August 15th, 2010
The library is gearing up for fall semester, it’ll be here before we know it. Announcements will fly out the door soon enough. But if you’re looking for something to read in the meantime, take a look at this well-researched article on compostable food and beverage containers from my hometown paper, The Herald (the home page is http://www.heraldnet.com/) in Everett, Washington.
Some of this came to my attention recently on Howard Garrett’s DirtDoctor.com site when someone suggested testing the new Sun Chips compostable bag in his compost pile. It took a long time there to begin to break down, but it finally did show signs of losing the battle to compost micro-organisms.
The article published Aug. 15, 2010, is called “What Packaging is Compostable? It’s Complicated” and is by staff writer Sarah Jackson. Here’s the beginning of the article:
Compostable is the new organic.
It’s a word increasingly showing up on food and beverage packaging.
Disposable cups, take-out containers, throw-away cutlery and potato chip bags emblazoned with the word are trickling into restaurants, grocery stores and coffee shops.
It means the material in question will biodegrade or break down into compost, a valuable, mulchlike material that gardeners use to improve soil and stop weed growth.
But, in an age of businesses eager to promote an eco-friendly image, the definition of compostable is changing quickly and causing widespread confusion.
If you think you can throw all compostable products in your backyard compost, think again.
Some compostable products will break down easily only if they make it to a commercial composting facility.
Others won’t break down at all because they simply aren’t made of the right materials, said Steve Mojo, the executive director of the New York-based Biodegradable Products Institute, which runs a national program that certifies compostables.
“There are many people out there that make claims that are, frankly, misleading,” Mojo said.
Even legitimately compostable packaging materials can be perplexing to consumers because many of them look exactly like traditional plastic products.
In much of the new compostable packaging, traditional plastics are replaced with similar looking, but biodegradable, corn-based plastics.
And, some corn-based plastics have No. 7 recycling symbols printed on them. But they shouldn’t go into your recycle bin with your soda bottles.
You are not alone.
Though it is in the typical 1-sentence paragraph style found on many online newspapers, it’s worth the choppy presentation to read the whole thing. This is the science that will allow environmentally-minded consumers to make good choices, and to vote with their pocketbooks. Tell your fast food establishments you want them to serve you on a better type of disposable container.
There are a lot of good links included (like the Sins of Greenwashing – http://sinsofgreenwashing.org/ and ground-breaking composting researchers Cedar Grove Composting in Everett – http://www.cedar-grove.com/)
May 13th, 2010
If you are one of the few UTA users of the modem bank that once so ably served much of the campus community, here is a heads-up. This technology is obsolete and is being discontinued as of May 31. Broadband, wireless, and other dialup services (does AOL still offer it?) fullfill the connectivity needs for most users, and usage has shrunk so much that the system is being retired.
April 3rd, 2010
The Shorthorn ran a story about the Library reception on April 1, 2010 to recognize the Creative Works of UTA Faculty. This is the second annual event, and the response from faculty has been enthusiastic.
Below, UTA President James Spaniolo (left) paused for a photo with Tommie Wingfield of the Library and vice provost David Silva.
January 2nd, 2010
Want to use this time before classes start again to learn a new trick or two?
Thinking about Twitter? Then check out Mashable’s new text:
November 17th, 2009
Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009
12:30 -1:45 p.m.
Rio Grande Ballroom
E.H. Hereford University Center
Web search engines have an interest in understanding what users are trying to do. To a certain degree, this means discerning the intent of a search. In this talk, Russell will discuss what Google does to understand what users have in mind and the techniques used to analyze the data and outline the size and scope of the problem.
Russell is a research scientist at Google. He studies how people do their searches, trying to understand the most common traps and pathways to successful Google use. To learn more, visit http://www.sites.google.com/site/dmrussell.
Hot dogs and bagels lunch will be served to the first 200 guests.
Sponsored by the Center for Distance Education, Office of Information Technology, and UT Arlington Library, with additional support from the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost.
If you need a special accommodation to fully participate in this program/event, contact Tommie Wingfield at 817-272-2658 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Allow sufficient time to arrange the accommodation.
October 26th, 2009
GeoCities, the virtual avatar of the term “lowest common denominator,” is closing down today. I remember telling my children as they set out on the path of Internet research “You can’t cite GeoCities sites.” I later gave them the same advice about Wikipedia; at best, it was a starting point, but the standards maintained by posters there, if extant, were generally microscopic.
As a web designer there are times at work when I stumble upon my own pages that I haven’t visited in ages. I think to myself “I need to go clean that up or delete it.” Well, Yahoo must have had that idea on a grand scale. GeoCities is going away.
Yahoo got rid of their free photo pages a couple of years ago, and changed everyone over to flickr. The change wasn’t particularly smooth and I think I probably have some photos parked in there that I have no idea how to reach. Perhaps the same can be said for the GeoCities pages. It’s the Internet equivalent of Fibber McGee’s closet, a lot of stuff crammed in there that was being kept just to keep it. For much of it, we won’t be sorry to see it go. There were some gems in there, but hopefully they got the message and moved their information to ad-free sites. Yahoo is offering a low-cost way for those pages to continue, according to the Los Angeles Times.
I suspect for a few days bloggers will wax nostalgic about the early GeoCities days, when they, as kids or young adults, posted pages for games, schools, and clubs; when fan pages abounded; and when the lunatic fringe had equal footing with the mainstream, if only because search engines didn’t discriminate with results.
Is there something worth keeping out of all of that? According to the Times, there is.
But an independent group called Archiveteam, headed by Jason Scott, has been trying to save everything left before Yahoo closes the building.
The group of dedicated digital historians have been pointing about a hundred computers at the GeoCities domain 24 hours a day for months. First, the machines crawled the neighborhoods, duplicating copies of everything in sight.
“The hard part was going through and trying to find random user names,” Scott said about the obstacle Yahoo introduced later in GeoCities’ life. “Basically, we’re hitting Google and crawling in every direction.”
So far, Archiveteam has captured about a terabyte of data, or about a thousand gigabytes, in its mission of mirroring the entire site.
What is out there now for free web pages? I suspect they have been replaced by blogs and by groups (Yahoo, Google, etc.). And a search on free web hosting still brings up lots of hits.
Don’t get me wrong–I still go rustling around in that crowded closet every so often, trying to remember where I saw an image or item, or looking for a hobby page in my Favorites links that no longer exists. Even with GeoCities gone, places like the above-mentioned archiveteam or my favorite, the Wayback Machine at Archive.org, will provide access to a lot of that information, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
August 14th, 2009
Lawrence Lessig, a professor of law at Harvard, previously at Stanford, was on the UTA campus as the keynote speaker at the Technology Fair a couple of years ago. In that talk he addressed the problem with sampling music and fair use. In a July 31, 2009, talk called The Google Book Search Settlement: Static Good, Dynamic Bad? at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, he discussed the difficulty of crafting reasonable laws regarding copyright in our “obsessive permission culture” in the context of books and such things as the process that Google Books is implementing to scan a proposed 18 million books. The way to sort out the problem of permissions on various, including “orphan” books, is to craft new laws to address the copyright issue, he says.
Lessig has been making noise to call federal legislators to account in a number of ways on a number of issues. He is active with the Change Congress group that is working one representative at a time to hold their feet to the fire regarding their acceptance of special interest contributions before they vote down the legislation adverse to those same donors. http://change-congress.org/ But his talk in July didn’t promote a particular platform for addressing politicians, instead, he lucidly outlined the problems caused by politicians, of something he called the Ecology of Access, and the problem of oligopolies (an oligopoly is a market or industry that is dominated by a small number of sellers) with untoward influence on congressional politicians.
I transcribed a little of his recorded talk. Here is Lessig’s take on The Democracy Crisis:
The frustration that I have when I listen to this rally is that we’ve got to figure out all of these answers . . . that each area of public policy is filled with people oblivious to the fact that the reason why they are failing is the same reason why everyone else who’s trying to change public policy is failing.
We live in this kind of Post Obama hangover, I suggest, where I think 9 months ago we thought the world was going to be remade. As we look at health care which is totally stalled, cap and trade which is totally gutted, financial reform that hasn’t begun to be implemented, all of this which has failed so far, we need to recognize that there is a core reason for these failures. It’s a reason that we have to confront, this bankrupt or I’d say corrupt institution (Congress), not in an old sense that people are taking bribes, but an institution that can’t help but respond to interests who because of their financial might will always be more powerful than the right answer to the problem. Until we solve that problem I don’t know what the solution would look like. Until we change this, we won’t begin to solve the problems we talk about here or any number of other fundamental problems that are sinking this democracy.
Find the entire talk here: http://blip.tv/file/2471815
July 24th, 2009
David Pogue, the New York Times technology critic, sent a great link this morning via Twitter. “5 Things Hollywood Thinks Computers Can Do” is posted at cracked.com. Several movies are reviewed, and in it’s discussion of Live Free, Die Hard it pretty well sums up the use of computers in many movies:
Hacking is to this movie what magic is in the Harry Potter stories: plot-hole spackle. All the gaping cracks in logic between scene A to scene C can be neatly smoothed over with the mystical power of hack.
While you’re leaning back in the Planetarium for the $2 movies this summer, or viewing Thursday ExCEL movies on the lawn at the MAC, relax. You plugged in the computer to recharge while you were away, and that’s all it’s going to do.
July 16th, 2009
As one who has done basic web design for many years now, I am glad to see the initiative (IE6 Must Die for the Web to Move On) discussed by Ben Parr at Mashable to retire Internet Explorer 6. Have I kept up with all of the HTML renovations, all of the high-end functionality of web design? No. I keep it simple, I like tables, links, varying text, images, etc. But even my minimalist approach is affected by how old your browser is. I like to use PNG images, they’re stable (not “lossy” like jpg images), I like CSS, but as Parr notes:
- CSS v2 (Cascading Style Sheets): This is the code that enables almost all design on the web. In other words, designers have to hack up websites just to make them load in IE6.
- PNG Transparency: A great deal of .png images don’t display correctly in IE6. It basically kills using them in design work.
- General Security: Just like not updating your virus software can get you riddled with spyware, not updating your browser can be a gateway to attacks. There are even code snippets that will shut down IE6. I won’t tell you what they are, but you can find them on Wikipedia. It’s unstable.
For years I viewed my pages in different aged browsers; this gives a designer an idea of what their readers might be seeing. I frankly don’t bother any more, I simply design for the few current browsers I have on my computers, and keep it low tech enough that it’ll probably work in most of the old ones (you can still find them: http://browsers.evolt.org/ lists a bunch, read how to do it at TechRepublic). I’m glad to see that perhaps I won’t have to keep it so simple, if I take the time to learn how HTML 5 works.