Friday, September 29, 2006

No matter the quiz, I am mostly a socialist it seems

I am not really surprised by this result. I do happen to believe there is a lot of injustice in the world and that people could be doing something about it if they really wanted to. A lot of the wrong people do have the power, but I am not about to take the money away from the wealthy folks, though I do think they could pitch in a bit more to help their fellow person. I just don't think they should be forced to do so, but it should come from them. The fact it does not makes me wonder about their morals and/or ethics, but that could be another post. At any rate, it was amusing, so go see where you fall in. Anyways, TGIF.

You Are 20% Capitalist, 80% Socialist

You see a lot of injustice in the world, and you'd like to see it fixed.
As far as you're concerned, all the wrong people have the power.
You're strongly in favor of the redistribution of wealth - and more protection for the average person.

A hat tip to Library Tavern.

Friday, September 22, 2006

So, I am an altruist

Welcome back readers (thanks you two). It's Friday, so by now, you get the idea that odds are good it's quiz posting day.

Either this quiz really caught my personality, or it caught me on a good day. Had it been one of those days when I feel like Mother Nature is running late on trash day, I think the results would have been a little different. But overall, it probably suits a teacher like me. While I rarely do speak negatively about anyone (the whole "if you have nothing nice to say. . . "), I will certainly rip someone a new one if they deserve it. As I said, it may have caught me on a good day.

A hat tip to Liz at Library Tavern. Warning: unlike most quiz sites, this one will make you register to get the result. If you are averse to that, skip it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Five years later, we have not forgotten

Upon the anniversary of September 11, Keith Olbermann at MSNBC says what needs to be said very well here:

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.
The President — and those around him — did that.
They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused; as appeasers; as those who, in the Vice President’s words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."
They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken… a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated Al-Qaeda as much as we did.
The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had ’something to do’ with 9/11, is "lying by implication."
The impolite phrase, is "impeachable offense."

Keep on questioning and dissenting.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Life as MPAA Rating

Who Knew?

It's Friday, so it's time once again to have some fun and post another one of those silly quizzes I do for amusement. While we do try to keep the blog somewhat friendly, pleasing these folks and their busybody brethren is the last thing on my mind. In fact, if I offend them at any time, I will consider it a good day. In fact, maybe I should put that rating up on the blog's template to warn others. On a bit serious note, this quiz's questions are fairly easy, so you can pretty much get the rating you think you ought to have.

My life is rated NC-17!

Your life is rated NC-17!

What is your life rated? (MPAA Scale)

Take Other Caffeine Nebula Quizzes

Just because you work it does not mean you can't have fun

David, at Signal vs. Noise, posts on "The False Fight Between Fun and Business." The basic idea is tha fun and serious business do not have to be mutually exclusive. The comments to the post are worth looking over if for no other reason than to watch some people get bent over taking the post too literally. The comments basically, with rare exceptions, just go to extremes, showing a lot of people who apparently wouldn't know fun if it fell on their heads. And what's up with seeing a Hawaiian shirt as bad? I wear mine every so often to work. You've got to have your fun, not to mention add a bit of brightness now and then.

There is an underlying lesson, and it is one of balance. You better be serious about your work, but please have your fun as well. One commenter seemed to define fun in terms of work as not dreading to go to work. I think I would raise the bar on that. The overall idea of the post is to have fun with work, that fun goes along with work. If your work is creative, stimulating, interesting, challenging, then fun goes along with it. If it is not, it is either time to get your jollies outside of work (hey, I understand some people may not afford to just up and leave a job, so make up for it outside of work) or find another job.

There is a lesson for libraries. No, the lesson is not to make the library into some techno playground because you think it will get the patrons in. Librarianship is a fun profession when done well. If librarians are actively engaged, the work can be fun. If librarians are just so much deadwood, they should do the rest of us a favor and get out. As David writes, "go out of your way to introduce and nourish fun and its friends passion and motivation." This can only make us better librarians, and your patrons will certainly notice. Sure, have your casual wear day or your karaoke night (this rarely), but mainly put some fun into the overall work experience.

A hat tip to Anecdote, and I am listening to Prince's "Raspberry Beret" on Accuradio.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

How about you pay more attention while you drive?

To the mofo commuter bus driver in Number 4411 at 6:00a, how about you actually pay a little more attention to the road instead of giving me grief because I have the reading light on? Apparently, your vision is worse than mine if the itty bitty bus light for passengers on your right side bothers you so much that you actually feel the need to deprive me of my reading during the commute. All fine and dandy, petty as it is, not to mention the more bright light behind you. I could have handled that, strange as it seems. However, I don't quite know where you learned to drive, but usually they teach in driving schools that you fiddle with the seat before you put the vehicle in motion. At least that is how I learned it when learning to drive a car, and I don't think driving a commercial vehicle would have an exception to that rule. What I am trying to say is you may want to actually adjust the seat to your comfort before you put the bus in motion, let alone wiggle all over the seat at 60+ mph. That way you won't be weaving the bus from side to side in the High Occupancy Lane (HOV) making me and some of the other fellow passengers wonder if you are going to hit the guardrails. At least you got me downtown in one piece. And while we are at it, if you are not fully awake, which I wondered about given your half closed eyes and overall twitchiness, they make this wonderful warm beverage called coffee. I hear tea works well for people as well. You may want to try some before you get on the driver's seat, or in lieu of that, maybe make sure you get enough sleep the night before. Thus, you might, oh, I don't know, drive a little less cranky and a little more safer?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crikey! and farewell Steve

During the Labor Day weekend, Steve Irwin, known to many as the Crocodile Hunter, passed away after being stung by a sting ray. We spent a good number of hours in our home watching his travels and adventures and learning a little about nature and our world. Thanks Steve, and may you rest in peace. You will be missed. Our condolences to his family.

Update note (9/06/2006): Garr Reynolds at Presentation Zen is one of the many bloggers who have paid tribute to Steve Irwin. His post caught my attention because it features a photo of the Crocodile Hunter with something he said about education. The photo then:

The quotation, in case the picture is a bit small, is probably the coolest thing I have heard about teaching in a long time. No wonder the guy was such a good teacher, and no wonder I enjoy his shows so much. Anyhow:

"I believe that is all about being excited about something. Seeing passion and enthusiasm helps push an educational message." --Steve Irwin (1962-2006).

Readers can find the source of the photo over at Presentation Zen. After a day of teaching, this made my day a bit brighter. Thanks Steve for the inspiration.

Another update note (9/7/06): Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index has a feature of editorial cartoons honoring Steve Irwin. Well worth the look. Here was my favorite image, since somehow, it just seems so right:

The image is by Mark Streeter, for the Savannah Morning News.

Friday, September 01, 2006

So in this case, an A- may be a good thing

It's Friday, so readers know odds are good that there is a silly quiz on the horizon for this blog. In terms of this quiz, I don't know about many readers, but I often wondered about the vagueness of plusses and minuses when it comes to grading. I may be a bit old fashioned or reactionary, but I could care less if someone got an A or an A- or a D- (which probably means they got an F, and the teacher took pity). At any rate, when it comes to personality, an A- seems pretty good, definitely better than the A type personality. While I am very driven at work, when it's free time, I take it seriously. I can never understand those poor souls who feel a need to carry Blackberries and other devices to stay plugged in even when on vacation. I am sorry, if I get to the Grand Canyon or other great place, I just want my trusty journal and my senses to enjoy the place, admire the beauty, and make memories. So, here was my result. Feel free to go find yourself.

You Have A Type A- Personality

You are one of the most balanced people around
Motivated and focused, you are good at getting what you want
You rule at success, but success doesn't rule you.

When it's playtime, you really know how to kick back
Whether it's hanging out with friends or doing something you love!
You live life to the fullest - encorporating the best of both worlds

A hat tip to Liz at the Library Tavern.

By the way, this is the start of the Labor Day Weekend. If you are travelling, may you have safe travel. If you celebrate, have fun, but please be responsible as well if you indulge in spirits.

So, ads in textbooks would not work?

The New York Times for August 27, 2006 had an article entitled "Words of Wisdom vs. Words from Our Sponsor." The article's author is Randall Stross. As usual, the link will likely go behind the archival wall after a few days, thus the information so you can find it via your local library.

The author argues that the recent scheme by Freeload Press to provide moderately priced textbooks (as in free) using advertisements inside the books would not work. The author mostly argues this on the basis that faculty would simply not accept an inferior book nor would they allow the intrusion of advertisements into the sanctum of the books that they choose for their students. I say it is just a matter of time. Mr. Stross writes,

"Higher education has not been so easy to crack. For the most part, instructors are free to choose whichever textbook they think best suits the needs of their classes, an arrangement that periodically upsets advisory commissions that would like to transplant the one-size-fits-all approach of secondary education to colleges.

Universities will accept gifts from prominent business executives — Stanford students, for example, stand a good chance of guessing who provided the lead gift for the Gates Computer Science Building — and corporate benefactors can expect credit on a plaque for donations of money and equipment. But the core of the university, its intellectual autonomy, is protected by a faculty unbeholden to outside interests.

Textbooks used in the classroom are, like the instructors themselves, extensions of a university’s autonomy and no more likely to be considered an appropriate place for corporate ads than the classroom lectern (or the instructor’s forehead)."

The opening of the paragraph refers to the entrance of Channel One into public schools. I would like to think this over a little while I have some time to freely speculate. For one, Mr. Stross points out that universities receive corporate gifts all the time. You see them in the names of buildings, plaques, memorial halls, etc. I don't think that having the naming rights to a classroom podium is that far off the mark. If we can slap a corporate name on a stadium, I don't really see it as farfetched to put some corporate logo on Professor Smith's podium for his English classes. Even though professors love to proclaim that they are free from corporate interests, I think in many cases we simply have to look at who is funding their research. This would be specially applicable in the sciences where pharmaceutical companies would be one of the many benefactors for researchers on campuses. So, who is not to say that "Professor Jones's CHEM 120 is brought to you by Pfizer"? Just so readers know, I picked the first company that came to mind; if I was typing this at some other time, it could have been something else.Another way to look at this: the many endowed chairs on various universities. When you have the "Mikhail Kalashnikov Professor of Military Science," you know his/her salary and position are paid by whatever foundation or name gives the name to his chair. Yes, I just made that chair up, but for a real example, here is a real one. How farfetched would it be to go from some nice foundation or philanthropist to some corporate endowed chair? I see the day when we have things like The Microsoft Endowed Chair of Computer Science, The Merck Professor of Pharmacy, and the Viagra Scholar for Sexuality Studies. Hey, if Mobil and Exxon can sponsor the arts, why should the other companies not get on the action, so to speak? While we are it, we could treat professors like NASCAR drivers making them wear patches on their blazers or labcoats, or just like golfers who wear those polo shirts with discreet patches and embroidery. Maybe not now, but it may be a matter of time. Hey, if endorsements work for Tiger Woods and Jeff Gordon, then they can certainly work for college faculty, specially the celebrity professors at the high echelon campuses. As for adjuncts, we can probably come up with some blanket deal, say, all the English adjuncts are sponsored by Amazon. As for librarians, I am thinking with all the coffee we drink, that Maxwell House or Folgers may want to place some ads. We use computers, so Microsoft go further (they already have various grants for libraries), but what about Dell, Apple, so on? maybe Baker and Taylor or any other book vendor wants to get in on this too for librarians?

The point is that from there, the point of having endowed chairs and memorial buildings, to textbooks with advertisements is not that far off. We already use a lot of information sources with ads. We read news online that are supported by ads. Google Books is ad-supported as well. So is Salon magazine, which I think is one of the nicer business ideas when compared to the obnoxious registration practices of other online magazines and newspapers. You can subscribe or watch the ad and get the content. If you use some free blogging platform, or any of various online services, they are ad-supported too. The notion that college textbooks are somehow sacred and immune from ads does not seem to hold that much water. Sure, the faculties everywhere may hold the line now, but I honestly wonder if it is only a matter of time before they gradually begin to decide to write books and help make them available with advertisements. It may not happen in my lifetime, but I don't see any reason why it could not happen. Stross also writes,

"Textbooks used in the classroom are, like the instructors themselves, extensions of a university’s autonomy and no more likely to be considered an appropriate place for corporate ads than the classroom lectern (or the instructor’s forehead)."

Even though the article notes that Mr. Stross is a professor at San Jose State U., I have to question the bit about autonomy. How much autonomy do you really have when you name stadiums, buildings, and so on after various corporate and philanthropic benefactors? I am not saying campuses should not take money from these and other charitable sources. I also question the autonomy concept. It may work for the tenured faculty with a lot of ranking, but for the many adjuncts and nontenure track instructors who do most of the work, there is not that much autonomy anyways. I just wonder over time how that would be different from other forms of advertisement, and if not, then how long before we start putting ads on textbooks so they can be made affordable to students. I may sound cynical, but I think about this because I get a large number of students every semester in my campus who come to the library seeking out their textbooks. They pretty much cannot afford to buy the overpriced books that change editions every year because heaven forbid they buy a used book and save a dollar or two. I know; I was graduate student not that long ago. I still get flashbacks and cold sweats in the middle of the nigth from when I had to buy the latest (at the time) AACR2 manual. Now, there is an interesting thought. I wonder what Gorman and the other cataloguing legends would say if we suggested putting some ads, say for Library Journal or a few library vendors, on the AACR2? I can see fits of apoplexy now from such a suggestion. But, I ask, is such an idea really that farfetched?

I should throw in the caveat that I am no fan of advertisement. I happen to think that at times ads are indeed too invasive and intrusive. Having said that, I know that ads make things like my ability to read news on the Internet a bit easier. By the way, no one at this point is suggesting something like "The KFC Manual of Poultry Handling and Food Safety." The ad scheme for the textbooks as proposed by Freeload Press would be unintrusive ads throughout the textbook, like at text breaks and between chapters. At this point, the company reassures you that they will not accept any interference from corporate sponsors (see their FAQ on the website). Very reassuring now, but time will tell.

The main reason the scheme does not seem to be working now is the old problem that a lot of e-books face: people just want to read a book rather than sit at a computer screen. It's the eyestrain issue. Until the technology comes around that makes reading an e-book as easy to read a print book without significant eyestrain, any e-book service is not going to be more than just something to consult. In that case, it does not matter if you read them for free if students actually prefer to buy a hard copy. But that is another question.

A hat tip to The Kept-Up Academic Librarian.