Thursday, July 31, 2008

My final assignment!

On this last humid day of July, I'm happy to bring my LIS2600 work to a close and amalgamate the results into a portfolio. Here it is, ladies and gentlemen:

And just in case anyone would like to see my index page (in a pretentious font that seems to say, "Braised Portobello Caps, 27-"):

That's all for now; good night and good luck!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

No no wait, NOW I've got it!!!

Visualization of the various routes through a ...Image via WikipediaOK, my previous post was a bit premature; I hadn't yet ironed out the kinks of CSS formatting or even, um, actually linked my style sheet to its document. Heh. But NOW I've got it figured out, and I invite the reader to visit my updated assignment sites, if said reader cares to do so (and unless said reader is a teaching assistant for this course, that's actually highly unlikely).

The index:

The Thoreau document with css embedded:

and the css sheet, such as it is (which still isn't perfect... a few little quirks... oh well, I'm still learning here):

Now time to get back to work on my other class projects!

Zemanta Pixie

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Another HTML document is born

1967 U.S. postage stamp honoring Henry David T...Image via WikipediaContinuing my tradition of putting off everything until the last minute, I've only just now managed to post my hypertext-linked version of the Thoreau document to my Pitt web page. I'm still fiddling around with CSS files and whatnot, and given that it's a Saturday night past 2 a.m., and given that I drank two glasses of wine earlier, and given that (I confess) I'm watching The Muppet Movie even as I write this, I'm a bit distracted and not entirely sure I've completed even this portion of the assignment satisfactorily. But what the hey, here's the link:

and more directly:

I'm a bit concerned that there's something I've failed to do... I'll have to look into it tomorrow, when I'm not fiendishly writing my paper for LIS2000. Phew, lots to do before the semester ends. Yeah, I should probably go to bed now.

Zemanta Pixie

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A bear can ride a bicycle.

A bear can ride a bicycle.

I once heard Daniel Dennett begin a philosophy lecture that way. It was a striking opening, but I would bastardize his subsequent point if I tried to summarize it. Now I'm only beginning my blog post this way in a transparent bid for Zemanta to find me a cool image of a bear on a bicycle with which to decorate this utterly fluffy and meaningless post. I mean, it's COOL that a bear can ride a bicycle... as long as people aren't, y'know, whipping bears into submission, or mistreating them, or forcing them to perform against their wills. But come to think of it, does a bear ever WANT to ride a bike? Who can say? Maybe animals should just be left alone.

The whole topic reminds me of a John Irving story embedded within his novel The World According to Garp, in which a bear rides a bicycle (if I recall correctly). That was an excellent novel. But, I'm sorry to say, after all of this writing about bears and bicycles, Zemanta has merely suggested some photos of bicycles (sans bears), and some images of teddy bears, but not a single photo of a bear on a bicycle. Aw well, it was an awfully specific request.

Ergo, I'm going to take matters into my own hands and Google image-search "bear" and "bicycle."

There ya go. You know, the more I think about it, the more *wrong* it somehow seems that anyone ever even tried to get a bear to ride a bicycle. I hope that the above-depicted bear had a good life, despite everything.

The dance between copyright enforcers and violators continues

Regarding my previous blog entry: the very morning after I posted the links to the YouTube versions of The Grey Album, the aforementioned blog-reader informed me that the music on YouTube had already been "removed due to terms of use violation." And no sooner had I confirmed this news than I discovered that someone else had posted yet another version of The Grey Album on YouTube a mere two hours earlier. Is this a daily pas-de-deux, with enforcers perennially erasing and renegades perennially reposting? I admit that I took the chance to download the music from YouTube while I could, but I won't post the files here, lest my MLIS2600 blog be forcibly removed from the Internet. (Hello, creeping paranoia... did I just admit to something that could get my computer seized?... Please don't seize my computer.) But anyway.

This week I'm just finishing up the semester's courses: doing lots and lots of reading about copyright law (it's a recurrent topic these days!), thinking about how to compose the final LIS2000 paper, and procrastinating completing Part 2 of the HTML assignment. I'll complete it soon enough, and post a link here. Meanwhile, maybe it's something about the summer heat, but all I feel like doing right now is zoning out and watching a movie or something.

But first, just to get Zemanta to suggest a cool picture, I'm going to add text about Klein bottles. That's right, Klein bottles, a bottle with a non-orientable surface, the Moebius Strip of bottle-making. Yeah, Klein bottles! Klein bottles! If I type that phrase enough, will Zemanta find me a picture of a Klein bottle? Aha! It worked!Klein bottle made with gnuplot 4.0.Image via Wikipedia
Zemanta Pixie

Sunday, July 20, 2008

My first LIS2600 web page link, plus other details

It took me a while to figure out how to navigate among Pitt's servers, Filezilla, and Kompozer, but I finally got my web page with Thoreau's fragment up and running. However, its images only seem to appear when accessed through Internet Explorer, and not through Firefox. I have no idea why this would be the case. Text without images can be so dull.

which links to

I spent a good while fiddling around with Kompozer and Filezilla to try to get the images to show up via Firefox, with no luck. It makes me wonder whether I've been missing out on other sites' online images by using Firefox during these last few months. O technology!

In other news, someone reading this blog (I know... someone reads this blog??!!) suggested that my post on the Beatles, Jay-Z, and Danger Mouse should have provided links to the artists' songs. So, this video's for you, P.S.:

And to hear the entire album, you can use the following five YouTube links.

The Grey Album, Part 1:

The Grey Album, Part 2:

The Grey Album, Part 3:

The Grey Album, Part 4:

The Grey Album, Part 5:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A few links

I only have a few minutes to blog right now; I'm about to turn off my computer for the evening (that always feels somewhat liberating after a day like I've had -- even if much of today's surfing was for enjoyment).

In my surfing, I came across a couple of articles whose content relates pretty well to some of the topics we've been talking about in this program. (As soon as I typed the word "surfing," Zemata suggested some photos of people on surfboards... I'll go ahead and include one, just to prove the point that computers don't always understand us so well.)
Surfing in Hawaii. A photograph of Kris Burmei...Image via Wikipedia
First link is to an L.A. Times story about how we're all "infovores":,0,3327488.story?track=ntothtml

The next link is to a New Yorker article about the difficulty of conversing with computers:

And here's a Wired article about how human memory is being supplanted:

All right, that's enough info inflow for tonight... I gotta dance!
Zemanta Pixie

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Testing Zemanta, part 2: topic = copyright

Promotional artwork by Justin Hampton. This wa...Image via WikipediaHaving gotten a quick helpful response (without even asking for one!) from a Zemanta representative, and having spent some time today hearing about and thinking about copyright issues, but having little energy to write a new post, I've decided to further test Zemanta by copying the text from one of my previous posts about copyright law, and thoroughly "Zemifying" it (as they say). Let's see what happens!

Reading recently about both open source computing and copyright laws got me thinking about the music industry, and companies' purported rights to songs and samples, and how we might measure what's lost or gained for whom when copyright laws put limits on creativity, speech, and commerce. It seems evident to me that the only ones who benefit from tight copyright laws (and even that "benefit" is dubious) are music companies: not the artists, not music purchasers, and certainly not the general public.

I'll take the example of The Grey Album, Danger Mouse's unauthorized mash-up of Beatles songs and Jay-Z lyrics. I'm using this example because I'm an enormous fan of the Beatles' original studio recordings, and I generally don't even have much use for covers of the songs. (I'll make exceptions for, say, The Wailing Souls' amped-up reggae interpretation of "Tomorrow Never Knows" -- they infuse it really well with their own energy; check it out! -- but listening, say, to William Shatner's berserk rendition of "Lucy in the Sky" makes my ears cry.) Anyway, my point is, I have an immense respect for the beauty and purity of the original album versions of the Beatles' songs, so I can even catch a glimmer of EMI's ostensible reasoning when they absolutely prohibit any other artist from licensing a Beatles sample. Of course, their motives are unlikely to be so aesthetic; more likely they want to keep public focus on the studio stars themselves, rather than some underground mixmasters who don't "deserve" to earn money from the guitar strummings of others, funneling it from the original artists. Seems fair enough, on the face of it.

But the example of The Grey Album shows just how inapplicable such justifications for overweening copyright laws are. First of all, in this particular case, Danger Mouse made his album freely available online, so he can't be accused of profiteering. Secondly, I submit that there's scarcely a Beatles fan alive who would merely download heavily remixed versions of their songs instead of buying The White Album, but who would have bought The White Album if only those Danger Mouse MP3s weren't available. That just makes no sense, and it shows how flimsy the financial argument is in this case. As a matter of fact, a freely available version of The Grey Album could potentially serve as excellent free advertising of Beatles songs to the Jay-Z fans who might not already own a Beatles album. Why does EMI want to limit the scope of its own product?

Perhaps they would indeed say it's about musical integrity; they wouldn't want great classic songs to be associated with sub-par or amateurish overlays. That possibility bugs me too, as I hinted above, but I trust that the classics will stand on their own, no matter who does what to certain versions of them. And why should we be prohibited from hearing the vast array of new interpretations that are possible? Listening to parts of The Grey Album for the first time this evening on YouTube I was struck by the way Danger Mouse drew out the most sinuous mini-riffs of "Long, Long, Long" and looped them into their own groovily flowing backdrop; I felt delighted to hear new possibilities within such familiar samples. Then I felt anger: why doesn't EMI want me to hear that? How could it possibly affect them one way or another if I want to listen to the fruits of various artists' combined imaginations?

Of course there's a parallel to open source computing, and the ways free access to code can open up endless possibilities in computing. I love the whole concept of boundless information sharing and its implicit possibilities; I suppose that's one of the reasons I'm becoming a librarian!
Zemanta Pixie

Monday, July 14, 2008

Testing Zemanta: topic = civil liberties

All right, so I'm now generating a new blog post just in order to test this Zemanta plugin. Since it's late and I want to get some sleep, let me just cut and paste some text I wrote during my civil liberties and privacy research.

Many people may assume that the Constitution ensures us a right to privacy, but in fact, the word “privacy” never appears in our Constitution, and laws about privacy differ from state to state. The concept of privacy is ambiguous, abstract, and difficult to define. Privacy can mean being left alone and not subjected to unwanted intrusions, or it can refer to shielding one’s self and one’s interests from access by other people, corporations, or government. While the Fourth Amendment protects against unlawful search and seizure, this amendment is usually not taken to apply to library records or online data. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the USA Patriot Act removed many safeguards against individual privacy, and libraries are finding it more difficult to protect patrons’ privacy and rights. The ALA maintains that libraries are critical for promoting an unrestrained flow of information for all, and that privacy is essential in the “exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association; and, in a library, the subject of users’ interests should not be examined or scrutinized by others” (ALA, 2003).

Radical militant librarianImage by library_mistress via Flickr

Okay, it looks like this has the potential to be really cool -- instant links and tags and images -- but the only problem is that my "Preview" screen no longer works. Eh??? I'm hoping it will work out all right when I post the blog; I guess there's only one way to find out.

Zemanta Pixie

Finally on campus; finally time to post!

At the end of a 24-hour journey from Sydney I found myself in Pittsburgh late Saturday night, and since then I've been busy just about every minute with on-campus activities, classes, interactions with other Cohort 8 students, and preparations for the Civil Liberties and Privacy presentation that my small group delivered this morning. It's been exhausting, but gratifying; it's great to meet my classmates in person, and I continue to learn a lot. I'm getting the sense that my initial MLIS education is really coming together during this intensive on-campus session.

Other people's presentations have provided interesting insights into issues that concern librarians, and researching my own topic over the last couple of weeks has been really eye-opening. I also found Dr. Currier's lecture on intellectual property and copyright laws very interesting... for example, who knew you could copyright a gesture? In fact, already this week I've been filling my notebook with "who knew" questions: "Who knew you could use Microsoft Word to generate a summary of your document?" "Who knew there were so many orphaned works in copyright limbo?" "Who knew there was a Zemanta plug-in to automatically locate images and articles that relate to your blog post?"

Speaking of which, I should download and use that service right this second; my blog is too text-heavy.

Okay, I just downloaded Zemanta, but now I need to restart Firefox to make it work. Meanwhile, let me just post this blog entry... perhaps it's the last such overtexty document I'll deign to post!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Craving a room full of books

I miss libraries... with so much else going on this summer, it's been too long since I've been in one! The internet helps me feel "connected" in some sense, but the flashy-clicky nature of computer work is nothing like the meditative focus that comes from browsing, sitting, and reading books... ah, libraries. I'll be sure to visit Pitt's library system once I arrive back in Pennsylvania!

Right now I'm back in Sydney after visiting the coast, the Snowy Mountains, and the Blue Mountains, all gorgeous places. In a couple of days I'll be flying from Sydney to LA to Pittsburgh, all in a row... meanwhile I've got to try to help prepare a Hot Topics presentation and finish reading the two books assigned for LIS2000. So far it's going just barely smoothly enough for me not to seriously panic. This morning (Aussie time... evening for the others) I chatted online with my Hot Topics partners; it was reassuring to exchange words in real time. We got some things ironed out, but I've got several tasks ahead of me in the immediate future, and my next challenge will be to find nearby internet service that doesn't run me into the poorhouse. Right now I'm using the hotel's hourly broadband rate -- and am almost out of time as it is -- so this blog post will be accordingly truncated!

As the Beatles once sang, I've got nothing to say, but it's OK.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Here's my Koha assignment at last!

First, the hyperlink:

Elizabeth Livingston - Aboriginal Culture

Now, here's a list of the books therein. (Titles with colons are incomplete, displaying only the text before the colon. I couldn't find an easy way to resolve this within Koha.) They're in no particular order -- is there a way to order them?

Mysteries of the dream-time: Cowan, James

Arguments about aborigines : Hiatt, L. R.

Aboriginal settlements; Long, J. P. M.

Myths and legends of the Australian aborigines /Smith, W. Ramsay

Australian aborigines /Nile, Richard.

The Australian aborigines : Maddock, Kenneth

The aborigines /Wiltshire, J. G.

Australian Aborigines and cultural tourism :Finlayson, Julie.

Kriol of North Australia : Sandefur, John R.

The life and adventures of William Buckley : Morgan, John

Dreamtime heritage : Roberts, Ainslie.

Oracle of the dreamtime : Hakanson, Donni.

Coming into being among the Australian aborigines : Montagu, Ashley,

The Mardu aborigines : Tonkinson, Robert.

Aboriginal myths : Reed, A. W.

The Australian Aborigines, how to understand them, Elkin, A. P.

What became of the Australian Aborigines? Gamack, Ronald S.

Aboriginal art of Australia : Finley, Carol.

A documentary history of the Illawarra & South Coast Aborigines, 1770-1850 :

Disposal of the dead among Australian aborigines : Haglund, Laila

Aborigines and colonists : Reece, Bob

The Aboriginal-white encounter : Bain, Margaret S.

Wise women of the dreamtime : Lambert, Johanna

An annotated bibliography of the Tasmanian Aborigines, 1970-1987 / Sagona, Claudia

Encountering aborigines; Burridge, Kenelm.

Slave to the creeping green bar

G'day from Cooma in the Snowy Mountains. I checked into an internet-ready motel fairly early today, solely in order to keep working on these Koha citations, and I've been at it ever since, because this connection is sooooo sssslllloooowwww. Every single new screen to come up forces me to wait through 30-45 seconds of glacially creeping green status-bar "progress" before displaying the coveted "Done" in the lower left corner -- and this assignment demands a lot of clicking. I've got Sky News on TV for background diversion, and they've cycled through the same headlines so often they'll surely enter my dreams tonight (fishermen rescued off Australia's east coast, human bones washed up on Phillips Island, gunman loose in Sydney, father-daughter pot bust, blizzards in New Zealand; repeat). But at least the Goddess of Koha has heeded my pleas and is no longer pretending not to recognize ISBN numbers; they're all going through now. I don't know what was up with the earlier impertinence!

I'm still a bit baffled by Koha, however. What's a "z39.50"? Why can't we see author and title info on some of the pages? Why must we enter random numbers before proceeding? Hrmph. The system doesn't always run smoothly, either, occasionally yielding little snafus that actually wouldn't bother me much at all if I weren't on a connection whose speed evokes 1993. I dream of a future in which bona fide high-speed internet cloaks the planet... until then, my apologies for this text-only post, but a picture or video would take all night to upload!

Aw, OK, as a pittance, here's a link to a library cartoon.

from The New Yorker, August 12, 1950

Friday, July 4, 2008

Marsupials and KohAAAAAHH!

What a wonderful vacation this is. I'm posting a photo from yesterday -- Paul and I did indeed see Pebbly Beach's "surfing roos"; the whole beach was full of them! We counted over 30 kangaroos, but we were practically the only people there. Australia seems to be full of such splendidly remote locales. Then today we got friendly with some wombats and koalas at a wildlife sanctuary, but it didn't quite compare to the thrill of seeing so many marsupials in the wild.

Tonight we chose our motel specifically for its WiFi, and I've been attempting to work on the Koha assignment. Auurrrgh. I could accept that the assignment involved a lot of clicking through random data screens, and I could handle having to work with ISBNs rather than authors and titles, but what's truly infuriating me now is how few ISBNs seem to link to Library of Congress records. What the...? I thought the LoC housed every book ever published! Is it just because the books aren't in Pitt's library system? There's no indication. It occurred to me that my ISBNs might refer to paperbacks rather than original hardcovers, but even when I located the hardback data, overwhelmingly many of the ISBNs simply resulted in a "file not found" screen. So I went to, but even when I've pulled ISBNs from the LoC's own online catalog, this has been happening again and again. 10-digit, 13-digit, hyphens, no hyphens, no difference. What explains it? Did I choose too obscure a book topic? How come Koha gotta treat me so mean? What's the point of Koha, anyway? I'm losing sight of the big picture amidst all of this annoyance.

So my Koha virtual shelf still only contains, like, two items, but at least my virtual photo album is filling up with gorgeous shots of the land down under! I'll aim to find another WiFi-offering motel tomorrow night and continue this mad odyssey into Koha organization, hopefully with a bit more success.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ulladulla, Panopto, and "Surfing Roos"

I'm posting from a motel room in Ulladulla, a coastal town around 200 kilometers south of Sydney. Australia is a magnificent continent, full of gorgeous open spaces, mellow friendly people, and utterly unexpected flora and fauna. In a national park yesterday I stood by a waterfall as a flock of huge bright yellow cockatoos squawked and flew between treetops over my head. Today I looked down on a rainforest canopy from atop a 45-meter-high steel tower on an oceanside mountain. And tomorrow we'll visit Pebbly Beach and its famed "surfing roos": kangaroos who like to swim in the ocean. How cool that roos like to swim! I just hope they won't be deterred by the cold; it's mid-winter down here -- but quite mild, as winters go.

In MLIS news, I've been seizing internet connectivity wherever I can find it so as to keep up with course viewings, assignments, and communications. This morning in Wollongong I spent 45 minutes in an internet cafe nearly tearing my hair out... The network was glacially slow, and when I asked the proprietor what the problem was, he shrugged and said, "Eh, the internet's not working right today." His cavalierness accentuated my own technological dependence in stark relief. It's somewhat like an addiction ... most of the time it feels manageable (or at least, that is to say, I can feed my monkey), but as others ranging from Nicholson Baker to the cafe proprietor have pointed out, technology isn't always reliable!

When looking for a motel this evening we were certain to select one that advertised Broadband, and thus after watching a lovely sunset over the Pacific, I settled in to catch up on Panopto viewings and add to my Hot Topics wiki page. I hope I'll be able to participate fully in the group presentation preparations while on the road. I've been enjoying researching the topic when I've had the chance.

I'll try to post again soon!