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Weekly Shhhout-Out

Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Curious Places

The Red Sands Maunsell sea fort in the Thames estuary, off the north coast of Kent by Russss on Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons License

One of the joys of reading a book is to be able to travel anywhere in time and space inside of your mind. By extension, the library is the best TARDIS ever--full of books and electronic resources with facts about history geography and space, as well as stories that can take you back in time and beyond this universe.

Want a map of a historical time period? Visit the “historical” tab of our Maps LibGuide. You can find roadmaps on that same LibGuide, or information on how you can make your own maps. From our links to the Gale Virtual Reference Library, you can go to the Encyclopedia of Food and Culture or the Encyclopedia of Islam and the Muslim World or books about travel in other countries, and much more.

Weird Maryland cover

There are many travel books in our libraries but, because of my penchant for the strange, one of my favorites is Weird  Maryland: Your Travel Guide to Maryland’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. If you don’t know about the Goat Man, you will after you read that book. If the book is checked out, however, after you’ve put your hold on it, go look at a fun website, Roadside America. There you’ll find links to the weirdest tourist attractions across the United States, from the World’s Largest Office Chair to the Miracle Horny Toad of Eastland Texas. If you want to find giant lumberjacks and Dinosaurs, this is the place for you. You can search by state, or by themes such as "Pet Cemetery" or "Big Fruit". They will even point you to hotels near these marvelous sites.

If your tastes are focused on neon lights however, you might want to visit The 10 Most Important examples of Neon Signage and watch the videos.


You may enjoy perusing the copies of National Geoographic in your local library, but pull a seat up to one of our public access computers and look at their website. There you can not only find the beautiful photos you have come to expect, but also stunning videos of places and people around the world. Check out the daily news features, too. Of course. If you want something a little more obtuse, navigate to Atlas Obscura. On that site you can read articles on such things as figurative coffins in Ghana, explore an attractive index of unusual places, or click for a random selection and find yourself in The Boiling Lake or The Heidelberg Thingstatte, a Nazi edifice built on a sacred mountain site used by various German cults. This website sponsors local events if you want to join up with other fans in real time and space.

One of my interests is abandoned places—crumbling inner-city houses, mental institutions fallen into disrepair, graffiti-splattered warehouses by the side of railway tracks. I used to think this was something peculiar to me, brought on by my early childhood surrounded by bombsites left over from World War II, but no, there are fans all over the Internet creating websites, blogs, tumblr pages, and indexes such as those on Web Urbanist and The Huffington Post. Dereliction seems to be a great inspiration to photographers, producing some stunning photographs on pages such as 25 Bone-Chilling Photos of Abandoned Places, 10 Creepy, Beautiful Modern Ruins, and 30+ of the Most Beautiful Abandoned Places and Modern Ruins I’ve Ever Seen. A website called Abandoned Places, created by an amateur urban explorer, takes things one step further by leading the participant on archeological journeys, sometimes as if one is a traveler in the future. It’s a surreal combination of reality and fantasy within an innovative framework of links.

But if you prefer to stick closer to home, there are abandoned places in Maryland also. Maybe I'll run into you at one of those some day.

Inside the Glenn Dale Hospital, Maryland. By Firsttoscore on Wikimedia Commons. Released to Public Domain.

AnnetteAnnette K.

CATEGORIES: Annette K. , Architecture , Abandones Places , Photography , History , Geography , Travel , Maryland
POSTED: 9:30:00 AM |

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Internet, Privacy, and Security

People have a lot of questions about privacy on the internet. The Center for Democracy and Technology points out in their introduction to the subject of Consumer Privacy that privacy is:
... the top reason why non-users still avoid the Internet. Survey after survey indicates mounting concern. While privacy faces threats from both private and government intrusions, the existing motley patchwork of privacy laws and practices fails to provide comprehensive protection. Instead, it causes confusion that fuels a sense of distrust and skepticism, limiting realization of the Internet's potential.
And some of us don't ask enough questions about what happens to the trail of data that follows us. One of the foremost writers on the subject of cyber security is Bruce Schneier, author of the highly respected blog Schneier On Security. Schneier recently wrote an article on CNN's website: The Internet is a surveillance state
The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period.

Increasingly, what we do on the Internet is being combined with other data about us. ... Everything is now being saved and correlated, and many big-data companies make money by building up intimate profiles of our lives from a variety of sources.
This isn't something the free market can fix. We consumers have no choice in the matter. All the major companies that provide us with Internet services are interested in tracking us. ...
Governments are happy to use the data corporations collect -- occasionally demanding that they collect more and save it longer ...

What can we do to protect our privacy? It isn't easy, it isn't entirely possible at present, but there are some protections we can put in place. There are several organizations looking at these issues from the point of view of the general public and consumer. It is worth keeping track of these organizations and the useful information they publish. They also offer opportunities for contributions and activism for those who are interested in doing more.

Libraries and librarians have always been deeply concerned about freedom of information and the right to privacy. These are deeply ingrained in our institutional ethics and values. The American Library Association tracks related issues on their website under Advocacy, Legislation & Issues.

Montgomery County Public Library recommends this page: Tips for Using Public Wi-Fi Networks for when you are using any public wifi network.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is another terrific source of information on what is going on in terms of legislation and enforcement. They run constant updates on current issues.  They also offer articles with useful information on how to protect yourself.  EFF carefully follows such highly controversial issues as CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. And they provide a variety of advice for consumers such as Defending Privacy at the U.S. Border: A Guide for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices.  EFF offers many opportunities both to stay informed and to get involved.

Net.Effect is a blog from Foreign Policy that follows digital issues where they are international policy issues.

The Center for Democracy & Technology provides a wealth of information and access. They divide the issues into these categories:
Free Expression
Consumer Privacy
Health Privacy
Security & Surveillance
Digital Copyright
Internet Openness & Standards
Open Government
All of these headings lead to articles with practical advice and information, well worth reading.

There are also a number of online magazines that follow digital topics.
The Register
Boing Boing
are three of the best known and they constantly follow and update the issues of privacy, security, and freedom of information in the digital sphere.

With these resources you can stay informed, and do what you can to protect your online privacy.

CATEGORIES: Privacy , Security , Nell M.
POSTED: 10:38:00 AM |

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Having worked for Montgomery County Public Libraries for 20 years, I'm definitely a fan of libraries, books, and reading in general. A literary sampling for those seeking something different (summary is followed by where in the library you can find the book):

* "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess. A vicious fifteen-year-old "droog" is the central character of this 1963 classic, whose stark terror was captured in Stanley Kubrick's magnificent film of the same title. In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. When the state undertakes to reform Alex to "redeem" him the novel asks, "At what cost?" READING LIST

* "48 Laws of Power" by Robert Greene. Greene has created an heir to Machiavelli's Prince, espousing principles such as, everyone wants more power; emotions, including love, are detrimental; deceit and manipulation are life's paramount tools. Anyone striving for psychological health will be put off at the start, but the authors counter, saying "honesty is indeed a power strategy," and "genuinely innocent people may still be playing for power." Amoral or immoral, this compendium aims to guide those who embrace power as a ruthless game, and will entertain the rest. 303.3 GRE

* "The Trial" by Franz Kafka. Written in 1914, The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and must defend himself against a charge about which he can get no information. Whether read as an existential tale, a parable, or a prophecy of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the madness of totalitarianism, Kafka's nightmare has resonated with chilling truth for generations of readers. READING LIST

* "Why We get Fat - and What to Do About It" by Gary Taubes. An eye-opening, paradigm-shattering examination of what makes us fat. In theNew York Timesbest sellerGood Calories, Bad Calories,acclaimed science writer Gary Taubes argues that certain kinds of carbohydrates - not fats and not simply excess calories - have led to our current obesity epidemic. Now he brings that message to a wider, nonscientific audience in this exciting new book. Persuasively argued, straightforward, practical, and with fresh evidence for Taubes's claim,Why We Get Fatmakes his critical argument newly accessible. Taubes reveals the bad nutritional science of the last century-none more damaging than the "calories-in, calories-out; model of why we get fat-and the good science that has been ignored, especially regarding insulin's regulation of our fat tissue. He also answers key questions: Why are some people thin and others fat? What roles do exercise and genetics play in our weight? What foods should we eat or avoid? Concluding with an easy-to-follow diet,Why We Get Fatis an invaluable key to understanding an international epidemic and a guide to improving our own health. 613.712 TAU

POSTED: 8:00:00 PM |
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Last edited: 11/6/2007