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, June 11, 2005
I've got class
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:25 AM

Looking at my referrer logs earlier this week, I discovered George Mason University is holding a five day workshop on Doing Digital History

And Wednesday's lesson on Personal Organization Systems begins with a link to what they call a "[g]reat reference on workplace organization": my research on filing vs. piling!

As Ian pointed out, if somebody is making their impression of me from an isolated page, that was a really good week to read

Subsequent posts include Dumber than a dead beetle about one of the cats, Beowulf ond Godsylla and more Old English, cute things Ian said, politics and the Patriot Act and the Declaration of Independence on July 4th

New Math
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:22 AM

Quoting Querldox, because he says everything I might:

Video of Tom Lehrer performing original math related songs not on any of his albums! The first two are pretty math specific, the third is more about delivering math lectures, the fourth is about sociology, and the fifth was originally intended for what became Square One TV (I'm now imagining Lehrer writing a musical episode of Mathnet, but that's probably just me). There's banter in front of and between 'em. It's actually a bit strange to see him with that much more and very familiar voice coming out of this face I've only rarely seen.

How fitting
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:20 AM

The other night, I saw a car still sporting a "Bush/Cheney 04" bumper sticker.

It was a Scion.

Summer of The Shrew
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:15 AM

Posted a couple updates to Bard in Boston yesterday. I now know of three distinct productions of Taming of the Shrew planned for this summer:

Given modern discomfort with the conclusion, I'm very curious how the different groups will play it...

I also wonder at the timing. I mean, Shakespeare wrote, what, 38 plays? Even if you discount some of the rarer and more obscure ones, that still leaves a pretty broad choice of material. But this isn't the first time I've seen multiple regional theaters pick the same play for the same season.

So, what trends are happening in culture to make Shrew feel relevant to companies for this summer? I mean, a few years ago, Commonwealth Shakespeare chose Henry V because they thought the notion of a former-playboy on the throne taking his nation into war to avenge his father's losses might have certain resonance. Actors' Shakespeare Project's entire first season dealt with political themes. I can't quite believe this is coincidence.

Friday, June 10, 2005
The pervasive influence of slash on popular culture
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:45 AM

a.k.a. Roger Ebert is a strange, strange man...

From this morning's review of Mr. and Mrs. Smith:

Gable and Lombard and Hepburn and Tracy have also been invoked, but given the violence in their lives, the casting I recommend is The Rock and Vin Diesel. In the opening scene, they could fight over who has to play Mrs. Smith.
Sorry. Lost my train of thought. Anyway

Amusing, but then the article concludes:

Recently I've noticed a new trend in the questions I'm asked by strangers. For years it was "Seen any good movies lately?" Now I am asked for my insights into Brad and Angelina, Tom and Katie, and other couples created by celebrity gossip. I reply that I know nothing about their private lives, except what I read in the supermarket tabloids, which also know nothing about their private lives. I can see this comes as a disappointment. So I think I'll start speculating about threesomes enlisting The Rock, Vin Diesel and Vince Vaughn, selected at random. This may be an idea for the sequel.


PS: I've always liked Roger Ebert's reviews, partly for his writing style, but more because his opinions generally mapped close to mine, thus making his opinions a better predictor of whether I'd enjoy a particular film. I always thought he had a certain geek mindset, and have had it confirmed he's fannish as well. If people had any doubt as to his creds, a recent essay in Asimov's should clear matters up. It's by Ebert, and titled "How Propeller-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors, and Kids in the Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System." Heh.

Thursday, June 09, 2005
Damn Fandango
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:25 AM

Tickets not available...
Tickets not available...
Tickets not available...
Sold out!

Brother, can you spare some tickets to the 6/23 showing of Serenity?

Meanwhile, Julia makes a good point:

remember back when people in the White House used to deny it when they did stuff like this?
Bush administration officials said yesterday that revisions to reports on climate change made by Philip A. Cooney, a former oil-industry lobbyist now working at the White House, were part of the normal review before publishing projects that involved many agencies.
It's official - "Bush administration officials" (hey, way to avoid that whole anonymous source thing, guys) affirm - as a defense - that this is SOP for the Bush administration
A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down the links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal U.S. government documents.

GOP power grabs are getting more and more blatant. Even lobbyists from the K Street Project are getting resentful of their party's arrogance...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005
I am such a geek
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:15 PM

Then again, if you're reading this you probably knew that.

My husband's cousin recently got his doctorate, which made me fantasize once again about pursuing my own PhD. [What can I say, but academic heraldry is cool!] You would think the comic strip and my own self-awareness would be enough of a deterrent.

But, no, I decided just for the heck of it to send off for information from Indiana University, because they offer a specialization in social informatics. [formal definitions] Even though the dean's a bit of a jerk regarding weblogs, what I wrote back in 2003 still holds:

I was talking further this morning with Ian about the notion of pursuing a PhD, and I realized if I do this, there's really only one field for me: Social Informatics -- computers in society. My research interests are too techie for traditional library school programs and too touchy-feely for traditional computer science. I mean, rhetoric and online communities? Models of how people search for information? Blogging? Aside from my British history fetish, they're all right up the alley of Social Informatics! I took a class in it in the fall, and had a lot of fun. I suppose I should contact the professor and ask her opinion of programs and my chances of getting in and/or succeeding.
Honestly, Indiana University's Ph. D. Minor in Social Informatics sounds most appealing, tied to their PhD in Information Science. [I mean, look at these program foci of the IS department alone: Information and Cognition, Human-Computer Interaction and Systems Design, Information Retrieval and Filtering, Information and Communications Systems in Society -- aren't they just what I've been talking about!? And how about some of those CSI courses: Philosophy of Computation, Politics of High Technology? Oooh!]

If you thought I wax waxing rhapsodic over the website, the booklet was even more tempting. The faculty list in particular: 'Ooh, I've read papers by her and by him...' Just looking at their research interests excites an intellectual desire:

Susan C. Herring:
Computer-mediated communication; discourse analysis; content analysis; gender and technology; new media and language.
Elin K. Jacob:
Representation of knowledge, including theories of classification and categorization; indexing systems as cognitive scaffolding; design, implementation and evaluation of ontologies and metadata schemes; and information architecture. Philosophy of information.
Javed Mostafa:
intelligent interfaces for information retrieval and filtering, knowledge discovery, user modeling, and personalized delivery of information.
Debora Shaw:
information seeking and use, design and impact of electronic information sources.
Kiduk Yang:
information retrieval with emphasis on leveraging human knowledge for information discovery on the Web. Current work investigates integrating knowledge organization with text and link analysis to enhance Web searching.

There are many practical reasons I will probably never do this: a job I love and don't want to relinquish, finances, no interest in living in Indiana... Also, I know myself well enough that a PhD is beyond me, but damn if I don't want to pursue graduate-level courses with these people in these subjects.

On a related note, readers might be interested in this discussion on a library educator's list about online PhD's and about LIS PhDs in general. [via LISnews: this week in LibraryBlogLand] Maybe after a few more years that will be a viable option...

Good news, bad news, middling news (all on a small scale)
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:30 PM

In order:

So much to read, so little time...
Posted by Lis Riba at 6:55 PM

Seems to be the season when professional columnists share their lists of suggested summer reading.

Since tastes differ so widely, I'm not sure about coming up with a general list for you all, but I have run across a number of books that I wouldn't mind tracking down this summer.

Next time I'm bored, I'm going to start combing through the library catalog for a few of these -- and maybe some will pique your interest as well:

Given the current movies, I want to read Sisterhood of the traveling pants and Howl's moving castle before my perceptions are colored by the films.

And of course, Harry Potter Book Six is coming out just over a month away, and I have yet to place my order for the British edition. [As usual, I'll be buying the American edition locally at midnight opening night, so I can read it at the earliest possible opportunity. More on my preference for the British edition and a price comparison among the British booksellers.]
I also intend to read Scardown, the sequel to Hammered, which comes out at the end of the month.

And just to keep everything in one place for my next library trip, here are a few other titles I've mentioned recently:

A history of the world in 6 glasses and The Books of King Henry VIII and his wives [link]
Hunting and gathering on the information savanna: conversations on modeling human search abilities [link]
The Shakespearean stage [link]

Again, I haven't read any of these, but hope to make a dent on at least some of them.

Oh, and with this ambitious list, what am I reading right now? Well, in anticipation of Harry Potter Book Six, I've been refreshing my memory through the previous five books. Monday night I finished Goblet of fire, and I've put my bookflip at page one of Order of the phoenix, but haven't begun reading yet.

And you know, given all this I'm really surprised nobody's tagged me with any of the book memes making the rounds.

Posted by Lis Riba at 4:20 PM

While looking up something else for work, I found Index/Indexing/Indexer Humor. A few highlights:

  • Old indexers never die, they just rot, See also Decay.
  • Q: How many indexers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    • A: How much space have I got?
    • A: None. They search and replace before the bulb burns out!
    • See Jokes, light bulb
  • An indexer, a publisher, and an author walk into a bar. The author orders a bottle of scotch, the publisher orders a glass of cheap Chardonnay from a box, the indexer informs the bartender that she can't find what she wants because the bottles aren't arranged in a manner that encourages browsing and retires in disgust to the hospitality reception.

And so on.

Well, I found them funny. Anybody else?

Posted by Lis Riba at 6:25 AM

Couldn't sleep last night. Partly that was excitement over the new computer keeping me awake far too late. Partly that was Ian leaving the window open so I woke up far too early due to highway noises.

Of course, having unfettered access to the blogosphere isn't entirely peaceful. Partly reminds me why I haven't been blogging about politics of late. Let's see...

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence met in secret and approved expansions to the USA PATRIOT Act that wil allow the Government to obtain records without a court order or grand jury subpoena - and more. This goes beyond extending those portions of the law that sunset later this year. Even though the FISA Court was a rubber-stamp, this would enable them to bypass even that much review. And though I haven't seen what they passed, the bill under discussion would expand the scope of the USA PATRIOT Act beyond matters related to international terrorism or foreign intelligence and use it against unrelated crimes. Having passed committee, this now goes before the full Senate for a vote.

Speaking of Homeland security, at a time when the United States is tightening its borders, how could a man toting what appeared to be a bloody chain saw be allowed into the country? I guess he just didn't look ethnic, because that's precisely what happened a few months ago at the Canadian border...

Kevin Drum has an abortion horror story. Texas laws have made it so nigh-impossible to obtain an abortion after 16 weeks that a 17-year old girl tried to induce a miscarriage by having her boyfriend step on her stomach. They succeeded, but he's just been sentenced to life sentence (with parole in 40 years) for fetal murder: another draconian Texas law.

Finally (for now) the situation in Iraq continues to justify my worst fears befor the invasion. Jim Henley found this essay by departing Baghdad bureau chief Ron Nordland:

     Two years ago I went to Iraq as an unabashed believer in toppling Saddam Hussein. [...]
     Living and working in Iraq, it's hard not to succumb to despair. At last count America has pumped at least $7 billion into reconstruction projects, with little to show for it but the hostility of ordinary Iraqis, who still have an 18 percent unemployment rate. Most of the cash goes to U.S. contractors who spend much of it on personal security. Basic services like electricity, water and sewers still aren't up to prewar levels. Electricity is especially vital in a country where summer temperatures commonly reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet only 15 percent of Iraqis have reliable electrical service. In the capital, where it counts most, it's only 4 percent.
     The most powerful army in human history can't even protect a two-mile stretch of road. The Airport Highway connects both the international airport and Baghdad's main American military base, Camp Victory, to the city center. At night U.S. troops secure the road for the use of dignitaries; they close it to traffic and shoot at any unauthorized vehicles. More troops and more helicopters could help make the whole country safer. Instead the Pentagon has been drawing down the number of helicopters. And America never deployed nearly enough soldiers. They couldn't stop the orgy of looting that followed Saddam's fall. Now their primary mission is self-defense at any cost -- which only deepens Iraqis' resentment.
     The four-square-mile Green Zone, the one place in Baghdad where foreigners are reasonably safe, could be a showcase of American values and abilities. Instead the American enclave is a trash-strewn wasteland of Mad Max-style fortifications. The traffic lights don't work because no one has bothered to fix them. The garbage rarely gets collected. Some of the worst ambassadors in U.S. history are the GIs at the Green Zone's checkpoints. They've repeatedly punched Iraqi ministers, accidentally shot at visiting dignitaries and behave (even on good days) with all the courtesy of nightclub bouncers -- to Americans and Iraqis alike. Not that U.S. soldiers in Iraq have much to smile about. They're overworked, much ignored on the home front and widely despised in Iraq, with little to look forward to but the distant end of their tours -- and in most cases, another tour soon to follow. Many are reservists who, when they get home, often face the wreckage of careers and family.

And this barely scratches the surface of the political news around the blogosphere. Is it any wonder that, even apart from time constraints, I haven't wanted to dwell upon current events to articulate them here?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Posted by Lis Riba at 11:05 PM

Well, haven't heard anything from anybody on my starter set proposal, but if you're interested in Firefly on DVD, Amazon.com is holding sales worth 40% off Fox season 1 DVDs and 40% off other series' season ones including Firefly - The Complete Series for only $29.99.

Not bad...

The first two seasons of Moonlighting are out, but I've checked and "Atomic Shakespeare" didn't air until the third season, so I'm holding off. That one episode is a must-see for me, but I care little about the rest of the show.

And the other big news DVD-wise is that Disney has announced they'll be releasing The Muppet Show Season One on DVD. The press release makes a big deal about how "Disney worked to secure the needed character and music rights needed to keep the episodes intact" but nowhere have I been able to find whether they're preserving the original opening credit sequence.

Many people may not remember this, but the first season The Muppet Show opened with a rising cake-tier arrangement and Gonzo's gag involved a gong rather than a trumpet. The Time-Live/Columbia House series seemed to randomly plop the more familiar opening onto first season episodes. So, as good as this sounds, I'm not about to give enthusiastic Kermit armwaving quite yet...

And if anyone hears further about that aspect, please let me know.

Change is good
Posted by Lis Riba at 10:49 PM

By the way, there's been a slight reorganization in my department over the weekend. Not much is changing about my day-to-day duties[*], though my coworkers and I are going from generalists to having more specialized areas of responsibilities.

What I find particularly cool and worth mentioning, though, is my title's changing, too. From "Requirements Engineer" to "Product Manager."

Manager, and in only six months...

Not that I have any intention of leaving this company any time in the near (or distant) future, but that'll look good on a resume. :)

Posted by Lis Riba at 8:45 PM

I've got a new computer...

Folks who have been following our travails since the fire may recall that my computer died. Tech Fusion said the hard drive went totally bad: and considering the drive was only 8 months old, I can't imagine any cause but some dramatic trauma, and a housefire filling the apartment with soot is both.

So for the last several weeks, Ian and I have been coexisting fitfully sharing his computer. Far from ideal.

We still have to get back to Tech Fusion regarding their data recovery on my old computer (no matter what they said, I refuse to concede that anything has been permanently lost until I have to). In the meantime, I ordered a new computer from Dell, and it arrived today.

I was a slightly bad girl and had it delivered to me at work, since at the time of ordering, we still didn't know where we'd be staying.

So since getting home from work, I've been sitting in front of my new machine, configuring and uninstalling and installing and setting things up...

I've got a long way to go to really make it homey, but it's good enough for blogging.

So, say hello to my new computer:

It's a Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop running Windows XP Pro. I upgraded to the DVD-writer for making backups, since CDs hold too little data to be useful for a large computer (I know, that's why I fell so behind backing up my old computer). And they were having a very nice deal on extended warranties. Given that my old laptop barely lasted three years, I think the four year coverage should do me nicely. [More specs available upon request.]

Anyway, it's almost time for House. Since moving into this hotel room (and sharing one computer), Ian and I have belatedly discovered two new TV shows just as the season is ending: House and Numb3rs Better late than never, I suppose.

Joker's Wild
Posted by Lis Riba at 8:00 AM

So, apparently Fatboy Slim held a contest for the best fanmade video for his cover of Steve Miller's "The Joker"

The winner is full of kittens.


All the world's a stage
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:30 AM

If you think we're sick to death of hotels after all this time waiting for our apartment to be fixed... well, you'd be right.

But I recently started thinking of all the plays this summer around the country that I wanted to see but won't be able to.

For starters, this week in Chicago, Bailwick Repertory Theatre will be holding the world premiere of a new drama about the life of Christopher Marlowe. Given my existing interest in works about Marlowe, this feels like a natural for me. Plus, of course, I've got family in the Chicago area that I haven't seen in years...

I've already written about this summer's schedule at the Stratford Festival in Canada, which will include:

  • As You Like It, one of my favorite Shakespeare comedies, set in the late 1960s during the Summer of Love, with new music by the Barenaked Ladies, and
  • Marlowe's Edward II

Also this summer, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival will be putting on Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. [Blogged here.]

For all my love of Marlowe, Dido is the only one of his plays I've seen staged earlier this year. I caught Derek Jarman's somewhat bizarre film version of Edward II on video, but otherwise have only read the plays and haven't seen them performed. Entertaining, but as with Shakespeare, these were meant to be seen, not read, and a good director and cast take a play miles beyond the words on the printed page.

Unfortunately, I'm really not in a position to travel for any of these.

I shouldn't be dwelling on what I can't do, but was recently reminded of them and felt the need to list them in one place, both for my own benefit and because I'm sure some of you readers will be interested and/or better situated to attend.

And if any of you manage to see any of these, please share with me reviews and news. I want to experience them at least vicariously...

Monday, June 06, 2005
Dates and figs
Posted by Lis Riba at 7:40 AM

It was six months ago today that I started my current job. There are times I feel that's the best thing that's happened to me in the past six months (it's a really good job), but if I could retain that, I'd still love a chance for a do-over to back before the election, because not much else seems to have gone right in that time on a personal or global level.

Meanwhile, J.K. Rowling announced that yesterday (June 5) was Draco Malfoy's birthday, inspiring loads of birthday fics and astrological readings. Naturally, all the Harry/Draco shippers (fans of a relationship between the two characters) are now pointing to Gemini-Leo horoscopes to show their love was meant to be.
I just wish to point out to all these folks that Percy Weasley is also a Leo, and much of what they're saying also applies to Percy/Draco stories including my own (Warning: NC-17 slash) Taken by surprise.

Back in the real world, Saturday was my brother's thirtieth birthday. Being hotelbound has meant I couldn't find his phone number anywhere but I've sent him an e-mail at least. Everybody wish him a happy birthday!



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