Obscurity Obsolescence

Along the same lines as Lacey’s Travel and Usability post, libraries are not really designed to be very usable. Well… unless you think like a librarian. Who gets a MLIS degree in order to use a library. Okay… I would… bad example.

The below article’s Digital Natives are kids who have played video games all their lives. Its reporting on a talk given at an ALA conference that librarians should redesign libraries to be friendlier to these Digital Natives (aka more like video games). The strawman argument:

When ‘Digital Natives’ Go to the Library :: Inside Higher Ed:

“The librarian as information priest is as dead as Elvis,” Needham said. The whole “gestalt” of the academic library has been set up like a church, he said, with various parts of a reading room acting like “the stations of the cross,” all leading up to the “altar of the reference desk,” where “you make supplication and if you are found worthy, you will be helped.”

This similie is warped in my experience. When I worked the reference desk, I didn’t so much bestow books upon supplicants and demonstrate how to use the tools. In essence, it was like explaining to a friend who is stuck how to play the game. I had heard of libraries in which non-library employees are not allowed access to the stacks, but I thought them rare.

Maybe instead of librarians playing more video games, students who play video games should actually use those skills when they go to the library? They can master a university library by spending a couple hours a week for a month browsing, identifying patterns, and enjoying the fruits of their efforts: interesting books. For me, “research” meant skimming all books and articles on a topic and tangents to the topic. I could spend a year absorbing knowledge in a good library. Working in the library explosed me to such an enormous wealth of knowledge free for the asking.

Instead, students typically go into a library to find a list of books or articles. They want to spend the minimum amount of effort to accomplish the goal. This certainly is not how they approach video games.

B for a Be

Are online students really students? We like to think seeing is believing, but who meets a student who takes a completely online class? Apparently, seeing is also interpolating…. at Stanford, anyway. Is this a single case? How easy is it for someone to take an academic year’s worth of classes without anyone catching on to the scam?

An 18-year-old Fullerton woman spent the past eight months posing as a freshman biology major at Stanford, buying textbooks, sneaking into meals and even moving into a dorm with an unsuspecting roommate.

… Her story started unraveling this month, and now the university — and her stunned circle of friends and dormmates — are looking back on how a woman described as a sweet student could have pulled off such a ruse.

At my alma mater, you could audit a class. Talking to the right professor, you could get put on his or her role informally should there be room. Later, working in IT on an online class system, how students who didn’t exist in the student information system could take the online class was a frequently reoccuring question from faculty members.

Pick One

The difference a decade makes! I actually knew a couple other kids in school who were mixed growing up. Jimmy was part Spanish and part Black. I’m not sure what Eddie was. Some people still wanted me to pick one.

J2, my aunt, was very Afro-Centric. She decided that my white mother could not raise me to be Black. Therefore, she would help out my mom. She gave me books, talked to me about stuff, etc. One day we had the conversation. I told her I wasn’t Black. A picture of her face would be awesome! Eventually, I did convince her that I am mixed, not Black or White but something else. Something I would have to create for myself.

Lives – David Matthews – New York Times

In the hallway, on the way to class, black and white kids alike herded around me. Then the question came: “What are you?”

I was stumped. No one had ever asked what I was before. It came buzzing at me again, like a hornet shaken from its hive. The kids surrounded me, pressing me into a wall of lockers. What are you? Hey, he won’t answer us. Look at me. What are you? He’s black. He looks white! No way, he’s too dark. Maybe he’s Chinese!

They were rigidly partisan. The only thing that unified them was their inquisitiveness. And I had a hunch, based on their avidity, that the question had a wrong answer. There was black or white. Pick one. Nowhere in their ringing questions was the elastic clause, mixed. The choice was both necessary and impossible: identify myself or have it done for me. I froze, and said nothing — for the time being.

QotD: Books From My Childhood

What books did you love as a child? 
Submitted by hearts

The Encyclopedia Brown series was perhaps my favorite to read. Several books in the Wikipedia link published before 1985 sound very, very familiar. I had at least a dozen of them, so I guess I had the majority of the 17 published at the time.

Additionally, I loved books on science: astronomy, NASA, aeronautics, and strange science facts mostly. Most of my extended family and friends' parents were involved in the Air Force. So one of my prized books and subject to constant review was a book on military planes and helicopters which I mostly memorized. While other kids wanted to be doctors, firemen, or police men, I wanted to be an engineer and astronaut for NASA.

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Literacy Environments

“Become illiterate, save a tree” – Darryl Henriques, 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Pave the Earth

Hmmmmmmm, as much as I love technology, I tend to shy awy from electronic books. Part of it, I think, has to do with how I use computers. In what I do, I multitask quite a bit, so I am frequently hopping from one thing to another, so I lose my place more frequently than is useful. Not that I don’t somewhat do this while reading a paper book. Instead its not as frequent.

Once upon a time I did have a PDA, however, I stopped using it before eBooks became prevalent. In fact, I thought about picking the PDA back up just to read eBooks.

Current Reading List

  1. The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality
  2. The World Is Flat [Updated and Expanded]: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century
  3. Stone of Tears (Sword of Truth, Book 2)
  4. Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Yup, still on reading five books.

QotD: I’m reading (or about to read)…

What books are on your nightstand?

The ones I am reading now:

Hidden Words

Ambient Findability
Peter Morville

The ones upcoming:

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The Smalltalk Question (Aaron Swartz’s Raw Thought):

One of the minor puzzles of American life is what question to ask people at parties and suchly to get to know them.

“How ya doin’?” is of course mere formality, only the most troubled would answer honestly for anything but the positive.

“What do you do?” is somewhat offensive. First, it really means “what occupation do you hold?” and thus implies you do little outside your occupation. Second, it implies that one’s occupation is the most salient fact about them. Third, it rarely leads to further useful inquiry. For only a handful of occupations, you will be able to say something somewhat relevant, but even this will no doubt be slightly annoying or offensive. (“Oh yeah, I always thought about studying history.”)


I propose instead that one ask “What have you been thinking about lately?” First, the question is extremely open-ended. The answer could be a book, a movie, a relationship, a class, a job, a hobby, etc. Even better, it will be whichever of these is most interesting at the moment. Second, it sends the message that thinking, and thinking about thinking, is a fundamental human activity, and thus encourages it. Third, it’s easiest to answer, since by its nature its asking about what’s already on the person’s mind. Fourth, it’s likely to lead to productive dialog, as you can discuss the topic together and hopefully make progress. Fifth, the answer is quite likely to be novel. Unlike books and occupations, people’s thoughts seem to be endlessly varied. Sixth, it helps capture a person’s essence. A job can be forced by circumstance and parentage, but our thoughts are all our own. I can think of little better way to quickly gauge what a person is really like.

I kind of like this. Its doesn’t seem to roll off like the others, but that could be due to never having used it. The lack of effectiveness with the others means I will gladly use any seemingly good alternative. I am going to use it.


This series is my LOTR (the books I have read over and over). From 7th grade through 11th grade I read them at least once a year, usually twice. I replaced my first copy with another as the covers were nearly destroyed.

So, now I know how the fanatics feel (not true, . I so would love to see this be a great set of movies. At the same time, I know fanatics generally dislike the movie adaptations.

Dragons’ Weis Likes Movie | SCI FI Wire:

Author Margaret Weis told SCI FI Wire that the upcoming film version of her book Dragons of Autumn Twilight necessarily cuts a lot of the book’s plot to make it fit into 90 minutes, but, she added: “I read the script, and I like it. It’s very faithful to the book.” Dragons of Autumn Twilight, the first in the Dragonlance series of books, is being adapted into an animated film written by George Strayton and directed by Will Meugniot.

Weis added in an interview that she and her co-author, Tracy Hickman, always hoped that the series would be made into movies. “While we working on the book 20 years ago, Tracy and I used to joke, ‘This scene would look great in the movie!'” Weis said. “And now it will.” How does she feel about the upcoming production? “Very pleased. Very excited. And a little nervous.”

The series of books is based on the universe of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing games. Dragons of Autumn Twilight begins with a group of adventurers who seek the truth about missing gods, then become involved in a quest to learn more about a staff with the power to heal. The series grew to more than 100 titles. Weis co-wrote 10 novels and wrote several by herself. She has also edited stories for Dragonlance anthologies.

The Dragonlance “world is fantastical, romantic, with lots of political intrigue and characters people can relate to,” Weis said. “The heroes are not kings or princes. They are ordinary people—middle-class working types—who get caught up in extraordinary situations. And, of course, there are dragons.” —Carol Pinchefsky

UPDATE 2010-JAN-16: I watched this movie a while back. While a fan of the books at age 14, the movie made me nauseas to watch. The voice acting sucked. Animation 1980s Saturday morning cartoon quality doesn’t belong in a movie made for the late 2000s.