I’m Time’s Person of the Year!

As I’m sure you all know by now, I’m Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. This was a huge surprise as I didn’t even knew I was in the running. Hell, I didn’t even know anyone at Time read the blog. Just goes to show that the mainstream media isn’t quite as daft as we think it is, or as it has often proven itself to be, repeatedly. Over and Over.

But, after singlehandedly swaying the election through my powerful net-roots activism, it was pretty hard to miss me. And I’m sure my LibraryThing page had a lot to do with swaying the decision in my favor, too.

Not to worry though, I won’t forget my faithful readers reader as my meteoric rise to fame and fortune make me a big time shaker in whatever the hell it is I do with this blog. As we all know, cat pictures have a startling array of effects on the world stage, from economics to geopolitics, cat pictures, snarky reviews of movies and anti-religious rants will surely win the hearts and minds of all those who wish to do us ill.

With my help, I’m sure we will use the power of this mighty series of tubes to change the world for the better.

At te very least, we’ll have something to look at until the world ends.

Netflix, Unicorns and the Future!

Lori Bowen Ayre over at Mentat asks the good questions:

What if the Library Worked Like Netflix?

NetFlix is easy, personal, fast, and convenient. It assists users in finding titles they will not only enjoy but titles that they are probably very excited to find because they are surprised that they could be found or they’ve never heard of them before. Their choices are not limited to the blockbusters of the day. NetFlix makes it very easy for customers to borrow and return titles. NetFlix is to movies as libraries should be to books.

She lays out a solid argument that I agree with a hundred percent. Too bad it’ll never work.

Some of the institutionalized policies that we librarians deal with are holdovers from the analog days of card catalogs and physical browsers (people looking at shelves) rather than OPACs and web browsers. But there are still enough old school librarians around who remember how things used to work and never wanted them to change to begin with and don’t want them to change too much, at least while they are still around.

A colleague from grad school was telling me about this recently. She had a great idea to streamline her library’s ILL procedures, and all it would have cost was a piece of software that was less than the cost of one month’s ILL shipping expenses. But the ILL Librarian there didn’t want to hear it. She had her paperwork and her forms and her filing system and her two to six week turn around time and that was that. Didn’t matter if the new system would save time and money and help people better. The Netflix model of patron service probably has merit. And public librarians could save thousands of dollars switching to Open Source, and maybe one day we’ll ditch Dewey and LoC and catalog with tag clouds. But not today. Or tomorrow.

We new school librarians can’t change the world It’s going to take time. Time to either convince admin to take a chance on new technology (regardless of how well it’s proved itself in other fields) or time to wait for the dinosaurs to die off.

All The Stars in The Sky

The stars are not just our destiny, they are fucking ours. Not content to invade Middle Eastern countries that are no threat to the US, the Bush Administration has decided to expand it’s imperial goals to include All of Frickin’ Outer Space:

The document – signed by President Bush – also says “freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power”.

The document rejects any proposals to ban space weapons.

But the White House has said the policy does not call for the development or deployment of weapons in space.

Except, that for the last six years, when not dissembling about his role in the destruction of the cradle of civilization, Rumsfeld has been pitching a tent about a laser guided missile defense shield/ space station with lasers. You know that somewhere in the Pentagon, Rumsfeld has a team of engineers working on plans for his very own Death Star so, claiming that we have no designs on weaponizing space is silly.

Having a space based automated “defense” weapon is all part of the Neocon techno fetish. They’ve been flogging this wet dream of waging total global warfare with the minimal number of troops possible for decades and aren’t going to let a little thing like reality or the limitations of technology or utter, abject failure stop them. It’s the same old strategy that went horribly wrong in Iraq, the notion that we don’t need soldiers or Intelligence, we’ll just bomb the shit out of anyone who gets on our nerves. And if we can do that from space (with lasers!) well, that’s just cool as shit.

Wonder if this includes China and their plans of recreating the Lunar Landing by 2012? These idiots will start WW IV because China violates our claims to own the frickin’ universe.

Laying Hands On Your Hard Drive

Have you ever wondered if there were a way to completely restrict what your computer does (I mean besides using anything by Microsoft)? Ever wanted to have some Jesus on your desktop? The Pope in your RAM? Well, now you can have your very own Christian Operating System:

Ubuntu Christian Edition is a free, open source operating system geared towards Christians. It is based on the popular Ubuntu Linux. Ubuntu is a complete Linux-based operating system, freely available with both community and professional support.

[…] Ubuntu Christian Edition includes more than 16,000 pieces of software, but the core desktop installation fits on a single CD. Ubuntu Christian Edition covers every standard desktop application from word processing and spreadsheet applications to web server software and programming tools.

Along with the standard Ubuntu applications, Ubuntu Christian Edition includes the best available Christian software. The latest release contains GnomeSword, a top of the line Bible study program for Linux based on the Sword Project. There are several modules installed with GnomeSword including Bibles, Commentaries, and Dictionaries.

But the real question is, does it quote scripture at you when you try to downlaod porn?

To The Moon, Stephen!

Dr. Hawking, while a genius in Astrophysics and Cosmology needs to lay off the Star Trek:

The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there’s an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth, world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday.

The British astrophysicist told a news conference in Hong Kong that humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years.

“We won’t find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system,” added Hawking, who arrived to a rock star’s welcome Monday. Tickets for his lecture planned for Wednesday were sold out.

He added that if humans can avoid killing themselves in the next 100 years, they should have space settlements that can continue without support from Earth.

“It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species,” Hawking said. “Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.”

Amada Marcotte’s response is much more pointed, so I’ll quote her:

Religious wingnuts have invented the Rapture to avoid talking about taking responsibility for the future of the human race (also to justify having more and more Virility Objects, i.e. children, even though the planet is suffocating from the massive explosion in wasteful human beings). Now Stephen Hawking has just put his authority behind an escape fantasy that allows wingnuts who aren’t Rapture fanatics to ignore the fact that we’re destroying our planet and very soon going to make in uninhabitable.

Chris Clarke shoots down the technical aspects of such a monumental brain fart, even bringing up the horrible memories of Biosphere:

And that was on this planet, where the designers could just have a thousand yards of specialized concrete and a million square feet of tempered glass driven up to the site on flatbed trucks. I suspect an attempt to replicate the Biosphere experiment in the Valle Marineris would be a bit more difficult. The construction crew here could actually breathe without tanks, for one thing, and what happens when the New Martians realize they have the wrong gauge turnbuckles for the shadecloth awning, and all the lettuce plants get UV poisoning? We’re talking about an agency that forgot to do a English-Metric conversion for an unmanned Mars probe here. Would you really trust them to buy compatible plumbing fixtures from 400 million miles away?

The heart of the matter though, as Amada points out, is that this is a sad example of escapist fantasy for geeks. Our current policies (and by our, I mean not just the US but China and Russia and everyone else as well) amounts to prolonged attempt to kill Planet Earth before it kills us. That is civilization in a nutshell.

By the time I’m an old man, global warming-spawned superstorms will probably have submerged the city where I was raised, my current home and turned Florida into a barrier reef. That’s the positive scenario. The bad version involves wars for the last bit of oil going nuclear, turning all our old Cold War fears into Hot World realities. Maybe if we adopt sensible ecological policies and implement new technologies, cooperate across international boarders to end our dependance on oil, then we’ll have the time and man-power to devote to Hawking’s wet dreams of living on Mars. But that’s an awful long way to go and we haven’t even started building that road.

I Must Have Missed The Part Where He Turned Rocks Into Bullets

I don’t get Christian themed entertainment. Every Christian rock group I’ve ever heard sucks, up to and including a fair amount of U2. Every Jesus centered movie or book I’ve ever read or seen is just an insulting bit of jingoism wrapped up with a light glaze of five-year-old pop culture to make it go down with the hip kids (you know the ones with the drool stains on their shirts who wear a helmet when they go the bathroom). How anyone can find this crap entertaining is beyond me and even more baffling is how the creators of such pabulum actually delude themselves into thinking someone is going to read Left Behind or listen to Creed and say,” Oh right, now I get Jesus! Count me among the saved!”

Having said that, I know it’s not just my blind spot to Jesus-flavored pop culture that makes this Evangelical Kill-em-all-and-let-God-sort-them-out video game just creepy as Hell. It’s like it comes from some alternate reality where Jesus was a shotgun wielding bad ass who didn’t take lip from no Roman (Just like Shaft but with a really pimped out yarmulke).

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission – both a religious mission and a military mission — to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state – especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is “to conduct physical and spiritual warfare”; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice. You have never felt so powerful, so driven by a purpose: you are 13 years old. You are playing a real-time strategy video game whose creators are linked to the empire of mega-church pastor Rick Warren, best selling author of The Purpose Driven Life.

That’s right— it’s a video game based on the premis that you go around shooting non-Christians (and though it’s not stated outright its strongly implied that you also shoot non-whites and homosexuals too). Which is just what Jesus would have done, had he been able to get his hands on a few automatic weapons.

I’ve never bought into the idea that violent video games (or TV shows or movies) inspire violent actions on the part of impressionable youngens but there’s definitely a moral dimension at work here and not one that in any way jives with anything I’ve ever read about Jesus or his teachings.

Pam Spaulding over at Pandagon is as baffled, sickened and wigged as I am about this. (several other bloggers have written at length about it as well). Jonathan Hutson, at Talk To Action, a liberal Christian blog tries to untie some of the knots:

[…] According to Mr. Warren [He of The Purpose Driven Life and the game’s developer], the worst of American culture is reflected in examples of violence, terrorism, shootings, and the coarsening of our society, that turn people away in disgust. And in addition, “some people are more materialistic than ever.”

If violence, coarseness, and materialism are serious social problems, then what purpose is served by exploiting a global pastoral network to mass market a game about mass killing, whether in the name of Christ or the AntiChrist?

On the one hand, this video game is anti-American, because it endorses roving death squads engaged in faith-based violence without any regard for Constitutional law. On the other hand, the video game is anti-Christian, because it argues that the Kingdom of God can be advanced by using the methods and tools of the kingdoms of this world, namely guns and bombs.

If I wrote a story in which the main characters went around murdering Evangelicals (while pontificating on the moral and spiritual goodness to be had by doing it) I’d be called a bigot and a nut and deservedly so. Someone please explain to me how this makes him a better person than little old Godless me, what with my pacifism and multicultural tendencies.

Why Does Bill Gates Hate You So Much?

After five years of pretty much ignoring known security flaws with it’s Internet Explorer 6, Microsoft has announced the beta release if IE7. It even has groundbreaking features like an RSS reader and tabbed browsing! Which Firefox had 2 years ago. and Opera had 3 years ago. Except, they don’t really work. And the full version will come bundled with it’s clunky new OS, Vista (which, in the $100+ range, is a pricey little upgrade).

So, to sum up: Microsoft users will be paying through the nose for an OS that is little more than a cheep imitation of Apple’s OS, and the browser that comes with it is a clunky POS that defaults searches form Google to MSN? Way to Go, Bill, you invented the Etzel of software packages. What next, a mail cliant that causes your hard drive to burst into flames?

Because I Am A Timelord, That’s How

Long-time reader, Lisa wrote me an email that I thought I should share with the class:

I noticed that you post at all hours of the day, how do you manage to blog at work?

The short answer is: I don’t blog at work. That would get me fired. The long answer, for Lisa (and the IT folks at work, hiya boys!) is a little technical. It involves UTC timecodes and PHP programming language but the short answer: I can preset posts to publish whenever I want, simply by changing the timestamp. I can publish things a week in advance or three years in the past (though, that would just be silly).

Basically, I write posts at night and set the time stamp to publish throughout the day so that fresh content appears on the blog while I’m at work (hint: these posts have timecodes that are nice round numbers, usually on the hour or half hour. Look at the timestamp on this post: it says I published it exactly at 1 PM, while I was actually eating lunch. In reality, I published it at about nine minutes to 7 this evening). Mostly, I do this for the Friday Cat Pictures. I publish them on Thursday night and program the blog to post the pictures Friday morning. Otherwise, I’d be a nocturnal blogger which means being half a day behind everyone else. And who wants to read stale commentary? This way, you, the loyal reader get fresh content on a regular basis, and I get to keep my job. Everybody wins!

How Great Is Wikipedia?

This question gets asked a lot. We librarians have criteria for evaluating a resource: reliability (Wikipedia is always there), authoritativeness (check out the recent study published a few months back in Nature), depth (1 million plus articles and growing daily) and specificity.

this last one is key. It measures how much a resource know sits audience, and how well the contributers provide that need. It’s a gage of how much passion the contributors have for their subject. So, how specific is Wikipedia?

Today I found this article: Gorillas in Silver Age Comics.

It’s that specific.