March 31, 2004

To Treo, Or Not To Treo?

I appeal to your collective wisdom.

My dear old ridiculously outdated Visor Deluxe, purchased the first month these became available, had some badly-timed "senior moments" this past couple of weeks, and I'm realizing that though I'm very attached to it, it's time to look for something better. I'm tempted to get a Treo 600, and the only thing holding me back is my concern that as soon as the new one arrives, PalmOne will announce a new version. (I rationalized the cost by reminding myself that I've skipped at least 2 PDA generations by holding on to Old Faithful.)

Aside from industry info, are there predictable patterns for the release of new versions of equipment? Such as, never on Good Friday, at least every six months, after X sales?

I may just get it anyway, and appease myself, since I'm so good at rationalizing, by noting that PalmOne had a nice discount for people who upgraded.

I've played with one and shopped around, and I do feel this is the right match. (A new PDA every five years, I say, whether I need one or not...)

Posted by kgs at 08:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Air America: Listen Online!

I am just a tad frustrated at the otherwise good coverage of this new liberal talk-radio that fails to note its live Web broadcast capability.

Break a leg, Air America! I'll be listening!

Posted by kgs at 11:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 29, 2004

Richmond (CA) Eliminates Director's Position

The city of Richmond CA, facing very serious financial problems, elected to "eliminate" the director's position, which has been vacant for over a year. A cursory review of the city's budget-cut plan suggests the library is the only department to eliminate its leadership as a cost-cutting measure. The budget does not indicate if the city plans to restore the position later.

The city elected to retain half of its funding for Channel 28, the cable access channel used to broadcast City Council meetings.

Richmond's Draft Budget Plan

Posted by kgs at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2004

ALA Election Update

Last year, in 52 days ALA received less than 10,000 ballots. This year, with only ten days since the "polls opened," ALA has received over 5,000 ballots.

1/4 of all ballots mailed out this year were paper ballots. We can expect a lag time for this participation, but I'm still surprised that ALA has received so few of them. We forget how slow snail-mail is: the paper goes out, the paper sits on the table, the paper must be filled out, the paper must be mailed back.

Keep voting--it's your association!


Electronic ballots submitted 5,231

Paper ballots submitted 50

Total 5,281

Web email notification and paper ballot mailing have been completed.

Total votes in 2003 election: 9,844


Posted by kgs at 09:32 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 26, 2004

Write the Times: Ask for Release of the Prisoners

Instructions for writing the Times:

The New York Times has a wonderful editorial today, March 26, condemning the March, 2003 crackdown in Cuba. The editorial specifically mentions the independent librarians now languishing in prison, along with journalists and writers, and goes on to describe the other "crimes": "writing for Web sites based abroad, setting up independent libraries that offer books by the likes of Vaclav Havel and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and collecting signatures, in accordance with the Cuban Constitution, to petition for a referendum on fundamental reforms."

Please write the Times, praise their editorial, and call for the release of the 75 dissidents, including the independent librarians. The Times noted that the U.N. Commission on Human Rights was considering "whether to condemn the Castro regime." You may want to state that the U.N. should call for the immediate release of the dissidents or at minimum, ask for their wretched prison conditions to be improved.

Note that, like the Times, you can critique Washington for providing excellent cover for Castro's crackdown--organizations such as Amnesty International have said that for a year. But two wrongs do not make a right. Let the Times know how you feel about crimes against free expression, everywhere.

Posted by kgs at 09:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 24, 2004

UNESCO Award goes to Jailed Cuban Journalist

"The Cuban journalist and poet Raúl Rivero Castañeda, in jail since last April, was today awarded the annual Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

"UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said the award was a tribute to Mr. Rivero’s 'brave and longstanding commitment to independent reporting, the hallmark of professional journalism.'

"Mr. Rivero is serving a 20-year jail sentence after being found guilty of undermining Cuba’s independence or territorial integrity. He and 25 other journalists were given lengthy prison terms in April last year, one month after they were arrested by Cuban authorities as part of a general crackdown on dissidents."

Posted by kgs at 10:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2004

NY Times Editorial about Anniversary of Free Expression Arrests

Yesterday the NY Times ran an editorial by Vladimiro Roca, a spokesman for Todos Unidos, a coalition of Cuban dissident groups. He concludes:

"On the one-year anniversary of the crackdown, I want to pass along a message to those behind bars: we will not give up in our fight to bring democratic change to our country; in spite of the government repression, we will maintain our international campaign for the freedom of each and every one of our prisoners of conscience."

Posted by kgs at 07:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

ALA Online Election Update

The message below my post just came to the Council list.

Zounds! Egad! And my stars! That's over a 10% increase in voter participation since yesterday morning. Plus now we know what's going on with the paper ballots. (1/4 of all members are using paper ballots? Let me adjust my bustle!)

John Duke says he will be a gent and if turnout exceeds 15%, we both lose our bets. (I bet on a 5% increase, and he bet 10%.) We may have to buy Keith Fiels a beer!


Here is an update on the progress of our 2004 election as of March 23,

All of the initial mailings and e-mailings will be completed as of today.

As of the end of the day today, we will have mailed out 13,483 paper ballots.

As of March 20th, 42,626 members have received email notices containing voting instructions and passwords.

Additional paper ballots will now be mailed out as they are requested by members.

As of this morning, we have received 4,465 electronic ballots and 2 paper ballots, for a total of 4,467 ballots received.

Keith Michael Fiels
Executive Director
American Library Association
(800) 545-2433 ext.1392

Posted by kgs at 01:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Big Brother Is Holding Your Remote

As Jenny Levine points out, Walt Crawford has an excellent 20-page special issue of Cites and Insights devoted to the "broadcast flag," a digital-rights technology which if the FCC has its way will be built into all digital TVs manufactured after June, 2005.

If, like me, you felt on reading Walt's discussion that you had walked in to class halfway through the semester, read the CDT's excellent summary, at CDT notes, "As the result of a Federal Communication Commission decision issued in November 2003, starting in July 2005 it will be illegal to manufacture or sell devices that receive over-the-air digital television broadcasts unless those devices include certain copy protection technologies."

Posted by kgs at 01:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My Council Picks for ALA Election

This is actually tough for me, because the standard advice is to bullet-vote for five or so candidates, and yet I can easily find 34 people I'd like to serve with on Council--and that includes people I don't agree with most of the time.

The list below represents some of the people who received my vote, and I've put a * next to names of people I'd recommend bullet-voting for because they are highly qualified folks whose names are not "household" enough to set them apart on the ballot.

Get out there and vote!

Therese G. Bigelow
* Rebecca B. Brown
* Frank A. Bruno
* Randolph Call
James B. Casey
David S. Clark
Gordon M. Conable
Joe F. Dahlstrom
* John DeSantis
* Norman I. Eriksen
Ken Haycock
Sue Kamm
Em Claire Knowles
Bernard A. Margolis
Stephen L. Matthews
* Michael J. McGrorty
Linda Mielke
* Michael J. Miller
Robert R. Newlen
* Barbara J. Pickell
June Pinnell-Stephens
* ROberta A. Stevens
Frederick W. Stoss
* Thomas J. Tobin

Posted by kgs at 10:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Read Poster Contest

How tempting this is!

This is a hoot, and for the price ($89), it's really reasonable. I'd need Photoshop, but realistically I'd also need a graphics designer since even putting a small graphic of a cow on this Web site has exceeded my design abilities.

Just this morning I was thinking about fundraising efforts for LII... the LII bustier... a calendar of the Men and Women of LII (I want to be standing at the reference desk strategically holding a volume of the National Union Catalog)... and here comes the ultimate idea: I can make a READ poster that shows someone reading LII! (And why not in a sweet little bustier?)

Posted by kgs at 10:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2004

ALA Election Turnout Update

As of this morning, ALA had received 3900 online ballots since the balloting began one week ago. To put this in perspective, last year, ALA received 9,844 ballots for the entire election--a turnout of less than 18% for a paper-ballot voting period 52 days long. Not only that, but 2003's turnout was the best turnout since 1998. And to really frost the cupcake, we haven't seen participation above 25% in the last 24 years (the only period for which I have data), if not much longer.

I guess I have suffrage in my blood. Long time ago, in another life, many was the day I set up a folding table on the corner of 110th and Broadway in Manhattan and registered voters as they went in and out of the subway. It never stopped being a thrill for me to be part of this positive process.

A few people are griping about the online election software. There's room for improvement. But if the early participation trends hold true, we've gone a long way toward fixing what was truly broken. By and large, ALA members appear to be voting with their feet (or whatever appendages they use to enter data into computers).

I'm just an enlightened bystander in this election, but it is thoroughly groovy to watch the process. Technology can't change everything--it can't even change diapers. But sometimes, technology takes a good thing and makes it better, or takes a problem and brings it closer to a solution. Let's watch to see how it works this time--and let's wish it well.

Posted by kgs at 11:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 19, 2004

Barb Stripling for ALA President

This is a reminder that I'm enthusiastically supporting Barb Stripling for ALA President, and hope you will join me in voting for her.

Barb is not only enormously poised and articulate, and a great writer, but her background in school libraries makes her an essential choice in this most draconian of budget years. Our youngest users need spirited and knowledgable leadership--and that describes Barb. As an ALA Councilor, I've had the privilege of working with Barb for quite some time, and she impresses me with her interest in new technologies and her skill and building relationships across the board.

I can also say, from personal experience, that both candidates have enormous personal integrity, but in terms of poise and ability to think on one's feet, Barb wins hands-down. It's important to be articulate on paper, as both candidates are. But as Carla Hayden demonstrated this past year when she quickly responded to the attorney general's comments about "hysteric librarians," we need librarians who are articulate at a moment's notice.

If you want to know more about Barb, visit her Web site.

And please do VOTE!

Posted by kgs at 03:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

ALA Online Election: Tastes Just Like Chicken!

Allow me to make a few approving clucks over the new ALA online election system. I started my ballot today (and will set it aside to finish it up later). It's not just that the company did a good job designing our ballot (which they did) or that the process is remarkably smooth (which it is). What stands out are the unexpected joys of using an online system, which informates the process so that some of the tasks, such as figuring out how many Councilors you had voted for, are done by the system itself.

Notes from the election process:

I had no trouble identifying the initial e-mail informing me that the ballot was available.

I logged in without trouble--in Mozilla, no less.

The instructions were clear, and unavoidable.

The voting process is easy-breezy. I like the way it adds up the Councilors for me. (Now I am wondering what happens if you vote for too many Councilors on the paper ballot--is that section of your ballot then void? I'd think so.)

It's easy to see the candidate bios--far easier than in paper--and the ability to vote for the candidate from the bio page is a real plus (and as newspapers are wont to say, "a Web-only feature").

User support phone numbers and e-mail are listed on every page.

Amendments, plus pro/con, appear in a popup. (Wonder if candidate bios are not popups because they are interactive pages? I betcha.)

I found I spent far more time thinking about each Council candidate than I have in the past. It is so much easier to review the bios online, and I was able to prioritize my votes. I'll discuss who I'm voting for later today.

I finished voting, then moved on to the LITA ballot; it went very fast--less than two minutes. I'll save the other two ballots for a little later on.

I bet John Duke a beer that turnout would increase by 5% in this election; he bet 10%. I bet he wins--I should have insisted on a spread. Any other bets?

Posted by kgs at 11:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2004

Staple this to your forehead

Shared by a colleague:

Our boiler was failing. We decided that we loved steam heat and we wanted to keep it, so we started interviewing plumbers who knew steam. The house sat on a slab with a tight crawlspace around the perimeter and a small basement with the boiler under the kitchen. One of the plumbers took one look at this mud filled hole (the system leaked) handed me his hat and jumped in. We really liked him. When he came out covered is mud, he said; "I would really love to do this, but I would need help. I am sorry, but I work alone."

Posted by kgs at 04:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Free Range Librarian Back in the Coop

I've written and destroyed this entry twice--the price of frantic post-vacation recovery! I have oodles to say, and clearly need some focused time to say it. But the issue of wireless at ALA is back on the docket, I have my own thoughts about the supposedly "draconian" copyright issue involving the otherwise nifty staff day video put out by SJCPL, ruminations about reader's advisory, my rant on the term "nonfiction," how cool it was to do lunch with Nat Hentoff, a letter-writing campaign that's in the works, and who I support for our ALA election. I'll also blog my experience using the new ALA voting software.

Posted by kgs at 09:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 08, 2004

Free Range Librarian Takes A Breather

No postings to FRL this week, most likely. Thanks for all the wedding greetings! I'm sitting here staring at our certificate--what an amazing world we are in. When FRL resumes, I plan to write about such things as the slow-moving-barge syndrome, why RSS can make me crazy, second thoughts about a recent paper on CIPA, and why I hate the term "nonfiction."

Posted by kgs at 05:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 06, 2004

The Schneider-Hulse Wedding

Update: Also see Gallery presentation of additional photos!

(Sunlight on the Richmond Bridge)

March 5 dawned bright and beautiful, and even with last-minute e-mail and phone calls, extensive pantyhose issues, and a power-walk around the Miller Knox park, we were out the door by 9 a.m. (though not without checking our purses at least a dozen times to ensure we had our picture ID and our paperwork for our noon appointment).

Our first stop was rather prosaic--we delivered the Civic to our mechanic, as the car had problems that needed attention right away, and we knew we'd be busy all day. We hoofed it in our wedding finery to the El Cerrito BART (past the doll store, the car wash, and the Hotsy Totsy bar), scooting through Starbucks for caffeine and a stack of newspapers to devour en route.

We made it to City Hall by 10:45--a good 45 minutes before we said we would be there--and up walked Marsha Harris, a member of our wedding party! Apparently we weren't the only ones with big-day anxiety. The three of us went to Rite-Aid for some under-eye cream Sandy had a yen for. And why shouldn't a bride get what she needs on her special day?

We had this vision of sitting in the City Hall cafe quaffing some refreshment and quietly reading the Times, but several more members of the wedding party materialized in the lobby, so with joy we gathered a circle of friends and caught up on chatter. The Times is with us every day... good friends less often. A full hour before our appointment to fill out paperwork, we were deep in discussion with Marsha, Mark, Jackie, Marian, Fred, my sister Maia (you can see her hand), and her friend Mitch. We were soon joined by John, who with Fred took most of the ceremony photographs that day.


Just before noon, Sandy and I, with John and Fred in trail, went off in search of Room 168, where we would fill out paperwork for our license. We passed so many same-sex couples walking to and from Room 168 that when I saw a mixed-gender couple I felt a little confused. What were they doing here? Oh, right--they can marry here, too. San Francisco is simply a marrying city!

En route we encountered several other members of the wedding party, including Monique and her delightful crew of kids, and David from SFPL. (As a librarian, I keep wanting to write weeding party...). I was trying to be a limpid doe-eyed bride, but at this point, with the hour upon us, the Captain Schneider persona emerged, and I quickly directed our friends to the City Hall cafe without breaking step as I marched us toward 168. It was time to take that hill.

This was our first encounter with San Francisco County staff, and everyone was so wonderful. I had heard they had all sustained good humor even when they were processing dozens of marriages an hour. With the stream of couples slowed to seven marriages an hour, per the new procedure, they were absolutely delightful; we felt warmly ushered into the state of marriage. I have never felt better writing a check made out to the government.


Once we had filled out this paperwork, we had a marriage license good for 90 days. Given the tenuous legal environment, our plan was always to marry immediately in City Hall. The couples who wed in the first week were happy to be married on the spot, but due to the new appointment schedule, we had the opportunity to plan a little (though we kept invitations in-state due to our concern that any minute the marriages might be stopped).

It was now time for the great event! My sister Maia had brought us lovely matching wedding bouquets, but when we walked into the foyer, a volunteer noted that people from around the country were donating bouquets. Floral arrangements were piled against one wall, a colorful greeting from well-wishers everywhere.

A courtly gentleman, Bill Jones, approached us and asked us where we wanted to be married. My first thought was, "City Hall, right?" We actually had options: downstairs; on the stairs; upstairs... far too many options given that at this point my brain was one long high-pitched sound drowning out any reasoning abilities.

We decided on the stairs, and friends and family gathered around as we said our vows. We also picked up several Japanese tourists, who later congratulated us profusely and no doubt are back in Tokyo showing relatives pictures of the strange but wonderful habits of those funny Americans.


We were both in awe of what was happening. It is very hard to explain what it means to be able to marry the person you love, joined together in the eyes of society, when less than a month ago this right had seemed as remote as Pluto. Sandy and I have ties that bind beyond the power of any license or certificate. But it is very meaningful to us that in San Francisco we are able to become "spouses for life," in the language of our marriage vows, just like any other couple--which is what we are.


Two more members of the wedding party caught up with us after the ceremony, and we then proceeded to a lovely luncheon at Citizen Cake, where we dined on fancy salads and panini, and then shared a wonderful chocolate confection complete with two little brides, washed down with champagne and cider brought by our friend Monique.


Afterwards, we resumed life. We took BART back to the East Bay, learned that the Civic had racked up a steep repair bill, took our aching feet home, pulled on jeans, and went for dinner at the Hotel Mac with our friend Mark. But everywhere we went, we said, "we were married today!" And everyone--mechanics, maitre d's, friends on the street--wished us well.

Posted by kgs at 07:15 PM | Comments (38) | TrackBack

March 04, 2004

Amazon RSS Feeds

Steve Cohen points out that Amazon has a number of RSS feeds. I like it, I like it! He's right that it would be niftier if it were customizable, but it's still rss-alicious. Note that what the feeds deliver is "a headline-view of the top 10 bestsellers in that category or set of search results."

Posted by kgs at 07:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 03, 2004

Choicepoint: At Least They're Consistent

You may recall Choicepoint as the firm that produced a highly flawed list of supposedly disqualified voters for the Florida recount in the 2000 Presidential election. Courtesy of a routine background check run on me very recently, I know a little more how they operate, and it smells to high heaven.

The company that used Choicepoint sent me a courtesy copy of my background check (and that's excellent practice--it's legally required in California, but I doubt the disqualified voters in Florida received copies of their reports, regardless of the law there). I was clean as a whistle on most of the report, as is indeed correct, but to my horror discovered that "I" supposedly had two pending civil litigation cases. Looking more closely, I saw that in each case, "I" was married to a different man. Not only that, but "I" had been embroiled in these cases at the same time I was qualifying for a home loan.

I called Choicepoint and contested the information. They quickly backed down, and told me to check back in ten days. A representative from the firm that used the background check told me Choicepoint has "no choice" but to back down on most of these cases, due to lack of evidence, and that became obvious when I asked the next question. How did they get this information, I asked? The Choicepoint representative told me that this information represents a simple first-last name search of pending cases in the county I live in. In other words, a sloppy search not worthy of a first-semester library student provided the information for this report. Any Karen Schneider with past or pending civil litigation could have been (and was) listed in the section supposedly representing a background check about me and my worthiness.

Choicepoint has a tiny disclaimer at the beginning of the report: "The Report does not guarantee the accuracy or truthfulness of the information as to the subject of the investigation, but only that it is accurately copied from the public records." I loudly contest that statement. My "history" of civil litigation was merely a data-dump of random Googlesque searching of public records. It wasn't based on the sensitive and personal information I had to provide for this background check, and it had absolutely no human review, let alone bearing on reality.

Choicepoint claims to be a quality source of the kind of information used for career decisions, major purchases, voting eligibility, and even your FBI record, should you be so lucky to have one. There is plenty of evidence that Choicepoint helped elect (or at least appoint) our current president based on badly flawed data that unfairly disenfranchised voters and swung the vote the wrong way. My experience provides more evidence that Choicepoint routinely chooses methods guaranteed to produce bad data. If you use Choicepoint, or if it is used on you, beware. And I'll update this in ten days, after they have supposedly cleaned up my record.

Posted by kgs at 07:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 02, 2004

RFID Forum, SFPL, 3/4/04

San Francisco Public Library is having a public forum on RFID this Thursday, March 4 (yes--my nuptial eve) from 6-7:30 p.m. This promises to be an interesting discussion. See:

Posted by kgs at 11:43 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 01, 2004

Why We Need Pre-Washed Salad

This Pew report says nearly half of all connected Americans have communicated online. So that's what happened to our free time. (I actually used my sewing machine last week, albeit to make a custom sleeve for my laptop. And to think I once sewed all of my own clothes...)

Posted by kgs at 06:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack