Saturday, December 31, 2005

Banished Words List :: 2006

It's here! The 2006 Banished Words List! So pack up your holiday tree and hunker down with this 97% fat free breaking news from Lake Superior State University. They really know how to git-er-done.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A List Apart: Articles: Attack of the Zombie Copy

A List Apart takes on corporate zombie-speak in Attack of the Zombie Copy. As a former colleague of mine used to say, "If you try to maximize my e-commerce potential, I will hurt you."

The Best Free Software

Bob Rankin just posted a short guide to free software. If you haven't discovered the wonders of freeware, check it out. Among his recommendations are three programs I use regularly - OpenOffice (full-featured office suite,, IrfanView (fabulous photo editing/managing program,, and AVG (antivirus;

You should also know that Bob Rankin is one of the authors of the Internet Tourbus (, the best e-mail newsletter for internet users IMHO.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

SuprGlu - Gluing your life together.

Ever wish you could bring all your web content together - your blog posts, bookmarks, and Flickr photos? Well, now you can. Surf over to SuprGlu to create a summary page of your web content. It looks a lot like a blog, with entries in reverse chronological order. The difference is that an entry might be a a link, a picture, or some other kind of content as well as a blog post. To see mine, check out

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Bob Lefsetz column on what's wrong with the music industry

A couple of sites recently reprinted an article by veteran music journalist Bob Lefsetz, which explains clearly what's wrong with the music industry these days. IMHO, the article is intelligent, irreverant, and dead on. I can't find a direct link from Lefsetz's site, but here are links to two places it has been posted:

  • scroll down to the heading "WISE WORDS FROM AN INDUSTRY VETEREN."
  • Kurt's Krap, a music blog. Scroll down to the heading, " Greatest. Music column. Ever."

My take on the article and the music industry:

As I see it, the biggest problem with the music industry is huge, merger-created music companies that want to force people to retain the old model. Instead of figuring out how to market their product in the digital world, they want to quash all attempts at change and continue to shove an inferior product, sold in an inferior format, and marketed with phony journalism, down the consumer's throat. They need to completely reinvent their product and their marketing to remain relevant, but so far their attempts have been too little too late.

All of this reminds me of Microsoft when the web first started becoming popular. They were very late to recognize the internet for the revolutionary force it became. But, once Gates figured it out, he turned the company around virtually overnight. Current projects were dropped immediately, and the largest software company in the world ramped up on the information highway in a matter of months. The music companies need to execute a similar turnaround, but I don't think they have the leadership or the corporate culture to make such a change possible.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005 What Is Bluetooth

No, Bluetooth is not a dental problem :-) Rather, it's a wireless communication protocol that has gotten a lot of press over the last couple of years. Even though it has been talked about a lot (can you say, "buzzword"?), I haven't found many plain English descriptions of what it is and what it's good for - until now. O'Reilly's MacDevCenter recently posted a great "Bluetooth 101" article, What is Bluetooth. Check it out if you're curious about how to make wireless devices talk to each other.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Compare prices at retail stores in your area with

Tired of combing through six inserts in the newspaper to see who has the best price on DVD players, video game systems, or appliances? to the rescue! This site consolidates in-store specials, so you can go to one place to see which stores in your area have the best deals. Once you go to the site, choose your state, and you'll be presented with a menu of types of products:

  • Computer Hardware

  • Software Etc.

  • Electronics - Audio

  • Electronics - Video

  • Major Appliances

  • Small Appliances

  • Cellular Phones/Service

  • Free Stuff (i.e. free after rebate) is one of the most useful shopping sites I've found. I always start there when I'm considering purchasing a new gadget.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Blast through voicemail hell!

Do you hate being lost in a maze of voicemail when you call a customer service number? So do I! So check out the IVR Cheat Sheet(tm) by Paul English, which tells you how to cut through layers of voicemail menus and talk to a human at a long list of companies. This site was just mentioned on CNN Headline News, though, so I wouldn't be surprised if some of these companies changed their menus soon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Def Leppard in Sacramento

What with being sick and preparing for Thanksgiving, I completely forgot to post about my most recent mini-vacation. On Nov. 10 I flew to Sacramento with a friend to see Def Leppard (yes - *again*. I've now seen them 17 times.). The show was great (of course), though I could have done without the drunk guy behind me yelling in my ear during most of the show.

Afterward, we waited near the backstage door for the band to come out. It was a long wait in cold weather - but worth it for the pictures and autographs.

And in case you're wondering... no, I will never grow up :-)

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents

Wow - two posts in one night. If I keep this up, people will think I have too much time on my hands! But I couldn't resist sharing this e-book. As I skimmed through the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents, I felt very lucky to be an American. I certainly have my differences with the current regime in DC, but at least I don't have to use proxy servers and cryptography to speak my mind.

The first half of the Handbook covers the basics of blogging, including ethics and promoting your blog. Aimed at bloggers in repressive countries, the second half provides lots of information on how to thwart censorship and blog anonymously. Fascinating - and a good reminder of how much we Americans take for granted.

Amazing pictures of the Dead Sea

Imagine a man reading a newspaper while floating in the water - with no air matress or life jacket. includes some stunning photos of the Dead Sea, including the Biblically infamous pillars of salt and the aformentioned man with his newspaper. You can download the pictures as wallpaper or order prints.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Posting something online? Read the fine print!

If you've been online very long, you've probably heard the following advice: Don't post anything online that you wouldn't want to read on the front page of the New York Times. Well, I've been online since 1991, so you'd think I'd have internalized that bit of advice. But I got a surprise reminder today.

I didn't post anything awful, and it didn't appear in the Times. Here's what did happen: This morning I got an email from a colleague, congratulating me on a letter to the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education. That would be a routine bit of correspondence except for one important point: I never wrote a letter to the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education! I did, however, submit a short posting a couple of months ago to Colloquy, the Chronicle's online forum for discussing issues related to higher ed. I hopped over to the Chronicle site, and, sure enough, there was my posting, edited a bit and presented as a letter to the editor (see if you're interested; it's a response to an article by a conservative librarian, accusing the library profession of liberal bias). A little more digging revealed the following statement on the Colloquy page: "All submissions may also be published as letters to the editor in print."

I don't mind my posting appearing as a letter to the editor, but I wish I'd paid more attention and noticed this statement beforehand. Then I would have taken a bit more time with the post, as I would anything I intended for publication.

The lesson? Read all fine print before posting online, and assume your words may crop up in unexpected places. And a note to the folks at the Chronicle: It would be nice if you'd label which letters are really Colloquy postings, so people would understand why they are less polished and formal than one would otherwise expect.

Wired News: Real Story of the Rogue Rootkit

Bruce Schneier at Wired News has the best take I've seen yet on the Sony copy protection nightmare. Unlike most stories in the mainstream media that focus on the copy protection software itself, Schneier gets to the critical part of the story: If some small, no-name firm installs it, it's malware; if a big media company installs it, it's a legitimate application. Infuriating - and scary.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Web Moments That Changed the World

Take a walk down online memory lane with Web Moments That Changed the World, a list from the Webby people with commentary from online luminary Bob Rankin. What a decade it has been!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Is Your Printer Spying on You?

It sounds like an urban legend, but it isn't. Some color laser printers encode each document they print with the serial number of the printer and the time the document was printed.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Welcome to!

Wonder what your legislators are up to? Go to! and find out! Choose your state, and you'll see a list of your senators and representatives. Select one, and you'll see a list of legislation your congressperson has sponsored or co-sponsored. Look at the bottom of the page, and you'll see a link for an RSS feed. Plop that link in your RSS reader to keep tabs on your legislators while you sip your morning coffee.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

AlterNet: How to Turn Your Red State Blue

Just finished reading an interesting essay on AlterNet called How to Turn Your Red State Blue, by Christopher Hayes. The author argues that progressives need to expose more people to progressive ideas through evangelizing and organizing and especially through making the personal political. These two paragraphs capture the crux of Hayes' argument:

This is what social movements at their best do. They pull back the curtain on power and expose its workings. They politicize those without political engagements by transforming personal grievances in the workplace, at home and in society into political issues. Before the labor movement, a dangerous workplace, low wages and arduously long workdays were just crappy things about a person's life. Before feminism, stifling your personal ambitions in favor of doting on your husband was just a drawback to being a woman.

And here's one point of access that conservative policies are inadvertently expanding: the moments of personal crisis – unmanageable debt, hospitalization without health insurance, lack of mental health services, sudden unemployment – that reveal to Americans that the right's ideology of "personal responsibility" masks the destruction of a social safety net for middle-and lower-income workers.

Well said.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day

Attention word junkies! Check out the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day. As we former English majors know, the OED is wonderfully entertaining, telling you not only what a word means but also giving examples of how, when, and where it's been used. You can even sign up to have the OED WOTD emailed to you each day. You'll never be at a loss for words again.

Friday, March 04, 2005 Your source for deep-fried food and family fun

Looking for something to do this weekend? How about a good, old-fashioned festival? Check out, where you can search for festivals by map, location, keyword, or subject. C'mon... you know you want to check out the World Catfish Festival in Belzoni, Mississippi.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Chronicle Careers: 02/02/2005

In today's Chronicle Careers column, an academic librarian talks about her search for a better position. Big deal, you say? Well, what's interesting are her comments about one of the institutions that invited her for an interview. She talks about the mistakes the staff made in handling her job search and other red flags that led her to turn down a subsequent job offer from that institution. Those of us conducting job searches in libraries (and elsewhere) need be just as aware of the first impressions we make as job candidates are. One cannot expect to recruit quality employees through a poorly-run candidate search.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Correct Use of Language is a "Badge of Competence"

From the January issue of Prospect comes "Mother Tongue," a clear, well-argued piece by Richard Jenkyns, in which he argues that correct use of language is not a mark of elitism but rather a "badge of competence."

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

Of two examples of awful prose: "One of the reasons that this is bad prose is that it is dishonest prose: in each of these passages the writer is trying to hide the fact that she has very little to say." Similarly, he notes, "the study of popular culture easily tends to statement of the obvious, and its practitioners naturally want to disguise that fact."

And the key point:

We should learn educated English, as we should learn to spell, if only because it is a certificate of competence. Mistakes like "should of" or "flaunt" for "flout" are literally childish: they are the result of people picking up language by imitation, as children do, and misunderstanding what they have heard. We should flaunt the rules of grammar, not flout them, if only to show that we know what we are up to. But there is a nobler reason for knowing the rules, and that is that it enables one to speak more variously and effectively.

Articles like this one gladden the heart of this former English teacher.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Scientists discover the Pokemon gene! No, it doesn't make you spend ridiculous sums of money on trading cards featuring pictures of cute Japanese animated characters :-) Pokemon in this case stands for POK Erythroid Myeloid Ontogenic factor, a gene that appears to orchestrate the process by which cells multiply out of control, thereby becoming cancerous. See for details. Let's hope this discovery is the beginning of new, more powerful treatments for cancer.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Last month Nature published a fascinating news piece on the debate over embryonic stem cells. It delves deeply into religious views on the practice, providing an in-depth, balanced look at a topic that, like abortion, usually generates more heat than light in public discussions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I just received an email newsletter from our internal corporate communications that included this fine piece of prose: "The project will be an impactful visual addition ..." "Impactful"????? It's bad enough that nothing ever affects anything anymore; instead, it "has an impact on" it. But impactful? Puhleeze.

In the immortal words of Charlie Brown, "I can't stand it!"

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Now for a bright spot in this dreary winter--the Lake Superior State University Banished Words List for 2005. If only this list had the force of law...