Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Twitter.

The title of this post comes from a conversation I had with my dad, about why exactly he should care about ‘tweeting’. (It's interesting how my parents tend to throw "the" in front of words- my boyfriends mom still calls it "The Bell")

It took me a long time to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. It took me relatively less time to jump on Facebook way back when, but I was bribed with the ability to find friends and travel mates pictures from our group trip to China. I’ve always been iffy about what I publicize about myself, and I found it weird that people would base judgments of me on 140 character statements. Also, I didn’t overly understand why exactly I (or you) would care about what I bought for groceries, that I’m getting take out, that I’m mildly bored, or, as one of my recent tweets stated as I awkwardly sat with a roomful of librarians at an AGM watching me awkwardly from my glass surrounded office right beside the board room where in a roomful of librarians, every one of them over 60 has an ipad, and everyone under 40 has paper. The rest have laptops.

The longer I’m on it (and I’m past a 1000 tweets, for better or worse) the more pleasantly surprised I am by it. I’ve found some interesting professional and personal relationships and as a way to get up to date information it’s invaluable. I’ve found colleagues around the world with similar interests, am able to follow news of my undergraduate degree and I even have a Direct Message (ok, so secret) book club where we chat about all of our guilty pleasure books. I’ve connected colleagues in relating but separate fields of film and music, to web designers and grant writers, had off the wall late night study decompression tangents, and even created a Toronto trivia team like no other. Twitter, blogging and other social media outlets can be a great way to both connect and stay connected but are also an amazing tool for staying relevant.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Government information vs. Freedom. Round... who knows.

Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs Withdraws Its Warning to Students About Leaked Diplomatic Cables

Last week, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs Office of Career Services sent an email to students saying that an alumnus who works at the State Department had recommended that current students not tweet or post links to WikiLeaks because doing so could hurt their career prospects in government service since many of the diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks are classified. That warning has filtered down to some law school career services professionals. Boston University School of Law’s career services office, for example, issued a similar warning [text of email via ATL].

The Dean of Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, John H. Coatsworth, has now withdrawn its warning to the School’s students. Quoting from his email:

Freedom of information and expression is a core value of our institution. Thus, SIPA’s position is that students have a right to discuss and debate any information in the public arena that they deem relevant to their studies or to their roles as global citizens, and to do so without fear of adverse consequences. The WikiLeaks documents are accessible to SIPA students (and everyone else) from a wide variety of respected sources, as are multiple means of discussion and debate both in and outside of the classroom.

Should the U.S. Department of State issue any guidelines relating to the WikiLeaks documents for prospective employees, SIPA will make them available immediately

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why take notes when you have voice recognition software?

Texting in Class: Survey Findings and Recommendations

There was recently a case at the University of Toronto where in a first year physics class, a professor was distracted/frustrated/angered/hurt/annoyed by students meowing in his class. This situation is one of many examples of what happens when class sizes get too large, and students feel they are part of a system, not a person.

Deborah Tindell and Robert Bohlander, Wilkes University psychology professors, surveyed 269 students anonymously about students texting in class. They found that:

  • 95 percent of students bring their phones to class every day.
  • 91 percent have used their phones to text message during class time.
  • Almost half of respondents said it was easy to text in class without instructors being aware.
  • 99 percent said they should be permitted to retain their cell phones while in class.
  • 62 percent said they should be allowed to text in class as long as they don’t disturb their classmates. (About a quarter of the students stated that texting creates a distraction to those sitting nearby.)
  • 10 percent said that they have sent or received text messages during exams, and 3 percent admitted to transmitting exam information during a test.

(Emphasis added.)

None of this surprised me. I graduated with my undergraduate degree in 2007 from a very small liberal arts university in New Brunswick. I don’t want to say I was there ‘pre’ phone, because that’s a bit ridiculous – we all had cell phones, but at the same time very, very few of us had smart phones. I don’t know if it was the vibe on campus, but in addition until my last year of school most of us didn’t bring laptops to class either. This may have been because of small class sizes – in a class of 3-15 you notice when one person isn’t paying attention, or is texting – but for whatever reason, we actually paid attention to the professor.

The authors offered the following suggestions based on feedback:

  • Have a clear, written policy about cell phone use and enforce it consistently. State that phones must be out of sight and turned off during class. Make penalties clear, such as losing points or dropping a letter grade for unauthorized cell phone use. Penalties can be applied to attendance or participation credit by assuming that if a student is texting in class, they are not “present.”
  • Classroom design is an important component in curtailing cell phone use. The smaller and more intimate the classroom setting, the more difficult it is to text, students say. Desks that do not permit hidden cell phone use are helpful as well. If the classroom contains columns or other visual obstructions, instructors may want to prevent students from sitting in seats that are obscured from the instructor’s view.
  • Instructors should circulate around the classroom, and spend some time in the back of the classroom. Teachers should avoid focusing their attention on the blackboard, lecture notes, or on projected images at the front of the room, and instead pay attention to the activities of the students, making frequent eye contact. Survey respondents indicated that it is easier to text in class when the instructor is not paying attention to the students in the class.

(Emphasis added.)

I think the recommendations are vital but it’s also an important discussion on classroom politics in general. In my undergrad we paid attention because the profs knew our names, and would call us out and ask us questions. But again, by my fourth year my class sizes averaged 10 people- when you’re working with a classroom size of potentially 600+ students that just isn’t feasible. The largest classroom size possible at my undergrad was 150 students, and that only happened for first year classes. How do you inspire students to care about the work, and respect you when they feel that you don’t/can’t care about them being there?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So I have a little free time on my hands...

A lot, apparently. Chris Good goes over past precedent where the 20 members crossed the line for their peers. Charlie Rangel was always safe, unless he angled for the Spanish territory in Louisiana. More at The Atlantic.

Then there are these CRS Reports:

  • Status of a Member of the House Who Has Been Convicted of a Felony (RS21196 April 15, 2002)
  • Expulsion, Censure, Reprimand, and Fine: Legislative Discipline in the House of Representatives (RL31382 Jan 25, 2005)
  • Expulsion and Censure Actions Taken by the Full Senate Against Members (93-875 Nov 12, 2008)
  • Recall of Legislators and the Removal of Members of Congress from Office (RL30016 March 26, 2010)
  • Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    What do you do if you can't google.

    One of the things I do in my spare (ha!) time is work with youth in a literacy program. It’s a wonderful experience, and I truly do love doing it, but sometimes I really do wonder what’s going on in schools. To contextualize, while this is one experience I have had similar conversations with students at public, private and Catholic schools and yes, I remember when I was in my first year of university being TERRIFIED of having to go to the library for books.

    “I’ve noticed on some of your Facebook pages a lot of talk and excitement about college. Some of you are getting your acceptance letters back, the juniors are making the rounds visiting schools – what about a Get Ready For University workshop?”
    “What do you mean? Like school work?”
    “Well, yeah. Um, I noticed just now that you said that you use Google for your research papers. Uh, you can’t really get away with that in college.”
    “What do you mean? How else do you find stuff?”

    From here we discussed what, exactly, happens during their paper writing process: they use Google to find websites. They cite (if they are even required to have a works cited page) the websites. They are often required to have one or two “book” sources. They use Wikipedia. They cite Wikipedia (and sometimes get away with it). They LOVE Wikipedia arguably more then they LOVE SparkNotes and copy them profusely. THREE of them had ever heard of a “journal” or used a “database” and that was because they were in IB programs and their teachers taught them for their special graduation projects.

    Back to reality:
    “OK, so when you go to university in the fall, you will have to use databases and find journal articles and read books in order to do a paper properly. Wouldn’t you like to learn some of that ahead of time? I can show you…”
    “Nah. I mean, if we don’t know about all that, we can’t be the only ones – we’ll figure it out when we get there.”

    Now, I feel I need to make something really clear, here – these kids, are half cream of the school’s crop – they’re in the literacy program not because they are low on the scale, but because they have talents that have been recognized by their teachers and this is a reward (it also allows the teachers to focus more time and energy on kids who need it more – I’m kind of a glorified babysitter). Seriously. Top of the class. Members of band, theater, Student Council. A few have been accepted to Ivy schools in the States, most of them have scholarships. And not only do they not know what a database is, they have never been required to know. The other half are the ones who need help - who need to be shown reading is fun, not punishment, and not a chore.

    Want to know the scariest part? When I work with kids who are in the literacy program because they need help with reading, they are the ones who have been taught what journals and databases are – their teachers figure that if they give the kids tools to find the coolest, most interesting, relevant and specific information, they’ll want to learn to read better, and have more interest in reading as a whole. (it works. really well).

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Metadata: Not a dinosaur. Or a Transformer. Though, it could be.

    One of the big deal spilling of ink issues over the past 25 years in legal librarians is on the topic of West’s Digests and Key Number system, and how those systems have influenced legal research, and, arguably, to a lesser extent how lawyers think about the law. The question of if the free-text system of computer-assisted legal research allows for a deeper, more interpretive research. It can get intense. Part of the big deal is that lawyers don’t use the digests anymore, really, only legal librarians do – and even that can be questioned. I, personally am of the mindset that if West is paying someone to put keep their eye on an opinion, that person could be adding more useful data than simply a rephrasing of a key legal issue. By data, I actually mean metadata (because I am in library school, and we like metadata in these parts). With additional metadata, we could extend the opinion by wrapping the entire order, parts, paragraphs, sentences, or words with tags that could assist in locating the opinion (via queries, search, linking, etc.) and giving greater context for it in a way that enhances the Key Number classification, but avoids the debate of whether and to what extent the “literary warrant of the Key Number System” should be expanded

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Be a Real Librarian. Just Add Books.

    I recently came across this link for the Little Librarian website. As the site says:

    "Little Librarian is the first personal library kit made just for kids! It encourages reading and is powered by creativity and imagination, not batteries! Little Librarian provides book lovers with everything they need to transform their book collection into a library. Kids can practice the important skills of organizing, sharing, borrowing, and returning. Book pockets, check out cards, library cards, and bookmarks are just like the ones from the real library. Little Librarians will issue overdue notices and awards. Favorite books can be stored in the reading journal and shared with friends.
    To get started just add books!"

    I think that not only is this the cutest thing ever, but that I want one for Christmakkah. Please?

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    PRChina White Papers now available in English!

    I remember about 6 years ago when I lived in China, I was blown away by how there was no public or unified system of availability of information. In Canada, I was so used to being able to find anything online, go to a library or, if I was desperate, shoot off an email. When we got to China, my classmates and I were baffled at how we were "not expected to need a library" and how "if we needed information ask" or having livejournal (yes, really) and google was blocked - facebook wasn't really a ~big deal~ then (yes, really). At any rate, I loved China - it was an amazing experience where I crossed amazing things off my bucket list (including climbing the Great Wall, and seeing the Xi'an warriors)

    At any rate, the Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China has provided English-translations of Government White Papers. White Papers are authoritative reports or guides that address issues and how to solve them. Some of the topics covered are:

    National Defense
    Ethnic Minorities
    Environmental Protection
    Democratic Reforms
    Human Rights

    These papers can be found HERE!

    In other news, the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit is on at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Go see it!

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Google, Once more, is King.

    Google's Project 10^100 Awards LAW.GOV $2 Million to Make Government More Transparent has just been being awarded $2 million by Google as part of the Company's Project 10^100. From Google's September 24th announcement:

    Idea: Make government more transparent
    Project funded: Public.Resource.Org is a non-profit organization focused on enabling online access to public government documents in the United States. We are providing $2 million to Public.Resource.Org to support the Law.Gov initiative, which aims to make all primary legal materials in the United States available to all.

    Amazing. Now someone bring this to Canada!

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    American Government is Getting Hip. That's what the kids say, right? Hip?

    The Government Printing office has done it - they've ventured into the world of comic books. I really really want to be jaded and mocking of this, but man, this is adorable.

    Squeaks Discovers Type! is the story of a video game space mouse (yes yes yes!) who helps an elementary student Jake discover the invention of printing and its evolution through the ages so Jake can write a report. It may not be a Sandman, but the comic is illustrated and in color, the art is outstanding and rivals anything you'll find in a comic book store for kids. It's 24 pages long, and costs $5. I think I'm in love with this mouse. Seriously - is he not adorable?

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Census. Indeed.

    I haven't really gotten into the whole discussion about the long form census fiasco because... I don't really know what to say about it.

    On June 28, the following email was sent by the Chief Statistician of Canada, Munir A. Sheikh (

    Subject: Update on the 2011 Census

    This is an update on the 2011 Census. On June 26, 2010, the census questions were published in the Canada Gazette as required by the Statistics Act. The 2011 Census will consist of the same eight questions that appeared on the 2006 Census short-form questionnaire. All households will receive a short-form census questionnaire.

    The information previously collected by the census mandatory long-form questionnaire will now be collected as part of the new voluntary National Household Survey (NHS). The NHS questionnaire will include questions on language, immigration, Aboriginal peoples, mobility, ethnicity, education, labour, income and housing.

    The NHS will be conducted within four weeks of the May 2011 Census. Approximately, 4.5 million households will receive the NHS questionnaire, up from the 2.9 million households that would have received the census mandatory long-form questionnaire.

    I know that I can count on your ongoing support to ensure the success of these two important Statistics Canada priorities.

    This change means that the mandatory long form census questionnaire, sent to 20% of the Canadian population and consisting of detailed questions will be replaced with a separate voluntary survey. I really doubt many Canadians will willingly provide all of the data formerly gathered using the mandatory census, which has lasting implications not only for the research community, but for all levels of government and community groups that will no longer have access to information used to create public policy and support many programs and initiatives.

    As an important note, On July 21, 2010, Sheikh resigned from his post as head of Stats Canada. Following his resignation, in a public letter, Sheikh expressed his disapproval of the government's decision, writing:

    I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census.

    It can not.

    —Munir Sheikh

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    Happy 40th!

    It's the guy on the left's 40th birthday in a week

    I hope his gift is the 40 year old equivalent of the 21 year old this.

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Google vs. Government organization - Go!

    Google has just worked out a deal with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office where they will host 10 terabytes of patent and trademark data for download to individual users. That essentially includes all granted patents and trademarks and published applications with full text and images. The documents are available for patents and trademarks on separate pages with links to different classifications of items. The download consists of a zip file containing an xml document with all of the details. The prior method for accessing this bulk data was via DVD data discs at a significant cost to the requester. The downloads are free of charge. The Google Public Policy Blog announcement is here, and an the USPTO press release is here. This is kind of amazing. Kind of a lot.

    Monday, July 19, 2010

    oh. hello internets.

    I'm in New Brunswick. I went to school here for 4 years, at Mount Allison University where I got my BA in History and Canadian Studies. I loved my time here. I met a pretty amazing group of people, some of the best of whom I'm still happily in touch with even if we have scattered to the four ends of the earth. The Sackville I know looks like:

    Currently, and a large part of why my posting has been... low, is because my boyfriend owns a house out here, and we're gutting it/ fixing it up. As such, my life has been more of the below, then the above.

    There is so much more, that is so much more, but I've been a bit too busy to take pictures of it. I think I'll take a picture of all the garbage that we're putting out tomorrow - then you'll see. You'll alll see.

    Sunday, June 27, 2010

    My heart is breaking for my city.

    I love Toronto. I was born in Toronto General about 25 years ago, in the same wing my Dad was born in. I moved around most of my life - Stratford, Waterloo, New Brunswick, Spain, Italy and China, but Toronto has always been home. I love this city - I love the diversity, the food, the people, the Zoo - I love it all. Sure it has it's flaws, but this is my home. When I found out the G20 was going to be held in Toronto I was a bit worried. I didn't think it was a good idea to have it here - the history of protests turning violent, or ransacking I didn't want near me. I thought it would be better to have it somewhere else - anywhere else. But, I didn't do what a lot of people did, I stayed in Toronto. Partially because I was working a ballet recital, partially because I wanted to believe that we were better then this.

    Turns out, we aren't.

    There were some wonderful protests in Toronto:

    The WWF had an amazing piece of protest art - heartbreakingly poignant, intelligent and telling.


    The Raging Grannies came out to protest for the future of their grandchildren


    And all of this, somehow turned into:






    And in the above instants, everything every peaceful protester was working for was lost.

    So I wanted to put this out there. First off, to the World: I'm sorry this is something that you now associate with Toronto. To echo our Mayor David Miller "They are not welcome in this city." This is not who we are, and to those on the outside, I promise you that the majority of us in Toronto are horrified, saddened and sickened that this has happened, and is happening in our city. This is not who we are, this is not what we stand for and this is not what we believe in.

    To the police from across Canada who are in Toronto right now. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I don't believe every decision you have made was the right decision, but I do believe you have done the best you could, in an impossible situation. I know you are human too, and I know that none of you came here with the intention to hurt innocent bystanders.

    I know that every side has their bias, but I also know that just as not all protesters were violent, I know that not all police are bullies and thugs, beating and arresting people at will. Many of you showed great restraint, just as many of the protesters wanted nothing to do with the violence, neither did you. You have done an amazing job, and please, come back and visit one day, when all of this is over so we can show you everything wonderful our city has to offer. Al, from the Cape Breaton Police Force, if you're in Toronto again look me up, I promise I will show you and all of your friends how great our city can be.

    To the criminals who turned a great opportunity for dialogue and protest into something horrible: Get the hell out of my city.

    To the protesters who haven't been heard: What you have to say is important, and I truly hope what you have to say can soon be not only heard, but also listened to.


    Thursday, June 17, 2010


    I'm more then a little excited - I recently found out that I was accepted to go on a (free!) trip to Israel. I don't know the itinerary yet, but I do know that it will be an amazing 11 day trip. I've traveled a fair bit already - I've been incredibly lucky, and fortunate to have been on trips to Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba around the Caribbean and have lived in Spain, Italy and China. Israel will be an... I don't know yet.

    But, I've partied it up Spain style at 17, climbed the Great Wall, eaten some amazing (and mysterious) food, and did a dig in a field for 2 months and didn't die in Italy.


    I'm officially done my first (and a bit) year of my Masters program. It's been... an intense year - sometimes terrifying, intimidating, daunting, exhilarating, amazing and honestly, a complete blast. I've loved the program, and I am totally in love with all the different things I'm learning, and the directions that this can take me! I've met some wonderful people, and I think we're all pretty thrilled to be done the first hurdle!

    I'm pretty darn excited for the next two months of chilling by my pool, seeing and catching up with friends and preparing myself for another, and (oh god) final year of education (probably)... (probably).

    Thursday, June 10, 2010


    Boy photographs well

    I look suspicious

    My mom's pretty great

    So's my dad

    We went to the Zoo, and the fish tank was amazing. But only with my camera flash