Finally picking these up again: I miss how they make my life a bit easier to keep track of. (Coming up here sometime next week: a review of Oyster, the ebook subscription service you may be curious about.)
Continue reading Link roundup: September 27, 2013
- I got to see my very first real aurora last month (living in the rural north has benefits!) It was not nearly as flashy as the following link, but it was still stunningly amazing. It does mean I’ve been clicking on aurora pictures even more than usual, though, and I particularly liked this post from Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy with a time lapse movie made from aurora still shots in Norway by Nicholas Buer. Click(and as Phil says, full-screen) if you need 2.5 minutes of beauty in your day.
- Also, the 21 best astronomy images of 2012.
- (And the one a friend sent me on Wednesday, a gorgeous image of Saturn. And the Milky Way and a lighthouse. Look, I like pictures of stars and planets and stuff, okay?)
- If you are looking for something to read, the MeFi wiki index of questions about books is extremely comprehensive.
- The power of the books you read at 12.
- I’m not sure if this goes in books or culture, but how do you deal with fantasy agricultures (specifically, how do you grow wine in a country with seasons as messed up as Westeros?)
- Why we need comfort reading.
- Curious George’s great escape. (I half knew some of this, but it’s an amazing story.)
Copyright, so complicated:
Community and culture:
- AskAManager had a recent conversation about class – what things you need to know to work in a white-collar environment that may not be obvious if you’re not familiar with that kind of setting. It’s a sort of imperfect discussion, because the topic is So Big, but as someone who works with people from a variety of backgrounds, I think it’s a good start.
- Ann Patchett on independent bookstores. Specifically, starting one.
- I keep chewing over Anil Dash’s “The Web We Lost” in the way that makes me think there will be more writing from me about it eventually.
- Vienna Teng’s draft of the hymn of axciom – fascinating both for the content, and for the fact that technology makes this kind of sharing possible.
- TEDx and Bad Science: there’s a fascinating article from the TED folks about how to vet for bad science in TEDx talks – interesting both for the specifics, and for the general “how do we talk about evaluating stuff”. Bad Astronomy talks about it a bit more, too.
- 250 year old codes. Society of the Golden Poodle. Secret societies. What more do you want out of a story?
- Also in the history department: a Ponzi scheme for flappers.
- The Lying Disease: truth, lies, and the Internet.
- How Pompeii perished (and the misassumptions about the nature of geology that pervade our ideas about it.)
- The history and implications of the Zapruder film.
I’ve spent a very cheerful weekend being very happy where I am. Which makes it a good time to talk about why I love it here.
I took two days off work this week, partly because there were online things I wanted to be around for that I knew would run late into the night. And because it gave me time to do some other things around home that I’d wanted. (Lots of thinking about what I want to do with music and writing projects this coming year, and some cooking, among other things.)
But it’s also been good for another reason. When I was thinking about taking this job, one of the things I thought about was the question of “Do I really want to live in rural Maine?” The answer, five months later, is a resounding “Yes!”
Now, mind, access to a reasonable ‘Net connection helps here. I’m not sure I’d have been quite as confident about it ten years ago, or even five. But right now? I spent a lot of the night of the 21st chatting with a dear friend currently doing research in Japan, and have been chatting on and off all weekend with other friends.
It’s not quite the same as hanging out in their living rooms, but it’s still pretty awesome. And next weekend, I’ll drive down to Boston, and see my mother and various friends. I don’t feel isolated at all, and in fact, my social life is a lot more to my taste in some ways than it was in Minneapolis. (I get lots of downtime during the week, with excursions when I want rather than feeling like there’s several things I’d really like to be at most nights, and then guilty that I’m not at any of them.)
I love the part where everything here is nearby, and easy. My commute to work is under 5 minutes, and if I walk, it’s 10. I ran two different errands over lunch on Wednesday, because things are just that close together. I can walk down to one of the grocery stores, and did on Saturday. And while I’m still figuring out how I want to pick up more local interests and activities, I’m really happy in a fundamentally contented sort of way.
It’s a very good fit for how I want to live my life. And I can’t begin to talk about the variety and range of locally produced foods, given the climate. (And when I want things that aren’t handy here – there’s a pleasant drive through stunningly gorgeous countryside to get to it. Or Amazon Prime, which is surprisingly handy for household needs that I can’t do easily locally.)
But a lot of people dismiss rural areas. Or flyover country, including Minnesota. Which always makes me blink. (Did you know that the Twin Cities has more theatre seats per capita than anywhere else in the US besides New York City? Yeah. Most people don’t.)
My mother and sister were talking on Facebook about a recent Atlantic article about Iowa City, a place they both have a very strong attachment to: my father taught at the University of Iowa for 10 years at the beginning of his career, and my brother and sister were born there. [Interesting responses here, here, and here, by the way, especially the last one.]
And reading it, I can see why they’re irked. Particularly the bits about homogeneity.
I’ve actually been impressed and amazed by the range of people I get to interact with here. No, there’s not as much ethnic diversity as other places I’ve lived – but there’s a huge range of stories and interests and backgrounds. My campus has a big commitment to being a resource for the larger community, not just the university, and every time I sit down to help someone for more than a minute or two, there’s another story, another chance to learn something. (And definitely a chance to make someone’s life better: I love that part.)
There’s no doubt that there are hard things about living in rural America, in all sorts of ways. But I also see, all around me (and on trips to Iowa, and to rural Minnesota, and all sorts of other places) that there’s a great deal of good and complexity and depth that gets overlooked all too often. This world isn’t simple – and that’s as true here as in a large city. And here, in some ways, it’s easier to see.
And that’s something that’s rather core to why I love my job: digging in below the surface, figuring out why things connect the ways they do, how to follow the thread of information and inspiration from one place to another.
One of the huge issues this week was the ongoing conversation (and sometimes argument) about eBooks and libraries. As you may know, OverDrive (the primary seller of eBook services to libraries) sent out a letter late last week with some concerning news: namely, that Harper Collins wanted to significantly change its ebook terms, so that once you ‘buy’ an ebook to be distributed via Overdrive, it could only circulate 26 times, and then no more. (And in addition, that it would remain checked out for the full length of the loan term, even if the reader ‘returned’ it, and could not be read by multiple readers at once – in other words, not taking advantage of the digital nature of the product.)
Lots of people have great posts on this.
All have some additional good points in the comments.
I’ve seen some people ask where the 26 number comes from. I seem to recall from my library school days that that’s the average number of circulations a hardcover book gets before it needs to be retired for practical reasons (the binding’s falling apart, pages are missing, it suffers an unfortunate mishap, etc.) However, as anyone with basic statistics knowledge can figure out, a lot of books circulate a lot less than that (and therefore do interesting things to the average), and therefore some books also circulate many more times than that, without problems. Picking it as the number for an ebook circulation is therefore even more problematic than it first appears.
Brian at Swiss Army Librarian notes that the Copyright Clearance Center has released a new video called “Copyright on Campus”. He also links to several past videos they’ve done. These are a great resource, and about as fun as anything about copyright is probably going to manage to get. (Note: there’s stuff they don’t address, but there’s only so much you can do in 5 minute videos.)
Other interesting notes:
Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (my favorite new quiz show) has a fascinating post on their blog on why they spell “Gadhafi” that way (as opposed to the 36 other variations out there – the challenge of translating from one alphabet and language into others.) The answer goes back to a letter from Minnesota school children back in 1986.
Doug Johnson has a great post about ways to make research assignments more interesting to students that are very much along my own preferences in this area for two reasons: first, boredom does not lead to great learning, and secondly, learning how to research and evaluate topics you’re interested in has much broader lifelong learning implications than learning how to do academic papers.
(It’s not that academic papers are a bad skill – I still think we ought to teach it, and ask students to do it on an ongoing basis. But that shouldn’t be the only kind of research we teach. Realistically, how often do you do that kind of academic-paper research once you graduate, unless you become an academic? Compared to how often you’re going to get interested in a subject and want to learn more for your own pleasure, or do research to improve your health, or because you’re travelling somewhere, or whatever else?)
Doug also has a post about whether we’re communicating in places where people are listening – something I want to take on here in the near future. (I’m a big believer in the idea that different kinds of technology do different things well, and we should pick the ones that work.)
Dear Author, one of the major romance genre blogs, takes on the question of “When does a reader know too much?” – in other words, how is the reading experience affected by having seen an author interact online, whether that’s a problematic way, an overly personal way, or even a very positive way?
And finally, Cassandra, writing on the DailyKos (not a place you normally expect to see this) has a lovely ode to the role of the public library in her rural Appalachian community, and why the internet access the library supplies is so critical in particular.