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Librarian Blog

You're kidding, right?

I think maybe this is a joke.
Someone named Victoria L. Rubin has written a paper just published in Canada with a very serious-sounding title: "News Verification Suite: Towards System Design to Supplement Reporters' and Editors' Judgements."
Rubin, who is affiliated with Western University in Canada, may have been a journalist at one time; it's hard to tell. She does know something about the inner operations of newsrooms, how stories are put together, edited, etc., and she seems to know something about the mindset of the reporters and editors who write for the world's mainstsream dailies and their counterparts in other media.
The process at its most basic is this: a reporter gets information and writes a story after vetting his sources; an editor looks over the work, checking spelling, grammar, facts,  and so on; another editor may do another review; and then it's off to be published.
Now, into that system -- and here's where thinks get a little fuzzy -- Rubin would introduce a News Verification Suite that would include, I think, some kind of algorithm that could detect lies and distortions and errors in inconsequential facts and, even, satire.
I am actually trying to picture this in my head, this B.S. Detector.
And, frankly, I have a hard time with it. I was a journalist for 45 years, and I came to believe that the most important element in gathering and publishing news was to have people who were honest and of the utmost integrity doing the job. These people are pretty good at B.S. Detection without an algorithm.
Which may, itself, fall into the category of B.S. that needs detecting.
Or maybe it's satire?
Where is that algorithm when you need it?

Bee on the brain

Planning is well under way for this year's adult Spelling Bee sponsored by the Friends of the Library.
The date is Sept. 22. The place is the Community Center.
We will have a recognized Toastmasters expert who will be our official pronouncer, and a nice lunch for those who compete and those who cheer them on.
If you'd like to sponsor a team, please contact Carroll at the library.

No surprise here

It should come as a surprise to no one that we are not as mindful as we think we are. Or as we should be.
Daniel Kahneman, an eminent economist, pointed this out a couple of years ago in a class work called "Thinking Slow and Fast." His insight was to describe how we think about things, and he deftly pointed out that too often on too many tasks, we just don't.
Now comes Steve Casner writing in a new book about some of our prevailing myths about thinking and consciousness that tend to put us in peril that is very real -- as in hospital or death-bed real.
The book is called "Careful: A User's Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds." I read a review of the book written by Edward Kosner for The Wall Street Journal. Having read the review, I probably don't need to read the book. I've kind of observed the same things that Casner calls attention to: even in the use of my own mind.
The key piece of advice in the book seems to be this: If you think you can multi-task you are woefully wrong. And being wrong could be your demise.
You probably already know that.
But you probably don't care. Or you think you can beat the odds.
I'm watching for you on the streets of Wimberely and the highways of Texas. You better watch out for me, too.

A small crime, but still ...

Perhaps it is one of Vladimir Putin's lesser crimes, but still it's notable for what it tells us about the man who leads Russia and wants to tilt the world to his way of thinking.
Natalia Sharina was put on trial recently for not being careful enough about perpetuating official Russian lies about the Ukraine.
Sharina was director of the Moscow Library of Ukrainian Literature, and on the shelves in storage were some materials that suggested that Ukraine had a history that was separate from the one Russians want to try to perpetuate, ala the methods of Stalin and Goebels.
The New York Times published a recent editorial about the trial, noting that Sharina was guilty of nothing beyond being a librarian.
She simply did not go along with the Newspeak way of the Putinistas.
"But in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, rights, responsibilities and the law have fallen prey to the old Soviet notion that any deviation from the position or the lies of the state is liable to be prosecuted under vague anti-extremism legislation," The Times opined.
Everywhere there are warnings to our way of governing if we fall victim to the same kind of thing in the facile notion that we will be safer or stronger or better for it.

Very popular topics

Perhaps you noticed that we have a new poll posted on this site, just below this entry.
The new poll is about climate change. It may or may not draw much interest.
The poll we just took down (it had been on the site for a month, the regular limit) was the most responded-to poll we've ever had on the website. We had more than 50 people select choices.
Maybe the reason that poll was the most popular was because it was about local issues, ones facing the City Council of Wimberley right now, like water and sewer and expansion.
I hear anecdotes around town about all kinds of goings-on that draw multiple opinions.
Watch our website poll space for more as times goes by.
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