The Friends of California Libre...

27 January 2007

Buckle In and Enjoy the Ride into the Future

Greetings, friends,
This screed, like Thomas the Tank Engine, will shunt some trucks, haul some freight, and prove a very very useful screed. I've been gathering all kinds of articles on future (and present) technology to inform and ease the burden of daily life...or just make you more nervous. I must embrace the future, because the past is done with and the present is too depressing.

First, a message from the dead, from one of the mentors who guided us into that mysterious future (thanks, Geri):
Subject: RIP Robert Anton Wilson
RAW passed away today on 1/11...
His last Blog entry...
Saturday, January 6, 2007
Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night
Various medical authorities swarm in and out of here predicting I have between two days and two months to live. I think they are guessing. I remain cheerful and unimpressed. I look forward without dogmatic optimism but without dread. I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying.
Please pardon my levity, I don't see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.

And then I'd like to set aside some space for the first person I remember reading by name in the newspaper, a personal mentor as a (prolific) writer:
Art Buchwald's Moveable Feast: From Paris to DC, He Lived by His Wit
By David Von Drehle
The Washington Post

Of course, this wouldn't be the SCREED if we were just patting people on the back. In honor of the New Year, here's a vicious indictment of the 50 biggest scumbags of 2006, at least to these columnists (although I tend to agree.) You'll find that appropriately YOU are on the list (thanks, Mrs. Chance):
Subject: The BEAST
THIS IS MY WARNING: Read at risk of being offended!!!

Let's also start out with a little cash gift for my American friends, an important refund to check off on your Federal tax return:

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Special one-time federal excise tax credit in 2006 rebates tax overpayment on phone bills.

Yes indeed, this is the infamous "war tax", an excise tax charged against all phone users beginning in 1898 for the Spanish American War. If you kept your phone bills, you can deduct all the excise tax you paid from April 2003 to August 2006 (when they stopped charging it), or just claim $40-60 depending on your filing status. As my personal apology for that war, I'm going to spend my $40 on a Spaniard!

The Internet is a great place for misinformation, but as those in my career know, also a fine place to discover hidden bits of knowledge, like this little refund above. Some of the older librarians I know fear the Internet and how it might replace us. That's ridiculous. People are just as ignorant as ever and they will ALWAYS need librarians as "gatekeepers". I'm set for life. I cannot be replaced by a machine, although if I am, it might as well be by Ms. Dewey, who some of you might recognize from the "L-Word":

2006 was also the year I discovered podcasting...I now subscribe to about 2 or 3 hours worth a week, including some chatty library audio blogs, some outer space shit, etc. I also occasionally laugh at the amazingly vicious "Pacific Coast Hellway", which I understand the guy records in his car driving from Santa Monica to Downtown on the 10. And a few of the old, old LA old-timers will remember Joe Frank, who is also podcasting somewhat infrequently.

Then there was the buggy, trashy cultural upheaval known as MYSPACE:

Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8

No time for much analysis today, so just a pointer: The ever-insightful Danah Boyd has written a First Monday article on "Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8: Writing Community into Being on Social Network Sites." Those of you investigating or participating in MySpace or other social spaces might find interesting.

Other than Dr. Bays, I'm not sure who will be interested in this article; my interest in MySpace is pretty much zeroed out now that I've committed social suicide in this town. I like looking at the interesting images people choose for their avatar, and the stupid comments they leave for each other, but lately I've noticed the spam creeping into comments and friends requests, and yeah, by the time you can smell it, it might be up around your neck. Yeecchh.

Here's what the next year might bring:
PC World's 100 Fearless Forecasts
From inexpensive 20-megapixel cameras to 50-terabyte DVDs, here's our definitive list of technologies we're looking forward to seeing.,127152/article.html

And even better, the best in FREEWARE; this is where you can find all the free (and reliable) anti-virus, anti-spyware, backup, browser software, etc.:

The Internet is the ultimate in free, so here's old media TIME trying to tell you what the 50 "coolest" websites are:
Click the following to access the sent link:
TIME .com: 50 Coolest Websites*

It was also through the Internet that I discovered this device, an amazing piece of high tech from over 2000 years ago:

The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project

This research project is devoted to discovering the functioning of the Antikythera Mechanism, an "ancient [Greek] astronomical calculator, built around the end of the second century BC." The device is made up of "a complicated arrangement of at least 30 precision, hand-cut bronze gears. ... But the device is fragmented." The site provides updates about research activities, such as 2006 X-rays. In English, Greek, and French.

And if they've got high tech in the distant past, why can't you go far, far into the future with it as well? Here's something new in cemetery tech (creepy; thanks again, Geri):
Subject: E-mail from the grave?
Cool new way to haunt people!

And in the past or the present, every little sin and misdemeanor can haunt you as well, if you're ripping off the Man!
[Wall Street Journal] Copyright Tool Will Scan Web for Violations -
To deal with the mounting copyright issues swirling around video and other content online, a start-up founded by some respected Silicon Valley executives is taking a novel approach: combing the entire Web for unauthorized uses. Privately held Attributor Corp. of Redwood City, Calif., has begun testing a system to scan the billions of pages on the Web for clients' audio, video, images and text -- potentially making it easier for owners to request that Web sites take content down or provide payment for its use.

And I mean any kind of misdemeanor:
DOT: Dangerous Intersection Causing Some Pretty Cool Accidents

Serious, tho, they've even got national traffic data on the web now:

You see, we librarians have long known how to use technology to improve our lives:
Betty Glover Library Workout Tape (Hayden Library at ASU)

Science is catching up:
Scientists Find Way to Slash Cost of Drugs
By Sarah Boseley
The Guardian UK

Although not necessarily at light speed (thanks, Mike):
You and your fucking cowbell
http ://
Man saved from garbage truck after call
Father sues after daughter spends four days stuck in lift

Where would we be without the web to dig up all these interesting happenings? Sleeping or getting real work done, probably. And all this reliance on the Internet is pushing privacy out the window:
Feds Pushing for Internet Records
By John Reinan
McClatchy Newspapers
They know all about you
Every time you use an internet search engine, your inquiry is stored in a huge database. Would you like such personal information to become public knowledge? Yet for thousands of AOL customers, that nightmare has just become a reality. Andrew Brown reports on an incident that has exposed how much we divulge to Google & co
Andrew Brown
The Guardian,,1859629,00.html
Fight for the Internet Freedom Heats Up
By John Nichols
The Nation

Of course, some people are just living in the Stone Age:
Kansas Outlaws Practice Of Evolution

How Old Is the Grand Canyon? Park Service Won't Say
PEER Press Release
World's Largest Science Teachers' Organization Awash in Denials
By John Borowski
t r u t h o u t Guest Contributor

We are finally fighting back:
An Urgent Call by Scientists to ... Defend Science
t r u t h o u t Statement
US Scientists Reject Interference
By Jonathan Amos
BBC News

I mean, think of what science has done for us:

Uses for WD-40

E-mail lists a variety of household uses for WD-40 brand spray lubricant.

Although it's certainly brought us plenty of hazards:

Paper Shredder Danger

E-mail warns that household paper shredders can pose a danger to children and pets.

I get the feeling that 21st century science is going to be full of dangerous devices; how about this non-lethal (in small doses) microwave "repellant":
Say Hello to the Goodbye Weapon
By David Hambling
Wired News

Or worse:
Bush "Developing Illegal Bioterror Weapons" for Offensive Use
By Sherwood Ross
t r u t h o u t Guest Contributor

I've attached some images from our friendly rovers on Mars; an excellent (and benign) piece of high tech, they were supposed to last 90 days and now have survived over a 1000! At this late stage in their life, the places they're seeing are eerily the color photo, you can see a long whitish scratch; this is where Spirit is dragging one frozen wheel. I wish my car was so sturdy under these harsh Martian conditions.

Speaking of cars, be careful who you trust; especially you ladies, because some people will use their mis-knowledge of technology to make a pretty penny:

Is Your Mechanic Cheating?

TV news investigation shows Jiffy Lube outlets charging customers for automotive maintenance work that was never done.

More honest people could save millions of lives:
A $3 Water Purifier That Could Save Lives
By Donald G. McNeil Jr.
The New York Times

Or not:
Aussie scientists help air guitarists rock for real

Microscopic Art

Photographs show amazing micro-sculptures created by Willard Wigan.

If you poke around, there are amazing things out there:
Simulating the Stars
There are one hundred billion stars in our own galaxy alone, yet we know very little about how they got there. Star formation has been one of the richest problems in astrophysics for decades. Recently though, UC Berkeley astronomer Richard Klein and his colleagues have learned a great deal about this mystery by watching the mathematics behind them unfold on a computer screen.

The "Planemo" Twins: Astronomers Discover Double Planetary Mass Object

This release describes the 2006 discovery of "an approximately seven-Jupiter-mass companion to an object that is itself only twice as hefty. Both objects have masses similar to those of extra-solar giant planets, but they are not in orbit around a star -- instead they appear to circle each other." Includes photos and links to releases related to these planetary mass objects (planemos). From the European Southern Observatory (ESO), an intergovernmental, European organization for astronomical research.

Even the poorest people on the Earth can soon share in this new world:
"Intel's answer to $100 laptop: Eduwise"

Or, when necessary, return to more efficient ways of the past:
Some Farmers Trade Tractors for Animals
The Associated Press

But we all will work together, eh? Like at this site, the creepiest cooperative application I've seen in a while (thanks again, Geri):
Be nice, work together, and have fun.

This San Francisco art critic muses on what the future will bring us:
The Age of Mammals
By Rebecca Solnit

And finally, the revenge of a Flash animation (click PLAY below the porno ads):

Vive le screed!

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