Thursday, December 23, 2010


The Google Labs N-gram Viewer is the first tool of its kind, capable of precisely and rapidly quantifying cultural trends based on massive quantities of data. It is a gateway to culturomics! The browser is designed to enable you to examine the frequency of words (banana) or phrases ('United States of America') in books over time. You'll be searching through over 5.2 million books: ~4% of all books ever published! (see users guide)

An outstanding Christmas decoration!

A truly outstanding Christmas decoration! And testimony by the anonymous prankster about the response to his lifesize yuletide ornament (read it at Traveling Librarian) inspires faith in the goodness of mankind! (I posted this in 2009 also, but the best decorations come out every year)

"A brand is like a sack on a sleigh of belief"

The Santa Brand Book elucidates the science of branding. Very clever.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The future of reading on the ipad

A while back, when vooks were introduced (what an outdated concept!),  I was expressing doubts about how boring old text would survive when competing with multimedia on the same reading/viewing/listening device. David Eagleman's "Why the Net Matters" is a boo... a package of information produced exclusively as an iPad app. He demonstrates it here (of course, the demonstration itself could just as well have been part of the iPad package...), and it really makes me to wonder - again - what value text adds when audio, video and text converge in the same medium. (and here is another demo without narration)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The future of the universities

Stefan Collini's review in the London Review of Books about tuition fees and the Report of the Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance raises questions about market-driven education that should also be asked about market-driven libraries.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A picture is worth a thousand words

What a wonderful thing the Internet is - was about to describe an earwig to a non-English speaker when I happily stumbled upon this picture

Irrational Exuberance

In LRB, a cool assessment of USG's public diplomacy 2.0 and its "irrational exuberance" about social media.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Go team

David Gewanter in the Times Higher Education supplement writes about U.S. football teams sporting their very own universities.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Web2PDF accepts a url and generates a pdf file from the webpage. The pdf retains the layout of the page and also its hyperlinks. If you have access to email, say through a cell phone, but not a webbrowser, you can send the url via email to, and Web2PDF will send you the pdf as a mail attachment. See also "10 email addresses that are useful when you have no internet access"  is an extremely useful weThe converted PDFs not only retain the layout but also the hyperlinks and thus you may fetch other internal pages as well using email itself. All this stuff courtesy of Digital Inspiration, Amit Agarwal's useful blog.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Satsifying the needs of both writers and readers

It's an often overlooked fact that writers and readers have very different language needs. The ingenious tool Plain English - created by Slate's Jeremy Singer-Vine - goes a long way toward satisfying the needs of both; just use the "start over" and "convert all" buttons to toggle between writer and reader mode. Here is an example of language - for both writers and readers - from the Fed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Midterm election search trends

Google introduces Place Search

From the Google blog: Place Search is rolling out now and will be available globally in more than 40 languages in the next few days. During the roll-out process you can use this special link to preview the new results. Our goal is to help you feel like a local everywhere you go!


Latest! Knowbodies has been flattered by a visit from the author himself, Jonathon Green. He comments:

My thanks for the mention of GDoS. Might I, as author, make two small amendments: the book is actually published by Chambers in the UK. OUP / US are distributing it in N. America.
Perhaps more important is the fact that my book deals not merely 'English' English slang, but the entire range of 500 years of anglophone slangs, including US / UK / Eire / Australia / New Zealand / Caribbean / S. Africa.

Congratulations to Jonathon Green - I wish the book every success, and hope it gets reviewed by Nicholson Baker!

J.E. Lighter's ambitious Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang foundered after 2 volumes, and was taken over by Oxford University Press in 2003 which intended to publish 2 final volumes.  We're still waiting for those.  Next month Oxford will release Jonathon Green's three-volume Green's Dictionary of Slang (English slang, that is), which by the looks of it is a worthy successor to Eric Partridge. There's a  review here that has some interesting tidbits, including the claim that there is no agreed etymology of the word "slang" itself. (I wonder if it is related to the Norwegian word "slang", which derives from English seaman's usage for "to fool or cheat", and in common parlance means filching fruit from gardens, as in "epleslang" ie. snitching apples)  I do hope this major new publication doesn't mean Oxford has given up on  completing the American dictionary...I will ask, and share the response with my myriad readers here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Too much stuff

Like many librarians, I'm an incorrigible collector, and have to get rid of  things from time to time. I'm currently taking bids on my good as new bucket-wheel excavator.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Strange Maps blog

The post Great European Shouting Match at Frank Jacob's Strange Maps blog features maps from Yanko Tsvetkov's Mapping Stereotypes project, and ties them together with an interesting narrative. (Strange Maps is one of many interesting things at Big Think - Lea Carpenter's literature blog Think, See, Feel is another)

Saturday, October 9, 2010


That cool bit of technology I mentioned in my post about the New Yorker below is called "Tynt", and I've now implemented it on this site. Cut some text from Knowbodies and paste it somewhere else, and you'll see how it works. Neat!

On dithering and doing

Is there something you should be doing? Then I suggest you read JamesSurowiecki's fascinating article about procrastination,  Later....right now.  Many nuggets of wisdom about you and me like "we often procrastinate not by doing fun tasks but by doing jobs whose only allure is that they aren’t what we should be doing"
Incidentally, the New Yorker seems to have implemented a cool bit of technology I hadn't seen before that automatically adds a "Read more at: [URL]" to any snippet of text that you copy and paste from it, like this:
Some years ago, the economist George Akerlof found himself faced with a simple task: mailing a box of clothes from India, where he was living, to the United States.

Read more

Friday, October 8, 2010

Where great ideas come from

Very cool video from Steven Johnson...and for a change, very nicely narrated (narration on so many of these instructive videos is unbearable to listen to!)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ten Simple Rules for Editing Wikipedia

  • How to edit Wikipedia: a concise guide explaining to scientists how (and why) to publish accurate information via Wikipedia, and  a useful crib-sheet for any Wikipedia author. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Small change, net effect

Harry Campbell
Eugene Mozorov has challenged the "internet as road to democracy" truism here , and here and there, and now  Malcolm Gladwell piles on.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

White House blog: Libraries: A Place Where Stories are Told, Knowledge is Gained, and Economies are Built

Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to assist 129 rural libraries in 30 states to create, expand, and improve the nation’s rural libraries – benefitting over 1.7 million rural residents. These investments, he writes on the White House blog,  are putting Americans back to work managing and designing the projects, constructing new facilities, and installing computer systems.

Instant filth

Following up my recent post about Google Instant's lecherous imagination, here's a list of some forbidden search terms 

Writer interviews from Paris Review

The Paris Review's enormous collection of writer interviews, alphabetically or by decade. See also BBC's collection.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Amid the many gradations of melancholy...the public library"

Profile of the Chicago public library system and Obama's newly announced Educate to Innovate campaign. The initiative includes plans to create 30 youth learning laboratories in libraries and museums nationwide. The laboratories are inspired by YOUmedia, a staple of the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago which is the nation’s largest library.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Small is beautiful

Small is beautiful...and also hideous.  Nikon's Small World small photomicrography competition. Gerd Guenther's "Soap Film" (below) is currently in the can cast your vote here.

Google has a dirty mind

Google Instant's suggestiveness does not extend to sex. Phil Bradley discovered this when searching for (he swears) "nudge," a concept I've blogged about previously (ironically, Google Instant's auto-suggestion technology is itself an excellent example of "nudge" in action).  Evidently the filth-minded search engine was one step ahead of Phil, and was thinking "nude." Where some humans might blush, prudish Google blanches - try searching for "fuchsia", and see how Google Instant - aka. the annoying kid in the front row who always has his hand up - immediately clams up and turns white when you add "c" after "fu." Pretty funny.

Friday, September 3, 2010

"antihuman software like Facebook"

Windmill tilting like this article by Lanier - or Socrates's alleged resistance to writing - is futile, but interesting nonetheless, and sometimes even rousing. Adam Thierer has compiled a rather thorough overview of recent technophile and -phobe writings here.

Interactive video....very clever. And futuristic, man.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Google realtime search

From ResourceShelf, news of Google's realtime search site. Note that the current url will change.

Every Time Zone is an ingenious tool for visualizing time zone differences, and very useful if you need to set up a conference call or teleconference with participants in far flung parts of the world.

Omnivore on words

Today's issue of BookForum's wonderful Omnivore is about words.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Craft your very own academic sentences!

With this ingenious application from the University of Chicago Writing Program, you can write academic sentences (e.g. "The epistemology of praxis recapitulates the historicization of linguistic transparency.") with the best of them.

NYT most looked up words

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mark Twain at Duino Castle

Mark Twain's responses to a guestbook questionnaire at Duino Castle, on display in the Castle museum. Twain visited Duino in May, 1899, while staying in Nuremberg.  12 years later, between October 1911 and May 1912, Rilke would stay there and find inspiration for his Duino Elegies Twain's responses to the questionnaire are as follows:

Name and position
Mark Twain
(geb. S.L. Clemens)
Ambassador at large U.S.A.

Staying at/date
Nürnberg, May 29, 1899

The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it

Highest wish
That I may pass for what I ought to be, not what I am

Favorite author or composer

Favorite flower

Lifelong occupation

Worst habit
Das Rauchen [ie. smoking]

Greatest dislike
Getting up

Favorite book
The Jungle Books

Favorite poem
Omar's Rubaiyat

Favorite color
Old gold (22 karat)

Favorite drink
Pure water, adulterated with Scotch whisky

p.s -In 1897, Twain spoke to the Concordia Press Club in Vienna in German, amusing his audience with the speech  "Die Schrecken der deutschen Sprache" ("The Horrors of the German Language")  For readers with even a rudimentary familiarity with German, Twain's literal translation of the speech into English is equally hilarious.

Wonders of evolution: mallards win human affection with dog masks

Evolution truly is mind-boggling; note how mallards have developed cute "dog masks" to win the affection of humans. And speaking of evolution, and the development of such ingratiating traits, Dr. Richard Dawkins has a trick or two up his sleeve also...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

British writers in their own words

Here's a treat - BBC's collection of author interviews provides insights into the imaginations and personalities behind some of the greatest modern novels in the English language.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book google, and pool shaped kidneys

Urban Dictionary, which is not concerned with grammar, defines "book google" as "When you need to figure out something, so you look it up in a book, like in the olden times, when dinosaurs ruled the earth." Does this phenomenon have a name? Another example: in Amazons, Don Delillo talks about "swimming pool shaped kidneys."

Cavalcade of Time Magazine's 83 covergirls and -boys

Fascinating post by Craig Fehrman at the Millions; a brief history of authors who have graced the cover of Time Magazine from Joseph Conrad (1923) through this week's issue, with Jonathan Franzen on its cover.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Social Media Analytics

If you'd like to see what impression your blog is making on the social media crowd, enter the feed url at, and Social Media Analytics will tell you how many times your posts have been shared on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Knowledge Environments, Vol.1, No.1

"New Knowledge Environments is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal and open community archive for those engaged in exploring and understanding the nature of text-oriented communication in the past, present, and future." Inaugural issue is Research Foundations for Understanding Books and Reading in the Digital Age. 

Elsekiss thou may mean Kerry piggy?

Many years ago Professor Bjørn Tysdahl wrote an interesting article about James Joyce's use of Norwegian in Finnegans Wake. Joyce had several Norwegian teachers when he lived in Paris during the 20s, and one of them was the great Norwegian poet Olaf Bull.  The mellifluous question (Finnegans Wake is uncommonly mellifluous, if not intelligible, as I've noted here and there) "Elsekiss thou may mean Kerry piggy?" is surely a Joycean rendition of "Elsker du mig, min kære pige" (Do you love me, my dear girl?) - and perhaps an echo of Bull's poem "Smerte" (Pain), which concludes  "Min elskede - elsker du mig? (My love, do you love me?)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Surgeon's knot

One of the best practical bits of wisdom I've gleaned from the internet is how to tie my shoes securely. Three years ago I discovered the surgeon's knot - the most common of all the secure shoelace knots - at Ian's exemplary Ian's Shoelace Site.  I know that many surgeons now favor clogs and crocs, but that's their business; I've been using the knot for three years, and not once have my laces come untied!

Books vs. E-Books

Exeunt Mloovi, enter FeedTranslate

A couple of years ago I posted about Mloovi, a neat service that drew on the amazing powers of Google Translate to translate RSS feeds into the language of your choice. Unfortunately Mloovi disappeared from the screen a while back, but now there's another service that does the same thing, Here's a page of rss feeds from various Norwegian media outlets, translated by into English and assembled in Netvibes.

A Netvibes page pulling Norwegian news feeds translated by FeedTranslate. Mouseover titles for preview, click-through to read article.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tony Judt

Tony Judt died today after a horrific 2 year decline from Gehrig's disease.  Judt's last book, Ill Fares the Land, was mentioned here earlier this year as one of several indications that perhaps the excellent notion that the "state can play a significant role in its citizens’ lives without imperiling their liberties" might not be dead after all.  Since then I've had a chance to read most of Ill Fares the Land, a rousing tribute to the noble ideals of social democracies. To a Norwegian social democrat the ideas in Ill Fares the Land are not radical, but they are unconventional fare - and carry extra weight - coming from a historian and professor who spent most of his life teaching in the U.S. The book made me want to go and join a march some place, which is unusual. It was based on a lecture he gave at NYU a year ago, which was also his last public appearance.  Here are his parting words...([he is quoting a passage from Orwell's Homage to Catalonia] There was much in it [the Spanish revolution in 1937] that I didn’t understand , in some ways I did not even like it. I was not sure that it could work. I was not sure that it did work, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for. That I believe is true. Whatever we can retrieve of the 20th century memory of social democracy. And I leave you with that thought. Thank you.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Endangered species

If you've ever wondered how many books there are in the world (ie. separate titles or editions that merit individual cataloging) Google has come up with a number.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Orenstein on Twittering and performing

Peggy Orenstein works Erving Goffman, Sherry Turkle, and David Riesman into a short, thoughtful and nicely turned performance about Twitter. For a frat boy take on the same existential problems, try Charles Trippy's Twitter ruined my life

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reader's Almanac

For devotees of American literature Reader's Almanac is a blog from the Library of America, chock full of interesting historical information about the great U.S. writers. Yesterday's post, for example, includes fascinating footage recorded by Zora Neale Hurston on a field trip to Florida in 1928 while doing ethnographic research, before she became a noted novelist. Check out the dancer at 3m25s (if you want to link to a particular segment of a video, just add minutes and seconds to the end of the link like this:#t=3m25s, or let Splicd generate the link or embed code for you...)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

William Deresiewicz on great books, friends and solitude

Google images overhaul

Over the next few days, Google will be  introducing some improvements to Google's image search:

from the Google blog;

Here’s what’s new in this refreshed design of Google Images:
  • Dense tiled layout designed to make it easy to look at lots of images at once. We want to get the app out of the way so you can find what you’re really looking for.
  • Instant scrolling between pages, without letting you get lost in the images. You can now get up to 1,000 images, all in one scrolling page. And we’ll show small, unobtrusive page numbers so you don’t lose track of where you are.
  • Larger thumbnail previews on the results page, designed for modern browsers and high-res screens.
  • A hover pane that appears when you mouse over a given thumbnail image, giving you a larger preview, more info about the image and other image-specific features such as “Similar images.”
  • Once you click on an image, you’re taken to a new landing page that displays a large image in context, with the website it’s hosted on visible right behind it. Click anywhere outside the image, and you’re right in the original page where you can learn more about the source and context.
  • Optimized keyboard navigation for faster scrolling through many pages, taking advantage of standard web keyboard shortcuts such as Page Up / Page Down. It’s all about getting you to the info you need quickly, so you can get on with actually building that treehouse or buying those flowers.

Best genealogy sites 2010

Family Tree Magazine lists the best genealogy sites:

I write like

This is fun, nothing more...

Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers.
Read more about it at 3:17 a.m.  (and I am reminded once again of the wonderful and durable Canine Algorithmic Transfer System (CATS), previously reviewed here in October 2005 and January 2009)

Shteyngart and Powers

Two interesting and to my mind complementary reads: Gary Shteyngart's "Only Disconnect" (called "overwrought" by John Battelle, and "very clever and nicely done" by me) and Laurie Winer's sensible review of William Powers's Hamlet's Blackberry. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What is the semantic web?

 Google has acquired Metaweb in an effort to bring "deeper understanding" to the web. Deeper understanding, unless I've completely misunderstood,  means penetrating beyond the words that describe things to the things (entities) themselves - I believe this is what is meant by the "semantic web." If you (too) have struggled to understand all the talk of "semantic web", the snippet below might help. It dawned on me while watching it that they're talking about those same exhilarating ideas we grappled with and discussed far into the night at library school - disambiguation, sign and signified, Ogden/Richards' semiotic triangle, etc. How quaint to see Google showing an interest in these things.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Don't reason with me or bore me with facts

Like many other people, I find my preconceptions are far more persuasive than mere facts. Joe Keohane writes in the Boston Globe about this phenomenon, and about democracy, informed citizenry, and the misguided notion that facts will enlighten ignorant people. Farheed Manjoo covers much of the same ground in his excellent and entertaining "True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society," and at The Monkey Cage, John Sides provides links to some other interesting sites/papers on the topic, including a disheartening case study of  such unimpressionable ignorance,  "The Causes and Consequences of Public Mis-perceptions about Immigrant Populations"  So much for Carnegie´s ideas about public libraries providing empowerment through knowledge and enlightenment!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

SAT tests for the really really gifted

For a real brain teaser, go to SAT's "question of the day" for July 11. Read the question, answer it if you like (that's the easy part) then copy and paste the question into your blog (as I did below), or into a text editor like Notepad (but not MS Word), or whatever. Now explain why "a bag of 50 marbles for 4$" magically becomes "a bag of 50 marbles for 5 dollars" when you paste it. If you have an explanation, please share in comments!

Troy bought a bag of 20 marbles for 2 dollars, a bag of 50 marbles for 5 dollars, and a bag of 100 marbles. If the average (arithmetic mean) cost of the marbles in all three bags was exactly 8 cents each, what was the price of the bag of 100 marbles?

Incidentally, if you subscribe to the email version of "question of the day" you'll receive the "5 dollars" version of the question. The answer I arrived at ($6.60) is not even offered as one of the multiple convinced me there was no place for me in higher education...

Paintings and fingerprints

Fascinating article by David Grann in the New Yorker about the authentication and/or forgery of paintings (and/or fingerprints) in the New Yorker.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

More kind words from Marilyn Johnson

Marilyn Johnson, author of "This Book is Overdue," writes in an LAT op-ed "U.S. Public Libraries: We Lose Them at our Peril." For the morbidly inclined, here's a map charting school library closings. For an even more sweeping view of the dire state of affairs, see

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


(thanks to Amit Agarwal at Digital Inspiration)

Etherpad  is a collaborative online writing tool where multiple authors can edit a  document simultaneously and view changes in near real-time. A  particularly cool feature is the Time Slider, which will play back your writing process for you, replete with corrections, edits, and revisions.  I'm not sure what you'd use it for,  but it sure  provides a striking demonstration of how much refining and editing goes into even the simplest bit of word processing...and makes you wonder how we managed to write anything at all when such editing options weren't available!Here's a link that shows you the genesis of an earlier version of this post - just click the play button. 

Open Library with DRM enabled digital library

Quotable: "I figure libraries are one of the major pillars of civilization, and in almost every case what librarians want is what they should get" (Stewart Brand)

Bit strange to hear Brand waxing so charitable about about a system that uses DRM, given his EFF credentials, but so it goes.

 The Internet Archive reports:

Checking out digital versions of books that are automatically returned after two weeks is as easy as logging onto the Internet Archive’s Open Library site, announced digital librarian and Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle. By integrating this new service, more than seventy thousand current books – best sellers and popular titles – are borrowable by patrons of libraries that subscribe to's Digital Library Reserve. Additionally, many other books that are not commercially available but are still of interest to library patrons, are available to be borrowed from participating libraries using the same digital technology.

According to Kahle, "Digital technologies promise increased access to both old and new books. The Internet Archive, through its site, is thrilled to be adding the capacity to lend newer books over the internet, in addition to continuing to provide the public with all access, free downloadable older materials.” He added, "We expect the number of books in the digital lending library to grow annually."

Article on this in the Wall Street Journal, and WSJ video.

Currently, is making available:

  • More than one million digital versions of older books are now available for free download in a variety of formats.
  • Over 70,000 current digital books to those with a library card from many of the over 11,000 libraries that subscribe to the OverDrive service.
  • Genealogical books from the Boston Public Library.
  • How-to and technical book collection via the Internet Archive.
  • Marine life reference materials from the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
  • Spanish texts from Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala.
Add caption

Friday, July 2, 2010

Citation searching in Google Scholar

Something I learned about at library school that actually struck me as new and exciting, was the citation index, which the professor described as a list of references more recent than the article they were referencing. At first I dismissed this as an impossibility, a Borgesian fantasy - an article citing articles more recent than itself? Impossible! - and it troubled me the same way seeing the picture of cover of a book inside that very book still troubles me. But with the professor's patient prodding (I was taken aside) and gentle explanation of the difference between "snowball searching" and "citation searching", the concept gradually seeped in. And then citation indexes began to excite me in the same way web2.0 and gossip in general now excite me; you know, getting to see what everybody is saying about things!!! During library school I would spend every idle moment in the library with Eugene Garfield's enormous ISI citation indexes (especially the Arts & Humanities Citation Index), seeing how other people had responded to articles I was currently reading or had recently read.

Now Google Scholar has enabled citation searching; a search for Nicholson Baker's 1994 New Yorker article Discards, for example, reveals that 53 sources have subsequently cited it (most of them disparagingly, I bet, and unfairly so).  Those 53 sources are listed in descending order of their own "Cited by" frequency, with The social life of information by JS Brown and P Duguid at the top of the list, with 2815  citations. To see who in turn cited Brown and Duguid's book, just click on the "Cited by" link, and off  you go. This is a fascinating new feature at Google Scholar, and you should set aside some time for it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Con man Maicon (surpassed by Gamst Pedersen)

Maicon is a great player, but I have to wonder about these they have no pride whatsover? Or is soccer morphing into professional wrestling...?
Note - that Maicon video has somehow become corrupted since I first posted it, and his indignation about not getting the foul is no longer so clearly visible in the snippet (see for yourself here) Instead, I now offer the even more sensational audacity of Morten Gamst Pedersen;

Friday, June 25, 2010

Smarter than you think

Clive Thompson in The New York Times about "Watson," a computer that IBM scientists expect will be "the world’s most advanced “question answering” machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution — “natural language,” as computer scientists call it — and respond with a precise, factual answer. In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. (I'm surprised the article makes no reference to the 1957 film Desk Set, where librarian Katherine Hepburn pits her wits against Emerac, Hollywood's 50s version of Watson...and wins) Video.

Medvedev is a natural with Twitter

Давно не ел гамбургеров. Завтрак с Бараком Обамой в Ray's Hell Burger:

(@KremlinRussia_E:Haven't had a burger in a while. Lunch with Obama at Ray's Hell Burger.)
He say woz he's treat!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What is lost in reading is gained in writing

Steven Johnson amplifies on his NYT essay regarding Nick Carr's new book The Shallows, and in particular on  the charge that "The problem with Mr. Carr’s model is its unquestioned reverence for the slow contemplation of deep reading." Johnson suggests a "crucial flipside to the decline of long-form reading in the digital age: the increase in short-form writing. If we are slightly less able to focus because of the distractions of electric text, I suspect it is more than made up for by the fact that we are much more likely to write out our responses to what we do read." Johnson is surely right in pointing out that "to write out a response to something makes you see it in a new way, often with greater complexity." Writing out responses is usually done with an audience in mind, however, and then other-directed, instrumental, narcissistic (often, especially on the internet!), and qualtitatively different from the mode of intransitive thinking that Birkerts (and Carr?) fear are under attack.

New keyboard for iPad

Cool new docking station adds Keyboard for iPad!
(via Sylletopp)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Latest! Finnish "shreds" guy behind England-Algeria match!!!

It has come to light that it was Santeri Ojala, aka StSanders - the Finnish "shreds" guy - who had worked his mischief on Wayne Rooney and the rest of the lads yesterday.  That would explain it. My favorite shred of all, however (featured on Knowbodies previously) is the one below.  A natural fit, Santana plays the part so briliantly!  

Top ten trends in academic libraries 2010

ReferenceShelf has done us the favor of summarizing in a list the 2010 top 10 trends in academic libraries, based on a review of the literature by ACRL. More on each trend here in the ACRL News article
1. Academic library collection growth is driven by patron demand and will include new resource types.
2. Budget challenges will continue and libraries will evolve as a result.
3. Changes in higher education will require that librarians possess diverse skill sets.
4. Demands for accountability and assessment will increase. Increasingly, academic libraries are required to demonstrate the value they provide to their clientele and institutions.
5. Digitization of unique library collections will increase and require a larger share of resources.
6. Explosive growth of mobile devices and applications will drive new services.
7. Increased collaboration will expand the role of the library within the institution and beyond.
8. Libraries will continue to lead efforts to develop scholarly communication and intellectual property services.
9. Technology will continue to change services and required skills.
10. The definition of the library will change as physical space is repurposed and virtual space expands.
Source: C&RL News (June, 2010; 71.6)

Friday, June 18, 2010

C. Max Magee (editor of The Millions, not to be confused with  the former Packer tight-end) has compiled an interesting list of literary prizewinners based on aggregated awards. His methodology:

I looked at these six awards from 1995 to the present, awarding three points for winning an award and two points for an appearance on a shortlist or as a finalist. Here’s the key that goes with the list: B=Booker Prize, C=National Book Critics Circle Award, I=International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, N=National Book Award, P=Pulitzer Prize, W=Costa Book Award [formerly the Whitbread] bold=winner, red=New to the list or moved up* the list since last year’s “Prizewinners” post

And the winners are:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sharing in Google Docs

Important development at Google docs: (from ReadWriteWeb)
Previously, users who wished to share documents with others had to send a formal invitation through email, but now sharing can be as easy as sharing a link. These changes come on the heels of enhanced collaboration features which were recently added to Docs to give it more of a Google Wave feel.

You Tube video editor

What would you call the YouTube version of Google Labs - why of course,  Test Tube!  Go there to try out some neat tools, like Video Editor, Caption Tube, and Video Annotations. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Google Scholar Blog

Google has unveiled the Google Scholar Blog, "the official source for information about Google Scholar." The first post is about Google Scholar email alerts, very easy to set up with the handyt oolbar at the top of the Google  Scholar search results page...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tony Judt on American universities and their libraries

Tony Judt writes in the NYRB about the U.S., and about American universities:

..By far the best thing about America is its universities. Not Harvard, Yale, e tutti quanti: though marvelous, they are not distinctively American—their roots reach across the ocean to Oxford, Heidelberg, and beyond. Nowhere else in the world, however, can boast such public universities. You drive for miles across a godforsaken midwestern scrubscape, pockmarked by billboards, Motel 6s, and a military parade of food chains, when—like some pedagogical mirage dreamed up by nineteenth-century English gentlemen—there appears…a library! And not just any library: at Bloomington, the University of Indiana boasts a 7.8-million-volume collection in more than nine hundred languages, housed in a magnificent double-towered mausoleum of Indiana limestone.
A little over a hundred miles northwest across another empty cornscape there hoves into view the oasis of Champaign-Urbana: an unprepossessing college town housing a library of over ten million volumes. Even the smallest of these land grant universities—the University of Vermont at Burlington, or Wyoming’s isolated campus at Laramie—can boast collections, resources, facilities, and ambitions that most ancient European establishments can only envy.1
The contrast between the university libraries of Indiana or Illinois and the undulating fields almost visible from their windows illustrates the astonishing scale and variety of the American inland empire: something you cannot hope to grasp from afar...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Carr and Pinker

Nicholas Carr takes on Stephen Pinker's recent Mind over media NYT op-ed on the debate about whether Google is changing our brains. Pinker is of course a formidable foe and Carr goes to some lengths (ie. more than normal blog-post length) to refute his arguments. The most important of those concerns the brain's neuroplasticity; Pinker cites evolution and says Carr's argument is impossible, the brain being physiologically oblivious to technologies that have been around for a couple of decades, while Carr cites recent research on neuroplasticity that undermines such a view.  I don't have the patience to read an entire blog post of this length right now (point to Carr!!), as other chores beckon (point to Pinker!!), but will return to it later. Pinker's position, incidentally, is also summed up in a bite-sized chunk adapted for the inernet-impaired brain here, in his response to the question's posed to 168 writers, "How is the internet changing the way you think" (Pinker's answer: "Not at all")

5 top books with psychotic fan bases matches top 5 books with their psychotic fan bases (and then tells us why these warped fans have completely misunderstood the books...)
Lolita -fans are Japanese pedophiles
The Collector - serial killers
Horton Hears a Who - rabid pro-lifers
Catcher in the Rye - celebrity killers and various murderers
Lord of the Rings - neo-Nazis
again, this is courtesy of, and not science.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Closing the digital frontier

Michael Hirschorn writes interestingly and elegantly in The Atlantic about the transition from a free browser-based web to a paid-for apps-based media environment. Some nuggets:

Despite its Department of Defense origins, the matrixed, hyperlinked Internet was both cause and effect of the libertarian ethos of Silicon Valley. The open-source mentality, in theory if not always in practice, proved useful for the tech and Internet worlds.

But now, it seems, things are changing all over again. The shift of the digital frontier from the Web, where the browser ruled supreme, to the smart phone, where the app and the pricing plan now hold sway, signals a radical shift from openness to a degree of closed-ness that would have been remarkable even before 1995.” 

On a more conceptual level, the move from the browser model to the app model (where content is more likely to be accessed via smartly curated “stores” like iTunes, Amazon, or Netflix) signals the first real taming of the Wild Digital West.

Image credit: Jason Schneider

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Where can I get a pair of those shoes?

20 under 40

The Millions has an interesting take on the New Yorker's 20 under 40 list, and - with the huge benefit of hindsight of course - speculates what a "20 under 40 "list might have looked like in 1970:

Philip Roth
Joyce Carol Oates
Raymond Carver
Donald Barthelme
John Updike
Shirley Hazzard
John Barth
Thomas Pynchon
Susan Sontag
Toni Morrison
Frank Conroy
Ken Kesey
Don Delillo
E.L. Doctorow
Jerzy Kozinski
Hunter S. Thompson
Alice Walker
Michael Crichton
Tom Wolfe
Cormac McCarthy

Pretty distinguished! But the New Yorker's compilation from 1999 wasn't bad either:

George Saunders
David Foster Wallace
Sherman Alexie
Rick Moody
A.M. Homes
Allegra Goodman
William T. Vollmann
Antonya Nelson
Chang-rae Lee
Michael Chabon
Ethan Canin
Donld Antrim
Tony Earley
Jeffrey Eugenides
Junot Diaz
Jonathan Franzen
Edwidge Danticat
Jhumpa Lahiri
Nathan Englander
Matthew Klam

And are the 2010 "most likely to succeed" writers, according to the New Yorker

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chris Adrian
Daniel Alarcón
David Bezmozgis
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
Joshua Ferris
Jonathan Safran Foer
Nell Freudenberger
Rivka Galchen
Nicole Krauss
Yiyun Li
Dinaw Mengestu
Philipp Meyer
C. E. Morgan
Téa Obreht
Z Z Packer
Karen Russell
Salvatore Scibona
Gary Shteyngart
Wells Tower

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Knowbodies eludes libary blog awards again

Once again, Knowbodies eludes the judges of the Salem Library Blog Awards. Not only do I not get an award, I'm not even listed in that vulgar indiscriminate grab-bag of riff-raff known as the Salem Library Blog Directory. Perhaps next year; I've just sent an email alerting them to my presence. 

How a bill becomes a law Krunchd

Mike Wirth's winning entry in Sunlight Labs' Design for America competition. The entry won top honors in the "How A Bill Becomes a Law" category. Here are all 5 entries in this category, bundled together using the neat service (check it out)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Read alikes

check out the Read Alikes section at Book Browse for the ultimate in computer-aided book recommendations.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Twain tells all

Here's the gist of it from The Independent:
The creator of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and some of the most frequently misquoted catchphrases in the English language left behind 5,000 unedited pages of memoirs when he died in 1910, together with handwritten notes saying that he did not want them to hit bookshops for at least a century.
That milestone has now been reached, and in November the University of California, Berkeley, where the manuscript is in a vault, will release the first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography.