January rambling: surreal logic

conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy

weird_hill.xkcd
Weird Hill from xkcd

4 Ways to Detect Media Bias and Step Out of the Partisan Bubble.

Virtually All Major US Drinking Water Sources Likely Contaminated With PFAS.

Can Bankers Become Allies Against Climate Change?

The forgotten assassination of MLK’s mother Alberta King in 1974.

How do you keep that Christmas Eve feeling?

The Day That Changed Everything. The subhead: “They lost the biggest N.J. high school football game ever played.”

How to treat tennis elbow.

Komodo dragon destroyed BBC camera by trying to have sex with it.

The Critical Importance of Church Choirs.

Can’t find a marriage record? Try looking for a “Gretna Green” marriage location.

Jack Burns, R.I.P.

Every guest star on the TV series Cannon, starring William Conrad. CBS, 1971 to 1976, 122 episodes.

Inequality

World’s 2,153 billionaires hold more wealth than poorest 4.6 billion combined.

Rising inequality affecting 70% of the world.

Americans’ Drinking, Drug Use, Despair Wiping Out Life Expectancy Gains.

Structural Racism in Medicine Worsens the Health of Black Women and Infants.

Healthcare Algorithms Are Biased, and the Results Can Be Deadly.

IRS grabs the money.

The Liberation of Auschwitz: January 27, 1945.

Recommended reading: Joe Kubert’s Yossel.

Work

Illegal Interview Questions You Thought Were Harmless.

Were Your Rights Violated at the Workplace?

FTC Received Nearly 1.7 Million Fraud Reports, and FTC Lawsuits Returned $232 Million to Consumers in 2019.

Astrogate.

Language… has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.
– Paul Tillich

Books, language, and librarians

Proposed Book Banning Bill in Missouri Could Imprison Librarians.

How One Librarian Tried to Squash Goodnight Moon.

Writing a book series.

You can write “embedded” but you can’t write “imbedded.”

English Needs a Word for the Relationship Between Your Parents and Your In-Laws.

The 5th Annual Tucker Awards for Excellence in Swearing.

IMPOTUS

Expansive Executive Privilege Claims Pose Serious Constitutional Crisis.

The Imperial Presidency Is Alive and Well.

He Boasts Of Obstruction At Davos Press Conference.

Doral Resort Spikes Its Room Rates Ahead Of His RNC Visit.

The Surreal Logic of the China Trade Deal.

“Reckless” Decision to Loosen Firearm Exports Regulations.

The Cost of an Incoherent Foreign Policy.

His Supporters And The Denial Of Reality.

Ten Principles that Unify Democrats (and most of the country).

Now I Know

This Is The Poem That Never Ends. It Just Goes On And On, My Friends. and The Town With No Name and What To Do When Iguanas Fall From the Sky and How a Rock Band Helped Runaway Kids Find Their Way Home and It’s Art Because Someone Says It Is and Why Do Bakers Have Bigger Dozens? and Behold the Power of Dried Plums.

MUSIC

That Don – Randy Rainbow.

On the retirement of conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy: conducting Debussy’s La Mer; playing Rach and Bach and more.

Coverville 1293: The Neil Peart Tribute and Rush Cover Story III.

The Golden Spinning Wheel by Antonin Dvorak.

Tall Skinny Papa– Annie & The Hedonists [Caffè Lena Late Night Sessions]

All About Falling In Love – MonaLisa Twins

Fiddler on the Roof: Dear, Sweet Sewing Machine – Motel (Adam Kantor) and Tzeitel (Alexandra Silber) and Tradition – Tevye is Anthony Warlow, production done in Australia.

How Long Has This Been Going On – Audrey Hepburn, from Funny Face.

The Inner Light – The Beatles.

Zeolites, whatever the heck THOSE are

Sometimes being a librarian means working on questions for which you have no feel, no particular interest. Just focus on the bottom line.

zeolitesThis is more about the librarian life than the mineral group of zeolites. The library where I used to work got this reference question to find out about this substance that’s used in various commercial products, including, I’m told, dialysis machines. Since I am usually seeking the opportunity to broaden my horizons, and the question was near the top of the queue, I took it.

I discovered that the website of the United States Geological Survey has a National Minerals Information Center. From the page I needed: “Zeolites are hydrated aluminosilicates of the alkaline and alkaline-earth metals.” Yeah, right.

“Natural and synthetic zeolites are used commercially because of their unique adsorption, ion-exchange, molecular sieve, and catalytic properties. Major markets for natural zeolites are pet litter, animal feed, horticultural applications (soil conditioners and growth media), and wastewater treatment.”

I also checked with this site, which indicated that zeolites “are built of corner-linked tetrahedra and contain exchangeable cations.” Yet, an hour and a half later, I was not only finished, I knew I had useful information.

“In 2018, six companies in the United States operated nine zeolite mines and produced an estimated 95,000 tons of natural zeolites, a 15% increase from that of 2017… New Mexico was estimated to be the leading natural zeolite-producing State in 2018, followed by California, Idaho, Texas, Oregon, and Arizona.

“The top three U.S. companies accounted for approximately 90% of total domestic production. An estimated 93,000 tons of natural zeolites were sold in the United States during 2018, an increase of 14% compared with sales in 2017.” After finishing the inquiry, I went into the office of the library director and said, “I have no real idea what I just researched, but I know it’s good stuff.”

Sometimes being a librarian means working on questions for which you have no feel, no particular interest. Just focus on the bottom line, and ignore sentences such as “The most common [zeolites] are analcime, chabazite, clinoptilolite, erionite, ferrierite, heulandite, laumontite, mordenite, and phillipsite.”

For ABC Wednesday

Librarians in America (and everywhere)

Working at FantaCo, the comic book store et al., has been very helpful in my current job. I know about balancing a checkbook, applying for a business loan, trying to get a better rate on a credit card.

Berkeley Lab Librarians Peter Palath and Michael Golden
Berkeley Lab Librarians Peter Palath and Michael Golden at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on Friday, October 6, 2017 in Berkeley, Calif.
My dear friend Deborah wonders if Asking Roger Anything would include her son asking me questions about finding work in libraries in America? (He is, last I knew, in France.)

Why, yes, it would. We should set up some online dialogue. Meanwhile, let me give you some general thoughts about being a librarian.

Whatever he already knows, in whatever field, is good. It’s because it will be useful in some yet unexplained way.

Working at FantaCo, the comic book store et al., has been very helpful in my current job. I know about balancing a checkbook, applying for a business loan, trying to get a better rate on a credit card.

Late last month, I gave a webinar about sales tax. It was, well, pretty damn good, according to the reviews.

My interest in such an arcane topic came from realizing that a comic book is a periodical and not subject to sales tax in New York State. But if you sell that same comic book for more than the cover price, it is then a “collectible” and therefore IS subject to sales tax.

(I know that last paragraph was REALLY exciting. Riveting, even. My friend Dave and I talked sales tax that very evening. Seriously. Of course he WORKS for the tax department.)

Working as an enumerator for the 1990 Census was likewise of great value to my current work. If you know the questions they ask, it informs what data might be available.

Librarians HAVE to be curious. You have to want to, no, need to know. You can be trained to do that, I suppose, but it REALLY helps if one is innately so disposed.

This is why my friends Judy and Jendy and Broome nagged me to go to library school in 1990. They KNEW. It was patently OBVIOUS to them, and eventually to me, that my mind works in a particular way. Ask my sisters; I’ve ALWAYS had a need to know.

He doesn’t have to be up on EVERY topic, just his areas of interest. But it is an occupational hazard that other people think librarians know everything about EVERYTHING, when it’s merely ALMOST everything.

This notion, BTW, is laid out in the book called The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Your son probably should read it. I’m about 2/3s of the way through.

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.

O is for occupation: librarian, NY SBDC

It was a radical innovation when the discs were on a LAN

October 19 marks the 25th anniversary of when I became a working librarian, all, as it turned out, at the Research Network of the New York Small Business Development Center.

Now it’s not the first job I ever had in a library. I spent seven months as a page at the Binghamton, now Broome County (NY), Public Library back when I was in high school. I used to help people use the microfilm machines, find and then refile the magazines in the closed stacks, and check the shelves to make sure the books were in Dewey Decimal System order.

After 8.5 years at the comic book store FantaCo and a dreadful year at an insurance company, I was nagged by two librarians and a lawyer, all friends of mine, to go to library school. I was resistant to return to graduate school, having suffered a disastrous experience a decade earlier.

But this time, I survived, and even thrived in grad school. I worked in the dean’s office and one of my tasks was to calculate the demographics of the students. I discovered that I was, at that time, the average age of a student at UAlbany’s School of Information Science and Policy. There were lots of returning students.

The task has always been to provide reference to remote SBDC counselors who were meeting with their would-be entrepreneurs and active businesspersons, Still, the job of this librarian has changed a lot over the quarter century. We used to send packets of information via the US Mail or UPS.

My first phone was a shared line with the fax machine. When it would ring, I was never sure when it rang if I would pick it up and hear a wall of aural pain.

In the days before the wide use of the Internet, we had a number of CD-ROMs to use, and we had to take turns using them. It was a radical innovation when the discs were on a LAN (local area network) so that two or three librarians could use ReferenceUSA at the same time.

The World wide web, of course, changed our reference ability, but it was a gradual evolution early on. We wanted to be able to deliver data via email. Now EVERYONE has it, but in the 1990s, it was hardly a universal service, even at the colleges and universities where our SBDCs were housed.

When email became more universally available, sometimes the data packet was so big that it would bounce. Now, there’s a location on a closed website where counselors can pick up the information.

Being a librarian has changed a lot in the past two and a half decades, but finding the information remains the goal.

For ABC Wednesday