Miscellaneous & Sundry

2008 March 27 Thursday

Being a soft touch for animals (my cat walks all over me) it behooves me to mention one of the groups supporting the North Shore Animal League, thru free clicks & sale of goods, The Animal Rescue Site {gave sister their sling bag, went over well}.

I’m down at cat-level for a while, a back problem which is still in resolution phase. Meanwhile trying alternate keyboard/mouse/monitor configurations. Short stints required, a few pillows & kneeling seems to work well but there are some creepy connotations: praying to the computer & network gods. Oh well, when I was doing IT work there was a degree of praying, damning, cajoling & general invoking of electronic deities.

“To live in interesting times”, that old Chinese (?) curse, is the case here & now in the 38th year of the u-Epoch. If ontology recapitulates phylogeny (or vice versa) then it might be àpropos to revisit the scribe-to-type time periods. Ran across a promising source: tho it’s a 900-odd page book, there’s a web version of it, From Gutenberg to the Internet. Going back to that after a stretch.

Tashi delek, y’all


Real World vs. Social Networks

2008 March 24 Monday

There was interesting critique in eWeek (issn 1530-6283) March 17, 2008

The amorphous social networks (SNs), e.g., Facebook & MySpace, are ad-supported hence growing unattractive with growth: spam, cons, &c come in… worst of all, parents. On the adult side, the current recession makes them time-wasters: but financial squeeze might just make usage of social networking worth the effort.

Viz, previously unconnected business & personal interests can get together for mutual benefit. He cites the use of Ning.com for information exchange, in this case regarding the power meters of Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW) used for energy use monitoring. Seems a bit of a mashup, a sort of MyWikiSpace Frankenstein’s Monster, but the techniques/usages are still catching up with the technologies (which are a moving target, anyway).

Collaboration per se isn’t a goal so much as a motto; the thing, as always, is Cui bono? — what benefit? what & when ROI? The laser was first demonstrated almost 48 years ago, a solution looking for a problem: first major use was 15 years later, another 10 it was ubiquitous. So small wonder we’re still groping for the use of the shiny new tools in the toolbox, but don’t throw away the hammer.

A targeted SN that came up in (med lib) discussion recently was TiroMed, a [beta] medical-oriented SN. IMHO, didn’t pass the smell test: “beta” first of all (tho Web 2.0 has been said to be ‘perpetual beta’), advertising run amok, weasel privacy policy, total IP theft of contributions. Targeting in general seems to be a necessary component, but what to use? “Medical Informatics”[Mesh], or the abbreviations of a personal ad (e.g., SWM, NS iso &c). Again things seem to point to ‘semantic web’ solutions, still amorphous themselves. Gadzooks: AACRn, MaRCn, Dublin core, metadata/xml, RDF – it’s still in the stage of a cage-match… & the beat goes on…

¹{Editorial Director elundquist@eweek.com}

Vernal Equinox

2008 March 23 Sunday

“In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love…” ¹

As of 00:48 CDST 20th March spring is sprung (sprang?) and it’s the beginning of a new year in some cultures & so another opportunity for New Year Resolutions:

By Lughnasad (Wednesday 22:18 August 6th) : drop into the merely overweight category per BMI. Which at my height/mass means 10 kilos less in 18 weeks or so, corollaries of eating better & exercising more. Also want to see the Hæmoglobin A 1c number back below 6% as well, which will likely follow success on the previous. Gainful employment is another item, and there are a few irons in the fire – one with the current employer – so if you hear of any medical librarian leads please let me know.

Getting into the Web Two-Dot-Zero tools & techniques has been most enlightening. Blogging seems to be a bit like keeping a journal in the aulden days, but instantly public & a bit more ephemeral. Don’t know if I’ve got enough to say or often enough to keep up a successful one, tho Bog knows I have enough blood pressure excursions living here in Samsara. I’ll have to start following some of the more irritating items but will have to work on alternatives to the obscenities usually associated with those discussions, maybe a lot of “(expletive deleted)” as in the Nixon tapes – – – and if you think he was a potty mouth…


¹ Locksley Hall — Alfred, Lord Tennyson

the Semantic Web

2008 March 20 Thursday

Web TwoDotZero, ThreeDotZero, and the Medical Library.  Durned if the aulde school topics have returned with a vengeance.  Going thru the Reitz ODLIS helps put the issues of GooGoo glut & scholarship surfeit in perspective.  Info overload calls for far better filtering/indexing, yet the tools are not there or up to it yet; not to mention it’s a second-derivative kind of problem: the rate of change of the rate of change, i.e., getting more data & faster

“Pertinence” in information retrieval, is the extent to which a document retrieved in response to a query actually satisfies the information need, based on the user’s current state of knowledge is a narrower concept than relevance. ”   So pagerank, based on the IBM hits algorithm, does not fulfill that need.

Personally worried about the implications, after all – the best place to hide a book is in a library.  At present going over [previously mentioned] Dean Giustini’s editorial (in BMJ 22-29 Dec 2007 vol.335 p.1273-4), “Towards a Semantic Web for Culture” (k.veltman@mmi.unimaas.nl), & about to dig up Berners-Lee 2001 Scientific American article.

Ockham’s Razor

2008 March 20 Thursday

“… there is no greater folly than to be very inquisitive and laborious to found out the causes of such a phenomenon as never had an existence, and therfore men ought to be cautious and to be fully assured of the truth of the effect before they venture to explicate the cause.” The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (1677) by John Webster

{ in New Scientist 1 March 2008 | vol. 197(2645):65 }

On pp.48-49 ibid. Prof. Carlo Bernardini (U. Roma, La Sapienza), a septuagenarian physicist, was interviewed about church & science. There was a protest about the Pope speaking at his university & the visit was cancelled.

Some nuggets: “My colleagues and I could not accept that the head of this foreign power… would come here to give a talk…we teach our students that they should learn to reason through inductive processes, to doubt what they learn through their personal interpretations, and to reject prejudices, which are widespread in the Catholic tradition. I do not believe it is possible to reconcile the dogmatic thinking of the Catholic church with the phenomenology on which scientific research is based. …Conflicts about stem cells, assisted reproduction, AIDS, abortion, contraception and pain treatment for terminally ill patients…require evaluation rather than propaganda… You cannot discuss them in terms of emotional slogans or play on the ignorance of the …electorate.”

Sorting at the Source

2008 March 17 Monday

If you’re a regular user of PubMed (clinician, researcher, student) you’ve likely availed yourself of the RSS service within “My NCBI”, previously “MyCubby”. Once you have a well-constructed search in the can, you can set up a feed of new items which that search returns.

When a, say researcher, has a tightly focused interest it’s straightforward to set up one feed; if it’s, say, a family practice doctor, she might have interest in 50+ queries across 14 medical/pharmaceutical subfields.

That’s where the MyNCBI feeds do a lot of work before hitting your mailbox. Even if you let the email pile up a bit it’s very short work to pull the assorted new search results into appropriate sub-inboxes. The prerequisite is that the physician has to be up to speed on general computer organizational technique.

That example highlights a major issue librarians must deal with: it’s a poor carpenter who blames his tools. Maybe it is the tool, a correctable issue like ‘sharpen it, idiot’ or ‘throw it out when it breaks’; maybe ignition pliers are needed instead of slip joint; maybe wrong technique is being used.

The clientèle may need/want information that’s available but don’t know how to ask for it or what to ask for. The librarian may have a solution bought & paid for but doesn’t know to whom it would be useful. Will “Procedures Consult” be worth buying for our target audience? Maybe, but that’s one which will have to be a collaborative decision, I’m not sure what level of instruction is being given or who’s being addressed. I do know why it’s called ‘gross anatomy’.

So, does critical thinking trump specialist knowledge?

The blog, she is up!

2008 March 12 Wednesday

“Blogs written by people with nothing to say for people with nothing to read” Guy Kawasaki

Will be endeavouring to eschew such a characterization.  There is an awful lot of blogs of that ilk out there, that’s entropy for you.

If learning & knowledge are based on filtration, the modern technology has created a “good problem” — there’s a bodacious amount of data easy to obtain.  So there’s a lot of job security for librarians & other ‘information workers’ :  logical, organizational, storage & delivery tools need to be sharpened a lot more.  If you can stand a dewy metaphor, we’ve got to add a few orders of magnitude, a few more places on the other side of the decimal point.  Maybe go to hexidecimal.

In the last couple years the standard of desktop computer storage has gone from hundreds of gigabytes to numbering in terabytes, so the haystack is getting bigger faster than the needle recovery technics/techniques.