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I have to admit I haven't been all that well-informed about the Patriot Act. Since I haven't been working as a librarian for the last 3+ years, I haven't paid as much attention to issues that might bear upon libraries as perhaps I ought to have. The Patriot Act is one of those issues I sort of glossed over.
You should know that I am one of those "be skeptical of government" conservatives, the kind who have some definite libertarian leanings, which means that by default I am inclined to dislike things like the Patriot Act. After all, I think that subversives like Gary Kunsman and Joel Miller have a real point when they claim that the state exceeds its authority and impairs liberty in the "war on drugs". Doubtless I make some fellow conservatives angry when I say that marijuana should be legalized (n.b.: my pot-smoking days are well behind me). I favor the availabilty of strong encryption to normal U.S. citizens (what was the previous administration's ban on cryptography all about, anyway?). So up till now I've I've been grumbling about the state further eroding liberties when the Patriot Act is mentioned.
This evening I finally read the anathematized Section 215 of the Patriot Act to see for myself how bad it is. I confess I'm rather disappointed. Section 215 replaces 3 sections of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 with two new sections. As far as I can make out, this is what it says:
As I read this, it looks to me as if requests under Section 215 must be made by very high-ranking FBI officials (i.e. high-profile, highly-scrutinized, publicly accountable people). The request must be made to a very narrowly defined set of high-ranking judges. The Justice Department must give an accounting of its requests to intelligence and judiciary committees (on both of which sit *gasp* Democrats) of the House and Senate. What's more, Section 224 seems to say that Section 215 (as a non-excluded section of Title II of the act) sunsets on December 31, 2005.
Somebody help me here. Did I misunderstand what I read? Did I read the wrong section? Did not the FBI have power before to subpoena library records? What's all this about accountability to Congress? Please note that these questions aren't merely rhetorical. I'm not trying to set up a straw man. I'm not saying I like this section. However, I feel like I had a right to expect something much more nefarious than this based on the build-up from the civil liberties & library communities. I feel cheated. Surely I'm missing something.
I always have comments enabled in my journal. Somebody enlighten me, please. I want to dislike this act.
Well, I must brag about the report I created. There is a cover sheet with a title and Table of Contents. Then, the one page typed Word document. In the document, I quote state standards for replacing the collection, prices for books, what I currently receive, and what I need (about $3,000 more than what I get now). Next follows a printed PowerPoint slide with three pie charts showing visually what I talked about in the Word document. Finally. three pages from Titlewise (Follett) showing the age of my collection (currently 43% at 20 years or older).
It is a work of art.
Will it work? Who knows. In the meantime, I am submitting an application for a public library reference position. Because ...
I want to work with competent people and with working equipment! I know the budget will be bad (hey, where is it good??). But, I can't bang my head against three walls anymore.
Ouch, my head hurts.
So, I'm surfing LISNews, just making sure I'm up on all the comments, and I find one in the Cataloging Pornography thread. Someone had posted a query as to whether putting a work into the collection creates some kind of validation. I had written the following reply, but I couldn't post it because I had previously moderated that thread.
The only validation for any idea is reality. The scientific community itself has sought to invoke censorship on two occasions, at least, under the misapprehension that holding public forums on the contentious issues -- one of which was Velikovsky's [crackpot] hypothesis of solar system evolution and the other of which was an examination of unidentified flying objects as interplanetary or interstellar spaceships -- would somehow validate those ideas and give them credence in the mainstream. The purpose of the forums, of course, was to examine the evidence to determine whether or not such ideas should be be given credence. Opposition was based on the ideas being too nonsensical. Once the evidence was examined, and thorougly debunked, the ideas were rejected.
Take any idea, examine it critically, see how it holds up in the face of the evidence. Validate it or invalidate it accordingly.
And so it goes.
Well, not much was done in the computer department yesterday, being that the young adult librarian was ill so our half staffed day was chopped to even less than half staffed.
Most people were good. I did a little shushing, woke a lady up (twice) and had a very nice gentleman say we had a beautiful library and he'd be coming back. The good news: he said it right in front of my boss.
Thankless stuff happened too, but we won't dwell on that. Except for one thing, because it struck me as hysterically funny. We shut down the internet terminals at 5:30 because we close at six on Fridays. At 5:29, the man using a box got up and left. So I shut it down. At 5:29:10 a regular (not particularly a problem, but not a favorite of anyone) patron came in, sat at the computer, and proceeded to mumble under breath when I told her it was off, "But it's not 5:30 yet." Sure, enjoy your fifty second stint on the internet, sweetie.
The cutest little girl asked if I liked being a liberrian.
I told her yes.
Finally! Freedom from being around all those lovely nymphomaniac and alcoholic undergraduate students that I see day after day and have to hear the exploits of...
1) According to Human Events and the Dallas Morning News (subscription required), several Hollywood studio heads have decided to "blacklist" Mel Gibson. Refusing to work with him for producing "Passion."
I hope this isn't true, even though I don't think people should be *forced* to work with anyone they don't want to. Many Hollywood executives continually invoke freedom of expression to defend their works. I'd hate to see them deny that same freedom to Mel. They don't have to bankroll his Bibical blockbuster, but they shouldn't avoid casting him in Lethal Weapon #whatever if he's the best guy for the job.
Aside from the loss of integrity resulting from "blacklist attempts", any efforts to keep Mel Gibson from working can only result in the portrayal of him as a martyr for the Faith.
2) Since I stand with Gandhi in believing that opponents should be commended when they pursue commendable policies, here are a few kudos for the Bush Administration:
a) Quick dispatch of troops to Haiti. At one point, I had believed that the President would fiddle while a country not even 600 miles away burnt to the ground. Instead, several thousand Marines have been dispatched and are currently patrolling Port-au-Prince. This seemingly has brought quiet to Haiti with the apparent disbanding of rebel groups. I hope this early promise continues.
b) Acceptance of 15,000 Hmong refugees. This morning NPR reported that the United States had agreed to "15,000 Hmong refugees who have been living illegally on the grounds of Wat Tham Krabok, a famous Buddhist temple in Thailand. The decision was prompted by a sense of obligation to the Hmong -- originally from Laos -- who fought alongside Americans during the Vietnam War."
From what I've read, the Hmong were somewhat the Kurds of the Vietnam War. People who fought bravely at our side, then largely abandoned when their usefulness came to an end. I'm glad to see that President Bush is addressing this injustice.
Thanks for putting up with the double journal entry.
The reactions to my call for RIGHT librarians has been quite puzzling for me. First, let me digressâ€¦
The LISNews search engine is even worse that I thought. I did a search for RIGHT and another for right, and was returned zero results. The original title of the story was Are you on the RIGHT side?, so I would think a search for one of the 6 words in the title would return that as a result. Ths is more than a little frustrating. I don't know how I'll fix it, but I'll try to figure something out. I'm in the middle of setting up the new server, so I'm a bit preoccupied for a few days, or maybe a week. On that same note, expect LISNews to be a mess for a few days next week as I move the code to the new server. I expect LISNews is going to take more time to move than all the other 30 domains combined.
So anyways, like I was saying, I got a lot of email responses to my query, more than I expected, and they were also much nastier that I expected. The comments left on the story were actually better than I had hoped, with some people for, and some against. Someone actually understood my incoherent and rambling writing as well. It was the email responses I got that puzzled me, about 12 in total. Normally when I propose a new idea, or write for responses I get 1 or 2 if I'm lucky, so 12 is just a landslide for me. At least half were from people I didn't know. They were some pro, some con, and some just wanting to know more. A few others were from folks who I would consider acquaintances (or Ecquaintances) and where not anything to write home about, but 2 really stuck out.
They were both from people who I've fully supported in different ways in the past. They're both people I'd consider well know, smart, and very active in the profession. They're both people who are unapologetically left sided as well. And they both pretty much ripped my head off for even proposing such an idea. One was not really against me exactly, but more of a rant against the right in general, but the other was aimed squarely at me. This person was insulting to me and LISNews. I've gotten some nastiness from this person in the past, so I probably shouldn't have been surprised to see it again.
So, these emails, coupled with the general tone in the comments this week, the shear volume of comments & stories, and a few other things have left me feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and rather negative towards LISNews. The current version of LISNews is just barely over 4 years old, and it's running pretty well without me now, so I think it's safe to take some time off, rethink what I'm doing with the site, and just focus on the server. It's going to be a significant amount of work to get all the LISHost members sites moved to the new server, so even if I wanted to I'd be short on time to devote to LISNews.
Perhaps I'd do better (gulp) to stick Win98 back on the old unfiltered box, find a way to really lock it down, and set it up to run our Time Access software. That would be one less burden for the circulation staff to deal with.
I'm getting ahead of myself. People seem to have a hard time with our high tech sign up sheet (a grid with computer numbers on the top, and times on the side, where you put your name in the appropriate time slot for the appropriate computer... difficult, huh?), so the more I think, the less I hold out any hope they'll ever figure out the Gatekeeper software. That means the burden falls on circ and info. To make it easier, I'd probably hook the circ registration computer to the print server, and install the staff control software there. That would make three, maybe four if I can get Win98 to work with it, computers that allow for time access. I suppose we could do our Macs the way we do our old unfiltered and word processors... Take a placard you sign up for at the circ desk and put it on the computer. I think that's the only way to make it fair.
It's like being in first grade again... It's all about being fair.
Then ten minute email could be the no-fun (I mean, Linux) box. No one likes to play with that one much. It has no Flash, so no games, no nice displays of eye candy. Great for email.
My worry is signing people up and people fighting about who's next in line. I'll have to see exactly how the one time use numbers work. We could do it by card, I suppose, but I think we'd run into the same problem. It might be better if someone at circ can physically see who's going to what computer.
One person complained about the Mac and the Linux box dumping her out yesterday. I just visited the site she was talking about in my beta version of Opera with no troubles. I did discover the Mac frozen on a porn site (pics never loaded, froze just before that point), though, so I wonder about the veracity of the site she was looking for. Unless someone snuck in after her (also very possible).
Okay, enough thinking for now. Have to get ready for work and put it all into practice.
That's my favorite question I get at reference. Even over "Do you have any books?" and "Where's the photocopier?" The fact of the matter is, there is no good time. There's always someone waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
The idea of time management software is back on the table. The other librarians didn't like the idea of shutting down the computers from 2-4 so that kids would be encouraged to do other things for that time period. Like read. Ride a bike, go pogoing (outside, preferably). Do homework... like, real homework, not the line I got the other day, "I'm doing a report on shoes. I need to go to Google images, and then to Skechers.com." Sure.
The fact of the matter is, the kids might want to use the computer for legitimate research during that time period, but there's so many people using it for other stuff (innocently or otherwise) that those kids never get a chance to. That's hardly fair either. So if I do get this software, perhaps I should set up an hour in the morning, and a half hour in the afternoon. The problem being, everyone wants to print.
Right now we have three computers that print. I am trying to rig a Mac so that it can, but it's just not happening, not till I get OS X on there and configured. The Linux box has the capability, but not with our print station. I sense musical computers in my future. Perhaps with the Linux box going email only, and two OS X boxes running with the print station? You know... that could work.
Money's tight. Mondo tight. That makes it hard. There are two P4 chips in this room of my house. That's one more than is in my library. There is a pocket pc in my kitchen that is more powerful than the 486s in the basement of the library. It's tough. We have no funding for hardware. People are telling me how it sucks they don't have this terminal or that word processor working.
My assistant director nicely took me aside and said "You only have two hands." I am glad he understands. It's true, and I know it, but it doesn't always stop the pressure. I really would like everything working for people. There are priorities, I guess. There are also alternatives. There is a cyber cafe twenty yards down the street, after all. A librarian who shall remain nameless mentioned to me that s/he wouldn't be adverse to charging a small fee for internet access. I don't particularly like the idea, and I don't think s/he really did either. But we've got to keep running somehow.
Didn't mean for this to turn into a whine fest, but it sort of did. My apologies.
Tried to install SuSE on the old unfiltered, and alas, it didn't have enough memory to run YaST. So I've ordered, out of my own pocket (so I can play with it too, on my own time), Peanut Linux. It should run fine on limited memory. It'll be something to play with. In the meantime, I'll throw OS X out as a card only terminal. I feel the need to get something out there.
What are your feelings and professional conduct regarding e-mail reference questions that could be answered in TWO SECONDS from an almanac or an encyclopedia?
Here at my library, several times a week we get e-mails with a variant of the question "When did Alaska become a state? (Ans - Jan 3, 1959 AK was admitted to the Union.)" These e-mails often come from out of state and appear to be for school projects, tho not always.
We always give them an answer, and I think that's appropriate. For an obvious school assignment, we sometime send them to a web page with the answer or note its easy availability in almanacs and encyclopedias.
However, I can't help but wonder, isn't this a wasteful FOR THE PATRON/STUDENT way to answer the question? If they're asking the question from their school, they could have the answer in six seconds from a book. Sending the question to us may mean hours or overnight (we check ref e-mail twice a day) before they get an answer.
I know sometimes teachers say "you must have an Internet Source" for your answer, but is this how we want to teach our kinds how to seek information? Ignore the solution at their elbow to ask questions of strangers thousands of miles away?
One of my social studies teachers had her students create their own countries. She asked if I would display their posters in the library. OF COURSE!!! So, I taped, stickied, and otherwise affixed posters to the one free wall I have and even stuck a few onto the circulation desk. Really makes the library look sharp. Now, if the vinyl recliners would just hurry up and get here ...
Dub a nice recording of Canadian pianist Adrienne Shannon to CD, apparently recorded in a studio sometime before June 1975. The documentation is skimpy but it does say it is Dolby Noise Reduction encoded (and it is!).
Hmmm, how did I catalogue multiple source tapes for one broadcast again? I know I'll look up a previous similar record I have entered. Here's an example... but where is the text I added months ago? Argh, stupid database! Thank goodness for paper backup. Now I know why they insist on maintaining the card catalogue.
Look in the vertical files.
Re-enter my previously entered data.
Hmmm. That still doesn't solve my cataloguing problem. Oh there's one.
Now I will print this record out and put it in my cataloguing manual so I don't have to go through this again. Where is the three hole punch? Someone has pilfered it. I am thwarted again. I only want to document my work flow like a good information worker should.
Yes, there were young men pogo sticking in the lobby of the library. These are the same young men playing hide and seek in the basement the day before. Today, if they pull any crap, I call the police. I feel guilty calling the police (they must have better stuff to do), but obviously the kids aren't impressed by us.
So yes, I fully expect to be calling the police today, or more likely, tomorrow. Sigh.
I put more memory in the unfiltered box, only to discover that the computer is dumb and doesn't recognize any more than 32 MBs of memory on that machine. I put a 64 MB stick in. I can't see that it supports that low a number, but I'm going to try to squeak SuSE 8.2 on there, I guess. At any rate, there's so much crap on that hard drive it's probably worth a zorch and reinstall of any operating system.
I need to do more tweaking on my Penguin box. Someone has managed to get the icons back on the tool bar. Not that there's much you can actually do with that, but I'm interested in how they did it. Most of the toolbar functions are disabled, anyway, so it doesn't do them a whole lot of good. Also, my default fonts were reset when I was playing with the ini files,so everything is very small. That's one problem with Linux. The fonts are tiny.
I'm pondering taking the second hard drive out of the unfiltered, too. I mean, why do we need two hard drives in it now? It's an internet terminal.
God, the idealist in me wishes I didn't have to get rid of the unfiltered terminal. It's agonizing, really. But I don't want to clean that crap. I don't have time to clean that crap. When I can devote all my time to IT and cease working reference and info (and therefore cease having the librarian job I wanted) I guess then we could probably have unfiltered terminals again.
It kills me though, because I bet it's three to five people ruining it for many.
Here are some comments I have recently posted on other blogs, just to
give you an idea of my views on a few topics. I'm not posting these
because they are the last words on their subjects, but because I think
they are reasonably well-argued and come from a more or less
conservative point of view.
Now you can see just how wise or retrograde I am (depending on your point of view). You can also set me straight through the comments feature.
Blake Carver has
commented on the difficulty of hearing the voice of the intelligent
right over all the other noise online. I want to post links to a few
blogs I think worth reading.
These blogs don't express only views I agree with (that
would happen only in my blog, if I had one, and then only about half
the time), but I find that they don't rely on emotionalism or
rhetorical bluster. In my view they present consistent,
There are quite a few others (and I didn't even get theological, either). I could go on, but it's late.
By way of a BTW, I don't listen to talk radio (though I suspect I'd like Hugh Hewitt's show), I don't prefer Fox news over CNN or MSNBC (the only real broadcast news for my money is the Newshour with Jim Lehrer), and I may never read a book by Ann Coulter. I don't like cant or rhetorical fluff when there's no substance to back it up (unless it's very, very funny).
Wanted to share this great interview with WC in the San Francisco Gate . Quite a guy at age 87; makes Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer, Larry King, Peter Jennings even, look about as substantial as flotsam. Check out what he has to say about Janet Jackson, gay marriage, Bush, etc.
This entry could also have been titled either "weird science" or "your tax dollars at work."
The folks at Secrecy News have posted the following article from Los Alamos Science -- a journal published by the National Lab at Los Alamos:
"Understanding Why -- Dissecting Radical Islamist Terrorism with Agent-Based Simulation" by Edward P. MacKerrow, Los Alamos Science, Number 28, 2003 (1.5 MB PDF file):
According to the article:
"The Complex Systems Group at Los Alamos has been examining questions related to the "why" behind terrorist organizations in the Middle East. Borrowing tools from the field of computational economics and sociology, we are developing agent-based models that simulate social networks and the spread of social grievances within those networks."
a little further down it says:
"We can expose our agents to a variety of determinents-- new government policies, different media exposure, economic pressures, and others--and quickly generate hundreds of new scenarios. Thus, we can conduct computational experiments that can be analyzed statistically and objectively to increase our insight, support decision making, and aid policymakers."
I honestly don't believe myself to be a luddite -- I am blogging, after all -- but I find the idea of making real world policy based on a computer simulation of human behavior frightening. It seems like many variables are beyond measuring to be useful.
The Los Alamos author does say that he doesn't intend to PREDICT terrorist activity, only to analyze scenarios. If his product is taking serious by decision makers, I'm not sure they'll keep that distinction.
On a lighter note, we got our snow, about two inches worth. Supposedly will turn to rain later today.
In my efforts to make the internet less fun, I am pondering filtering and putting either a) the OS X Mac on the floor as a card only terminal or b) sticking SuSE 8.2 on the old Win98 box that used to be unfiltered. Here's how old the Win98 box is: it has a serial mouse. The good news: our serial mouse wielding word processor gave up the ghost yesterday, so I can bulk the memory some by stealing from Peter to give to Paul.
If I thought I could rig SuSE 9 on it I would, but I think it might be easier to keep it simple as possible. Besides, my husband has the SuSE 9 disks at his work now. God, I love open source.
I have a screamin' headache, and get to work 1-9 today, so it's a long day for me. Sigh. I do have sick time, but there's the unfortunate bit that someone is taking a personal day today, and that, well, god, I hate using sick time.
I am discovering that being a librarian, in some cases, is about limiting access as much as it is about giving access. The kids I threw out the day before came in yesterday, and I took their ball (again) and I imagine they got thrown out shortly thereafter. Then there's the whole filtering thing.
Yesterday morning I decided that would be the day I would read every single comment left on LISNews. I've been slacking lately, letting a lot of comments slide by, unread, even on quite days. I picked a bad day.
For years it was easy to read every comment, we just didn't get any, so it was not much of a challenge to keep up. That may be changing, or it may just be the top of the bell curve. I'm not sure what the record for comments in a single day is, but I know the average for last month is 26 comments a day, January was only 16. We're only 2.5 days into March, and we've already got 85 comments, 55 of which were left yesterday. Yes, these are numbers that a busy site like Slashdot would laugh at, but they're pretty darn high for little ol' LISNews.
Now it may not seem like much to read 55 comments in a day, but just try, go ahead, see how long it takes. I've got a much different view of the site than most folks do; the super secret back end code lets me keep an eye on things from above. It lets me watch the comments come in, see what's being moderated, and keeps an eye out for abuses, which, luckily, we don't have much of at this point. So even with my super powers it's still no easy task trying to keep up. It's also not easy moderating sometimes.
One of the super powers that comes with an author account is the ability to moderate freely. On most days most people get somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 moderator points. That is I manually update the Db field that gives points to people. Slashcode is designed for Slashdot, and it doesn't really scale down very well. For those people who do participate frequently, the code frequently grants them points, for the vast majority of the people who do not, they'd never get any points. It could be argued they don't deserve the points, but I do my best to encourage participation from everyone, and hopefully that helps. I'd like to think it helps avoid things like this comment from an Anonymous Patron:
"Why am I so completely unsurprised by the moderators rating Conservator's comment as flamebait? Fang-Fang's streak of ad hominen attacks against opposing views remains unbroken, and remains a hit with moderators."
I've seen comments like that on Slashdot for years, and I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see them here as well, but I am. There is no great moderator conspiracy here @LISNews. There may be one @Slashdot, I just don't know, but I do know there isn't one here. This comment in particular was moderated as flamebait by one person, and that was the only time it had been moderated. As a matter of fact, it's one of the very few comments in the past week that modded down at all. And to be fair, Fang-Fang has gotten more than his fair share of negative mods. In general, the vast majority of moderations are up, this one comment was an exception, rather than a vast left wing conspiracy. The moderation system is not perfect, but for the most part I think it does a good job, and I like it.
So to answer your question, Anonymous Patron, I don't know why you are so completely unsurprised by the moderators rating Conservator's comment as flamebait, take a look at all the other comments, I think you'll be surprised. And, by the way, that was me that moderated your comment as flamebait.
Today the Linux box went live. Except for a slight problem (which I think is memory based) of lines appearing all over the screen when the box goes to "sleep" for more than a minute or so (that's nicely fixed by a ctrl-alt-backspace), it seems to be working okay. I played around with the filter some, and got it to at least block naughty things.
I will be interested to see how this goes. I think it will be spurned like our Macs. Hey, it's not designed to be fun, it's designed to be functional. Which it is.
I also discovered some disturbing things on our unfiltered terminal. I can not take the time to maintain it unfiltered. Besides, a good seventy percent of the cookies on that machine had "XXX" in the URLs or things that were otherwise... well, simply not what one should be viewing @ your library.
If I ever had the crazy idea to put my credit card number into a public access terminal, I sure as hell wouldn't do it after today.
The unfiltered terminal is going away without a squeak. The first person who comes to circulation (and ultimately to me) and says, "I can't view my porn!" is going to probably throw me for a loop, but hey. I just don't want to see us get burned. I could have spent hours working on that machine. And that's silly.
It was actually rather fascinating to watch people react to the "no internet today" concept... I put up signs on all the machines that they were being upgraded. And people bounced from machine to machine like pinballs, looking for one that didn't have the sign on it. Then they started, after I had them down a few hours, asking whether or not it would be up by a given time.
To paraphrase and otherwise modify an earlier journal:
Don't tick off the systems librarian, for ultimately she decides when you get your internet access back.
People were getting demanding: "Can't you make one work for me?" I wasn't about to tell them I could make them all work. Bwahahahahaha! Theoretically, they were all working. That's what "upgrade" means, folks. Read the signs. They work, but not as well as they could. These people complaining we were down would be the first to complain that the computers aren't fast enough, too.
They still aren't blazing fast, but at least they're defragged, updated, virus scanned, and have all sorts of fonts on them. Not silly fonts, international fonts. Fonts that are actually useful. Not wingdings.