Saturday, August 16, 2008

Point/Counterpoint: Young Adult Science Fiction

Here's the latest literary tempest in a teapot. Both posts are found at, a blog for those "strung out on science fiction".

Excerpt: The biggest growth in science fiction publishing these days, hands down, is happening in the young adult market, and that's great news. While the "real" science fiction publishers are chasing a shrinking — and graying — readership, tweens and teens are discovering SF for themselves, thanks to books from a diverse range of writers. Best of all, YA science fiction isn't aimed at a subculture, but at everybody of a particular age.

Excerpt: Whenever I hear that a favorite author of mine is working on a young adult novel, my heart sinks. "Oh, that won't be for me," I say to myself, "I am not a young adult." Sure, I know adults can read YA fiction: I read the His Dark Materials trilogy and the Harry Potter books along with the rest of the universe. But I object to the idea that young people need their own special, segregated genre of books, as if their minds are so dramatically different from adult minds that they require their own category of fantasy. Once a person has reached adolescence, relegating their reading material to its own gated subgenre seems at best condescending and at worst censorious.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Survey Says

When it comes to privacy, people allegedly exhibit schizophrenic behavior, according to a survey summarized here at

Almost 90% of UK internet users are prepared to give away private data despite 84% of the same users claiming to be very guarded about online privacy.

But here's the thing. People were first asked if they carefully guard their income information (84% said yes) and were later asked what income bracket they fall into (89% picked a category). I don't consider the latter response the same as giving away your bank account or credit card number. Seems like a case of this.

Does the Library Survive?

Hasbro, the toy maker and recent target of Scrabulous fanatics, announced an update of its board game Clue, first marketed in the U.S. by Parker Brother in 1949.

Here's what's changed.

The characters are given a contemporary gloss.

Miss Scarlet is know Kasandra Scarlet, a famous actress often featured in the tabloids.

Mr. Green is Jacob Green, an African-American "with all the ins".

Colonel Mustard is Jack Mustard, a former football player.

Professor Plum is Victor Plum, a billionaire video game designer.

The cast is "rounded out" by Eleanor Peacock and Diane White. Hasbro's news release doesn't specify their claims to fame.

The choice of weapons increases from 6 to 9. Gone are the pipe, revolver, and wrench. Players of the new version will be able to test out the trophy, dumbbell, and poison.

Here's what a post at (just added to my Bloglines account) has to say about the new array of weapons.

Instead of six (rope, candlestick, lead pipe, revolver, wrench, and knife), there are now nine, and each one is a reflection of the way we live now, in the 21st century: The candlestick and the rope are still there because we love vintage. Using either of those weapons is almost an homage to board game character killers of the past. The knife is now a chef's knife, reflecting the societal shift to high-quality cookware, and the revolver is now a pistol, mostly because sawed-off shotguns are too cumbersome. The baseball bat and the ax reflect our fast-paced, hurried lifestyle: who has time to kill someone with a lead pipe nowadays? The dumbell illustrates that the quest for fitness can often turn deadly (very dark, Hasbro), while the trophy simply hammers home the point that everyone in the aughts has been the recipient of a meaningless award. I'm not sure what weapon that gray cylinder is supposed to be, but considering that this is the 21st century Clue, I'm going with a can of Red Bull spiked with Drano. Personally, I would have rounded the 21st century weapon count up to ten with the addition of an Internet Predator, or Crate Full Of Trans Fats, but these weapons are a good start. "Cassandra Scarlet in the Home Theater with the Emmy," has a nice, modern ring to it.

And you'll be able to explore new rooms: a theater, spa, and guest house.

No news if the theater replaces the library. (My Retiring Guy eyes can't make out the detail in the above illustration. From what I can see, though, it doesn't look good.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How to Conduct Effective Meetings

Hope That Nobody Shows Up?

I know; we'll all heard and read it before. But a CNET post is worth a look. "Meetings suck, but they don't have to."

Here's the core advice.

Three rules of meeting etiquette

1. Every meeting has a start time and an end time. That means it starts on time and ends on time. If someone is chronically late to meetings, the others must bring peer pressure to bear on that individual. If most of a company's executives exhibit this trait, then find another company. It's a sign of immaturity and disrespect for others.

2. Every meeting is run by someone who is responsible for every aspect of the meeting including agenda, attendance, punctuality, and documentation. That person keeps everyone on topic and moves the meeting along using the methods described below.

3. Key decisions that are reached during the meeting regarding strategies, plans or objectives should be published by whoever ran the meeting within one day. That also goes for follow-up or action required and an owner for each item.

Five rules of engagement for effective meetings

1. Listening is good. Gratuitous speech is bad. Silence means consent. Don't chime in just to hear your own voice.

2. Presenting new ideas or brainstorming is good. Knocking down another's idea is bad. There's a time for reaching consensus.

3. Attack the problem or issue, not the person you disagree with. "I don't agree with you" is okay, but "I think you're an idiot" isn't.

4. Stay on topic, but don't beat a dead horse. Save other subjects for other meetings. Use a "parking lot" for important issues that may need to be revisited at a later date.

5. Be open, honest, and forthcoming. Don't hold back, bullshit, or sugar-coat issues. This is especially critical in meetings where key decisions are based on the information presented.

Streetcar Serenade

Madison's Mayor Dave recently took a lot of heat for his advocacy of streetcars. Many critics, refusing to take off their blinders, fell back on that old saw of the city as "X square miles surrounded by reality".

Now, thanks to an article in today's New York Times, there's a chance for folks to take a wider view on the topic.

"Downtowns Across the U.S. See Streetcars in Their Future "

Excerpt: At least 40 other cities are exploring streetcar plans to spur economic development, ease traffic congestion and draw young professionals and empty-nest baby boomers back from the suburbs, according to the Community Streetcar Coalition, which includes city officials, transit authorities and engineers who advocate streetcar construction.

The indefatigable streetcar critic, Randal O'Toole, seems to be the go-to person on these types of stories. The New York Times refers to him as "as expert on urban growth and transportation issues. Here's my very own editorial corrective. A self-professed expert with an ax to grind on various urban growth and transportation issues.

Mr. O'Toole played an active role in Madison's streetcar discussion. Check out these Wisconsin State Journal opinion pieces.
Portland's Streetcar Success Just a Hoax (By Randal O'Toole, January 8, 2007)
Don't Fall for Streetcar Hoax. (By Randal O'Toole, December 19, 2006)

Mr. O'Toole, by the way, is affiliated with the Cato Institute, which promotes public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peaceful international relations. In other words, he's a true believer in the invisible hand of the free market.

For more on the free-market crowd, see

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Latest Analysis Shows Internet Growth Slowing

Link to August 6 techdirt post, "Broadband Crunch Still Nowhere To Be Found; Internet Growth May Actually Be Slowing".

While consultants, telco lobbyists and politicians keep insisting that the internet is on the verge of collapse as more high bandwdith apps and services move online, we continue to rely on the folks who actually understand what's going on (and have access to real traffic reports) to give us a more accurate picture. The most reliable on this subject tends to be Andrew Odlyzko who has been calling the claims of a coming broadband crunch a myth ("What Bandwidth Crunch?" from techdirt 9/18/2007) for quite some time.

Broadband Reports points out that Odlyzko is back with his latest analysis of internet traffic (and he actually makes his data available). And, once again, he's quite skeptical of any broadband crunch, noting that internet traffic appears to be growing at a rather predictable pace that can easily be handled by standard technology upgrades.

So it's not just the Olympics that made Middleton's computer lab look like a ghost town yesterday evening? (OK, slight exaggeration, but I've never seen so few computer stations occupied on the day of a library board meeting -- both before and after.)

Retiring Guy's final board meeting as Director, by the way.

Online Library of 78 rpm Recordings

Link to August 12 Wired Blog Network Listening Post, "One Man's Quest to Digitize and Publicize Rare Vinyl".

And I'm more than happy to help him out with the publicity part of it.

Cliff Bolling has recorded 3,739 titles (as of now) from his collection of 78 rpm records. (You have to be of a certain age to remember playing these discs.) All of them are linked to MP3 files. "No sound enhancement, just what was recorded," Bolling notes.

See also......
The 78 rpm Record Home Page. (Buying & selling, history, labels, discographies, etc.)

Assessing the Condition of Old 78 RPM Discs from Tim's Phonographs and Old Records website

And for irony's sake...

Monday, August 11, 2008

In "OverDrive": The Digital Bookmobile

Link to the Digital Bookmobile, found while reading this August 11 PW online post, "Vendor Vehicle Showcases Library's Digital Offerings".

From the Digital Library "About Us" page:
The Digital Bookmobile is a community outreach vehicle for public libraries to promote downloadable eBooks, audiobooks, music, and video. Developed inside a 74-foot, 18-wheel tractor-trailer, the nationally touring vehicle is a high-tech update of the traditional bookmobile that has served communities for decades.

The Digital Bookmobile creates an engaging download experience around the host library's digital media collection and 'Virtual Branch' download website. The vehicle is equipped with broadband Internet-connected PCs, high-definition monitors, premium sound systems, and a variety of portable media players. Interactive computer stations give visitors an opportunity to search the digital media collection, use supported mobile devices, and sample eBooks, audiobooks, music, and video from the library.

The Digital Bookmobile is hosted by individual public libraries in support of their download services and is operated by OverDrive, Inc. To see if your public library offers download books and more, visit the Digital Media Locator.

Bookmobile schedule as of 8/4/2008 lists stops through August 13.

See also....
A birds'-eye view of the bookmobile is available on Flickr.

Making History Accessible

Link to August 11 JSOnline article, "Historical Society publishes non-traditional Wisconsin textbook".

More than 220 classroom sets of the new "Wisconsin: Our State, Our Story" fourth-grade state history textbook have been purchased by districts around the state, including several in the Milwaukee area, and some of the accompanying guides haven't even finished printing yet.

Those involved expect that as other districts come due for textbook adoption in the coming years, the book from the Wisconsin Historical Society will become the pre-eminent state history guide for elementary students.

"From a fourth-grade teacher's perspective, this is the best textbook we've ever had," said John Hallagan, a teacher at Magee Elementary in Genesee Depot.

The reason? It teaches content - good stories, people, places, maps, facts - and encourages critical thinking.

"That's a significant improvement over how history is usually taught," said Hallagan, who criticizes the method of teaching that relies on having kids memorize dates and sequence facts.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

And It'll Fit Better on Your Library Shelves

Rolling Stone, issue #1

Link to August 10 New York Times article, "The Classic Rock Magazine Is Switching to a Smaller, Rack-Friendly Size".

Some packages like the curvaceous old Coke bottle become so iconic that they are recognizable at 30 paces. So it is with Rolling Stone, whose large format has stood out on magazine racks for more than three decades. It won’t for much longer, however. With the Oct. 30 issue, which will go on sale Oct. 17, Rolling Stone, published by Wenner Media, will adopt the standard size used by all but a few magazines.

In an interview in his office, Jann Wenner. founder, publisher, editor and general guiding force behind the nation’s biggest music magazine, was characteristically brash about the change. Leaning back in his chair, one leg slung over the side of it, he said, “All you’re getting from that large size is nostalgia.”

But as he knows well, nostalgia is a powerful marketing force, as is a package that instantly evokes not only the product, but an era. It is tempting to apply that logic to a 41-year-old magazine that seems to put as many pensioners as teenagers on its cover, but Rolling Stone’s readership, bigger than it has ever been, has a surprisingly young median age, in the early 30s, according to market research firms.

2008 Hugo Award Winners Announced

Link. The Hugo Awards are given for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy

Best Novel: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins; Fourth Estate)

Best Novella: “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis (Asimov’s Dec. 2007; Subterranean Press)

Best Novelette: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean Press; F&SF Sept. 2007)

Best Short Story: “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s June 2007)

Best Related Book: Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher (Oxford University Press)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Stardust, written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Paramount Pictures)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who “Blink”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Hettie Macdonald (BBC)

Best Editor, Long Form: David G. Hartwell

Best Editor, Short Form: Gordon Van Gelder

Best Professional Artist: Stephan Martiniere

Best Semiprozine: Locus

Best Fanzine: File 770

Best Fan Writer: John Scalzi

Best Fan Artist: Brad Foster