The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

February 2008 Archive


February 03, 2008

Found in my guestbook over on the subway site: an anonymous message without any contact e-mail address wherein one disgruntled reader asks a question that is already answered in the FAQ and complains that his questions are never answered and that his messages in the guestbook are being deleted.

This was posted about an inch underneath where it says on the page that questions that are in the FAQ will not be answered, that I cannot answer any messages if no e-mail address is supplied, and that anonymous messages will be deleted.

I don't even want to know what actual customer support people must be going through every day. No wonder their answers are usually pointless.

Posted by Horst at 04:50 PM | Comments (2)


February 04, 2008

I noticed that the people working at McDonalds seem to fall into one of two categories:

a) those who don't stay on the job very long. In fact they're there so briefly that I don't ever see them a second time, which would make there average period of employment less than about 14-20 days. Concerning the branch across the street from Vienna University, about 97% of their employees seem to fall into this category.

b) those who stay there, like, forever. At the same branch there is a woman employee who must be well over 60, and she's been working there for well over a decade.

Questions:

a) What does this say about the personality types of the employees in question? Specifically, what does it say about levels of energy and endurance of 18 year-olds compared to 60 year-olds?

b) Now that the UK government has granted McDonalds the right to issue the equivalent of A-level diplomas, how successful will these programmes be given these drop-out rates, or can we expect employment periods to become longer in the future?

Posted by Horst at 04:04 PM | Comments (3)


February 05, 2008

I'm still writing on the thesis about libraries and weblogs that I mentioned about a year ago, only the difference now as compared to a year ago is that there is a submission deadline, which is in exactly 21 days. This means that apart from a slight unwillingness and a minor case of writer's block, I am now also under substantial pressure to finish it in time. Having initially been told an incorrect page limit (128,000 characters rather than 180,000 characters) didn't particularly help either.

Anyway, during my research I came across two articles on librarians' weblogs that mention my weblog specifically, and one of them also mentions that I don't write about library-related things a lot. Which is true, I guess. I've been thinking about this, and have come up with three possible explanations:

  1. When it comes to library-related information, many others are doing it already more comprehensively than I could, even if I had the time, and there's no point repeating anything just for the sake of having your own library weblog.
  2. The number of stories from the library that are actually worth telling is very small. From this number I have to subtract the stories that can't really be published because people might recognize themselves in it and sue me. Both our customers and the powers that be seem to have lost all sense of humour over the past few years. This leaves the number of library stories that I can tell without repercussions at the current rate of about one per year. Sad, but true.
  3. Lastly, there is the following explanation, which is drawn right out of Heinrich Böll's short story "Der Lacher" ("The Laughing Man"), and which makes perfect sense:
    [...] der Melker ist froh, wenn er die Kuh, der Maurer glücklich, wenn er den Mörtel vergessen darf, und die Tischler haben zu Hause meistens Türen, die nicht funktionieren, oder Schubkästen, die sich nur mit Mühe öffnen lassen. Zuckerbäcker lieben saure Gurken, Metzger Marzipan, und der Bäcker zieht die Wurst dem Brot vor; Stierkämpfer lieben den Umgang mit Tauben, Boxer werden blass, wenn ihre Kinder Nasenbluten haben [...].
    In other words, I am separating my work and my writing.

So now you know. This is still a librarian's weblog though, no matter what you think.

Posted by Horst at 04:24 PM | Comments (1)


February 07, 2008

Sorry about that.
It happens from time to time.

It's funny how a nonsensical blog post can collapse instantly the moment somebody posts a sensible comment. Quite remarkable really.

Posted by Horst at 02:40 AM | Comments (0)


February 11, 2008

HenryEven four weeks after he has arrived, the suction power of my Henry doesn't cease to amaze me. My old vacuum cleaner was asthmatic in comparison. By the way, if anybody knows a good (and cheap) source for the stuff that you use to fill the gaps between the panels of parquet flooring, I'd appreciate the info. Henry seems to have a particular appetite for it.

Posted by Horst at 11:39 PM | Comments (1)


February 12, 2008

a selection of cansI do appreciate the fact that the bread I eat contains apparently no preservatives at all. I can say this with some certainty because even at this time of the year, when my kitchen is mostly dark and cool, it takes only something like 3 or 4 days for the bread to become mouldy.

It's during the moments of the recognition of the fungus on the bread and the thought "but I bought this only a few days ago" that I'm unsure whether I should have my kitchen checked for particularly aggressive fungus spores, or tell my local supermarket that they should have their shop checked for these spores, because the whole bread-getting-mouldy thing seems to be happening a lot faster now than it used to.

And it's moments like these when I dig through the drawer in my kitchen and realize there's really nothing in there that would taste nice without some bread to go with it.

Plus, I also realize that some of the things I'm buying, like the local variety of spam (edible spam, not the stuff in your inbox), are pretty revolting. Or the fact that the can of cassoulet in genuine duck stock brings back fonder memories of the day when I bought this can in a supermarket in Toulouse than of the contents of the second can bought on that day and eaten a few months ago.

I suppose the kimchi works without bread. I wonder if I'll ever feel like eating that can of cassoulet.

Posted by Horst at 10:07 PM | Comments (6)


February 13, 2008

French Connection 5 - DJ h-prill presents chansons and jazz at Cafe Frame, 15 February 2008, from 9pm
Posted by Horst at 10:14 AM | Comments (2)


February 16, 2008

After a long and rather protracted struggle, my MSc thesis on the potentials and practical applications of weblogs in the context of academic libraries is finally finished and will be submitted on Monday. One more exam to go in late March, and then you can download it from a thesis server near you.

Abstract:

Since the late 1990s, a new kind of publication on the Internet has raised an increasing amount of attention: the weblog, basically a website that is frequently updated, contains short postings that are arranged in reverse-chronological order, which can contain anything from everyday experiences of their author to project notes, political commentary, technological newsbites, or even cat pictures. A weblog also typically contains an archive of all previous postings, a unique URL for each entry, an XML feed that allows subscription to the entries, links to related websites and comments from its readers.

Through linking to each other, weblogs form clusters of information; through the chronological order of the entries, they put strong emphasis on processes rather than on results; through the open structure, they invite conversation and communication.

Libraries and librarians are working from the understanding that their goal is to propagate information and access to information. As a consequence, librarians have embraced the weblog concept right from its inception as a medium to connect and inform.

This thesis takes a brief look at the mechanisms of weblogs in general, and some of the principles governing their application in a library context in particular. It also analyses the use of weblog-like web pages maintained by Austrian academic libraries (for both external and internal communication) and to what extent these pages make use of the advantages of weblog technology. These findings are contrasted with examples of how weblogs are used by libraries in other countries. Finally, the thesis will show how personal weblogs written by librarians can rectify negative images of the profession, and will introduce a number of personal weblogs to illustrate the point.

Posted by Horst at 10:25 PM | Comments (4)


February 24, 2008

Neil Young has been around the music world for over 40 years, and he is perhaps the only one of the old dinosaurs who is quite unable to make a fool of himself on stage. I hadn't even heard that he would perform in Vienna until I read in a newspaper that the concert was completely sold out about three weeks ago. I was somewhat disappointed, but when I heard about the excessive ticket prices, I wasn't all that disappointed any longer.

However, when I got the surprise offer to get a free ticket about an hour before the concert started, I didn't say no.

I arrived just in time, but missed most of the opening set, apparently a folk/country inspired performance by Young's wife Pegi. It was pleasant enough, but really the kind of music that you want to listen to in a much, much smaller venue with a considerably smaller audience. The songs had a potential for intimacy, but all of it just evaporated in the cold, bare hall of the Austria Center.

Still, when Neil Young came on stage and started his acoustic set, everything seemed to change. Suddenly it was an unbelievably intimate setting. The main problem here was just that the stage was so far away and I couldn't really see him; the music itself was close and immediate. The opening tracks "From Hank to Hendrix" and "Ambulance Blues" hit the nerve spot-on, the sound was clear and crisp. For some reason, the songs performed on piano didn't work quite as well as those on the acoustic guitar, and the need for a cheesy synth on "A Man Needs a Maid" escapes me. The highlight from this set for me was a particularly touching version of "Mellow My Mind" performed on banjo. The rest of the audience seemed to prefer "Heart of Gold" though. All through the set, Young seemed to be totally absorbed in the music, so much that his body language totally reflected the emotionality of the songs. One perfect hour.

After a 30-minute break, Young returned for the electric set, which was, at least where I was sitting, considerably less enjoyable. The walls of the room seemed to reflect and excessively amplify certain frequencies of the electric guitars, so that from where I was sitting, much of the music was little more than a distorted wail of sound, which even managed to almost completely drown out the drums. Only the snare was audible, the cymbals weren't, and the bass drum only barely, so as much as I wanted to enjoy the set, I really couldn't.

Young seemed in a good mood though and even opened up a bit during the performance, though his body movements on stage during the rock numbers seemed less convincing than during the torn, tortured performance of the first set. Song-wise, while the first set was excellent throughout, the difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff became painfully obvious during the second set, especially when the newer songs incorporated too many recognizable elements from older songs. The three opening songs, "Mr Soul", "Dirty Old Man" and "Spirit Road", came across as rather weak songs, and there was really nothing Young could do to make them interesting. As a result, the audience did not really respond to a good rendering of "Down by the River" either. On the other hand, when the anthemic riff of "Hey hey my my" came on, many jumped from their seats and rushed towards the stage, frenetically jumping up and down, and apparently causing the management concern that the floor might collapse (there was an announcement to that effect). Things cooled down again after that, and many returned to their seats during "Oh Lonesome Me" and "Winterlong". The set was closed with an intense 20-minute treatment of "No Hidden Path", a rare case of an impressive performance saving a not-so-great song.

I left when they started the first encore "Cinnamon Girl" because it was already past midnight and I wanted to catch the last subway train home; it seemed like I had heard the essence of it after a 90-minute electric set. I expect that the audience reaction to "Rockin' in the Free World" must have been the same as to "Hey hey my my" because it's the kind of song the audience seemed to react well to.

Conclusion: Young is in great shape, but unfortunately his songwriting hasn't quite kept up with his performance skills -- the newer songs simply aren't all that great. An added problem is that of the older songs, the largest part of his audience seems to prefer the brainless stompers to the true gems. I felt like an outcast in there, thinking that the best songs were the quietest ones: "Mellow My Mind" and "Ambulance Blues", and all the rest of the acoustic set touched me much more than the electric set, where again the quietest song "Oh Lonesome Me" felt like the most successful performance. Of course the abysmal acoustics may have been to blame because the quieter songs sounded good, whereas the louder ones were just one big blur.

Definitely worth it though, even if I would have had to pay for the ticket.

Posted by Horst at 11:52 AM | Comments (4)



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