The Tao of XML

  I’ve been doing this and that kind of code here and there for years.  When an idea pops into my head that I want to execute in a page that I haven’t done before, I just go do some fishing and figure it out.  I’ve never actually taken a class (that I attended) in a programming language so I missed the underlying theory that I can only guess would have revealed to me …. the Tao of XML in the way that Hot Text does.

 I’ve never read anything about the concept of object-oriented languages that sounded quite so.. philosophical.  The way Lisa and Jonathan Price spoke of a whole new way to look at the relationships between objects and the precision and order that XML brought to the internet and our relationship to it, both financially and interactively, was, um…. a little glowey around the edges.  *sniff*  Seriously, I really enjoyed the narrative.  Great intro for people who’ve never coded.  I wish I’d read that first.

As for a tidbit on the Great Path ….

My grandmother was one of six children born in a very small town in Oklahoma.  She’s told me of how she and her sisters picked rotten pecans off the porches of the neighbors so they could have something to eat.  She was literally the little girl who had a dress made of the sack-cloth that the local store threw out.  She’d hate that I’m repeating this, but it’s relevant. 

Her father was a very intelligent man, but had no education.  So was she.  But, like so many of the other very poor girls, she would have ended up having many kids and staying in that little town her whole life.  Except for two things.  One, she was very bright.  Two, she had a teacher who took an interest in her.

The woman’s name was Annie Blanche.  She mentored my grandmother all through school, helping her take the right tests and fill out the right forms.  She was the woman who, in the end, was the only one who could drive my grandmother to Norman and find the small room that she stayed in while she went to college.  This woman gave my grandmother her first toothbrush, showed her how to read a bus schedule, and stayed her very close friend until she died, shortly before my grandmother’s 79th birthday, two years ago.

It was this woman who I credit with my grandmother’s education, her travels, her full life that produced two children.  One, my mother, grew up middle-class, went to college, then graduate school.  As I grew up, the question I was asked wasn’t, “Are you going to college?”  It was “Which college are you going to?”  I have always felt from my family this immense sense of respect for education.  And teachers.

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The Big Wik and the Painted Lady

It’s interesting to me, as I read posts, to see how comfortable people are with the ‘fast-and-loose’ character of Wikipedia.  Apparently, it’s perfectly fine that it may not be accurate or organized well.  The acceptance of this stems from it being on the internet, it seems.  And that it is sacred due to its user-generated-content status.

This thinking strikes me as being very similar to the idea that, if we are on vacation, it matters less who we sleep with.  Or how we do it.  Like.. “Well, I’m in Jamacia, what the heck.  Who will ever know?  And if they do, it will be like it doesn’t count because it’s in Jamacia.”

So, in essence, Wikipedia is like vacation sex, is it?

I say thee, nay.

It does matter.  And, forgive me here for taking a stab at the heart of 2.0, but user-generated does not necessarily mean good

Just because ‘the people’ are making themselves heard, doesn’t mean it’s inherently good.  Just check out who’s president at the moment.  The ‘people’ did that.  Twice.  Or, well, at least once, anyway.

It’s strange that I find myself on this side of this argument.  I was always quite the rebel.  And still am in many ways.

I can have tremendous problems with authority in certain situations.  But, as events in the country have shown in the last few years, the rule of the vocal mob is not necessarily going to give way to a bright future for all. 

Mainly, I blogged about this here so I wouldn’t take up the discussion forums of my class with this unpopular position.  I suspect it would have just sat there, uncommented upon, as a scathing indictment and silent protest.  But, I still wanted to get it off my chest.

As for something in my past that led me here.. how about a pic for you today as a special treat since I’ve been so cantankerous…

FACE-PAINTED GIRL

I was a teenager and this was something a girlfriend painted on me.  I wore it for three days.  Because it made me feel like a character in Lord of the Rings, a set I first read when I was 13 and have read every few years since.

the power of the bloggers

really interesting article by the guy tha came up with the phrase web 2.o … http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html?page=3

particularly fascinating is the take he’s got on blogging … how personal web pages and online journaling have been around forever but that the RSS feed technology has made journaling 2.0 (blogging) so important in the model of today’s internet .. the echo of blogger’s and their link-posting .. the trackbacking … the references to other bloggers’ posts “to infinity and beyond.. ond.. ond.”

all making bloggers inordinantly responsible for search engine results .. which fuel everything.

Just a small one since I’ve done this three times already today… My librarian is the only teacher i can remember in elementary school (all 6 of them that i attended) dressing up for halloween.  I know this must be wrong.  But the fact that I remember it that way says something.

Time Enough at Last

you’ll have to read my previous post before this one.  I posted back-to-back 

ok, so then i read Free Range Librarian’s response  http://freerangelibrarian.com/2007/08/29/on-gentleness-and-librarianship-and-20-ish-ness-and-they/ to the Annoyed Librarian’s post.  I dig her.  She’s way more real-life.  She doesn’t like the whole ‘they’ thing.  ‘I’m fine with it but THEY don’t want it.’  She rags on AL’s they-talk.  Good for her.  AL is a little strident.  And off the point, I think.  FRL remembers the days when she worked with librarians who didn’t want change or felt overwhelmed with what was already on their plate.  She welcomes the 2.0-ers.  While still not becoming a cultist.

I saw an episode of The Twilight Zone (the old one) when I was a kid about a man (Burgess Meredith) who is the last survivor of a nuclear war.  It’s called “Time Enough at Last.”  You probably know it.  He works at a bank and reads during his lunch hour every day in the vault.  He is berated for being ‘a reader.’   When the bombs come, he is safely inside the vault.  He comes out to find he is the only survivor.  He walks around, finally finding a library – a big one – and starts going through all the books.  He finds the one he wants to read first, perching himself precariously atop a huge pile of books and debris.  Of course, he stumbles.  And his glasses break.  The fade to black is of him, crying.

Now, folks, I have to say .. this was the worst TZ I ever watched.  It just stayed with me for days.. I couldn’t imagine not being able to read if I wanted to and had all the time in the world.  Horrific doesn’t cover it.  Years later, when I found out I had diabetes, my first thought was of losing my eyesight and not being able to read.  I just can’t think of anything worse.  Nor would I wish it on the least man.  This just made me value reading and the gift of being able to give that to others, even more.

Those crazy rock-and-roll librarians

Was just reading the blog by Annoyed Librarian “The Cult of Twopointopia”  http://annoyedlibrarian.blogspot.com/2007/08/cult-of-twopointopia.html … wow, that’s one attitude-y chick!  And, yeah, it took me a minute to get that one… 2  … (point) … 0  … pians.  I didn’t realize that ‘Library 2.0’ was some kind of cult or something as AL clearly portrays it.  Now, AL is a clever writer.  I read the whole thing because it was good writing.  Engaging, i mean.  I like pissed-off smart people.  They’re funnier than pissed-off dumb people.  And this one I happen to agree with.  Which, of course, makes me like AL more.  But here’s the thing..

I agree with her because I don’t think ANY one paradigm is the be-all end-all of being a good librarian.  That includes Library 2.0.  (If I even have a handle on THAT.)  I think so many things go into being a good librarian that it is foolish to think that you can make a tidy little descriptive annotation of it and call it a day.  Of course, the irony is that, in principle, I agree with the ‘Twopointopians’ in their assertion that they ‘do it all for the end-user.’

I do believe passionately that the biggest draw for me about this profession (though there are many) is that it is so clearly about helping people.  Helping them find stuff.  Learn stuff.  Do stuff.  Helping them with what they want.  Helping them figure out what they want.  Showing them stuff they might not have even known was there to want.  Opening eyes, and roads, and doors.  It’s rewarding to me.  Fulfilling.  I feel that I am in the service of something that makes a difference to many.

Now… as a practical matter, all of the above has to boil down to a list of job duties, skill sets, and attitude parameters.  I believe that the ideas in Library 2.0 have their place within that scheme.  And the stated impetus BEHIND Library 2.0 definitely does.  But the more that I read these blogs, articles, and other pieces by librarians about the library profession and it’s destiny, the more I get the idea that what it all boils down to gets lost.

I mean, let’s face it.  We do a job.  We get paid.  In that sense, we are similar to your average oil worker.  But what makes us want to be a librarian and not an oil worker?  It’s certainly not the money.  Oil workers are incredibly well-paid.  We, unfortunately, are not.  So, who are we that the job duties …. cataloging, organizing, giving direction and instruction, managing old buildings and young volunteers, raising funds and stamping out fires;  the skill sets …. detail-oriented work, good with figures, large memory capacity, good people skills, excellent writing ability, great organizational skills; and attitude parameters … a passion for reading, helping others, public service, technology, hard work, and great puzzles …. who are we that these things sit right on us? 

Frankly, for most of us, I don’t think that writing judgemental articles and blogs about this theory or that pertaining to librarianship is the reason that we got into this profession.  I think most of us got into it because that’s where our lives and all the experiences, lessons, and influences in it led us.  Which brings me right back ’round to the underlying subject of this blog….

which brings us to my grandmother.. my whole family, really, but my grandmother in particular.  Since I was a little girl, she has been one of the biggest influences in my life.  And hers is a great, compassionate character.  She will leave no road uncrossed to help someone.  Be it her granddaughter (often) or the lady next door or charities, big and small.  She loves to help people.  She is the woman who taught me how to take joy and pride from helping people.  My whole family has this feeling of duty.  It took me some years to find my way back to it, but it was always there.  Those crazy rock-and-roll years took longer than they ought, I’m afraid.

  • Playing God

    I wrote in one of my posts here that I thought of authors as God when I was a kid. And now I'm putting MY random thoughts out there for general edification. heh. Karma. As a job, being God is kind of intimidating. Thank (God) only adults are reading this. (I hope.) That way, I only have to be intimidated about being, say, a lesser cherub.