Sunday, June 29, 2008

Closer Still

I have noticed that the barrier separating genuine human interaction with those concerning machines has been gradually eroding over the years. At one time, the concept of a thinking, talking machine that a human could truly interact with was a very distant and exotic thing. With the invention of the robotic baby harp seal Paro, humanity continues to build upon an ever more intimate dialogue with the machinery it manufactures. The Austin Public Library has some choice resources available that may inspire individuals interested in furthering this convergence.

NPR Report
CNN Report
The great robot race [videorecording]

Robotics : a reference guide to the new technology
Loving the machine : the art and science of Japanese robots
Robots : from science fiction to technological revolution
The singularity is near : when humans transcend biology
123 robotics experiments for the evil genius
God in the machine : what robots teach us about humanity and God
Digital people : from bionic humans to androids

Electronic Books:
Open-source robotics and process control cookbook [electronic resource] : designing and building robust, dependable real-time systems

Friday, June 27, 2008

Comedy at the Library

George Carlin, who died Sunday had just been selected for the 2008 Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The award has been given to eleven comedians who have made us look at American culture and human behavior with an unflinching eye. Both Carlin and Twain used humor to expose the hypocrisy of human behavior.

“Everyone driving slower than you is an idiot, everyone driving faster than you is a maniac”.
George Carlin, Wit and Humor Quotationary

“In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane.”
Mark Twain, Wit and Humor Quotationary

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lost translations

Two years ago, media specialist Rüdiger Wischenbart, participated in a panel discussion titled “The Non-English Patient” at the Frankfurt Book Fair. In this presentation, Mr. Wischenbart talked about book translations from English to other languages and vice versa, and the numbers were troubling: 55% to 60% of translations into other languages have English originals, but only 3% to 5% are translated into English.

Koïchiro Matsuura, a Japanese diplomat promoting cultural diversity, uses an example to illustrate what happens with the translation of materials: 70 percent of all books translated into Serbian have English originals. This is troubling because it is important to have a balance in the materials that are available to the public. It is great that American writers can be read in other languages, and people around the world can learn from and enjoy their works, but the American public has limited access to translations from other wonderful authors worldwide.

Organizations and authors around the world are making efforts to change this trend and help writers from other languages get their works known to English speakers. Each November we have an exhibit of translated works at Faulk Central Library, but if you don't want to wait that long, visit us today and check out some books by great authors such as:

Arundhati Roy (India)
Viktor Pelevin (Russia)
Naomi Hirahara (Japan)
Kenzaburo Oe (Japan)
Gao Xinjian (China)
Elfriede Jelinek (Austria)
Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt)
Oriana Fallaci (Italy)
Jamal Mahjoub (Sudan)
Reinaldo Arenas (Cuba)
Gioconda Belli (Nicaragua)
Octavio Paz (Mexico)

among others, enjoy your reading!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pull out the old LPs

They’re popular again. Who would have thought that the cherished vinyl LP would be in vogue again? I know many people who have thrown out all their LPs when they replaced them with CDs and songs purchased from sites like iTunes. They’re kicking themselves now. There are a lot of folks out there that never gave them up and are happy to know their glory has come back around. Many large labels, such as Universal Music Group, are reissuing classic and contemporary records, some in small batches, but reissuing them nonetheless. Bands such as R.E.M. insist on issuing new albums in vinyl format as well as CD. There’s a new book due out in July called Old Rare New, about the joy of collecting LPs, and includes interviews with DJs, record shop owners and musicians.

The smell of vinyl, the artwork on the album cover and liner notes, the act of dropping the needle on the record, these are all reasons why the vinyl fan never abandoned the record. Even the hunt in search for that obscure album is exciting for fans of the LP. There are thousands of shops and websites to start, or continue, your search for that album. The iPod is great and has done great things for the music industry, but nothing can replace the warmth and fullness of the music you get from a record.

The Austin Public Library has a great collection of LPs, available at the Carver, Terrazas, and Central branches. When you do a search in the catalog make sure you select “Vinyl Record” as the material format. Just today I found a couple of great records, Greatest Dance Hits and Salt ‘N Pepa’s Hot Cool Vicious album…can’t wait to get home and groove down.

Friday, June 20, 2008

4 out of 5 librarians agree...

How often have you found comfort in a statistic? Those lovely figures and charts that accompany an article or advertisement automatically add some credibility. After all, numbers don't lie, right? Unfortunately, statistics can easily be manipulated to show just part of the story. Darrell Huff's 1950s classic How to Lie with Statistics offers insight into this dastardly trickery to give you the edge. Biased samples, deceptive graphs, and scientifically insignificant results are just a few of the techniques Huff reveals in an affable, straightforward way. Given the original publication date, you may find the dated examples amusing. Nevertheless, the concepts are relevant and understanding them is essential to being an informed consumer.

APL has other related titles available for check out as well as a new Finding Statistics Research Guide, which provides reliable resources.

Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists

More Damned Lies and Statistics: How Numbers Confuse Public Issues

Chance, Luck, and Statistics

Statistics You Can't Trust: A Friendly Guide to Clear Thinking about Statistics in Everyday Life

The Data Game [Electronic Resource]: Controversies in Social Science Statistics

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Zines in the library!

What’s self-made, self-published, and shuns the traditional path of publishing? A zebra? Nope. Zines! And the Austin Public Library has begun a collection. Birthed from the punk aesthetic of the late 1970s, the zine quickly became a malleable format allowing individuals to create and spread ideas and art without having to participate in the traditional publishing world. While we librarians are typically fans of the publishing world, some criticism can justifiably be lodged its way, notably that of the publishing world as gatekeeper of what information finds its way into the world. The zine skirts that step. Self-created and self-distributed, the zine migrates through the world, copied and delivered by readers with the occasional help of the postal service. Whether it is a political manifesto or a personal rant, the zine’s author simply needs ideas, some creativity, and a copier.

The Austin Public Library’s zine collection is housed on the second floor of the Faulk Central Library. The zines are non-circulating items and are cataloged under the call number “zine.” Next time you are at the Faulk Central Library take a look. The creativity and diversity between each is incredible.

A quick tip of the hat to the Austin Public Library youth services division which offered a system-wide zine-making program last year.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Coming Around

Not too long ago libraries were undergoing a bit of an identity crisis. Many librarians were taking a look around and seeing how people were overwhelmingly drawn to large chain bookstores and not giving the local public library a second look. Library administrators set out to unravel the enigma of dwindling usage in favor of for profit venues. There was talk of how the local public library needed to conform to the model of the large chain bookstores by, among other things, serving coffee and pastries. Some changes were instituted. However, the characteristics distinguishing the local public library from a large, chain bookstore were never abandoned: highly specialized personal service, access to information and entertainment in a wide variety of formats, access to the internet, computers, and commonly used software, as well as classes to instruct interested individuals in their use. Ironically, it seems as though circumstances have come full circle. The launching of the new Borders’ concept store in Ann Arbor, MI recently revealed a startling number of similarities between what Borders is aiming to do and what the local public library already is doing, and has been doing for some time. Click on the link below to read a Library Journal editorial on this new development. Click on the other links to see how the Austin Public Library’s mission of exemplary public service continues to manifest itself.

Library Journal Editorial:

Ask a Librarian:

Computer Classes:

Youth Services:

Super Smash Bros Brawl Tournament @ APL Summer ’08:

Friday, June 13, 2008


What do Margaret Thatcher, Fidel Castro, Black Sabbath’s debut album, Lemony Snicket’s last book, Hurricane Charley, the Uruguayan Rugby team’s infamous crash in the Andes, the Olsen twins and Tupak Shakur all have in common? They all happened, were born or died on a Friday the 13th.

is the fear of Friday the 13th. English, French and Portuguese speaking countries consider this a day of bad luck. Millions of people suffer from this fear and avoid travel, making business transactions, or even leaving the house on this day. Traffic incidents increase on Friday the 13th. Are you afraid of Friday the 13th? This year, we only have one, but next year there are three, the most occurrence in any one year!

But why do millions of people fear this day? There is no explanation other than superstition. Events in the past may offer small explanation, such as the 13 disciples at the last supper, leading to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, which apparently happened on a Friday. The British H.M.S. Friday set sail on a Friday with Captain Friday at the helm, the ship was never seen again. Eve tempted Adam with the forbidden fruit on a Friday. A witches coven has 13. The Knights Templar catastrophe happened on a Friday the 13th. And of course, we know the story of the Apollo 13.

Be safe out there and don't fear the number, many bad things can happen on any day of the week. For instance, Mondays are my least favorite day.

13 : the story of the world's most popular superstition
by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer

The Encyclopedia of Superstitions
by Richard Webster

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ready for some satire?

The word “dictionary” generally brings to mind the idea of looking for an academic definition of a word or concept; however, this is not always the case. One famous dictionary, in particular, seeks not to define words per se, but to make us think about life in a very comic way: The Devil’s Dictionary.

The Devil’s Dictionary is the work of Ambrose Bierce, a journalist who, after running out of ideas, started writing comical or cynical definitions based on the entries of the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. He kept publishing these definitions as part of his columns in newspapers and magazines until he decided to compile them all in one book originally titled “Cynic's Word Book.” Throughout the years, Bierce added more and more definitions to this book and republished it in 1911 with the title “Devil’s Dictionary.”

But, let’s stop talking about this interesting book and let’s take a look at some of Bierce’s definitions that amazingly still feel very current:

Economy: purchasing the barrel of whisky that you do not need for the price of the cow that you cannot afford.

Friendship: a ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul.

Future: that period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.

Gymnast: a man who puts his brains into his muscles.

Patience: A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.

Tail: the part of an animal’s spine that has transcended its natural limitations to set up an independent existence in a world of its own.

Austin Public Library owns different editions of this dictionary and other works by Bierce that you can check out at any time:

Devil’s Dictionary. 1st Us edition

Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary

The Devil's advocate : an Ambrose Bierce reader

The collected writings of Ambrose Bierce

A sole survivor: bits of autobiography

You can also enjoy this book on line by clicking here

For more information on this interesting writer, you can visit the Ambrose Bierce Project.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Using Your Databases

Many of the databases that Austin Public Library subscribes to offer information found nowhere on the Web, and most can be accessed from any computer with Internet access.

To search the databases, click on the yellow E-books Articles and Databases rectangle under the branch photo on the Library's homepage, or click Databases on the Findit toolbar.
For an alphabetical list of the databases, click on the link in the yellow sidebar that says A-Z list of databases. Or use the subject listings on the right of the page to select a database.

When you click on the name of a database, you’ll be given a screen that asks you to type in your APL library card number. Once you do, you’ll be taken to the database you chose.

Most Popular Databases
Austin American-Statesman – Articles back to 1996.
eLibrary Curriculum Edition – Perfect for K-12 students.
Factiva - More than 14,000 sources from 159 countries in 22 languages.
MasterFILE Premier – More than 1,900 full-text magazines, incuding Consumer Reports
ReferenceUSA – Search for US businesses by type and geographic area.

June’s Featured Database
Oxford Reference Online offers over 130 language and subject dictionaries.

Friday, June 06, 2008

In search of Lost clues

The season finale of Lost left fans desperate to fill the void before the next season begins. Take this time to follow up on all those infuriating clues! It is well known that many of the characters on the show are named after philosophers and scientists. Use APL's Oxford Reference Online database to do some quick research or click the names below to see a list of related titles in our catalog (links to the characters are in parentheses). Leave us a comment if you find anything interesting!

John Locke (John Locke) – English philosopher, a founder of empiricism and political liberalism.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Danielle Rousseau) – French philosopher, writer, and political theorist, inspired the leaders of the French Revolution and the Romantic generation.

Mikhail Bakunin (Mikhail Bakunin) – chief propagator of 19th-century anarchism, a prominent Russian revolutionary agitator, and a prolific political writer.

Anthony Ashley Cooper (Anthony Cooper) – British moral philosopher and aesthetician. Instructed by his guardian John Locke in the classical languages.

Edmund Burke (Juliet Burke) – British man of letters and Whig politician. Burke wrote on the issues of political emancipation and moderation, notably with respect to Roman Catholics and the American colonies.

David Hume (Desmond Hume) – Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian. He rejected the possibility of certainty in knowledge and claimed that all the data of reason stem from experience.

Michael Faraday (Daniel Faraday) – English physicist and chemist whose many experiments contributed greatly to the understanding of electromagnetism.

Jeremy Bentham (Jeremy Bentham – spoiler alert!) – English philosopher and jurist, the first major proponent of utilitarianism.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Summer is here

While still officially a couple of weeks away, the soaring temperature says otherwise: summer is here. Whether you prefer to retreat to the air conditioned confines or play outside, the Austin Public Library has a plethora of resources to make your summer a blast.

The following books are great introductions and guides to the variety of natural resources and activities throughout Austin.

Splash across Texas!: The Definitive Guide to Swimming in Central Texas

Barton Springs Eternal: the Soul of a City

60 hikes within 60 miles, San Antonio & Austin, Including the Hill Country

Mountain Biking Texas

If shelter and air conditioning is more your style, take a gander at some of the reader’s advisory services available through the Austin Public Library.

Good Reads
Recommended book lists compiled by APL librarians and others.

Adult Summer Reading Program
Compile a list of your summer reads and potentially win prizes.

APL Book Clubs
A wide array of selections at book clubs throughout the Austin Public Library.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Are You a Native?

On this day in 1924 the United States Congress passed a law granting citizenship to all American Indians. The irony is overwhelming. The Austin Public Library has a generous collection of items devoted to the most authentic of Americans. Below is a sampling of titles to pique your interest.


Making the white man's Indian : native Americans and Hollywood movies

Standing Bear is a person : the true story of a Native American's quest for justice

Losing a lost tribe : Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church

100 Native Americans who shaped American history

The Native Americans of the Texas Edwards Plateau, 1582-1799

Foreigners in their native land : historical roots of the Mexican Americans

Indians of the Southwest : traditions, history, legends, and life

Great speeches by Native Americans

Exterminate them : written accounts of the murder, rape, and slavery of Native Americans during the California gold rush, 1848-1868

Native Americans : an encyclopedia of history, culture, and peoples

Killing the white man's Indian : reinventing Native Americans at the end of the twentieth century

Red earth, white lies : Native Americans and the myth of scientific fact

If you poison us : uranium and Native Americans

The dancing healers : a doctor's journey of healing with native Americans

The Native Americans : ethnology and backgrounds of the North American Indians

In the hands of the Great Spirit : the 20,000-year history of American Indians

American Indians in World War I : at home and at war

Between two fires : American Indians in the Civil War

Video Recordings:

Native Americans [videorecording]

A History of Native Americans [videorecording]

The Native Americans [videorecording]

Black Indians [videorecording] : an American story

Indians of the Southwest [videorecording] : the legacy of the American Indians

Sound Recordings:

Sacred spirit II [sound recording] : more chants and dances of the native Americans

Music for the Native Americans [sound recording]

Music of the Native American Indians [sound recording] : Navajo, Cherokee--