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Pandora helps you find your favorite new bands

Although I do have a fairly respectable (read as: large) collection of music I am always on the watch for something new. The problem is that I tend to waste a lot of money on bands that “sound like” my favorites, only to find out $18 and an hour later, they really aren’t something I wanted to spend my money on.

Thanks to Pandora, that is changing.

Pandora is the fruition of the Music Genome Project. Each song entered into the site is subject to classification through genre, decade, musical composition, harmonies, keys, progression and much more. The result is when you put in a favorite song or artist in the search box, Pandora creates a station compiled with artists who closely resemble many of your favorite band’s qualities.

Furthermore, the station is always working towards making the ideal listening station for the listener. Each song can be given a thumbs up or down. Thumbs up will be used to first compare the qualities of your favorite band and your new song and then target even closer to bands of similar sounds. If you give a song a thumbs down, the station will skip past the song and never play it on that station again.

The result is quite impressive. I have five stations that are based off of my favorite rock with punk influence and, because of the thumbs up and down options, each one sounds different from the other. Now, I have several new bands to follow:

Pansy Division- Tired of being ostracized for being gay, John Ginoli and Chris Freeman created a gay-friendly punk band with unabashed lyrics and a good sense of humor.
Sanctus Real- A Christian rock band willing to break its contract with major labels in order to play songs they love.
Augustana- Young band rising on the charts and it’s no wonder. As they describe their own album, “its a young and scared record…and it’s real and from our hearts… “

May 14, 2007 at 2:36 pm

In Memory of Shel Silverstein

In 1999, I was working as a Surveyor. My coworkers were gruff men who enjoyed using their machetes to hack down site lines for their instruments. Sum’bitch was a popular word to use as both an adjective and noun. So, it was a bit suprising when, on May 10th, my crew chief took the morning paper, rolled it up, and told not to open it until I got home… he actually forced me to leave work and paid me for the day. When I got home, I opened the newspaper he gave me and saw that Shel Silverstein passed away the night before, I’d lost my favorite childhood writer. My chief knew that too and I guess he figured that news was enough work for one day. So I took the day off and wrote this song:

I’ll never forget that day May 10th, 1999
When I opened up the paper and saw my favorite writer
a mentor had died.
Now there’s no more kids in the tub
and the channels on the TV have become
boring and dumb.
Then I called up my best friend
and said “I think we finally found out where
the sidewalk ends.”

A Light in the Attic
can tell me how people
dream to get by.
I’d climb the highest mountain
to meet Baba Fatts
and find his perfect high.
But lesson number one,
I’ll never try to cheat the devil
like Billy Markham.
I guess what they say is true
People’d rather waste their life on dope
then hear the truth.

Well, someday, I’ll write a book
and it will be successful
overnight.
It will be called
“How the Giving Tree
Came to Change My Life.”
I’ve read it since I was four
and to a thousand other children when I was
a camp counselor.
And I laughed a lot
but not as much as I cried
the day that my mentor Shel Silverstein died.

May 9, 2007 at 7:32 pm

Audiobooks, Quanity vs. Quality

When I changed my job, one of the reasons I didn’t mind adding 45 minutes to my commute was because I enjoy listening to audiobooks. Since I don’t have time to read at work (an all too common misconception about librarians) and somewhat limited time at home, audiobooks are a great way for me to keep up with some of the more popular titles I may not get around to otherwise. And because I get about an hour and a half of listening a day, I tend to run through our library’s audiobook collection rather quickly.

It seems I am not the only one either. Libraries are putting more of their funds into audiobooks while sites like ListenNJ have really begun to improve their selections as well.

But are the recording companies pushing these audiobooks out a little faster than they can handle them?

My experience with audiobooks produced in the last six months has been somewhat disappointing. Although the casting has usually been wonderful, I find myself having to adjust the volume up in order to hear everything or down so as not to blow my speakers out. I seem to have this problem with both my car stereo as well as my mp3 player, so I am not particularly inclined to believe it’s the devices’ fault.

When I asked a couple of my colleagues about this, they have also noticed this offset between the quality of the voice and the production.

Are recording companies spending so much on their voice actors now that they have to compromise the amount of money they can dedicate to refining the quality of the sound? Have the companies found that certain voices will make people more likely to listen and spend for an audiobook?

April 13, 2007 at 9:44 am

Hope Springs Eternal in the Library Garden

First off, I have to thank Pete for inviting me to join Library Garden; it has been an honor and I hope my contributions have been for the better ;-) Second, thanks to all my other fellow biblio-green thumbs, I have learned a tremendous amount from your posts.

With spring in the air and the rejuvenating feelings of a first anniversary (did anyone bring cake?), I thought it might be take a look at what we hope might happen/change in the library profession over the next year or so. Personally, I am going to break this down into three categories; 1-What should’ve been done last year, 2- the change I am going to push for and 3- my pie in the sky wishful thinking. I will finish up with a Nostradamus-esque prediction… Why? Eh, it’s nice out, I’m inside and it seems like the right time to do so.

What we need to do already!- Allow our computers to accept memory sticks/flash drives. Some PCs don’t even come with a floppy drive anymore, it’s time for us to quit worrying about security issues with these devices and let our patrons use the information they have.

What I am pushing for- I am going to continue my push to get video games into libraries. We can no longer hide behind the fear that teens will not return games when we already lost thousands of dollars a year to adults not returning books, CDs and movies.

My Pie in the sky dream- I would love for our library system to get their own library card maker so patrons could make custom library cards! We could still have the standard card but, for a small fee, grandparents could get their grandkids pictures on their cards, people could put their pets, favorite band or celebrity on it. Heck, let teens put their boyfriend or girlfriend pictures on there… at the rate they go through relationships, you would pay for the machine before midterms let out!

Nostradummy Prediction- A Book will be banned somewhere and there will be much discourse about it. In time, people will learn that one of the protesters did not read the book. This will be their downfall; for how can you protest what you do not know? It might be found out that a defender did not read the book either but it wont matter; as it turns out, the protest is not about the book itself, but an person’s choice to read it.

March 28, 2007 at 10:17 am

Should Accessing Open Wi-Fi Spots be Illegal?

In Palmer, Alaska, Brian Tanner was arrested for using the public library’s wi-fi in their parking when the library was closed. Local police had tired of chasing Tanner from various locations where he was accessing open ended wi-fi and arrested him. They confiscated his laptop to see what files Tanner had downloaded as well.

Is this really a legal issue or the responsibility of the people who hold the access points? All wi-fi hardware/software allow their owners to create password protected access so that only selected users may take advantage of it. If an owner fails to opt for this protection, does it mean they can still say “no, you can’t use it” and be legally binding?

We really haven’t set up ethical rules for the digital age yet. We still argue over ideas like privacy for users in public settings, rights applied to digital information, what can/cannot be written over emails and whether we should have some sort of program in place to restrict content to certain users on public computers.

Our computers are designed to find hotspots now and even default to open wi-fi networks when available. My Nintendo Wii has actually picked up two other open networks near my house along with my own wireless system. If an upgrade was placed into the program to access the fastest network or default to another open network when my wireless went down, would it make me criminally liable?

It seems this is more of an ethical question over a legal one. I certainly wouldn’t argue that Tanner seems to have a lack in ethics and common sense but it also seems that there were protective measures the library could take to prevent his access as well.

In the physical world we have many different legal words for the various types of theft as it is not simply a black and white issue. Are we going to find ourselves at a point where we need to do the same for the digital world as well?

On a semi-tangent; is his being chased from point to point really enough evidence to confiscate the laptop?

February 27, 2007 at 10:10 am

Cyberbullying and Libraries

There is often a really fine line between what is funny, what is offensive and to what degree someone is offended.

Make no mistake, there is some joy to be had in bullying. It is about empowerment, positioning, status, hierarchy and the pleasure is the solidification of one’s place through the bullying act. In other words, it is largely about attention and acceptance.

And if someone is looking for attention, then the Internet is a heaven for their needs.

As much as I am a fan for social networks and social technologies I can understand peoples’ concern about its bullying potential. Text messages, Instant messages, photoshops, podcasts and blogs (forgive me if I left a few tactics out) don’t just make a myriad of methods to bully with, but also encourage the creativity of the bully… and the reward is the hundreds to thousands of hits their post may receive.

Example? Check out Ghyslain Raza, better known as the Star Wars Kid. He filmed a solo light saber sequence as part of a school project but when some of his classmates got a hold of the film, Ghyslain became an overnight cyber-celebrity. When the Canadian news source, National Post, asked him how he felt about all the ‘attention,’ he responsed “I want my life back.”

A hell for Gyshlain but incredible empowerment for the kids who posted it!

Rather than make this post solely about cyberbullying, lets think about what it could mean for libraries. Certain states have made blanket anti-bullying policies that go as strict as zero-tolerance. As sites like Myspace gain notoriety more for their negative aspects, and stories about unfortunate cyberbullying and suicide become more popularized, there is a possibility that state and federal legislature may push through DOPA-esque policies.

But before we go down that slippery slope, I’d like to ask some more some questions for us to think about:

-If we market our library as a “Safe Zone,” how safe are our teens within the library’s cyber-walls? Do we, or should we, take this into account of a Safe Zone policy?

-What will happen when someone can confirm the cyberbullying took place inside of the library?

-What, if any, measures should libraries take in order to prevent cyberbullying?

-What proactive steps can we take against cyberbullying right now?

-If we consider ourselves as a cultural center, does that mean that we consider excessive bullying as part of our culture? This one if for the Sociologists out there!

As much as I am an advocate for Freedom of Information and Freedom of Speech, I also spent many years working with teens who have been greatly affected by bullying, physically and mentally. And because I have worked with teens in a counseling setting before I became a librarian, I greatly struggle with where the line is drawn in a library.

To an extent, being bullied is a part of growing up. For some, they grow up and walk away unscathed; for others, they live an entire life around it’s effects. So where do we, as libraries, take our stand in the issue?

Sad to say… this is what I think about at 2a.m. when I can’t sleep.

February 22, 2007 at 12:38 am

Books that Would be Awesome Band Names

To me, there really aren’t a lot of great things about weeding, minus the ability to evict any dust mites that may have made homes in our literature. But if there is one thing I love doing, is looking at book titles and making note of them for their appeal, oscurity, dated or, in this post, their potential awesomeness for a band name.
Here are my Top 10 choices:

Hi Tech Babies
The Princess of Neptune

February 15, 2007 at 9:44 am 3 comments

Why Librarians and Libraries are Important

Here we go, someone who get it! As many times as I have heard my friends ask me why I chose a “dying profession,” I have never worried about my job security. Personally, my reason for this was because of the old saying:

If people, in general, thought rationally there would never be a need for librarians. Since history has proven this not to be the case, librarians’ job will always be secure.

My friend sent me this article on the Library profession which gives 33 Reasons Why Librarians and Libraries are Important. Yes, many of the reasons are arguments against the Internet. For the rationale thinkers out there, who are picky about who and where they get their information from, this is not really a surprise but for the other 46% of Americans who consider Wikipedia a reliable source of information, it might give them something to think about and, who knows… perhaps even get a library card.

February 1, 2007 at 8:03 pm

A Graphic Novel Wins the Printz!

For the first time, a graphic novel has won the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award. Gene Yang, author of American Born Chinese, has crafted an extraordinary book that shows not only the pressures of trying to fit into a culture but the struggle to fight off one’s cultural labels as well.
ABC follows three separate story lines. The first is about Jin, who moves into an American town and is constantly picked on for strange Chinese stereotypes. The second follows Jin’s cousin, Chin-Kee, who visits and is a constant embarrassment to Jin because of he represents typical Chinese culture and stereotypes. The third is of the Monkey King who, after being cast from heaven for not being human, decides to wage war against the gods and prove he can be just as worthy of a god.
In the end the stories do connect, somewhat loosely, and portray the most important message of all: You must be comfortable and accepting of yourself.
I was fortunate enough to have First Second Books send me a free copy of this book for review right before the publication came out. Even though I would have likely cast my vote for another book, American Born Chinese is more than worthy of receiving the honor and notoriety of being the first graphic novel to win the Printz award.
Go, go Graphics!!!

January 22, 2007 at 8:13 pm

Free Viewing of Air Gear

Calling all Teen Librarians, your Manga fans will want to know…
The popular series of Air Gear is ready to be released in its anime form. To help push the transition to celluloid (although, it’s probably all actually done digitally), IGN is showing the first episode for FREE on their website for the following week. Just click on the picture to link to the website.
Incidentally, the series has also been made into a musical which opens on January 7th in Japan… is it perhaps the new Jerry Springer Musical?

January 6, 2007 at 9:20 am

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