June 2009 Archives

Vienna City Hall is blocking Facebook for employees

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According to two Twitter sources (1)(2), access to Facebook has been blocked for employees of Vienna City Hall. Members of political parties may gain access again, but are at the moment also locked out of what bemused council member Marco Schreuder calls "an important comunications tool". There is no official statement why this step that amounts to Internet censorship is deemed necessary. Obviously the city hall itself is not thinking about starting their own Facebook presence anytime soon.

DerStandard.at has further details.

Update: City hall representative says Facebook was not blocked, only access made more difficult to protect taxpayers' money (via ORF Futurezone).

Twitter and Facebook: quo vadis, library?

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Recently, a technology expert told us ("us" being more or less the decision-making ranks at The Library) about the inevitability of adopting Twitter and Facebook as communications and marketing channels for The Library. He also told us about robots that will be carrying suitcases and about refrigerators that will be ordering our food, which slightly lessened the impact of the word "inevitable", but his presentation did stir up some dust.

The word "inevitable" did not come from the fact that these products are super cool, but rather from the fact that more and more students are pulling out of the "regular" web into these "social" networks and that The Library has the choice of either being ignored or participating in the network, so we are now forced to come up with a way to sensibly implement Twitter and Facebook presences in addition to The Library's website.

This seems to be the toughest bit though. Starting a Twitter feed or a Facebook page? No problem. Doing it in a way that makes sense? Pretty tough.

Bicycle in the office

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There is a bicycle in my office, and it's confusing the hell out of other people. They are asking things like "What is this?" and I say "It's a bicycle." Or they are asking "How did this bicycle get in here?" and I tell them, "I carried it upstairs." And even though I am answering their questions truthfully, they don't seem to be content with my answers.

I agree that not everybody has a bicycle in their office. In fact, few do. On the other hand, what's so strange about a bicycle in the office?

Error messages that seem to be missing the point

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I think this is the first time a web site has ever congratulated me for having encountered an error.

Note: When creating a web site, make sure you never let the advertisers take over the content.

Weblogs as communication tools for libraries and librarians

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As this happened during the time when this blog was on a hiatus and its space occupied by a fiction blog, I should perhaps draw some attention to the fact that I published a library- and weblog-related book back in March.

Weblogs als Kommunikationsformat für Bibliotheken und Bibliothekare is the print edition of my MSc (LIS) thesis, and it deals with using weblogs in the institutional context of a library, and how they can (and are) used by librarians as personal communication tools.

The book starts with a brief introduction into the functionality and possibilities of weblogs as a communication format; point out what uses and potentials they are offering as tools in general and in a library context, both for library-user interaction and for internal communication. It should be noted that weblogs need to be implemented as part of a larger communications strategy, and that a content policy is required, as weblogs do not automatically improve communication.

The book illustrates how 22 Austrian libraries were using weblogs or weblog-like tools on their websites and also includes a number of examples from libraries in the US and the UK to show what additional uses and applications are possible.

The book is available through booksellers in Austria and Germany, or from Amazon.de. As the title suggests, it is written in German language.

Horst Prillinger: Weblogs als Kommunikationsformat für Bibliotheken und Bibliothekare: Potenziale und Praxisbeispiele - Norderstedt: Books on Demand, 2009. - 140 S. - ISBN 978-3-8370-5070-7 - €15.

Too extreme

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On my recent trip to Belgium, I came across "Mort Subite Xtreme", a kriek beer (spontaneously fermented beer of the Lambic family with cherries added during fermentation) that sparked my interest. Mort Subite ("sudden death", named after a game of dice, not after what happens when you drink it) is generally regarded as one of the better breweries making fruit beers and their regular kriek is pleasantly drinkable and generally gets good, if not rave reviews.

I wasn't really sure what to make of the "Xtreme" moniker. I had hoped that it meant extreme as in more like a traditional lambic, i.e. on the sour or even tart side, like the "oude kriek" varieties offered by some breweries.

Pouring it into the glass, it was remarkably red, with a nice pink foamy head. The taste was, however, the opposite of what I had hoped for: rather sweet, no sour note at all, and a very strong, in fact extreme, taste of cherries -- really too much, as far as I'm concerned. The "Xtreme" part obviously refers to the cherry taste rather than the lambic style.

At 4.3% alcohol and tasting like cherry juice, this is a dangerous drink -- both in terms of getting drunk too easily and in terms of upsetting your stomach. Use with caution.

Beatles remasters: price revealed

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As announced back in April, the entire recorded Beatles catalogue has finally been remastered 22 years after its initial release on CD, to be released worldwide on September 9th this year as single CDs and two box sets. As fans have been complaining about the notoriously poor sound of the 1987 CDs for quite a long time, this was something like good news. Especially the two box sets sounded interesting, but potentially pricey.

The mystery of the price tag has now been lifted: I noticed the other day that Amazon.co.uk has posted the box sets on its website for pre-order. It's bad, but it could have been worse, I guess: currently the stereo box set is listed at £135 [update] £160, and the more interesting mono box set at £158 [update] £200.

That's kind of okay (£7.90 [update] £9.50 per CD in the stereo set, £12.15 [update] £15.30 per CD in the mono set), but still quite a price tag for buying music that you probably already own in some form. Also, one does wonder whether this is an appropriate policy at a time when listeners are defecting in large numbers to digital downloads; by all accounts, the remasters should have been released a few years ago, when the CD market wasn't collapsing, and probably at a more aggressive price.

As for the sound quality, EMI claims in their press release that the new CDs are "the closest ever to the original sound", which is revelatory in so far as this sounds as if the record label doesn't think they're as good as the original LPs -- the claim that CDs sound better than LPs is apparently not even upheld by record labels any longer. And then there's people who doubt that EMI got it right this time after their previous botched attempts.

Anyway, it's good to see that the mono versions of Sgt Pepper and the white album, believed by many to be the definitive version, finally see a wider release, even though it feels a bit too late now. A decent copy of the white album in mono costs around £150. In that respect, the box sets are actually kind of cheap. But then they just contain CDs, not original LPs.

Anything but rodeo-like

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Burger King is currently offering a "Rodeo BBQ" burger, and I don't think it lives up to the promise of its name. I usually admire Burger King for the perfection with which their experts are capable of creating fast food that combines perfectly engineered flavouring with a combination of textures that you simply like to bite into.

However, biting into the "Rodeo BBQ" was like biting through a soft sponge or rubber foam. It didn't feel as if there was a combination of things between the bun halves, it didn't, in fact, feel as if there was anything substantial there at all, it simply felt like indistinct spongy matter.

It didn't taste bad, but the barbecue sauce was so dominant that most of the taste really seemed to depend on the sauce manufacturer. That in itself was not a bad thing; I like barbecue sauce. The meat tasted remarkably neutral; it seemed to blend with the bun taste-wise just as it did consistency-wise. Also, even after having eaten it, I still had no idea what the things on top of the slice of cheese were supposed to be. There was something of an additional taste, but it was like nothing I've ever tasted before. It looked like it was supposed to be crunchy of sorts, but turned out to be just as spongy/foamy as the rest.

I get the "BBQ" part of the name, but the "rodeo" part is something that I don't associate with a burger with a consistency like this; unless rodeos these days feature sleeping bulls, that is. Definitely the strangest "biting into a burger" experience I've had in a long time.

Libraries in the age of Web 2.0 : Review

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Ronald Kaiser: Bibliotheken im Web 2.0 Zeitalter. - Wiesbaden: Dinges & Frick, 2008

Ronald Kaiser's book is a good manual for libraries that want to implement Web 2.0 technologies on their websites, as it gives a very good introduction to the technical side of weblogs, XML feeds, videos, podcasts and wikis in a way that is accessible to both beginners and users with some basic knowledge of these media.

In each case, Kaiser explains the technology and provides a basic how-to with the do's and dont's. Each chapter is then concluded with an interview Kaiser conducted with an expert of each of these technologies, who share experiences and further insights.

Contrary to what the title says, the book is, however, not about libraries in the age of Web 2.0. Kaiser does not really talk about the current situation of libraries, what challenges they are facing, and how Web 2.0 technologies can help them face these challenges. Neither does he mention expected or potential benefits from implementing Web 2.0 technologies; they appear like something of a post factum that cannot be bypassed in any case.

On the life span of books at The Library

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I would estimate that the average book at The Library survives being borrowed about 30-35 times. After that, they either have to be replaced or repaired; if they're out of print and damaged beyond repair, they're lost forever after what seems to be a pretty brief life span. Here are some examples of books that met an even untimelier death:

Borrowed 15 times: Spine broken, pages missing, back cover torn off.

Borrowed 26 times: Pages loose, some missing.

Borrowed 7 times: Pages 265-438 missing.

Borrowed 14 times: cover torn, book ripped from cover.

Borrowed 22 times: General wear, water damage, spine damaged.

Roughly every month I find about 20-30 books from the subject of English language and literature in this condition on my desk, and I have to decide whether they should be replaced, repaired or thrown away.

Novels are in much worse condition than academic books.


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Bild034.jpgThere are what must be millions of sciarids (fungus gnats) living in my plants' flower pots, most of them in my dracaena's pot, but it looks as if they are now also spreading to my chili plant pots.

I have been using yellow sticky boards with good success, catching thousands of them (see picture of last week's catch), but there seem to be more and more of them flying around, to an extent where I am afraid they might be taking over my living room.

Clearly, something needs to be done about them. 

Throwing out the dracaena seems unnecessarily harsh. Insecticide would be an option, but as I would like to be able to eat my chilies, I am hesitant to use it. When looking out for biological alternatives, I came across a local shop that sells nematodes (roundworms), which apparently eat sciarid larvae. The shop sells them in handy packages of 5 million, 10 million or 50 million worms at fairly reasonable prices of €12, €21.60 or €48 respectively.

Me, the master of 50 million worms? I am tempted.


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Rain, rain, rain. Nothing but rain for the past five days, and the prognosis for the next five days says there'll be even more rain. I expect them to replace tram 49 with an Ark service anytime soon now.

The colour

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I chose this template for my blog thinking that the dark parts in the header and sidebar were actually a black-ish gray, but on a different display I noticed they're actually brown. I'm not sure what to make of this. What do you think?

Layout of this page
What about the brown background on this page?

It's awful - change it.
It's not so bad, I don't mind.
It's nice - keep it.

Physical changes

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o2267773.jpg"Things Will Not Stay the Way They Are", "Change Is the Only Evidence of Life", "Nothing Changes", "The Only Constant Thing Is Change", "Survival Is Not Mandatory". Jon Mueller's new album Physical Changes is all about change, and it is one of the most compelling music releases so far this year. It's definitely also one of the most impressive releases due to the sheer amount of determination put into it: Physical Changes is released in a package best described as monolithic; not only do the tracks stretch out between twenty and forty minutes, it's also released on a multi-media set consisting of a vinyl LP, an audio CD and a DVD video.

Mueller is an experimental drummer from Milwaukee who has been active for over 25 years, most recently with the band Collections of Colonies of Bees. In addition to that, he has played with numerous artists from the US avant garde scene, such as Rhys Chatham or z'ev.

The music, or rather sound on this new album is based on a piece Mueller composed for the tour accompanying his album Metals entitled "Nothing Changes", which is changed, revamped and reinvented several times on this new release. Employing numerous collaborators as musicians, sound engineers and mixers, each track gains an entirely new identity as the original source material becomes no longer identifiable.

Shushing is a thing of the past

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Bild032.jpgThe Library is going with the times. The shushing librarian is a thing of the past. Not that I have have ever encountered a shushing librarian here or have ever shushed a user myself in my lengthy career at this institution, but a new apparatus will make shushing obsolete once and for all.

Last week, an earplug dispenser was mounted at the entrance to the main reading room. I am told that they are selling well.

This is not a sign of capitulation to noisy users, or a sign that librarians have lost all authority. It is a sign of capitulation to the technological changes thrust upon us. Most of the noise in the reading room comes from users typing on their laptops, from mobile phones ringing and from users running outside in order to use their mobile phones.

As none of the users can do without laptops and mobile phones and the use of these devices in the reading room is deemed not just acceptable, but actually necessary by pretty much everybody, the obvious solution to make everybody happy is to offer people an opportunity to plug their ears. And so our perception of the world changes yet again.


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My recent trip to Belgium caused a strong craving for food based on potatoes, which I have been trying to deal with for the past week or so. Then I finally gave in today and cooked my first stoemp. The recipe I used was based on a leek stoemp recipe from the Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook by Ruth Van Waerebeck, but I adapted it to become a leek and carrot stoemp. It turned out quite delicious.

Here's what I cooked. The recipe serves two, possibly three if you add a third bratwurst and they're not too hungry.

Tough luck

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I had spent 30 minutes on typing a lengthy article on a particularly interesting record I was listening to, but the browser crashed and took the article with it. So there'll be no interesting blog entry today. Sorry.

The Freewheelin' Yo La Tengo

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"This band has existed for 25 years now and we figured that you all must have a few questions, which is why we are doing this tour, to play some music and answer some of your questions."

17 songs played, approximately 45 questions answered, 2 hours well spent.
Full setlist here.

Yo La Tengo is Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, and James McNew.
Their website is at http://www.yolatengo.com/.

Print edition of Mr Singh available

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I am happy to announce that the English-language print edition of Mr Singh Has Disappeared is now available through booksellers in Austria and Germany. The recommended retail price is €10.

You can also order it online from:

Mr Singh Has Disappeared has disappeared

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As you noticed, the fiction blog that temporarily filled the space usually occupied by The Aardvark Speaks is gone again. I hope that the few people who read it enjoyed it, but contractual obligations forced me to remove the online version now that the print version is available. Comments and feedback on the novel are still welcome in the comments of via e-mail to singhspeculation.gmail.com.

The Aardvark Speaks has returned for now, with less effervescence and appearing more like your average lame librarian blog. Having managed to reduce my readership from several hundred to just a handful through months of not updating it and having failed terribly to attract new readers through Mr Singh Has Disappeared, I have no revolutionary new concept about what I'll be doing here other than filling space and time until my next fiction project.

The page layout is still temporary. The picture at the top is very temporary. All of this may or may not change in the near future.