Monday, July 31, 2006

DOPA,, why I am not surprised

While I am tempted to call names and insult some of the people who claim to represent the people, I will try to refrain. I wish I could say I was suprised by this, but by now I know that "those people" will pretty much do anything to pander to their fundamentalist theocratic and corporate clienteles. That they slipped DOPA under the radar does not suprise me. That they pretty much did it to foster hysteria and paranoia amongst their clientele does not really suprise me either. That they pretty much did not educate themselves as the many educational potentials of social software and that they think the internet is a series of tubes somehow does not suprise me either. Readers must be wondering by now if the Itinerant Librarian is just a jaded cynic; the answer is probably yes. By the way, every other blogger has picked up on this, so I am not sure what could I possibly add. Denunciation has already been done. Some people have posted rational explanations, and Mr. "Tubes" Stevens has been ridiculed in a few places. Readers can find a summary of available posts to get a sampling from Jessamyn West. I wish "my" legislators were among the few who voted against the thing, but that would be wishful thinking.

Now, some people out there are suggesting we should write or call our legislators and tell them how we feel about this. If I believed it would make a difference, I would probably run off a few letters. I so want to believe, but my faith in politicians is not exactly, shall we say, confident? Now, people do complain about their politicians, but after a while, I have to wonder about the people who elect these uninformed career politicos. I mean, Mr. Stevens is an octogenarian. I have nothing against seniors except when their ignorance and lack of education lead them to do things that are less than beneficial. He clearly, like a lot of his colleagues, have been in Congress for quite a while because people who are probably just as ill-informed as they are keep sending them back every election year, probably without even thinking. It kind of makes you lose faith in people if this is the best they can do when it comes to electing representatives and other officials.

So, if I had something to say to "those people," what would I say? For one, social software has enabled me as a librarian and educator to continue my professional development. Education is often a buzzword for "those people," including having well-trained and educated educators. A lot of social software makes my professional development possible. I can use a blog to publish ideas and exchange ideas and information with other colleagues. I can use other tools in order to contact those colleagues for collaborative activities that would further my professional development. But that is just my angle.

I would tell them about the many teachers who use blogs in their classrooms with students. Many of these blogs are used to practice writing as part of composition programs. I thought "those people" were interested in students improving their writing. I would also tell them that the Millenial generation pretty much lives in an online environment. They communicate and learn via a lot of these tools. If you want to reach them, that is the way to do it. Are the tools perfect no? Have there been some incidents from MySpace? Yes. Does it mean it is a cesspool as some people imply? No. You see, the hysteria is an example of creating fear out of a few incidents. I would love to see actual statistics of any incidents in comparison to the many people who use sites like MySpace because I have a feeling that the numbers would just not add up. However, it is in the interest of "those people" to make parents hysterical over MySpace so they can keep their jobs, and while cynical, unfortunately a lot of people who know better will probably buy the line. In large measure, "those people" can get away with it because a lot of parents simply don't do their job as parents. My ten year old daughter is a lot more savvy about online issues that "those people." Why is that? For one, because her mother and me have done our job as parents. When she goes online, we know where she is at. The family computer is in an open part of the apartment. She knows to ask about anything that may not look right, like pop-ups, and the only messaging she does is with other family. This takes parenting, which is something that a lot of so-called parents just refuse to do. Those are the people that barely figured out how to stick one thing into another thing and somehow managed to reproduce. They are the people who want some magical bullet to solve their problems because they are just too dumb or too negligent to be actual parents. Parenting takes work, and to those who do not put the work in, the schemes of "those people" seem a convenient solution. Only problem is those solutions do not work.

Now, "those people" tied their legislation to libraries because for some reason they think that libraries, once seen as the arsenals of democracy, are now just places for pedophiles and perverts to hang out. Again, are there some people who do bad things? Yes, and those people are everywhere. It means we need to maintain our vigilance. Banning all these tools in the name of "keeping children safe" is not the way to do it. You do it with education and good parenting. You don't do it by trying to cover the sky with a hand. Young people will find their way to social websites, and they will find ways around any filters or bans that "those people" choose to implement. Instead, we should be educating young people so when they go online, they can make good decisions. It does not mean they will always make good decisions; that is a part of growing and learning. My adult readers may want to think about some of the less-than-brilliant decisions they made when they were young. I know I made a few, but I had the good fortune of having supportive parents who I could turn to. It took them a lot of effort to get their children to become good people (thanks mom and dad).

Libraries are places of learning as well as social institutions. Use of the internet in libraries is the latest way to provide information and services to the libraries' constituents. Will some people misuse it? Sure, but this is nothing new, and it does not mean you throw out everything on account of a couple of miscreants. We should give young people some credit; they are more savvy than we think. While we may get the occasional girl or boy who runs off to meet someone they met online, there are a lot more young people who know better and simply block those strangers. For the most part, you can't fool young people; they have very good b.s. detectors. What the legislation does is deprive of access a lot of people who may not have access otherwise. Sure, I am a user of my local public library, but if they blocked things like Blogger, I have the option of going home and using my connection. A lot of people do not have this choice, and this legislation is part of a slippery slope that serves to increase the digital divide between those who can afford access and those who cannot. "Those people" are basically saying that some people deserve to have access and some do not. It does not sound very democratic to this librarian.

A lot of my students use tools like Facebook and MySpace. It's how they coordinate their group work and stay in touch. Sure, they socialize, but they also get a lot of stuff related to school done via such tools. College professors use tools like Wikipedia as well as other wikis they create. Wikis often require a log-in, are provided by commercial products, and often require some profiling. Yet collaborative tools like wikis would be blocked from libraries because of unfounded fears and basic ignorance. A lot of educational opportunities would be lost because of ill-thought ideas like DOPA, and with those opportunities, the nation loses just a bit more of the competitive edge it seems to be losing. You see, using social software also teaches things like critical thinking (you have to be able to judge what you find) and problem solving, skills valued in the business world. Those are skills that employers around the world want, and by the way, a lot of them use social software as well. What about job seekers? Using things like may require you to create a profile in order to post a resume or search listings. Many job seekers use public libraries. DOPA would likely block those efforts as well. Is the nation saying that it will not support people wanting to find work? However, don't take just my word for it. The Librarian in Black has a nice little explanation of what this can mean to a library's website.

There are many little ramifications to this little piece of legislation that a lot of people do not seem to think about. Steven Cohen asked an interesting question, and that is do the social sites care about libraries? I think it is worth noting that in spite of the fuss, sites like MySpace, or rather their corporate owners, have remained awfully quite on the matter. Considering that "those people" are pretty much portraying social software sites as less than savory places, one has to ask why none of them (as of this writing) have remained absolutely silent when their reputations are on the line.

Anyhow, there goes my little rant and why I am not surprised. Dismayed? Yes. Surprised? No.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

How to read a book blurp

In the interest of providing a public service to many readers, and maybe to some readers' advisors, I would like to point out this article from Guardian Unlimited Books on "How Blurps Fail Me." It basically translates all the b.s. you see on those blurps for books so you know which ones to stay away from. I found this via Bookslut Blog, where they add some additional items as well. So, you may want to avoid a book if:
  • "Rule one: if it sounds like baloney, it probably is baloney. 'A dark allegory about empathy, nuclear power and contemporary feminism' is not for us."
  • "American blurbs are often the most suspect. 'I devoured Lucretia Jones's novel remembering why I want to read fiction' translates into: 'I'm a pathetic old drunk who hopes to get lucky with Lucretia next time she does a reading on campus.'"
  • "Novels 'in the spirit of Hunter S Thompson' or that 'might have been written by Jack Kerouac' are, almost by definition, semi-literate alcoholic ramblings."
Now go read the rest so you know what to avoid.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

How to fire somebody

I am not a manager, so I am not about to fire anyone. I am sure many managers do not relish the idea. So, in case I am ever in a position where I may have to fire someone, or if one of my readers out there is a manager, here is some advice from Guy Kawasaki that seems simple and well written. So, go take a look at "The Art of Firing." It features some common sense reminders like making sure you document everything, but it also reminds managers to have a look in the mirror, after all, if you hired the person, you should have hired the "right" person, "you should have set and communicated the right goals. You should have provided course corrections. Some of the 'fault' probably belongs to you." Mr. Kawasaki also has a guide to the "Art of the Layoff" for those interested.

Hmm, so it's ergonomically correct, but can it reach Warp Nine?

This workstation, the Clipper CS-1, is "a completely self-contained and enclosed 'capsule', 4' wide, 7' long, and 4.5' high, designed specially for concentrated (and ergonomically correct) computer use." Am I the only one who thinks this looks like some kind of torpedo? Maybe put some small wings and an engine, and if an employee ticks you off, launch them out of the workplace. Now, before I get too snarky, here are the advantages, according to the website:
  • A private way of shutting out the distractions of your environment.
  • Lighting which is diffused, warm, and glowing, preventing any glare on the screen, and reducing eye fatigue.
  • A relationship between seat and computer that is at once flexible, comfortable and ergonomically correct.

Now, I have to admit, the whole idea of shutting out the distractions is very appealing. Given my shared workspace, quiet time is not always an option when other coworkers need to confer or just gab. I am not against that, but once in a while, would be nice to shut out the world to get some work done. As for the relationship with the chair, heck, compared to the chair I have, anything would be an improvement. OK, so my furniture is not exactly ergonomically correct. However, I am not sure I could do my consultations with students inside that torpedo, though if you look at the picture, it does have a nice side window. I guess I could do drive-thru service, "welcome to the Reference Office, can I answer your question?" The idea of comfort while working is very appealing, but I am not so sure about it being so enclosed.

A hat tip to IFTF's Future Now.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Booknote: Cowboy Logic

Kinky Friedman. Cowboy Logic: The Wit and Wisdom of Kinky Friedman (and some of his friends). New York: St. Martin's Press, 2006.

After I got done with the project revision for Immersion, I had a bit of free time before the evening event. The UH M.D. Anderson Library has a small leisure reading area near the front. It has a display of new popular books, and it has some soft seating. I have heard of Kinky Friedman, Texas's most irreverent and popular humorist (among other things) for a while, and when I saw this little book on display, I just had to pick it up. I sat down to read it, then I found myself checking it out. The book is basically a collection of sayings, witty statements, so on with the humor that makes Kinky so good at the art of the one liner. If you are looking for political correctness, go someplace else. If you want something to make you smile, maybe think a bit, and just laugh, this is very good. For instance, he has a little list of things a Texan would never says such as "we don't keep firearms in this house." He also talks about politics, and it is a timely book given he is running for governor of Texas. He also pokes fun at himself along with everything else. If you want something light and quick, this is a good choice.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Reason #5 to know foreign languages. . .

. . .foreigners will make fun of you when you name your product with a name that has a different meaning in their language. Case in point. Guillermo, of the blog Argenautas gets a kick from car names that mean something entirely different in Spanish. He points to these marketing geniuses in his post, kindly explaining what means what. Please note the link leads to a Spanish language source, so in the interest of enlightening our non-Spanish speaking friends, and to give some laughter to my Spanish speaking friends, allow me to give you the gist of Guillermo's post.

For instance, there is the Mitsubishi Pajero, which has since been renamed the Montero. A pajero is a wanker in Spanish. Yes, you read that right, someone who indulges in self-pleasure. Those guys you see in libraries now and then doing certain things in front of the public access computer, they are pajeros. Then again, given the photo Guillermo posts of a Pajero with a nice model on the hood. . .well, maybe we should not go there.

Next is the Nissan Moco. I am sure to many readers it looks like a nice little four door car in basic green. What can possibly be wrong? Well, in Spanish a moco is a booger. Yes, that stuff you pick out of noses that often comes in what color? Green. And according to the marketing campaign, "you can leave it anywhere." Yea, right. Moving right along.

However, the winner of the big prize is the Mazda Laputa. Now, some readers may say, well, what is the big deal? Is not Laputa that mythical place in Gulliver's Travels? Sure, that is true. However, in Spanish, Laputa can mean "la puta," which is Spanish for the whore (or prostitute, or lady of the night for the squeamish). Guillermo has a field day with this, and so did I when I read it. Mazda's marketing says it all, and I am translating from Guillermo's points:
  • Laputa has improved her safety and expanded her interior for better client comfort.
  • Her body is designed to resist frontal impacts.
  • You can select from an ample array of colors.
  • Laputa practically remains at the same price level.
Things that make you go hmm. I hope I don't need to draw readers a map for this one. Next time, make sure someone reads over your marketing.

A hat tip to the Global Voices blog.

Small reading list on Middle East issues

AlterNet featured an article by Deborah Campbell suggesting "What to Read While the Craddle of Civilzation Burns." It is a small selection of books to read in order to get a sense of the issues in the Middle East, and it may be helpful to gain a better understanding given the war in Iraq and other current events. Among the items included are David Grossman's The Yellow Wind (1988) and Joe Sacco's Palestine (2001). Go over, read the article, and feel free to look for the books at your local library. For other readings, readers can look over my booknotes on Osama's words and on a politically incorrect look at Islam. As always, any readers out there with suggestions for other readings are welcome to post in the comments.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Itinerant Librarian Returns from Immersion, Gets Trading Card

Well, the Itinerant Librarian was "dragged" to Immersion by his professional cousin, the Gypsy Librarian, and we "both" had a great time. Since he made one of them fangled cards, I figured I would make my own too, so here it is. Get the details on how you can get your own over there. Since unlike him, I am more than willing to say a few extra things, I went with a more darker design, sort of an adventurer.

In a more serious note, I was fortunate to meet all sorts of wonderful people who gave me ideas, inspiration, and encouragement. Thanks.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I should be living in "La Madre Patria"

Going with the tendency to amuse myself with these little quizzes, here is one of what country I should be living in. Anyhow, it's Friday, so odds are. . .you get the idea. Somehow, I am not too surprised Spain was my result this time. I do like fine foods (ok, not too fine), and I certainly like beautiful scenery (is that not what being itinerant is about?). So, olé, and go find out where you should be living yourself.

Which country should you REALLY be living in?


Usted es el español! You have a passion for fine foods and beautiful scenery - as well as feeling a great love for your country and fellow citizens. You wish to remain independent in a world which is hard to stand out, and you are doing it well. Ibravo!

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

A hat tip to the Library Tavern.

And since it is Spain, a little song and poetry to go along.

"Olé, con olé y con olé,
déjenla que baile sola,
que es la más bonita estampa,
la bailarina española"

-Jose Martí, "La Bailarina Española"

"Granada, tierra soñada por mi,
mi cantar se vuelve gitano cuando es para tí.
Mi cantar es de fantasía,
Mi cantar, flor de melancolía,
que vengo a dar.

Granada, tierra ensangrentada en tardes de toros.
Mujer que conserva el embrujo de los ojos moros,
de sueño rebelde y gitana cubierta de flores,
y beso tu boca de grana
jugosa manzana que me habla de amores.

Granada manola cantada
en coplas preciosas,
no tengo otra cosa que darte
que un ramo de rosas,
de rosas de suave fragancia
que le dieran marco a la Virgen Morena.

Granada, tu tierra esta llena
de lindas mujeres, de sangre y de sol."

-"Granada", by Agustín Lara.

And for our non-Spanish reading friends. The translations are mine:

"Ole, ole and ole,
let her dance
for it is a most beautiful image,
the Spanish [flamenco] dancer. "

* * * *
"Granada, land of my dreams.
My song becomes a gypsy song when it is for you.
My song is one of fantasy,
a flower of melancholy,
that I come to offer you.

Granada, land drenched in the blood of bullfight afternoons,
A woman that preserves the witchcraft of moorish eyes,
of rebellious dream and gypsy covered in flowers,
and I kiss your deep red mouth,
a delicious apple that speaks to me of love.

Granada, a maiden sung
in precious couplets,
I have nothing to offer but you
but a bunch of roses,
roses of soft fragrance
that would frame the dark Virgin.

Granada, your land is filled
with beautiful women, blood and sun."

Some notes: I used the word "witchcraft" above as it is the literal translation of "embrujo," which could also mean a spell or even a hex. Another possible word choice could be charm. However, embrujo can be a powerful word in Spanish romantic lyrics, so I went with the more literal choice. The word "grana" actually means "red;" I had to look it up. I also had to look up "manola," which according to the dictionary is a word for people from the popular class who wore very distinctive clothes and were very passionate. For the song's context, it would be a young maiden. It is an old word, late 18th, early 19th century. I used the Diccionario del Estudiante of the Real Academia Española.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

List of things bloggers should understand

Another Blogger posted a list of "9 Things Every Blogger Should Understand." I found the list interesting, so I wanted to take a little time and reflect on it a little bit. Here are the items, with my comments in italics:

1. Every reader has an opinion… and they’re all correct in their own mind.
Which is why I pretty much stay away from most major political issues and other divisive items. People will have their opinions, and usually, once they have locked onto it, it is impossible to change it. Such people would not let something like facts bother them. At any rate, this is why I pretty much let people comment freely on my blogs, as long as it is not inappropriate, namely obscene or rude.

2. Posting the same things as everyone else will render you invisible.
3. The corrolary to the previous item: posting unique content is the way to get noticed.

I think these two are fairly obvious. I am not aiming to be noticed. If it happens, it happens. However, I see no point in blogging about something that the rest of the biblioblogosphere has beaten to a pulp. As for other issues outside of librarianship, a lot of people cover them in better ways. In my case, I am pretty proud of the fact that I can fly under the radar. For people who are aiming to get fame, then this should be a rule. Then again, if you are just a small blogger, aim for something interesting too.

4. It is better to have your controversial posts read by folks who disagree with you than those who are on your side.

The blogger says that saying "me too" is boring, but in this case, I will have to bore you then. It makes sense. The only problem is when you get the people from number one who decide to use flames because they disagree.

5. Only a very small percentage of your readers will leave comments.

Thanks you two.

6. It will likely be the same folks leaving comments over and over again.

Thanks for coming back you two.

7. A hit counter is useless in and of itself.

I have never felt the urge to put a counter in my blogs. The blogger says that having a single hit counter is very 1997. If readers come, welcome. If not, I hope they find good reading in other places.

8. Don’t bitch about traffic (or lack thereof) unless you’ve taken the time to analyze your web logs with a decent stats package.

Won't get any bitching from me on that regard. The blogger does give a couple of quick hints on stats package if you are interested in any future bitching.

9. Not having your blog hosted on your own domain is setting yourself up for failure when you need to move it or your web host (goes away / is no longer free / changes its policies / pick your own fate).

This I have heard in a few places. One of these days, I may have to get a domain and get the blog(s) hosted. I do back up my blogs, in a very simple way, but the stuff will not be lost if fate strikes. At this point in time, for a little peon like me, a cheap service like this one works ok.

Overall, some good points to think about folks. Take a look, see what you think. Maybe people can add to the list too.

A hat tip to The Blog Herald.

Update note (7/31/06): CW at Ruminations has been writing about blogging recently. CW pointed to two lists on how to blog. One is by Paul Stamatiou and the other by Tony Pierce. I personally like Pierce's better as well, has more color. Pierce's item #13 was one of my favorites: "if you havent written about sex, religion, and politics in a week youre probably playing it too safe, which means you probably fucked up on #5, in which case start a second blog and keep your big mouth shut about it this time." If you go over and read number five, it will make more sense. However, maybe I should be writing more about the things not spoken about in polite company. It's the reason the Itinerant Librarian came to life. Then again, when you hate politics, and really have no use for religion, it can be hard to want to write about that on the blog. Now sex, I definitely enjoy that. Anyhow, both lists are worth a look.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Top quotes of Bishop Romero

Tim Muth, of Tim's El Salvador Blog, picks up on a list of top ten quotes by Bishop Oscar Romero. The list was compiled by the San Romero Discussion Group, which from the title I gather is one of the groups advocating for Romero's canonization. There are more than just ten quotes in terms of the many gems and words that Bishop Romero said and shared with his people and the world. Hopefully, these ten will give people a start and maybe urge them to go find out more. In a time when Christianity seems to be co-opted by people who are pretty much Christian in nothing but name, it is nice to be reminded that there are some decent Christians who strive to live as their gospel actually dictates. My readers may know that I am not a religious individual, but Bishop Romero is one of those heroes I admire.

From the list:

9. "We believe that from the transcendence of the Gospel, we can
assess what the life of the poor consists of and we also believe that
placing ourselves on the side of the poor and attempting to give them
life we will know what the eternal truth of the Gospel consists of."
(Feburary 1980 speech at Louvaine University, Belgium.)

Now, if some of the so-called "christians" in this country would actually read that, remember it, and act on it instead of acting like their deity belonged to one of the political parties, things might be a little better. Yes, the lower case is intentional. I know there are some Christians who are moved by their faith sincerely to do good works and truly help their neighbor (apparently a minority as of late), and then there are the christians who pretty much do anything to give the faith they allegedly follow a bad name. Then again, a lot of major religions will have their decent and less than decent folk.

3. "May God have mercy on the assassins." (Last words.)

Now those are brave last words. I am not so sure I could be as forgiving of people who had just killed me. Then again, that is probably why I would not make sainthood anytime soon. And the number one quote, which we probably could put up in signs in this country as well given the current climate:

1. "Stop the repression!"

Music fans, on a side note, may recall that Ruben Blades had a song a few years back about a priest in Latin America, "El Padre Antonio y el Monaguillo Andres," (note: lyrics in Spanish. You want a translation e-mail me for one or try your library for help) about a priest and his altar boy who are killed in the jungle in the way Romero was killed. Regardless of my heathenism, as I like to call it, men who are willing to stand with the poor against oppression and abuse are heroes to be admired and remembered.

Friday, July 07, 2006

20 Points of Library Customer Service, a couple of exceptions

This list has been picked up by a few of the blogosphere's library sector people, and overall, it is a very good list that likely should be framed and made public. The list is the "20 Points on Excellent Customer Library Service" posted by Blog About Libraries. However, I usually don't jump on bandwagons, and I usually tend to have a corollary or two in mind when one of these nice lists come along. So here are my caveats/disagreements:

Number 16: Treat patron complaints as opportunities to get better. Don't take it personally, either.

Actually, I don't really have a problem with that other than to say it sounds easy in the ideal world, not that easy when some patron decides to get abusive verbally or otherwise. In that case, it certainly becomes personal because I don't tolerate that behavior from anyone, and I will be happy to tell the person as much. I may remain calm, but don't expect a smile out of me if you decide to throw an F-bomb (ok, if you choose to tell me how I can go fuck myself) in my direction. At that point, the complaint or issue is not an "opportunity to get better." At that point, it becomes a "call the police and have the person escorted out." Reason I mention it is because all these trendy lists tend to forget that sometimes patrons are not right.

Number 17: Don't hide behind policies and procedures. Empower staff to make exceptions.

This is one of my personal peeves, the people who are always willing to make exceptions. While I am all for flexibility, rules and procedures are there for a reason. They may be for your protection (legal or otherwise). They may be in place in order to be able to treat everyone fairly, equally, and consistently. They are not there for you to bend them every time your gut gets soft, and you get a moment of "what harm can it do?" Let me tell you what harm it could do. Very often an exception means the patron will expect the same the next time and time after that. Does that mean you know break the rule every time? And, if your coworker is the one to deal with the returning patron, by you making an exception, you just put your coworker in a possible aggressive situation when the coworker actually enforces the rule you should have enforced. I know because a couple of my coworkers are notorious for making exceptions only to leave the mess for other librarians to clean up. And yes, some of these people with a now new sense of entitlement can get quite mean. So, next time you decide to feel "empowered to make exceptions," think ahead to who else may be affected besides the patron and you. I am not saying don't make exceptions. Sure, go ahead and forgive that small fine or extend a loan period (do these and others within reason), but otherwise, if there is a rule or procedure in place, follow it. And no one is saying rules and procedures should not be revised or revisited. Revision is part of the learning process as well as part of improving your customer service. But if a rule is in place, and especially if you were there when it was agreed upon, you are expected to follow it like anyone else. Maybe a corollary should be, "if you can't follow rules, maybe you should be in a different line of work" (this is a play on number 10, which is very true: don't enter a service profession if you do not like helping people). I like service, or I would not have followed the career path I have. But if there is anything I have learned as a teacher, librarian and a few other service jobs is the necessity of treating everyone fairly, equally, and consistently, plus with common sense. Maybe that rule needs to be reworded to "empower the staff to use common sense."

Now, someone will say, "oh, but you are just worried about covering your behind." You bet I am. Another thing I learned in my years as a educator. Always cover your ass. In the litigious land we live in, not doing it is just foolish. Making some exceptions just opens you to all sorts of vulnerabilities that are better avoided. Why would you do that to yourself, or to your colleagues? So, very nice rules, very true, but take them with a grain of salt, as one should probably take a lot of things in life. And just use some common sense.

Update note (7/12/2006): The Blog About Libraries has a follow-up replying to feedback about Rule 17 above. I am not terribly convinced since the author seems a bit dismissive about the slippery slope argument. How do I know if some people will buckle and break/bend a rule? Simple, there is always the one or two who will buckle anyways. My problem with those folks is not their good intentions; it's that they make it hard on the rest of the staff when they have to enforce the rule, and more often than not, it is a patron problem rather than a customer service problem. He cites Shep Hyken on flexibility, which seems a bit more reasonable. Like Hyken, I believe the customer is not always right (they may think they are right, but that is a different story). The Hyken idea is to make the customer happy, within reason, and I think a lot of this boils down to good judgment and reason, along with some consideration for the rest of the staff when you decide to bend a rule because "it does not harm anyone else" (yes, I have actually heard that line used). The blogger's final line is important, and it seems to go back to what I was thinking: "You can't just tell staff to go ahead and make exceptions on their own if everyone is not on the same page." As I said, common sense.

My Kind of Coffee

I have been drinking coffee since I can remember. Heck, I even have a story about the time I was on a plane as a kid and asked for coffee. The nice blond stewardess ("azafata" is Spanish, which sounds worse than the English term, trust me) with the light blue eyes, and yes, this was before the PC folk switched to flight attendants, told me it would stunt my growth; I got the coffee anyhow. I think I wasn't even 12 yet, but it is still one of those little amusing memories. This was also in the day when airlines actually had a sense of good service. At any rate, I figured I could not pass this up. . .besides, it is Friday, so odds are good readers know it's quiz time for the Itinerant Librarian. So, if you appreciate coffee, this may be for you as well.

You are a Black Coffee

At your best, you are: low maintenance, friendly, and adaptable

At your worst, you are: cheap and angsty

You drink coffee when: you can get your hands on it

Your caffeine addiction level: high
What Kind of Coffee Are You?

And speaking of coffee, readers can also find a very interesting essay about the history of coffee from Klephblog (a hat tip to Global Voices Online for pointing the essay out). In addition, Tom Standage's book A History of the World in Six Glasses has a great section on coffee and its impact on the world. I read the book and made a brief note on it here.

Booknote: I Hear America Reading

Title: I Hear America Reading: Why We Read, What We Read.
Compiler: Jim Burke
Publication Information: Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1999.
116 pages, including appendices.
ISBN: 0-325-00134-0
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: literacy, reading, correspondence

In the book's introduction, Mr. Burke writes that he wrote his now famous letter to the San Francisco Chronicle in response to his sophomores who often complained about reading as a chore or as something to hate. Mr. Burke invited readers of his letter to reply and send the replies to his school for his students, and the result is the book I just read. Now, and this is a small rant on my part, I am sure Mr. Burke is a fine teacher. However, I know that students will often express their displeasure at the reading done in school not because they may be less than literate or hooked on video games. The real reason more often than not is that schools ruin the reading experience for a lot of young people. I know that if reading had not been nurtured at home, I probably would have hated reading on the basis of how it was done in school. For the most part, reading in school was a dissection exercise when it came to classics and literature. When I went on to be a high school English teacher, I heard similar things from my students. In some of those classes, we had to literally plow through Dickens or other canonical authors. In a way, what Mr. Burke's student says harshly about Twain's Huck Finn is not different from what some of my students said about Great Expectations. Unlike Mr. Burke, who feels challenged to explain "why students should want to read what the school district and state require" (2), I am more challenged by how to bring down the canonical lists. I may well be the wrong guy to ask about "classic" books since I have stayed away from a lot of them after my teachers inflicted them on me. Yes, it was literally infliction. I read Huck Finn in 6th grade, along with Tom Sawyer, and I will say the memories are less than pleasant. The thing is I have read some other Twain writings, such as his Connecticut Yankee, and I enjoyed those. But Huck Finn is not something I will likely revisit any time soon. I can brag I read it, and that's that. I am not saying that "classics" are not relevant. I would like to read some of Dickens's other novels, since I get the impression Great Expectations is not his best work (which makes me wonder why inflict it on students), but for now the experience has soured me for a while. In fact, there are some "classics" I do enjoy. But these works may not be as relevant to young people at a particular time. I probably would have appreciated Huck Finn a bit better if I had read it a bit later, but that was the curriculum, and I was stuck with it. There's more to literature than the usual lists, and I am thankful that some districts have gone for more diverse readings. Maybe when it comes to "classics," it is more how they are read, so as to minimize the "I hate reading" reaction. In my teaching days, my hands were tied as well. Given a choice, there were probably a few other better works I would have wanted to read with students who were not college bound (I taught both college and "non-college" tracks) than something like Great Expectations. I guess my point in all this, besides exposing a bit of my bias, is that when someone goes on to decry yet again the lowering of youth literacy, I will take it with a grain of salt. Just because they refuse to read Twain or Dickens or anyone else on the canon it does not follow their literacy is lowered. Maybe they have less of the common reference points we like to think about culturally, but it does not make them less literate. Find something interesting and engaging, and young people will read it.

At any rate, Mr. Burke's book is definitely worth reading. He has made a good selection of the letters he received that go from amusing to moving. In between the letters, Mr. Burke inserts quotes from various literary sources. I am sure that readers will find something in this book to help affirm their love of reading. It may even spark a desire to read for those who may not see themselves as readers. As an additional feature, the book provides a set of reading lists and a list of literacy resources.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Online social networks and college

"We know already," he said. --Frank Pleta, 17 (quoted in Washington Times article)

My reply to that may be, "if you know already, why do you still post your pictures of yourself in some drunken bacchanalia for all to see?" or my personal favorite, "why do people keep putting up videos of their latest brawl on their MySpace or other service?" However, that may be a topic for another post. Now, I am sure Mr. Pleta is a bit more savvy. At least, I hope he is, but I am sure many teens attending college who use services like Facebook or MySpace would have a similar answer if they get a lecture or discussion of the hazards of online social networking. The reason I am mentioning this is that I came across an article on colleges that now integrate discussions of online social networks into their orientations for incoming students. The article was written on July 3, 2006 and is entitled "College Orientations Teach Do's and Don'ts of Web Sites" from The Washington Times. Apparently, a few more colleges are doing this in order to address the concerns of parents as well as to allay fears, mostly hysterical fears fueled by the media it seems. I found it interesting that some of the schools mentioned will give discussions to both students and parents and others only to the students.

Folks, there is one simple rule: don't put anything on one of those profiles that you would not want your family, your potential (or present) employer, and law enforcement to see. Even with the safeguards some of the services offer, these are still public pages for the most part, and eventually tools like Google do pick them up. For more advice for students, this mostly for Facebook users but applicable to those using MySpace as well, readers can see Mr. Fred Stutzman's post "Common-Sense Facebook Advice for Students." By the way, Mr. Stutzman has done a good share of thinking on the the topic of online social software, and readers may be interested in looking at his blog for other items. Of particular interest may be his "Summarizing Facebook Research" post which brings together a good list of items on the topic. His post on Facebook's success factors is also interesting to those who want to understand how these type of services thrive. Additionally, while I am putting up some links of interest, Cornell University has a "Thoughts on Facebook" page, a memo to their campus users written by the campus's Director of Information Technology Policy, Ms. Tracy Mitrano. It is worth a look as well.

A hat tip on the article to The Kept-Up Librarian.

Another hat tip to The Wired Campus for the Cornell memo.

Monday, July 03, 2006

How much do some Latin American leaders make?

Here is an interesting little list of salaries for various Latin American presidents (document is a PDF, and the list is at the end of the publication). I found this on Eland Vera's Comunicación y Desarrollo Perú blog (Spanish language). He does reprint the list if readers prefer looking over that rather than the PDF. The rate is their monthly salary. Readers may want to compare that with what the President of the United States makes.

A hat tip to Global Voices Online.