Monthly Archives: August 2008

Culture11

Interesting.

I’m finishing lunch and checking email and open this one:

I have a favor to ask.

I’m the managing editor of Culture11 (www.culture11.com), a new online magazine/social network that was started by Bill Bennett, David Kuo, Steve Forbes, et al. Today is our first day and rather than making a lot of noise using traditional media, we’ve decided to announce our launch by reaching out to our friends.

Our goal for the site is to build a community around irresistibly interesting perspectives on life in America. From pop culture to politics, from faith to family, you’ll find original and entertaining stories here from some of the country’s most dynamic voices. (Its a lot cooler than that description makes it sound.)

I hope you’ll take a few moments to explore the site, perhaps add a diary entry, start a group, or read a few of the articles. We’re still in the beta stage and working out a few bugs so we could use your input. We also need to build buzz on the internet and throughout the blogophere, so I hope you’ll mention us on your blog or forward this email to some friends.

With your help, we can make Culture11 something truly extraordinary – an online destination that has the editorial excellence of a great magazine, the thrill of a terrific conversation, and the comfort of a supportive community all rolled into one.

If you have any questions, comments, or would be interested in writing for our site, please contact me at joe@culture11.com

Thanks for your help,

-Joe

Now, I don’t know Joe.  But I was intrigued.  At the very least, this is an interesting way to launch a website.  So I visited, and it’s an interesting website.

The main page had articles on optics like Afghanistan’s Most Dangerous Corner, The Global War Against Baby Girls, and America’s Next Top Torso (about Michael Phelps.)    A “Topics” tab included choices like Arts, Commerce, Faith, Ideas, Leisure, and Media, to name a few.  There are tabs for Diaries, Groups, and Friends.

It looks like an online magazine married a social networking site.  I may just look around a bit.  Try it yourself and let me know what you think.  And then let Joe know.

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Libraries That Make Bad Decisions, Part 487

Sigh.

There are times when I think that as a profession we Just Don’t Get It.  We whine about how communities don’t fully appreciate us.  And we have endless conferences and meetings to try to figure out how to get teens to visit and use the library.

And then there’s this.

AUGUST 21–The next time you forget to return a couple of library books (and ignore those annoying letters about the overdue status of said volumes), think of Heidi Dalibor. The Wisconsin woman, 20, was arrested earlier this month in connection with a pair of books overdue for several months. Dalibor, who made the mistake of ignoring a court citation issued after she failed to respond to letters and phone calls from the Grafton library, was busted August 6 for failing to return copies of Janet Fitch’s best-seller “White Oleander” (a 1999 Oprah Book Club selection) and “Angels & Demons,” author Dan Brown’s precursor to “The Da Vinci Code.” According to a police report, Dalibor was apprehended at her family’s home, cuffed and stuffed in a cruiser, and booked for violating the “overdue library materials” ordinance. She also had to pose for the below mug shot at the Grafton Police Department. Dalibor subsequently settled with the library by paying her overdue fines and reimbursing it for the cost of the two novels, which totaled around $180. Dalibor’s mother Patty told TSG that her daughter was “a good kid” who works two jobs. She is also now the owner of the Fitch and Brown books, which Dalibor got to keep as a result of paying off her library levies.

Deep sigh.

Now, I’m not in favor of allowing someone to abscond with library books or neglect to pay a fine.  (I’m not all that in favor of fines in the first place, but that’s probably a different post.)  But to have the person arrested and cuffed?  For TWO BOOKS???

Heidi should have paid attention when she got the numerous notices, blah, blah, blah.  But there has GOT to be a better way to deal with this.

I wonder if that young lady will ever visit a library again.  I doubt I would, in her shoes.  She essentially paid $180 for two books she could have purchased from a local book store for a fraction of the price….and I’m guessing that’s what she’ll do from now on.

And the librarians will attend yet another meeting to determine how to get patrons to darken their doors.

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Filed under Customer Service, Libraries and Librarianship

Mindset

It’s that time of year again.  Beloit College has released the Mindset List for the class of 2012. The college started doing this a number of years ago in an effort to help faculty and staff understand where their students were coming from.

Each August for the past 11 years, Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college. It is the creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief. The List is shared with faculty and with thousands who request it each year as the school year begins, as a reminder of the rapidly changing frame of reference for this new generation.

As always, some of the items on the list are more startling than others.  For instance:

  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene.
  • Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
  • IBM has never made typewriters.
  • Lenin’s name has never been on a major city in Russia.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.

And the saddest, at least for this Packer fan:

  • The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.

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Bad Fiction

The results are in for the 2008 Bulwer-Litton Fiction Contest.  Apparently, the results were announced a few days ago, but as their site complains,

many newspapers have allowed themselves to be distracted by a large athletic contest being staged somewhere in Asia.

The contest is hosted by the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San Jose State, and honors the memory of writer Bulwer-Litton:

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for “The Last Days of Pompeii” (1834), which has been made into a movie three times, originating the expression “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and phrases like “the great unwashed” and “the almighty dollar,” Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the “Peanuts” beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

This year’s winner is Garrison Spik, who turned in this lovely piece:

Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped “Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J.”

Read them all for a good chuckle.

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Srsly?

I absolutely cannot believe the latest out of British academia.  Apparently, having given up on the idea that students should be able to craft a coherent sentence and spell correctly in order to be understood,  one academic has thrown in the towel:

Fed up with his students’ complete inability to spell common English correctly, a British academic has suggested it may be time to accept “variant spellings” as legitimate.

Rather than grammarians getting in a huff about “argument” being spelled “arguement” or “opportunity” as “opertunity,” why not accept anything that’s phonetically (fonetickly anyone?) correct as long as it can be understood?

“Instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I’ve got a better idea,” Ken Smith, a criminology lecturer at Bucks New University, wrote in the Times Higher Education Supplement.

“University teachers should simply accept as variant spelling those words our students most commonly misspell.”

What. A. Crock.

On the heels of the pedagogy that claimed that anything a student would write should be acceptable, regardless of form, as long as they expressed themselves, we now have decided to throw the spelling out the window along with the grammar.  We’ve created a generation of people who have graduated from high school incapable of crafting a coherent sentence.  Now we’re allowing whatever-floats-your-boat spelling, too.

Of course, constant texting has morphed into its own language (hence the title of this post) and students have apparently been lulled into thinking that since their buddy understands, the professors shouldn’t be so stuffy about the whole thing, either.  And the professor isn’t arguing.

I’m sorry, folks.  It’s sheer laziness all around.  The students can’t even be bothered to hit the spell check button on the computer, and the professors can’t be bothered to correct the students.

It’s enuf to drive you insaine.  Srsly.

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Touring

I just gave one of the local media folks a tour of the campus.  I’ve given a few tours at this point, usually to people who wander in and are delighted when I offer to show them around.

Because this is a new venture, people are curious.  You’re building a new university?  In a shopping mall?  Seriously?  (Or, in the parlance of the Web, “Srsly?”)

Yes, we are.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is the first campus for the university in decades.  The university itself literally predates the state, so it’s an old and established and venerated research institution.  And we’re the upstart kids down the street, moving their cheese all over the place.

It’s fun to show folks the library (“Where are the books?”) and the nursing lab (which is kind of creepy, with mannequins in beds) and the clinical lab (which is amazing: all state-of-the-art and high-tech.)   We show off the ITV classrooms and the executive classroom and the room that kept the stadium seating, reflecting its past as a movie theater.

The general consensus has been that this is all very cool.

We’re starting two new graduate majors this fall, and are gearing up for our first freshman class next fall.  All of us are working to prepare for those two groups, to make sure that their educational experience is rich and fulfilling.

But occasionally, it’s nice to just show off the place and get a few pats on the back.

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Uhmmm…..oops.

I’m the oldest of five, and my folks were forever needing to keep track of us when we were out and about.  My brother Michael, in particular, was notorious for wandering off when we were in Sears.  We’d then hear a loudspeaker announcement, “Will the parents of a 4 year old boy with blonde hair and blue eyes….” and then Mom would look at her assembled children and count off, “One, two, three, four….oh, hell.”  Eventually Mom enlisted Judy (second-oldest) and me to watch over Tom and Mike, respectively.  We were NOT TO LET GO OF THEIR HAND.

So it was with some sympathy and understanding that I read this story.  Ooops.

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