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06 Aug 12:12

LinkedIn removes ads for web developer because "women images" are offensive

by Rob Beschizza

Welcome to Silicon Valley, ladies!

Today was a disappointing day at Toptal. We saw extreme sexism within the tech community, from an industry leader and advertising partner that we work with quite extensively: LinkedIn.

As many companies, we run LinkedIn advertisements to acquire new companies, clients, developers and internal employees. We run a mixture of male and female advertisements. We’ve taken extremely professional photos of both men and women who are part of the Toptal network and made sure they looked sharp, well dressed and happy; however, LinkedIn’s internal advertising’s staff completely disagrees that they both look sharp, well dressed and happy. Actually, they believe, with 100% certainty, that the women in our advertisements are offensive and harmful to their user base. To me, this is unbelievable. ...

Our COO went ahead and said we promise not to show any females in our advertisements and asked for a phone call. After we responded, we got the following:

“Hi [Toptal], Thank you for your confirmation. I went ahead and removed the restriction from your ads account. Please feel free to edit the ads and submit them again.

LinkedIn is an emulsifying agent between the business's meritocratic pretensions and the reality of its labor market. Think on the sort of people who use it enough to complain about the "women images" there. Imagine going to their parties! Imagine being privy to their inner lives. What do you expect from these people, Toptal? Advertise somewhere else.


01 Aug 01:56

If recording your calls without a playing them back isn't surveillance...

by Cory Doctorow
...then downloading music without listening to it isn't piracy

19 Jul 12:27

MIT blocking release of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files

by Cory Doctorow

My friend Aaron Swartz's suicide, just over six months ago, brought attention to MIT's role in his prosecution over downloading scholarly articles from their network. JSTOR, the service that hosted the files Aaron was accused of downloading, dropped its case against him, and it was widely reported that the only reason the Justice Department was able to go ahead with its threats of decades of time in prison for Aaron was MIT's insistence on pressing the case against him. MIT's administration was so shaken by the negative publicity following Aaron's death that they commissioned professor Hal Abelson (a good guy, in my experience) to investigate the university's role in his prosecution.

Now, though, MIT has blocked a Freedom of Information Act suit by Wired's Kevin Poulsen aimed at forcing the Secret Service to release their files on Aaron. A court recently ordered the Secret Service to stop screwing around and release Aaron's file, but before that could happen, MIT intervened, arguing that if the world could see the files, they would know the names of the MIT employees who insisted that Aaron deserved to go to jail for what amounted to checking too many books out of the library. MIT argues that its employees would potentially face retaliation (though not, presumably, threats of felony prosecutions, million-dollar fines, and decades in prison) if their names were known.

MIT claims it’s afraid the release of Swartz’s file will identify the names of MIT people who helped the Secret Service and federal prosecutors pursue felony charges against Swartz for his bulk downloading of academic articles from MIT’s network in 2011.

MIT argues that those people might face threats and harassment if their names become public. But it’s worth noting that names of third parties are already redacted from documents produced under FOIA.

I’ll post MIT’s motion here once it’s filed.

I have never, in fifteen years of reporting, seen a non-governmental party argue for the right to interfere in a Freedom of Information Act release of government documents. My lawyer has been litigating FOIA for decades, and he’s never encountered it either. It’s saddening to see an academic institution set this precedent.

I agree with Poulsen. This is a dark day in MIT's history. Today, the administration devalued the reputation of every student, alumnus and faculty member. The "MIT" on your resume is in danger of becoming a source of shame. MIT's stakeholders must demand better of their administration.

MIT Moves to Intervene in Release of Aaron Swartz’s Secret Service File [Kevin Poulsen/Wired]


19 Jul 01:36

The Famous Case of Emilie Sagée and her Doppelgänger Before...

Respresentation of Emilie Sagee's Doppelganger

Pensionat von Neuwelcke School

The Famous Case of Emilie Sagée and her Doppelgänger

Before teaching at the Pensionat von Neuwelcke School for girls in France (pictured above), Emilie Sagee had taught at eighteen different schools. Eighteen schools from which she had been fired because of the phenomena that accompanied her. This 32-year old school teacher and her ability of bilocation has become one of the most witnessed and documented cases of a Doppelgänger in recorded history.

As Sagée was writing on the chalkboard while teaching her class, her double appeared, standing along side her mimicking her motions. It was her exact image except that it wasn’t holding a piece of chalk.

On another occasion, all of the school’s 42 girls were in the school hall for sewing and embroidery class. As they worked, they could clearly see Sagée in the school’s garden gathering flowers. However, when the girl’s teacher left the room for a moment, Sagée’s Doppelgänger appeared, sitting motionless in the teacher’s chair. Two girls tried to touch the apparition but were met with an odd resistance and were unable to penetrate the air surrounding the entity. Yet, one girl, stepping between the teacher’s chair and the table, passed through the apparition, which then slowly vanished.

Sagée was absolutely unconscious of what was happening and she only knew about the phenomenon because of the expression on the faces of the people who were there. It was by seeing their frightened faces, their eyes staring at something invisible which seemed to be moving near her, that she understood.  But she had never, herself, seen her double; neither had she noticed the stiffness and slowing down of her movements when her double appeared.

18 Jul 14:57

The Big Idea: Chris Kluwe

by John Scalzi

Chris Kluwe kicks footballs for a living, which is nice work if you can get it, and also ponders life, the universe and everything a whole lot. He additionally has a fine knack for writing things on subjects that apparently people don’t expect NFL punters to be able to think cogently about, which is their problem, not his. He does it with flair (and creative cursing). Some of those things show up in Kluwe’s debut collection, Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies, which Chris sent to me early, and which I enjoyed the heck out of. I even gave it this quote on Twitter: “Chris writes much better than I can punt.” I don’t know if they used it. I’m pretty sure, in fact, that they did not. Bastards. Anyway, here’s Chris.


So those of you who know me probably know me as “that football player guy who also wrote a letter for gay rights with the swears,” or “the crazy person on Twitter John periodically talks with.” For those of you who don’t know me, it turns out I’m also an author! (Trust me, it was completely unintentional.)

Anyways, as someone who is a huge sci-fi fan (and human rights fan), I wanted to send a copy of my book to Scalzi, and he responded most graciously by reading it and asking me to write a Big Idea piece.

I, naturally, completely forgot about it until a couple days ago, because my mind no work goody sometimes. Must be all the massive hits punters take. But not to worry! The esteemed gentleman-scholar of this website has allowed me to remedy the situation, and without further ado, I present the Big Ideas of Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies. (Best title ever, amirite?)

The Big Idea

Sparkleponies is a collection of short stories and essays covering a wide variety of topics, hopefully in an entertaining and educational way (I promise you’ll learn some new swear words at the very least). I frequently describe it as a snapshot into my mind, and the main reason I wrote it as such is because I wanted to show you can’t define a human being with just one label.

When various publishers first approached me about writing a book, the majority of them wanted the standard “football player autobiographical” that everyone churns out once they get even a sniff of attention. You know, the “on x day I did y, and it made me feel z because I gave 120% of all the sports cliches my coach ever taught me about Jesus.” That one.

Well, I’m not a fan of that book, primarily because it plays into the kind of lazy thinking that’s so prevalent in our culture (America in particular). “You’re a football player, so all you can talk about is football.” “You’re gay, so you hate sports and love clothes.” “You’re a woman, so shut up and get in the kitchen, and don’t even think about playing video games with us manly men.”

You, as a person, summed up in the label of someone else’s narrow definition.

This is an utter failure to think, a failure to use your brain for something more than keeping your ears apart (as my mother loves to say). Trying to distill a human being, a complex summation of millions of different experiences, into one easily recognizable slogan or catchphrase, is antithetical to the society I want to live in.

I want to live in a world where people are celebrated for their differences, for their complexity, for their uniqueness, for the widely varied things that make them who they are. I want to live in a world that realizes your job does not define you as a person. I want to live in a world where I can be a football player, a video game nerd, a sci-fi/fantasy geek, an author, a husband and father and brother – all at the same time, because that’s who I am.

Above all, I want to live in a world where people are empathetic enough to understand that we’re not all going to be the same (and that’s okay!), but the only way I have the freedom to live my own life is if everyone else enjoys that same freedom in return. I am not a label, I am a multifaceted creature, just like all the other human beings on this planet, and we all deserve the recognition and ability to make our own choices in life.

This doesn’t work without empathy, though, because you have to realize how to see people as more than just a label, how to put yourself in their shoes. Empathy is a big part of Sparkleponies, because it’s also my belief (as a history and political science major) that societies that don’t practice rational empathy inevitably collapse – either by fomenting conflict from within by oppressing a segment/s of their populace, or seeking conflict from without by taking from others and eventually getting into a fight they can’t win. Civilization has a 100% failure rate in the historical record, and that leads to my second Big Idea in the book.

The Other Big Idea

If, as a species, we don’t understand how to value long term consequences over short term gains, then we will go the way of the dodo and the dinosaur.

A lot of the pieces in Sparkleponies deal with the concept of long term thinking and planning, of looking past your own lifetime to the many other lifetimes that will exist once you’re gone, because if we don’t learn how to look past ourselves, we won’t be able to deal with certain events that crop up on the geologic timescale with alarming regularity. Things like, oh, say, asteroid strikes. Global climate changes. Supervolcano eruptions. Toxic pathogens. And that’s not even getting into what we can do to each other if we don’t understand why pushing that red button is a bad idea.

Sure, these probably won’t happen in our lifetime. We should be safe. But they will happen eventually, I can promise you that, and if we as a species don’t understand how to get off this rock, well, I guess we had a good run. We’ll be a brief flash on some alien astronomer’s telescope, our bones a curiosity to our cockroach successors.

Except I don’t want to live in a world with the mindset of “Oh well, I got mine, everyone else can get fucked” that dies off a couple millennia from now. I want to live in a world where we get out to the stars (even if I never live to see it), a world where we explore our galaxy and all the other galaxies in the universe (even if I never live to see it), a world where we understand the beauty that there’s much out there we don’t know, and probably never will, but it doesn’t stop us from constantly searching for answers.

The only way anyone will ever get to see that world, that science fiction dream we all dream, is if we understand that we have to work together, we have to create a stable society that can stand the test of time, and in order to do so, we have to always consider what consequences will result from our actions. We have to value education and rational thought over entertainment and knee-jerk impulses, otherwise we’re spiraling down that same path every other civilization before us walked.

We also need to not overuse commas, that’s important too, which is perhaps the Biggest Idea of the book.

Enjoy the Absurdities of Life

We’re all we have in a universe doing its level best to kill us every second of our existence. Take a step back and laugh every once in a while. You’ll feel much better about yourself, trust me. I’m on a horse.


Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt (via NPR). Visit the book page (which also features an excerpt). Follow the author on Twitter.

18 Jul 12:01

Is it just me or does the cover for Overture make Sandman look loosely based on Benedict Cumberbatch? I'm not even a crazy fan of his I just sorta see it.


Love love love

I dunno: Morpheus has looked like that for 25 years. Benedict Cumberbatch has only started looking like that recently.

It was why people started making posters like this one:

17 Jul 23:00

thighhighs: You’ve probably never heard of Jackie Ormes and...


You’ve probably never heard of Jackie Ormes and that’s a goddamn tragedy. But it’s not surprising—there is no “Jackie Ormes Omnibus" available on, no “Collected Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger," no “Essential Torchy Brown." She won no awards, can be found in no hall of fame, and is usually treated as “an interesting find" by comic historians. She’s become a curio, a funny little facet of history, undiscovered, even, by today’s wave of geek-oriented feminism.

Jackie Ormes was the first African-American woman cartoonist. Yeah. That’s who we’re ignoring. Her work for the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender—both incredibly influential African-American newspapers—was utterly groundbreaking and remains unique, even in the context of modern comics. Her first work, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, featured the adventures of the titular Torchy, a stylish, intelligent young African-American woman who (feigning illiteracy) boards a whites-only train car to New York City and changes her life. Torchy’s story is a great, irreverent window into the migration of Southern-born African-Americans to the North, a movement that defined 20th-century America—but it is also the story of a girl on her own, living her own life and making her own choices. Torchy was an incredible aspirational figure, the likes of which barley exists in modern comics: an independent, optimistic, fashionable and adventurous black woman. Ormes would later revive Torchy’s story in Torchy in Heartbeats, a strip that introduced international adventure into the heroine’s life. In Heartbeats, Torchy traveled to South America, dated idealistic doctors, battled environmental exploitation and confronted racism at every turn. She was, frankly, awesome

And then there was Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger, her most successful and longest-running work. Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger was a single panel gag strip, like Family Circus—an illustration with a caption beneath it. Ginger was a beautiful, stylish young woman always accompanied by her little sister Patty-Jo, a clear-eyed, sardonic kid who spent most strips calling out the bullshit they endured on a daily basis as black women. Ormes’ talents shine through especially well in these little stories: her canny wit, the absolutely gorgeous clothes she drew her women in (seen also in her Torchy Togs paper dolls) and her skillful, succinct way of imparting to the reader just how goddamn stupid our society can be about gender and race. Patty-Jo is never shamed or taken down a peg for being an intelligent, outspoken little girl—in fact, she was made into a highly popular doll that wasn’t an obnoxious Topsy-style stereotype. She preceded Daria, Emily the Strange, Lian Harper, all those wry little girls we celebrate today—and yet, I see her on no t-shirts, can find her in no libraries. Patty-Jo is celebrated only in doll-collecting circles at this point, as the cute little symbol of a bygone age.

At Jackie Ormes’ height as a cartoonist, her work reached one million people per week. In the 1940s and 1950s, she reached one million people per week. She didn’t just surpass barriers—she leapt merrily over them. She introduced the general populace to a voice that had always existed, but was seldom heard—a voice that is still smothered today. She created African-American women who unapologetically enjoyed glamour, who pioneered their own futures, who refused to keep silent about the walls they found themselves scraping against every day. I haven’t even covered the half of it: Ormes was also an avid doll collector, served on the founding board of directors of the DuSable Museum of African-American history, and was targeted by the McCarthy-led witchhunts of the 1950s. Remember Jackie Ormes. Celebrate Jackie Ormes. Visit The Ormes Society and support the essential work they do. Keep her memory alive so that we may enjoy a million more Torchys and Patty-Jos in our comics—instead of the paltry handful we are offered today.

(First in a series on women in the comics industry.)

17 Jul 22:51

The Seven Coloured Earths On the island of Mauritius, an African...

The Seven Coloured Earths

On the island of Mauritius, an African island nation in the Indian Ocean, an astounding geologic oddity offers visitors a colorful sight. An area of multi-colored sand dunes displays a variety of sand in seven distinct colors: red, brown, violet, green, blue, purple and yellow. Different times of the day reveal different colors and color intensity. Reportedly this is the only location in the World where one can see earth of seven different colors in one place.

Geologists have been fascinated with the Colored Earths ever since they were first discovered. This natural phenomena has several unsolved mysteries. The colors never disappear in spite of torrential downpours and the sand dunes never erode. In addition, the Coloured Earths has a strange property of settling into their individual colors. Even if they are mixed with other colors, they will eventually settle back into layers of individual color.

The Seven Coloured Earths has become one of Mauritius’ main tourist attractions since the 1960s. The dunes are protected and visitors are prevented from walking atop the formation. Curio shops near the dunes sell small test-tubes filled with the Coloured Earths for tourist to enjoy.

source 1 , 2. 3

17 Jul 19:52

Boycotts, Creators and Me

by John Scalzi

I’m getting pinged by folks who want to know what my position is regarding the boycott of Ender’s Game movie by people repelled by author Orson Scott Card’s social and political stances and actions regarding gays and lesbians and in particular his stance on same-sex marriage. With the notation that I am not in the least a disinterested party here (one, I’ve met Card and had a very pleasant time in his company; two, I have a book being adapted to film, for which I strongly suspect the performance of Ender’s Game at the box office will be relevant to any eventual green light), here’s my position:

If your conscience tells you to boycott or avoid the film because of Card’s positions on the rights of gays and lesbians, then, you know, do it. Card is entitled to speak his mind on gays and lesbians and same-sex marriage. You are equally entitled, on the basis of that speech and his political efforts, to decide not to support him or a film based on his work. That’s entirely fair.

On a related topic, in the future, if Old Man’s War is made into a film, if your conscience tells you to boycott or avoid the film because of my (largely opposing to Card’s) positions on the rights of gays and lesbians, then do that. I am entitled to speak my mind on gays and lesbians and same-sex marriage. You are equally entitled, on the basis of that speech and my political efforts, to decide not to support me or a films based on my work. That is also entirely fair.

(Mind you, I don’t suspect on this particular topic, any boycotts of Card or me would overlap.)

In a larger sense, look: Art originates from people. People have opinions and thoughts and actions, many of which are largely unrelated to their art. In learning about those largely unrelated opinions, thoughts and actions, you may find some of them, some the people they are coming out of, offensive, obnoxious, insulting or even dangerous. They may eventually keep you from being able to enjoy the art these people produce.

When and if that happens, that’s fine. If it doesn’t happen — if you can totally divorce the art from the human who created it — that’s fine, too. Everyone has their own dividing line for this, contingent on factors that are unique to them, and unique to the creator in question. Mind you, I personally think it’s good to give some serious reflection as to why some particular creator has crossed that line for you, on the grounds that it’s always good to know why you think or do anything. But at the end of the day, when you get to the point where you think, I’m done with this jerk, then that’s it, you’re done.

Personally speaking, I have a pretty high tolerance for artists and creators being obnoxious/offensive/flawed/assholes/otherwise seriously imperfect. This is partly because I believe art is a highly composed, refined, edited and intentional end result of a process that takes place in a mind which can be almost anything. The only thing creators fundamentally have in common is the ability to create, and to shape their creations to speak to others.

This is why, for example, bigots and cretins through the ages could create works of art that exhibit gorgeous empathy for the other, despite their personal issues: They have time to perfect their creations, and have an understanding of what an audience will respond to emotionally. You could argue that art is the better self of every creator, but I don’t know if that’s accurate. Art isn’t what the creator could be, any more than a 100 mile an hour fastball is what an athlete could be. Art is what we can do. That fact shapes the life of the creator, to be sure, just like that fastball shapes the life of that athlete. But there’s a whole lot of other influences that shape the creator’s life, too. Not all of those get into the art, because they’re not directly relevant to what the art is. They do show up in the person who makes the art.

So, yeah, I can put up with a lot when it comes to creators. It’s not usually  the art’s fault the brain it came out of is directly connected to an asshole.

However, I am also aware this is a luxury I can afford, for my own reasons. Other people can put up with less, for reasons of their own. I may think these are valid reasons, or not, but these people don’t need my approval to think what they want and act on what they think, and anyway I could be wrong, so there.

There are lots of creators I don’t support because I just don’t like their work. This should not be a surprise. There are a (very) few creators I choose not to support for personal reasons that are unrelated to the quality of their output. No, I won’t tell you who they are. The reasons are personal and therefore not relevant to anyone else. I don’t tend to think of these choices as anything formal as a boycott. I just don’t do business with these people anymore. I don’t generally do it for any larger goal, like social change or to hurt the creator economically. I do it because my own personal sense of morality tells me not to have anything to do with them. Other people in other circumstances feel the need to be more public about their actions, and have a goal beyond their own personal disengagement. Again: It’s their right to do it, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t.

I should note that questions of boycotts are not an entirely theoretical exercise for me. I am on at least one boycott list that I know of, albeit one that I think has been spectacularly ineffective; every once in a while I’ll see my name pop up on a list of authors that someone thinks should be boycotted or otherwise economically punished for opining in public in a manner unrelated to science fiction books. Recently these people are dudes who think I am a traitor to straight white males everywhere.

My opinion about these boycotts, proposed or otherwise, tends to be, one, fuck you, I’m going to say what I want, and two, if the end result of speaking my mind is that someone decides to boycott me, then fine, they should boycott me and tell whoever they like to boycott me, too. I think a lot of other creators in a similar position are perfectly fine with the “fuck you, I’ll say what I want” part, but get confused or truculent about the “if that means you’re going to boycott me, that’s fine” part, and this is where the problem lies.

But if you want the first, you should be a grown-up and accept that the second part is also part of the package deal. As I’ve noted before, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence. Suggesting or demanding that you should have freedom from consequence from what you say, or (related to this) that tolerance of your freedom to speak equates to bland murmuring politeness from those who oppose your speech, indicates that ultimately you don’t understand how freedom of speech works.

So, to recap: Boycotts a perfectly valid exercise of political speech, participate in one if you think it’s necessary. I don’t tend to boycott creators but don’t mind if you do, even if that creator happens to be me. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequence and everyone should remember that, especially folks who’ve spent a while pissing off a bunch of folks.

I think that covers it.

17 Jul 16:04

Five Good Ideas I’ve seen for Public Libraries (Others too!)

by Stephen Abram

I’ve seen a bunch of good ideas lately so I thought I’d share them here:

Idea #1: Timelapse Video

My new office is in the Toronto Public Library’s North Yoprk Central branch.  I am amazed every morning that I arrive before opening.  There are often over a hundred of people waiting outside the door patiently waiting for the library  to open.  The crowd is polite and represents the entire mosaic of the community – every age, ethnicity, strollers, babes in arms, students with laptop bags . . . just everyone!

For starters I think that heading up the balcony on a few mornings and taking a picture of this crowd of library users would be a great visual.  But this could be so much more…

I once attended a staff day for a public library and the director had a video.  He had filmed the entire day-in-the-life of one of his library’s branches.  It was titled “No One Comes to Library Anymore”!  I don’t know the process, but it looked like a stop motion, fast-forward digital video of everyone walking into the library from the moment the doors were opened to scooting out the last patron and locking the dorrs at night. 

It was amazing.  It showed the ebb and flow of library use from the first of the day through the mobs of schoolkids after school, seniors in the afternoon,  Moms and Tots and strollers around storytime, people returning and borrowing books, and the occasional businessperson, homeless dude, and more.  It was a complete representation of the community the library served in person.  

He had used this video as part of his presentation to his municipal council and used it at the staff day meeting.  It really deserved wider, viral distribution!  It was very motivational and advocated for libraries through the user visits rather than just data and gate count raw statistics.   Seeing the people in your community using the library puts the lie to the title of the video.  It was awesome.

Idea #2: Security Guard Training

I often walk into public libraries all over North America.  I’ve seen every manner of security guard – friendly, sullen, texting non-stop, armed, etc.  I’ve discussed this a number of directors who often note that these guards are managed through an outsourced contract and bemoaned the lack of control they felt they had over the behaviour and performance.

The good idea?  Well one director was making it a priority when the contract was renewed – or was trying to re-open it – to set performance standards for this work.   She didn’t want the airport or prison security tone of the foreboding nature of some guards. She also didn’t want to have extreme turnover in the guards who were assigned to her branches.  She wanted them to get to know the patron profiles and be friendly and welcoming.   She wanted them to deflect security issues and be there for that primary purpose but also to make the library entry a welcoming place.  To that end she was reviewing other models – Walmart greeters (which are also security), Hotel doormen, TSA security staff, etc. and what training and performance requirements were for them.  Then the contract could be modeled for meeting the needs of the client . . . the library.  If the performance standards were articulate about opening doors for seniors, the disabled and strollers (not ignoring issues in front of the desk);  if they were encouraged to smile, greet users, hand out flyers about events; if they were trained well to serve as directional assistance and got to know the library they were working in well,  . . . in general be welcoming and more useful for the investment in their pay and time spent in the critical front door of the library.  Also, if possible, reducing the foreboding uniforms with an ‘ask me’ button, or less militaristic flare, was on the agenda.   

Seem to be worth the effort and this would go a long way to defusing issue before they start, while still maintaining the presence of security in the library.  This might not work in every context but it’s worth thinking about.

Idea #3: Displays

I see lots of book displays.  They are nicely curated but often sooooo dull.  Just piles of books that often neglect to even have a simple sign to alert people to the theme of the display.  There are plenty of books and guides out there on building better displays in libraries and taking some learning from retail or museum models.  Buy a few!  It would be an investment in higher circulation and better looking library displays.  I’ve seen displays that seem to think that book stands are enough and don’t add in physical objects that attract attention to the theme of the display.  And here’s the kicker . . . I rarely see a sign encouraging cardholders to borrow a book from the display!  Why not?  Most people might assume that they’re not supposed to touch the display.  There used to be a library that would NOT allow patrons to borrow the new books . . . incredible!  So, take a look at your book displays with fresh eyes, ask the patrons walking by if they see the theme, think they could borrow one of these books, etc.  This is as core to our business as displays are to retailers and museums.  Let’s learn from others. 

Idea #4: Shelving Children’s Books:

I’ve seen toddler board books shelved by author last name.  Yes, really.  Really?!  What kids ask for board books by author?  So one library I visited came in on a day the library was closed and dumped organized them into piles that matched the way the kids asked for board books.  Piles of books were collected on vehicles, alphabets, animals, etc.  Each pile was placed in bins on the lower shelves (this library originally had a more traditional librarian who shelved the board books on the higher shelves. unh huh)  for kids to rummage through based on their expressed interests with a picture on the bin that said the theme of the bin.  Then as an added bonus the section had toys that alerted all kids to the themes in the sections.  For the older kids, picture books were organized by them and the toy was atop the section.  Dinosaur books had a big dinosaur over them.  The same for the truck, princess, space, and other themes.  It seemed the perfect organization and display for the early reading – pre-Dewey OPAC – readers.

I know this isn’t by any means a new idea.  I’m just surprised that I still see kids book displays and shelves so patently misaligned with the reader seeking behaviours.

Idea #5: Customer Service Models

I’ve talked to a few directors about the difficult problem of building a culture of customer service that’s friendly and professional.  The range of customer service in libraries can span the gamut from good to bad.  I’ve seen it all and it’s a wonderful thing when it’s working great.  One model I notice for front desk staff is to encourage management staff to sit in a Starbucks (or at the least the 4-5 I visit every week to deal with my venti latter addiction).  I am amazed at the patter my Starbucks staff use to make me feel welcome.  Since I use a Starbucks cards they know my first name and use it.  Over time I get to know there’s from their semi-personalized nametags.  What is Starbucks doing right in their hiring and training and performance management practices that generates the happy feel to the Starbucks I visit in Toronto?  How do they sustain it over many branches and cities?

Anyway, there are some good training models for customer service that libraries could learn from.  Some of these companies offer training on how they implement their customer experience models and we could take some of their best practices and model them too.  They know that the user/guest/customer experience is critical to their successes.  Our cardholders and members deserve nothing less.

So here’s a fewI’ve seen that are worth considering:

  • Disney
  • Marriott
  • Ritz Carlton
  • Starbucks
  • Nordstrom

Each of them have a few things in common – a management angel/champion, customer service excellence embedded in their DNA, and empowering employees to make decisions based on the customer’s needs.

Anyway, there’s a few ideas I’ve seen that seem more somewhat more easily implemented than having a big strategic planing meeting.  It’s a thing that can be piloted in one branch as a trial and learn by doing.

There have been conference programs on these ideas in thepast but they still seem pretty good and might be worth pursuing as part of your tactical plan to support your library’s strategies.  Anyway, there just some things I’ve seen that address some of the stuff I’ve noticed in some libraries.



10 Jul 12:01

3D printed open DLSR

by Cory Doctorow

Bozardeux, a recent French graduate and Instructables user, has undertaken a project to make an open, 3D printed DSLR camera. All the parts and designs are licensed CC Attibution-ShareAlike.

The OpenReflex is an Open-Source analog camera with a mirror Viewfinder and an awesome finger activated mechanic shutter (running ~ 1/60°s). What's more, it's compatible with any photographic lens with custom mount ring.

All the pieces easily printable on an recent RepRap-like ABS 3D-printer without using support material ! Everything should print in less than 15h and anyone should be able to assemble it within 1h.

All parts are separate ( Film receiver, Shutter and Viewfinder ) to simplify builds and modifications. The source files are available under the CreativeCommon By-Sa license, fell free to modify them if you want a new feature, and don't forget to share your improvements on the web ;)

3D Printed Camera : OpenReflex by Bozardeux (Thanks, Gregory)

10 Jul 11:53

BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

BBC Radio 4 - Book at Bedtime, The Ocean at the End of the Lane:
By Neil Gaiman. Story about memory and the enchantment of childhood

For the curious. An abridged version of the novel, read by Michael Sheen. One 15 minute episode a night. You can listen to it here…

10 Jul 11:52

omgitsbrilliant: livindavidaloki: redhjedi: The Hulk ain’t...




The Hulk ain’t never lied.

I can’t even express how much respect I have for Mark Ruffalo.  The dude’s on the US terrorism watchlist for fuck’s sake.

Omg, it’s true

As if I could love Mark Ruffalo any harder.

03 Jul 15:20

Take This Project Mission Statement


“It’s dangerous to go alone.”

An acknowledgement that the world can be a difficult place for anyone.

“Take this.”

An offer of help.

Mental health is a hard thing to talk about. Depression and anxiety can be overwhelming, but so easily dismissed as “just feeling sad” or “needing to relax.” It’s far too easy to simply not talk about these problems; they sap your motivation and self-worth, making you feel like nobody cares about your suffering. And so we suffer alone, quietly. 

We understand the complex reality of these problems. The immense relief on a day when you feel great, the sinking feeling when you sense the trap door start to open underneath you, and the simple exhaustion of living when you’re at your worst. 

It’s dangerous to go alone.

“Take This” is meant as a helping hand. We’re here for empathy and support. We share our stories and our time in the hope that anyone who is living with a mental health issue doesn’t have to go through it by themselves.

We’ve been there. We’ve had loved ones who have been there. And we want to help. We want to talk. We want to hear from you. We want you to live the life you deserve. 

Take this.

03 Jul 15:15

Female Power in The Ocean at the End of the Lane



The Ocean at the End of the Lane is the femalest book from a male author I have read in a long time. The unnamed protagonist is stuck in the middle of a conflict between insanely powerful supernatural women: the evil Ursula Monkton / flea, and the good Hempstocks. Our hero is vulnerable and quite passive, although this is not surprising, as he’s only seven. The other characters are much less relevant – and the only two male characters are his father, whose plot-relevant actions are all controlled by the supernatural women, and the opal miner, whose failure and death is the catalysis for the plot. (Note – no named male characters.) Even the media the protagonist uses for escapism are heavily coded female. He reads his mother’s book collection, all of them with female protagonists named in the title, all of them doubtless intended for girls. In his darkest hour, when he is crouching in the fairy circle, he keeps despair at bay by quoting from two texts: Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland and Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe. Both texts have male writers and female protagonists.


Women are clearly more relevant than men to the plot, and to the protagonist’s world. The Hempstocks continuously save him, comfort him, save him, help him. This story could turn into the standard narrative of “women support man, man does heroic thing.” I expected it to. I thought the hero will somehow end up saving the day, or Lettie’s life, and having become a man, will gain the respect of old Mrs Hempstock. But he doesn’t. It’s not for lack of trying – he is brave and good, and willing to sacrifice himself for the world – but he simply can’t do the manly heroic thing in this narrative. Women are waging war around him on levels he cannot compete with, or even comprehend. These women will continue to save and nurture him, but not because he is a hero who is deserving of it, but out of pity and kindness. When a woman is kind to a man, that doesn’t mean he is good – it just means she is.


The Hempstock family closely mirrors the maiden-mother-crone trinity. I always found that categorisation inherently sexist, because it defines women by their reproductive and sexual capacities.  (The maiden is before procreation, and additionally at the height of her sexual attractiveness. The mother is at the height of her reproductive capacities. The crone has lost both sexual attractiveness and reproductive capacities, in exchange she is wise.) But Gaiman’s women are different. They don’t need men, and if they keep men are around, that is irrelevant who they themselves are. The maiden here is prepubescent, and not attractive – merely neat in her red raincoat. The mother isn’t anyone’s wife, and her motherliness rests in her strength and comfort, not her actual reproductive abilities. And the crone isn’t merely wise, she is as close to being God as it is possible to be without outright stating it.


These three powerful women are described with love and awe, and incidentally, in an utterly asexual manner. They are clearly idealised versions of woman, or considering their different life stages, one Idea of Woman. And this Ideal Woman is strong , self-sufficient, and whether or not the writer or the reader wants to fuck her is irrelevant. Even when abandoning a seven-year-old’s innocent point-of-view, when the narrator expresses an awareness that Young Mrs Hempstock is attractive, it is done in an off-hand, cursory manner.


In this book, Neil Gaiman shows us that he loves women. This does not mean he never made a sexist statement, or he never will. It just means that he wrote a novel in which women are powerful and, for the most part, good. I am not one to clumsily grasp for autobiographical detail, even if it was Gaiman’s decision to leave the narrator nameless and include a childhood photo of himself. The truth is in the novel: the artist is doing his best, despite the hole in his heart, but time and time again, he needs the help of Woman, not to accomplish his grand purpose, just to stay alive.

I’ll take that (and I have no doubts that you could find sexism in my life, my work or the world, but I do my best).

I didn’t think anyone would notice that both Iolanthe and Alice (and the imaginary books) all had women’s names as titles, and am impressed that someone noticed.

03 Jul 13:53

you are not alone in this fight

by (Wil Wheaton)


So last night, I had nothing but nightmares from the instant I fell asleep. I woke up five or six times that I remember, each time unable to remember the dream but clearly able to remember the terror and dread.

I have been so unsettled and upset since I woke up, and I can’t even remember the clear details of the dreams so I can at least try to process them and get on with my life. I’ve had a ton of generalized anxiety all day, so I went to NAMI to do some research and see if there’s something I can do to help myself. It looks like it’s just my brain being a dick (exhaustion from travel, jet lag, and missing my regular medication time because of all the timezones I’ve been in recently will contribute to that) and it’ll get steadily better as the day goes on.

And yet, I feel like this right now:

  • Me: Who’s there?
  • ?: ANXIETY.
  • Me: Anxiety who?

Gallows humor, y’all.

It’s especially frustrating to know that it’s just a thing I kind of need to wait out (everyone’s anxiety is different, but this is how my particular version of it works), but it’s also incredibly reassuring to know that I just have to wait it out while my brain gets back into normal balance … and now I have a (mostly) guilt-free excuse to watch The Avengers when I should be doing other things. The thing is, I wouldn’t know that it’s going to get better if I hadn’t spent lots of time talking with my doctor and other humans who suffer from depression and anxiety. I wouldn’t know how or why it happens to me without warning if I hadn’t gotten professional help, and I wouldn’t know how to handle it and make sure that I don’t let it completely take over my life.

So because I was visiting NAMI this morning, I wrote about it on my Tumblr. I’m reprinting what I wrote there because it’s important to me that as many people as possible see this: You are not alone in the fight against mental illness.

NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) is an organization that I am proud to support. NAMI helps people with mental illness get the treatment they need so they can get their lives back.

One of their major campaigns is to remind people YOU ARE NOT ALONE in the fight against mental illnesses like Depression. The link above goes to a webpage full of stories (likely trigger warnings, gang) from people who have battled Depression and are currently winning the fight.

Please know this: if you have Depression, you do not have to sufferThere is help available, including talking therapy and safe, effective medications to help balance the chemicals in your brain so you can feel normal again. To borrow a phrase from my friend Jenny Lawson: Since I got treatment for my particular flavour of mental illness, I may have Depression, but Depression doesn’t have me.

Here’s my blog on my personal battle with Depression, if you’d like to get a firsthand account of my experience with mental illness.

Please, if you’re suffering, know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE and you don’t have to suffer. You can get help. Please do.

02 Jul 17:03

Voyager 1 Discovers Bizarre and Baffling Region at Edge of Solar System

by Adam Mann
Not content with simply being the man-made object to travel farthest from Earth, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft recently entered a bizarre new region at the solar system's edge that has physicists baffled.

02 Jul 15:41

Scientific Studies Explain the Best Ways to Talk to Children

by Katharine Trendacosta

Scientific Studies Explain the Best Ways to Talk to Children

For most adults, talking to kids can be daunting. And not just in the "watch what you say" way but in the "they won't say anything to me" way. Luckily, science has stepped in to find the best methods for getting actual responses from kids.



28 Jun 20:27

Reporting Harassment at a Convention: A First-Person How To

by John Scalzi

My friend Elise Matthesen was creeped upon at a recent convention by someone of some influence in the genre; she decided that she was going to do something about it and reported the person for sexual harassment, both to the convention and to the person’s employer. And now she’s telling you how she did it and what the process is like. Here’s her story.


We’re geeks. We learn things and share, right? Well, this year at WisCon I learned firsthand how to report sexual harassment. In case you ever need or want to know, here’s what I learned and how it went.

Two editors I knew were throwing a book release party on Friday night at the convention. I was there, standing around with a drink talking about Babylon 5, the work of China Mieville, and Marxist theories of labor (like you do) when an editor from a different house joined the conversation briefly and decided to do the thing that I reported. A minute or two after he left, one of the hosts came over to check on me. I was lucky: my host was alert and aware. On hearing what had happened, he gave me the name of a mandated reporter at the company the harasser was representing at the convention.

The mandated reporter was respectful and professional. Even though I knew them, reporting this stuff is scary, especially about someone who’s been with a company for a long time, so I was really glad to be listened to. Since the incident happened during Memorial Day weekend, I was told Human Resources would follow up with me on Tuesday.

There was most of a convention between then and Tuesday, and I didn’t like the thought of more of this nonsense (there’s a polite word for it!) happening, so I went and found a convention Safety staffer. He asked me right away whether I was okay and whether I wanted someone with me while we talked or would rather speak privately. A friend was nearby, a previous Guest of Honor at the convention, and I asked her to stay for the conversation. The Safety person asked whether I’d like to make a formal report. I told him, “I’d just like to tell you what happened informally, I guess, while I figure out what I want to do.”

It may seem odd to hesitate to make a formal report to a convention when one has just called somebody’s employer and begun the process of formally reporting there, but that’s how it was. I think I was a little bit in shock. (I kept shaking my head and thinking, “Dude, seriously??”) So the Safety person closed his notebook and listened attentively. Partway through my account, I said, “Okay, open your notebook, because yeah, this should be official.” Thus began the formal report to the convention. We listed what had happened, when and where, the names of other people who were there when it happened, and so forth. The Safety person told me he would be taking the report up to the next level, checked again to see whether I was okay, and then went.

I had been nervous about doing it, even though the Safety person and the friend sitting with us were people I have known for years. Sitting there, I tried to imagine how nervous I would have been if I were twenty-some years old and at my first convention. What if I were just starting out and had been hoping to show a manuscript to that editor? Would I have thought this kind of behavior was business as usual? What if I were afraid that person would blacklist me if I didn’t make nice and go along with it? If I had been less experienced, less surrounded by people I could call on for strength and encouragement, would I have been able to report it at all?

Well, I actually know the answer to that one: I wouldn’t have. I know this because I did not report it when it happened to me in my twenties. I didn’t report it when it happened to me in my forties either. There are lots of reasons people might not report things, and I’m not going to tell someone they’re wrong for choosing not to report. What I intend to do by writing this is to give some kind of road map to someone who is considering reporting. We’re geeks, right? Learning something and sharing is what we do.

So I reported it to the convention. Somewhere in there they asked, “Shall we use your name?” I thought for a millisecond and said, “Oh, hell yes.”

This is an important thing. A formal report has a name attached. More about this later.

The Safety team kept checking in with me. The coordinators of the convention were promptly involved. Someone told me that since it was the first report, the editor would not be asked to leave the convention. I was surprised it was the first report, but hey, if it was and if that’s the process, follow the process. They told me they had instructed him to keep away from me for the rest of the convention. I thanked them.

Starting on Tuesday, the HR department of his company got in touch with me. They too were respectful and took the incident very seriously. Again I described what, where and when, and who had been present for the incident and aftermath. They asked me if I was making a formal report and wanted my name used. Again I said, “Hell, yes.”

Both HR and Legal were in touch with me over the following weeks. HR called and emailed enough times that my husband started calling them “your good friends at HR.” They also followed through on checking with the other people, and did so with a promptness that was good to see.

Although their behavior was professional and respectful, I was stunned when I found out that mine was the first formal report filed there as well. From various discussions in person and online, I knew for certain that I was not the only one to have reported inappropriate behavior by this person to his employer. It turned out that the previous reports had been made confidentially and not through HR and Legal. Therefore my report was the first one, because it was the first one that had ever been formally recorded.

Corporations (and conventions with formal procedures) live and die by the written word. “Records, or it didn’t happen” is how it works, at least as far as doing anything official about it. So here I was, and here we all were, with a situation where this had definitely happened before, but which we had to treat as if it were the first time — because for formal purposes, it was.

I asked whether people who had originally made confidential reports could go ahead and file formal ones now. There was a bit of confusion around an erroneous answer by someone in another department, but then the person at Legal clearly said that “the past is past” is not an accurate summation of company policy, and that she (and all the other people listed in the company’s publically-available code of conduct) would definitely accept formal reports regardless of whether the behavior took place last week or last year.

If you choose to report, I hope this writing is useful to you. If you’re new to the genre, please be assured that sexual harassment is NOT acceptable business-as-usual. I have had numerous editors tell me that reporting harassment will NOT get you blacklisted, that they WANT the bad apples reported and dealt with, and that this is very important to them, because this kind of thing is bad for everyone and is not okay. The thing is, though, that I’m fifty-two years old, familiar with the field and the world of conventions, moderately well known to many professionals in the field, and relatively well-liked. I’ve got a lot of social credit. And yet even I was nervous and a little in shock when faced with deciding whether or not to report what happened. Even I was thinking, “Oh, God, do I have to? What if this gets really ugly?”

But every time I got that scared feeling in my guts and the sensation of having a target between my shoulder blades, I thought, “How much worse would this be if I were inexperienced, if I were new to the field, if I were a lot younger?” A thousand times worse. So I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders and said, “Hell, yes, use my name.” And while it’s scary to write this now, and while various people are worried that parts of the Internet may fall on my head, I’m going to share the knowledge — because I’m a geek, and that’s what we do.

So if you need to report this stuff, the following things may make it easier to do so. Not easy, because I don’t think it’s gotten anywhere near easy, but they’ll probably help.

NOTES: As soon as you can, make notes on the following:

- what happened

- when it happened and where

- who else was present (if anyone)

- any other possibly useful information

And take notes as you go through the process of reporting: write down who you talk with in the organization to which you are reporting, and when.

ALLIES: Line up your support team. When you report an incident of sexual harassment to a convention, it is fine to take a friend with you. A friend can keep you company while you make a report to a company by phone or in email. Some allies can help by hanging out with you at convention programming or parties or events, ready to be a buffer in case of unfortunate events — or by just reminding you to eat, if you’re too stressed to remember. If you’re in shock, please try to tell your allies this, and ask for help if you can.

NAVIGATION: If there are procedures in place, what are they? Where do you start to make a report and how? (Finding out might be a job to outsource to allies.) Some companies have current codes of conduct posted on line with contact information for people to report harassment to. Jim Hines posted a list of contacts at various companies a while ago. Conventions should have a safety team listed in the program book. Know the difference between formal reports and informal reports. Ask what happens next with your report, and whether there will be a formal record of it, or whether it will result in a supervisor telling the person “Don’t do that,” but will be confidential and will not be counted formally.

REPORTING FORMALLY: This is a particularly important point. Serial harassers can get any number of little talking-to’s and still have a clear record, which means HR and Legal can’t make any disciplinary action stick when formal reports do finally get made. This is the sort of thing that can get companies really bad reputations, and the ongoing behavior hurts everybody in the field. It is particularly poisonous if the inappropriate behavior is consistently directed toward people over whom the harasser has some kind of real or perceived power: an aspiring writer may hesitate to report an editor, for instance, due to fear of economic harm or reprisal.

STAY SAFE: You get to choose what to do, because you’re the only one who knows your situation and what risks you will and won’t take. If not reporting is what you need to do, that’s what you get to do, and if anybody gives you trouble about making that choice to stay safe, you can sic me on them. Me, I’ve had a bunch of conversations with my husband, and I’ve had a bunch of conversations with other people, and I hate the fact that I’m scared that there might be legal wrangling (from the person I’d name, not the convention or his employer) if I name names. But after all those conversations, I’m not going to. Instead, I’m writing the most important part, about how to report this, and make it work, which is so much bigger than one person’s distasteful experience.

During the incident, the person I reported said, “Gosh, you’re lovely when you’re angry.” You know what? I’ve been getting prettier and prettier.

28 Jun 13:28

The Snowden Principle

by John Cusack

At the heart of Edward Snowden's decision to expose the NSA's massive phone and Internet spying programs was a fundamental belief in the people's right-to-know. "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them," he said in an interview with the Guardian.

From the State's point of view, he's committed a crime. From his point of view, and the view of many others, he has sacrificed for the greater good because he knows people have the right to know what the government is doing in their name. And legal, or not, he saw what the government was doing as a crime against the people and our rights.

For the sake of argument, this should be called The Snowden Principle.

When The Snowden Principle is invoked and revelations of this magnitude are revealed; it is always met with predictable establishment blowback from the red and blue elites of state power. Those in charge are prone to hysteria and engage in character assassination, as are many in the establishment press that have been co-opted by government access . When The Snowden Principle is evoked the fix is always in and instead of looking at the wrongdoing exposed, they parrot the government position no matter what the facts

The Snowden Principle just cannot be tolerated...

Even mental illness is pondered as a possible reason that these pariahs would insist on the public's right to know at the highest personal costs to their lives and the destruction of their good names. The public's right to know---This is the treason. The utter corruption, the crime.

But as law professor Jonathan Turley reminds us, a lie told by everyone is not the truth. "The Republican and Democratic parties have achieved a bipartisan purpose in uniting against the public's need to know about massive surveillance programs and the need to redefine privacy in a more surveillance friendly image," he wrote recently.

We can watch as The Snowden Principle is predictably followed in the reaction from many of the fourth estate - who serve at the pleasure of the king.

Mika Brzezinski on MSNBC suggests that Glenn Greenwald's coverage was "misleading" and said he was too "close to the story." Snowden was no whistleblower, and Glenn was no journalist she suggests.

Jeffrey Toobin, at the New Yorker, calls Snowden "a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison."

Another journalist, Willard Foxton, asserted that Glenn Greenwald amounted to the leader of a "creepy cult."

David Brooks of the New York Times accuses Snowden- not the Gov--of betraying everything from the Constitution to all American privacy ...

Michael Grunwald of TIME seems to suggest that that if you are against the NSA spying program you want to make America less safe.

Then there's Richard Cohen at the Washington Post, who as Gawker points out, almost seems to be arguing that a journalist's job is to keep government secrets not actually report on them.

The Snowden Principle makes for some tortured logic.

The government's reaction has been even worse. Senators have called Snowden a "traitor," the authorities claim they're going to treat his case as espionage. Rep. Peter King outrageously called for the prosecution of Glenn Greenwald for exercising his basic First Amendment rights. Attacks like this are precisely the reason I joined the Freedom of the Press Foundation board (where Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras also serve as board members)

As Chris Hedges rightly pointed out, this cuts to the heart of one of the most important questions in a democracy: will we have an independent free press that reports on government crimes and serves the public's right to know?

It cannot be criminal to report a crime or an abuse of power. Freedom of the Press Foundation co-founder Daniel Ellsberg argues that Snowden's leaks could be a tipping point in America. This week he wrote "there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material," including his own leak of the Pentagon Papers.

The Snowden Principle, and that fire that inspired him to take unimaginable risks, is fundamentally about fostering an informed and engaged public. The Constitution embraces that idea. Mr. Snowden says his motivation was to expose crimes -spark a debate, and let the public know of secret policies he could not in good conscience ignore - whether you agree with his tactics or not, that debate has begun. Now, we are faced with a choice, we can embrace the debate or we can try to shut the debate down and maintain the status quo.

If these policies are just, then debate them in sunlight. If we believe the debate for transparency is worth having we need to demand it. Snowden said it well, "You can't wait around for someone else to act."

Within hours of the NSA's leaks, a massive coalition of groups came together to plan an international campaign to oppose and fix the NSA spying regime. You can join them here - I already did. The groups span across the political spectrum, from Dick Armey's FreedomWorks to the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and longtime civil rights groups like ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Press.

As more people find out about these abuses, the outrage mounts and the debate expands. Many in the mainstream media have shown that the public can't count on them to stand up to internal pressure when The Snowden Principle is evoked to serve the national interest, and protect our core fundamental rights.

The questions The Snowden Principle raises when evoked will not go away....How long do they expect rational people to accept using the word "terror" to justify and excuse ever expanding executive and state power ? Why are so many in our government and press and intellectual class so afraid of an informed public? Why are they so afraid of a Free Press and the people's right to know?

It's the government's obligation to keep us safe while protecting our constitution . To suggest it's one or the other is simply wrong.

Professor Turley issues us a dire warning:

"In his press conference, Obama repeated the siren call of all authoritarian figures throughout history: while these powers are great, our motives are benign. So there you have it. The government is promising to better protect you if you just surrender this last measure of privacy. Perhaps it is time. After all, it was Benjamin Franklin who warned that "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

See what's happened already in the short time only because the PRISM program was made public, here.

[This essay was originally published at the Huffington Post.]


26 Jun 12:59

Australian Army on institutional sexism: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept

by Cory Doctorow

Michael sez, "In response to a breaking scandal the head of the Australian Army gives a textbook example on how to respond to sexual abuse in the military, hell, misogyny in any organisation: blunt, unambiguous, drawing on both institutional policy and personal ethics, and frankly a bit terrifying in a Tywin Lassister kind of way. I quailed and I'm not even a soldier. I also think there should be more of this."

If you become aware of any individual degrading another, then show moral courage and take a stand against it. No one has ever explained to me how the exploitation or degradation of others enhances capability or honors the traditions of the Australian army. I will be ruthless in ridding the army of people who cannot live up to its values and I need every one of you to support me in achieving this.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. That goes for all of us, but especially those who by their rank have a leadership role.

Chief of Army message regarding unacceptable behaviour

(Transcript: Skepchick)

(Thanks, Michael!)


25 Jun 02:31

laughterkey: geekyjessica: So I’m just going to sit here...



So I’m just going to sit here crying about how wonderful this Peter Pan is.

If you’d like to follow:

Today, in being so wonderful at your job you inspire an entire Tumblr fandom.

14 Jun 12:07

Ice Sheets

Data adapted from 'The Laurentide and Innuitian ice sheets during the Last Glacial Maximum' by A.S. Dyke et. al., which was way better than the sequels 'The Laurentide and Innuitian ice sheets during the Last Glacial Maximum: The Meltdown' and 'The Laurentide and Innuitian ice sheets during the Last Glacial Maximum: Continental Drift'.
13 Jun 13:56

How stereotypes really do cloud your mind

by Esther Inglis-Arkell

How stereotypes really do cloud your mind

We think that getting more information about a situation helps us make more accurate predictions. There are times, though, when some well-chosen information can wreck our rationality. All we need is a good stereotype.



12 Jun 14:54

Digger Omnibus Kickstarter!

by Ursula

Ladies and Gentlemen, marsupials of all descriptions–WE HAVE LIFT-OFF!


We got goals. We got stretch goals. We got art. We got—are you ready? Commemorative hand-forged pickaxes.

(Also foam pickaxes.)


(And I am terrified. Utterly terrified. I have never done anything like this before.  Sofawolf is running the whole thing and I’m kinda freaked out and what if it doesn’t fund and it turns out people don’t really love me and what if it does and it way overfunds and that would be awesome except we have to commission eight hundred pickaxes and the guy making them quits in disgust and I have to learn blacksmithing to fill the orders and I set myself on fire and then I’ll be horribly burned and I’ll have to wear a Phantom of the Opera mask and we still won’t have the pickaxes and the beagle will bay hysterically when he sees me and small children will run away and my career as a children’s book author will be over as a result and OH MY GOD PEOPLE PLEASE GIVE US MONEY BUT NOT SO MUCH THAT I HAVE TO LEARN BLACKSMITHING BECAUSE I THINK THAT WILL END BADLY.)


So, uh, yeah. Check it out. I think it’s cool.

(I’m scared. Hold me, internet. But not in a creepy way.)

10 Jun 20:58

Depressed Cake Shop: a pop-up shop selling grey cakes to raise money for mental health charities

by Cory Doctorow

Miss Cakehead writes, "The Depressed Cake Shop will be like nothing ever seen before as it will sell ONLY grey coloured cakes. Raising money for mental health charities, it will also provide a platform for discussion of the illness. The pop up is based in the UK but with other events starting to be planned around the globe."

The Depressed Cake Shop


06 Jun 20:54

Actually, it's good for low-income kids if their mom works

by Maggie Koerth-Baker
At the PsySociety blog, Melanie Tannenbaum looks at the meta-analysis cited by Erik Erikson of as proof that low-income families fare worse when mom works outside the home — and finds that it says exactly the opposite. This post is notable not only for deconstructing a "common sense" belief, but also for doing a great job of explaining what a meta-analysis is and why it matters. Also provides a full daily serving of Fox News schadenfreude.

06 Jun 15:43

Reminder: Love Triangles Not Necessarily Feminist

by Shana Mlawski

Peeta-Katniss-Gale-ArticleimgSince Twilight and The Hunger Games, love triangles have been all the rage in young adult literature, and readers are sick of them. Except for the readers who love them, and the readers who don’t care either way. I’m saying there are strong feelings about love triangles in YA lit, except in readers who don’t have strong feelings on the matter.

This week writer S.E. Sinkhorn wrote a thought-provoking post contending that love triangles are empowering and those who roll their eyes at these stories are doing so for sexist reasons. Too often that second point is true. Certain readers say things like, “Ugh, Protagonist is such an annoying whore! Why doesn’t she just pick one already? Bitches be fickle.” Other readers hate not only love triangles but all love stories, because romance is unimportant girl stuff, as opposed to important boy stuff like football and punching.

So yeah, some readers have sexist points of view about literary romances and love triangles. But I also think it’s wishful thinking to suggest love triangles are inherently feminist or empowering. Just because a heroine gets to make a choice in a story, it doesn’t mean the story is pro-choice and therefore feminist.

You Must Choose!

I think the issue is that we expect all stories about a young female character to end with the heroine in a stable heterosexual monogamous relationship, and in many stories female leads have no choice in whom they end up with. They end up with the male lead, because that’s the way these things go. In comparison, a love triangle seems exceptionally feminist. Now the heroine has some power over the conclusion of her story. She can end up with Edward or Jacob, Peeta or Gale, Stefan or Damon. She is a sexually-empowered woman in control of her romantic destiny.

Doesn’t it follow, then, that she would be even more empowered if she had even more choices? How about instead of a love triangle we start writing harem stories? I’m referring to the anime subgenre of harem anime, in which a young everyguy somehow has three or more beautiful women wanting to become his girlfriend. The story ends when he finally chooses his girl: the hothead, the domestic, the shy one, the robotic one, the ditz, the “slut”…


Diversity in literature.

I always thought this genre was silly wish fulfillment, but maybe if we switched the genders it would somehow become empowering. Like how The Bachelorette is empowering. I know every time I watch The Bachelorette I feel more empowered. Equal pay? Control over my reproduction? Nah. Give me a choice of 20 pieces of man meat and I am good.

In all seriousness, there is a realistic way to give heroines choice when it comes to men: have them date several people over the course of their trilogies. That’s how things sometimes work in the real world. It’s not always, “Meet a guy; marry him” or “Meet two guys; marry one of them.” Sometimes it’s, “Meet a bunch of guys, date one, break up with him, have a friends-with-benefits situation with another guy, meet a third guy, have an open relationship with him, find out it doesn’t work for you, go on okcupid and date five more guys, and then maybe get married.” Maybe that’s not as romantic as finding your one true love on page 2 of your life story… or maybe it is.

Obvious problem with this solution: If you give the heroine five choices, there will be at least five different kinds of shippers in your audience, and if she ends the series with Guy A, the fans of Guys B, C, D, and E will freak out, which means they might not buy your next book. I have no solution to this problem, unfortunately.

There’s another kind of romantic choice a heroine can have: she can decide to own the fact that she doesn’t want a guy at all; she wants the girl. Consider Malinda Lo’s Ash, where her version of Cinderella (quite wonderfully) passes up any princes for a huntress. Or what about a heroine who exercises her choice by dumping both guys in the triangle and going home to masturbate? (Sorry, I’ve been watching too much Adventure Time.) Fans might revolt, but this does happen in real life sometimes. Just because two guys come after you, it doesn’t mean you want to date either of them. The love triangle model all but forces women in this situation to choose one of the two no matter what, which in my opinion is a terrible lesson to give to teenagers.

Nice Guy vs. Bad Boy

I’m sure I’d like the “choice between two guys = empowering” construction better if YA fiction had more variety in the kinds of guys the heroines get to choose between. Unfortunately many love triangles are paint-by-numbers, pitting a stereotypical bad boy against a stereotypical “nice guy.” That gives me pause. Any love story that seems like an example in a book for pick up artists might be problematic from a feminist perspective.

good-boy-vs-bad-boyConsider the Bad Boy of YA lit. He’s mysterious. He’s ripped. He’s humorless—no, strike that. Emotionless. He has few ties—no real friends, likely no family. He’s violent. He might have even been sent to kill our heroine. But once he’s met her in person, he knows she is meant for him. It is insta-love and nothing, no one, will get in its way.  And anything that does will be dealt with.

Yeah, to me, this guy sounds like an abuser. Oh, sure, he’s not hitting the heroine yet, but look at that list. Emotionally-stunted, violent, possessive. Oh, boy, do I ever want to date him!

Luckily we have another option: the Nice Guy. He has emotions. One emotion. He’s compassionate. To the heroine. He listens to her. He sacrifices himself for her, because she is the only thing that matters. Like the Bad Boy, he probably has no real friends. Nice Guy understands the heroine without her having to say anything. She doesn’t need to. He knows her. How does he know her? As I mentioned in this post, he’s probably stalked her once or twice, but he swears! It was only so he could protect her! He deserves the heroine because he idolizes her. And at least he’s not abusive like that other guy. Well, not until our heroine falls off her pedestal. But that won’t happen until after the book is over, so readers won’t have to see the fallout.

These are our choices. In this love triangle the heroine gets to choose between the guy who’s throwing up red flags for abuse and the other guy who’s throwing up different red flags for abuse.


I’m over-exaggerating, I admit, but I’m not far off from reality. This story isn’t fair to guys, either. If you’ve read my book and futzed around with my female character flowchart, you’ll notice I’m not a huge fan of treating entire genders as symbols. In my mind, it’s just as unfair to split the entire male gender into Nice Guy/Bad Boy (or idealism/cynicism) as it is to split all women into Madonna/Whore (which is another way of saying Nice Gal/Bad Girl).

So what is to be done?

My hope is that instead of deriding love triangles as annoying or praising love triangles as empowering, we continue criticizing books with problematic love stories and praising those that do romance right. There are many YA love interests out there with actual personalities who are neither abusers nor stalkers. They communicate. They are not emotionless assassins. They have flaws, but not scary flaws like “might murder you.” I’m talking about flaws like “sometimes awkward” or “sometimes too proud.” They have lives outside of the heroine. They love her, but not so much you’d fear they’d kill someone or themselves if they broke up. A few even have a sense of humor and friends, like humans do!

And let us praise the great female protagonists of YA who do take control over their love lives. That doesn’t only mean making one simple choice between two guys (one of whom is usually presented as the lesser option) but by looking at a whole range of people, as well as herself.

[What do you think about love triangles? Sound off below in the comments!]

Reminder: Love Triangles Not Necessarily Feminist originally appeared on Overthinking It, the site subjecting the popular culture to a level of scrutiny it probably doesn't deserve. [Latest Posts | Podcast (iTunes Link)]

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