Procrastination

is another word I like a lot. My dear old Dad, bless him, has often said that the word procrastination defines him. I think that’s rather unfair, really. Except for the Mr. & Mrs. Perfect out there, we all do it! So there goes, Dad, I never bought it!

Although I in fact have been really efficient today I started the day procrastinating. While David took Dane to school, I browsed through the news over coffee and stumbled over a couple of odd pieces. I managed to control myself and NOT start blogging about them first thing, but to DO WHAT I HAD TO DO first. Which was homework for my last course of this my last semester of my BA in library- and information science. The course is about building large websites (=corporate portals) and is quite techie, which suits me just fine. But because academia is academia (can’t think of a better explanation, sorry!) most of the texts are 7-8 years old. Which is perfectly OK if your subject is ancient runes or hieroglyphs or even if it’s WWII. But I just find it very, very hard to believe that the best stuff available about the building of portals and content management was written 7-8 years ago!

However, it’s done and my conscience is clear! So now, off to the odd pieces. There was this good one about how to tackle a project and get it over with, quickly. I needed that one! And this sad article from Washington Post about how Bush has rewarded his cronies:

Less than two weeks before leaving office, Bush made sure the senior aides shared a new assignment, naming them to an obscure World Bank agency called the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

One of the Guardian blogs has a very thought provoking post about what to do with that Afghan fellow, who’s clearly guilty of something, but who’s been tortured so badly that he’s been reduced to a head-case? The post is by seasoned Guardian journalist Michael White.

Those of you who know me personally will probably know that I was always a fierce advocate of the MMR vaccine. A “scientist” published a paper linking the MMR vaccine to autism. It was just the one paper, but it had all the ingredients of A STORY in the press. And it became huge. Suddenly everybody knew a child with autism who’d had the MMR vaccine. The fact that ALL children back then had the vaccine, also children with autism didn’t get in the way of this scaremongering story. When it was revealed that the “scientist’s” data were falsified and that there is NO link WHATSOEVER between the MMR and autism, this wasn’t at all A STORY. So there was nothing, or almost nothing, about this in the media that people actually read or watch. Which led to a huge drop in children who’d had the MMR. And now we see the result. A veritable measles epidemic. Try reading about measles and think that if it hadn’t been for that “scientist”, but primarily if it hadn’t been for the media who never seem to take responsibility for anything, all these children and teens wouldn’t have to suffer the dreadful complications to measles. The illness would most likely have been extinct! Here’s the story from the Sunday Times.

Sunday morning I read an article (no, not an article, an excerpt from this book) that truly scared me. The writer James Lovelock states that we’re too late to save the planet, so all we can do – as Brits – is to save ourselves from the hungry hordes, fleeing their over-heated or flooded homes! It came much too close to the article about the honey-bee I read only a week previously. Have we really come to the brink of our own extinction? And why are we all sitting back doing next to nothing? Probably because it’s just too much for our brains to handle! What I found even more scary than the prospect of living on a diet of strictly local produce and not enough of it in 2030, was his suggestion that we need a “strong leader” like Churchill to guide us out of this mess – democracy is no good in such dire straits. I shiver to even write it!

On a less dire note, here are some recent tech news. Amazon has launched a new version of the Kindle. I still want one and I still can’t have one. There’s no news about when this lovely gadget will be available in Europe. It’s something to do with the difficulty of finding an agreement with our multiple phone companies. Hmfff. I want it soon, and so, I think, does my husband. Look here how many books I’ve bought inside the last 3-4 weeks. Admittedly some of them are for course work, but as you can see, not all of them!

Which one should I start reading first? Dont say Jakob Nielsen, please!
Which one should I start reading first? Don't say Jakob Nielsen, please!

Here’s a funny one – I bet my oldest son will like it. It’s about bragging of your World of Warcraft skills in your resumé… I would say it depends on the job, really, if it’s a good idea or not!

Speaking of games, here’s an odd piece. I don’t play myself, so the thought hadn’t even occurred to me. But of course – in games that are so life-like there would have to be pregnancies. And it’s fun to read how they go about the deliveries etc. Thanks to Torill for the pointer.

Oh me, dinner is served, says husband. That’s so nice, I have to go! Sorry for this messy, messy post…

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Obama on libraries, librarians & the freedom of speech

Stephen’s Lighthouse points the beam at a four year old speech, which Obama held for the American Library Association as a young senator. His eloquence and his sense for “the right thing to say” is no news. He says:

At a time when book banning is back in vogue, libraries remind us that truth isn’t about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information.

That’s why I’ve been working with Republicans and Democrats to make sure that we have a Patriot Act that helps us track down terrorists without trampling on our civil liberties. This is an issue that Washington always tries to make into an either-or proposition. Either we protect our people from terror or we protect our most cherished principles. But I don’t believe in either-or. I believe in both ends. I think we can do both. I think when we pose the choice as either-or, it is asking too little of us and it assumes too little about America. I believe we can harness new technologies and a new toughness to find terrorists before they strike, while still protecting the very freedoms we’re fighting for in the first place.

Ah! The man who spoke those words is now president of the United States. Ain’t that great?

Read the whole speech here.

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I want to go to the library

but I never seem to get down there! One reason is that the nearest library is in Woking, our local town, which I’m not particularly fond of. Another is that I’m never encouraged to go! I’m all the time searching for books for the courses I attend and of course some of them are not your average bestseller. I’ll always start by just plain Googling the author/title to see what comes up. Then I search specifically in Google Books, because some publishers are actually nice enough to allow Google Books to scan AND publish books that are out of print. But most publishers are not. Before Christmas I wanted a book, which has been out of print for a long time. And there’s no reason to believe that it’ll come up for a new edition any time soon. But it was only available to peek at. If I wanted to buy it, I’d have to buy it second-hand at a rather steep price for such a boring text-book. But – supply and demand, you know! Then I searched the library catalogue for Surrey, but no luck there either. That meant that either I had to go through all the hassle of getting it from outside Surrey or from British Library or just buying it. So I shelled out and have now added a book to my collection that I didn’t even want.

With good reason you might now ask: “What is she getting at?” I’ll tell you – I’ve often wondered why, when you Google a book, you don’t get a result saying “Click here to see the nearest library that has this book”. There’s a bit of it in Google Books, but it doesn’t work all that well – and only a fraction of the world’s books are at Google Books yet, although they are working on it!

A snapshot of my phone, open on the tech news page.

Today I read in The Guardian’s excellent tech-news, delivered directly to my Iphone, why that is. It’s of course governments who are dragging their feet. Nothing new in that. But apparently the guilty party is a cataloguing company called Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) in Ohio… So all the eager modern-day librarians out there who so want to share their collection of great books with the wider public just aren’t allowed. That’s really, really sad. I hope – but am not counting on – that whoever in Obama’s administration this thing sorts under will do something and break the monopoly of this kill-joy in Ohio. Read the whole article, it’s not that long and it’s interesting. There’s more in it than just the above.

Oh, and if you’ve never checked out Google Books you should. It’s a great place and it’ll only get greater! I just made a search for a book that’s on my reading list for the next course I’m taking. As you can see, if you click here, the publisher does not allow browsing, not even a few pages. If you look at this other book, you can see an example of a publisher who allows you to have a peek at the book and finally here, you can see an example of a whole book, ready to read, if you can be bothered to read it online. For non-fiction, where you’re not planning to read the whole thing like the one I’ve chosen (it’s Plato’s Republic if you were too lazy to click through), it’s very practical with the search function, which they still haven’t invented for printed books.

See the right hand side of the page
Search results on the right hand side of the page
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Books

My Dad has lost a good deal of his eye-sight and can now only read books with large print (Magna Print) and only under a 100W light bulb. Now my Dad is lucky enough to live in Denmark, which has a fantastic public library service, where he can order a seemingly endless number of Magna Print books and even have them delivered, if he is not up for the walk to the library. But if it hadn’t been so, he’d be in a situation that I truly dread. Finally having the time to read all the books I’ve always wanted to read, but not the ability!

I’m lucky – although I more and more often find myself fiddling with my glasses and taking them off to read magazine- and newspaper articles, I can still read. But I’m always moaning that there’s not enough time. But – even if I don’t watch TV that much, I can still cut down on TV-time and read more. I always read before I sleep. Always. I don’t think I can fall asleep without a page or 50! Right now I’m reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest epos, Outliers. Highly recommended.

On my blogroll I ran into this post about the benefits of reading and about how to find more time to do so.

I guess I could write about Palestine every day at the moment and today I’ve been reading in The Times about the atrocities that the Israeli army has committed. Can one say, without sounding horribly cynical, that maybe these people didn’t sacrifice their lives in vain? Because by now it seems that even very conservative and traditionally Israel-friendly media have now stopped going on about Hamas’ bombing raids, which – honestly – are dwarfed by now, and have teary-eyed middle-aged men reporting from Gaza. About time too!

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We’ve got a home

now all that’s missing is the furniture, which should supposedly arrive Thursday or Friday this week (cross your fingers, would you?). We just can’t wait – having vivid dreams of sleeping in our own bed again with our own duvets etc. Oh, what luxury!

Our flat (rented) is in a converted convent. On the pictures you see the whole convent and the part we’re going to live in and the fireplace in what used to be the convent library, but will now be our livingroom! Woah!

We’ve been windowshopping for a variety of necessities, both online and IRL. It has been both fun and exhausting! Except for a bed and a chest of drawers for Dane, we haven’t actually bought anything yet, since it’s probably best to be on the actual premises before you start acquiring stuff. Oh, but that’s not quite true; yesterday we ordered cable-TV, phoneline and (most important!!!) broadband to be installed. It should all be in place by the middle of the following week, so by then we’ll really have moved in…

In the meantime we’ve been enjoying the company of the family, the boys playing endlessly, the grown-ups chatting, cooking, eating, teasing each other and playing cards. Several members of the family play a neat hand of Canasta. I’m still a total novice, having to be reminded of one rule or the other every 10 minutes. But it’s still fun – we were never card players in my family, so I only know how to play a few games.

The second week we were here, we had a much missed visitor: Dane’s best friend Adam came to visit over Easter and it was the happiest of reunions. We were glad to see his parents too, but that was quite overshadowed by the happiness of the two boys.

On a lovely day with the promise of spring in the air, we visited the Brooklands museum, with a vast collection of old and not-so-old airplanes and cars. It was just down Dane’s and David’s alleys, but I have to admit that I got a bit bored after the first 2-3 hours…

Such an impressive and beautiful aircraft – what a pity we’ll never get the chance to fly in it!

Check the flag on the tail of the aircraft!

Today we woke up to what was an expected change in the weather. All the same it was quite a shock to look out of the window and see this:

Sure, it’s pretty, but honestly, it’s April 6th and this is Surrey, England, not Denmark!

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A family Christmas

The day before Emil and Ida’s arrival, we drove up to the Point Reyes National Seashore. It was a wonderful day with a good deal of hiking (to allow for the food and goodies over Christmas) and fantastic sights. We started out at the visitor’s centre, from where we took the short earth quake hike and the slightly longer hike to a remake of an Indian village. I’m afraid I’d let Dane to believe that there would be a big hole in the ground at the epicentre of the 1906 earthquake. Well, there wasn’t. It had been filled years ago. But there had been a fence, which had been split by the earthquake. This fence had been maintained ever since, so we could see how far it had moved. On the picture you can see me showing Dane the distance between the posts and explaining that I’m standing right on the San Andreas faultline, where the ground split open.

The Indian village even had a herb garden with good explanations of what the Indians used the various plants for. There were teepees for sleeping, food storage etc. Their staple food items were acorns and whatever could be salvaged from the Pacific. The acorns were ground into meal, which was then made into a variety of food stuffs.

Then we took the long, but very scenic drive to the Point Reyes lighthouse. It was 18 miles of up, up, up till we reached the very tip of the peninsula. Then we parked the car and went up again, this time on foot. Only to reach the top, from where the lighthouse is 302 steps down. Going back up corresponds to walking to the 30th floor of a highrise. But it was great fun and good excercise.

After that we drove to another vista point, the Chimney Rock, to watch the sun set over the Pacific. Before the sun set, we saw elephant seals down on the beach. What a peculiar creature!

We’d spent several days of serious Christmas shopping, so we were well prepared, when we could finally drive to the airport and pick up Emil and Ida in the early evening of the 24th. It was great seeing them and we had a really nice Christmas together. They had had a real Danish Christmas dinner with Ida’s mother on the 23rd, so we settled on a leg of lamb with all the trimmings. I love the Danish duck with red cabbage, sugarcoated potatoes and everything, but David and Dane don’t fancy it much, so there really wasn’t much point. The weather was great, so we walked down to the town and along the waterfront before dinner.

The following days we went to the top of Mount Tam (again) and took the boat to San Francisco. Today the four of them have gone fishing, while I’m in the local library writing this and researching for the next leg of our trip.

More pictures here.

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In a library, finally

I wonder what they mean by that, “The Way Life Should Be”? Must be something with reddened leaves, fresh-cheeked youth, noisy snowmobiles and lobsters for dinner???

I’ve spent a good part of today in Freeport Community Library and it has been lovely. Outside it’s sunny but cool, and Dane and David are fishing. In here it’s quiet, comfy and… eh… bookish! Haven’t read a single page though, been busy on the computer.

Freeport probably wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for the extraordinarily well run and well stocked out-door department store L.L. Bean. We spent the best part of yesterday in there and got some good autumnal clothing for the three of us. David is now a record-holder in the number of fleeces owned by one person (who’s not a mountaineer).

I bet that stockholders in L. L. Bean have a lot to say in the town – it’s got the fiercest anti-sign-pollution policy I’ve come across over here. Look at this McDonalds:

It looks so nice you’d almost consider going in there to eat! And the whole town looks like that. Real neat, as the Americans put it.

We think we’ve solved the Halloween problem I mentioned yesterday. We went for gas at a little gas station out in the woods. In there everybody were talking about baseball, baseball, baseball and then a little bit about Halloween. It turns out there are several public arrangements, so we’ll go for some of that and hope that the usual American friendliness will extend to our little Dane. Will tell you how it goes.

And so, don’t you want to know if the Red Sox won the game last night? I bet you don’t give a toss. But they did. They wiped out the Colorado Rockies 13 – 1. We’re already readying ourselves for the next game tonight. Can they do it again?

(picture of master pitcher Josh Beckett borrowed from the Boston Globe)

More commented pictures (not of baseball stars) here.

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