Les cartes postale francaise: French Postcards

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Last month I joined a small tour group for Discover France, part of the Explorer series through TopDeck, a British travel company specializing in travel tours for ages 18-39.  Of the 12 of us on the tour, eleven hailed from Australia; I was the only American. Because we visited so many places, I’ll write about my favorite spots during the trip.

The first 2 1/2 days were in Paris.  It was wonderful to be back where I’d been a summer study aboard undergrad student 8 years ago. (More on that later) Our hotel was near the La Fourche Métro stop. On the first full day, I started off the day by attending 10:30 am Sunday Mass at St-Michel, a short walk from our hotel.  After Mass, I returned to the hotel, grabbed my camera, and set out. In the Métro station, I bought a 2 day unlimited pass, good for riding all the public transport in Paris. It was a great investment! I visited a few places I’d missed as well as a few new ones.  At the ticket office at Invalides, I bought a 2 day Paris museum pass good for visiting a number of participating museums.

On the road

Bayeux Tapestry

Bayeux: I had seen the famed tapestry depicting the 1066 Conquest but hadn’t seen the town on my previous visit 8 years earlier.  The old town is small and can be quiet during off season. Because the Germans occupied the town during WWII, it was spared destruction when Allied Forces arrived in June 1944.  The cathedral is magnificent to visit. You can see double portraits of William the Conquerer and Queen Matilda on the main doors.

King François I

Château de Chambord: This magnificent château was built for King François I, now a national museum. I really loved touring this place–the rooms featured portraits of the members of the French royal family, art, furniture, and other decorative objects.  There is a small church adjacent to the château; it’s worth visiting too.

Hennessey in Cognac: Here we took a tour of the production warehouses and had tastings of cognac.  I didn’t know how much time and vintages are used to produce cognac.  The older vintages (some dating back to the 18th century) are locked in a separate storage room.  You can buy cognac in the factory store.

Bordeaux & St-Emilion: It was fun discovering the history in both of these towns as well as sampling the famed wine.  We visited a winery in St-Emilion and spent time exploring the town.  The monolithic church can be visited by guided tour only which can be reserved at the visitor’s center.  Also in town, there’s one building dating back to Roman times!  There are steep cobbled streets so I had to be careful walking on it. Back in Bordeaux, I visited the cathedral and the Aquintaine History Museum which is housed in an old university building.  The permanent exhibit is free and provides a fascinating history of the region.

Carcassonne: Home to a well-preserved medieval fortfied castle and battlements. We stayed at the historic Hotel Terminus overnight in the ‘new’ part of the city.

Avignon: Former home of the papacy during the 14th century. The papal palace and its environs are fascinating to explore.

Annecy: This was the last stop on our tour.  Either from the historic château overseeing the city or by the lake, the views of the French Alps are fantastic. We ended the our last night together here as a group with dinner followed by drinking at a local pub.

Back in Paris after the tour ended, I stayed at the Hotel Minerve on Rue des Ecoles, not far from the famed Université de Paris IV–Sorbonne or simply known as La Sorbonne, in the Latin Quarter.  I passed the evening in the Latin Quarter, walking around and had dinner at a café. A wonderful ending to the trip!

Eiffel Tower

Earlier I mentioned this was my 2nd time in Paris. In July 2004, I was a summer study aboard student through the American Institute of Foreign Study (AIFS); French language classes for foreign students were offered at the Sorbonne. When I completed the summer program, I had enough credits to declare a French language minor.  My time at the Sorbonne was worthwhile.  Although I’m still not fluent in French, I’ve had the opportunities to practice my speaking with Francophone patrons who’ve come to the library. (Note: Entry to the Sorbonne and its other academic buildings is restricted to those with valid university id or by prior arrangements; this is enforced by their security officers)

During my free time, I explored Paris, and visited a number of popular sites. I also went on a day excursion to Chartres and a weekend excursion to St-Malo, a port city in Brittany, and its surrounding environs. Going to Paris remains one of the best things I’ve done as an undergrad.

Part 2: France in travel books and music

 

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Gene Kelly – Singing in the Rain

Gene Kelly would be 100 years old today.  

Singing in the Rain by Freed and Brown has been incorporated in animation and even the dark movie A Clockwork Orange.  But, the screen version with Gene Kelly should put a smile on your face and get your toes tapping and deserves a place in any library media collection.  Enjoy ~

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Favorite Handy Reference Book: People, Places, and Things

Favorite Handy Reference Book: People, Places, and Things

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When patrons come to me at the reference desk, there’s one book I readily pull out to consult. It’s not a replacement for checking the catalog but it’s a helpful starting point for patrons looking for a particular topic.  This handy reference book is titled People, Places, and Things, a reference book once published by OCLC.

People, Places, & Things is a reference tool listing popular LCSH headings in alphabetical order with corresponding Dewey call numbers.  (I found a description of the book on page 4 in a 2003 newsletter by OCLC)  Depending on the topic you’re looking up, there may be more than one Dewey number assigned to it.

The book doesn’t list every topic patrons ask at the desk but it’s still useful.  Sometimes I have to think of another term for a subject if I can’t find it listed. If it’s still not there after looking it up, I’ll consult the catalog. At times the book been a back up for looking up call numbers when our catalog was offline.

We *do* need our education!

I discovered People, Places, & Things when I first started 5 years ago.  It was one of several reference resources we kept on the History-Biography reference desk. (The copyright date is 2001 on the copy we have) Since then this book has been invaluable to me.

When I worked in our Popular Library Division on the first floor, I continued to use this reference resource because patrons frequently came to our reading room first. Patrons would tell me what subject area they needed; I’d look it up in the book and write down the Dewey number. With that in hand, they could locate what they needed in the other reading rooms.  When I returned to non-fiction reference, People, Places, & Things came along too.  It’s worked well for me and a great tool.

School will be starting August 27th in DC–I’ll be ready!

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Virtualization of the Patron Experience

Virtualization of the Patron Experience

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This very interesting article in USAToday about the future of retail and virtualization of the customer experience demonstrates how big data can affect and effect virtualized experiences for their patrons:

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-08-05/future-retail-tech/56880626/1

Libraries compete with online information resources in much the same way the traditional retailers compete with online sellers.

Question ~ How will libraries adapt over the next ten years?

Robert Balliot for http://bestofpublib.wordpress.com

Discussion ~ My work in managing/developing online catalogs – with 20,000+ medical equipment / supply products and 7,000+ multi-website display products exceeded what library catalogs do and from an SEO standpoint would beat out Amazon for Google placement.  Traditional retail could not compete because of delivery and cost.  BestBuy is a great place to put your hands on tech, but the prices are much higher.  As e-commerce websites become more and more user-friendly – where you have good photos of products and good descriptions, the whole process ends up making all products into commodities with the lowest cost determining purchase.

With libraries, the focus has generally been on maintaining the status quo and keeping current bureaucracies in place until they can retire. This is not any different for any other bureaucracy – it is a natural inclination - not library specific to simply maintain.  With the focus on cost of maintaining services though, without innovation the perception of value diminishes.  One of the best things I have seen recently in libraries is the introduction of Makerbots as a library resource.  It is those sorts of high-priced shared resources that extend the value and bring people inside the library systems.

But, the issue does become lowest cost.  As we see transportation cost rise, the casual trip to the library could cost $10 in gas. What would $10 purchase virtually?  The associated costs of operating libraries – broken down between the people who continue to use them and the disproportionate number of people who don’t would add additional cost to each real visit.  As information becomes a commodity the lowest cost will determine where we purchase.  That does not mean that the value of libraries as a sense of place and source of inspiration does not add a real value to information consumption.

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Hacking Gmail, Amazon, and Apple

Hacking Gmail, Amazon, and Apple – Problems with Humans and Cloud Security

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Re-posted from SEC4Lib:

On Tue, Aug 7, 2012 at 8:41 AM, Blake Carver <btcarver@lisnews.com> wrote:

Here’s a follow up on that story from yesterday. It’s a good, short, read and has some really good lessons. I know I need to make some changes now.

“How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking” http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/08/apple-amazon-mat-honan-hacking/all/

“I should have been regularly backing up my MacBook. I shouldn’t have daisy-chained two such vital accounts I shouldn’t have used the same e-mail prefix across multiple accounts I should have had a recovery address that’s only used for recovery without being tied to core services. I shouldn’t have used Find My Mac.” –

To me, this is the result of short-term profit maximization at the corporate level mixed with the path of least resistance at the user level.  Companies can operate cheaper, more efficiently up to the point of the hack in the cloud and maximize profits.  Users don’t have to do too much to enjoy the convenience of the cloud up to the point of the hack.  Yet, with each successful hack, the knowledge of how to hack becomes known globally – greatly increasing risk to all users and all companies using the cloud.

When I did a quick security review of Ocean State LIbraries, Sacramento Public Library, and The Library Connection last year, even fundamental security measures were not being taken:  http://bestofpublib.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/pubic-library-security-insecurity/

Library Fight Club

Fortunately, OSL did step up their security a bit with pins, but it created inconvenience to the administrators and the users.  One of the librarians who witnessed the events leading to the change told me that the battle for security over short-term convenience was ugly but she did not want to speak about it publicly. I can understand that - given the justifiable paranoia over having the circulation records used for identity theft and no one wanting to take responsibility.   But, all it takes is just a bit of laziness at the top levels and bad policy to put everyone at risk. And, unfortunately, the first rule of Library Fight Club is not to talk about Library Fight Club so everyone does not know of the risk. Knowledge of risk is limited to insiders who may not know how to manage risk and insure accountability.

I think the real point of the Mat Honan article  is that the writer was not dumb – he is most likely in the top 2% of people who understand technology.  So, every ‘error’ he made – which would not be considered errors by the other 98% of us - is a risk.

The people working in libraries most likely represent the upper 30 or 40% of people who understand technology simply by being surrounded by books and publicly paid for technology.  But, as gatekeepers to those resources they create the impression of expertise.  Some are experts, but really most are not.  Standing next to a pile of books does not mean you read them.  Being able to turn on a computer does not mean you know how it works.  Being responsible for information security does not mean that the information is secure.

What we can take from the Mat Honan article is the humility of the author in showing that he failed himself and should have known better.  There are many, many people in administrative positions including libraries that are responsible for information security who would never admit that they know not what they do.  There are many, many people in corporations that will never admit or may not even know that their systems have been or are compromised.  All we can hope for is strong laws that mandate reporting and at least a few people such as the author of the Wired article to own up to what they do not know as an example for the other 98% of us.

It used to be that you would need to be able to configure Satan and really have a strong grasp of command line interfaces and operating systems to be a hacker.  You really would need advanced knowledge and some fairly sophisticated resources to hack. Not any more.

Backtrack : http://www.backtrack-linux.org/  can be installed very easily and used by novice hackers with ill intent utilizing easy to follow step-by-step instructions on Youtube.  Just using one of my high gain antennas with a little laptop, I can war drive or sit in my house and see many, many exploitable WIFI services locally with little or no protection. I could crack a WEP in about 2 minutes, but so many people now rarely even bother to protect their WIFI. They are just happy that it works out of the box.  As an ethical hacker, I will never exploit those vulnerabilities.  But, the time when exploitation was limited to those with wilful intent, advanced knowledge of computer systems along with strong social engineering skills has passed. We are now in an era where a hack can be easily accomplished with a bit of simple social engineering (SPOKEO anyone?), the intent and common access to a computer. In fact, with very little knowledge about computer systems it would be very easy to inadvertently exploit a system using Backtrack without intent.

I think one of the upsides of less need for advanced knowledge is that we are now seeing powerful cases being built against companies from the digital forensic side where they are doing some pretty sleazy things at the highest level:  http://www.sfgate.com/business/bloomberg/article/Standard-Chartered-Falls-Most-in-24-Years-on-N-Y-3769142.php  In the paper age, the information about these sorts of activities was much easier to control and compartmentalize.  Automated computer forensic tools can greatly simplify investigation without requiring advanced degrees in computer science to operate.

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Robert L. Balliot

http://linkedin.com/in/robertballiot

http://bestofpublib.wordpress.com

http://www.facebook.com/robert.balliot

http://oceanstatelibrarian.com/contact.htm

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Free Gutenberg!

Actually, it is a free Gutenberg the Geek -

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Update:  Gutenberg the Geek is no longer available for free – it is back up to 99 cents.

Gutenberg Press

Gutenberg Press

Stop the presses! BuzzMachine.com  blogger Jeff Jarvis - author of What Would Google Do? – is offering his Kindle Single – Gutenberg the Geek today (4/27/12) for free through Amazon.

Gutenberg

It was well worth the 99 cents I spent for it and gives a nice synopsis and comparison between Gutenberg as an entrepreneur and our high-tech entrepreneurs of today.

 Free Gutenberg! : http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007EI62I0

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The Broken Publib Listserve or Control through Incorporation

I have come here not to bury Publib, but to praise it.

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Ghost of Publib

Ghost of Publib

Last year, OCLC announced that they would graciously host the popular Publib listserve.  With 10 thousand + subscribers representing libraries throughout the world, it certainly represented a win/win situation.  OCLC – which sells its products to libraries would host and subscribers – who buy products from OCLC could continue to subscribe.  OCLC would benefit from the feel-good PR and the ability to data-mine and Publib subscribers could continue to enjoy the communication resource they have contributed to since the early 1990s.

While being hosted by UC Berkeley and Webjunction, Google and Yahoo! and all of the other major search engines readily indexed the discussions by Publib contributors. Even now, a quick engine search of almost any topic regarding public libraries renders a link to a Publib posting from previous years.  

But, all of those links are now broken and the provenance of indexing has been destroyed.  Although you may still view cached files, the only way to get live files is to go behind the wall set up by OCLC.  Access to the root directory is by subscription only, so the search engines would no longer index the content:  http://listserv.oclc.org/   So, everyone who searches any topic ever posted on Publib must now go through OCLC and search the files that they exclusively control. 

What a great benefit this must represent to corporate interests of OCLC! Thousands and thousands of postings on every topic regarding public libraries, created by uncompensated authors, and they now control all of the content and its indexing for almost no associated cost and can monitor and data-mine all usage by the library community.     OCLC established and litigated ownership and control of Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) in OCLC v The Library Hotel  and was recently accused of antitrust by SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces.  Does OCLC now effectively have intellectual property rights to all of the work by Publib contributors?

Hosting a listserv is really not a big deal.  It is fairly low level technology and relatively easy to manage.  With a bit of server space, Open Source programs such as Mailman can be set up that can manage a huge number of subscribers:

http://wiki.list.org/display/COM/Organizations+that+use+Mailman

Hosting by a non-corporate entity such as a library school or a large library system would have made much more sense.  The original iteration with UC Berkeley hosting nested the conversation in a bastion of free speech.  Is removing and blocking indexing censorship? Is vetting all new subscribers appropriate?  Does the ability to restrict access represent ownership? Does hosting a listserve  and controlling access to everything previously written grant intellectual property rights and equate to ownership? Is Publib just another example of intellectual outsourcing?

Time will tell. But, at this time Publib is a ghost of what it once represented. 

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