Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting To Know Atlanta

Every Thursday I look forward to a new issue of Creative Loafing, Atlanta's free weekly with coverage of everything local including film, music, food, et cetera. The extensive coverage of all things Atlanta (and surroundings) gives me a feeling of connectedness I can't go without. I found this week's issue to be especially useful due to the inclusion of the urban explorer section highlighting parts of town and their respective shops, restaurants, galleries, et cetera. I discovered some new places to visit along with reminders for some locations I have overlooked recently.

- Christopher Bishop

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Blogging the Universe: A Weekly Look At Blogs of Interest, Installment 5, Ugly Sheet Cakes and TackyChristmasYards

The odd and absurd emit an odd attraction for many who cannot help but notice the bizarre creations people seem to come up with as they create for others. This week I would like to highlight two blogs for those who love the tacky side of creativity. The first is Ugly Sheet Cakes, a blog dependent on cakes both disgustingly fantastic and universally revolting. I especially like the Groundhog Day cake on the left. The recent spattering of St. Patrick's Day entries are especially unappealing to my pallet for some reason. Edit: I just found a blog with similar coverage called Cake Wrecks. Take a look.

I know Christmas has passed so the blog TackyChristmasYards may be somewhat unseasonal but it still fits within the odd and absurd tag I'm using for this post. I think we have all passed a humongous Christmas display in someone's yard and felt both wonder and a sense of overkill on the decorator's part. I'll refrain from espousing my own opinion on these displays since a picture is worth a thousand words.

-Christopher Bishop

Lost In The Library, Installment 5, Kites: Sculpting The Sky by Tsutomu Hiroi

Spring is a time for enjoying beautiful weather while spending time outdoors. Since I was young I've always enjoyed flying kites but never really thought about where they originate from or how I might build one. The CFL's copy of Tsutomu Hiroi's Kites: Sculpting The Sky is an excellent resource for kite enthusiasts, especially those interested in Asian and Japanese kite history and construction. The book begins with a concise history dating the first kites to China around two thousand years ago. The first kites were made of wood and cloth until the invention of paper in China around 105 A.D. Many of the early kites were used for military or scientific purposes due to the knowledge needed to build and fly the contraptions. Around 1000 A.D. the kite became a popular recreational pastime among the Chinese. The popularity of the kite in China caused it to spread to the rest of Asia as a scientific and military tool, and as a leisure outlet. In Europe the first instance of a kite is noted by Hiroi as being 230 B.C. The kite followed a similar path to popularity in Europe as it did in China and Asia.

Hiroi's book is translated from Japanese with a heavy emphasis on the kite's cultural history in Japan. Japan even has multiple contemporary and historical kite centers throughout the country. Hiroi uses images and diagrams extensively to give the reader an idea of the artistry and detail present in kite construction and presentation. The photographs are most extensive when exampling the three types of Japanese kites including the northern which migrated directly from the Asian continent and is examples by the Goto Islands baramon, the south pacific derived Nagasaki hata which is triangular, and the indigenous originating solely in Japan and examples by the Managu.

Hiroi's kite construction section is the highlight of the book with detailed step by step directions and easy to follow diagrams. After a brief introduction concerning aerodynamics Hiroi moves into needed materials and equipment for kite construction including kite line, paper and decorating, frames and glue, and sketching patterns with additioanal ideas included. The step by step portion shows the construction of a box kite, gunya-gunya kite, and building a bamboo frame. There is also a section of what I would call crazy kites including extremely large and ornate examples. The last section of the book examines kites from other parts of the world along with some construction ideas.

If you have an interest in kite flying and construction come by the library for a look at Kites: Sculpting the Sky.

- Christopher Bishop

Websites of Interest:

Google kite directory
Kite links galore

Japanese Kite Collection
Tons of links and images covering the gamut of kite interests

The Drachen Foundation
An organization dedicated to promoting kite culture with excellent links and a bibliography of kite resources

Books of Interest in the CFL Collection:
Wings: A History of Aviation From Kites To The Space Age
Tom D. Crouch
629.13 CROUCH

The Art and Craft of Paper
Faith Shannon
745.54 SHANNON

Freely Accessible Online Periodicals Through The CFL

The Carlyle Fraser Library uses a program called Serials Solutions to assist users in finding full-text articles from periodicals a patron only has a citation for and cannot find in the database they are searching. The patron version of serials solutions is journal finder. In addition to 19,499 titles already available full-text in the CFL journal finder, we have added 4053 titles which are freely accessible through the portal. Titles include multiple disciplines such as general interest, science, arts and humanities, business, social sciences, et cetera. After you have entered a title in the search screen the database links and coverage are listed below. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to print a detailed list of all the titles.

- Christopher Bishop

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Citizendium and Authoritative Wikis

Many librarians and classroom teachers have serious reservations when students want to use wikipedia for school assignments given the lack of academic credentials for authors, uncited information, and poor grammar. I find the site to be useful for explaining technical jargon or pop culture topics, but I always advise students who want to use wikipedia to view the site as a possible introductory site for information on a topic, not as a citeable resource. However, the debate over whether students should use wikipedia is nearly a mute point since so many do.

I find the newish citizendium site to be a hopeful tool for those who desire a community generated resource with more rigid oversite regarding authorship and editing of articles. In the about section citizendium states, "The Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um), a 'citizens' compendium of everything,' is an open wiki project aimed at creating an enormous, free, and reliable encyclopedia. The project, started by a founder of Wikipedia, feels that we can achieve this crucial improvement over Wikipedia through measures such as adding 'gentle expert oversight' and requiring contributors to use their real names. We already have over 5,800 articles and hundreds of contributors." The site features a registration form for possible contributors and a list list of topics by discipline.

I do have to wonder if citizendium will ever become a universaly known resource in competition with wikipedia since so many people are reliant on convenience and prior knowledge when looking for quick information. Hopefully, additional attention will arise with free yet authoritative resources such as citizendium which counter sites such as wikipedia and offer a resource more educators would be willing to accept from students.

- Christopher Bishop

How To Assistance: From the Mundane to the Mandatory

The other day I found myself needing some assistance with a household project I had no prior experience with and knew absolutely no one who would be knowledgeable enough to help. I did some searching online and found my new favorite one stop help site, eHow. Topics range from the mundane to the practical and extend to the ridiculous. Everything finds a home on the site which features written steps and video tutorials with an easy to use search box and browsing categories.

Another how to site I find helpful is monkeysee featuring thousands of helpful video tutorials on a wealth of topics. Some of the content is humorously done while other segments are more straightforward. Monkeysee has fewer inane topics than eHow and seems to be a little more rigid in what they will accept. For me the break dance basics and beat box introduction were most helpful ;).

- Christopher Bishop

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Svalbard Seed Vault

Ok, so have you heard about this? The Global Crop Diversity Trust is an organization devoted to fighting hunger and it is its mission to "ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide."

To this end, the idea for a sort of ark for seeds was conceptualized back in the 1980's. However, due to various squabbles and disagreements about the best methods for seed preservation, etc, the GCDT was only able to move forward once the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources went into effect.
Here's the idea: when disaster strikes (whether natural in the form of droughts, etc, or manmade in the form of war, civil unrest, or mismanagement) and unique varieties of the world's most important crops may be lost. The purpose of the seed vault is to ensure that specimens of as many seeds as possible are preserved for a day when they might be needed, and it can actually hold 4.5 million specimens.

Why Svalbard?
Svalbard is a group of islands north of Norway. The lack of tectonic activity and extremely cold conditions (think permafrost) make it an idea location for seed storage: if for some reason the electricity fails, the seeds will have little chance of warming up as the vault is sunk deep in the mountainside and surrounded by that permafrost. Clever, yes? Yet another reason is that the Norwegian government paid for the vault, as a service to the world community... and it wasn't cheap!

(This whole thing reminds me of the movie "Titan AE", which I loved. The premise is that the earth has been destroyed by an alien weapon and those humans who managed to escape become refugees, dispersed throughout the universe and considered outcasts because they have no homeworld. One young man sets out on a journey to find the Titan, an earthship which was designed with the ability to create a new Earth. It is also stocked with DNA samples of
Earth species, including animals and plants. )
Librarian Barker

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Donnie the Genius Doberman

So I was watching National Geographic Channel last night (yes, I am a nerd. I'm fine with that), and they were airing a show called "Genius Dogs". One of the featured canines was a Doberman Pinscher named Donnie, who was about four years old when he was adopted from a local shelter. After living with his new family for a while, Donnie began to exhibit some unusual behavior: he began arranging his 80+ stuffed toys in specific patterns and sequences. Some of these included triangles, circles, all frogs, all monkeys, all face up, all face down, etc.

Donnie's owners began documenting his arrangements through photos and eventually contacted Barbara Smuts, a psychologist who researches social behavior among dogs. You can see what happened in this YouTube clip:

Is it random? Is Donnie a doggie genius? Is this his method of artistic expression?
You decide.

Want to know if your dog is a genius? Interested in dogs and pets in general? Then check out these books in the CFL :)

  • Cesar's Way : The natural, everyday guide to understanding and correcting common dog problems / Cesar Millan with Melissa Jo Peltier
    636.7 MILLAN
  • Pets in America : a history / Katherine C. Grier
    636.088 GRIER
  • The Lost Pet Chronicles : Adventures of a K-9 cop turned pet detective / Kat Albrecht with Jana Murphy
    363.28 ALBRE

Librarian Barker

Monday, March 3, 2008

A New Banner

The Carlyle Fraser Library would like to gratefully thank Christopher Bishop's friend Laura for creating the new library blog banner. We think it adds a great deal to the site.