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Library Serendipity

   March 19th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Finding information on library shelves always has an element of serendipity to it, but I experienced a bit of it with my request list and patron donations. Here's what I've been reading/watching this recently:

deadlikemeDead Like Me - I've been watching this series on DVD for the last couple months, and the last movie came in last week. It's about a girl who is a grim reaper, living on earth in secret, helping souls cross over (and it has a frog in it).

 

meetjoeblackMeet Joe Black - I'd never seen this movie, so when a patron donated the DVD, I took it home to watch it. It's about a guy who is death who visits earth, in secret, and helps a soul cross over.

 

blackbookofsecretsThe Black Book of Secrets - I requested this YA book months ago, and it came in last week. It's not about death, but is about the black and sinister secrets everyone carries with them in their lives (and it has a frog in it).

 

blankspotsonthemapBlank Spots on the Map - This is the book I leave at work to read during lunch. It's about all the secret places in the country the government uses for intelligence work and top secret programs - in other words, Black Ops.

 

 

I always have a lot of things on request, and I thought it odd that this group would all find their way to me at about the same time. Perhaps, rather than serendipity or coincidence, this concurrent collection is actually revealing my true nature in all its secretive blacky deathness.

Or, perhaps I just like spies, YA novels, Mandy Patinkin and Brad Pitt. And frogs.



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Giant Swiss Army Knife

   February 24th, 2009 Brian Herzog

giant swiss army knifeThe Surly Librarian tipped me off to this monster Swiss Army Knife - 85 tools and almost 3 pounds.

At first I thought it was just photoshoppery, but then I realized it is for sale, and there's a video of it in operation.

If I had bigger pockets, maybe I'd ask for one for Christmas. No, probably not - I'm pretty happy with mine.



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LibraryThing Flash-Mob Cataloging Party

   February 17th, 2009 Brian Herzog

Update: Check out some photos from the day.

librarything logoLibraryThing'ers are having a second flash-mob cataloging party this Saturday, Feb 21st, at the Rhode Island Audubon Society.

The first one was at St. John's Episcopal Church just north of Boston - it looked like fun, but I missed it because I worked that Saturday. This time it looks to be a smaller group, so if anyone is interested and in the area, read the details on the LibraryThing blog and get in touch with Sonya.

It should be a lot of fun, a chance to meet other LibraryThing people, and the Audubon resources will be inherently interesting. Dorky, I know, but I'm looking forward to it. Plus, any reason to go to Rhode Island is a good one.



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2009 Begins with 99 Things

   January 1st, 2009 Brian Herzog

Route 99 signI rarely me-too these sorts of thing, but since I also don't do new year's resolutions*, I thought this might be a good first post for 2009:

THE 99 THINGS MEME

Things you’ve already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven’t done and don’t want to - plain font

1. Started your own blog.
I've been doing this for about two years, but my first website dates to about 1996.

2. Slept under the stars.

3. Played in a band.
But only sort of. I was an official member of the imaginary band No Rhythm No Talent in college, but I did also learn enough bass guitar to actually play in front of people. Twice.

4. Visited Hawaii.

5. Watched a meteor shower.

6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
I do give money, but I'm not too keen on the "more than you can afford" part - that sounds counter-productive.

7. Been to Disneyland/world.
My family took a vacation every summer together while I was growing up, and one year we went to Disney World in Florida. The things I remember most are the Hall of Presidents, Space Mountain, and the fountains where tubes of water jumped from one hole to another.

8. Climbed a mountain.
The tallest mountain I've hiked is Mount Katahdin. I started up Mount Washington once, but too late in the day to make the summit. Probably the highest I've ever been hiking up Bear Creek Canyon to the falls, above Telluride, CO.

9. Held a praying mantis.

10. Sang a solo.
Never in public.

11. Bungee jumped.
I've had the opportunity, but this is one of those things that would be fun to do, but not fun enough to seek out and pay for.

12. Visited Paris.
I'd like to go to a lot of places in Europe, and Paris is somewhere on that list.

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
Both the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Erie, and Lake Erie was far more dramatic.

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
I'm going to avoid the whole art v. craft discussion, and just lay claim to recently teaching myself how to cane chairs.

15. Adopted a child.

16. Had food poisoning.
Courtesy of myself, I might add.

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
Kind of like Paris and bungee jumping - I'd do it if I had the opportunity, but I'm not sure how short the line would have to be.

18. Grown your own vegetables.
I'd love to be self-sufficient, but have never had much success with agriculture.

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
See #12

20. Slept on an overnight train.
When I was in Great Britain, I took a sleeper from Inverness to London. It was one of the most enjoyable uncomfortable nights of my life.

21. Had a pillow fight.

22. Hitch hiked.
Also when I was in Great Britain, except I was in Ireland at the time.

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
That's the best time, as George Carlin says.

24. Built a snow fort.
Many times - luckily for my brothers and me, there were a couple other kids on our street, and we all liked playing outside.

25. Held a lamb.
I've never held a newborn lamb, but I have sheared a sheep. Does that count?

26. Gone skinny dipping.

27. Run a marathon.
While growing up, running was always punishment in the sports I played. The longest race I've run is a 5K, and I came in fourth to last - but I wasn't in the least bit tired, so that's good.

28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.
This is higher on my list than Paris.

29. Seen a total eclipse.
I know I've seen partial eclipses, but I'm not sure about a total.

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
Oddly, more sunrises than sunsets.

31. Hit a home run.

32. Been on a cruise.

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
Growing up in Northern Ohio, Niagara Falls was within easy driving distance, and my family went their many times. Also, I really like the show Wonderfalls.

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.

35. Seen an Amish community.
Again, growing up in Northern Ohio affords a person many diverse opportunities.

36. Taught yourself a new language.

37.Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
It comes and goes.

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
I'll do this on the same trip as #28.

39. Gone rock climbing.
Indoor and outdoor.

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.
See #38.

41. Sung Karaoke.
No way.

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.

43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.

44. Visited Africa.

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.

46. Been transported in an ambulance.

47. Had your portrait painted.
But I have had my caricature drawn, and it's still hanging in my parents' basement.

48. Gone deep sea fishing.

49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
See #12

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.

52. Kissed in the rain.

53. Played in the mud.

54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
Although not nearly enough.

55. Been in a movie.
I've been in both movies and television.

56. Visited the Great Wall of China.

57. Started a business.
I often think this would be a good idea, partly just to have a cool office space somewhere, but realistically probably not.

58. Taken a martial arts class.

59. Visited Russia.

60. Served at a soup kitchen.
My grandmother used to volunteer in a soup kitchen, and sometimes I'd go with her.

61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
No, but I have bought many.

62. Gone whale watching.

63. Gotten flowers for no reason.

64. Donated blood.
I've also fainted after giving blood - I had forgotten to eat that day. Last time I made that mistake.

65. Gone sky diving.
I'm more interested in this than bungee jumping.

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.

67. Bounced a check.

68. Flown in a helicopter.

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
Luckily I come from a family of collectors, so I get to play with some of my favorite childhood toys with my nieces and nephews.

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
I think all Americans should visit Washington, D.C. at least once.

71. Eaten Caviar.

72. Pieced a quilt.

73. Stood in Times Square.

74. Toured the Everglades.
I planned on doing this when I was in FL in 9/08, but unfortunately, a couple hurricanes were there at the same time and I had to change my plans.

75. Been fired from a job.
Not really, but I have had a mutually-agreed parting.

76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.

77. Broken a bone.
I have both had broken bones, and broken the bones of others.

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
Yes, and without wearing a helmet.

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
I know I've been italicizing all the travel items on this list, but this one is high on my list of places to see.

80. Published a book.

81. Visited the Vatican.

82. Bought a brand new car.

83. Walked in Jerusalem.

84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
I still have an album of these things in my parents' house.

85. Read the entire Bible.
Not all in one go, but growing up in Catholic school meant lots of reading.

86. Visited the White House.

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
I have if fish count, and I think they do.

88. Had chickenpox.

89. Saved someone’s life.

90. Sat on a jury.
This is something I have never been called to do - perhaps because I move around so much. I think it'd be interesting, and I don't understand why so many people try to avoid it.

91. Met someone famous.

92. Joined a book club.
I suppose it's odd that, being a librarian, I've never done this. But I'm okay with it.

93. Lost a loved one.
Grandparents and great-grandparents.

94. Had a baby.
I'm still not sure about this one.

95. Seen the Alamo in person.

96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.

97. Been involved in a law suit.
Well, I was threatened with a lawsuit, but it never materialized.

98. Owned a cell phone.
This is one of my tech-nos.

99. Been stung by a bee.

For anyone who actually made it this far, there you go - happy new year.


*I don't make New Year's resolutions, but if I did, my resolution for 2009 would be to not go to movie theaters that don't pop their own popcorn.



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It’s Official: I’m Not A Terrorist

   October 9th, 2008 Brian Herzog

FOIA LetterLast year, I read a blog post giving instructions on how American citizens could request a check into your personal flight history, to find out if your name appears on the "no-fly" list. So I did.

The website seems to be gone now, but it was a simple form that submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Homeland Security. I'd never requested anything under FOIA before, and my personal history seemed like a place to start. I thought it was a good exercise, both as an information professional and as a private citizen.

So I was happy when, earlier this week (almost exactly one year later), I received a letter from the US Customs and Border Protection saying,

A search was conducted of the [Automated Targeting System] database, and we were unable to locate or identify any responsive records.

Which means I am flying under their radar (until this request, probably).

Not that I thought there would be anything untoward in my flying patterns, but these days, you never know. Now all I need to do is take my official "he's no terrorist" letter to the nearest TSA worker for a smiley face.

[To request your own, try starting at CBP's FOIA webpage]



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MA’s 2008 Statewide Ballot Question 1

   September 30th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Information for Voters booklet coverThis post ended up being much longer than I expected, so I added subheads in bold. I ask librarians to read and comment on the first part, and the rest of the post is background information.

When Does A Library Become Biased?
Last week on my library's blog, I posted information about the three questions on Massachusetts' statewide ballot in November. One of them, Question 1, calls for doing away with personal income tax in Massachusetts.

I feel the duty of libraries is to present unbiased, timely and reliable information. However, Question 1 potentially has a huge impact on Massachusetts libraries, and I'm really torn on where to draw the line on this one.

In the post, I include summaries of each question, and what a Yes or No vote would mean. However, for Question 1, we also decided to include a link to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners' stance. We did this because, since so many library services are funded by the state, if this initiative passes, library services may revert to the way things were in 1889 - yes, 1889 (read the MBLC stance to find out why).

It doesn't feel like biased information, because it is timely and from a reliable source. However, since there is such a self-interest involved, it feels kind of unseemly. Does including the link to MBLC overstep the library's role? Are libraries allowed to present the case for their own existence?

Question 1, and Why I Don't Like It
First, I have to say a few things:

  1. A similar issue was narrowly defeated in 2002
  2. New Hampshire doesn't have income tax, or sales tax, and they seem to do fine
  3. It appears my job could very well be on the line because of this initiative

In a broad sense, I can agree with parts of the initiative - Massachusetts' state government does seemed to be wasteful, and I do feel over-taxed. But this initiative seems, I don't know, kind of myopic and not realistic.

In the Information for Voters booklet [pdf] from the MA Elections Division, Carla Howell, Chair of The Committee For Small Government lists points in support of doing away with income tax:

  • Your "Yes" vote will create hundreds of thousands of new Massachusetts jobs
  • Your "Yes" vote will NOT raise your property taxes NOR any other taxes
  • Your "Yes" vote will NOT cut, NOR require cuts, of any essential government services

I haven't completly researched this issue, but I see no facts or logical basis that support the first point, and the last two seem mutually-exclusive. By taking away a major source of revenue and not replacing it, they are essentially forcing the government to cut services, many of which will be essential services.

The actual text [pdf] of the question itself also seems, I don't know, less-than-professional. The biggest goal seems to be to label Massachusetts state government as "Big Government," and repeat that phrase as many times in the question as possible, as if just by establishing that label they are assured victory.

Question 1's Impact on Patrons and Libraries
And this issue seems especially poorly-timed, too. In times of economic troubles, the idea of not having to pay income tax certainly appeals to a base sense of self-preservation. But it is precisely in times of economic troubles that the use of libraries increases.

It seems to me that, especially in times of trouble, a community is better served by comprehensive services provided by a stable government, rather than by self-interest.



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