Friday, December 6, 2013

Annual Christmas decoration

Such a truly outstanding Christmas decoration should be revisited each holiday season!  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!

Help from the National Archives

How heartening! In November, 2003, I posted some hearsay about a useful resource-to-be at the National Archives, and 10 years to the month later a helpful anonymous commenter pointed me in the right direction:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's important and what's not

From NPR: a nice graph showing what's important and what's not.  Petroleum Engineering most important, Early Childhood Education, Human Services and Community Organization, not so important. From

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hechinger report on ranking universities

The Hechinger Report on the challenges of ranking universities. 

The Rankings

U.S. News & World Report, national universities
  1. Princeton
  2. Harvard
  3. Yale
  4. Columbia
  5. Chicago, Stanford (tie)
Times Higher Education
  1. CalTech
  2. Oxford
  3. Stanford
  4. Harvard
  5. MIT
Shanghai World University Rankings
  1. Harvard
  2. Stanford
  3. Berkeley
  4. MIT
  5. Cambridge
QS World University Rankings
  1. MIT
  2. Harvard
  3. Cambridge
  4. University College London
  5. Imperial College London
Forbes, America’s Top Colleges (based on such results as graduation rates and student satisfaction)
  1. Stanford
  2. Pomona
  3. Princeton
  4. Yale
  5. Columbia
Washington Monthly, (based on social mobility, research, and service)
  1. UC San Diego
  2. UC Riverside
  3. Texas A&M
  4. Case Western Reserve
  5. Berkeley
Washington Monthly, (best value)
  1. Florida
  2. Georgia
  3. UNC Chapel Hill
  4. NC State
  5. Texas A&M
Princeton Review
Best-Run: Claremont McKenna
Best Food: Bowdoin
Best Dorms: Smith
LGBT-Friendly: Emerson
Top Party School: Iowa

Parchment electronic transcript service Student Choice College Rankings (based on admissions acceptances)
  1. Stanford
  2. MIT
  3. Harvard
  4. Princeton
  5. Duke
U.S. Department of Education (most expensive)
  1. Columbia
  2. Sarah Lawrence
  3. Vassar
  4. George Washington
  5. Trinity

Saturday, September 7, 2013

An Escher staircase masquerading as a career ladder

More good stuff from the Baffler: Ann Friedman discusses the uselessness of Linked-in in "All Linked-in with Nowhere to Go". Choice quote: It’s an Escher staircase masquerading as a career ladder.

Friday, September 6, 2013

What's the matter with higher ed

The Baffler's business is debunking (theme for the current issue is "A Carnival of Buncombe"), and Thomas Frank's  is not concerned with balanced argument in this screed on the state of US higher ed, Academy Fight Song. He makes good points though, and the article is a fine example of what the Guardian (describing the Baffler) calls "Beautifully discontented prose by people who'd rather be out scrapping."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Ylvis brothers

Norwegian duo the Ylvis brothers do a fine job of parodying the banality of pop music.....

Friday, August 16, 2013


At long last, an app for identifying birdsong (comparable to Shazzam or Soundhound for humansong.)

Pinker on scientism

In an essay in the New Republic (Science is not the Enemy) Steven Pinker comments on the hostility and resentment with which many philosophers and humanities scholars greet those scientists - primarily neuroscientists - who have the gumption to think that science may have something to tell us about art, literature, truth and beauty.  Pinker is conciliatory; he values the humanities as much as anyone, and he sees no reason why we shouldn't welcome whatever science can add to our understanding in that realm as in any other (an interesting book on that topic is Edward Slingerland's  What Science Offers the Humanities) But this is a touchy subject, and a new set of pejoratives put these people in their place (scientism, neurobabble, neuromania, etc.)  A particularly egregious example of what Pinker is talking about is philosopher Colin McGinn’s deplorably arrogant review of Jean-Pierre Changeux’s book “The Good, the True, and the Beautiful: A Neuronal Approach” in the New York York Review of Books July 12.

McGinn acknowledges Changeux’s “entirely platitudinous proposition that all mental activity has a neuronal basis of some sort or another” yet dismisses with cheerful condescension the possibility - entertained by “our enthusiastic brain scientist” - that neurons can tell us anything about our understanding of the good, the true and the beautiful. But how can McGinn, from his armchair, rule out that possibility? In the exchange  in the subsequent issue of NYRB (Aug.15) the genteel Changeux makes no secret of his shock at the arrogant tone of McGinn's review, but writes generously and sensibly: I see the relation between neuroscientists and philosophers in a much more positive and constructive manner, as a fruitful cooperation to understand, jointly, the “mind-brain” and to evaluate the consequences of the constantly progressing field of neuroscience. McGinn rejoins, “I have no objection to neuroscience as such: it is a fascinating and reputable scientific subject. My objection concerns the intellectual overreaching in which many of its practitioners engage—the tendency to assume that it can tell us much more than it really can.” But what scientist worth his/her salt does not engage in “intellectual overreaching” in the hope that science can tell us something we didn’t already know? The kind of self-restraint urged by McGinn would put an end to both science and philosophy.   

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


International Ed News is a new blog from the National Center for Restructuring Education Schools and Teaching (NCREST) at Teachers College, Columbia University. Worth following for anyone interested in PK-12 education around the world.

International Ed News

PK-12 Education News from Around the World

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Terry Eagleton, clown

Dwight Garner and Carlin Romano say all that needs to be said about Terry Eagleton's laboriously witty "Across the pond - an Englishman's View of America."  One of many groanworthy examples:

“The British use the rather beautiful word ‘children’ far more often than Americans do, who tend to prefer the ugly, demeaning monosyllable ‘kids.’ It is surprising that a nation so scrupulous about political correctness should be content to regard its offspring as small smelly goats. Perhaps portraits of the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus should be renamed ‘Madonna and Kid.’ Clinics could specialize in kid psychology. Wordsworth’s line ‘The Child is Father of the Man’ could be rewritten as ‘The Kid is Old Man of the Guy.’”

Free Online OCR

Free Online OCR is a great free tool for converting images to text.

Monday, May 13, 2013

U21 higher education rankings

(this is an update of a posting last year) Rankings are always fun to pore over, even when woefully inaccurate  (Norway's football squad, never a contender for anything, was in October 1993 ranked number 2 in the world by FIFA) and this month sees the release of the second annual U21 ranking of higher education systems.  The ranking by U21 "aims to highlight the importance of creating a strong environment for higher education institutions to contribute to economic and cultural development, provide a high-quality experience for students and help institutions compete for overseas applicants."  Norway was ranked 7 in the world in the U21 survey last year, but has fallen to 11 this year, still behind its Nordic neighbors Sweden (2), Finland (4) and Denmark (5).  The US tops the list, with Canada  in third place. The high ranking suggests that Norway has much to offer beyond the quality of its institutions, since none of its top 4 universities - Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Tromsø - rank within the top 200 in the Times Higher Ed rankings. The U21 rankings seek to a address "a longstanding need to shift discussion from the existing rankings of the world’s best universities to the standing of the whole higher education system in each country" - and assess the national education systems according to resources (investment by government and private sector), output (research and its impact, as well as the production of an educated workforce which meets labour market needs), connectivity (international networks and collaboration which protects a system against insularity) and environment (government policy and regulation, diversity and participation opportunities).

(but - for what it's worth -  the QS World University Rankings have the University of Oslo and the University of Bergen at a respectable 111 and 145 respectively.  And in the field of Education, the University of Oslo's Utdanningsvitenskapelige fakultet ranks 42nd in the world - impressive! )

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fun and games

While many librarians are working hard to transform the library into a temple for fun and games,  the folks at the House of Literature in Oslo (Litteraturhuset) - bless them - still think books are a serious business. The sign reads "The book collection is not for playing with"

Monday, February 25, 2013

Black History Month special

Anthony Robertson shows us how to shake a black guy's hand.  Entire video (3:48) is here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Please be quiet please....

Laura Miller writes in Slate, "Bring back the shushing librarians." Thanks  to Laura for bringing that "bar-stool rant" out in the open where it belongs - silence is golden, that's one of the things that makes the library such a wonderful place. Here's a woman whose expectations of the library are all wrong, but even she understands the silence part. And consider the alternative

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Add to search bar 2.0

One thing that has frustrated me lately is the challenge of adding new search engines to the the Firefox search window. Firefox options "Manage search engines" and "get more search engines" will bring you to this meager selection of search tools, but chances are your desired search engine -   for example, an engine that searches the holdings of several hundred Scandinavian antiquarian booksellers at - will not be among the listed addons. What you can do, however, is  install "Add to search bar" - a wonderful little tool that enables you to add any search engine to the scroll-down selection in your Firefox search engine window.
Just place the cursor in the whatever search window you wish to add, and right click - the up pops the pop-up below

and hey presto,'s search engine is now among the selections in your Firefox search window

Friday, January 18, 2013

James Gleick in NYRB on the task of organizing, archiving and searching the "twitterverse" - a significant piece of the "creative record of America," as the Library of Congress sees it, or just a barnyard of straw? Interesting comments.