Packing up for college

This week I have dedicated to packing. And with packing comes cleaning. In the process of cleaning my rooms I have found 3 major things.

1) my dust bunnies are really dust oil spills, because they not only cover truly spectacular areas of space but they slowly suffocate all of the objects which they cover (and people: how can my clothes get dirty when I’m cleaning? It seems so…wrong).

2) I really do have a lot of books. I really need some L Space just to answer the eternal question: when one owns 4 separate hardback versions of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and every other published work of Messer Tolkien, is it possible to move them from their own personal shelf to a public shelf without any mass folding? As a non-initiate librarian I have resorted to a much more base form of effective space usage: Stacking.

3) My wardrobe all matches (for the given values of ‘wardrobe’ and ‘matches’). In preparation for an upcoming family trip, I simple grabbed the first stack of T-Shirts in my T-Shirt box and plopped them into my suitcase. Looking back at them, with my normal jeans, all of them will be suitable for casual wear. But don’t tell my friends who think about color coordination and seasonal fashion. I ask the programmers and geeks out there: is there *ever* a season when a Java logo T-Shirt is not appropriate? Really?

Ok, I am tired from all of the cleaning (and boxing. Can 18 years of magpie-like collecting and hording of all things shiny and/or in Latin really only amount to a few boxes? Materialism sucks.)

Have a fabulous and shiny night!

Inspirational quote:


Ok, for real. This is from one of my favorite books. It is a history of the library told by a librarian at Harvard. It goes from the libraries in ancient Samaria (who pioneered card catalogs with cuneiform written on clay tablets) the remains of which exist in modern day Iraq; to the Buddhist temples where holy texts were carved onto great pillars so believers could rub copies of them for themselves; to the burning of Alexandria, which didn’t happen when most people think it did. This quote is from the section on the history of burning books:

“Over coffee one afternoon in the summer of 2001, Andras [a librarian and historian whose family fled the communist takeover in Hungary and who now works at Harvard] reminded me [Matthew Battles] of another way to burn books, explained to him by a colleague who survived the siege of Sarajevo. In the winter, the scholar and his wife ran out of firewood, and so began to turn to their books for heat and cooking. ‘This forces one to think critically,’ Andras remembered his friend saying. “One must prioritize. First, you burn old college textbooks, which you haven’t read in thirty years. Then there are the duplicates. But eventually, you’re forces to make tougher choices. Who burns today: Dostoevsky or Proust?’ I asked Andras if his friend had any books left when the war was over. ‘Oh yes’ he replied, his face lit by a flickering smile. ‘He still had many books. Sometimes, he told me, you look at the books and just choose to go hungry.’” (Battles, Matthew. “Library: an unquiet History“. WW Norton & Company. NY: 2003. 190-1)

Accolades for StubHub

Recently I purchased tickets for Projekt Revolution through StubHub. They came on top of my search for affordable tickets because they were well-organized online and were truthfully the cheapest tickets I could find (when you’re at Shoreline the view is good from anywhere [esp when ‘anywhere’ gets you out of ear-drum bursting sound]). So I order the tickets about a month in advance and get ready to wait. In that month I must have received 1/2 a dozen brief emails, all of which included my ticket price, my seat placement and the current status of my order.

This is all very comforting, but when it gets to be a week and less before the concert I need the tickets in hand to feel secure. I receive an email telling me the distributor has not sent out the tickets yet and they will arrive the Thursday before the concert (which is on a Sunday). I get home from work Thursday:

No Tickets.

Now, I am feeling generous and refusing to freak out until they don’t arrive Friday. I mean, maybe there was some huge influx of late order HP books and the tickets got shuffled in the mix. Just as I’m starting to worry more (about 11am Friday) I receive a cell phone call. It’s StubHub, with a live human on the phone asking me a little concernedly if I received my tickets. I replied I had not. She said they were making the distributor do some research into where my tickets were, she read my confirmation number to me over the phone and said I would get a call soon. She also gave me a phone number to call if I had any more questions. Throughout the interaction I had the distinct impression that a) they cared about my little two ticket order enough to be calling me up to check in b) they were well organized.

About half an hour later I get a phone call. She is having my tickets overnight fed exed to me and she gives me a tracking number so I can follow them all the way to my front door. She double checked I had all my numbers and reiterated that I should call them if the tickets had not arrived by 11am and they would figure something out.

It was so relieving to be taken care of by customer service–and by a bargain ticket site!

I came away with such a sense of furious organization that I didn’t feel a need to check in on my tickets as they traveled to my front door. And do you know what? They arrived. And the concert was good.

Metadata in the news


So, a little bit less political today. Ok, just a little calmer. Here are 3 really cool articles on where metadata shows up in the real world.

The first is about how pirates use metadata to accurately show their downloaders the facts about whatever they’re downloading (and explaining why legit movie retailers could learn something about product information from said pirates). It is nice to see a comparison of the quality legally and illegally obtained movies simply because this kind of discussion does not happen in mainstream media. I would like to point out that I abstain from pirating movies and music because, though I think the current life + 70 years term of copyright is unreasonable it is the law and I need the moral high ground to argue for the reduction of copyright to some more reasonable period.

The second link is to a NYT article on the deeper aspects of the allegations that the NSA holds vast databases full of metadata about private US citizens. This is interesting in the first place because I don’t like the idea of the NSA going for datamining expeditions nor do I like them having huge databases about US citizens just in a general way. In the second place, it is suggested that this data mining program was the program which the current Attorney General and previous White House Counsel asked John Ashcroft (then Attorney General) to continue when he was in the hospital. Attorney General Gonzales has testified under oath that there was never any major controversy in the DOJ over the wiretapping and that the discussion with then Attorney General Ashcroft was about other security matters, potentially this data mining operation. As The Economist says “And perhaps Mr Gonzales is merely a weasel and not a perjurer” (this week’s ed).

This final story does not actually mention metadata it mentions how aid agencies are using online databases of people’s names and locations to allow families separated by disasters to find each other. This is an incredible article talking about the shifting relationship between donor and victim and how technology allows people in aid-needing countries to ask for the aid they need. A few cool quotes:

“Télécoms sans Frontières (TSF), a French voluntary agency (total staff: a dozen), goes in with the UN team that does the first needs-assessment in the hours after disaster strikes.”

“The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition, a group of agencies bent on learning from past mistakes, notes that “local people themselves provided almost all immediate life-saving action and the early-emergency support, as is commonly the case in disasters.””

“Family remittances are already a bigger source of transfers to poor countries than government aid.”

I wonder if TSF wants an intern? Just kidding, I need college. But seriously, I think it’s amazing that the same technology which can be used to track digitized books and DVDs can be used to track everyone from innocent civilians to innocent victims of disasters. It’s all in how that metadata is used. But wouldn’t it rock to program for the UN? On that note, here’s my goodnight quote:

“No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the love of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” Robert Southey

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