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Halloween, Information Overload, and Fear

Two things I'll quickly direct you to.

First is this post, now a year old, that I'm still rather proud of. I wrote it in this blog's first month, when it had enough readers to count on one hand. (You need at least two now.) It offers about all that I have to say on this most unusual holiday.

Second is this article from the daily free rag AM NEW York, which notes:

“Throughout history, there are always times when people have been in a state of fear,” said Gerilyn Ross, director of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. “What’s different now, ... because of the onslaught of information we get 24/7, is you can’t turn it off. People are tuned in, turned on, and there’s no escape.”
The churn of new media replacing old media always creates cultural instability. For example, one root cause of the Reformation was likely the cultural shift from an oral society to a literate society. When that new destabilizing medium also completely bathes the public in information—more than they can handle, which itself induces the anxiety of overload—then watch out.

Librarians, here is our chance to prove our value and relevance. Information overload and its accompanying effects are real. If librarians truly are masters of context, critical thinking, and information literacy, then this is our time to shine.


Why Don't You Come Up and Check Out My Patents

Amos E. Joel, Jr., who invented the technology that enables mobile phones to move from one calling region to another without dropping the call, died last Saturday. Though his patent first appeared publicly 36 years ago, it is singularly responsible for what will be the most transformative technology of the 21st century.

According to his New York Times obituary, Mr. Joel, who collected and studied patents in college, also created the greatest pickup line in technology history when, on a blind date, he asked his eventual wife up to his room to look at his patents. As their daughter recalled: "She thought patents was a code name for something else. What she didn’t realize is that our father always had a lifelong fascination with patents."


Ubiquitous Computing in the US Is about to Hit Puberty

According to Popular Mechanics, via Slog and Galleycat, T-Mobile's new G1 phone, which is powered by Google's Android mobile OS, has a neat feature:

Barcode Scanner allows you to "scan" a book's barcode using the phone's camera, then brings up its Amazon page or a nearby retail location on Google Maps. We tried it on a few review books we have lying around (including some that aren't out yet), and it worked every time.
This isn't exactly a Google inovation—several Nokia phones and the iPhone already have built-in scanning capability. However, the growing availability of this feature will certainly make book lovers, who are not traditionally among early technology adopters, squee.

More importantly, with this technology getting more mainstream play, we're likely not too far from seeing phones enabled to scan all manner of barcodes to retrieve information on your location or products other than books, or perhaps even to make automatic payments for purchases.


New York City 500, Brooklyn Librarian 0

Using a sledge hammer to drive home a thumb tack, NYC's Conflicts of Interest Board fined Brooklyn Tech librarian Robert Grandt $500 for promoting a Manga edition of Macbeth that his daughter co-illustrated. Grandt apparently got off easy—the board's original fine was $1,000.

Although Grandt's actions could technically have resulted in a "conflict of interest," it's worth noting that he provided all copies of the book used in his display, donated a copy of the book to his library, and was giving out copies for free to anyone who asked. Neither he nor his daughter made any money directly from the library or its patrons. Furthermore, as Gothamist rightly points out, "Next up for Brooklyn Tech kids: College, where they will be required to buy their college professors' books for courses."

Take Gothamist's point one step further. University libraries, many of them publicly funded, are encouraged and often required to buy books written by faculty members. And we, as tax payers, are asked to fund scientific research that, once concluded, we must then pay publishers to read. Are these conflicts of interest?


Sullivan Channels McLuhan to Blog

Conservative gays, such as Andrew Sullivan, confuse me. Culturally, at least during my life, conservatism has preached a return to an earlier gentler time. Barring that, it seeks to preserve the status quo. Neither earlier times nor the status quo have treated gays gently.

However, if more Republican legislators thought along the lines of Sullivan—whose political conservatism grounds itself in defense, fiscal responsibility, small government, and personal accountability—I'd have more confidence in at least half of the U.S. government. I might not agree with them on every point, but at least I'd feel as though I could reason with them.

In addition to being an interesting writer, Sullivan has always struck me as particularly media savvy. Virtually every magazine he has played a role in succeeded during his tenure, and he has openly and successfully navigated the turbulent waters of being Catholic, conservative, and gay. Further proof of his media savvy can be found at The Atlantic online in his essay Why I Blog.

It’s a difficult balance, between your own interests and obsessions, and the knowledge, insight, and wit of others—but an immensely rich one. There are times, in fact, when a blogger feels less like a writer than an online disc jockey, mixing samples of tunes and generating new melodies through mashups while also making his own music. He is both artist and producer—and the beat always goes on.
The rest of the essay is equally insightful, but this quote is so noteworthy for the concision with which it highlights the fulcral nature of blogs as a medium.

Blogs provide writers—who according to McLuhan's paradigm practice a visual, linear, left-brain art—an acoustic, right-brain, everywhere-at-once space within which to operate. With their concomitant comments and nonlinear, hyperlinked, mashed-up structure, blogs enable writers and readers to exist both visually and acoustically at once.


I Am the Lizard King!

Good thing Marshall, Will, and Holly helped prepare Barack Obama for last night's debate.