Riba Rambles:
Musings of a Mental Magpie

About the author: Elisabeth in early 2007, photo by Todd Belf
Elisabeth "Lis" Riba is an infovore with an MLS. This is her place to share whatever's on her mind, on topics both personal and political. [more]
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Saturday, July 10, 2004
Filers v. Pilers: research on workplace organization
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:05 PM

I suppose enough time has passed that I can safely post this.

A long while back, I conducted a little personal research on workplace organization habits in response to a policy change by my former employer. The company was instituting a clean desk policy, requiring all materials that could remotely be considered sensitive to be locked away out of sight when the worker wasn't present. For office-holders, that wasn't as much of a problem, because they could simply lock the door, but for cubicle-dwellers, that meant putting everything into the file cabinet drawers at night, and taking them out again in the morning.

I was reminded of this earlier this evening, so dug up my old research:

  • Malone, T. 1983. "How do people organize their desks? Implications for the design of office systems." ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems, 1, 99-112.
    • [S]patial location [of piles] is often especially important in finding them.
    • Much of the information that is visible on top of the desks and tables in most offices is there to remind the user of the office to do something, not just to be available when the person looks for it.
    • [P]iles on top of a desk remind their owners of things to do, without the owners having intentionally to look for what needs to be done.

  • "Are you a filer or a piler? New Steelcase Study Reveals How Workers Organize Their Workspace." Steelcase Workplace Index Survey, October, 1998:
    • Office workers describe themselves as:
      • Neat Freaks, 33%; Filers, 23%
      • Pilers, 27%; Packrats, 12%; Slobs, 2% = 41%
    • American office workers spend an average of 20.1 minutes each day organizing their work areas

  • Wen, P. "Psychologists Say Cubicles May Not Square With Workers' Needs." Boston Globe, March 10, 2000
    • "There's no such thing as something that works for everybody," said Alan Hedge, a professor of environmental analysis at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "Not everybody stores and processes information in the same way."
    • Thomas Malone of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in California [...] found pilers were better retrievers of information than one might think - some could quickly pluck a particular memo from a chaotic stack.
    • Haworth Inc. of Holland, Mich., one of the nation's largest office furniture makers [...] found that many people are mentally wired to more readily recall papers when they were placed in vertical, rather than horizontal, arrangements.
    • "A person's desk may look like it's in disarray," said Jeff Reuschel, who works in product design along with a full-time cognitive psychologist at Haworth. "But there may be an intent behind the messiness."

  • Steelcase. "Creating Order Out of Chaos: Strategies for organizing your work." (Sept. 2000)
    • People have varied ways of thinking, taking in information and working; not surprisingly, they tailor their organizing strategies and environment accordingly. For example, some people work best by keeping their work visible -- arranging piles of work materials in plain view throughout their workspace. Where they locate a pile helps them recall what's in it. Keeping the work visible also helps them keep track of what they have to do.
    • Both styles -- filing and piling -- help people mentally organize their time, tasks and materials
    • [O]rganizing materials by piling them on top of worksurfaces often has to do with the individual's desire to use visual cues to stay organized. "'Pilers' tend to say they like stacks because they can see their work -- what's active and what's coming up -- and that reminds them of what they have to do," explains Anne Saliers, Steelcase product manager, storage. "They tend to live by the 'out of sight, out of mind' philosophy."

  • Herman Miller, Inc. "The Effect of Storage Methods on Job Performance." (2000)
    • [P]eople reverted to [piling] consistently because it rendered the information they needed more visible and accessible than the organizational methods required by available storage devices (file cabinets, drawers, flipper door units).
    • One study determined that piles often serve as three-dimensional to-do lists-information visible on the tops of desks and tables is often there to remind the person to act on it.

  • Whittaker, S., and Hirschberg, J. (2001). "The character, value and management of paper archives." Transactions on Computer Human Interaction, 8, 150-170.
    • With piling, in contrast, much incoming information ends up as working or unprocessed information distributed around the desktop, and less information is archived into filing cabinets.
    • [W]e found a surprising set of advantages to a piling strategy. Pilers benefitted from the greater availability of information of recent information. They also experienced fewer overheads in managing their data and found it easier to clean up their archives.

For the record, I did understand the need to secure confidential materials, I just disagreed with their methodology for how employees were expected to achieve it. Locking rolltop desks were invented several hundred years ago, and resolve the problem without shoehorning pilers into a less-efficacious filing system.

For what it's worth, here was the suggestion I submitted, for which the above was supporting material:

[New] guidelines mandate a "clean desk policy." However, social scientists have discovered that many people organize things through visual cues -- by piling, rather than filing. In fact, two-fifths of office workers in the 1998 Steelcase Workplace Index Survey describe themselves as such.

American office workers already spend an average of 20 minutes every day organizing their workplaces. If the design of e-place will require a clean desk policy, pilers will experience losses in productivity -- both in increased time reordering their workplaces and in misplaced information.

Locking rolltop desks should be made available so people in cubicles can securely maintain their desktops with the flexibility to store their data in the most efficient system for them.

Some kinda cool findings in there, dontcha think? At any rate, if anybody else can make use of my research, please feel free. I compiled it all into one place, I hope it will help others.

Dumber than a dead beetle
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:15 PM

I've mentioned our tenant's cat on numerous occasions, but I don't think I've ever made it quite clear just how strange she truly is.

Last night, Ian and I got home and found a dead beetle in our hallway. We assumed Boopsie killed it. It was about a half inch long and maybe an eighth of an inch wide, and was lying upside-down on its carapace. Persephone followed us as we entered the apartment and noticed the bug.

She sniffed at it, and then I think she tried to eat it. Or, at least I noticed her bottom jaw moving as if that were her intention. But she couldn't manage it. Eventually, she started batting it around (like an air hockey puck) between her paws, and then tried again. It was so pitiful. And funny at the same time.

Yes, we do laugh *at* this cat, not with it. Fortunately she's got the sweetest, friendliest temperment (to the point of continuing to try to befriend Boopsie after months of being hissed and swiped at). It's a good thing she's so lovable, because she's just a weirdling.

She's black, with a few isolated white hairs here and there so she's not quite *pure* black. Instead, she looks a little scruffy. And little is the right word. She only weighs about six pounds and she's five years old. She's so light, she can easily be carried onehanded, though she doesn't really like being held that way. Some friends of ours have a normal-sized black cat, and I have perspective problems looking at it, because it's so much bigger than Persephone.

I don't know what injuries she had as a kitten, but she never really walks a straight line. She has a weird meandering gait. Her tail generally lies flat against her spine, so if you pet her back, you're simultaneously rubbing her tail the wrong way. However, sometimes when she's lying down, I've seen her tail in a corkscrew -- a full-circle and a quarter turn further. And she seems perfectly comfortable. I've seen her head nearly do a Linda Blair 360 while looking around. She has a lousy sense of balance; I've seen her shake her head or scratch behind her ears and fall over. Despite that, she regularly jumps onto people's backs for rides when she's too lazy to walk places.

She gets catnip-high reactions from used fabric softener sheets. I've seen her play with a ball, watch it roll under her, and still jump 180 in fear when it touches her rear legs. And she failed to eat a dead bug.

Her given name is Persephone, but among the nicknames we've called her are: Percy, Seph, Sephie, Weirdling, Ratcat, Squeaky, Stinky/Stinker, Spooky (partly for being a black cat in dark hallways, partly habit from the name of our previous tenants' cat), and I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting at the moment.

Am I painting a pretty clear picture here? Anything missing in this portrait?

Restoring honor and dignity
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:35 PM

What a month for Bush and Cheney. First, the Vice President uses the f-word on the Senate floor to another Senator. Now Bush gives the finger to some protestors. And they're claiming to be the more optimistic team?

Friday, July 09, 2004
Lif ond Hleahtor
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:05 PM

From Peg Kerr, Beowulf ond Godsylla:

Meanehwæl, baccat meaddehæle,     monstær lurccen;
Fulle few too many drincce,     hie luccen for fyht.
Ðen Hreorfneorhtðhwr,     son of Hrwærowþheororthwl,
Æsccen æwful jeork     to steop outsyd.
Þhud! Bashe! Crasch! Beoom!     Ðe bigge gye
Eallum his bon brak,     byt his nose offe;
Wicced Godsylla     wæld on his asse.
Monstær moppe fleor wyþ     eallum men in hælle.
Beowulf in bacceroome     fonecall bamaccen wæs;
Hearen sond of ruccus     sæd, "Hwæt ðe helle?"
Graben sheold strang     ond swich-blæd scharp
Stond feorth to fyht     ðe grimlic foe.
"Me," Godsylla sæd,     "mac ðe minsemete."
Heoro cwyc geten heold     wiþ fæmed half-nelson
Ond flyng him lic frisbe     bac to fen
Beowulf belly up     to meaddehæle bar,
Sæd, "Ne foe beaten     mie færsom cung-fu."
Eorderen cocca-cohla     yce-coeld, ðe reol þyng.

A Parody by Tom Weller
from Cvltvre Made Stupid (Culture Made Stupid), Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

It only uses the Old English alphabet, but not the language. For that, one of the responses linked to Hrodulf Readnosa Hrandeor, which is written in Old English (with translation below).

Sometime, maybe I'll transcribe my final paper in the Old English class I took back in college. I translated The Wife's Lament (both literally and then poetically).

One of the texts for that class was A Feast of creatures: Anglo-Saxon riddle songs. And I was thinking it might be fun to share a few, and see who among you can guess the correct answer. The book has over ninety riddles, although some are incomplete, some haven't been definitively answered, and some just plain aren't very good. [It's interesting. In an age where literacy is rare, anagrams of the solution can be considered a difficult clue.] At any rate, since it's Friday, I thought I'd begin with one of my favorites:

I heard of something rising in a corner,
Swelling and standing up, lifting its cover.
The proud-hearted bride grabbed at that boneless
Wonder with her hands; the prince's daughter
Covered that swelling thing with a swirl of cloth.

What is it? And yes, the double-entendres are intentional -- not that much to entertain yourself with on a cold medieval evening.
Also, please don't use a search engine to solve it -- or if you do, don't post that answer publically. I promise I will post the answers later, once enough people have had a chance to solve it on their own. Would people like this to be a regular Friday feature?

Oh, but ain't that America
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:15 AM

This morning's news reminds me of some comedy taglines:

"Military records that could help establish President Bush's whereabouts during his disputed service in the Texas Air National Guard more than 30 years ago have been inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon." -- New York Times
As Dana Carvey's Church Lady would say, "Isn't that convenient?"
[Somebody on my friends list asked whether these records are with the 18 minutes of tape?]
"Obviously the PATRIOT Act does suspend some constitutional liberties." -- Rep. Dan Burton, documented in the Congressional Record
How considerate of the proponents of the USA PATRIOT Act to provide the Supreme Court with the very ammunition needed to overturn it? If constitutional liberties are being abridged, then the law is unconstitutional. In the words of Chief Wiggums, "Take 'em away, boys!"

And I can't help feeling schadenfreude over the photos of Ken Lay finally doing the perp walk (why is it the first court case in the Enron debacle involved the wife of one of the executives, rather than any of the folks actually running the show?), and Bush fleeing his own press conference to avoid answering questions about it.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the Edwards announcement, lots of Republicans are muttering about dumping Cheney in favor of a more popular Veep. I honestly doubt it will happen for a number of reasons, but Kos has the best suggestion for ensuring Bush keeps Cheney.

Again, I have to laugh or else I'll start crying:

I meant to post on July Fourth something that Ian's been saying for a while. Many people recently have been saying that some of the constitutional rights are naive, because clearly the Founding Fathers never could've imagined us living in fear of attack within our own borders. Hello? The Revolutionary War? Native Americans? Some of the tools being used may be new, but the situation itself is as old as the country.

I really wish we were governed by an administration with respect for the law, willing to work within it rather than just circumventing it and hoping not to be challenged.

Cat blogging/cute blogging
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:55 AM

It's been a whle since I've posted anything in honor of "Friday is cat blogging day," but KittenBreak! It has an RSS feed, and is syndicated on LiveJournal.

If you don't ph3ar the cuteness, a few more baby animal photos. Not quite as many as this post of baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaby animals, but either will supply a morning dose of cuteness.

Thursday, July 08, 2004
At the library today
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:30 PM

Well, I stopped off at the library as mentioned in this morning's entry. Gaining ground was checked out (though the author has written a chapter in Mapping Boston titled "Gaining Ground," which I assume the book is expanded from), but I got all the rest of the books mentioned, plus Lost Boston. Several of them are nearly coffee table books, and I'll confess I'm mostly flipping through looking at the pictures rather than reading them in detail. Boy it's tough to look at old photos of the West End (a neighborhood demolished in the name of urban renewal). On the other hand, Boston has managed some impressive feats of engineering. Take a look at this composite map, showing how much landfill has changed the city since its founding.

Ian was psyched that my 'interest of the week' has turned to local history. However, after he left for the evening, I walked back to the library (for another title seen in somebody's LJ) and found Elizabeth's London: everyday life in Elizabethan London among the new nonfiction. I really need a map of England beside me when reading it, because lines like "[the Thames] is tidal as far as Teddington" are meaningless if one doesn't know where Teddington is. I also wish to repeat last year's gripe about endnotes, which still holds true and annoys the hell out of me the more popular nonfiction I read. Particularly when the author uses notes to make chatty comments, they really ought to be at the bottom of each page, rather than segregated to the back of the book.

Checking my patron record online, I see I have fifteen titles checked out at the moment. Two of them are for Ian (who can't check anything out at the moment due to a lost book that I suspect we returned to another library network) and two are DVDs, but I am such an addict... If the library has any limit, I've never hit it, and I'm glad I've never suffered the embarrassment of being cut off, but I keep wondering how much I'm pushing it. They're holding some raffle or drawing where you may enter once for each book you read over the summer. It almost doesn't seem fair for me to enter. I didn't last year, but this evening I entered myself for A Short history of Boston. I'll let y'all know if I win anything.

BTW, returning my inherent geekiness, on my way to the checkout, I saw this cover to this DVD and recognized the lead actor on sight. Can you?

Finally, for any writers out there, COOWIPP has posted a useful article on Sagging Middles which is one of the places I've been running into trouble.

But now I wish to go back to my books. I think I hold a chance of finishing The Courage to write tonight, and it would be nice to get that off my plate (and back to the library for others to read). [Note: finished the book just after the clock struck eleven. Next to see if I can use that to complete any of my unfinished projects...]

July surprise
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:55 PM

First, Talking Points Memo quotes the New Republic article I mentioned yesteday:

A third source, an official who works under [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)]'s director, Lieutenant General Ehsan ul-Haq, informed TNR that the Pakistanis "have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of [high-value targets (HVTs)] before [the] election is [an] absolute must." What's more, this source claims that Bush administration officials have told their Pakistani counterparts they have a date in mind for announcing this achievement: "The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington." Says McCormack: "I'm aware of no such comment." But according to this ISI official, a White House aide told ul-Haq last spring that "it would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July"--the first three days of the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

An from Seeing the Forest, an underrated favorite of mine:

As I said before, in politics timing is everything!

Watching CNN, the news of this new "terror threat" followed a new Bush commercial, talking about the terror threat and Bush's magnificent God-like leadership, and INTERRUPTED a story about Edwards' work for injured victims before running for the Senate.

The Bush campaign strategy is becomming clearer and clearer. Ken Lay indicted just as Edwards is chosen. (Don't expect a conviction.) Expect big news during the Democratic convention. And, of course, in October watch your backs.

That's not to say there might not be legitimate terror threats to deal with. But this administration's habit of crying wolf at politically expedient times risk a bloodier outcome than Aesop's original tale. [More info on that last point from Dimmy Karras and Left Coaster. And shortly after I posted this, I found today's Lou Dobbs' poll via Eschaton: What do you think is behind the latest terror warning? New intelligence, Ongoing threat, or Playing politics? Right now, #3 has over 90% of the vote.]

GOP changes the rules again
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:15 PM

Via Eschaton:

The Republican-led House bowed to a White House veto threat Thursday and stood by the USA Patriot Act, defeating an effort to block the part of the anti-terrorism law that helps the government investigate people's reading habits.*

The effort to defy Bush and bridle the law's powers lost by 210-210, with a majority needed to prevail. The amendment appeared on its way to victory as the roll call's normal 15-minute time limit expired, but Republican leaders kept the vote open for about 20 more minutes as they persuaded about 10 Republicans who initially supported the provision to change their votes.

Added later, Talk Left has some juicy quotes:

"You win some, and some get stolen," Rep. C.L. Butch Otter, R-Idaho, a sponsor of the defeated provision and one of Congress' more conservative members, told a reporter.
Remember when Ashcroft told us they weren't using the library records provision of the Patriot Act? And libraries contradicted him? Seems Ashcroft is now singing a different tune:
Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said he switched his initial "yes" vote to "no" after being shown Justice Department documents asserting that terrorists have communicated over the Internet via public library computers.
Flotsam and jetsam in my morning mind
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:40 AM

I am such a geek. This morning, in my dreams, I was sitting on the floor in a library reading (or at least flipping through) the Oxford English Dictionary. And I was enjoying it. [I can still vaguely recall some of the words I was looking up. Maybe I should check them in the online version while they're fresh in my memory?

Last night, I finished reading A Short history of Boston that I found in the library the other day. Good book. Having not grown up in Massachusetts, there's a lot of local history I didn't get in the schools. The author earned a doctorate in History of American Civilization and teaches at Harvard Extension School, meaning he's probably already well-versed in teaching the subject and making it interesting. And it was. It was also clearly written for Boston-area residents ("Standing on the end of Long Wharf, looking back toward the city, one can imagine the settlement by looking left, to the towers on East India Wharf, just past the Aquarium.") and it cleared up quite a few things (did you know Canton was named for the China trade?), providing a more seamless view of regional history.

Speaking of history for the locals, the book included the following photo:

1919 photo of the BPL from Trinity Church

The online copy on the BPL's site says this 1919 photo was taken from Trinity Church. But has this photo been reversed? Somebody please give me a reality check, because in my mind, looking at the BPL from Trinity Church, the New Old South Church should be on the right, not the left. Right?

Interesting trivia bit: We often joke that Boston roads are a tangled mess to confuse outsiders, but that apparently has a grain of truth to it. Regarding the development of Beacon Hill, "[a]rchitect Charles Bullfinch [...] laid out streets on the new land of the Mill Pond in a triangular pattern, creating an industrial barrier, the Bulfinch Triangle, between the new Beacon Hill neighborhood and the old North End." [Kyool! I just found this (PDF) history of the Bulfinch Triangle from an MIT student of urban design. Is there something wrong that this kind of thing excites me?]

Another thought this book sparked: I'm familiar with the recent controversies over Native American names used for sports teams and mascots. But upon finding out that a loal football team (which later moved to Washington) "became the Redskins in tribute to their Native American coach, Lone Star Dietz," that name sounds like a compliment rather than epithet.

Finally, among the 'notable Bostonians' featured in sidebars throughout the book, I was able to recognize Louis Brandeis from his resemblance to his statue on the Brandeis campus. Those who have seen the statue will understand why that's disturbing. But they also shared a cool and relevant quote of his:

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

At any rate, while the book was very much an abbreviated version of Boston history, it did provide a good overview and gave me some ideas of areas I wish to explore further. And it has a bibliography, which was part of my original purpose in posting about it -- to make note to myself of some other titles to look up later:

I think I'll check the library after dropping Ian off at the train station...

[Also from the library, I've been in the middle of Salt: a world history for several weeks now. Interesting stuff, but somehow I don't think I'm going to ever finish it. Another book I'm reading but haven't been able to finish is The courage to write: how writers transcend fear. Just a personal memory aid, in case I want to go back to them, since I don't include incomplete books in my reading lists.]

Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Way to go Bernie!
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:05 PM

Just seen on the Libraries LJ community,

On Wednesday, July 7, or Thursday, July 8, Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will introduce an amendment to the House Commerce, Justice, State (CJS) appropriations bill, which funds the Justice Department, barring the Department from using any of the appropriated money to search bookstore and library records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. As you recall, Rep. Sanders introduced the Freedom to Read Protection Act (H.R. 1157) last year. It exempts bookstore and library records from searches under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Although the bill has 145 co-sponsors in both parties, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has refused to hold a hearing on it.

We urge you to call your Representative and ask her or him to support the Sanders-Paul-Conyers-Nadler Freedom to Read Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary Appropriations (CJS) bill when it comes to the floor. To contact your Representative about the Sanders-Paul-Conyers-Nadler Freedom to Read Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary Appropriations (CJS) bill, please go to http://www.ala.org/ala/washoff/washingtonoffice.htm and enter your zip code to go to the Legislative Action Center.

The text of the amendment reads: "None of the funds available may be used to make an application under section 501 of FISA to require the production of library circulation records, library patron lists, library Internet records, bookseller sales records, or bookseller customer lists." Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act amends Section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is why this language refers to "section 501 of FISA."

(from ALAWON: American Library Association Washington Office Newsline Volume 13, Number 42)

Cool. I'm starting to see glimmerings of that sunset clause approaching on the horizon.

Wit and wisdom of my husband
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:40 PM

Well, wit at least. Two off-the-cuff quips he made tonight that made me laugh:

"RPS: Devil/Daniel Webster." [If you don't get it, you're probably better off not knowing.]

We passed a sign which read Gentile Painters. "Our Shabbos goy clashes with the drapes."

Have I mentioned recently that I love him very very very much.


Added 7:50 pm: I have a habit sometimes that when Ian says "I love you" I reply with "Why?" (because, well, who doesn't need a little egoboo now and then?). Just now, we had the following exchange:

Ian: I love you.
me: Why?
Ian: It must be requited!

<grin> I love that man!

One way or another
Posted by Lis Riba at 5:35 PM

Remember my prediction that the Bush Administration would announce a terror alert the week of the DNC Convention to suck media attention away from the Democrats? It looks like they may have something else up their sleeves (as well or instead) for that week. Courtesy of Josh Marshall:

A couple months ago, in passing, I noted that the Bush administration had been leaning heavily on the Pakistanis to produce some high-value al Qaida bad-guys -- bin  Laden? Mullah Omar? Zawahiri? -- at the end of July, nicely timed to knock the Democratic convention seriously off-stride, and certainly, if at all possible, before the November election.

Well, tomorrow The New Republic is going to release a story -- written by recent TPM guest bloggers John Judis and Spencer Ackerman and another colleague -- which provides considerably more evidence and detail about what they've been up to.

I'm told Judis and Ackerman have mulitple Pakistani intelligence sources confirming key details.

If only baggin OBL had been such a priority for them in early '02. But, alas, Iraq called. And priorities are priorities.

They appear to be starting their October Surprise a little early this year.

Deveraux and Deloitte, Part Deux
Posted by Lis Riba at 3:27 PM

Thinking about opportunities with Google Answers in my previous post (according to their FAQ they're not accepting applications at this time) reminded me of another such outfit that I blogged about before: Deveraux & Deloitte. At that time, I was looking for more information on experiences of people who worked for the firm. I never did get a satisfactory response, although a few other people dropped by to ask me if I'd heard anything.

Well, it looks more information has been posted since my initial query. Searching on them today turns up this profile on jobweb, a discussion thread in WritersWeekly linking to a brief page on Blagger.com. Don't know what I'm going to do with all this, but it bears consideration and I thought I'd share these links with anybody else considering the company.

Live the questions
Posted by Lis Riba at 2:50 PM

Interesting thought about why cover letters are so tough for me to write. As a rather bright kid in the public schools, one of the survival techniques is to downplay your intelligence. Don't raise your hand every single time the teacher asks a question. Be a little quieter. Blend in with the crowd. In short, don't brag or showoff... And then, when applying for jobs, that advice gets turned on its head. One has to talk up one's abilities and accomplishments. And that just goes against my ingrained modesty.

At any rate, while thinking about how to pitch my online searching skills, I remembered an anecdote from a few years back. Probably not quite suitable to share with potential employers, but it made me grin to recall it:

I was talking to some close friends about my online searching skills, and more or less dared them to challenge me. So, one of them said that over a decade ago he caught part of an porn flick based on Alice in Wonderland. It was a musical and had Benny Hill in it. He couldn't find it again and was curious for more information.
So, I fired up the modem (a dialup) and said to Ian, "Time me."
As it turned out, Benny Hill was a dead end -- a false lead. It took less than ten minutes (I don't remember exactly how long) and I not only found info on the film, but I found someplace he could order the video if he so desired.
Ah... the thrill of the chase...

At any rate, while it may be a great illustration of my searching abilities, given the controversial nature of the subject matter, I probably should be mum about it in job interviews and cover letters. But still, to me at least it was a fun and confidence-building memory.

BTW, I really *do* enjoy searching for information. I get a rush out of doing so successfully. So, if anybody has any (preferably not too involved) queries you need conducted, send 'em my way. I won't guarantee results, but I think I'd like that chance to be productive and help others. [Hmm. Maybe I should look into Google Answers again, if I can pick up a couple bucks that way... <frown> average price for current questions is only about $10. May not be worth the effort. But I'd still like to help friends!]

Bloggers at the DNC Convention
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:40 AM

Apparently, the DNC announced yesterday which bloggers are being invited to cover the Convention. [I didn't apply, because I hope to hell I'll be working a full-time paying job by then.] Just flipping through my blogroll this morning, I've noticed confirmations on Daily Kos and Talk Left, among others.

At any rate, while I won't be covering the convention, I do live in the Boston area. Would any of these bloggers be interested in some kind of gettogether among local bloggers and those in town for the convention? Or will y'all be too busy with convention-related activities for such an event? Let me know if you're (a) an out-of-town blogger in for the convention, or (b) a local blogger, so I can gauge interest and possibly help put such a shindig together.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004
For Block(ed)heads
Posted by Lis Riba at 2:15 PM

A public service message for any writers out there. In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, some intrepid LiveJournalers have announced COOWIPP -- Complete Our Outstanding WIPs Project -- for August. [WIP is short for "Work in Progress" -- something unfinished.]

Quoting from their info page:

Many, many of us have WIPs out there. Some big, some small. Some have been languishing for a few days, some for much, much longer. We always say we're going to get around to finishing them...

But they linger.

Now is the time! With the help of CooWipp, you too can finish your whimpering, neglected WIPs.

In the month of August, we will complete them. That's right, in 31 days, you can finishes up any and all WIPs. How? By writing like your head is on fire. Some people work best with deadlines (I'm one of them) and end up slacking for long periods of time between updates with no definite goal in mind.

And many stories are not being read because of the (completely understandable) aversion many readers have to being sucked into an unfinished story.

Your story deserves to be finished. You deserve to be finished with it!

The Rules:
     1) You don?t have to sign up, but it?s good to have a support group.
     2) You must pledge to finish your current WIP in the month of August. Many of you are very smart, and have figured out that it is currently July. Yes, that?s almost a month of slacking time before you have to start.
     3) You can pledge to finish all your WIPs, or just your most needy one or ones.
     4) To FINISH means: ready to go to beta. Our Beta?s are our favorite people, and we don?t want to rush them. THEY have as much time as they want.

While I have two WIPs in varying stages of incompletion, I'm not entirely sure whether I'll participate in CooWipp or not. Either (heaven forbid) I won't have a job at that time, in which case I should be spending all my time finding employment, or I will have a job, in which case I should still be focusing my time elsewhere than my writing.

I do have one story nearing completion, except for one scene, which I am incredibly blocked on. The scene needs to happen; it needs to happen "on camera" (as it were); I know what happens afterwards and have later scenes already written. I've even mapped the scene out several ways and tried with different emotional tones, but it always falls flat to my ear. I almost wish I could outsource it... After I get that scene fixed, I can probably post the story in under a week (for polishing and that kind of thing). And I'd like to, but grrrrr that one scene!

Sunday, July 04, 2004
For those with flagging interest
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:00 PM

I just had this realization that since I've been such a stickler for the flag code, that I ought to let folks know that flags no longer are at half-staff. It hasn't been a full thirty days since Reagan's death, but President Bush ordered the formal mourning period ended early so flags can be raised today for Independence Day.

Just thought people would like to know that.

A moment of reflection
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:30 AM

I thought it important to recall what precisely we are honoring on this date:

Action of Second Continental Congress, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America

WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

HE has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.

HE has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

HE has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

HE has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of the Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and the Convulsions within.

HE has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States; for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

HE has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

FOR quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us;

FOR protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

FOR cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

FOR imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

FOR depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

FOR transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended Offences:

FOR abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries, so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rules into these Colonies:

FOR taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

FOR suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

HE has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

HE has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

HE has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.

IN every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

NOR have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Time of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace, Friends.

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

John Hancock.
GEORGIA, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, Geo. Walton.
NORTH-CAROLINA, Wm. Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn.
SOUTH-CAROLINA, Edward Rutledge, Thos Heyward, junr., Thomas Lynch, junr., Arthur Middleton.
MARYLAND, Samuel Chase, Wm. Paca, Thos. Stone, Charles Carroll, of Carrollton.
VIRGINIA, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Ths. Jefferson, Benja. Harrison, Thos. Nelson, jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton.
PENNSYLVANIA, Robt. Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benja. Franklin, John Morton, Geo. Clymer, Jas. Smith, Geo. Taylor, James Wilson, Geo. Ross.
DELAWARE, Caesar Rodney, Geo. Read.
NEW-YORK, Wm. Floyd, Phil. Livingston, Frank Lewis, Lewis Morris.
NEW-JERSEY, Richd. Stockton, Jno. Witherspoon, Fras. Hopkinson, John Hart, Abra. Clark.
NEW-HAMPSHIRE, Josiah Bartlett, Wm. Whipple, Matthew Thornton.
MASSACHUSETTS-BAY, Saml. Adams, John Adams, Robt. Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry.
RHODE-ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE, C. Step. Hopkins, William Ellery.
CONNECTICUT, Roger Sherman, Saml. Huntington, Wm. Williams, Oliver Wolcott.

It's really worth thinking about.

In the minds of our Founding Fathers, Governments do not give us our unalienable rights; we are entitled to them by virtue of being human. Instead, people institute governments to secure these rights. And, when a government tries to destroy its people's rights, the people have the right to alter or abolish it.

Our current president has subjected us to a long train of abuses and usurpations. The history of this administration is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of a tyranny.

  • He has tried to deprive us, in the cases of Hamdi and Padilla (and others), of the benefits of trial by jury.
  • He has erected a new office, the Department of Homeland Security, and sent hither swarms of officers to harrass our people.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
  • (Anybody care to try to translate other causes in the list?)

I do believe that George W. Bush is unfit to remain President of the United States and appeal to all citizens of the United States of America who are eligible to vote

  • that they register to vote and
  • that they vote President Bush out of office in the next presidential election, on November 2nd, 2004.


[Please note: I am calling for Americans to vote Bush out of office using legal means. I am not advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government nor any illegal actions.]

Comments or questions?

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