Showing posts from March, 2012

Taoism defined

Of course, the Tao that can be named is not the true Tao. But as I often say I am a born-again Taoist (none of that alchemy and immortality stuff), I thought I should jot down my current thinking about what I mean. For me, Taoism is less a religion than a philosophy.

Taoism is the cultivation of an attitude. That attitude has at least three facets:

* peace - a mind that knows how to be quiet.

* potency - the ability to dip into a well of endless possibilities.

* appreciation. By focusing the attention -- zooming in to the particular, zooming out to the general field - we can find both balance and beauty.

Second Person Present Tense

If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale or when we exhale.
—Shun Ryu Suzuki

I used to think the brain was the most important organ in the body, until I realized who was telling me that.
—Emo Phillips

Recently, I read a profoundly insightful science fiction story by Daryl Gregory, "Second Person, Present Tense." Wonderful writing. I recommend it.

I won't try to summarize the tale, except to say that it tackles a profound insight into consciousness.

Forget id, ego, and superego. Replace them with the Parliament, the Page, and the Queen.

The Parliament refers to the idea that your consciousness is not one voice. It is a committee. It is made up of several different physiological or biological systems, all vying for action. At some point, they achieve consensus. This is the moment in which, for instance, fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) reveals that the muscular s…

The ee!book is coming!

So I've been thinking about e-books, and the rise of self-publishing. The short version is this: libraries of all types need to have systems enabling them to "publish" and manage content directly. As I've oft-stated, there were 2.7 million self-published titles (mostly electronic) in 2010, about 9 times the output of commercial publishing in the same year. This trend will continue.

So now let's say that your library does have such an infrastructure for the management of digital content -- as my library does. I anticipate that there will be at least four kinds of content coming our way:

* crap. It takes real effort to become a fine writer. A lot of what will be written won't be very good. But that's always been true. It disappears into the ages -- or at least, it has until now. (Do we need to weed e-books? Or will we finally have the ability to preserve every title forever?)

* OK stuff. There will be many works that do a reasonably good job of telling a ge…

Your brain on fiction

This New York Times piece has some pretty interesting stuff that librarians have said for years. And now, science proves it.

For instance, "...individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective."

The Internet Bubble

So the problem, as detailed in The Filter Bubble - What the Internet is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser, is that Google "personalizes" your search results to the point where you get less and less of the real world, and more of the things you already know, like, and agree with. That's pleasant, of course.

An alternative is the intriguing search engine DuckDuckGo. Recently, it teamed up with the Linux Mint distribution to replace Google as the default search engine. You can read about that decision, and about some characteristics of the alternative engine, in this blog post. Some key features:

* no tracking, so more privacy
* no ads. Your search history isn't feeding sales.
* no "bubbling." That is, no matter who you are, or where you search, you get the same results.
* the ability to submit a search through the engine to other platforms -- Youtube, Flicker, etc., and even Google itself. Worth a look.

School library advocacy

Some months ago, I had the privilege of facilitating a meeting of the Colorado Association of School Libraries (CASL). The topic was advocacy -- and it was urgent. I asked them this question: suppose you were running a great ship, with all kinds of important operating tasks. Suddenly, that ship is the Titanic, and it just hit an iceberg. Would you keep doing the same tasks?

School libraries in Colorado are in trouble. Despite wonderful research showing just how much they contribute to academic performance, school librarians are being laid off, replaced with volunteers or technology people, and generally being dismissed from a progressive educational strategy.

The good folks of CASL came up with a host of ideas for communicating differently, in a way that is more focused on the people who make these funding decisions. To that end, they've put together a website -
caslsurvive/ with a bunch of ideas, and immediately useful tools, to get the word out.

Definitely worth a look.

Carson Block at SXSW

Great article here about "the fate of libraries." It has at least two great quotes:

Carson: “I’m not sure why publishers are so afraid of libraries,” he said. “We pay."

Reporter Harry McCracken: "We’ve always needed libraries; now, more than, ever, libraries need us."

Philadephia paper on ebooks

So far, this article by the Philadephia Inquirer's editorial board is the best I've seen on the subject. In particular, I liked this: "Librarians rightly argue that they are spending dwindling public resources on e-books, so they should get a break. Part of their job is to help build a literate society, which is essential to a strong democracy. They also make a strong case that libraries generate business for publishers."

I'm a slut (the musical)

Sometimes, only a song will do.

I can also recommend "Drunk Dial," by this same wonderful group, Reformed Whores.

eBook platform gaining traction

I am impressed with the good folks of Califa, some of whom I met at mid-winter's ALA conference. Their willingness to adopt and adapt our own experiment is a good thing for libraries. See the story by Michael Kelley here. This isn't the only thing they're working on!

Library authors petition

I ask for your assistance. If you are a librarian, or have written a book for the library professional audience, what do you think of this idea?

* We create a petition, circulated among all professional library publishing houses.

* The petition states our strong desire to donate an e-book copy of works we have written to a library of our choice. I'm not asking to "lease a copy to a library through a third party." I'm petitioning, perhaps in violation of contracts that were framed a long time ago, to give ownership of a copy to a library that can check it out to one person at a time, with DRM-management. Or without, if you have strong feelings about that.

* We assert, as authors and librarians, our belief that books should be owned and managed by libraries. We protest the disappearance of ownership.

* We assert, as authors and librarians, that it's absurd that a book that costs nothing to print, bind, and distribute should cost MORE than print. It should cost less. Ye…

Columnists on education

First, Thomas Friedman writes on the negative correlation between natural resources and national educational attainment, here.

Second, economist Paul Krugman writes about the surprising attack on education by some elements of the conservative right, here.

Both are well-written, provocative, and insightful. Coming after my attendance at a Douglas County School Board meeting last week - an experience that was alternately hilarious and appalling - I think these columnists are on to something. The folks who would dis-invest in education are avidly pursuing precisely the things that will most harm our nation, and its citizens.

Back to that school board meeting.

* There were numerous attacks by the board against unions. My favorite was the railing against the travesty of "taxpayer funded subsidies" to unions, who then (horrors) had the temerity to spend some of it on political lobbying. This remark came from an oil and gas lawyer, who -- is this possible? -- perhaps is not aware of s…

Garry Trudeau on mandated rape

He said, “Texas's HB-15 isn't hard to explain: The bill says that in order for a woman to obtain a perfectly legal medical procedure, she is first compelled by law to endure a vaginal probe with a hard, plastic 10-inch wand,” said Trudeau.  “The World Health Organization defines rape as ‘physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration — even if slight — of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.’ You tell me the difference.”

I don't see one.

History of Information Organization infographic

Got this on Twitter from Stephen Abrams. Pretty interesting...

Gateway Mesa photos

I walked today along the Gateway Mesa, an amazing trail east of Castle Rock. These photos are from my little Palm Pre. Except for the last one, they mostly look better in the smaller versions.

First photo:


Third, the grasses, like blonde hair against the old volcanic rock.

The Futulele

This idea is so brilliant: combine an iPhone and an iPad (totaling over $1,000 for the pieces) to make a $35 ukulele. Read about it here. I think you have to buy another connecting piece, though.