I is for information, please? (ABCW)

Where are you trying to go?

informationWaiting for a bus recently, I had what is possibly an obvious epiphany. Sometimes the technically correct answer isn’t the answer you need.

For instance, if you were to ask me, “Where is the nearest bus stop?” I could easily point someone to it. But using what we librarians call the reference interview, maybe I should ask a few clarifying questions to make sure it’s the answer that would actually be helpful.

For instance, “Where are you trying to go?” The nearest bus stop might not be heading in the correct direction. Or that bus doesn’t operate on weekends. Or it might not be running in the middle of the day.

Recently, I happened across a guy who was waiting in downtown Albany for a specific bus in the late morning. Because I know these arcane things, I was sure that route would not be operating for another four hours! But I aware that another bus that ran every 20 or 30 minutes would get him fairly close to his destination.

I’ve mentioned before that I have to be vigilant against false information. In the cases of the former First Lady Barbara Bush, and the legendary singer Aretha Franklin, reports of their deaths came out two or three days before their passing. Why? In order to be first with incorrect reporting?

Conversely, I was sitting in a deli hearing guys talking about a woman dying from dog saliva, a story I had not heard. It turned out to be true. But one fellow said to another, “They shouldn’t report that. It’s doesn’t happen often and it’ll get people all worked up.” I disagree; the story correctly noted how RARE the phenomenon was. Intentionally not reporting it is untenable.

Check out analytics evangelist Ann Jackson on being the voice of data, overcoming imposter syndrome, and setting aside intuition. It’s something I strive for, but I haven’t gotten there yet.

For ABC Wednesday

I is for information on the Internet

And I won’t even get into malicious disinformation.

As a librarian, I naturally rely on data that are credible. When answering reference questions, I am loath to give out inaccurate information.

When I hear/read something that doesn’t seem correct, I’ll often ask, “Where did you get that?” More often than not, they’ll say, “I saw it on the Internet.” Or “Facebook” or “Twitter.” But that isn’t the answer to the question. I’m looking for whether they got it from CNN’s website or FOX News’ Facebook page or the New York Times’ Twitter feed. This helps me to ascertain how much credence I should give a report.

Also, since I scan a LOT of news, I start to see trends. A few months back, I read that Kirk Douglas, the actor, died four days shy of his 101st birthday. But I never saw this in ANY source I had actually heard of, such as the Washington Post or Chicago Tribune. Immediately, I went to Snopes.com and discovered it was a death hoax.

This process helps me determine whether the things I read are true. I saw an unattributed graphic that said that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan wanted to raise the Medicare age to 76. I had never heard that before. Sure enough, there was a 2016 story that Ryan wanted to hike the age requirement to 67, which is bad enough, but NOT 76. One’s antipathy for a politician may make the worst news seem plausible, though not necessarily accurate.

A friend of mine, obviously frustrated that she was asked an easily knowable thing, mused, “Doesn’t anyone Google anymore?” Assuredly they do, but it does not mean that it’ll be right. I Googled for the price of a current first-class stamp and the first item I found gave the information for 2015 rather than 2018.

And I won’t even get into malicious disinformation. Or the difference between fact and opinion.

Some people have said to me that being a librarian now must be easier because I have so much information at my fingertips. Others have said that we don’t NEED librarians now because EVERYONE has so much information at their fingertips. Neither of those assertions is true; librarians spend an inordinate amount of time separating the wheat from the chaff.

Going on an information diet

John Green (no relation), one of the vlog brothers, recently noted that he wanted to go on an information diet. Specifically, he would spend far less time on Twitter. He noted this because it was this platform that helped him and his brother Hank to be more visible.

He said he was pulling away from it because it made him less pleasant as a human being. I certainly understand that feeling.

Quite often I read on Facebook about people quitting Facebook. I’m fine with that, although I wish people would do it more frequently, and announce it less often. I get the sense that the social media platform is so addictive to some, then they get annoyed by some response, or non-response, but then get sucked back in.

One guy in particular was complaining that “everybody” was talking about Lord Dampnut instead of talking about art, or the like. Maybe it was because the federal budget was going to zero out the budget for the arts?

Another fellow objected to me referring to Donnie as Orange, suggesting that I was judging him by the color of his skin rather than the content of his character. Having MLK Jr quoted to me is kind of funny. But, of course, this guy was just sealioning me.

And I felt compelled to correct a number of people who followed some meme that said it was Barack Obama’s birthday in March, which is actually August 4.

One fellow I know personally who actually gave up Facebook seems much happier. Another seemed satiated writing his observations to a select audience, instead of dealing with a lot of bs.
***
On a podcast, someone mentioned musical groups with two people with the same first name, preferably founding or significant members. So Mick Jagger ad Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones I wouldn’t necessarily count.

John Flansburgh and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, for sure. The 2 Melanies in Spice Girls, Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood in the Faces. Also, Wings had a couple guys named Denny, Seiwell and Laine. Who else?
***
I decided to record this new TV legal drama called Doubt, starring Katherine Heigl and Laverne Cox. But it took me a while to get to watch it. As it turned out, it was cancelled after only two episodes. I thought it had potential, but obviously CBS did not.
***
Someone asked me, “Biweekly – Did you know this word means once every two weeks AND twice a week? How confusing!” Yes, I did. I noted that I used to sell comic books, and I needed to know which meaning the publishers were using; fortunately, it was the former.
***
There was a gender-neutral pronoun in 1934, thon, and there were people pushing for it but it failed. Still, it’s the second definition of thon in the Urban Dictionary.

Delaware Avenue: Recalling the Early Days slideshow originally produced in the 1980s by Louise Krasniewicz for Albany Public Library and digitized in 2014 for APL’s digital collection on New York Heritage (nyheritage.org).

“New” information that is hardly that

wilson_headerThere was this article in some news feed I was reading a while ago – oh, maybe this is it: 10 things from Grimms’ Fairy Tales you got wrong. I rather hate that title, and, if you’ve read Grimm, and I have, well, I didn’t get them wrong, Mister or Ms. Article Title Writer. A better one in this specific genre is 11 Fairytales You Loved As A Child That Are Actually Really Creepy, which does not assume how well the reader is informed on the topic.

It may be that people are not familiar with the late Tom Wilson (pictured), unless they are liner note readers, like I am, but The Greatest Music Producer You’ve Never Heard of Is… is annoying.

I rather like this article, BEATLE GEORGE HARRISON’S BRIEF JOURNEY INTO EXPERIMENTAL ELECTRONICS. It refers to the album Electronic Sounds and gives not only the information about it, but the actual album from Zapple Records. Yeah, I own it, but haven’t listened to it in a VERY long time. It IS obscure, but the title informs without gloating. BTW, either today (very late) or tomorrow would have been George’s 71st birthday.

I DO like articles that clear up common misconceptions. I suppose there are a lot of people who have misunderstood the context of the quote, “Nice guys finish last” from baseball manager Leo Durocher. Even the Baseball Almanac provides no insight.

Durocher, in this excerpt from his book Nice Guys Finish Last, explains:

The Nice Guys Finish Last line came about because of Eddie Stanky too. And wholly by accident. I’m not going to back away from it though. It has got me into Bartlett’s Quotations— page 1059, between John Betjeman and Wystan Hugh Auden—and will be remembered long after I have been forgotten.

This is the context:

It came about during batting practice at the Polo Grounds, while I was managing the Dodgers. I was sitting in the dugout with Frank Graham of the old Journal-American, and several other newspapermen, having one of those freewheeling bull sessions. Frankie pointed to Eddie Stanky in the batting cage and said, very quietly, “Leo, what makes you like this fellow so much? Why are you so crazy about this fellow?”

I started by quoting the famous Rickey statement: “He can’t hit, he can’t run, he can’t field, he can’t throw. He can’t do a …thing, Frank—but beat you.” He might not have as much ability as some of the other players, I said, but every day you got 100 percent from him and he was trying to give you 125 percent…. The Giants, led by Mel Ott, began to come out of their dugout to take their warm-up. Without missing a beat, I said, “Take a look at that Number Four there. A nicer guy never drew breath than that man there.” I called off his players’ names as they came marching up the steps behind him, “Walker Cooper, Mize, Marshall, Kerr, Gordon, Thomson. Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last.”

I appreciate when old information is clarified, but not in a way that I feel is condescending to the reader.

“Oh, that’s easy”

I’m reminded constantly that there are things I know that I figure “everybody” knows, but of course, they don’t.

I was having a conversation – which is to say a face-to-face conversation, in person, not online – with someone recently. Something in the flow of the conversation led to me recalling a time at a job when I needed help finding information. Invariably, she would say, “Oh, that’s easy.” This would usually irritate me, on two levels: 1) it wasn’t necessarily easy for me, and 2) she was giving short shrift to her own skills.

The conversation proceeded and my friend told a story. When it was over, I said, “Now THAT’S a blog post. You need to write it. And if you do, I’ll link it to MY blog.” And so now I have. Continue reading ““Oh, that’s easy””