A Shameless Plug

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m trying to get back into the game of fiction writing. Along the way, I’ve met plenty of awesome people who got involved in the game after I left, or never left and went on to do amazing things. Charles Barouch is one of the latter. We worked together years ago when we both wrote game review columns for Gateways magazine, which has long since disappeared into the mists of time.

Charles now had his own small press, HDWP Books, and is currently producing an intriguing short fiction series called “Theme-Thologies.” The idea is simple: create a theme for a book then find the best stories possible to fill the space.

I’m not in any of the books currently on the shelf but I am working to get a piece into one of the future anthologies. I do believe in the project and the staff and writers involved, however, so I’ll be putting some cash down for these titles. You may consider doing the same. If nothing else, let’s share this far and wide and get some exposure for these guys.

 Charles’s post as it appeared on his G+ account earlier today reads as follows:
I need $6
You are all nice people. I’m sure if I asked you for $6, just because I needed it — or even wanted it — a lot of you would reach into your pocket. I’m not asking for me. Well, not exactly for me…
Here’s my problem: I need to jumpstart the sales on Theme-Thology. These are really good books but we aren’t visible enough. Can you spare $6 to help 18 authors and artists?A Promise: From now until April 21st, if you buy the first two Theme-Thologies (total: $5.98) and post a review of either of them (on Amazon, B&N, or Kobo, or GoodReads), I will send you the first eBook from our new science fiction series: Interrogative: Tiago and the Masterless. Just post a link to the review at http://www.hdwpbooks.com/books/thankyou and the book is yours.A Prize: Additionally, from now until April 21st, if you buy any of the first three Theme-Thologies ($2.99 each), I will enter you into a drawing to win one of the following eBooks: one of five different Mike Reeves-McMillan books (City of Masks, Hope and the Patient Man, Hope and the Clever Man, Realmgolds, Gu), A Noble’s Quest by Ryan Toxopeus, Adjacent Fields by Charles Barouch, or The Tower’s Alchemist by Alesha Escobar.
Just buy the Theme-Thology of your choice and post at http://www.hdwpbooks.com/books/thankyou.● Already bought them? Post a review (on Amazon, B&N, or Kobo, or GoodReads) and I will send you the first eBook of our new science fiction series: Interrogative: Tiago and the Masterless and put you in the drawing. Just post a link to the review at http://www.hdwpbooks.com/books/thankyou.

● Received the Adjacent Fields signed, limited edition print book at Spectrum 2013? Post a review (on Amazon, B&N, or Kobo, or GoodReads) and I will send you the first eBook of our new science fiction series: Interrogative: Tiago and the Masterless and put you in the drawing. Just post a link to the review at http://www.hdwpbooks.com/books/thankyou.

Full Details Here: http://www.hdwpbooks.com/books/thankyou

Buy if you can, click on one of the share buttons below if you can’t.

ThirdScribe Launches Today

Today is February 17, aka President’s day, which used to be known as George Washington’s Birthday. As old timers will remember, we only got the day off (along with Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12). No lumped together presidents’ birthdays, no week-long vacation from school. But today is still a holiday, so yea for a day off of work.

Second bit of good news: iTunes’ season pass for Season 3 of Game of Thrones earns its money today as the entire season is supposed to be available for download starting today. I’m crossing my fingers on that one; iTunes can be finicky when it comes to streaming multiple downloads, especially if several people on the same account but with different computers watch the same shows. Not to mention that if I’m downloading 10 episodes, everyone else who bought the season pass is doing the same thing.

Third, but hardly the least important bit of good news for today: Rob McClellan’s  book-centric social media network ThirdScribe goes live today. I’ve created book pages for the two library-oriented books I’ve contributed to.

I’ve been alpha testing Thirdscribe for the past few months; I’m pretty happily impressed with the design. It’s designed from the ground up to be a social media tool for books, authors, and readers. Authors and readers can choose from paid or free accounts, depending on the perks they want to be included with their setup. DNS hosting and transfers are available as is URL forwarding, and entire site migration is available for bloggers and website owners who want to go whole-hog into adopting ThirdScribe as their new medium of choice.

ThirdScribe uses a WordPress framework to manage various site admin rights, visual arrangements, and interactive facets. The thing to remember is that while Thirdscribe does include full-featured blogging tools (hey, it’s WordPress) it’s meant to be primarily a social network. Books have pages, authors and contributors, and sales links. Each one also has a forum which you set up at the time you create the book (or not, the choice is yours). Once your account is set up, you can check on your own books, modify the information about them more or less at will, then check out other members’ pages and see what books they’ve created pages for and who is saying what in their book forums.

Beyond that, you can synch your ThirdScribe network profile (but not your blog) to any social media platforms you already have, so that what’s posted in ThirdScribe is pushed to, say, Facebook and Twitter.

My testing has convinced me that ThirdScribe is something genuinely useful for books, and the people who read and write them. Meaning that I’ll be sticking with it for the forseeable future. I probably won’t be transferring this blog over to my ThirdScribe space simply because there are different people who read this than who are likely to want to talk about the books I like, but sure, there will be some cross-over as time goes on.

ThirdScribe is live, so take a good, long look at it. I think this thing has a bright future.

Another Chapter Submission

Good news: I submitted another book chapter, this one covering our library’s implementation of the Summon discovery tool by Serials Solutions. The bad news is that the chapter is late. But it’s under the stated word count, well written, and I’ve worked with this editor before, so one hopes she’s not of a mind to reject it our of hand. We shall see.

In the mean time I need to finish working on another chapter for the same anthology (which is on the use of Google products in libraries); I promised to have that ready in a few days. I suppose I should get to it.

Back to work.

Tonight: Book Signing at CUNY Grad Center

I realize this couldn’t possibly come any later, and you surely already have plans for this evening. But in case you don’t, consider dropping by for this free event:

NYTSL, ACRL/NY, METRO,  and other local library organizations are collaborating to host a book talk and reception with Susanne Markgren and Tiffany Eatman Allen, authors of Career Q & A:  A Librarian’s Real-Life Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career.

More info about the book is available at:

This event will take place on Thursday, November 7,
2013 from 4 to 7 pm at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365
Fifth Avenue, room C204/205.

The authors will discuss their book, and then additional
local contributors will join them for a panel discussion
followed by audience questions and finally a reception and
book signing.  Refreshments will be provided.

Discounted copies of the book will be available for purchase from InfoToday.
There is no charge to attend, but please register at:  http://metro.org/events/433

Questions about this event can be directed to Tom Nielsen at tnielsen@metro.org.

Other local organizations have generously helped to make this event happen at no charge, including:  InfoToday, ACRL/NY, ARLIS/NY, the New York Library Club, SLA NY and The New York Society Library.


Neil de Grasse Tyson’s Intelligence-Priming Reading List

Neil de Grasse Tyson answered a recent post on Reddit that asked which books the whole world should read. Openculture.com printed his list here.

Tyson’s reading list is as follows:

1.) The Bible (eBook) - “to learn that it’s easier to be told by others what to think and believe than it is to think for yourself.”

2.) The System of the World by Isaac Newton (eBook) – “to learn that the universe is a knowable place.”

3.) On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn of our kinship with all other life on Earth.”

4.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (eBookAudio Book) – “to learn, among other satirical lessons, that most of the time humans are Yahoos.”

5.) The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (eBookAudio Book) – “to learn how the power of rational thought is the primary source of freedom in the world.”

6.) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that the act of killing fellow humans can be raised to an art.”

8.) The Prince by Machiavelli (eBookAudio Book) - “to learn that people not in power will do all they can to acquire it, and people in power will do all they can to keep it.”

I like the list a lot, but I think the commentary could use some tweaking. The Bible, for example, is far too complicated a work of literature to be summarily dismissed as a mind control tool, even though he’s right in observing that’s how it gets used more often than not.

The Wealth of Nations, for another instance, is a more fully  developed continuation of Smith’s earlier work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, which deals much more fundamentally with the ethical and moral construction of modern industrial commerce than the later book does, which is one reason it’s less widely studied in business schools.

Similarly, Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War as a primer in how to defeat an opponent in any contest of power. Its principles apply to the political and commercial realms as well as to the battlefield.

Lastly, The Prince is widely thought of as an instruction manual for achieving and maintaining power, but there’s a school of thought that says Niccolo Machiavelli intended it to be a sarcastic screed against the machinations of the great houses of Europe.

Anyway, Paine, Darwin, and Newton are the three on this list I still need to actually read over a weekend. How about you?

Finally, a Library Display

As you surmised from the title of this post, I owe you a library display. Here you go.


The theme for October was “Monsters: Real & Imagined” so we worked to find a selection that we felt was worthy of the idea.

The obvious choices included the historical references: biographies of Joe Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Mao Tse-Tung were inevitable, as were the books on applied psychopathy (People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck, and The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, among others.) Haunted, by Chuck Palaniuk actually dealt with ghosts, and Grimoires, by Owen Davies, dealt with the practice of harvesting them in fact and legend. Monsters in America, by W. Scott Poole, deals with the American obsession with ghouls, ghosts, and assorted beasties. Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein, and Judith Halberstam’s Skin Shows deal with gothic horror and the technology of monsters.



I’m particularly proud of the title card:


There’s some duplication here: Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, for example. Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter was a nice touch, though I think Brian Cox did a decent job of playing the same character in Manhunter.

Classic monsters from the 1930s on the left (note the closeup of Karloff as Frankenstein on the right), followed by zombie art. Personally, I didn’t think that Bernie Madoff belonged among serials killers, but I wasn’t prepared to argue, either.

I can’t take credit for including Toshiro from The Grudge, Michael Meyers from Halloween, or Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance from The Shining (that goes to Kate with some backup from Emma) but I did insist on using Heath Ledger’s Joker. Not to detract from Mark Hamill’s career as the voice of the Joker, but Ledger’s Joker scares the crap out of me.

Emma insisted on including Faye Dunaway’s Joan Crawford, and we all agreed on including Charlize Theron as Aileen Wournos from Monster. And the creepy little girl with the explosion in the background has been making the rounds on the intarwebs; it seemed wrong to exclude her.

Tomorrow, I’ll post my notes from last week’s SirsiDynix NYC User’s group meeting.

Bush Presidential Library Opens

The George W. Bush presidential Library opened last week. The reviews were both mixed and predictable:

The Nation lamented the “collective amnesia” of the exhibit, while USA Today compared the physical space to other similar venues, and also took a look inside.

The New York Times pointed out up front that “[i]f every memoirist is the star of his own story, every president is the hero of his own library,” before going on to say that oh yeah, Bill Clinton did the same thing and Obama probably will, too.

The Washington Post didn’t produce an article per se (not that I found) but did liven the coverage up with a lovely 26-color slide show.

The Houston Chronicle stopped at publishing a total puff piece but still managed to maintain a subtext of “Good Old Boy Elected President, Loves America, Repels Muslim Hordes.”

The Huffington Post even did a piece on Bush’s public outpouring of emotion at the ceremony, but then took the opportunity to say that not everyone shared that view (“Protesters Gather Outside George W. Bush Presidential Library Ceremony.”)

Ultimately I think Jon Stewart and Tim Naftali tapped closest to the vein here with the former’s “Disasterpiece Theater” coverage and the latter’s column, “Presidential Libraries are Educational Centers, Not Shrines.”

It goes without saying that the office of President is a managed position. There are crowds of people telling him the details of what’s going on in every corner of the country and globe, and recommending courses of action to him. Bush was no different, but he may have been the most micro-managed president in American history; I’ll leave that to history to judge (and so far, Uncle Dick Cheney looks like the Acting Guy in Charge, at least regarding foreign policy in the Middle east from 2001-2008.) Additionally, the Bush family has lived for generations surrounded by a great deal of private money which generally gets what it wants. Regardless of the veto power the National Archives has over the content of the Bush Library–over the loud objections of the Bush Foundation–congress has made these very public venues more vulnerable to private money. That’s a reason to be wary of who co-funds them and why.

In any case, read Tim Naftali’s column and know that the Dear Leader syndrome of recent American Presidential politics rolls merrily on.


Lessons From a Batchload Reclamation Project: Part 2

Uploading our catalog’s export to the tech folks at Serials Solutions was uneventful. Their alert that they could see the data in the records was welcome. Their notation that there were no location holdings in them was easy to rectify: I just had to make sure that the “Export 999 field” check box in the Export Records menu of the Utility Module in Symp0hony Workflows was checked on the next go-around.

At some point however, I checked the boxes above and below it as well. The former exported the junk tags; harmless for most purposes, useful for a few. I didn’t think they were really necessary for either project, but figured better too much information than too little and I checked it.

At some point, I checked a box that was marked “Export Symphony catalog key to MARC tag 001″. Now, if you use Workflows and have checked that box yourself while exporting records, you can probably see where this is going. For everyone else, here’s the situation.

We uploaded the exported files to OCLC. They processed the data as we’d arranged in our paperwork and posted the files to their web page. You click the link, download the file, and read it back to your ILS.

Except our files didn’t reload.

I decided that I needed to take a look at the records themselves and wanted to do so within OCLC Connexion Client. I’d been trained to use Client as a primary cataloging tool by my former boss at NYAM and had trained the cataloging staff here how to use it as well. It felt familiar. In there, I felt that I could troubleshoot matters more effectively than I might otherwise.  But I didn’t want to import a ginormous file into it.

So I explained the situation to the staff at OCLC’s batchload desk and they were happy to break the files up into smaller chunks, each one with a maximum size of 9,000 files (Connexion Client has a maximum of 9,999 records per file and I wanted a buffer.)

I downloaded the new files. I saw everything that we’d sent, and everything that OCLC had done. The OCLC control numbers were indeed in their 035 fields. Our local control number tags were in their own 035 fields.  What I didn’t see anywhere were the Sirsi control tags in 035 fields.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know how important that was at the time. I have since learned that in a properly created export file, Workflows adds its own control number to a new 035 field in each record specifically so that you can match on that number when you re-import the records.

What I did know was that the records refused to load. I tried using the 020 to match on the ISBN number . . . that worked, but it also created a load of duplicated records that did no one any good at all and which were later deleted.

I tried matching on the vendor 001. No go.

I tried matching on the OCLC 035. No joy.

I tried matching on the (non-existent) Sirsi 035 a few times. Nada.

I tried matching on the 245 but that created a similar problem to the attempt to match on the 020: titles matched but duplicated records rather than replacing and updating them. So that didn’t work.

In between all these attempts to use the data I’d exported, OCLC was insisting that I was doing something wrong and Sirsi was telling me that OCLC had wrecked our data.

Finally, I arranged a phone conference with Sirsi’s senior analyst and had him log in remotely to my PC to see what he could see. The punchline was this: you remember that check box that exported the catalog key to the 001? That should not have been checked. Catalog keys cannot be used as matching points on a Bibload report in Workflows.

In other words, I had 129,000 records of garbage.


Sometimes the best thing to hear is that you’ve screwed up. It frees you to trash what you’ve done and start again from the beginning. So I did.

This time, I made sure that the catalog keys were not exported to the 001. I made sure the export files were no more than 9,000 records long. I made sure that each file was checked in Connexion Client before I uploaded it to OCLC’s server. I made sure the file names had the correct syntax.

On top of this, OCLC very graciously re-processed our data for free, owing to the fact that the project was still current and that the result had been a case of garbage-in-garbage-out.

This time when the files came back, they uploaded perfectly and updated our original records without problems. That done, I re-exported another set of records for Serials Solutions and their metadata people will work on that shortly.

So. The takeaway:

1. I don’t care what The Cult of Done Manifesto says, pretending you know what you’re doing is not almost as good as knowing. There is no substitute for hands-on experience. Do as much research as you want, but getting your arm stuck in the machinery and pulling a bloody stump out is an effective lesson all its own.

2. Cataloging and Systems Librarianship are like hiking and swimming: both are useful skills, but hardly interchangeable.  Catalogers don’t do systems work and the systems folks can’t catalog. Luckily there enough of us accidental systems librarians out there that we can get the requisite work completed, if not always as quickly as we’d planned for.

3. Experts are experts in their systems, not each others. Which means that . . .

4. Experts will blame each others systems for what goes wrong.

5. Ask for a favor. You might be surprised, as I was when OCLC told me they would re-run the project at no additional cost. And finally . . .

6. Fixing it makes everything that came before before seem better.

These are things to remember for future projects.

A Book A Week: We Meant Well

The phrase “winning their hearts and minds,” is an old one at the Pentagon, going back to the heady days of the Vietnam War. Besides making the unfortunate acronym: WHAM, it’s indicative of how the U.S. military has planned wars: deep down, the logic goes, everyone loves America, and by extension, Americans.  The Vietnamese didn’t really want to fight us, they just didn’t know any better. Sometimes they had no choice: Ho Chi Minh was poisoning their minds with anti-American propaganda and the Viet Cong were threatening their villages. According to this logic the key to winning Vietnam was getting the locals on our side: their hearts and minds were ours to count on, if only we could figure out the right incentives.

Well, we know how well that went.

Fast forward a few decades, replace Vietnam with Iraq and Ho Chi Minh with Saddam Hussein, and you get an idea of where this leads: Operation Iraqi Freedom. The particulars are different, the grand plan is not.

Welcome to the wacky world of Iraqi independence from something. But not from American influence and aid, as Peter van Buren describes in his book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. Place: Iraq. Population: the U.S. army, a bunch of Marines, the U.S. Navy, which flies combat air patrols from off the coast, a few diplomats, a huge number of private contractors, no small number of mercenaries, and Foreign Service Officer Peter Van Buren.

The State Department was tasked in 2003 to gaining the trust and co-operation of the Iraqis in managing the American presence in their country. In some cases this meant buying loyalty from local troops. Sometimes it meant paying informants for intelligence on local troublemakers. More than once it meant teaching the Iraqis to create local businesses, complete with written plans, venture capital, income and expenses, and financial reporting. (You’ll notice it generally had to do with spending money.)

The reality was usually  different.

Peter van Buren was intimately familiar with these situations. A career diplomat, he volunteered to serve as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) in Iraq from 2009 to 2010. Most importantly, as soon as this book was published, the State Department lost no time in revoking his security clearance and then filed paperwork in order to dismiss him. A case might be made for his situation based on his publishing without a government mandate, but not a good one. The government received a draft for their examination as the rules dictate. There is nothing in this book that suggests vital intelligence was leaked. There’s nothing in here that suggests anything but the pervasive incompetence that comes from following the theory even when it’s been disproved by reality.

But the book is embarrassing, or it should be. It begins with the story of My Arabic Library, a collection of American titles translated into Arabic for the U.S. government, with the stated purpose of teaching literacy to the natives. The possibility that Iraqis might not care to read Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick never occurred to the planners who developed the project (at a cost of $88,000.) The books arrived and end up in a rubbish heap in back of an Iraqi elementary school.

There’s the story of how they went into the desert to evaluate a  sewage plant (among many throughout Iraq) for repair: under Saddam, all water and sewage services were free. The new paradigm meant (among other things) adding machinery to measure flow rates in order to sell services to locals. Repairing the plant involved huge government outlays to be divvied up between contractors in multiple countries, none of which were Iraqi. The plant is never repaired. The cost: $4.6 billion dollars.

There’s the story of sex on Forward Operating Bases: the official rules say don’t do it. Unofficially, there’s plenty of action going on. Some couples head to latrines for a bit of privacy, others beg their room mates to take an extra long coffee break. Propositions fly across offices in e-mails, and some get forwarded all over the Internet. Like seeks like, and the lonely seek each other. What happens in Iraq stays in Iraq.

There are extensive chapters on entering and exiting the country through military way stations: warehouses full of men and women beset by paperwork, gear checks, body armor snafus, and a lot of waiting for something to happen.

There’s the story about seeking coherent trash collection led to van Buren’s meeting Yasmine, an honest municipal service director who concedes that the corruption and lack of skilled technocrats would stymie any attempt to fix existing problems. Everyone agrees that trash pickup is a real need: the army fears that piles of garbage will make hiding spots for home made bombs, the civilians fear the vermin the piles attract, locals hired to actually do the work seem better at making the money disappear than the garbage.

The result is the same, time and time again: the Americans define a problem, the government fronts a huge amount of cash to fix it, the money disappears, the problem never gets fixed. Never has so much been spent to enrich so few with so little result.

And yet . . . we meant well. If those three words don’t make you want to cry, the rest of the book will.

Van Buren is now a regular contributor to Tomdispatch.com. You could do worse than to follow his posts there.

A Horrible Historian Trashes Libraries

Author Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories line of children’s books, says that libraries are a drag on taxpayers and “no longer relevant.”

I think he’s an idiot.

The Huffington Post picked on this tidbit from Deary’s interview with the Guardian:

“I’m not attacking libraries, I’m attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant,” Deary told the Guardian, pointing out that the original Public Libraries Act, which gave rise to the first free public libraries in the UK, was passed in 1850. “Because it’s been 150 years, we’ve got this idea that we’ve got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that,” said Deary…

Bullshit. Of course he’s attacking libraries. All those people reading his books for free. (Bastards!)

I wonder if it’s worth noting that public libraries in the U.S. had very little to do with the Victorian example, and everything to do with a Scottish gentleman named Carnegie who thought that public libraries were essential to self-improvement, and led to success in life. (Nah!) For that matter, I seem to remember the Victorian age had a lot more to do with subjugating two thirds of the planet in the name of the crown than educating the masses, but hey, what do I know?

HuffPo followed up by noting that Deary is actually paid by the British government when his book is borrowed. When this was pointed out to him, Deary became incensed:

As one of the most popular library authors – his books were borrowed more than 500,000 times during 2011/12 – Deary will have received the maximum amount possible for a writer from the Public Lending Right scheme, which gives authors 6.2p every time one of their books is borrowed, up to a cap of £6,600. “If I sold the book I’d get 30p per book. I get six grand, and I should be getting £180,000. But never mind my selfish author perception – what about the bookshops? The libraries are doing nothing for the book industry. They give nothing back, whereas bookshops are selling the book, and the author and the publisher get paid, which is as it should be.

Earth to Deavy: you did sell those books. To libraries. How the hell do you think those libraries acquired them in the first place? it’s not like publishers hand us books for free. (Donations, I agree, are another matter.)

On top of that, after those books were sold they continued to earn royalties through this amazing program. The British government is paying him every time someone read that book. This creep is sitting on the ultimate sweet spot for any author and he’s still complaining? Putz.

He goes on to declare that libraries are forcing book stores to close, and if there were such things as “car libraries” the automotive industry would collapse as well. Which is stupid because the average rental fleet owns 1.86 million vehicles. For all the problems with the auto industry, people renting cars is not one of them. If he want to decry the loss of book stores, he should try denouncing video games. Those are direct competitors to reading.

Libraries are a primary force for book sales. That is a fact.

You’ll notice he didn’t bother to wonder how many of the folks who discovered his work at the library went out and bought the books for their kids. Nor did he care that those volumes loaned out by libraries already counted as part of his total sales.

An author–even a best-selling children’s author–need not be a saint (Roald Dahl certainly wasn’t.) But it takes a particular mindset to see the act of reading as a zero sum game.

I mean, how big an asshole do you have to be for Neil Gaiman to call you “selfish & stupid . . . mostly selfish”?

Stupid git.

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