Lifestyle & Culture

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Has the Local Library Outlived Its Purpose?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 27, 2013 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Has technology made community libraries a thing of the past? Are they just “a drain on taxpayers and authors that no longer makes sense”, as British children’s author Terry Deary says?

The other day, I borrowed the rather mediocre film I, Robot  from the local library. In it, there’s a scene where the CEO of the fictional US Robotics says to Will Smith’s character “maybe you would have simply banned the Internet to keep the libraries open. Prejudice never shows much reason.” Later in the day, I coincidentally ran across this piece about how best selling British children’s author Terry Deary thinks that libraries “are a drain on taxpayers and authors that no longer makes sense“. Frankly, I think his opinion is driven by his concern for revenue more than anything, and who knows – maybe he’s one of those cranky old guys who hates kids and is bitter about the fact that his financial success is entirely dependent on them. But I have to confess, the thought has crossed MY mind on occasion that maybe my once-beloved local library is becoming obsolete. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we do another Library of Alexandria thing; I love books. In fact my idea of porn is a visit to the Huntington Library or watching videos of robotic library retrieval systems. But in an era when the consumption of trees solely for the purpose of storing information in them is no longer necessary, should we really keep doing it? As much as I love books, I completely embrace the migration to eBook readers and eBooks, partly because of the fact that eBooks are “greener” than “dead tree editions”. But probably more because I find it harder and harder to justify having so many books on shelves when my entire book collection could literally fit in my pocket. Although I don’t precisely subscribe to Seth Godin’s framing of libraries as mere “warehouses”, I don’t know – given such pervasive access to the internet – if they can really fulfill the same role they have for over a century. Libraries are one of the things a lot of modern people take for granted as a fundamental component of civilized society, when in fact the idea of a shared community library is relatively new, at least in the larger timeline of libraries in general. has a great overview of the history of libraries if you’re interested, and regarding the debate about whether they’re obsolete, the Harvard Library did an Oxford-style debate last year. Video here, and expanded notes from one of the debaters here. And me? I think at the very least libraries need a dramatic rethink. What do you think? Read the rest of this entry »

5 Peculiar Alternative Uses for Coffee

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 25, 2013 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Kopi Lewak is soooo 2004. Here are five alternative uses for coffee that you may not have heard about. The last item may be NSFW, if putting coffee in your bum is not safe where you work.

Too Much Coffee Cat is always
on the lookout for clever
alternative uses for coffee.

As a result of the great coffee connoisseur explosion of the last decade, it seems everyone has become something of a coffee expert. This means that everyone probably also knows all the cool alternative uses for coffee, from gardening, to pest control, to air freshening. If you don’t know all of them, just search “alternative uses for coffee“; the same exact list seems to have been cut-and-pasted ten thousand times in a caffeine-induced re-blogging frenzy in an attempt to rank in Google for that search phrase. You also can’t impress people any more by sharing trivia like how Beethoven counted out 60 coffee beans each day (which probably explains the more frantic passages of his 9th symphony), or shock them with the fact that another alternative use for coffee is to eat and poop the beans, a use that is only exceeded in its peculiarity by the fact that you can buy the resulting beans on Amazon for four hundred bucks a pound. Oh. And make coffee with them. Although I find it a little annoying that guests will no longer drink the coffee I serve them unless I tell them the story of its organic source and artisanal roaster, there has been at least one positive side effect of this coffee snob explosion – I haven’t heard anyone say “expresso” for at least three years. So anyway, if you’ve carried this trend to its logical conclusion – i.e., the shade grown, hand-harvested, Kopi Lewak cold brew made with beans that were hand-roasted one at a time by virgins in Tuvalu and topped with a foam made from Siberian white tiger milk and flash frozen with liquid nitrogen, you may think your work is done, and that there is nothing more to learn. And you would be wrong. Below we’ve rounded up five more peculiar uses for coffee that you may not have heard of. You may want to skip the last one if you’re planning to eat soon, or if you have a mouthful of coffee that you might spew over your computer keyboard or mobile device. Read the rest of this entry »

Goodbye, Facebook, and Thank God For Tumblr. Now I Can Quit the Internet

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on February 20, 2013 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Okay, maybe I’m rushing things, but it’s my nature.

When I asked friends a couple of years ago “Is Facebook getting a little tired? Is it over now?”, most of them would suggest that I was just being a big sourpuss. I’m used to this. Because of the people in my immediate circle of business associates and friends, I’ve developed a sort of Cassandra Complex. No-one ever believes me when I tell them something new is about to boom, and no-one believes me when I tell them it’s peaking. Until it’s on the cover of Newsweek or something, anyway. Which it can’t be any more. But that’s okay, my only real regret is that I didn’t try to directly capitalize on any of these cycles of disruptive innovation, and instead sold consulting services related to them. That means that back in 2008 I was one of the thousands of folks that annoyingly referred to themselves as a “social media consultant”. Don’t get me wrong, this was a valuable service for a while. No one seems to enjoy adhering to the RTFM Protocol, and consulting – in many instances – is a perfectly legitimate service that basically involves “reading the manual” when someone else doesn’t want to. In any case, here’s the big news. Facebook is in fact toast. It’ll still be around, I mean crikey, AOL and MySpace are “still around”. But a big shift is happening, and here are my latest prophecies that you can ignore, partly summarized by more “experty” experts. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Best Places to Work When Armageddon Arrives

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 15, 2013 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Friday, February 15th, 2013

Survivalists and preppers are clearly off their rockers. Why stockpile provisions in your HOME, when you can easily commandeer the nearest superstore and build a fortress?

Obviously, S-Mart would be the
IDEAL choice, but Army of
was only a movie.

Have you ever pondered what you would do in the event of global civic and economic collapse? Back in the day, the end of the world scenario was simple. The only thing we had to worry about was those evil commies and their a-bombs. But we’ve come a long way since then; these days it could be anybody from the North Koreans to Wall Street Bankers to our own government that’s trying to deprive us of our God-given right to free speech, pizza, and Netflix. And never mind those obvious threats, if things really fall apart, our greatest enemies may be us. Maybe you think I’m just talking crazy talk here like one of those survivalists or preppers, but nothing could be further from the truth. I agree. Those people are NUTS. Why in the hell – if you were planning for the end of the world – would you spend so much hard-earned dough on stockpiling provisions in your own home? It just makes your otherwise poorly-fortified house a target, since at least a few of your neighbors have seen the thirty cartons of baked beans and three hundred gallons of water in your garage when you take the mower out to mow the lawn. Nutty, nutty people. Nope, I personally decided a long time ago that the best place to be when the world ends is a chain store of some kind.

A pharmacy wouldn’t be a bad choice; people always want drugs, maybe even especially want them when the world is ending. And if it’s a chain pharmacy, there may be some other useful supplies. Likewise with petrol station convenience stores. Fuel will be in high demand. You’ll benefit as long as you can protect the supply, and as long as it lasts. But once you’re out of gas, and have eaten the last frozen burrito, well, meh. You’re sunk. And pity the fool that works in a fancy store like Saks or Prada. Yeah. Those’ll be some hot commodities. Everyone needs an Armani suit and a Movado when the world is ending. So clearly, we can eliminate about 99% of the options right off. That’s how we made the selections for our roundup of the 5 Best Places to Work When Armageddon Arrives. Clearly, the only smart choice is a department store. Let’s rate them below. Ratings are based on basic apocalypse needs: Read the rest of this entry »

Global Power Elite? Yes. Masterminding Your Doom? Maybe not.

[ Comments Off ]Posted on February 14, 2013 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

You may not want to throw your tinfoil hat away, but you can at least take it off briefly to absorb some fascinating empirical data that demonstrates the shocking concentration of power in the world.

Are you the sort of person who, as a result of reading lots of Noam Chomsky and pursuing rigorous internet research (i.e., spending hours on Prison Planet and InfoWars), have become aware of the vast global cabal that is masterminding control of the planet? You know, those less-than-one-percenters in the Bilderberg Group, Goldman Sachs, and the leaders at G8 meetings who control the future of 99% of humanity? Well, you can take your tinfoil hat off now. Because it turns out all your wingnuttiness was justified after all. At least in part. Today a friend (hi Kim!) tipped me off to some research that I missed over a year ago, in spite of the fact that it briefly went viral. I must have been frittering my time away at an Occupy meeting at the time, which is too bad; a lot of the research lends some weight to the whole 99% motif, and might have lent some rational thinking to the hyperbole and poorly-conceived strategy that characterized that movement in so many locales. As a person who is sort of addicted to information, and has always been fascinated with how the power in the world is actually structured, I was excited several years ago by collections like the Free Press’ Who Owns the Media , the Columbia Journalism Review’s Who Owns What, the Open Secrets Lobbying Database, and the graphical connections database website They Rule. That last one is especially fun, and it’s summarized here pretty well, if the interface doesn’t immediately make sense to you. But in spite of these amazing collections of data and the ability to peruse such a huge volume of information, I was always a little frustrated by the bias or poor visual presentation of collections like these. Which is why I felt sort of like a crackhead on a coca plantation today when my friend shared a link to Who controls the world? Resources for understanding this visualization of the global economy. That link is to the TED Talk summary of the amazing research done by Stefania Vitali, James B. Glattfelder, and Stefano Battiston . Part of what’s amazing about the research is that although the basic data was available, no-one had analyzed it this way before. They not only take massive amounts of empirical data, they do all the heavy lifting for you, so even an ignoramus like me can understand it. And what story does it tell? Well, Glattfelder shares it much more eloquently in his Ted Talk (video also below), but in a nutshell, it tells the story that the world’s wealth and power is in fact concentrated in the hands of a shockingly small number of stakeholders. And when I said at the top that your wingnuttiness was justified in part? Well, I was referring to the bit that may disappoint the more paranoid amongst us – the fact that there’s no empirical evidence of collusion amongst these key stakeholders. Oh well. Guess you’ll have to do your own sleuthing if you want to keep the paranoid flame burning. Video below. Read the rest of this entry »

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