Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Good Friend, Store

I have to give a shout out to Victoria's Secret for their persistance, demonstrated by their continuing to send coupons for free underpants even though I only buy something there about once every two years. They followed us to our new address, even though we didn't give it to them, and the post office doesn't forward catalogs!

This might seem a little creepy, but since it means continued coupons, I'm all for it. Sure, I'm being stalked by a lingerie store, but at least they're giving me stuff.

As you can see, I am easily mollified.

It might seem like kind of a poor return on the investment for them, if I spend $30 on a sports bra every two years, while cheerfully accepting 6 or 8 pairs of $7-10 underpants in the same period, but I suppose I'm more likely to buy something if I go in there to pick up free garments than if I never go in there at all.

There's this sense of guilt they probably rely on, where you feel kind of like a lowly moocher if you only go in to redeem a coupon, so you buy a little something as long as you're in the store. Because it's only polite, you know.

And I'll acknowledge that I have felt that sense of guilt, as if I had some sort of social relationship with a store that increasingly doesn't make anything I actually want to wear, and I have in years past purchased things I didn't entirely need, so I'm not saying it doesn't work. It works nicely: the store was kind enough to give you a little present, so obviously the courteous thing to do would be to spend some money there!

Lately, though, given the lack of anything in the store that I want very badly, I'm trying to embrace my inner lowly moocher a little more. "Yeah, I'm just here for the free stuff. Hand it over, I'm in a hurry."

After all, they don't have to send coupons. And you never know, I might buy something, one of these times.

Monday, August 20, 2012

This Could Be Brilliant

The American Prospect directed me to a clever new site called ToS;DR, for Terms of Service; Didn't Read.

It refers to the many, many (many) pages of dense legal language that define our relationships with online services like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Steam, etc. The site states,

 “I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the web. We aim to fix that.

Good idea! Because, yeah, I admit I click to indicate my understanding of and agreement to terms that I haven't actually read. I mean, how can you read that stuff? Does anyone read all their terms of service in full?

We should, yeah, long...eyelids getting heavy...ooh, look, something shiny somewhere else on the web! Yeah, yeah, I have read and agree, sure.

ToS;DR rates terms of service for various companies/services from A to E, with A being the best, and puts nifty little icons next to specific aspects of the terms, like a thumbs-up symbol for a "Promise to inform about data requests" or a red X for "No Right to leave the service."

 A lot of the ratings are still in progress, with "no class yet," but you can view the positives and negatives that are listed.

ToS;DR invites user input in developing its ratings, so if you have read and understood your terms of service, you might want to send them a note listing good and bad points for them to add to their lists.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Take Your Due-Date Slips Back, Ebooks

Sarah, the Librarian in Black, had a post a bit ago on how she's "breaking up with" ebooks, which she argues have been like a bad boyfriend/girlfriend for libraries: promising more than is delivered, ignoring our needs, acting all charming to win us over and then turning into a jerk, etc.

She makes the argument that 'we in libraries are actually doing a disservice by offering what’s "barely good enough." We give people the false impression that they can get their eBooks through their libraries.'

This is an interesting point. If all we can offer is a bad ebook service, maybe we're better off not even saying "we have ebooks!" at all--it's not as if that money couldn't be spent elsewhere.

And it's true that libraries can't offer every format for everything. We can lend movies, but (in most cases) not in the 35 mm reels you'd need to project them in your private large-screen theater.

Maybe we could likewise just say, we lend books, but not in the electronic format you'd need to read them on your tablet.

There's a difference, obviously, in that most people have no desire to borrow 35 mm film canisters, while many people probably would like to borrow ebooks, but hey--if the publishers won't grant licenses libraries can work with, what can we do?

As I've noted before, the library where I work has stayed mainly out of the ebook fray by purchasing items you read online at the publisher's website, rather than ones that are downloaded to some other server or device, but it sounds as if that model is a lot more available for academic texts than popular works, so is not a viable option for public libraries trying to make sure everyone who wants it gets the latest bestseller in a timely fashion.

We could call it the "only offer ebooks no one wants to read" approach?

But that's not fair to our perfectly nice electronic titles: it's not that no one wants to read them (well, it probably is for some of them), just that they have a very specific and fairly small audience compared to popular novels and such.

In any case, I could certainly see how breaking up with ebooks could be an unfortunate, not-especially-crowd-pleasing option that would nevertheless be the best move for a library.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

By Any Other Name

The Krafty Librarian highlights an NLM Technical Bulletin announcing that PubMed Central is changing its name to PMC (which is what we all called it for short anyway).

I agree with her that I don't think this is really going to solve the problem of people confusing PubMed Central with PubMed, to whatever extent this is a problem, since PMC on its own is unlikely to really mean anything to most people, but whatever.

The problem of me continuing to call it PubMed Central when talking about it in classes will also be a tough one to solve. Sorry, NLM. Old habits and all.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

That's Politics

I was amused to see, on the Library of Congress Blog, that the origins of the phrase "keep the ball rolling" lie in an 1888 political stunt.

There's even a nice picture of the ball in question, which is revealed to be more than twice as tall as the guy standing next to it, and is covered in campaign slogans lauding the presidential fitness of Benjamin Harrison. Dedicated Harrison supporters apparently rolled it from Maryland to Indiana.

It must have done the trick, because Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland in the Electoral College (although he lost the popular vote, so I guess it only did the trick with electors and failed to impress the common voter).

Cleveland, of course, then won again the next election, to fulfill a perhaps-long-held dream of being the only person (so far) to serve two non-consecutive terms as president.

When I run for president, you can bet that I will encourage my legions of dedicated supporters to roll a giant ball covered with my campaign bumper stickers from Maryland to Indiana. No, wait: TWO giant balls! One starting in Florida, and one in Oregon, converging on Nebraska.

That will be easily twice as effective as Harrison's stunt.

Three times, assuming we can figure out what his color scheme was, and pick a better one.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Speaking of Traffic, Sort Of

One of the fun things about having ZipCar as your vehicle is the opportunity to drive a wide variety of automobiles, some of which give you the chance to try out newfangled gadgetry like the rear view camera in the Honda CR-V I drove today.

In case you haven't seen it, this is a little panel in the dashboard which, when you put the car into Reverse, displays a view of what's behind you. In full color, no less, with lines superimposed to indicate exactly where you'll end up if you slam on the gas and back up right then.

It's cool, but also a little weird. I found myself alternately watching the panel, and looking over my shoulder, the way we did back when I learned to drive.

I suppose practically speaking there's no need to look over the shoulder anymore, since the camera can see a lot more than I can through the back window, but it just felt wrong, somehow, to be backing up without glancing behind me.

Even though, in fact, I might actually be worse off by looking, since I could back over a small object that wouldn't be visible in the back window, but would show up in the camera view. When technology presents an improved way of doing things that is opposite to the habitual way of doing things, it feels a little awkward at first.

In fact, it was a bit like a video game, maneuvering around while looking at a screen, and I'm all for video games, but again, it felt a little wrong to be playing one while driving.

I'd probably get used to it, if I drove more. In a vehicle that had that particular gadgetry.

On a mostly unrelated note, I kind of miss hood ornaments. The style of cars these days is to have the hood slope way down, so you can't actually see where the front of the car is. I can never tell how close I am to hitting the wall of the garage. Now a nice hood ornament gives you a point of reference, like a flag planted at the border of the car's sovereign territory, that says "here be the boundary!"

I want a flag, darn it.