Friday Fun LInk – “The Coolest” Cooler Breaks Pebble’s Kickstarter Record

The Coolest – a modern cooler integrating all kinds of cool technology and gimzos has unseated Pebble’s over two year long record for highest earning Kickstarter offering, earning $10.7 million to Pebble’s $10.3 million.

The Kickstarter has closed now so you can’t get in, even if you wanted to (I did for Pebble but not this one), but if the avalanche of smart watches being released by Samsung and Apple is any indication, you can expect to see major players releasing techno-coolers in the next year or two!

What Happens If You “Like” Every Single Thing You See on Facebook For A Couple Days?

A Wired writer finds out (and the results aren’t pretty!)

Ran a Minecraft program at my library tonight…

…but am way too tired to write more than that!

What’s The Most BS Sounding True Fact You Know?

I love these.

Music Monday – “Many colours are the jewels that sparkle/Many pleasures I will hold and embrace/Still for all that this world has to offer/It’s here that my heart will remain”

When pressed, I might call “Gone” by Greg Keelor my favourite album of all-time.  Here’s one of the songs from that album…

Lucknow” – Greg Keelor

VPL Strikes Blow For Freedom of Expression!

Vancouver Public Library has recently made news in libraryland with a controversial revised Internet Access Policy that added a restriction specifically addressing patrons viewing “explicit sexual images”.

And I, for one, am glad to see that Vancouver Public Library has taken this important step!

For far too long, libraries have allowed patrons to view any and all material that meets their information-seeking needs and that has got to stop!

Of course the obvious place to start is with explicit sexual images and like the Justice of the US Supreme Court said in his famous ruling, I’m sure VPL staff also can’t actually define what “sexually explicit” is but they’ll all “know it when they see it” so they can enforce this new policy equitably and without any unnecessary embarrassment or awkwardness for anyone involved.

Why, just recently at RPL, one of our librarians got a complaint about someone viewing sexually explicit material.  Turns out a patron was looking at childbirthing videos!  If we’d been more like VPL, that horrendous offense could have been shut down immediately instead of allowing that filth to continue unabated.   Can you imagine if a child walked by and saw a naked woman delivering…a child!  Who will protect children from learning where children come from if not the library?  (Or, more accurately, who will protect the parents from having to have potentially awkward conversations with their children?)

Childbirth is only one of the many things that library patrons could find “sexually explicit” – what about someone looking at a photo of three nude models (two men, one woman) as was recently displayed in RPL’s Dunlop Art Gallery. Is that sexually explicit?   What about a photo from an art gallery of a naked man and woman kissing?  A photo of two clothed men kissing?  A photo of two naked men kissing?  What if these images weren’t from art galleries?  What if someone looks at an image from Playboy?  Penthouse?  Hustler?  Playgirl?  A photo of two monkeys copulating?  What if it was two penguins and they were the same sex???  What about a photo of a monkey and a penguin copulating in an art gallery?

It is also fortunate that, in striking right at the source of all offense in the world with this new policy, VPL remains silent on the many other visuals that may give offence on their workstations so that the tender minds of the left coast are still able to view misogynistic rap videos, racist cartoons, pictures of Nazi concentration camps, real world combat videos with video game-like scenes of actual people dying, images of beheadings and, worst of all, patrons who watch that Trivago Guy commercial repeatedly on YouTube (true story!)

But I’m sure it’s a small slope (a very slippery one) until all possible nudity, violence, racism, sexism, misogyny, and anything else that could possibly be found offensive by one person over another is also properly restricted at VPL.

So join me in saying “Kudos to VPL” for striking a blow for freedom of expression.  Of course, the blow was aimed directly *at* Freedom of Expression but why quibble – there are pictures of people having sex on the Internet!  And now that former bastion of free expression, the public library, is at the forefront of stopping that depravity.

Now where’d I put that </sarcasm> tag…

Okay, sarcastic response over I’ll add a couple other thoughts…

  • Hypocrisy alert.
  • RPL apparently wasn’t one of the dozen or so libraries across Canada whose Internet Policy was consulted by VPL (purposely?).  We have two guiding policies for the inevitable porn discussions that seem to come up like clockwork:
    -> Our “Safe Use & Conduct Bylaw” which guides all patron behaviour and does expressly prohibit “sexual misconduct or harassment” (which I’d be hard pressed to extend to a complaint about someone looking at porn) but also prohibits “[any activity that] otherwise interfere[s] with another’s use and enjoyment of the Public Library” which is the clause we *can* cite when we do have to tell patrons to be a bit more discrete.
    -> RPL’s “Internet Access Policy” is even better.  It has two great phrases which do a great job of protecting the library from getting into messy debates about the morals and ethics of what people view in the library: Right off the bat, it says: “Because the Internet is an unregulated network of resources, it also enables access to information, opinions, and images that may be inaccurate, controversial or offensive.” and then later, it adds: “The Library provides access to workstations with privacy screens, to ensure that both your legal right to access information under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and your privacy rights, are respected.”  The closest RPL’s Internet policy comes to VPL-like language is this clause: “The Library is a public space that is shared by people of all ages and backgrounds. We strive to balance the rights of individuals to access a wide range of information resources with the right of staff and users to work in a public environment free from harassment. The Library may terminate an Internet session if sites are accessed, which are inappropriate for viewing in a public setting.”  There’s still a bit of wiggle room about what we mean by “inappropriate” but compared to the moral judgment and loaded language of the VPL policy, we’re miles ahead.  
  • I was reading online comments about the new VPL policy and a BC-based librarian (but who’s not at VPL) had a great point.  They said they liked Seattle Public Library’s Internet Policy which is basically “Poor people like naughty pictures too.  If what they’re looking at offends you, maybe you should overt *your* eyes.” 
  • Someone pointed out about how there’s always a tension between “Freedom to” and “Freedom from” something.   In this case, the tension is between a patron’s freedom to view porn (or whatever material they want) and a staff member’s right to be protected from things they find objectionable.  But to me, I think it’s similar to a vegetarian working in a grocery store who might object to the meat counter or a young clerk working in a drug store who might be offended/disgusted by someone buying condoms and KY Jelly.  Employers have a responsibility to inform potential new employees about some of the things they’ll encounter in their new workplace, the cultural values and framework that defines *why* they might encounter those things and if they are going to be offended, why the library (or the grocery store or the drug store) might not be the workplace of choice for them after all.
  • Kinda related to that last point – someone else pointed out that since this policy change being so specifically about “sexually explicit” images, it may actually have come about due to a staff grievance from someone feeling harassed or unsafe because of what they see patrons viewing.  That is a legitimate concern of course but I wonder how far we go to protect staff from feeling unsafe? Do we remove all the sex guides?  Just the illustrated ones?  Every magazine that has pictures of women in bikinis or other sexy outfits?  (On a slight tangent, you know your MLIS is being put to great use when you have to put on the rubber gloves to remove a tattoo/biker magazine from the men’s washroom since its pages are stuck together!) No more Harlequin novels?  Now, I’m a male and would never claim to have the same understanding as women of what its like to experience unwanted sexual advances (or worse) on a regular basis.  And no one would argue that we want to have an unsafe work environment for any employee – not just from unwanted sexual advances but any type of violence – verbal, physical, mental or otherwise.  But at the same time, I go back to the “Freedom to” and “Freedom from” argument and if you have to pick one way to lean, I’m always going to side with my (female-dominated) profession which has a Statement of Intellectual Freedom as one of its core and guiding principles when deciding which side I’m on in situations like this.
  • As always, my post is very stream-of-conscious and rambly.  If you want a much better formal essay on the topic, click here.

I’ll end with a quote from one of the articles I linked to at the start of this post

How about we take a real look what inappropriate actually is before we outlaw it? Because if you don’t, people (patrons, staff, flies on the wall) are going to assert that their personal definitions of unacceptable are correct. And then they’re going to argue about it. And then everyone involved will feel harassed. I guarantee you that there are going to be people that would lump nude art and pornography in the same category, just like there are people who will assert that they are inherently different 

(This post borrows ideas, links and comments from a Facebook thread by my colleague, TR.)

Saturday Snap – Cobb Salad

I don’t post a lot of pictures of food but Shea created something magical the other night that needs to be documented…

 

Friday Fun Link – GasRun.ca

GasRun. ca is a pretty cool site that uses your location to estimate the day’s gas price then allows you to enter two destination points and the type of vehicle you drive to estimate how much it would cost for you to travel one-way or return between those two points.

So, as an example, I typed in the relevant info for us to go from our home in Regina to Saskatoon.  The site came back with an estimate of $42.40 for one-way and $84.80 for a round-trip.

Maybe we’ll just go to Moose Jaw instead?

An Ode to Ralph Wiggum

Ralph is so memorable because, in part, he is the most real of all The Simpsons characters; as outlandish as his behaviour can sometimes seem, he’s as real as a cartoon boy gets.

(via Reddit)

Holiday Weekend Catch-Up

I took a couple days off on Monday and Tuesday to have an extended long weekend to go camping with Shea’s and my folks and to attend Shea’s cousin’s wedding.  Which means I need to do another extended weekend catch-up of missed blog posts

Saturday Snap
As mentioned, we went to Shea’s cousin’s wedding at the cousin’s ranch near Willow Bunch in south-central Saskatchewan on Saturday.  Amazing beautiful spot and being on a ranch meant it was a great opportunity for a city boy to play dress-up while getting photo-bombed by a bunch of horses!

Sunday
Let’s just call this one a day of rest and not post anything for this day?

Or I could put on my Atheist hat and note the irony of a museum located in the former convent in a still-very Catholic town being open 7 days a week including Sunday from 9-5pm?  Worked for us though as my family and then Shea’s family were able to get to it on Sunday (we went in shifts taking turns with Sasha back at the campground.)

Music Monday
I may have posted this song before but found a version that featured Ian Tyson playing with Corb Lund which seems appropriate for a western-themed post…

Tuesday
And as always, I’ll finish with a single line random link: “How R.E.M.’s ‘Out of Time” is The Most Politically Significant Album of All-Time…Because of Its Packaging”.