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, February 12, 2005
Allen Weinstein confirmed as Archivist
Posted by Lis Riba at 1:10 PM

Just to update Wednesday's post, the Senate has confirmed Allen Weinstein as National Archivist.
Via LISNews, which includes a statement by the Society of American Archivists.

Oh, also on LISNews, this New York Times story about the personal library of a New York Public Library cataloger:

Her 16 bookcases - about 214 running feet - reveal no deference to John Dewey and his decimal system and varying degrees of respect for the alphabetical-by-author rule. Indeed, it seems she has grouped her books less by subject than by country of origin. Dust-free and with carefully cracked spines (a sign that books have been read, or at least leafed through), the books in Ms. Coblentz's library are navigable to no one but her.

"Your system doesn't have to be logical, it just has to work for you," said Ms. Coblentz, the author of The New York Public Library Guide to Organizing a Home Library (Running Press, 2003).

Fascinating. So how do you shelve your books. And, ideally, how would you organize them? [I once described my (still incomplete) plans here.]

Testosterone spray for sexual dysfunction
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:05 PM

Another news story about another new product to treat female sexual dysfunction.

Not only am I pleased that pharmeceutical companies are finally recognizing the problem after decades of neglect, but it's also an extremely well-written article. Notice how they take pains to forestall some of the stupid sensationalism that accompanied earlier stories:

Lead researcher Professor Susan Davis, of Monash University, Principal investigator, said previous research had focused on postmenopausal women known to have low testosterone levels.

"But many younger women also report having low sexual interest and enjoyment and traditionally," she said.

"This has been explained away as being caused by relationship issues, depression or other life circumstances.

"But now we know for many women the underlying problem is biological.

"If further studies reconfirm the benefits we have seen, the spray could make an enormous difference to the quality of many women's lives.

"This is not just about sex - it's about having a satisfying home and social life, and having happier relationships and communities all round."
Professor Davis said there was a degree of concern about the concept of treating older women with hormone to achieve levels that were more normal for their younger counterparts.

But she said giving young women testosterone to restore to it to the same levels of as other women of a similar age was a different matter.

Dr Geoff Hackett, of the British Society for Sexual Medicine, said it was important that the spray was only given to women who had been thoroughly assessed, and shown to have low testosterone.

He told the BBC News website "This should not be seen as a panacea. Low female sex drive is a much more complex thing than men not getting an erection, which in 90% of cases is due to organic disease.

"If a woman takes this spray when her low libido is not due to low testosterone levels then it could cause even more problems for her relationship."

Hopefully, this kind of coverage will prevent any hysteria that such meds will be handed out like candy to (or even forced upon) unhappy but healthy women. What do you think?

Posted by Lis Riba at 11:45 AM

Nathan Newman excerpts this Washington Post article on WalMart:

[Wal-Mart CEO] Scott announced that Wal-Mart has begun "a campaign to tell community and elected leders about its operations and policies." And where are they looking for examples of how to run the P.R. campaign?

Scott, who has worked at Wal-Mart since 1979 and became chief executive of the 3,000-store chain in 2000, said he has studied how major companies in the tobacco, beer and petroleum industries have weathered intense criticism.


They're trying to improve their image, so they've chosen the lung cancer, alcoholism and Bhopal industries as their role models?

Food for thought
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:50 AM

Here's a thought-provoker for a Saturday morning: Is Microsoft doomed?

I also recently saw this piece on the EU's Microsoft Remedy (source), in which the author writes:

Just as King Solomon's proposal to divide the baby only caused pain to the true mother, the Commission's remedy will only cause pain to a monopolist who abused its position.

I've got friends who work for Microsoft, and I don't wish them any harm, but as an ex-Lotus employee, who saw our products become a dress rehearsal for what they did to other browsers and then other media players, I can't help hoping they finally get their just desserts.

Also, I'm finally in a job where I have to use MS Word daily. Me hates it. Makes me long for Word Pro. The SmartSuite products had a particularly elegant and consistent way of handling formatting thru the InfoBox that's really superior to the endless hoops in- and out- of dialog boxes I have to jump through for MS's programs.

Oh look, Slashdot found the article, so you can read their commentary, though I found it thru another source.

Friday, February 11, 2005
Seldom Seen Cites
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:25 PM

[a.k.a. the feature formerly called Seeing the cites.]

While taking a random walk through the basement archives where I work, I came across The Journal for the History of Astronomy. Not my usual beat, but sounded intriguing. I paused and flipped through the most recent issues. And two articles from May 2004 (Vol. 35 Issue 2) definitely caught my eye:

"Computer Animations of Ancient Greek and Arabic Planetary Models" by Dennis Duke:

A new set of computer animations is available for those who teach the ancient models of planetary motion, those who want to learn those models, or even those who enjoy simply contemplating just how clever the ancient astronomers were. The animations include the models from Ptolemy's Almagest (ca. 150 AD) and those from the Maragha school of Arabic astronomy (ca. 1250-1350 AD), and thus cover over one thousand years of astronomical history. Since the models are (intentionally) geocentric, the animations might also be useful for thinking about how heliocentric planetary motion actually appears to us on Earth.

The article and animations are available from the author's website.

"Heavenly Bodies: Newtonianism, Natural Theology and the Plurality of Worlds Debate in the Eighteenth Century" by Patricia Fara:

This looks at 18th century debates regarding life on other planets, and what people of the age believed and wrote. One of the subsections within the article is Space Travel Literature

That's right, 18th Century SETI discourses!

If anybody's writing historical SF or fantasy, this could be a great resource for getting the attitudes correct. [Hm. Is there any historical SF built upon the assumptions and theories of that period, rather than from a modern understanding of science? Perhaps some steampunk, which make use of ether...]

Browsing through the contents I keep turning up other interesting titles. The usual suspects merit numerous mentions: Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Ptolemy, Newton... They also print plenty of articles about tools and apparatuses (apparati?) of various periods. But the subject matter goes beyond Western Europe. Several articles focus on the Mayans, and I saw a few on the ancient Chinese. Digging a little further, I found they used to have a sibling publication titled Archaeoastronomy whose contents have since been incorporated into this one. So they've got articles on Easter Island and other early megaliths.

I know some of you are history buffs, so you might want to find a copy to flip through.

That was to have been my entire post, but this afternoon I found a special bonus I had to share!

Modern Fiction Studies decided to focus their Winter 2004 issue solely on Tolkein.

Valerie Rohy's "On Fairy Stories" first caught my eye, because the abstract began:

The article focuses on total absence of sexuality in children's books from Harry Potter to The Lord of the Rings.

Total absence of sexuality in children's books. Um, yeah. right. I read a fair bit of YA fiction, particularly YA fantasy fiction, and sexuality most definitely has a presence. As it turns out, the abstract was somewhat misleading, because the author actually sets out to disprove what she calls "[a]llegations of an absence of sexuality in The Lord of the Rings."

Then I saw the title of the subsequent article in the journal, and just cracked up:

"'Oh . . . oh . . . Frodo!': Readings of Male Intimacy in The Lord of the Rings" by Anna Smol:

I've only had time to skim the article, but it takes an in-depth look at the Frodo-Sam relationship as portrayed by Tolkien, how Peter Jackson (and the actors) modified it for the times and medium, and how slashers portray it in fanfic and fanart (including acknowledgement of RPS). I know at least one friend who needs a copy of this article, and I'm sure this post will only whet others' desire.

Which, I suppose, is part of the reason I started this series -- to share the love!

The Specials
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:05 PM

Why had I never heard of this movie before?

We may not be the prettiest, or the smartest, or the most powerful. But we don't exist for the beautiful people of the world, Ted! We're there for the oddball, the rebel, the outcast, the geek!

A coworker loaned me the DVD, and we just finished watching it.

This 2000 movie falls in the same genre as Mystery Men and the live-action Tick -- enough so that I'd be tempted to run them as a triple feature, although that might be overkill.

Rob Lowe and Jamie Kennedy and Thomas Haden Church are the big names in this 2000 low-budget flick. (Melissa Joan Hart gets prominent placement in the credits and trailer for being a "name" but only really appears for one scene.) Though it took me a little, I finally placed Judy Greer from The Hebrew Hammer and many of the other actors also had a certain nagging familiarity, though I don't recognize their other roles in IMDB. On the backend, Mojo did the SFX, and Mark A. Altman (who I vaguely knew in college) produced and had a cameo.

At times, the humor is just this side of painful-to-watch, but (for us, at least) it always remained on the right side of that line.

Surprisingly jaw-droppingly fun. I know I'm going to watch it at least once more this weekend with the commentary track.

Has anybody else seen this film to know what I'm talking about?

Of course, now I'm feeling nostalgic for the old Steve Meretzky game, Superhero League of Hoboken.

How NOT to blog about your employer
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:30 PM

The moment I saw this, I knew I had to share it with you, dear readers. My own essay with advice on how to blog more safely while employed and my idea(l)s for good HR policy are still under development. But in the meantime, maybe this will help you weather the uncertainties:

How not to blog about your employer
Given recent publicity regarding employee blogging, I thought I would post examples what I see is "cool" (harmless information) or "uncool" (private company information) to post in your public blog regarding your employment at Foobar.

Cool - "My team played volleyball at lunch today, we beat some people from another group"
Uncool - "My team is way ahead of the weather-machine and germ-warfare divisions"

Cool - "Pets are welcome on the Foobar Campus"
Uncool - "People at Foobar like to sit in their chairs and pet their cats while plotting"

Cool - "Foobar has several offices in Europe"
Uncool - "We look forward to renaming Europe 'Euro-Foobar-Land'"

Cool - "We are constantly looking for the best engineers to work on exciting projects"
Uncool - "We're building a robot army at our secret desert office and need more engineers"

Cool - "There are some great recreation facilities on campus"
Uncool - "Employees who underperform are sent to the dungeon to toil"

Cool - "Foobar is always looking to make its services available outside of North America"
Uncool - "Within 4 turns, we will control all of Asia"

Cool - "Over 2,000 highly qualified employees work at Foobar"
Uncool - "Foobar hires only the best evil geniuses"

Cool - "We don't comment on how many computers Foobar operates"
Uncool - "Foobar only has a single super-computer, we call it SkyNet, it calls the shots here"

Cool - "The company motto is '[something]''"
Uncool - "The secret company motto is 'One Webservice to Rule Them All'"

I hope that clears some things up.
Copyright (C) 2005 Ian W. Mackinnon, distributed under a GPL license
Zine and not heard
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:20 PM

Via LISNews:

The University of Iowa put out a press release on the new collection of more than 250,000 science fiction fanzines. They say "almost overnight has increased its stature as a prominent science fiction research center."
"One portion of the collection -- issues of about 3,000 titles -- came very well organized in file cases," said Huttner. "We have prepared a list of those titles that is already available on the Web." The link is on the Libraries' Special Collections home page.

Maybe the OED SF Citations project should get in touch with them. Last I heard, they've often narrowed down their search to particular zines where something was reputed to appear, and they just need to confirm it.

Also, this should provide an answer to the perennial Usenet thread and convention panel on how to dispose of old fanzine collections if one doesn't have fannish relations to inherit. Save collectors from a fate worse than death [scroll to 2-7-05 (11:02AM EST)] (via BookSlut)

Thursday, February 10, 2005
A rose by any other name
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:30 PM

If you haven't already read my previous post on FleetCenter renaming plans, please do so before continuing. The rest of this may not make much sense without it. [May not make much sense with it, but we're silly people.]

So, over dinner I asked Ian what he'd name the stadium if he had naming rights. Without hesitation, he replied:

WokkaWokkaWokkaWokkaWokkaPtang Stadium

Ian had apparently been thinking about this since I showed him the news story.

Then he asked me what I'd name it, and, I'll confess, I didn't have any ready answers. But after a moment, I came up with a few and then Ian and I ping-ponged back and forth approximately as follows:

Me: Fenway Park! (let's just mess up those tourists or anyone giving directions; besides, maybe their luck will rub off on the Celtics)
Ian: The Mother Church of Christian Science!
Symphony Hall!
Carnegie Hall! (answer the age-old question of how to get there)
Carnegie Deli! (that about exhausted that theme, so then I came up with)
The Jimmy Hoffa Memorial Construction Project

And we just got sillier from there...

I briefly wondered whether they'd accept some kind of political message as stadium name. Could we call it "Go Dems!" or "Boo Bush!"?

Yeah, the thought did occur to me to use it to boost my own popularity. The RibaRambles.org Arena doesn't sound too bad. The Librarian Illuminati Garden? Frankly, I'd find it more appealing to name it after one of my parents' businesses, to drive more customers their way. They would benefit from the publicity better than I.

But still, I wonder how long they'll have this offer open? If people are clever, they'd buy renaming rights on days with complimentary (or competing) events: See "Disney on Ice at the Cryogenics Rink" or "U2 in concert at DresdenDolls Field"

I could go on, but... well, it's already too late to stop while I'm ahead, but let's just move on and pretend I did.

Call me Ishmael
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:10 PM

Now there's a way to make a name for yourself:

With Bank of America's purchase of Fleet, naming rights to the FleetCenter have been put up for bidding -- on a day-by-day basis!

Television station Fox25 likely will rename the arena the FoxCenter on Friday, and it plans to broadcast its morning show from the floor that day, an arena spokesman said. On Sunday, the publisher of a Chicago sports marketing publication, Dan Migala, will pay $500 to rename the building the MigalaReportCenter.

And they've opened eBay auctions to the general public, with all proceeds going to charity.

The highest bidders won't get to change the giant FleetCenter sign overlooking the highway. But they will get an assortment of perks, including their names on the FleetCenter's website, its Jumbotron, and a message for callers to the automated phone system, which will say ''Thank you for calling the 'YourCenter.' They also will get four tickets to the day's game or show, and a framed photo collage and a certificate, and a ''special surprise gift package."
Bidders will not be required to leave ''Center" in the building name, executives said. The arena will approve all names as long as they're ''rated G," Krezwick said.

Ian's birthday is available, but $1,225 (the current bid) is a bit more than I can really spend. Besides, we've got other plans for that day, so couldn't use the tickets.

Still, it's a fun idea. What would you call it, if you had the opportunity? [Via Justin du Coeur]

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Okay, one more
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:39 PM

I just saw a headline on Salon's sidebar (from the wires):

Chicago Mayor wrestles with scandals

This is news? I thought that was just a constant fact of life.

Digested news
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:35 PM

As I was catching up on the evening newsblogs, I did notice a couple stories worth mentioning:

From Long story; short pier: It sounds like scare tactics, at first:

"[The Republicans] want to set aside the rule of law for the Secretary of Homeland Security."

But when I read the details, he's not that far off-base:

Among other provisions, the bill put forth by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner would give the Homeland Security Secretary “the authority to waive… all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.”

The bill also seeks to strip courts from being able to challenge any of the Secretary’s decisions.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law… no court shall have jurisdiction,” the Republican bill asserts.

The immigration bill would allow Homeland Security to construct barriers along American borders and inside the United States. It would also give the Secretary the authority to ignore labor and environmental laws, as well as refuse compensation for property seized in the construction of such barriers.

The bill also denies immigrants habeas corpus rights and makes it harder for immigrants to achieve asylum. Senior aides in the House expect the bill to pass without significant amendments Thursday.

I shouldn't be surprised; I mean, every time I think the current crop in power can sink no lower, they invariably manage. Get a load of this piece Julia found last night:

Eleven marines who were given Purple Hearts in the early days of the war have been notified that the award has been revoked because their injuries did not take place in combat.

They were injured in a combat zone. They didn't lie about their injuries, and they didn't ask for medals.. Some didn't remember being injured. One even asked that the Purple Heart not be awarded because he didn't earn it and was ordered to take it.

The head of the Marine Corps Awards Branch says there was "a rush to honor them" because they were early casualties. Then, after the awards were already given, apparently the circumstances of their injuries were investigated and the Marines changed their minds.

By not doing their investigation before the award, the Pentagon (and I have to assume that the Pentagon was behind this, just as they were behind the hyping of Pfc. Lynch's story, because the Marines just don't do this) put these men in a terrible position.

I have to think that men and women who are wounded for their country deserve to be treated with dignity.

Do you find that as disgusting as I do?

Let's see, what else have I found...

Josh Marshall opens the door to a bit of wistful thinking regarding Social security:

  1. In both his inaugurations, President Bush swore to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."
  2. Amendment XIV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution says:
    The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
  3. President Bush lays the groundwork for defaulting on almost two trillion dollars worth of US Treasury bonds during remarks today at the Commerce Department.

Put those together and did Bush violate his oath? Add that to the list of impeachment charges that will never be filed, I suppose...

If you don't quite get #3, Kevin Drum has an explanation.

Kevin also has a nice piece on how the Bush White House is congenitally unable to produce honest figures for any of its programs. Jo Fish offers a refresher on the history of the bill in question.

I don't spend much time thinking about the leadership of the Democratic party, but Harry Reid (Senate Minority Leader) has really been impressing me this week. Get a load of his comments Monday, Tuesday, and the latest today from corrente and Kos.

I also haven't really been following the whole Jeff Gannon flap, though Dave Johnson tells us why we should care:

A potential male prostitute gets White House credentials using a fake name, provides McClellan a welcome ideological lifeline during press conferences, and somehow gets access to classified CIA documents that outs an undercover CIA operative.

And my laugh for the day comes from economist Brad DeLong dealing with yet another wagering wingnut:

And I would caution Tom (or anyone) against accepting bets specified by others. As the old story goes, "Someday, someone is going to come up to you with an unopened deck of cards, and bet that he can tap the deck and the jack of spades will jump out and squirt cider in your ear. Son, do not accept this bet."

That's probably enough for now. I've gotten into a debate over the McDonalds coffee case, of all things, over on Peter David's blog. Fortunately, I come armed with the facts, while the other guy seems to mostly be spouting opinion and speculation that's been easy to shoot down.

I think I'll say farewell with kittens!!! (via worldmage)

Good night, everybody!

Answering my own question (and raising new ones)
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:30 PM

Earlier this evening I asked:

Have any historians out there researched the state of public libraries during the Great Depression? I've heard some anecdotal comparison about public school services that were supported throughout the Depression that have since been lost to Prop 2 ½, so now I'm curious.

I did a little more digging and I've found some cites, though I don't have access to the materials in question.

I found a 2001 children's book, Down Cut Shin Creek: the pack horse librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt & Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer. According to the summary, it "[t]ells how the Works Progress Administration's pack horse libraries brought reading materials during the Great Depression to people in isolated areas in the backwoods of Kentucky."

Not exactly what I was looking for, but maybe it'll have some background on what conditions were like for libraries and librarians in the period.

Closer to the mark, Martha H. Swain wrote "A New deal in libraries: Federal relief work and library service, 1933-1943," which appeared in the Summer 1995 issue of Libraries & Culture. The abstract says she "[d]iscusses the financial crunch faced by local governments in United States to support library services during 1933-1943 following the Great Depression." And from the title, it sounds like here the federal government was actually pitching in to help keep libraries open, rather than contributing to the problem.

But the big prize appears to be:

"The great depression, its impact on forty-six large American public libraries: an inquiry based on a content analysis of published writing of their directors."

This was a 1975 Ph.D thesis by Robert Scott Kramp in Ann Arbor, MI.

That sounds exactly what I'm looking for.

Unfortunately, the article isn't online nor can I find anything else about the author that would enable me to contact him. So far, only the University of Michigan libraries has it (they probably keep backups of all student dissertations). I'd ask if they could make me a copy, but it's over 200 pages, which is probably more than they'd be willing to Xerox. And if it is unique, ILL is probably out of the question, too... <sigh>

So close, and yet so far away.


Addendum: Brooks Moses found another source: "The American public library during the Great Depression" by C. A. Seavey was published 2003 in Library Review (vol. 52, no. 8). That's recent enough that I might even be able to find a copy in the basement warehouse tomorrow over lunch... Woo-hoo!

And about five minutes later... Why wait? I think I've just found online access to the issue. And, ooh the previous article also looks intriguing: "Information-saturated yet ignorant: information mediation as social empowerment in the knowledge economy." That's right, hon. Knowledge is power, we librarians have just been waiting for the rest of the world to catch on...

But enough of this jabber -- I've got some reading to do!

And I'm back again, five minutes later. How clever! The article on the Great Depression is available for free; they're charging $20 for nonsubscribers to access the one on empowerment... Smart people.

Silliest thing I ever hoid!
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:40 PM

Well, that's a cute method of viral advertising:

Salutations Dottore!

The veracity of this quiz has been adjudicated with
the persipicuity with which it discerned your
gift of intellect.

Your love of knowledge will no doubt lead you to
see , March 9-12, 2005 at the Boston Center for
the Arts Black Box Theater.

What Commedia dell Arte Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Three from the stacks
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:10 PM

Several interesting stories on LISnews this week:

Technology Review offers a brief mundane history of Keeping Tabs. Not the keyboard tab key, but the history of tabs as we see on file folders (or library catalog cards) and their virtual interface equivalents. [LISNews]

Wow, has it really been nearly a year since I expressed my concern over the White House's nominee for National Archivist? While everybody's been going on (and rightfully so) drawing attention to concerns over Alberto Gonzales and Michael Chertoff, this crucial role seems to have slipped under the radar. This Washington Post editorial explains why this is similarly important:

The archivist oversees and -- in the best of worlds, facilitates, promotes and prods -- the release of far less musty government documents, material essential to understanding modern American history. In an age when the amount and type of information are proliferating, the archivist decides what information must be preserved and ultimately made public and how best to make it accessible.

For example, at the dawn of the e-mail age, the archivist had to determine whether an administration's e-mail messages were government records that had to be maintained for posterity; luckily for historians and the public, it was eventually required that they be saved. The next archivist will inherit a similar question about videoconference tapes and transcripts.

In recognition of the sensitive role of the archivist, Congress created an independent agency, the National Archives and Records Administration; gave the archivist an unlimited term in office; and required that a president, to replace an archivist, must explain why. No such explanation has been offered by the Bush administration. It approached Mr. Weinstein about the job in September 2003, and a few months later pushed the current archivist, John W. Carlin, to resign, without providing any reason either to Congress or Mr. Carlin, a former Kansas governor named to the post by President Bill Clinton in 1995.

Mr. Weinstein, who spent a year during the early 1980s writing editorials for this page, is best known for his book "Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case," which concluded that Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy. Mr. Weinstein drew fire from fellow historians for refusing to share his files for the book, and some critics have taken the episode as boding ill for Mr. Weinstein's devotion to openness. While we think their concerns could have benefited from greater scrutiny by the Senate -- which should have let opponents testify at his confirmation hearing -- they should not prevent Mr. Weinstein from being confirmed.

Much more troubling, however, is the Bush administration's still unexplained move to oust Mr. Carlin and install its own candidate. That heavy-handed and questionable process will make it all the more important for Mr. Weinstein, if he is confirmed, to demonstrate his independence and commitment to robust disclosure.

This administration's love of excessive secrecy is already legendary. But critics and concerned citizens have generally had faith that historians would be uncover the truth after the current crew is out of power. This move could make that task far more difficult.

The third LISNews piece links to Whacking Libraries by Jim Hightower.

Public officials today -- from George W. Bush to city council members -- are reaching for the budget axe to whack library funding, forcing branches to close, valuable services to be eliminated, and hours to be cut.

No real surprise, but my reason for blogging this is because some commenters are questioning the attribution of these cuts to President Bush. Given his budget policies to date, that doubt seems absurd to me.

There's a definite trickle-down effect. Money that's cut on the federal level has to be made up on the state level or the state has to make other cuts. And localities have to make up for money that's cut on the state and federal level.

Bush cuts funding for first responders while giving departments additional antiterrorism demands. Bush increases requirements for schools without sufficient funding to pay for them. National guard and reservists are deployed overseas, which means someone's got to cover the roles they otherwise filled. The money has to come from somewhere, and I can't entirely blame localities for choosing public safety over libraries. The problem is, they shouldn't have to be making those kinds of choices, and the reason they do comes straight from the top.

Have any historians out there researched the state of public libraries during the Great Depression? I've heard some anecdotal comparison about public school services that were supported throughout the Depression that have since been lost to Prop 2 ½, so now I'm curious.

Posted by Lis Riba at 6:00 PM

Yesterday, our department switched to Voice Over IP phones, a system generally referred to by the acronym VoIP.


Doesn't that sound like a sound effect you'd find in comic books or MAD Magazine?

And wouldn't it be fun if more office protocols had goofy sound-effect names?

"Well, we're trying to decide between Voip and Ptui. I think Mary has more information on the Ptaaang. Look it up in the company Sproing unless you think she's filed it in the FwipfwipfwipClunk. Wait a minute, I've got a message coming in on the WhooopKapowPing!!!

I am clearly in much too silly a mood...

Oh my stars and garters
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:10 AM

I'm feeling better this morning. Though some of last night's malaise was certainly situational, I'm wondering if some of the depth might have been exaggerated by... shall we say monthly mood swings?

This week's Free Will Astrology horoscope was posted in the wee hours of the morning, and offers a much cheerier forecast (emphasis mine):

Happy Valentine Daze, Cancerian! As I meditated on what advice might purify and supercharge your love life, I got to thinking about a statement attributed to French poet Paul Valery. "Love is being stupid together," he said. There's an element of truth to this notion, but it's too corny and degenerate for my tastes. I prefer to focus on a more interesting and complete truth, which is this: Real love is being smart together. If you weave your destiny together with another's, he or she should catalyze your sleeping potentials, sharpen your perceptions, and boost your IQ. Your relationship should be a crucible in which you deepen your understanding of the way the world works. If you can't share your love with such a person this week, don't share your love with anyone.

Well, that describes Ian to a T. Okay, maybe actual sleeping ain't the greatest, but that can be blamed on cohabiting with a nocturnal beastie (Boopsie, not my husband!). But the rest of it's all true. Ain't that sweet...

Ian's horoscope ain't bad either:

Happy Valentine Daze, Pisces! The astrological omens say that right now you need love more than you need food and drink. Not just any old kind of love, though: It has to be high-minded and mysterious, and neither sentimental nor tormented. Hoping to steer you towards what you really need, I'm offering you the poetic words of Pablo Neruda. Say or write them to the person whose destiny needs to be woven more closely together with yours: "Our love is like a well in the wilderness where time watches over the wandering lightning. Our sleep is a secret tunnel that leads to the scent of apples carried on the wind. When I hold you, I hold everything that is--swans, volcanoes, river rocks, maple trees drinking the fragrance of the moon, bread that the fire adores. In your life I see everything that lives."

"High-minded and mysterious," hunh? Hmm... <thinks devious thoughts>. And even though it's Ian's advice to recite to me, a quote comes to mind... In a breathy, Crispin Glover voice: "I am your density."

Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Articulate eloquence
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:01 PM

This time Bill Moyers shows why he's the professional paid writer, and I'm just blogging for free...

A thousand words
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:10 PM

And, as usual after that rambling performance I just gave, Clay Bennett nails it in one:

Defense and Homeland Security workers are boarding up the doors and windows of a house (the USA) by ripping out the floorboards and supports -- copyright The Christian Science Monitor, reproduced with permission
          Copyright The Christian Science Monitor, reproduced with permission
Misery loves company?
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:50 PM

Further bad news on a less personal scale:

Aw heck with it, I'm just going to quote Susie directly: she's one of my never-miss daily reads, and if she's not already part of your reading list for news, you should add her!

More news from that kindly pharmaceutical industry:
A memo from Merck & Co. shows that, nearly a decade before the first public disclosure, senior executives were concerned that infants were getting an elevated dose of mercury in vaccinations containing a widely used sterilizing agent.

The March 1991 memo, obtained by The Times, said that 6-month-old children who received their shots on schedule would get a mercury dose up to 87 times higher than guidelines for the maximum daily consumption of mercury from fish.

If you don't understand what's so horrible about that, let me just point you to this post I wrote in October. Just last week it was revealed that the EPA guidelines on mercury were pretedermined to favor industry, ignoring the scientific evidence.

Yet another horrid overreach of copyright laws (via PNH)

I don't even want to think about the approval that's been shown to Alberto "torture memo" Gonzales and what that says about America. (And shame on John McCain for voting in his favor.) I'm not going anywhere near the whole Social Security boondoggle the administration is proposing. And from what I hear, the latest budget is bloated, deceitfully hiding even greater expenses, and cuts thousands of desperately needed programs in order to continue to give tax cuts to the rich. [And it's very clear that the tax cuts are a much bigger drain than the wars.] But again, others are blogging these in depth, so I don't have to. The administration also seems to be going down the same road with Iran that it used to pick a fight with Iraq.

The administration's obsession with privacy is gutting the checks and balances that we need. They're stonewalling efforts to provide humane treatment and civil rights to detainees in Guantanamo, burying the investigations into torture and Valerie Plame (remember that crime?)

And no, I'm not really in a mood to go back and document all this. As I usually do. I'm disgusted enough.

Much of the humor I'm finding has been rather black. Digby made a good catch earlier today:

It's Hard Work:
President Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, will take on a wider role in developing and coordinating policy in the president's second term, the White House announced on Tuesday.

Rove, who was Bush's top political strategist during his 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns, will become a deputy White House chief of staff in charge of coordinating policy between the White House Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council, National Security Council and Homeland Security Council.
Funny, I thought that's what the president did.

Oh, and if you voted for Bush back in November, would it've made any difference in your vote (not necessarily turning you to Kerry, but possibly to a third party candidate or not voting) had you known that Bush was wired with prompters -- against the rules! -- during the presidential debates? It looks like he was, but The New York Times pulled the story before the election

I could go on, but I've had enough and I'm sure you have too. Is it any wonder I've drifted away from blogging current events if this is what I'm turning up when I try?

I suppose the one brightspot in the evening's news has been watching Juan Cole rhetorically eviscerate Jonah Goldberg. You can read his side of the conflict in Part One, Two, Three and the Latest. The last two are particularly delicious smackdowns. [Added later: And if you think that was entertaining, get a load of Michael Bérubé's description of the exchange. It begins, "Juan Cole?s astonishing serial demolition of Jonah Goldberg is one of the most lopsided, embarrassing exchanges I have ever seen in any medium. I mean, the most corrupt state gaming commission in the entire sport of boxing would be appalled." and goes on from there.]

What am I doing? Feeling down.
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:50 PM

I never did blog last week's Free Will Astrology horoscope, but it said:

What do you say we liberate you from conventions that drag you down? And wean you from customs that steal your joy? It's a perfect moment to break with all the useless, burdensome, energy-sapping aspects of the past. A good place to begin is in the name for your sign: "Cancer" has got to go. There's no reason why you should tolerate having your astrological title be the same word as the killer disease...

Unfortunately, that advice appears to be too little, too late.

Don't ask for details, Ian and I are both healthy, but today Ian and I probably got hit with two big painful expenses that we can't even fully calculate yet. [Like I said, don't ask -- and to any family who's reading this, we're not asking for money. I just need to grumble.]

On the whole, it seems like 2005 has gotten off to an incredibly shitty start. There's a reason I haven't been newsblogging so much any more. It's all too damn depressing, and the idiots in charge are making enough of a mess that I don't see much light at the end of the tunnel in four years time (see Oliphant's comment or Kevin Drum from 2003).

And I don't think I'm the only person having a bad year. I won't share his litany of woes, but one of my coworkers briefly picked up the nickname of "Job" for all the troubles visited upon him.

And this has got me thinking:

I want a do-over!

Let's go back two months, in time to save people from the tsunami, or three months to change the outcome of the election...

I definitely want to hang onto this job, but just about everything else I would do at least somewhat differently.

Who's with me?

Maybe if we can get a thousand bloggers to have the same dream, we can change the world...

Alternately, if people want to cheer me up with good news and optimism, please go ahead and share in the comments.

Tinker Blogger Soldier Spy
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:15 PM

Wow. Weblogs in a nutshell is turning into a runaway bestseller...

A couple people have asked me about the human resource aspects I only touched upon. Honestly, that's a topic for a much longer post which I haven't yet finished researching. You can probably start (as I will) with the personal blog policy I worked up for my first employer after I started blogging. It was an impressive first effort, IMO, but now, two years out, feels rather naïve. The biggest oversight I see is that I do an excellent job at protecting my company from me, but not so good at protecting myself from my company, which is where the more public problems occur.

But, seriously, that's a longer essay for another day. My current concern is for others.

Phil Carter is a lawyer and expert on matters relating to the military. He also writes a blog I read regularly. Last night, he wrote this post. The challenges of blogging while employed are nothing compared to the risks of blogging while in the military:

[T]he Constitutional jurisprudence in this area does not support [the blogger's] expansive view of the First Amendment and its protections for soldiers. ... The courts have upheld military orders proscribing speech in a number of contexts, and they have also upheld the UCMJ provisions making it a crime to disparage our nation's political leaders.

As much as I've enjoyed reading soldiers' blogs for the unique perspective they provide, they're in enough risk overseas from enemy fire. Is it really wise to add to it by blogging? Their safety should trump readers' voyeuristic interest. I haven't read all the precedents Carter links to, but maybe it's time to temper some of the blogger triumphalism with common sense. Sometimes the old ways -- private journals which commanding officers won't be able to read -- are better.

If you know any military bloggers, pass along the warning.

Whereever I hang my hat
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:21 PM

There's a meme going around to list all the cities or towns you've lived in. Not visited, lived. I'm omitting dates, but here they are in chronological order:

  1. Chicago, IL
  2. Dubuque, IA (2)
  3. Madison, WI (2)
  4. Clearwater, FL (2)
  5. Waltham, MA (3: counting the Brandeis campus only once)
  6. Allston, MA
  7. Medford, MA
  8. Melrose, MA
Monday, February 07, 2005
Random idle thought
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:00 PM

If I could question Joseph Ellis or David McCullough, I want to ask:

  1. What do they think of 1776 (the musical)?
  2. Given what they know of John Adams (both men wrote biographies), what do they think John Adams' opinion would be? Would he be flattered or insulted? Think it more of the "continued lye," another "shin piece" (image)? Or would he appreciate it and view it favorably?

It's just something I wonder about every now and again as a fan of the man and the musical.

Personally, I think were John Adams somehow able to see 1776, he'd be appalled by the profanity (how many times does his character exclaim "Dear Gd!"?) and ribaldry/innuendo. He'd be righteously indignant over unflattering portrayals of his colleagues (Richard Henry Lee was by no means the buffoon he appears in the musical). He'd bluster over the historical inaccuracies and mythologizing. Given all that, he could never wholeheartedly praise the musical, but on the whole, I think he'd secretly feel pleased and vindicated.

What do you think?

Posted by Lis Riba at 8:30 PM

Which Mix of the Hogwarts Houses are You?


You're a Ravenpuff!: You are a very analytical and ingenius person, someone that likes to invent new things. The way you look at life is with wonder, and sometimes you're even a little naive. But people love you for that trait and they feel the need to protect you from the harsh facts of life so that you can retain your innocence. You are very capable person and when there is trouble people turn to you because you're able to stay calm and collected. You like balance in your life and you try not to make many waves. Even still, if there is something that you believe strongly in, you will commit yourself totally to that cause. Your weakness is that sometimes you can be indecisive and perfectionist, especially about little details and you drive people crazy sometimes with these traits. With the innocence of a Hufflepuff and the calm of a Ravenclaw you will be loved in life!

Which Mix of the Hogwarts Houses are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

via Huffledor Fernwithy 

Posted by Lis Riba at 7:40 PM

I've been watching this with increasing dismay for over a year, but with election results coming in, Juan Cole (a professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History) points out the sad truth about the direction the US has led Iraq:

The implementation of religious law could have a deleterious effect on Iraqi women. Bush likes to parade Iraqi women at his official events, trying to imply that he has rescued them from Arab male chauvinism. But Bush is likely to have been responsible for the biggest roll-back of women's rights in the Middle East since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

What good is a democracy if it oppresses half the population worse than under the previous regime?

Added later: The Christian Science Monitor has more details.

Posted by Lis Riba at 8:00 AM

Just FY'all'sI, after a good night's sleep I'm feeling much better and will be going into work today.

BTW, during the closing credits for Lemony Snicket I noticed they had a Boston filming unit. Ian thought he recognized one of the exterior shots as the Commonwealth Mall, but anybody know what else they filmed up here and when?

Sunday, February 06, 2005
Cold comfort
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:00 PM

All day long, I've been thinking about whether I'll be healthy enough to go into work tomorrow or if I should take another sick day. I don't actually get paid sick days until I've worked for the company 90 days, so it's not a decision to take lightly.

While I definitely feel I'm over the worst of it, I'm still going through tissues at an alarming rate and my head has been regularly pounding on and off. Both my boss and another close coworker care for 7-year-old daughters, so their health has been on my mind as well. I'd rather not pass this along. And tomorrow we've got our team meeting in which we all sit around a small round table for an hour.

Has anybody else read Ellen Goodman's latest column, called "Presenteeism"? How do you decide whether you're too sick to come into work?

I think I'm going to take a long hot shower and see whether the steam helps my sinuses any. Wish me well...

Very Fun Distraction
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:20 PM

So, we took advantage of the Super Bowl diversionary tactic to finally see the Lemony Snicket movie under less crowded conditions.

And, in Ian's mind at least, it raised a very perplexing question:

Who'd win?

The Baudelaire orphans OR MacGyver?

I mean, MacGyver has more experience, but Violet's inventiveness combined with Klaus's research skills combined with Sunny for combat skills...

Pretty evenly matched, if you ask me...

Addendum (a word which here means comments tacked on hours after I posted the initial entry): The women's costumes are gorgeous in a very Goth way. I can't wait to see replicas appear in Masquerade competitions.

Posted by Lis Riba at 1:25 PM

Chutzpah is often defined as a parricide pleading for leniency because he's an orphan. Well, we in Massachusetts may have something to rival that.

A few days ago, some high school students were struck by a car while walking in the street because the sidewalks weren't adequately plowed. The governor immediately demanded the resignation of the head of the agency responsible for plowing.

Today's Globe included an article pointing out the responsible agency's budget has been cut 37% since 2001, despite having more ground to maintain.

And after press-time, Boston.com revealed the governor tapped those funds further to throw a Super Bowl rally for the Patriots.

Um, governor? How is the agency expected to plow without money to pay the drivers? Where does the buck stop, anyway?

Why Brandeis owns this Super Bowl
Posted by Lis Riba at 12:50 PM

From today's Boston Globe:

Brandeis University hasn't fielded a football team in almost 50 years, but it suffers no lack of Super Bowl connections. Owners of both teams in today's matchup have ties to Brandeis: Myra Kraft, whose family owns the Patriots, earned a bachelor's degree in history there in 1964, and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie earned a doctorate from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management in 1987. A spokesman said both families have been generous supporters, and both teams hosted Brandeis alumni events in their stadiums this season. A judicious Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz said he will be "cheering for a good game."

A longer article from Thursday's paper is available online.

Marlowe and modern business
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:45 AM

Two recent encounters I wish to share:

I suppose it should come to few people's surprise that Harvard has some pretentious snots.

Last summer, when Ian and I went to see Shakespeare & Co.'s Comedy of Errors on opening night, I spotted some press kits by the entrance. I was too shy at the time, but later emailed them and asked how I could get them in the future, since I did write a review of the performance on my blog. They not only put me on the list for press kits, but offered me press tickets. A few months later, when we went to see Richard III I noticed press kits there, and decided to be brave and ask for a kit directly. And now I'm on their press list, too.

Emboldened by this, when I noticed the A.R.T would be putting on Dido, Queen of Carthage in March, I contacted them to see about press tickets. I mean, Shakespeare is popular and more often performed, but Marlowe's my passion. And, heck, I've got an audience about the size of a small college newspaper -- and one that's probably more interested in Elizabethan playwrights (and thus a more likely potential audience) than most.

They told me in no uncertain terms that they do not give out press tickets to bloggers. A sentiment I can understand to a certain extent since Harvard does encourage blogging and they could otherwise be inundated. [Although they could evaluate blogs if they wanted to.]

So, time passed, and I thought it was time for me to buy tickets to make sure I get good seats. I managed to find excellent ones still available for opening night, so snagged 'em. Then I decided to go back to AmRep to ask about getting a press kit at least. Was told that Wednesday night was the press opening in a tone that strongly suggested I should've known better. The emails I received had a very condescending feel, at one point mentioning "[my] 'reviewing'" with the latter word in quotes, as if trying to suggest that what I write aren't genuine reviews.

The long and short of this is that I will be seeing Dido on my own dime on opening night, meaning I can scoop the local press with my review if I choose. And if anybody else goes to see Dido based on my blog, let 'em know. Maybe they'll think twice about whom they snub.

This is the best version of the "putative portrait of Marlowe" that I've found on the public web

I contacted Corpus Christi College (in the UK) asking whether they had anything better available -- something larger and of higher resolution, perhaps.

They replied offering to sell me one, but added that they "need to know for what purpose [I] would like to reproduce the image, as there may be a copyright fee payable."


Okay, I know it was only discovered in the 1950s, but the portrait itself dates back to 420 years old. If that isn't public domain then I'm very, very scared of what's become of the copyright system...

Bonny Kit and sometimes Kit the curst
Posted by Lis Riba at 9:50 AM

Well, it's that time of year again.

Today's the date that almanacs and uninformed biographers claim as Christopher Marlowe's birthday. It's entirely possible, based upon the date of his christening, but nobody truly knows for sure. Still, as long as we're honest about what today is and is not, it's a good enough day as any to commemorate the man.

Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote:

If Shakespeare is the dazzling sun of this mighty period, Marlowe is certainly the morning star.

Given the popular association of Marlowe with atheism and Machiavellianism (plus his authorship of Faustus), I can't help wondering whether that's a veiled allusion to Lucifer Morningstar, but no matter. I come to praise Marlowe, not to bury him. And what is new in the world of Marloviana?

Shakespeare wrote "a rose by any other name may smell as sweet" but a new variety rose by the name of Christopher Marlowe is pretty darned cool. The Santa Cruz Sentinel describe it as "[a]n English rose, with orange-red flowers mature to salmon pink. The fragrance is tea rose mixed with lemon. Compact shrub with glossy foliage." Other sites frequently use the terms vibrant and heady, which seem appropriate to both poet and bloom. The Marlowe Society has further details, while a Google Image search turns up some photos of the bloom.

Meanwhile, I only just found out that BBC7 radio has been airing a program called The Christopher Marlowe Mysteries. It may not be Marlowe: Gay Atheist Spy, but almost sounds close... The Beeb offers audio of the most recent segment, which is (sadly) Part 4 of 4. Anybody know where I can hear or find out more? Sure sounds like a hoot. [via Kip W.]

Speaking of Marlowe in drama (as opposed to Marlowe's dramas), I'm hearing vague rumors again of a Marlowe biopic. There was a brief side mention in last month's Variety about some mogul named Mark Damon starting a new production company called Foresight, with "Marlowe" as one of three projects in the works. I've also seen some poorly-translated articles from the foreign press, though the source is one I consider less-than-reliable.

Alas, nothing like the news a few years ago when Variety printed articles entitled "H'wood crosses swords with dueling biopics" hinting at two competing Marlowe movies, both of which have since died sight unseen.

"He challenged all kinds of authority, the church, the state and the conventions of the day," says writer-director Michael Elias, whose Marlowe project is an adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel "A Dead Man in Deptford."
"He was the rock star of his own time and that's the Christopher Marlowe we want to show," says producer Andras Hamori ("eXistenZ," "The Sweet Hereafter"), who has John Maybury (the Francis Bacon biopic "Love Is the Devil") on board to direct his version of the writer's life.

Alas, Johnny Depp. Methinks thou hast become too old for the role. You already have over a dozen years on Kit at his presumed demise age 29.

Still, until Hollywood gets its act together, you can still enjoy yourself with over forty modern fictionalized portrayals. And if you prefer fast free facts, I still haven't found anything to beat Peter Farey's Marlowe page. Meanwhile, expect a few other posts from me about Marley, the muses' darling, over the rest of the day...



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