Archive for the 'personal' category

Friday Fun: Using my librarian superpowers for good rather than evil

As you can all imagine, I'm quite pleased to see the backside of the Harper government on their way out the door. Of course, the Liberals have promised a lot but only time will tell how serious they are about fixing the science-related stuff that they've promised to fix. I'll definitely be watching that and keeping track here on the blog somehow somewhere.

That being said, I was quite gratified that my various pro-science advocacy efforts in general and my war on science chronology post in particular were quite popular and widely used during the election campaign.

Obviously all the things that I've done advocating for science- and evidence-based decision-making in Canada, I did them because I thought they were important and useful things to do, not because I wanted to be congratulated or celebrated for them. That doesn't make me any less happy and proud to be congratulated and celebrated for these things, of course.

So in the spirit of Friday Fun, I though I'd share some of the congratulation and celebrations with you, my readers.

Starting with this astoundingly wonderful linking to my post from this article in the Guardian: How science helped to swing the Canadian election. Yes, the Guardian.

Things got so bad that scientists and their supporters took to the streets. They demonstrated in Ottawa. They formed an organization, Evidence for Democracy, to bring push back on political interference in science. Awareness-raising forums were held at campuses throughout Canada. And the onslaught on science was painstakingly documented, which tends to happen when you go after librarians.

How cool is that!

And there was a fair bit of very kind reaction on Twitter too, a bit of which I'm including below.

And continuing with the article I did just before the election in Metro News, Canadian government approach to science reads like satire, which was also very well received on Twitter, a sampling of which is below.

With this tweet in particular being one of my favourite in the post-election period:

Apologies for all the self-back-patting, but sometimes a guy just can't resist.

One response so far

Friday Fun: Comments and chronology on The Great Sonny Rollins Jazz Satire Blowup of 2014

Sep 19 2014 Published by under friday fun, music, personal, Uncategorized

Is jazz satire possible? Can it possibly be funny or even relevant?

This question is more immediate and pressing that you would normally imagine in the wake of serial controversies in the jazz world.

It all began at the end of July when The New Yorker posted a article in their humour column by Django Gold purporting to be the thoughts of jazz legend Sonny Rollins where he basically says jazz is a waste of time and they his whole life has been in vein. The jazz world exploded as it was not immediately obvious that it was satire. If it had been in The Onion people might have realized it immediately and probably moved on. But enough people misunderstood the purpose that the online outrage was able to build and reach a kind of critical mass. The New Yorker put a disclaimer soon after posting.

Like I said, the jazz world exploded on Twitter and it blogs. Largely because the satire itself wasn't very funny and that it disrespected one of the towering legends of the art form still alive. And at 83, it seemed cruel to pick on someone so revered at that stage of his career. Not to mention someone so dedicated and sincere in his passion. Rollins himself chimed in via a video interview, expressing a kind of sad resignation about not so much what was said about him but about the attack on jazz in general. To top it off, apparently Gold didn't write the piece with Rollins in mind and only added his name at the end to give it more punch.

But it didn't end there. Before too long the Washington Post published an article by Justin Moyer inspired by the Rollins satire basically saying that jazz is useless, bad and a waste of time. The jazz world blew up again on Twitter and in blogs. Not that jazz is or should be immune to criticism, but Moyer seemed more driven by a desire to provoke than any actual knowledge or appreciation for jazz.

To top it off, John Halle published a piece recently on the decline in the political consciousness of the jazz world that hasn't garnered as much reaction as perhaps it deserved (or Halle expected, hey, the jazz world is just tired now buddy).

So it's been a weird time in the jazz world.

Personally I love satire. I especially love satire about the things that are near and dear to my heart. The closer the better, I enjoy the uncomfortable laughter because it makes you think about what you love and why. The very existence of this long line of Friday Fun posts surely demonstrates that.

But I don't think the Rollins satire worked. First of all, it was poorly conceived and executed. It just isn't funny. The way it uses Rollins is kind of shameful really. Someone so dedicated and sincere, it feels like mean humour that punches down on the undeserving rather than punching up and lampooning the powerful. (My initial thoughts on Twitter, BTW)

Not that the the spirit of the piece is wrong. Just the target and execution. I can easily see something in the same spirit working very well if aimed at a younger, cockier, more controversial figure, especially someone known for their conservative, almost reactionary, view of jazz. Yes, I mean Wynton Marsalis. This kind of "I was wrong I wasted my life what is jazz even good for" could have worked well with someone like Marsalis, in the prime of life, influential, at the peak of his powers.

I don't think people are saying that jazz can't have a sense of humour about itself or that it isn't possible to poke fun at some stereotypes or foibles or whatever. Or to question and provoke about serious issues in jazz's past, present or future.

But if you're going to jump into the deep end, expect to face the music and account for your ideas and opinions.

Oh yeah, similarly inspired by a deranged bit of provocation, rock music is also having a rock is dead extended freakout.

 

Some General Information About Sonny Rollins

 

Here's the story. I've bolded the key pieces in the various controversies. As usual, I welcome corrections and additions. Peter Hum, Davy Mooney and Nicholas Payton have reactions worth reading.

The Chronology of the Interconnected Controversies

 

I like this Sonny Rollins quote from the Men's Journal profile:

This made Sonny laugh. When Sonny laughs, you know it. He bends his neck back nearly 45 degrees, casts his eyes skyward, and his mouth becomes a widening circle. Ha-ha-ha, he goes, loudly, like howling at the moon, albeit with perfect breath control.

"Don't you see, that's exactly the point," Sonny chortled as he clamped his skullcap onto to his head. "Those notes you mention, those notes have already been blown."

Sonny leveled his gaze, suddenly deadly serious. "People say, 'Sonny, take it easy, lean back. Your place is secure. You're the great Sonny Rollins; you've got it made.' I hear that and I think, 'Well, screw Sonny Rollins. Where I want to go is beyond Sonny Rollins. Way beyond.'"

Fuck yeah, Sonny Rollins!

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Friday Fun: 30 things to tell a book snob

I'll admit, I'm a bit of a book snob, a strange thing to say for a lifetime comics/science fiction/fantasy/horror/mystery fan, but there you go. Perhaps more precisely, I'm a snob about books versus other media.

But in my defense I'll maintain that I'm getting better as I get older -- more tolerant and accepting and less snobby. Perhaps not coincidentally, I think my takes in reading material are getting more diverse too.

In any case, let's all enjoy 30 things to tell a book snob.

1. People should never be made to feel bad about what they are reading. People who feel bad about reading will stop reading.

2. Snobbery leads to worse books. Pretentious writing and pretentious reading. Books as exclusive members clubs. Narrow genres. No inter-breeding. All that fascist nonsense that leads commercial writers to think it is okay to be lazy with words and for literary writers to think it is okay to be lazy with story.

3. If something is popular it can still be good. Just ask Shakespeare. Or the Beatles. Or peanut butter.

4. Get over the genre thing. The art world accepted that an artist could take from anywhere he or she wanted a long time ago. Roy Lichtenstein could turn comic strips into masterpieces back in 1961. Intelligence is not a question of subject but approach.

5. It is harder to be funny than to be serious. For instance, this is a serious sentence: 'After dinner, Alistair roamed the formal garden behind this unfamiliar house, wishing he had never betrayed Lorelei's trust.' That took me eight seconds to write. And yet I've been trying to write a funny sentence for three hours now, and I'm getting hungry.

Go read all the rest of the suggestions. Then fire up your reading device and/or dig deep into your bookshelves and read any damn thing that gives you pleasure. (Me on Goodreads plus my 2012 reading.)

Now, at the end of the day, I tend to think music snobs are just as bad. It would be fun to see a
"30 things to tell a music snob" post somewhere. Of course, most of the points would be similar, but slightly different.

Maybe we can invent one in the comments?

I'll start:

1. It doesn't matter whether or not the musician is living or dead, young or old, it's all just music. If you like it and it gives you pleasure, that's all that matters.

4 responses so far

A year of books: 2012

Jan 03 2013 Published by under personal, reading diary, science books

I'm including here a list of all the books I've read in 2012, as well as some commentary my year in reading. I always enjoy when people post these sorts of lists online and actually rather enjoy doing so myself.

I've been doing this for a few years now: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007.

If you've posted such a list online somewhere, please post a link in the comments. I'd love to see it!

The list of books I'm posting below includes all the books I started and finished in 2012, with the exception of books that I'm currently reading. As it happens this past year I only abandoned one or two books so I haven't bothered recording them. I've been recording every book I've read since 1983 in a little booklet and have been mostly transcribing those lists on my other (mostly lapsed) blog I've been occasionally transcribing the list on a year by year basis. I've stalled a bit the last couple of years, and I keep saying I'll resume but haven't yet.

Trends in my reading this year?

  • My book reading time has decreased a quite a bit again this year for a number of reasons, from 70ish two years ago to 60ish last year to 50ish. First of all, I haven't read as many really good page-turner novels as in past years, so this slowed me down as I tend to get bogged down when I'm not really gripped. As well, the iPad and iPhone are reading time-sinks. In a sense, I'm not reading less, just reading more that's online. That's neither good nor bad, automatically, it just is. I do see a tendency in myself to just mindlessly surf and graze and look for the next twitter endorphin hit on my iDevices when I could be focused on something more useful or engaging.
  • And a way I've counteracted that mindless surfing trend this year is to start reading ebooks on my iPhone during my rather long comute to and from work every day. Seven books in 2012 and I imagine a bunch more in 2013. Discovering the joy of my particular ebook reading niche is the highlight f the year for me. All the other books on my list are good old fashioned print books.
  • My genre tastes continue the shift I've noted these last couple of years. I find I'm reading more mystery and crime fiction as the years go by and this year is no exception. As you might be able to tell from the list below, I tend towards the hardboiled & noir.
  • My science fiction reading this year has decreased again. It's not that I love SFFH any less, but somehow in 2012 I didn't seem to get charged by many SF books. I'm going to have to be a lot more intentional about the sf books I chose to read this year, maybe being a little less experimental in a way and following my favourite authors and genres a bit more closely. I think I'm still suffering a bit of SF burnout after judging the Sunburst Award a few years ago.
  • And the graphic novel love continues apace, if a little less than last year. Comics were my first reading love and I'm always happy to read a great one. Fiction, non-fiction, science, superheroes, all across the spectrum of graphicy goodness. And it helped prop up the numbers in a slowish reading year, in particular a couple in the last two days of the year.
  • I've continued updating my reading on Good Reads, which has been very fun this year. If you're on the service yourself, add me as a friend.

Reading resolutions?

  • Like last year, be more intentional about my leisure iConnected time, wasting and wandering less and spending more time engaged with useful and enjoyable texts, be they e- or p-, book or ebook. This is especially something I want to maintain for my commuting time.
  • More novels, more science fiction, and I'd still like to get back to more short story collections for my commute. I also want to get back to reading more of the annual science writing collections.
  • I've committed to the Goodreads Reading Challenge for the year, trying to get back to the 60 book level. Join me!
  • It was a slow reviewing year as well, so I'm going to try and get closer to one review per month -- which means reading one science/tech/cyberculture book per month. I've got two reviews pending: The Best Science Writing Online 2012 and Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb, both of which are excellent so the reviews should flow nicely. The books I'm reading in preparation for reviewing are Book: A Futurist's Manifesto: A Collection of Essays from the Bleeding Edge of Publishing which I'm 60% through and Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family which I've just started.

So, here goes.

  1. The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It by Scott Patterson
  2. Our Game by John LeCarre
  3. Resistance by Carla Jablonski, Leland Purvis, Hilary Sycamore
  4. Defiance by Carla Jablonski, Leland Purvis
  5. End of Days by Max Turner
  6. WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer
  7. Tumor by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Noel Tuazon
  8. Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady
  9. At the Mountains of Madness: A Graphic Novel by I.N.J. Culbard, H.P. Lovecraft
  10. Choke Hold by Christa Faust
  11. Almuric by Robert E. Howard
  12. The Annotated Northwest Passage by Scott Chantler
  13. Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times by Marc J. Kuchner (review)
  14. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  15. The Moon Moth by Jack Vance, Humayoun Ibrahim
  16. Gotham Central Book Two: Jokers and Madmen by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
  17. Gotham Central Book Three: On the Freak Beat by Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark
  18. School Days by Robert B. Parker
  19. Friends with Boys by Faith Eric Hicks
  20. Welcome to the Real World by Angela Melick
  21. Nine Algorithms That Changed the Future: The Ingenious Ideas That Drive Today's Computers by John MacCormick (review)
  22. The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard
  23. Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living by The Union of Concerned Scientists (review)
  24. Shadows Bend: A Novel of the Fantastic and Unspeakable by David Barbour, Richard Raleigh
  25. Shoot the Piano Player by David Goodis
  26. Cold Service by Robert B. Parker
  27. How to Cook Like a Man: A Memoir of Cookbook Obsession by Daniel Duane
  28. Monte Casino by Sven Hassel
  29. Assassin's Code by Jonathan Maberry
  30. White Line Fever: The Autobiography by Lemmy Kilmister, Janiss Garza
  31. For the Win by Cory Doctorow
  32. The Greatest Game: The Montreal Canadiens, the Red Army, and the Night That Saved Hockey by Todd Denault
  33. My Mother's Lover by David Dobbs
  34. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 Volume 1: Freefall by Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, Sierra Hahn and Scott Allie
  35. Angel & Faith, Vol. 1: Live Through Thisby Christos Gage, Scott Allie and Rebekah Isaacs
  36. Ignorance: How it drives science by Stuart Firestein (review)
  37. Wolverine: Lifeblood by Matthew Hughes
  38. The Gift of Ford by Ivor Tossell
  39. Finding Karla: How I Tracked Down an Elusive Serial Child Killer and Discovered a Mother of Three by Paula Todd
  40. Betterness: Economics for Humans by Umair Haque
  41. Rebooting the Academy by Tim McCormick, Jeffrey Young
  42. Deep Water: As Polar Ice Melts, Scientists Debate How High Our Oceans Will Rise by Daniel Grossman (review)
  43. A Critic at Large in the Multiverse by Norman Spinrad
  44. Open Access by Peter Suber (review)
  45. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
  46. Dirty Sweet: A Mystery by John McFetridge
  47. A Dry Spell by Susie Moloney
  48. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 Volume 2: On Your Own by Andrew Chambliss, Scott Allie, Sierra Hahn and Georges Jeanty
  49. Angel & Faith Volume 2: Daddy Issues by Christos Gage, Sierra Hahn, Scott Allie and Rebekah Isaacs
  50. The Best Science Writing Online 2012 edited by Bora Zivkovic, Jennifer Ouellette
  51. The Second World War by Antony Beevor
  52. The Walking Dead, Vol. 17: Something to Fear by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard
  53. Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Notable Fiction

  1. Choke Hold by Christa Faust
  2. Gotham Central, Book 2: Jokers and Madmen by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark and Gotham Central, Book 3: On the Freak Beatby Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark
  3. The Walking Dead Volume 17 TP: Something to Fear by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard
  4. Sandman Slimby Richard Kadrey
  5. Cold Service by Robert B. Parker
  6. Assassin's Code: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry

Notable Non-Fiction

  1. The Greatest Game: The Montreal Canadiens, the Red Army, and the Night That Saved Hockey by Todd Denault
  2. My Mother's Lover by David Dobbs
  3. A Critic at Large in the Multiverse by Norman Spinrad
  4. The Second World War by Antony Beevor
  5. Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
  6. Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness by Frank Brady

I hope this list provides a little inspiration to all my readers to compile their own reading list for the year. I've seen a few already around the web and have really enjoyed them. I look forward to seeing a bunch more —- feel free to drop a link in the comments.

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Happpy 10th Blogiversary to me!

Oct 03 2012 Published by under blogging, personal

Ten years ago today, three days shy of my 40th birthday, I started a blog more or less on a whim. I have to admit, I only had a pretty vague idea of what blogging was all about or what its potential was. After all, my main inspiration for getting started wasn't even a blog at all, but a zine.

Sitting here, all these years later, three days shy of my 50th birthday, I can only say that it's been a wonderful, exciting and sometimes strange trip. The trip has meandered through the broad crossroads of librarianship and science at the beginning of the 21st century and I'm sure will continue to wander that same path.

I'm not much on extensive recaps or endless sentimental remembrances (which I know, seems rare among bloggers...), but this seems like an anniversary worth noting, if only briefly. Blogging has been good to me personally and professionally in more ways than I can count. I hope to continue contributing my one small voice to the profession.

To all my readers who have patiently followed me hither and yon over the years, all I have to say is thank you for your time and attention.

5 responses so far

An Open Letter to the World on the Governmental Destruction of the Environment in Canada

I've been posting quite a bit recently on the disastrous record of the current Conservative government here in Canada, especially in regards to how they treat information, science and the environment. Sadly, I have way too many posts in the works along these lines.

The other day a post I saw on the Deciphering Science blog that really blew me away. It perfectly captures every important detail about the Harper government and their total contempt for science and disregard for the environment.

And with the author's kind permission I'm reposting it here, from May 18, 2012: An Open Letter to the World on the Governmental Destruction of the Environment in Canada

Dear Everyone,

My name is Naomi. I am Canadian. I worked for Environment Canada, our federal environmental department, for several years before our current Conservative leadership (under Stephen Harper) began decimating environmentalism in Canada. I, along with thousands and thousands of federal science employees lost any hope of future work. Their attitude towards the environment is ‘screw research that contradicts the economic growth, particularly of the oil sands’. They have openly and officially denigrated anyone that supports the environment and opposes big-money oil profit as ‘radicals’ (http://tinyurl.com/7wwf8dp).

Every day in Canada, new information about their vendetta on science and the environment becomes quietly public and keeps piling up. I have been privy to much first-hand information still because I retain friendships with my ex-colleagues (though my blood pressure hates me for it).

While I was working there, scientists were effectively muzzled from speaking to the media without prior confirmation with Harper’s media team (http://tinyurl.com/7bnsqp4) – usually denied, and when allowed, totally controlled. Scientists were threatened with job loss if they said anything in an interview that was not exactly what the media team had told them to say. This happened in 2008. The public didn’t find out for years.

During one of my contracts, I was manager of a large, public database set. Contact information for all database managers was available for anyone. I knew what was going on with the information and could answer questions immediately and personally. During this time, I noticed that the media team started asking me “What would I say” to certain questions. I answered unwittingly. After a certain period of time, I noticed that all contact information had been removed from the internet –eliminating the opportunity for a citizen to inquire directly about these public data sets without contacting the media team. The Conservatives effectively removed another board from the bridge between science and the public, and I had inadvertently helped.

Since then, the Conservative government has been laying off thousands and thousands of full-fledged scientific employees that have been performing research for decades at Environment Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and Parks Canada (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/8xtkaro , http://tinyurl.com/7gvzc7r, http://tinyurl.com/clgn97u ), shutting down entire divisions and radically decimating environmental protection and stewardship in a matter of a couple years.

I am afraid for my country. Canada is the second largest land mass in the world – though our population is small, you can be sure that when a country that encompasses 7% of the world’s land mass, and has the largest coastline in the world says “screw it” to environmental protection, there will be massive global repercussions.

The Conservative leadership have admitted to shutting down environmental research groups on climate change because “they didn’t like the results” (http://tinyurl.com/7kpqk7d), are decimating the Species at Risk Act (our national equivalent of the IUCN Red list), are decimating habitat protection for fisheries, are getting rid of one of the most important water research facilities in the world (Experimental Lakes Area – has been operational since 1968, and allows for long-term ecosystem studies [http://tinyurl.com/cdygbdk] ), are getting rid of almost all scientists that study contaminants in the environment, have backed out of the Kyoto protocol – and the list goes on and on and on.

Entire divisions of scientific research are being eliminated. Our land, our animals, our plants, our environment are losing all the protection that has been building for decades – a contradictory stance to the rest of the world. (Please see their proposed omni-bill that basically tells the environment to go screw itself, while also being presented in an undemocratic fashion that limits debate on any of the 70+ changes [http://tinyurl.com/89ys2nf]).

David Schindler, a professor from the University of Alberta (and founder of ELA) quoted. “I think we have a government that considers science an inconvenience.”

I am writing this to implore every single person to please – look into this subject, and help us, help ourselves. Contact your MP, the Fisheries minister, Stephen Harper, anyone, everyone. I can’t sit by and just post rants on my Facebook page anymore. Share this letter, discuss, anything. Canada is an important nation environmentally, and our leadership doesn’t give a fig for science or the environment. But we do. This Conservative minority leadership was voted in on a thin string in the lowest voter election turnout in recent history, but thanks to our ridiculous voting laws, have 100% full power to do whatever they want. And in the name of short-term monetary oil profit, they have realized that progressive science and the environment are threats (obstacles) to their goals, and are doing so many things to eliminate both.

We are depressed, and frustrated, and mad, and need all the help we can get to protect the value of science and our environment. In the age of globalization, intentionally non-progressive leadership is going to affect everyone. We share our waters, air, and cycles with all of you. Science IS a candle in the dark, and we cannot let greed extinguish that flame. What happens in Canada – will happen everywhere.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

A Canadian that cares about science and the environment

**Update (May 22, 2012). There has been a huge overwhelming response to this letter. Over 40,000 people have viewed it, with hundreds of comments. There are a lot of different organizations that want to be part of a larger movement. There are also quite a few scientists who may want to speak out, but still cannot. I encourage anyone who wants to contribute and organize, and may desire to do it more discreetly (ie: anonymous and or/not as a public comment), to email me at
deciphering.science@gmail.com. Please let your colleagues know as well. I will never publish your information unless you want me to, and will be organizing interested parties somehow, so that we can effect greater change – for ourselves, our freedom, and our beautiful planet.

This letter is an amazing compilation of the sins of the Harper government. I agree with pretty well every single word of it.

The author has a follow-up post as well.

And some of my own previous posts:

And, sadly, more to come.

One response so far

From the Archives: Confessions of a Science Librarian (and #IAmScience)

Jan 27 2012 Published by under librarianship, personal, scio12, scio13

A repost from February 9, 2006 from the old blog. it tells the story of how I became a science librarian. It's my small contribution to the #IAmScience meme on Twitter right now.

Basically it's about unconventional career paths in science. And this is mine.

===========================

Inspired by Adventures in Ethics and Science and Stranger Fruit...

So, how does a person go from being a software developer to being a science librarian?

  • From a very young age, always read a lot of books, magazines, comic books and whatever else is lying around, mostly science fiction and fantasy but a lot of other stuff too.
  • Also from a young age, related to an interest in science fiction, also read a lot and exhibit a lot of interest in science and math. Math is always the best subject at school, by far.
  • Source of much pocket money during college and university -- tutoring math (especially geometry, always loved geometry) and other subjects at former high school.
  • At middle of college career (college in Quebec where I grew up is a two year pre-university institution, equivalent to grades 12 and 13) in 1982 get a tour of a computing centre where a cousin worked and think, "hey, this is kinda cool."
  • Take Fortran course in second year. Life is changed. Even do bonus extra assignment on matrix multiplications. Using computers to solve mathematical problems is a revelation (although this thread is sorta never followed up on).
  • Apply to Computer Science at Concordia University. Pursue General Business Option and end up taking a lot of accounting, finance, marketing, etc, along with Fortran, Pascal, data structures, operating systems and all the rest. Do really well in stats and numerical analysis courses. Except for this one stats course we won't really talk about.
  • Along with tutoring, get a job as Programmer on Duty at Concordia Computer Centre. Involves sitting at desk or roving around helping students debug their programs or get the systems to work. Challenging but lots of fun. Remarkably like reference desk, but never make the connection.
  • After graduation (1986), get job at multinational insurance broker doing database development in FoxPro, later in Wang Pace and Powerbuilder. Work there for 12+ years. Best part about the job? Working mostly with the finance and accounting functions, helping people find the information they need to get their job done. Remarkably like research consultations, never make the connection. Like working with people and crunching premium and commission numbers.
  • Eventually tire of the constant retraining to new technologies, fed up of unstable mergers/acquisitions situation at company for several years, contemplate leaving job and getting a new one. However, since in the middle of a large, multi-year project, don't want to leave until that is mostly put to bed.
  • Have lots of time to think, "Do I want a new job or a new career?" Examples of librarians among friends and family. Research indicates that libraries seem to be rather computer-oriented these days. This is about 1996-97. Start to make some of those connections. Start to make plans.
  • Quit job and go to Library School full time at McGill. This is fall 1998.
  • Figure I'll end up working at a library vendor until, at the end of the first year, a student in the second year (Thanks, Larry!) recruits me to do a practicum placement at the Physical Sciences and Engineering Library. End up doing some volunteer reference work in the fall of the second year, 144 hour practicum in the winter and 3 week contract in the spring.
  • Get acquainted with serving a scitech clientele as a science librarian and think, "Hey, this is great! I wouldn't mind doing this!" (Thanks, Darlene, Marika and Liz).
  • Coincidentally, while looking for a job during the spring of second year, see a posting on notice board for a science librarian job at York University. Even though it's in Toronto and I'm in Montreal and we don't really want to move, apply anyway.
  • Get job. Start in August 2000. Rest is history.
  • Much sadness about old place of work.
  • Really like buying books on numerical analysis and scientific computing.

You wouldn't believe how often I get asked why I switched from a techie career to librarianship. Now we all know. I encourage more stories.

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A year of books: 2011

Jan 05 2012 Published by under book review, personal, reading diary, science books

I'm including here a list of all the books I've read in 2011, as well as some commentary on my particular year in reading. I always enjoy when people post these sorts of lists online and actually rather enjoy doing so myself.

I've been doing this for a few years now: 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007.

If you've posted such a list online somewhere, please post a link in the comments. I'd love to see it!

The list of books I'm posting below includes all the books I started in 2011, with the exception of books that I'm currently reading. In other words, it also includes a few books I've abandoned unfinished. As it happens, I've been recording every book I've read since 1983 in a little booklet and have been mostly transcribing those lists on my other (mostly lapsed) blog I've been occasionally transcribing the list on a year by year basis. I've stalled a bit the last couple of years, and I keep saying I'll resume but haven't yet.

Trends in my reading this year?

  • My book reading time has decreased a little this year for a number of reasons, from 70ish last year to 60ish this year. First of all, I haven't read as many really good page-turner novels as in past years, so this slowed me down as I tend to get bogged down when I'm not really gripped. As well, the iPad and iPhone are reading time-sinks. In a sense, I'm not reading less, just reading more that's online. That's neither good nor bad, automatically, it just is. I do see a tendency in myself to just mindlessly surf and graze and look for the next twitter endorphin hit on my iDevices when I could be focused on something more useful or engaging.
  • I mentioned abandoned books. It was a bad year for those, for sure, just like last year. I won't say how many, exactly, or which ones, but as I get older I'm not quite as willing to stick with a book until the bitter end. If I look back at some of the older lists I've done, in those days I would have finished 100% of the books I started.
  • My genre tastes continue to shift quite a bit as I get older as well. I find I'm reading more mystery and crime fiction as the years go by and this year is no exception. As you might be able to tell from the list below, I tend towards the hardboiled & noir.
  • My science fiction reading this year has decreased really dramatically. It's not that I love SFFH any less, but somehow in 2011 I didn't seem to get charged by many SF books. I think I'm still suffering a bit of SF burnout after judging the Sunburst Award a few years ago.
  • But whoa, did I read way more graphic novels this year than in any year I've been doing these lists! Fiction, non-fiction, science, superheroes, all across the spectrum of graphicy goodness. I've really enjoyed this a lot. And it helped prop up the numbers in a slowish reading year.
  • The Buffy obsession moderated this year a bit, but there's still a lot of graphic Buffy on the list from Season 8 and, not on the list yet, season 9 issue by issue.
  • I've continued updating my reading on Good Reads, which has been very fun this year. If you're on the service yourself, add me as a friend.
  • As far as magazines are concerned, the ones I read regularly has dropped off a bit in the past few years. Right now, it's Locus, The New York Review of Science Fiction, The Walrus and about 2/3 of the issues of Classic Rock.

Reading resolutions?

  • Spend a bit less time mindlessly iConnected and more time engaged with useful and engaging texts, be they e- or p-, book or ebook. This is especially true of my commuting time.
  • More novels, more science fiction, and it's time to get back to more short story collections for my commute. I also want to get back to reading more of the annual science writing collections.
  • It would be nice to get the total back up to 70ish again in 2012.
  • It would also be nice to review a few more of the books I read here, especially the fiction and graphic novels.

So, here goes.

  1. Richard Stark's Parker, Vol. 1: The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark
  2. The Lineup: The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives by Otto Penzler
  3. New Avengers, Vol. 1: Breakout by Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch and Danny Miki
  4. It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  6. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
  7. Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
  8. Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 2 by Fumi Yoshinaga
  9. The Outfit by Richard Stark
  10. Year's Best SF 13 by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
  11. Magnus, Robot Fighter 4000 A.D. V.1 by Russ Manning & Robert Schaefer & Eric Freiwald
  12. Hellboy: Unnatural Selection by Tim Lebbon
  13. DC: The New Frontier, Vol. 1 by Darwyn Cooke
  14. Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon (review)
  15. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales by Joss Whedon, Amber Benson, Becky Cloonan and Jane Espenson
  16. Galileo by J. L. Heilbron (review)
  17. On the Grid: A Plot of Land, An Average Neighborhood, and the Systems that Make Our World Work by Scott Huler (review)
  18. The Crime on Cote des Neiges by David Montrose
  19. Blood Work: A Tale of Medicine and Murder in the Scientific Revolution by Holly Tucker
  20. City Infernal by Edward Lee
  21. Axis by Robert Charles Wilson
  22. Open Access: What You Need to Know Now by Walt Crawford (review)
  23. How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment by Michele Lamont
  24. We Are The Engineers! by Angela Melick (review)
  25. The Silencers by Donald Hamilton
  26. The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA by Mark Schultz, Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon (review)
  27. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
  28. The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics by Paul Gravett
  29. The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe
  30. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume 4 by Various
  31. Cory Doctorow's Futuristic Tales Of The Here And Now by Cory Doctorow, Dara Naraghi, J. C. Vaughn and James L. Kuhoric
  32. The Walking Dead Volume 14: No Way Out by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
  33. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
  34. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki
  35. Brimstone by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
  36. Last Car to Elysian Fields by James Lee Burke (review)
  37. M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War by Wallace Wood
  38. Reframing Academic Leadership by Lee G. Bolman and Joan V. Gallos (LIAL post)
  39. The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire (review)
  40. Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Authorized Adaptation by Ray Bradbury and Ron Wimberly (review)
  41. Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles: The Authorized Adaptation by Ray Bradbury, Dennis Calero (review)
  42. The King of Plagues: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry (review)
  43. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2010 by Freeman Dyson and Tim Folger
  44. Monster Island by Christopher Golden and Thomas E Sniegoski (review)
  45. The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong
  46. Paying for It by Chester Brown
  47. Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything by F.S. Michaels
  48. Meet Me at the Morgue by Ross Macdonald
  49. Gotham Central Book 1: In the Line of Duty by Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
  50. Warchild by Karin Lowachee
  51. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Lacks Effect post)
  52. Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick (review)
  53. I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne and Chris Ayres
  54. The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale
  55. A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files
  56. Iron Man: My Journey through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath by Tony Iommi
  57. The Walking Dead Volume 15: We Find Ourselves by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard
  58. George R.R. Martin's Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin, Daniel Abraham, William Christensen and Rafa Lopez
  59. Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case
  60. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight Volume 8: Last Gleaming by Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson, Scott Allie and Georges Jeanty

Now some lists, in no particular order.

Notable Fiction

Notable Non-Fiction

Notable Graphic Novels

I hope this list provides a little inspiration to all my readers to compile their own reading list for the year. I look forward to seeing them -- feel free to drop a link in the comments.

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Reflections on the Harvard Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians

Whoa. Now that was a intellectual reset button hitting if there ever was one.

From July 31 to August 5 I attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians (LIAL) in Boston. It was a one-week, intensive, immersive course not so much on how to be a leader but how to think like a leader and how to understand a little more about the leadership process.

Not solely aimed academic library leadership per se, but more broadly about leadership situated in an academic environment. In other words, it was about people who happen to be librarians leading academic institutions that happen to be libraries.

I was joined by about 100 fellow library leaders and aspiring library leaders. A fantastic class of people willing to explore and willing to stretch and learn.

First of all, the leadership theory that gave shape to the entire week. It was based on our textbook, Reframing Academic Leadership by Lee G. Bolman and Joan V. Gallos.

It really quite a good book with both practical and theoretical approaches to leadership that I find quite interesting. What's really useful is that is situates the challenges of leadership within the unique environment of collegial academic governance, the demands of research/teaching/service and a tenured professoriat/librarian complement. It's well worth reading. And with the incredible opportunity of having Joan Gallos on the faculty, the ideas really came to life during the Institute.

The basic premise is that there are four views or frames of academic leadership.

  • Structural. Really about rational analysis, organizing tasks, making rules and enforcing policies. Being efficient. As you can imagine, a big one among academic library leaders.
  • Political. This one is about networking, negotiating, bargaining, advocating, resolving conflicts and allocating resources.
  • Human Resource. The main theme here is organization as family. It's about serving, coaching, caring, attending to people, motivation, relationships, needs, skills.
  • Symbolic. It's about leading by example. The leaser as thinker, artist, "prophet." The core skills are building faith and shared meaning, seeing possibilities, creating a common vision, meaning-making, identity. What we might call "thought leadership."

I found it very revealing to see my own actions and the actions of those around me in light of those different lenses.

The structure of the Institute on a daily basis was quite straightforward. Each day began with a meeting of our small group of eight fellow participants. After that, we did a session, usually a case study, before lunch and one or two after lunch until the late afternoon. Lunches were catered at a nearby campus restaurant. We also had opportunities for campus tours and of the Widener Library.

Some impressions.

  • Teaching 1.0. Trust me on this one. No one was absent-mindedly checking their watches or Facebook during this institute. (Or at least not very much 😉

    First of all, it must be said that the faculty for LIAL is absolutely stellar: Joe Zolner, Joan Gallos, Jim Honan, Maureen Sullivan, Chris Dede and Lisa Lahey.

    And each and every one of them delivered a wonderful traditional classroom experience. Like I titled this section: Teaching 1.0. Even the session on Education 2.0 was very Teaching 1.0. Curious, ironic, whatever. It worked. Forceful, dynamic professors, engaged students, terrific case study material, well chosen and well paced interactive and group study elements, immersive self-study and homework. That traditional classroom experience worked in many ways because of all the factors above, but I did find it curiously heartening that even in this hyper-connected Internet age there's still a way to make something so traditional so powerful.

    Even down to feeling like an undergrad again, getting down to a few hours of homework a night, books open, music blaring, drink by my side. In fact, a curious lesson from all this was reminding myself how people study again. It's not staring at one screen, reading one document. It's multi-document, flipping back and forth, quickly switching from one to another: book, binder, photocopies, laptop/tablet screen not in competition with each other but all complimentary. Which is a lesson to be kept in mind when talking about the death of paper textbooks.

    All the faculty were terrific, as I said. But there were also very diverse in their styles. Each unique from Joe Zolner's hilarious ramblings to Joan Gallos' jazzy improvisations to Jim Honan's intensity. I found them inspirational in the sense I could see elements of my own teaching style in each of them and ways to improve what I do. And I imagine most of the other participants had the same experience. In fact, for a while after LIAL I often found myself breaking into Joe Zolner impressions whenever I was explaining things to people.

  • Small Groups FTW! Purposefully selected to maximize different axes of diversity, we spent an hour or so at the start of each day talking about what we'd learned, exploring leadership or professional issues, supporting each other and talking about each others various professional and career choices. In other words, a very supportive and nurturing way to start the day. I found this particular aspect of the institute one of the most powerful as it really focused on our relationships with each other, what we can learn from each other and on the relationships that will carry us forward beyond LIAL.

    In fact, much of the institute was focused on getting us talking with each other. Virtually every session involved sharing and discussing with one of our neighbours (Hi Tracey, Hi Joy!), working on our individual cases with another small group or getting together at one of our self-organized lunchtime Affinity Groups to talk about various professional issues like open access, outreach, IL or international issues.

  • Wet Dog Syndrome. One of the things we were warned about was getting back to our institutions all revved up, eager to get to the leading and changing and transforming and framing everything left right and center. And pissing everyone off all around us with our new-found enthusiasm. The message was definitely to pick our spots and be patient. To look at the long term, to take advantage of and create opportunities for leadership across all the various frames. The best opportunities aren't necessarily the ones that will jump out at you in mid-August. Words to live by.

  • The power of a tech holiday. Looking at my twitter account, it seems that I did not tweet one single time between July 31 and August 9. Not even an RT. I also barely read my email or checked in on Friendfeed. And I totally forgot G+ even existed. I was just too damn busy and too damn engrossed.

    Was my focus perfect? Not quite. But I did manage pretty well and I have to say I found the experience both enriching and enlightening. I did my readings, focused on and participated in class discussions, engaged my classmates at every opportunity.

  • What happens at LIAL stays at LIAL. One of the most important things about an intensive workshop like this one is that the participants feel safe. One of the first things we all agreed to (with a mass thumbs up sign) was that we would respect each other's right to explore, share and learn without fearing that our words would come back to haunt us. As a result, I think people were pretty frank and honest about their experiences, both in the classroom and in the various small group settings.

  • Framing what I do. One of the really great aspects of LIAL is that it gets you to really deeply think about what you do. Both what you hope you do well and what you know you can do better.

    Luckily there was something I think I'm doing well that I was able to see in a clearer light. Both in my blogging activities and on campus I now realize what I'm attempting to do is much higher level leadership that I was thinking about before. When I organize tweetups or make sure I attend Departmental or Faculty Council meetings or campus social media working groups, what I'm really doing is exercising political frame leadership on my campus. I'm forging networks, creating alliances, making connections that all benefit the work that I do individually, that my department does and that the whole library does. When I go to Science Online or the CEEA conference, when I sit on ebook conference panels with science writers, when I give presentations on social media to various campus constituencies, I'm being a symbolic leader by making a case for what libraries and librarians can do.

    And here on this blog, when I advocate for librarians to blog in faculty networks, to go to non-librarian conferences, to be stealthy, well, once again what I'm attempting to do is be a symbolic leader. I'm trying to make a case to librarians that we should be more outward-looking. It's actually kind of cool to see myself as a leader in those frames. And it's something that I know is important both for my organization and my profession. I was a nice feeling and we definitely should all get the occasional little ego boost about the work we do.

  • A slight complaint. We were sent the Bolman/Gallos book well in advance of the institute as well as the reading for the first day and a half of the sessions. Which was great. However, when we arrived the first thing they did practically was give us huge binders with the readings and case studies for the next few days.

    There was so much of it that to really absorb the articles and especially some quite long case studies could easily be a couple of hours of readings a night. While it was a bit of a (welcome/deserved) shock to the system to feel like a swamped undergrad again, I do feel that the scale of the readings was a bit counter-productive. Solitary readings I can do anywhere. Exchanging ideas and interacting with so many of the best and brightest of the library field? That's priceless. I could definitely feel both in myself and among the others a bit of a hesitancy to socialize too much in the evenings or even during lunch.

    Thursday evening after the clambake (yes, the closing event is a clambake) was the only time that I think people felt really free to stay out really late since there were no readings due Friday. And maybe a bit the Wednesday evening "beer affinity group" meeting but even that broke up fairly early.

  • And finally. Joe Zolner FTW! As the Educational Chair of LIAL, it was clear that in many ways this was his show. While obviously a truly collaborative effort on the parts of the absolutely stellar staff and all the other faculty, it was pretty clear that it was Joe's really quite amazing leadership on all frames (from structural all the way through to symbolic) that animated the program. He definitely seemed like the type of leader who would rather deflect much the credit onto others, but in the end I think he deserves a lot of the credit for the shape of the program and the family feeling amongst the participants.

    And it was no accident that he was at the front of the class both in the first session of the Institute and the very last. His passion, flair and good humour really set the tone from the very first moment. And his earnestness and profound love of the mission of higher education hit the right note at the end, sending all of us out on a mission to change the world of academic libraries.

Whoa. Long post.

To summarize, LIAL was an amazing experience that many, if not most, academic librarians would benefit from at some point in their career. Leadership isn't just about having a title, it's also about leading by example and definitely it's also about creating the connections and building the context your institution needs to thrive in a challenging world.

And anybody can do that.

Update 2011.08.24: I should have mentioned that the dates for the 2012 edition of LIAL have already been set: August 5-10.

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So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world

Aug 22 2011 Published by under Canada, personal, Politics

It's a very sad day today all across Canada as Jack Layton, leader of the Federal NDP and Leader of the Official Opposition, has died of cancer.

A widely respected career politician -- a rarity these days -- his passion for social justice and commitment to the people of Canada will be greatly missed.

His family released A letter to Canadians which, while very focused on Canada and Canadian politics, is also very relevant beyond our borders.

To young Canadians:...As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one - a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world's environment...

*snip*

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world.

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