community, not just the "Friends" or the "concerned citizens." This is part of the reason I know I will probably never be in charge of anything. If I want to play games, I will turn on my PS2. Yet I know that odds are if I ever had a similar position, I would probably get myself fired as well, because I would rather do what is right that what is expediently correct. Ms. Pinder was able to say she did what was right. I can only hope if my turn comes, that I can do the same.

Here are some other library sector bloggers who have picked up on this, a sampling since the number may keep growing:

K.G Schneider sees it as a travesty.
Jessamyn West discusses the firing and has attracted some commentary.
LISNews picked up on the story, and there is some commentary there as well.
Even the political blog Daily Kos picked it up, labeling it as a witch hunt.

Update note (6/26/2006): Here's Marylaine Block's take, which she labels as a "Hostile Takeover."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Go Figure, if I was an Ancient Roman, they'd boot me out

Yes, it's another TGIF, and readers of this blog know that odds are good there will be one of these posts here. I picked this up via the Library Tavern. I get the feeling a few librarians would likely get the result I got. It is somewhat accurate, since I do tend to stay quiet, but when I do speak, hell can break loose. Damn, teaching those feeble-minded kids of the emperor or senator might have been a good gig, then again, look what happened to some imperial tutors. Maybe exile works better. At any rate, one has to stand for something I guess. There's always the next town.

Banished Scholar
You scored 9 privilegedbirth, 50 scholarliness, 15 ruthlessness, and 33 outspokenness!

You're lucky to be banished! Most guys like you end up with their
entrails on the front steps. You rose from your lowly birth with
learning, but you forgot to keep your mouth shut. Nobody likes a party
pooper, and pointing out the foibles of Roman society did not earn you
that nice cushy position tutoring the Senator's feeble-minded
offspring. It is suggested that you never set foot in Rome again, but I
hear things are much milder and more tolerant down in Judea, so maybe
make your way over there. Cheers!

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on privilegedbirth
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on scholarliness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on ruthlessness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on outspokenness
Link: The Who in Ancient Rome Are You Test written by chickennibbler on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Booknote: Rogue State

Title: Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
Author: William Blum
Publication Information: Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000
308 pages, including notes and index.
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Current affairs, American History, political science

A while back, Osama Bin Ladin, the bad guy that was responsible for September 11 and who is all but forgotten by now, issued another one of his tapes. In that announcement he inaugurated what has become known in some places as Osama's Book Club. In seriousness, I figured that if the great villain is reading something, I ought to take a look at it, so I did. William Blum's book is a complete listing of almost every atrocity, bad deed, election tampering, invasion, and other bad acts that the United States has done in the 20th century. If Osama and the rest of the world needed a reason or two to be pissed at the United States, Blum does an excellent job in providing the list. The book in essence is a list. It goes through the history of the United States via its invasions, interventions in other nations, election tampering to prevent leaders the U.S. did not like from coming into power, and so on. It even has a convenient list of U.N. votes where the U.S. was the sole voter against things like a resolution declaring "that education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development, etc. are human rights" (189). And if readers think that the U.S. has been doing terrible things abroad, Blum soon proves otherwise by documenting the bad deeds of the United States against its own citizens.

The interesting thing about this book is that it was published in the year 2000. The history it presents then is pre-9/11. The scary thing is that a lot of what has happened is repeating itself. For some readers, it may be scary to see how people like Osama rose in prominence with the help of the United States. Yes, Osama was one of United States' homeboys before he became America's most wanted. Now, as a reader, I knew much of this history. Growing up in Latin America, you are very familiar with United States' interventions from places like Haiti to Costa Rica to Chile, not to mention Puerto Rico. Does the name of a little place called Vieques ring a bell? The U.S. Navy used the island, which is inhabited, as a target practice place using depleted uranium shells. Recently, the Navy decided to abandon the target practice, but it was only after substantial public pressure to do so.

Overall, the book provides details, names, dates, and so on of these and other misdeeds. For readers who think the U.S. can do no wrong, this book will either be a wake-up call or something to avoid. For readers who want to get more than the sanitized history you get in the school textbooks, this is highly recommended. It may even encourage you to read up on some things. For instance, you read about Argentina's Dirty War when the military held power and tortured hundreds of people. By the way, they were supported by the United States. It may prompt you to read more on the topic of the Dirty War. Here is a book on that. If nothing else, you may want to read it just to know what is Osama reading, what is driving some of his thinking.

In terms of readability, the book's chapters are mostly lists of dates and events with annotations. On the one hand, this means you can read the book at a fast pace, or you can skim it. However, Blum pulls no punches, so if you are a reader who had no idea the United States was not a nice nation to its neighbors, it may get a little overwhelming at first, so take it in small doses.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tips for saving on gasoline tested

The car buyers' site,, features an article on gas saving tips. The authors tested a series of common tips for saving on gas. What they found is that, for the most part, the savings are up to the drivers. This is because drivers need to change their habits, particularly if they drive aggressively. Their advice for aggressive drivers? Stop it. You can gain up to 37% in savings if you modify your habits, according to the article. The article is an easy read, and the authors also explain the method for their tests. They also debunk a couple of common tips as not useful. For instance, the idea of having your A/C on and the windows up versus the windows down and the A/C off turns out to not make a difference in savings. On the other hand, driving the speed limit does save you money, assuming you can put up with the impatient drivers and staying on the slow lane. As for me, I always let the impatient ones pass me by. Why waste all the extra fuel to beat me to the traffic light is beyond me to be honest.

A hat tip to Marylaine Block's Neat New Stuff on the Net.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Now that is one expensive tequila

I am a casual guy known to enjoy the occasional margarita or shot of good tequila. However, I don't think my humble librarian salary would be able to afford this tequila. Tequila Ley .925 is set to release what may be the most expensive bottle of tequila, which will set you back for only $150,000. Yes, you read that right. It is one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Why is it so expensive? Well, it is a limited edition, and it features limited art on a bottle made of platinum and gold. I think I am settling for the Cuervo, or the Sauza Tres Generaciones if I want something a bit higher in the food chain. Now, you can tell I would never make a good millionaire. If I could buy that bottle, I would open, invite a bunch of family and friends, and have a little fiesta with margaritas for all. I can always dream.

A hat tip to the Liquor Snob, who picks up the story here.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A modernist huh?

Well, it's Friday, so it's time, once again. . .you get the idea. Well, this quiz did not quite get me, but it did get fairly close. Overall, I have a bit of a spiritual side, albeit not a very defined one. If readers must know, I pretty much have no use for organized religion, but it does not mean I have no room for people to be spiritual in some way. I don't think being spiritual halts progress. I am sure over time some scientists have been very spiritual, but overall, I do think organized religion has a way of stiffling progress. Having said that, I do believe in science and reason, which at times I wish a few more people did instead of spending their time trying to bring the dark ages and ignorance back in vogue. Maybe that is part of why I became a librarian, to help keep the lights alive. At any rate, there's my little rant. Feel free to try the quiz yourself. My results then:

You scored as Modernist.

Modernism represents the thought that science and reason are all we need to carry on. Religion is unnecessary and any sort of spirituality halts progress. You believe everything has a rational explanation. 50% of Americans share your world-view.

What is Your World View? (updated)
created with

A hat tip to Mark Lindner's blog, his result and post here.

Hmm, never looked at soccer quite that way, but seems fun

Apparently, the Germans are trying to cash in on the World Cup, according to this story from Spiegel Online for May 16, 2006. Beate Uhse, one of their most prominent sex shops, has come out with a line of products tied in to the World Cup. The first link is to a Wikipedia article on the store, which is listed in the Frankfort Stock Exchange; the second link is to the official company site, and it is in German, but it does have an English language link for those of us who can't read German. If you look further, you can find the link to the retail store and look over the products as well (or, you can just go here. This link does not seem to have an English version. And, the warning I hate to give, if you find some of this offensive, just skip it). The company's founder has quite an interesting life story. Readers can get a quick overview here. From the Spiegel article:

"Other products include tight-fitting soccer jerseys for women, an 'Erotic Energy Drink' and string tangas in the colors of Germany, Italy or Brazil which, according to the company, 'guarantees an erotic home game that is a lot more exciting than any football tournament.'"

Hmm, more erotic home game? Definitely worth looking into, hehe. Find the official website for the 2006 World Cup here.

A hat tip to AdFreak blog, which picks up the story here.

How to avoid watching a bad movie this summer.

Readers may know that I have reasons why I do not go to the movie theaters. In fact, I prefer to wait for the DVD to come out and watch the movie at home. However, in the interest of a public service, and because I am such a nice guy, here is a list of things to look out for in avoiding a bad movie. Mr. Robert J. Elisberg, writing for the Huffington Post, has compiled a list of thirty hints. These include:
  • It's billed as "From the makers of..." and you didn't like that movie.
  • After the title are the words, ": The Movie."
  • Only one week after the movie opens, it changes its advertising campaign from being an action thriller to "the comedy ride of a lifetime." (I have actually seen ads like that)
  • Its newspaper ad states, "Featuring the hit single..."
  • It calls itself "The Feel-Good Movie of the Year!"

I don't agree a whole lot with Mr. Elisberg's notion that rather than the movies coming out lately being bad, we are just getting a year older. I may be older, but the stuff is still bad for the most part. Let's not go into all the examples of bad remakes of classical movies, for instance. Anyhow, go read the rest of the list.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Found a pretty good commentary on the MySpace hysteria

My few readers will know that I have a very low opinion of people who blame their problems and those of their children on something other than themselves. These are usually the people who neglect their children and then complain because there is too much sex on TV. Apparently the violence is fine with them. My wife and I put in a significant effort to make sure we raise a decent child, and morons who simply neglect their parenting duties just give parents in general a bad name, not to mention make things harder for people like us. The blog MyCrimeSpace picked up this commentary entitled "Don't Blame MySpace." I have to agree it is a pretty good commentary, and it is something that probably more people should read. My favorite lines came towards the end:

"Yeah, that’s the answer.

Congress. The guys who can’t figure out if immigrant laborers should stay, go, or just hang around long enough to pick celery for $1.50 a day.

It used to be the fault of Judas Priest every time a kid put a rope around his neck. When I was a kid it was Metallica and action movies. Now it’s “Grand Theft Auto” and

The one common denominator is the American tradition of blaming the thing the kid happened to be doing at the exact moment he messed up instead of tracing the path of the mess-up back to its root: The two irresponsible idiots who wanted a child but instead created the poorly raised result of a poorly planned pregnancy.

Instead of regulating Web sites, someone should tell them what they forgot to tell their kids: The world is not here to clean up your mess."

Like the blogger over at MyCrimeSpace, I could not agree more. I say we start placing the blame for a lot of messed up kids and their problems exactly where it belongs: the two dumbasses who probably should not have been breeding in the first place. Actually, for idiots like that, one has to wonder how they managed to even reproduce in the first place. You know the ones I mean. They are the ones who somehow think that children will raise themselves or think that society or the media will do the raising for them. Folks, raising children takes work. It takes the time to watch over them, monitor what they do, what TV shows they watch, and where they go when they are online. It takes some effort, which apparently a lot of parent wannabes are not willing to do. Anyhow, my two cents.

Standing up for freedom

I have new heroes, or maybe they were heroes all along. At any rate, these four librarians challenged the provisions of the PATRIOT Act after receiving a gag order as part of a National Security Letter from the FBI and are now able to talk about it. I picked the story up from the Library Tavern blog here. She links to the ACLU's press release, which is here. Leslie Burger, of Burger's Blog, who attended the ACLU press conference, picks up on the story as well here and provides some brief commentary. She picks up on a quote by an NYT photographer, which I think sums it up nicely. Ms. Burger writes,

"The photographer from the NY Times said it best when he shared this observation with me -- 'these are just regular people like you and me. They probably pay their taxes on time, go to church each week, go to their kids soccer games, and enjoy a meal out now and then. If the government is worried about them it really makes you wonder about what's going on.'"

My gratitude goes out to them for standing up for our rights in a time when it seems some people want to restrict those rights in the name of tranquility. I don't know about "those folks," but I am not about to lie down and let them take my rights away if I can help it. I can only hope that I can live up to our professional values of upholding intellectual freedom and the rights of the First Amendment. It does really make you wonder what is going on when the government can't capture the terrorist they claimed they wanted dead or alive, but they worry over the average American citizen.