Sunday, December 16, 2012


A new mythical creature, just for fun.

The dragrynix is a mix of dragon, gryphon, and phoenix. They're hatched from eggs, but like the phoenix, they're re-born over and over from the ashes of their firey demise. Because of their dragon genes, they breathe out the flames for this process. The controlled burn is little tidier than spontaneously combusting. They can also direct it to one injured part of the body for a quick fix -- very handy.

They're wild creatures, nesting in caves high in mountains or cliffs. They're mostly solitary except when raising their young, They can't be kept as pets or working animals. However, a few have been known, on rare occasions,  to enter into alliances with humans when it suits their purposes.

They not only guard and preserve treasure -- both the shiny kind and the intellectual or cultural kind -- but they restore it when it gets damaged (it's part of their rebirth instinct). After spending centuries with hoards of rare books, some have taught themselves to read.

This one has the head of a phoenix, the wings of an eagle, the tail of a dragon, and the body and paws of a lion. Some have the head and wings of a dragon, the torso of a phoenix, the forefeet and claws of an eagle, and the hindquarters and tail of a lion. Others have the head of an eagle, the wings of a dragon, the coloring of a phoenix, and the body, paws, and tail of a lion. Those are especially cute when they're young and their head feathers are still downy fluff, and they're curled up to sleep with their tail around them.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

the zombie paradox

They're everywhere. They've invaded history from Jane Austen's  1810s to the Beatles' 1960s. There are zombie-themed parties and zombie-themed library programs. The CDC -- a most serious bunch, indeed -- has even used the meme.

It's ironic that the metaphor was perhaps more appropriate when the defining movies came out -- the 1960s and 70s -- but didn't catch on as extensively then. That was, after all, the heyday of couch-potatoism, of people coming home from work and sitting, zombie-like, in front of the tube for hours. (O.k., the metaphor isn't exact, but substitute "munching potato chips" for "munching brains" and it comes close.)

But aren't we even more inactive now? People certainly spend more time on their butts in front of flickering screens. -- Ah, but there's a difference. Everything is interactive. They're surfing the web, meeting with friends through social media, playing videogames. In other words, actively thinking in a very nonzombie way.

So what makes the lumbering semi-dead so much more attractive (as it were) now?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

queen of united kingdom of great britain and ireland & empress of india, now also ruling in cyberspace

 During her lifetime, Queen Victoria embraced the new technology that was rapidly changing everyday life -- photography, railroads, etc. Now she's online.

Queen Victoria's Journals

Just what it sounds like -- her personal diary.

Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Scrapbook

Information about Her Majesty and her world. Lots of pics.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

the public library -- a great unbusiness

Libraries (and other nonbusiness institutions such as schools, museums, churches) have for some years been looking to the business world for ideas. This can be useful -- up to a point. What we want to be careful to do is to take only useful and appropriate ideas, not just for ethical reasons, but because often the strength of a nonbusiness institution is the fact that it's not a business. A library doesn't have to make money on every transaction. This is extremely liberating.

Some unbusiness advantages libraries have:

The best price around for its services -- free.
Time, space, and other resources which are not directly linked to immediate sales.
Freedom to serve all segments of society, rather than just those who are most popular in the eyes of the greater culture or useful to the institution.
Genuine respect for all patrons which is not linked to any individual's usefulness to the institution.
Respect for patrons' privacy.

These characteristics can give libraries have a tremendous advantage against their "competitors" -- stores and the internet. And best of all, they don't require any extreme effort or change of direction; they are things libraries have already been doing right for generations.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

google's augmented reality glasses

The first step to cyborgism. High on my wish list.

Google: Project Glass

Friday, January 27, 2012

true choice

"Everything's a choice."
No, it is NOT.  

Genuine choice has no unbearable penalties. If the alternative is death, breaking a religious or moral taboo, extreme poverty or extreme loss of lifestyle, loss of the relationship with a parent or child, or complete social isolation, it's not a true choice. An individual's particular phobias or extreme humiliation might also render a choice not a true choice for that person.

Yes, some people make choices that have these results. Such people are called "heroes" or "saints." The fact that we have special words to describe them marks the fact that such choices are extraordinary. This should not be used as the standard for judging basic human decency, even for "choices" with extremely serious moral consequences.

Less serious choices are genuine if the consequences are in proportion with the situation, within the framework of that situation. Getting slugged by a bully may not be martyrdom, but it's a penalty out of proportion with the value of one's lunch money.

Choices are genuine only if they are truly possible for the chooser at the time the choice is being made. If a choice requires authority, physical ability, available money, available time, or other conditions that a person doesn't have, it's not a true choice. This is not to say the conditions need to be easy, just reasonably possible within the situation.

Situations in which the only way to accomplish a goal is by agreeing to certain terms, if all means of accomplishing that goal require the same terms, are not free-choice situations. There may be a choice to do without entirely, but that's a separate choice, and in no way makes the lower-level choice a free one. This is the case with the terms and conditions of software licensing. If one doesn't click on "agree," one can't use the software at all. And often all of the alternative programs or online services for a certain task have the same terms. Opting out is not a true choice when it punishes the opter.

Terms for existing services which change and must be accepted for the service to continue can never be a truly free choice. Losing something one already has hits with far more force than not acquiring something in the first place.

True choice doesn't have to be completely fair, but it can't be completely unfair and still be a true choice.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

for genealogists, historians, and the just plain curious

The Internet Archive has views of the microfilm scans of the U.S. census, along with other genealogical records. Just leave the site search set at "All Media Types" and use the county and state name as your search terms. Alternately, you can search using the phrase, "Registers of births, etc" and the name of the state. It's completely free, with no fees or need to set up an account -- as all public documents ought to be.