Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Headlines You Might Have Missed

Another NY Times Article.

Speaking of Video Games

"No one shoots anyone in Food Force. Rebels are negotiated with, not blown away, and the women are sensibly dressed aid professionals - although one character does greatly resemble Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Yet Food Force has quickly become the second most downloaded free Internet game, after the Army's recruiting tool, America's Army.

"More than three million people have downloaded it so far (at, for both Macs and Windows) - and it is only now being translated into languages other than English and Japanese.

"Food Force has also attracted an unlikely partner in the N.F.L. Players Association, which promises a trip to the Super Bowl for the child with the highest score.

"The game is this: the fictional Indian Ocean island of Sheylan has been ravaged by drought and civil war; millions of people need food. The player joins a World Food Program team and must airdrop food from a C-130 Hercules; pilot a surveillance chopper; navigate a supply truck through land mines and guerrilla checkpoints; coordinate shipping and prices for rice, beans and oil on the world market; design a nutritionally balanced food package for the hungry; and use food to help rebuild a community."

Read the rest.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Don't Think About It

Interesting article from the NY Times:

"Our conclusion? Too much analysis can confuse people about how they really feel. There are severe limits to what we can discover through self-reflection, and trying to explain the unexplainable does not lead to a sudden parting of the seas with our hidden thoughts and feelings revealed like flopping fish."

"Self-reflection is especially problematic when we are feeling down. Research by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a clinical psychologist at Yale University, shows that when people are depressed, ruminating on their problems makes things worse."

Spring Cleaning in December

It all started 6 or 7 years ago while browsing at the Sharper Image at the Plaza. We came across this electronic, person-shaped punching dummy. Zones of the body would light up and you would have to hit them while lit for your boxing/kick-boxing workout. The spouse thought it was so cool, but we weren't going to pay the hundreds of dollars (I forget how much) they wanted for it. Ever since she's been wanting some kind of fighting game for exercise. We watched as boxing games with gloves came out for home video game consoles, but we're not gamers and never wanted to spend the money. Well my mom, after hearing her talk about it for years, decided to finally get her something for Christmas this year. She got us a PS2 with the Eyetoy Kinetic game. It comes with a USB camera that you put on top of your TV so you can become part of the game. You see yourself on the screen and have to react to the floating shapes around you, hitting/kicking some and avoiding others. Comes with built-in personal trainers that talk to you and customize your workouts. You can select your workouts from the 4 different zones: cardio, combat, toning, and mind and body. It's really cool.

As soon as we tried to start playing with it, however, we discovered that we needed more room in front of the TV to make it work. We've both had the entire week between Christmas and New Year's off for vacation, so it seemed the perfect time to rearrange the furniture in the living room. Once we moved the couches and such, it seemed on logical to vacuum well, wipe the floorboards, and give everything a good cleaning. It was also the perfect time to de-clutter. By the end of the day we had a beautiful new living room for the new year. Of course, then the rest of the house felt filthy and cluttered in comparison, so we've had to spend the rest of the week cleaning everything else to match. It really improves the mood to have a pleasant environment surrounding you. And it's been a nice change from work. I certainly don't mind sitting in front of the computer all day as part of my job then coming home to do stuff like this, but being active and productive in a different way has been a nice change of pace.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Holidays!

"Are you the Coyote?"

"Some people call me that. Also the Changer. Monkey. Raven. Weasel. Snake. Loki, Herm, Legba, Glooscap, Eshu, Shaitan. Prometheus."

Just a bit of a teaser from Summerland, by Michael Chabon (who won a Pulitzer for his comic book inspired The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which I have yet to read), the book I've been listening to during my commute lately. It's a fun mix of fairy tales, mythology, and baseball. "J" level, but 500 pages. I highly recommend it, especially if you're a baseball enthusiast (which I am not).

You crazy guys and your linking

You know, these "links" you all "post" are cool and all, but what about us losers who don't want to link to other sites? What about the ones who want to express themselves in their own words and in their own way? What about them? What about me?
Some day, the diminutive masses will gather and rise up against the over-lording "linkers," and when that day comes, my friends, you had better be ready.
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."
Yeah... you heard it. I pulled some Pulp Fiction on ya. We can't be controlled. We can't be ruled by you borgo... borjw... borgh... ruling class kind of people.

Oh yeah, and you might like this link.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Yes, That! That Exactly!

It always bugs me when bloggers don't actually write posts, but just throw their readers a link, with nary a word. But then, I often do bug myself. More often than not, it seems lately. Anyway... here it is.

I'm Honestly Not That Bored

Just found out that Degolar is Portuguese for decollate. And also this.

Holiday Traditions

In the midst of our efforts to either destroy or save Christmas, I was thinking about just what the holiday (or one of the others during this season) means (or doesn't mean) to everyone. What are your childhood memories? What are your traditions? How do you celebrate now?

Growing up, Christmas was always a big build-up for us, of course, because of the month-long decorations, music, and anticipation of presents. The tree would be out with presents underneath at the start of December and we counted the days with our advent calendar.

The true festivities began on Christmas Eve. (Once I was old enough to remember, anyway,) We always attended the 11:00 p.m. church service. The service would focus on a celebration of the birth of Christ and what that meant/means. Often we ended with the lights out and everyone holding a candle. Sometimes we held hands in unity. It was always powerful. The service usually ended with a pronouncement that it was after midnight and now Christmas.

We then went home and slept fitfully until we could stand it no more. Our stockings filled mysteriously during the night and we could explore them right away. Mom and Dad would get up, get their coffee, and gather with us in the living room. We'd share what we found in our stockings then go around the room taking turns opening our presents until nothing was left. We'd have breakfast together and savor the morning.

Sometimes that was all, other years we went to celebrate with the extended families. If we didn't see them on Christmas day, we always saw both extended families on the nearest weekends. All the uncles, aunts, and cousins would get together with our Grandmas and Grandpas and catch up with each other.

It's harder to continue these traditions each year as everyone ages, spreads further apart geographically, and attaches to spouses with different tradtions. Plus the excitement isn't the same as adults and we don't have our own kids yet to share it with. But we still try to find time for as many of the elements as possible, and it's still a special time of year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Thank You Mr. Tomorrow

The inimitable Tom Tomorrow gives us a big dose of truth in a small package:

Support the man, buy it here.

It's the little things.

Like this. I expect Pastafarians to be up in arms before the week is over, demanding equal time for the Flying Spaghetti Monster and condemning the godless, pastaless, court system. I've downloaded the entire ruling in PDF and do truly look forward to the read.

Just a reminder


That is all.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Christian Paradox: How a Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong

More than anything else I’ve read in a long time, this captures my understanding of Christianity. It’s not a quick read, but I recommend it more than any of the other links I’ve put on this blog. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite, then when you feel thoughtful you can give it a look.

"And therein is the paradox. America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior."

"Love your neighbor as yourself: although its rhetorical power has been dimmed by repetition, that is a radical notion, perhaps the most radical notion possible. Especially since Jesus, in all his teachings, made it very clear who the neighbor you were supposed to love was: the poor person, the sick person, the naked person, the hungry person. The last shall be made first; turn the other cheek; a rich person aiming for heaven is like a camel trying to walk through the eye of a needle. On and on and on—-a call for nothing less than a radical, voluntary, and effective reordering of power relationships, based on the principle of love."

"But straight is the path and narrow is the way. The gospel is too radical for any culture larger than the Amish to ever come close to realizing; in demanding a departure from selfishness it conflicts with all our current desires. Even the first time around, judging by the reaction, the Gospels were pretty unwelcome news to an awful lot of people. There is not going to be a modern-day return to the church of the early believers, holding all things in common—-that’s not what I’m talking about. Taking seriously the actual message of Jesus, though, should serve at least to moderate the greed and violence that mark this culture. It’s hard to imagine a con much more audacious than making Christ the front man for a program of tax cuts for the rich or war in Iraq. If some modest part of the 85 percent of us who are Christians woke up to that fact, then the world might change."

The Constitutional Republic: A Good Idea While it Lasted

Tyranny isn't just for the Europeans anymore (or the Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners, and Latin Americans). Thanks to BUSHCO, we're well on our way there too. Read this. All so scary, all so true.

His Noodly Appendage at Work

"I'll sit on the couch, waving it around while I'm watching something on TV. Or sometimes I'll chase my wife around the house with it."

Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach on his replica pirate sword. Leach is a pirate enthusiast.

(Found in the sports section of yesterday's KC Star.)

What's Your Grievance?

"Really big issues that affect all of us — health-care accessibility, for instance — are seemingly insolvable. Why stress ourselves out worrying about Social Security when we can boycott Target for running ads that omit the word “Christmas”?

"Grievances allow us to flex our muscle. We’ve managed, in this nation, to conceal severe poverty in urban and rural pockets. We don’t mind sitting atop a mountain of debt. With a little effort, most of us can even forget we’re bogged down in a war half a world away.

"Isn’t it great to know we can still work up some all-American outrage to ban gay marriage or defend Christmas?"

Barbara Shelly of the KC Star

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Weak Are Cruel

"The weak are cruel. The strong have no need to be."

I was just looking at the new books before putting them out for patrons, and this quote was the only thing on the back cover of an interesting looking YA novel. I like it. I put a request on the book and should be reading it sometime next month.

The Foretelling, by Alice Hoffman

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Just Lacking Leelu's Two Cents Now

I've been trying to ignore this whole debate because I think it's rather silly, but it seems to be permeating everything I read or hear lately. Since Hadrian and Lummox have had their say about Christmas 2005, I guess I'll offer my take. Which is: Relax. Enjoy celebrating your holiday (or not) with your family and friends and be considerate enough to let everyone else do the same. Don't force your holiday on everyone else, but, on the other hand, don't hold it against people if they're excited about celebrating something. The word/idea of Christmas, in and of itself, is not evangelical and doesn't need to be banished from the public realm. But it is a religious holiday (in theory) and shouldn't be forced on those of a different faith or presented in a way that makes them feel excluded from the mainstream for being different. All it takes is a little sensitivity and consideration on everyone's part and this whole issue can just go away.

That said, I do have to admit to being a liberal and don't think the right is being very sensitive or considerate about turning this into a "culture war." As with so many of their other issues, they seem to be creating this idea of a "war on Christmas" as a way to further push their agenda on everyone else. I won't rant too much since Hadrian already did, but thought I could share a bit of reading from the paper this morning. Excerpts

"On the one hand, the Christmas defense team is portraying its side as the overwhelming majority, the 90 percent who celebrate Christmas. On the other hand they are describing themselves as oppressed, indeed victimized. On the one hand they want more Christ in Christmas; on the other hand they want more Christmas in the marketplace. It makes one long for the screeds against commercialism."

"One of the hallmarks of the culture wars is the way tolerance of diverse beliefs is reframed as intolerance for the majority."

And that simple sentence, I think, says it all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Since we seem to be losing our anonymity, I guess I'll let everyone see what Degolar really looks like.

A glimpse into the future

You know, there have been a lot of old movies that show a future with so many wonderful and miraculous inventions. Well, my friends, the future in those movies has come and gone, but where are the awesome inventions? Where are the pills that can supplement meals? Where are the flying cars? Where are those nifty tubes that use vacuums to move you from place to place? Hell where are the transporters? Where are the robots to do our bidding, our laundry, our cooking, walk our dogs? Where are those cool hats that transmit your thought onto a wall like a movie? Where are all the damn aliens?
I want the future to be here and now!
I want everything to be as cool as they are in the movies!
I want my soylent green!

And now for something completely different... for the Holdiay Season

"The Night Before a Totally Unimportant or Spiritually Significant Day or Group of Days Near the End of the Calendar Year"
By Lummox D. Fairheart

'Twas the night before the next day,
And all through the house,
Everyone was tired of the sociopathic uproars about the phrasings of certain greetings and the use of these greetings in a public forum that the public may or may not take offense to, because they specify or don't specify the celebration of a holiday or set of holidays that have become a standard of living and a steadfast time of giving and sharing and good will in this country,
Even the mouse.

The stockings were hung
By the chimney with care
Until, that is, someone took them down stating that they represented the belief in a figure which neither represented what this season was all about and that they were also a sexist statement or just plain silly,
So screw the little trinkets that children enjoy getting because that would only cause a rift between the family structure because everyone should be treated equally and receive the same amount of physical goods and wealth that everyone else is getting, so that there will be no permanent scarring of any fragile psyches.

When out on the lawn,
I heard such a clatter,
I sprang from my partnered sleeping arrangement facilitating piece of furniture,
To see what was the matter. (It was probably some neo-political correct militia group tearing down the decorations that could possibly offend any passers-by or influence their children to believe in an arbitrary belief system that may or may not exist)

I'll stop all this ranting
And I'll be succinct.
These are my opinions,
It's just what I think.

To sum up this tale
Of holiday woes,
The moral is simple,
And here's how it goes.

Remember this season,
Don't be angry or trite.
Merry Christmas to all,
And to all a good night.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

My Search is Over... Sorta....

How I've missed this for so long I have no idea. Tonight, whilst further exploring the manifold ways of wasting time with my computer and a little help from the good people at Earthlink and Time Warner Cable, I finally discovered Rocketboom. Apparently Atrios has linked there before, but for some reason, I've never followed the link. Sorry, Crooks and Liars, you just lost my vote for best video blog. And while the odds of my ever meeting her are approximately equal to the odds of Dick Cheney giving up all of his material possessions, grabbing a begging bowl, and hitting the streets of Calcutta to spread the Dharma, I think I've found the perfect woman.


Oh, and this one is wet-your-pants funny.

Gaming in Libraries Cures Cancer!!!

And now, my long awaited rebuttal to Degolar's enthusiastic posts in support of gaming in libraries. Lately there has been a flurry of e-mail and conversation about this topic at work, and a serious divide has emerged. The e-mail discussion seems to be unflinchingly positive, to the degree that one would get the impression that the only people who could possibly oppose the introduction of gaming into libraries are the congenitally cranky (okay, guilty) and the hopelessly anachronistic. I, on the other hand think there are valid objections to the idea, and here they are.

From "Application Day" (Degolar, 12/06/05 11:46 am): "Is there something especially appealing about the idea of libraries as studious book places...?". Well, yes, actually. Because if the library is no longer that place (and I would submit that, in large part, it already isn't), then that place will no longer exist in our society. As much as I love Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Half-Price books, they are places of commerce-- often loud ones. The library has always been an almost sacred place, a temple of knowledge, if you will, and bookstores, for all their charm, just aren't the same. (So the question is, will those of us that hold this view of libraries be forever banished to the university library? or will there be a place for us in the public library?)

My strong opposition to this idea, I think, came as quite a shock to Degolar. I'm not someone who disparages gaming as the root of all our social ills, or as an unambiguous time waster with no value whatsoever. In fact, my only real objection to gaming is the money that it continues to cost me. (Must get new video card, must get new video card...) Ok, that, and perhaps the drain on my time that could be put into more fruitful pursuits (it can be a time waster). But the bottom line is I love computer games. I am an avid gamer. In fact, as soon as this post is done I'm going to set about conquering 13th century Europe. And, yes, video games can be educational. I know more about football from playing Madden than I ever would from being a simple spectator (same goes for hockey, thank you NHL '97), but I think the value of games in this respect is limited and being exaggerated by the proponents of this idea. They can improve hand-eye coordination, teach teamwork, etc. , but so can basketball, and I still don't think we should tear out the reference shelves to put in a court.

Which, I think, gets me to the crux of my point. A place for everything, and everything in its place. It seems more and more, that we are attempting to become an all purpose community center. Albeit a community center with a lot of books. Maybe I am an anachronism, but I don't see that as our role (which is not to say that I object to most of our programming-- I don't. Storytimes, current events discussion groups, book clubs, etc. these all seem appropriate to me, but this gaming thing just seems a step too far).

A couple of other random objections:

Again from Degolar: "This is only a recent topic, but many academic types are now studying and beginning to understand the learning value of video games; and not just the "learning" games, but the skills required to succeed in almost all of them (critical thinking, problem solving, etc.). Most tell stories and have a narrative mythology, are a type of literature. We can do a lot more than use games as bait to get at the true learning, but can learn from them in the way we conduct our business and stay relevant in a changing world."

Color me dubious. While I appreciate a game with a good story, I think once again this argument overstates the case. Of the best-selling games, few are storyline intensive, and many of the ones that are (GTA, for example) are not age appropriate for the gamers we're intent on reaching. The list seems to be largely populated by racing games and real-time strategy games. Not a lot of literary quality there. I remain unconvinced that all of the Starcraft in the world will equal the intellectual stimulation of one well written book.

I also think it should be noted that of the games most often cited as having beneficial attributes, the MMORPG's, most are a) subscription based, usually $14.95 a month, and b) require substantial, and I do mean substantial, time commitments to get any real enjoyment out of. Plus, I'm not sure that the online teamwork and social skills translate into those things in the real world. If we want to use RPG's to teach kids social and thinking skills, then I say give them some dice and pencils and large complex sets of rules that they will have to learn to play. Don't let the computer do all the heavy lifting.

Those are my somewhat random thoughts on this topic. Sorry, I don't have a good closer here. Maybe my writing skills have atrophied because of too many computer games (Language skills people! Language skills! The indispensable key to critical thinking and intellectual development, and almost entirely absent from the gaming world... just a thought.)

I leave you with this:

Extra credit to anyone that knows what and where it is.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Brief Exercise in Republican Logic

Here is the form:

1. event (x) happens
2. percieved trend (y) occurs
3. since (x) happened before (y), (x) therefore caused (y)

For example:

1. Organized state-led prayer in public schools was deemed unconstitutional in 1963.
2. Since 1963 the culture seems to have gotten more violent and coarse.
3. Therefore, declaring public school prayer unconstitutional has made America a more violent and coarser nation.

This is fun, I think I'll try a couple of my own.

1. The phrase "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.
2. Since 1954 the divorce rate has gone up.
3. Therefore, adding "under God" to the Pledge has caused the divorce rate to climb.


1. The motto "In God We Trust" was added to American currency in 1957.
2. John F. Kennedy was assasinated in 1963.
3. "In God We Trust" killed Kennedy.

Of course the massive cover-up led by "under God" has completely obscured "In God We Trust"'s involvement in the JFK murder plot, but someday history will shine a light into those dark corners and the truth will come out.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Wait, I've Changed My Mind

After further reflection, I've decided I was wrong. ID should be taught in public schools. All of them.

Tropical Getaway

My dad is a coach--he also teaches, but his first identity is coach--so I was raised on sports. I'm not completely obsessed with athletics, but they're in my blood. Football is one of my favorite spectator events. I don't consider it worth the time/money to go see them play in person for the most part, but I try to see as many games on the telly as I can. So I rarely make it to Arrowhead. My dad and brother, on the other hand have recently started driving to Dallas (from the Wichita area) a couple of weekends per year to see the Cowboys in person. When they looked at the 2005 schedule last spring and saw the Chiefs were going to be playing in Dallas, they immediately invited me along. I put in a vacation request for today and Monday and made plans to join them. I'm looking forward to the game, of course, but also a weekend with "the guys." I'm getting ready to drive the first leg after I submit this. After beginning the week walking the streets of Chicago in record low temperatures and returning home to a foot of snow, I figure the 50-60 degree weather in Dallas will feel downright tropical.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sound Familiar?

"People vs. Rocks: Who's Dumber?"

Late Night Randomness, or... Why am I Still Up?

Why the picture? Because I can, that's why. These are my quadrapeds. They are too cute for you! And before you ask, no, I'm not drunk. I'm just up late and screwing around on the computer, for no good reason. Unfortunately I'll probably have to go to work in the morning, despite the nearly foot of snow that is covering my neighborhood. This wouldn't be a problem except that I live a hell of a long way from work. Pardon me for a moment while I consult Google Earth and figure out just how far... ... ... ... Okay, I'm back, and the result is: 22 miles. About what I would have guessed. Not normally a big problem, but in weather like this....

Anyway, at this moment I'm considering the manifold ways in which the internet can be a colossal time waster. You know what I've been doing for the past hour? Downloading themes and extensions for Firefox (after upgrading to 1.5) and customizing my toolbars. (By the way the 1-click weather extension is muy cool.) Before that I was desperately trying to get a grasp on how to use Word Press (I'm no techie people-- I have a history degree), and looking for Word Press themes for my, as yet, content-less other site. Word Press is not quite as plug-and-play-dumbed-down-anybody-can-use-it as Blogger, and I have absolutely no grasp of CSS yet.

Also, and here is the randomness my title promised, I'm currently reflecting on the exquisite wonderfulness of Eddie Bauer fleece pants. I'm toasty, despite the 10 degree temperature here in 64152 (thank you 1-click weather). Less wonderful is that my toasty warm fleece pants are black. Now, scroll back up and check out the hair on those animal companions of mine and you can imagine what these pants look like. That's right, pet hair for every occasion. It doesn't matter what I wear, someone will shed a hair that will show up on it. Of course, the sacrifice is more than worth it.

Not that anyone cares, but there it is.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting trivia fact: the word "Blogger" does not appear in Blogger's default spell check dictionary. Odd that.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Way After Lunch

(Didn't get a chance to post this in Chicago, but here are the thoughts I wrote during the second afternoon.)

The new presenter (Beth Gallaway) has an intriguing title for her talk: “What Libraries Can Do for Gamers Other than Programming.” A rather thorough looking handout, though, and my brain’s wearing out, so I don’t know if I’ll type a whole lot. Interesting . . . instead of asking, “What books do you like?” ask, “What games do you play?” to get at their interests for readers advisory. If I had to choose just one handout to pass on, in fact, it would be this one. Maybe I can get copies made for our next YS meeting. She’s now sharing a success story using Instant Messenger at work. She shared her screen name with the teens and they started IMing her questions while they used the computers. It started with things like, “the guy next to me is looking at porn” and such, but as she proved responsive it progressed to homework and reference questions. She was at the reference desk a few feet away, but they probably never would have taken the time to ask her in person. Using IMing was much more comfortable for them so it worked better.

Panel discussion time. Atabong is happy to have his laptop back. Sarah had highjacked it so she could blog her reactions, but she had to leave early to catch an earlier flight than ours. Eli just said nothing exists in librarianship until there’s been a conference about it, so now gaming in libraries actually exists. I didn’t write anything about some of the presenters, but there are others already doing things with this and enjoying some success. Good idea: go to potential sponsors and say that 75% (or whatever the number is) of our residents have library cards, so all of them will see your name as supporting us if you help with this initiative. More and more, people’s information needs have to do with using/understanding technology and the Internet. We need to be able to help them with these information needs just like any others, which requires that we be technology and Internet experts. Yes there are still avid readers out there and traditional researchers who we can’t neglect, but there are enough librarians of a similar generation that I don’t think that’s a problem. What I worry about is enough younger librarians who are familiar with all of the latest digital stuff that who can keep up with the new adults coming up. I know I’m one of the tech advocates in our system, yet I barely feel proficient in many of the forms in use now. This symposium has certainly made me feel behind the curve. Huh. Some of the library systems represented here are trying things based on the Netflix model—deliver books and materials by mail, return with no due date. “These people who are so crazy about the books, they’re going to be dead” (Eli). An argument that we eventually won’t have to keep couching the discussion in book terms to get them approved. It’s true that anyone younger than a certain age will only use it if it’s digital and have no use for books. Idea of a Runescape tournament where different branches compete against each other; followed by the idea of video game leagues where winners of tournaments in one location take on those in others, leading to a national championship, hosted in libraries. “Convenience will always trump quality, so it’s our job as librarians to make quality convenient.” Downloadable audiobooks. Now that’s something I hope we get in on right away, because I think it’s going to take off. I know I’m a lot more interested in it than I am audiocassettes or CDaudios or ebooks. I can imagine “reading” quite a lot of books that way, and I see more ipods every day. Some of the other panel members are defending the longevity of books now; they didn’t die out from radio or movies, we’ll just continue to layer more formats on top of each other. But the point is we don’t have to be one or the other, but should instead try to include all. We’re not taking away from books, but adding to it. (Now Eli must defend his provocative-ness: the book won’t die out, just the opinion that books are best.) “It’s not the format, but the content.” People will always be writing novels/telling stories in written form. To bring librarians on board: show them the bibliographies that there is plenty of literature out there advocating the value of gaming.


If things look funny, or somehow, just not quite right around here for the next couple of days, it's because Degolar and I are tinkering with the template. Thinking of redesigning things completely in fact, but we're techie amateurs, so it's a learning process.

Application Day

Yesterday was the day for the college professors to talk about theory and studies and the background information. Today is supposed to be librarians talking about how we can apply all of these ideas to our settings. I’m especially interested in this topic. In addition to the speakers yesterday, I’ve been trying to pick Atabong’s brain and talk with others during lunch and such. Yesterday convinced me that it is happening and is going to continue to happen, so either we get on the boat or miss an opportunity—-just like Blockbuster jumped in when we were slow to warm up to videos, someone said yesterday; you don’t see book rental places, do you, since we came up with the idea for book loaning, but missed our chance to be innovative with videos—-now is our time to get on board with the new gaming technologies since the gamers are out there and not going away. But how should that look at our library? We’re already going with the idea of tournaments, but where from there? Games and gaming software in the collection? Do we focus on consoles, PCs, online, or all three? Do we target kids and teens or all ages? Special events or daily use? Where are we going with all of this? I’m hoping today will help me come up with some good answers to these questions.

Back in the auditorium, listening to another speaker. Hehe. He’s from OCLC, says he gives a lot of talks to librarians. Usually they range from middle-aged to the age of death, so it’s refreshing to see a room with a lot of younger faces. Hmm, “digital immigrants.” He’s talking about younger folk who have grown up with computers and gaming and how they are different than older folk who have had to immigrate. No matter how well they adapt (and many don’t), they’ll still have an accent. The “natives” have been shaped by the digital environment, think and process differently. I’m sure I’ve got a bit of an accent, but not too bad. He’s beginning to shift to application now; after laying out how younger folk are different, he’s going into how we need to be different to reach them. (Not his first point, but) we need to rethink privacy. That’s a big issue in libraryland. In one study, he says, they offered people on the street a $5 Starbucks gift certificate in exchange for computer passwords. 85% went for it. We don’t use our real names on this blog so we can stay a bit “hidden,” but that’s not an issue with our younger friends. I can appreciate the idea of removing some of the barriers to service by lessening our emphasis on privacy, but think there might be too much resistance to make it happen. “Short cuts, not training.” Don’t show them how to do it, show them how to do it more quickly/easily. Also, add cheat books to the collection. Offer services on IM—-again a privacy and security issue. “Bring Digital Natives into your planning process (even if they DON’T have an MLS).” Interesting . . . someone in the audience just said their staff uses IM to communicate all day; could be a way bring people on board. More audience questions, this time about changing the “brand” image of the library as a “box of books.” Certainly the reaction I got from all readers of this blog when I first presented the idea of gaming, that libraries are about books and the rest is way off.

That’s actually a whole other topic, the idea of the “brand” of the library. It goes back to that high/low culture debate that I mentioned yesterday. In library school I remember a professor who read us an excerpt from an article about how we needed to change our “Marian the Librarian” image and how we needed to do things like outreach to get beyond our four walls to be a fuller part of our communities. It was from the 1920s. And we’re still saying the same things and it seems nothing much has changed. This speaker earlier said in a study from the 1950s the library ranked as the 7th place people would go to for information, behind friends, newspapers, and such, and we rank about the same in digital terms. People see us as a quality, reliable place to get information and books, but nothing more. I think libraries should be about information in all of its forms (book, video, digital, etc.) and all of it’s uses (learning, research, entertainment, etc.). I also think they should be community gathering places (meeting rooms, voting, socializing, book clubs, etc.). We already do much of that and have been for a long time, yet the perception of what libraries are (and should be) doesn’t change. Is there something especially appealing about the idea of libraries as studious book places and librarians as stodgy, or is there something we do to continue encouraging that image regardless of our claims otherwise?

A hardcore, serious, lifelong gamer is the new presenter (Eli Neiburger). 95% of teen boys play videogames. In their minds games are content too, so why wouldn’t a library have them? Even though gaming is an $11 billion industry, it’s still a niche market that is just now becoming the mainstream (as the kids who grew up on them grow up), so now is the time to get on board. Speaking of library image, “that’s ‘the bun’ talking,” he just said. You don’t ask the board to do this, you tell them you are; anything different would be micromanagement (you don’t ask if you can have a Harry Potter book club). Tournaments are to video games as storytimes are to picture books. Ann Arbor Library District: sixth month tournament season that builds to the championships (easily reproducible program in a series, like storytime). DDR, Kids’ Kart, Adult Kart and Super Smash (ages 12+), Madden. The only parents who’ll complain will be the ones without kids; no complaints from parents of the participants. “We’ve already, as an industry, lost a generation, the ones in their 20s.” Offer them something of value now or be irrelevant to them for the rest of their lives. His handout/PowerPoint has all the “how to” details. Recommends console over PC events. Has a blog for results, standings, trash-talking in between tournaments to help build momentum for championships, plus a lot of other stuff to explore. Can register your wireless devices on your library account to have access to the library network at their library. We’re watching a DVD of their live TV broadcast of the 2004 championship tournament. He emceed and got some of the kids to provide color commentary. Really cool. If we’re going to imitate anyone for our event, this is the guy to learn from.

(I’ve left a lot out, of course, of all the presentations. I wanted to focus more on capturing my thoughts and reactions. Full notes are available from those in blogger alley (like The Shifted Librarian) and the presentations are going to be available at the website.)

Welcome to Brownshirt America

From the Lawrence Journal World:

Douglas County sheriff’s deputies are investigating the reported beating of a Kansas University professor who’s gained recent notoriety for his Internet tirades against Christian fundamentalists and Catholics.
Religious studies professor Paul Mirecki said he was beaten early Monday morning on the side of the road in rural Douglas County by two unidentified men who’d been tailgating him in a large pickup truck. Mirecki said his attackers made references to the controversy that has propelled him into the headlines in recent weeks.

My extreme frustration at trying to get Blogger's fucking block quotes to work correctly and my lack of time has cut this post short. More later. I promise.

Monday, December 05, 2005

After Lunch

Cool! The new presenter-—Constance Steinkuehler--is showing us a castle siege from the MMOG (Massive Multiplayer Online Game) Lineage II. Paladins, magic, dark elves, and all. She recorded it and put it into her PowerPoint. She said they usually spend 2-6 weeks planning something like that. Lots of strategy meetings and coordinating, but the final result is kind of like a scene from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Now she’s talking about how some people use real money to buy game value. She’s explaining the difference between the value of a gold piece and a platinum piece. We had the same conversation with Atabong over lunch. He said that much of the gold for sale from games is built up by players in China; the per-hour income from playing to earn game gold to sell on eBay is better than the hourly wage for other labor. The presenter just added that the economy of some of these virtual worlds are actually more powerful than the economies of some real world countries. Of course the point she’s getting to is that all of these meetings, planning, working together to reach both individual and mutual goals, market economics, etc. encountered online are valuable learning experiences with real world transfer. I think I saw a copy of this PowerPoint that someone brought back from a previous conference. It’s good to hear in person. She’s rather impressive and quite brilliant. A well-made case that critics have no understanding of what actually happens during the games, and that there is also a ton of literacy development taking place: fan fiction, emails, tons of reading and writing.

Also over lunch: Atabong shared (after being asked) that he probably spends 2-4 hours a night playing World of Warcraft; 30-40 hours per week. Plus console games on one side for slow periods and movies on the other computer, plus friends on the voice-over-IP. Impressive multitasking. But now I know I don’t have the time needed to get hooked. My triathlon “hobby” takes up any spare time I might have for something like that.

1.8. As an Assistant Professor, she said, her primary job is to write journal articles. And the average number of people who read each journal article written (all, not just hers) is 1.8 readers. It would make feel like, why bother?

Maybe it’s just because I haven’t met the average listeners all around me, but I feel like there are more tech types here than anything else. Followed by (and with quite a bit of crossover) academic types as the next largest group. Librarians seem fewer in number (look at who we brought—I’m the only public service staff of the group). I think it’s actually a good intersection, that the computer people and librarians have a lot to learn from each other and should only improve because of it. I know I have a lot of questions about the technical side of search engines and the like and think I would search better if I understood more about how they worked (not that I’m completely ignorant). But at the same time I’m a little disappointed there aren’t more YS and YA librarians here. The college/university folks are looking at what they can do with gaming, of course, and we had lunch with a school media specialist who is trying to figure out how it might fit into her school, but it seems the public libraries are the most obvious place to start implementing things. I thought there would be more of us.

I'm Ready For My Cyanide Pill

Between the 2004 presidential election, the large segment of the American public that cannot distinguish Al Qaeda from Iraqi Ba'athists, and the continuing unexplainable popularity of Fear Factor, I thought I needed no further evidence of the irredeemable stupidity of the American people. Then, via Jesus' General and ABC news, I am presented with this. Read it, watch the video, bang your head against a table. I cannot even begin to fathom the depth of stupidity that is displayed by this incident.

However, the stupidity is not the scariest thing about it. The really scary quality that is revealed is the unquestioning deference to authority, the blind obedience to orders to systematically rob another human being of their last shred of dignity. People wonder how Abu Ghraib happened. People wonder how the Holocaust happened. I am aghast.

Staying Awake

Well this is exciting. I didn’t try to join “blogger alley” where all the celebrity bloggers are reporting on the proceedings, but I found a power outlet near our seats during the break and am now online during the symposium. I suppose I must admit my true motive is entertaining myself since I don’t sit still and listen for long periods of time very well, but I’m going to try to take notes and write about the content instead of just surfing or playing games (although I suppose playing games would be topical). During the opening speaker Sarah and I were passing notes back and forth about how much this reminds me of library school. All of my classes were weekend intensives (6-9 Fri night, 8-5 Sat, 8-12 Sun), sitting all day listening to lectures about library theory and such. No matter how interesting the subject, it’s hard to stay tuned in. The next two days will be similar.

Right now we are listening to Steve Jones talk about a study he did a few years ago about gaming habits among college students. Les Gasser, the first speaker, made an analogy I like. He said what many in libraries see as the potential for games is like a venus flytrap. We’ll use the games to lure the young into the building so we can close the book trap around them; we find a way for games to maintain the “symbolic status quo” of the library mission of developing literacy. It’s a safe way to understand the idea of gaming in libraries. Paired with this was a reminder of the conflict that’s always existed in libraries between high and low culture, and there’s always been resistance to incorporating the “low” cultural forms: fiction, paperbacks, picture books, A/V and media, toys, Internet, and now console games. But just as each of those other forms has become accepted and we now appreciate the value they bring to what we do/offer, video games are likely to do the same. As anyone youngish will tell you, games are fairly ubiquitous now and they reflect the emerging culture and are a big part of social life. This is only a recent topic, but many academic types are now studying and beginning to understand the learning value of video games; and not just the “learning” games, but the skills required to succeed in almost all of them (critical thinking, problem solving, etc). Most tell stories and have a narrative mythology, are a type of literature. We can do a lot more than use games as bait to get at the true learning, but can learn from them in the way we conduct our business and stay relevant in a changing world.

Other thoughts: last night many who were staying at the hotel gathered in the bar to meet, etc. I learned from Atabong and some new people about World of Warcraft, which they pay $15 per month to play. It’s an online fantasy RPG. I described what appeals to me about playing paper-and-book D&D so we could compare notes. Beth Gallaway is a former D&Der who claims the online game compares favorably. You do all the same kinds of things, build characters, role-play, etc. Because it’s online it has that same type of interactivity, but with many more people. Atabong said he and his guild have been using voice-over-IP for years to coordinate their gaming. I’m afraid to investigate because I don’t have the time to get hooked, but I must say I’m certainly intrigued.

I haven’t had a chance to reread it since it just arrived Saturday from Amazon after being backordered, but I now have both books I ordered for myself as a birthday present. Watchmen by Alan Moore. Probably the best graphic novel I’ve ever read. Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean came right away. This might not seem like a big deal, but since I started working at libraries I almost never buy books. I still have boxes full in the basement from my previous life, but now I just check stuff out for the most part. So to actually buy myself a couple of books is a treat. I’m looking forward to reading Watchmen again, but may have to wait a while before I get to it.

I guess I am in that grey area, age-wise. I’m young enough that I grew up with video games and I basically “get it,” but I just don’t really get into it. They have 7 or 8 TVs set up in back with consoles and people were playing a Mario driving game or something over the break. It held no appeal for me, because every time I’ve played games much in the past I get bored with it rather quickly. Watching others is torturously boring. There’s just enough hook for me that I can get short-term obsessed over the challenge of a game, but it’s never lasted more than an hour or two. So while I can get excited for others who are made happy by gaming, I don’t feel any desire for myself.

Ode to Hadrian

a d&d love song

Everyone else has had more exp. than me.
Everyone else has had more exp. than me.

No? Probably not?

I just hought I would submit something. I know it's not much, but hey. It's something. :D
A pizza doesn't scream. *shrug*

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Traveling Techie

A few months back the spouse decided to get a laptop to help with her teacher work. A while later she had a friend help her set up a wireless connection at our house. I've highjacked the machine a bit in the evenings and have gotten addicted to doing all my email in front of the TV. Now I'm trying another first, web surfing (and blogging) in bed. I also happen to be in a hotel room in Chicago for the Gaming in Libraries Symposium. We flew in today and I'm supposed to be getting to sleep early so I'm fresh for tomorrow, but wanted to try out the online access first. Pretty cool. It might actually be the first time I've used a laptop in my lap. Nothing too exciting to report about the trip yet, except that I've gotten to know a couple of colleagues much better (you can check out one here). I'll see if spending two days with gamers and bloggers and tech types inspires me to any especially deep thoughts.

Oh Please, Already.

Enough people, enough. There is no "war on Christmas", for God's sake. It is a myth, cooked up somewhere in the collective fevered imagination of the American right. It is a bright and shiny trinket dangled before the faithful to distract them from the real issues of the day. It is a chimera designed to keep James Dobson's coffers full and Bill O'Reilly's ratings high. It is a symptom of a deep and pervasive paranoia, a badge of victimhood proudly and petulantly worn by the most privileged and powerful people in the history of the world. It is, in short, pure unmitigated bullshit. Nothing more.

Warning for conservatives: nuance ahead. I know how that sort of thing usually flies right past you, so I thought I would give you the heads up....

Which is not to say, of course, that there aren't people who are overly sensitive, who would like everyone in the world to keep their religious views to themselves, who are offended by any public recognition of views or beliefs that are different than their own, and who whinge tirelessly about just how offended they are-- but there aren't many of them, there never have been, and they've never been very powerful. The whole "political correctness" movement that causes "conservatives" to lose so much sleep was barely a blip, a speedbump in the road of history. And though many of its absurdities still linger on in our culture, they are simply that: absurdities, not evidence of a liberal secularist plot to destroy everything that the more mythologically minded amongst us hold dear. In a few years, the entire "PC" phenomenon will only be remembered for what it taught the Right: how to whine and bitch and play the offended victim, far out of any proportion to any real wrong inflicted upon them.

So please, people, shut the fuck up already.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 02, 2005

?xommuL ,nairdaH ,uleeL

.sevil dna sthguoht ruoy tuoba erom raeh ot ekil dluow dna ylenol leef ot gninnigeb m’I ?gnidaer uoy erA ?tuo uoy tuhs dna golb eht dekcajhgih I evaH ?srotubirtnoc wollef ym era erehW

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The New Adventure

Aaarrgh! Can't sleep. I should be exhausted. I've been trying to jump-start my workouts the last few weeks by getting up at 6:00 to put in an easy half-hour on the recumbent bike in addition to workouts in the evening. Tonight after work I ran 5 miles with the dogs then went to the gym for a mile-long swim workout. Don't know why I'm not more tired, but am instead feeling rather wound up.

One of the things going around in my head when I was lying in bed (before I gave up on it a few minutes ago) was work, and it occurred to me I haven't commented on the new setting. There's not much to say, really, besides it's nice. Nothing much to complain or get excited about yet. Everyone's friendly, but I'm a bit slow to warm up to new people and I can't really call them friends yet. One advantage over the old branch is they like listening to music every morning, but one strike against them is they couldn't make it through all of my Violent Femmes CD this morning. True it's not exactly an easy-to-stomach sound, and there's something to offend in almost every song. But I think it ultimately got to be too much when I didn't know the player well enough to skip ahead a song so the manager heard the first bit of Dance, Motherfucker, Dance!, so I can't really blame them. Actually my biggest reaction to the new branch borders on boredom. I've been working the desk and such, but I don't know the place and my role there well enough yet to be taking on many projects and the like in between patrons. I've spent a lot of time just observing and taking in the atmosphere and learning the place. I've been reviewing the adult reference sources and web pages since I'll be doing more of that now. And I've been gradually moving into my new desk and making the space feel like it's mine. But overall I just don't feel that productive yet. I'm sure it will come with time, though.

I've also spent some of my time emailing my friends at the old location (finding work-related reasons, of course). My last day there was a Saturday, which meant I didn't work Friday, but I wasn't really thinking about saying goodbye until Saturday. The thing I overlooked is that the Thursday was my last day with most of the staff. They bought me balloons, brought in food, and such. Hugs on my way out the door. It was harder than I thought it would be, especially since I wasn't prepared for it. Perhaps that's also contributed to my being less than excited at the new place, because I miss the camaraderie of the old one. And, now that I think about it, I wonder if excitement about seeing some of them tomorrow isn't contributing to my restlessness in bed. But I've gone on too long now and this isn't putting me to sleep. More updates on the new branch to come, I'm sure.

Monday, November 28, 2005

What to Read?

I think I have a problem: more books to read than I have time. I always have a pile of 10-20 youth books sitting on my desk, things that have been recommended or reviewed well or looked interesting when they came in as new or such. I generally get to them in the order they come due, using maximum renewals and trying not to let any be more than a week overdue by the time I finish. It's often a race against time, though. I have the usual pile right now.

I also recently got the list of titles for the area's Mock Printz in mid January, put them on hold last week, and now have a separate stack of 8-10 titles to get to. If you don't know, the Printz Medal is awarded by the ALA each year to the best book written for young adults. At the Mock Printz, YA librarians get together and go through the same process as the real Printz committee, picking what we think is the best so we can compare our results to the real ones. The hosting librarian narrowed it down to a list of ten for us (the real committee tries to read everything published for young adults during the entire year), but I haven't read any of them yet.

On top of all that, I also have two adult books to read right now. I don't get to very many because the job requires I keep up with youth books, but every so often I'll place a hold on something that really looks interesting. Is Bill Cosby Right? landed in my stack a couple of weeks ago and I'm sure there's a waiting list that will keep me from renewing. And then there's the really exciting one, A Feast for Crows, by George R. R. Martin. It's the fourth book in a series I've been reading as it gets published and I've had a hold on this one since 2/17/2004--the publication date kept getting pushed back--but it's finally on the hold shelf for me. I know I won't be able to read everything before it comes due. What to do, what to do?

Monday, November 21, 2005

A reasoned argument about intelligent design

You may have seen this in your email, but if you haven't, I live to share.

A DEBATE: Intellegent Design vs. Science

Moderator: We're here today to debate the hot new topic, evolution versus Intelligent Des---

(Scientist pulls out baseball bat.)

Moderator: Hey, what are you doing?

(Scientist breaks Intelligent Design advocate's kneecap.)


Scientist: Perhaps it only appears that I broke your kneecap. Certainly, all the evidence points to the hypothesis I broke your kneecap. For example, your kneecap is broken; it appears to be a fresh wound; and I am holding a baseball bat, which is spattered with your blood. However, a mere preponderance of evidence doesn't mean anything. Perhaps your kneecap was designed that way. Certainly, there are some features of the current situation that are inexplicable according to the "naturalistic" explanation you have just advanced, such as the exact contours of the excruciating pain that you are experiencing right now.

Intelligent Design advocate: AAAAH! THE PAIN!

Scientist: Frankly, I personally find it completely implausible that the random actions of a scientist such as myself could cause pain of this particular kind. I have no precise explanation for why I find this hypothesis implausible --- it just is. Your knee must have been designed that way!

Intelligent Design advocate: YOU BASTARD! YOU KNOW YOU DID IT!

Scientist: I surely do not. How can we know anything for certain? Frankly, I think we should expose people to all points of view. Furthermore, you should really re-examine whether your hypothesis is scientific at all: the breaking of your kneecap happened in the past, so we can't rewind and run it over again, like a laboratory experiment. Even if we could, it wouldn't prove that I broke your kneecap the previous time. Plus, let's not even get into the fact that the entire universe might have just popped into existence right before I said this sentence, with all the evidence of my alleged kneecap-breaking already pre-formed.

Intelligent Design advocate: That's a load of bullshit sophistry! Get me a doctor and a lawyer, not necessarily in that order, and we'll see how that plays in court!

Scientist: (turning to audience) And so we see, ladies and gentlemen, when push comes to shove, advocates of Intelligent Design do not actually believe any of the arguments that they profess to believe. When it comes to matters that hit home, they prefer evidence, the scientific method, testable hypotheses, and naturalistic explanations. In fact, they strongly privilege naturalistic explanations over supernatural hocus-pocus or metaphysical wankery. It is only within the reality-distortion field of their ideological crusade that they give credence to the flimsy, ridiculous arguments which we so commonly see on display. I must confess, it kind of felt good, for once, to be the one spouting free-form bullshit; it's so terribly easy and relaxing, compared to marshaling rigorous arguments backed up by empirical evidence. But I fear that if I were to continue, then it would be habit-forming, and bad for my soul. Therefore, I bid you adieu.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ripped from the Headlines

I'm not a bumper-sticker person, but one that I really like is, "Think globally, act locally." It's important to be aware of how our policies and actions effect everyone, not just our neighbors or countrymen or allies, but the poor and needy everywhere. But we can only do what we can do. No matter how much we want to change the world, our actions take place in a given place and time and it helps to have a bit of focus.

Now I'm the first to admit that my ideals are rarely even modestly echoed in my actions, but I try to do some little bit of good for the world with my life. As someone who has based his career on the idea that information is power, a part of what I try to do is stay informed. I don't do nearly as good a job as I would like, but I at least skim headlines in some news source (even if it's just The Daily Show) every day. And in keeping with the bumper-sticker motto, I try to get news at all levels: international, national, and local. I know many people who don't feel the Kansas City Star is worth their time, but I think keeping up with it is an important part of the equation and have a personal subscription.

One of the problems with the paper, though, is it's damn website requires you to have an account to read anything but the latest stories. So when I read a story and want to share it with others, just providing a link doesn't do the trick since who really bothers to create an account just to read something when following a link? I know I don't. I've been trying to decide what to do about this, but there were three things in Wednesday's (11/16) paper that I wanted to share enough that I'm willing to say screw it. Here they are, if I interest you enough to take the effort to find them, great, if not, oh well.

The first one a short article titled, "State Board Chief Faults Blue Valley Book Rulings." Steve Abrams, chairman of the Kansas Board of Education, isn't satisfied to just take evolution out of our schools, now he wants to start banning books. He's come out now as critical of Blue Valley for not withdrawing Beloved after it was challenged. "It just surprises me that the board and the administration doesn't want to do anything about it, when you have parents coming up to try to get rid of this porn." I'm sorry, but when did we stop being a democracy? No matter how vocal a minority group is, they don't get to decide policy if everyone else thinks the book is good literature. I'm sick of schools and others being forced to make decisions based on the outcry of a few instead of the feelings of the silent majority.

Of a similar political nature is the editorial "Cure Threatens Right-Wing Propaganda." The subtitle is "Abstinence-only crowd says lifesaving medical advance will send teens the wrong message." The main idea is that conservatives are working to keep quiet a new prevention for cervical cancer because it also prevents an STD. They would rather have women die of cervical cancer than remove a reason to scare kids out of having sex. Brilliant.

The third is an article by Lewis Diuguid about a college student from our community, "Young Woman Speaks Out to Change Minority Stereotypes." My heart swells with pride when I read it because I know her. Rickeena is one of the students I spent a week with as a volunteer at the National Conference for Community and Justice's Anytown camp. While I can hardly take credit for Rickeena's intelligence and leadership, it makes me feel good to know I might have been a positive influence. And I'd love to tell you more about Anytown, so let me know if you are interested.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Of Fiery Goblets

Since I have to spend my Saturday working (last day at "the branch that shall not be named," as my new manager referred to it), I had my day off today. Slept in way too late and then finished the book I was reading (You & You & You - quite good), so my morning was shot. I met some associates from work for a final lunch as a group since we are ceasing to exist due to the reorganization. Had a nice time. Not too much gossip about work. Then I had only had a bit of time to kill before I had to meet the wife and seven of her seventh graders to go see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on opening day. A most enjoyable film. Not as good as the book (of course), but it captured it well. Plus we got to check out the new Legends theater at Village West by the Speedway. Big, comfy seats with tons of legroom. I highly recommend it. After that we ate at Bob Evans and walked through Cabela's. It was my first time there. I've never seen so many dead animals before, not even at a museum. The entire store is filled with displays of taxidermied animals hunting and being hunted. Many are actually in the act of the kill. A rather nice day, although much too short since I skipped the morning. Now it's off to bed so I can get up in time for work tomorrow.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Do you hear the drums, Fernando?

I have had a bad feeling lately. I don't know why, but I feel like there is something on the horizon. Some kind of change, and you know me, most the time I dig on change, but this seems ominous. Yes there has been a rash of bad luck and even worse things happening as of late, but this seems different. Worse somehow.
I don't want to seem like a pessimist (even though I am), but things don't feel right. It may just be me and my overactive imagination. So just ignore what I've said.
Back to the title.
"There was something in the air that night,
The stars were bright,
They were shining down for you and me,
For liberty,

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Would you like some Wine with that Cheese?

This was so cheesy I just had to share. Maybe it could be a contest: who can provide the most godawful cheesy book jacket summary? This one is from that classic tome The Awakening, Seven Sisters : Book 2, by Debra White Smith.

Supermodel Kim Lan Lowery has it all-- exquisite beauty, wealth, a famous
heartthrob fiance, and a close circle of friends. When a "secret admirer" sends flowers and love notes, Kim is flattered. As the letters become strangely possessive, she searches for someone she can trust. Grappling with the impact of her faith on her career, Kim feels the Lord tugging her to take part in a mission trip to Vietnam. At first, trip coordinator MickO'Donnel refuses her application because of her celebrity status. Their
lifestyles clash and values collide, but they also battle a deep undercurrent of passion. Finally embarking on the trip, Kim feels secure-- until her "admirer" reveals his identity ...

I would say you can't make this stuff up, but then, somebody did.

I'm old

Just sayin' . . .

My New Favorite Person

[A list given to me by a co-worker today. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, nothing else.]


10. He's smarter than the average mean librarian.

9. He's one of the few people that I can talk sports with and stuff.

8. The kids who visit the library will miss him.

7. He's part of the library Magnificent Seven Clan ([names excluded, but all male]) Motto: "All for one and seven for all."

6. Anytime there was a computer problem or a question that I had to ask, Degolar was always approachable and helpful.

5. His humor is unprecedented and extremely witty.

4. He's cooler than Steve McQueen, Humphrey Bogart, and James Dean combined (see reason #2).

3. He exhibits very positive energy and it can be seen in his personality.

2. He's got the substance of what legends are made of. That's why I say that he's cooler than McQueen, Bogart, and Dean.

1. Aw, Shucks. Dang it, we're all gonna miss him. The new library is like the New England Patriots of the system. They seem to get all of the talented and great personalities. Good luck to you, Degolar. May thy future endeavors be fruitful. Maybe I'll catch you when I'm at the new branch sometime.

[Actually makes me feel guilty for avoiding him so much.]

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A poem for bloggers

Here I sit,
Alone and bored,
My inbox full,
IM's ignored,

I wonder why,
I sit and type,
And fill this board,
With loads of tripe.

I type and type
With nothing said.
Just letting out
Things in my head.

My brain is jelly,
My fingers numb.
So much technology,
And yet, so dumb.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Quote for Hadrian

I'm reading a young adult book called You & You & You, by Per Nilsson, and I came across a pasage that made me think of Hadrian. When I showed it to him he laughed heartily and agreed fully, so I thought I should share (take note, expectant parents):

Children are disgusting.

And the more of them there are, the more disgusting it is. Children are always disgusting and snotty and sticky and messy, but it's worst when they eat. And when they pee and poop. Children aren't just disgusting; children are self-centered, ungrateful, naughty, spoiled, and egotistical too.

Compassion--what's that?

Helpfulness and Cooperation--what's that?

Sharing and Being Considerate--what's that?

Kids don't understand stuff like that. Kids aren't really people. Kids are small, clumsy, helpless, silly animals. They're not really people yet.

(p. 37)

Friday, November 11, 2005

I'm Going to Chicago

Oh, yeah, I got so busy writing about the day I almost forgot what I sat down to write about.

A couple of years ago we were offering a "Teen Game Night" once a month at the library. I tried to offer different things to draw in a variety of people. Knowing that teens like video games, I thought it would be cool to have some kind of video game night. We don't have much of a budget to work with, so the best I could come up with was providing TVs. The teens would have to bring their own consoles with the draw being new people to play against or new games to try beyond their usual circle of friends. On three separate occassions I drove to different branches around the system collecting TVs, but no one ever showed up. I decided playing at the library just didn't have enough appeal and gave up on it.

Someone must have remembered I had the idea, though. I don't know who exactly started the conversation, but recently the computer people in our support services started investigated the idea of gaming in libraries. I was included on some emails and invited to a meeting to talk about it. That meeting was yesterday. I thought we would just be brainstorming the idea and exploring the possibilities, but it didn't take long to figure out that it had already been decided that we were going to have gaming, it was just a matter of how and when. By the end of the meeting we had committed to two tournaments at the Central library, one during winter break and one during spring break.

The first one is just going to be a trial run and we don't have much budget since it's the end of the year, so it will be "small scale." We'll only have four Xboxes, 30 entrants (ages 15-19), and one game (Halo). And only one prize--a new Xbox 360. Plus food and t-shirts and consolation prizes and staffing, etc. This is going to end up costing half of my yearly programming budget at a branch. And this is the small one? Wow! I'm not complaining and I'm certainly glad to be involved, but I'm jealous that those in this group with me obviously have influence with the powers that be. Imagine what I could do with my programming given that kind of money. Anyway, it's a cool idea and I hope it takes off and grows. It could be a lot of fun.

Oh, and the Chicago thing. It turns out there's a symposium on gaming in libraries early next month. The powers that be also approved three staff to attend, one of which should be a public service staff. As basically the only one in the group who meets that criteria, I get to go. Cool.

Hmm . . . if I buy my own Xbox to get familiar with the games can I count it as a tax write-off now?

A Beautiful Day Off

Just taking a quick break from doing chores, running errands, and such on this Veteran's Day, and what a perfect day it is. I took the dogs walking on the trails around Shawnee Mission Park earlier and I don't think you could create better weather. I started in a sweatshirt but quickly peeled it off and was comfortable in jeans and a long-sleeve t-shirt. The air is dry, with a nice little breeze, and the sky is blue. The grass is still green, but the leaves are colorful and all over place. The undergrowth has thinned enough that the dogs only have minimal stickies to comb out. The ground is dry. Absolutely nothing to complain about, and I'm in a great mood from it. And to top it all off, my back doesn't hurt.

I've had strange thing going on with my lower back--about where it becomes the butt--for around the last month. It started with tight muscles that got worse when I ran, leaving me extra stiff and sore. After the Mahaffie Half-Marathon it became pain. I took a few days off, but the first time I tried exercising after (I think it was a bike ride), it got quite severe. Just on one side, but it was bad enough that I went to see the doctor. She told me to heat and stretch it, which I was already doing, and take the muscle relaxants she prescribed. I did, and thought I would be OK if I just swam while taking a break from the biking and running. It kept getting worse, though, becoming a sharp, biting pain when I moved that leg and a dull throb the rest of the time. I was noticably limping for about a week. So I haven't done anything active for the last week and have finally started seeing some improvement. Wednesday I walked slowly with the dogs and took breaks to sit and read. Now today I did 40 minutes of vigorous hiking with no problems. I'm planning on mowing the lawn (a final time for the year to get rid of leaves) after this.

I was thinking while we walked about the cyclical nature of my exercise habits. When I go, I go all out. I can pace myself fine when I'm doing the activities, but I have a tendency to keep piling on the workouts without enough easy days for recovery. Eventually my back starts hurting or I get sick or I wear out or whatever, and I end up taking more time off than I would like. A bit of moderation would help with consistency; but I enjoy it more when I don't hold back. I kind of like the analogy of the fantasy quest I see in so many of the books I read. The Fellowship of the Ring is a good, well-known example. The hobbits desperately flee the Shire, almost die, then recover with Tom Bombadil. They desperately march through the wilderness before and after Weathertop, almost die, then make it to Rivendell and recover. They desperately push through the Mines of Moria, almost die, then recover in Lothlorien. I work out kind of like that, I just get frustrated when the breaks come sooner and more often than I'd like.

Actually I see that pattern in most of the things I do. I go through phases where I read a ton, then I don't feel like reading for a while and take a break. Right now I am obviously writing a bunch on this blog, but it comes after a couple of months of almost nothing at all. I like projects at my job so I can focus on something, do it all out and really well, but then finish it and move on to something else. I wouldn't say I obsess when I'm in the midst of things, but I like to put myself completely into whatever I'm doing and really focus on doing it well. The only problem is eventually I need a break when going that hard. Well, not the only problem, since it applies to things like eating, which I tend to do all-out as well. As much as I exercise I should be much thinner, but I don't seem to burn out on overeating as easily as I burn out on other things. Oh, well, I'm generally healthy and don't enjoy the misery of depriving myself too much. And it's still a beautiful day, so I should wrap up and get back outside with that lawnmower.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Lemony Likes Libraries

A couple of good quotes from Lemony Snicket's The Penultimate Peril:

"Wicked people never have time for reading," Dewey said. "It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." (p 226)


The burning of a book is a sad, sad sight, for even though a book is nothing but ink and paper, it feels as if the ideas contained in the book are disappearing as the pages turn to ashes and the cover and binding--which is the term for the stitching and glue that holds the pages together--blacken and curl as the flames do their wicked work. When someone is burning a book, they are showing utter contempt for all of the thinking that produced its ideas, all of the labor that went into its words and sentences, and all of the trouble that befell the author . . . (p 324)

Plus most of the book is set in a hotel that is organized according to the Dewey Decimal System:

For instance, if you wanted to find a book on German poetry, you would begin in the section of the library marked 800, which contains books on literature and rhetoric. Similarly, the eighth story of this hotel is reserved for our rhetorical guests. Within the 800 section of a library, you'd find books on German poetry labeled 831, and if you were to take the elevator up to the eighth story and walk into Room 831, you'd find a gathering of German poets. (p 62)

And one example of why Lemony Snicket is fun even for adults to read:

"Everyone wears blindfolds at a High Court trial," the manager replied, "except the judges, of course. Haven't you heard the expression 'Justice is blind'?"
"Yes," Klaus said, "but I always thought it meant that justice should be fair and unprejudiced."
"The verdict of the High Court was to take the expression literally," said the manager, "so everyone except the judges must cover their eyes before the trial can begin."
"Scalia," Sunny said. She meant something like, "It doesn't seem like the literal interpretation makes any sense," but her siblings did not think it was wise to translate. (p 267-8)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'm Here

As you may have guessed from the theological ramblings, Lummox's ditty has coaxed me back into contributing mode. I've been a bit preoccupied the last month or so with happenings at work about which I haven't been at liberty to speak (write) since I wasn't supposed to know. I'm still not going to give any details, but if you know me you know what I'm talking about. I've been transferred, and if I hadn't had the benefit of some under-the-table gossip I wouldn't have know until I received the official two-week notice on Monday. It really helped to have the extra notice because I was able to deal with my shock and anger over time. When I was finally told two days ago I was able to look forward and start planning for the changes. I hadn't prepared myself for the reaction of my co-workers, though, and spent much of Tuesday dealing with their reactions. I'm glad I no longer needed comforting about it because they did. I still think the way management has handled the situation sucks, but I'm ready to move forward and make the best of things. It's not so much that I'm upset about where I'm going, I just hate to be forced away from where I've been.

One of the ways I've distracted myself through all of this has been by becoming a browncoat. I finally broke down and bought the Firefly TV show DVD and finished it in time to catch Serenity at the theater Sunday night. Most excellent, from start to finish. I hope they find some way to keep the characters alive.

A Bit of a Sermon

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design. As everyone knows, a big topic in Kansas these days. And a discussion on a friend’s blog recently. I thought about adding my comment to the fray, but my take needs more room than a comment should so you get to read it here. You’ve got the two sides, of course, who are at the ends of the spectrum and do most of the arguing. But the thing neither side acknowledges is that there is a spectrum, that most people (the ones who don’t bother fighting about it) tend to be somewhere in the middle on the issue. Which leads to the question, “Why the ‘vs.’?” Does the whole debate have to be framed in either-or terms? Couldn’t evolution be the design that the intelligent God has used? What’s wrong with using both science and faith to understand the world? That’s where I think most people tend to come down on this issue. The evolutionists are happy to say that science is only our imperfect understanding of things and all Intelligent Design claims to require is that we acknowledge that someone is guiding the process, so it seems perfectly reasonable to marry the two.

The problem with this, of course, is that there is more to Intelligent Design than its proponents claim. They aren’t just after acknowledgment of an Intelligent Designer, but a very specific design story based on a literal reading of the bible. A literal reading of the bible as interpreted by contemporary, U.S, Christian fundamentalists. And that’s the thing—someone from North Africa of 1000 years ago could have set out on the same task, to use a literal interpretation of the bible to describe the natural history of the world, but would have come up with a completely different narrative. He or she wouldn’t have had to work dinosaur fossils or the American continents or a solar system centered around the sun or hundreds of other things into the equation because his or her understanding of the world would have been different. There would have been different cultural concerns. The entire question may not have mattered. That’s because we are context-specific creatures and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us is shaped by our experiences.

And that’s the problem with trying to read the bible literally. Not only are we as readers context-based, but so were the writers. The bible is God’s Word (capital W), the Truth (capital T) that has been passed on to us, but it has been filtered through men and women who had to do their best in their limited, context-specific capacities to understand the truth (small t) of it and capture it in their words (small w). God is infinite, a concept that we can describe but can’t really get our minds around. It’s the same with God’s Truth. I like the metaphor of a prism refracting light. The whole, pure light enters the prism and what emerges is a rainbow of the different pieces of that light. That’s what we are capable of getting with our finite minds. We might get the blue and know that it is truth, but it is only a part of the greater Truth of the complete light. Our human-ness limits us, makes us incapable of seeing/understanding the light before it hits the prism, so all we can know are the bits that come out on the other side. There is nothing wrong with what we understand—it is a part of God’s Word and contains some of the Truth—but it is limited and incomplete. That is the best we can ever hope to do. All of the writers of the bible were limited in the same way. They had/have something real and true to tell us, but it is but a part of the whole. They did their best to point toward the whole, but it is filtered through their context—their understanding of the world, the audience they were writing for, their immediate purposes, the limitations of language, etc. Romans was written by Paul. It was a letter to people he knew in which he tried to address their particular needs at their particular time and place. We can get something useful from reading this letter, but we can get at the bigger message behind it better if we understand who Paul was and what he was talking about (and what he wasn’t) in their specific circumstances. It’s the same with every book and passage in the bible. That’s why it can seem like the bible contradicts itself, because each piece should only be understood in light of the overarching message of the whole. What does this mean in light of the two creation stories—and there are two, not just the one—in Genesis? It’s not the exact details of the myth(s) that are essential, but the point that God is responsible for creation and no one else. If God has accomplished that through evolution, fine, but the thing to remember is that God is behind it.

So what does all that mean in terms of forcing the idea of Intelligent Design into the schools? I think it’s silly and the only true purpose for doing so can be evangelism. Let the scientists teach your children their best understanding of the world using science and you can explain to your children how God is responsible for it. If you understand things as I do, then there’s no problem. But even if you do insist upon a literal understanding of the bible, you can still teach that to your children at home. They may be bothered by the dissonance of the two not agreeing, but you show very little faith in your children, your influence on them, and the Truth of God if you think they will pick the scientific explanation over yours. But they are still learning what you want them to, even if it’s only happening at home and at church instead of at school. No, the only reason to force it into the schools is to force it on other people’s children, and that offends me. So I will have fun mocking you with the Flying Spaghetti Monster since I doubt you are inclined to listen to my true beliefs.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Pastafarian Heresy

Pastafarianism? or FSMism? Not sure. Not sure I care... but, these pirates are out evangelizing. While its not something I would ever do myself, it makes me just a little bit proud to be a Missourian. Thanks guys.

The Joys of Customer Service, Part IV

I hate my job. To most people who know me this will come as no surprise. It is certainly not something that I keep to myself. In fact, bitching about my job is one of the few joys this dismal life affords me, especially since the job itself provides none whatsoever. But why you might ask, do I hate it so?

Pissy people.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Pot, meet kettle". But bitching about something is entirely different than bitching at someone. And my friends, being bitched at for no good reason is my primary job description. I'm pleasant, I'm polite, and I get repayed for that effort with snide remarks, rudeness, and sometimes, outright hostility. This is why I hate my job. I would write more, but now I must get back to it-- wish me luck.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Big Time and Friends

Someone went to a lot of trouble to build this thing of brilliance. Funny, sad, and sickening all at the same time. Enjoy.

Vote for me in '08!

I've decided to run for president next election.

Sure, I have absolutely no governing experience, no great understanding of law, and I'm not even old enough to qualify, but what difference does that make? I've never been outside this country, and have scarcely traveled within it, and I'm so terribly liberal that ranks me farther left than the Dalai Lama, and more communistic, but if there are rabid conservatives out there it shouldn't make any difference.

I do realize that the president is technically incapable of anything but vetoing and sending out troops, but I'm perfectly capable of signing my name and avoiding the use of the military. Isn't that an improvement? I may not know much about a lot of things, but I realize that there are people who do, and I'd be able to ask them what's going on. I know where to find information, and, what's more, I actually have the capacity to process it. That puts me a few steps ahead of the current government. Most of all, if I mess up, I admit it and try to fix things, rather than continually insist that I was right in the face of all evidence to the contrary. That makes me better that what we've got by several orders of magnitude.

My campaign slogan: As unqualified as the rest of them, but honest about it.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Oh Yes, My Brother, I Know

Oh, links to be added, links to be added.... I don't know how it is that I've never stumbled across this guy before. Apparently I haven't been spending as much time at McSweeney's lately. Well, thanks to an intrepid co-worker, I have seen the light.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Uhhhh,... This Sounds Interesting.

It seems the Devious Manipulator has something up his sleeve. Should I approach this with trepidation? excitement? barely concealed consumerist longings (boat journeys! An excuse to buy that book I've been drooling over!)? Perhaps false bravado?: Bring it on Douchebag Malcontent! I dunno.

One thing I will say is this: it's cool that Scott is thinking about the game, putting in time and effort to make sure that all of us players have a good time, trying to make sure that there are enough subplots and character hooks to keep us all interested all the time. It's a big job, a time consuming and --I'm sure-- sometimes difficult one, that he toils at without any form of material compensation. So, in lieu of money, here's a nod of appreciation the DM's way. Thanks man... but we're still gonna kick your NPC asses come game time.

Still Around, Kinda...

Don't worry Dave, we're still here. Kind of. My story: I've been reluctant to post for while because I haven't been really sure what I wanted to do here, why I wanted to blog etc. etc. I was beginning to think that blogging was really just a distraction from more serious concerns, more serious writing (not to mention law school applications). But then again, I haven't been using that time for anything productive; the Great American Novel remains unwritten. Where could that time have gone, I mean, really?

The truth is, there should be time for some frivolous and angry posting-- it's still writing after all, and any writing teacher will tell you that practice is the only way to really improve your writing skills. In the next few days though, I'll be starting up a new blog-- one dedicated to things of a more serious nature. Politics, religion, literature, they'll go there. The address hasn't been nailed down yet, and there will be some site design issues, so it may be a while before it is up and running (that's right kids, a non-Blogger blog, thanks largely to the techie/designer roommate). Of course, if you're looking for posts on D&D, expletive filled rants on the "Joys of Customer Service" and friendly open letters to the Kansas Department of Transportation, look no further-- you've come to the right place.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A little ditty

(to the tune of "Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone."

Oh where, oh where have my goblin pals gone?
Oh where, oh where can they be?
They don't want to blog and that, really, is sad
Oh why did they leave only me?

I think, I think Eric's "walking his dog."
Oh where, oh where can he be?
It has been so long since he's written a blog
Oh where, oh where can he be?

And Chris, who comments on everyone's post
Oh where, oh where can he be?
I used to enjoy all his comments the most.
Oh where, oh where can he be.

And Rachel, the one who wants to be a rogue.
Oh where, oh where can she be?
It's not very easy to rhyme things with rogue.
Oh where, oh where can she be?

Oh where, oh where have my goblin friends gone?
Oh where, oh where can they be?
I miss them so much and hope they'll log back on.
I miss him, and him, and she.

What do you expect? I ain't Shakespeare. *shrug*