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Librarian Blog

Amazon unfair

Hachette is a big publisher of books.

Amazon is bigger. Way bigger.

And Amazon always seems to play to win.

So a fight that started off pretty nasty has taken a new and even nastier turn. To force Hachette to do what Amazon wants, the Internet sales giant has essentially boycotted Hachette's authors, a great many of them very famous.

In an unusual two-page advertising spread appearing on pages 8 and 9 in the first section of the New York Times Sunday editions, several hundred writers take Amazon to task for holding their heads under want to try to force Hachette to see things Amazon's way.

What Amazon has been doing to bully Hachette has been just plain old downright unfair and underhanded to boot.

Jeff Bezos: Come down off your high horse and deal with Hachette like a responsible businessman, not a bully.

Just FYI

I guess we at public libraries take it for granted that everyone knows what kinds of services we offer.

A U.S. News blogger reminds us that's not necessarily true.

The blogger's entry lists 15 things you might not know you can get at your library. Things like shop tools at some libraries, and tickets to free community programs at others (like ours).

So some of the services are esoteric or site specific. Others are generally offered by every library. We have trained staff to help patrons search for information, not just in our library but across the world. We also help you with technology questions, and we have classes for specific types of lessons. At our website, you can find all kinds of courses to improve your skills and your life, as well as really good advice on things like resume-building and job-hunting.

I invite you to spend a few minutes looking at things other than this blog at our site, but also come on in and see what else we can help you do.

So ... that was the problem

I did just OK in math when I was a sophomore at Amarillo High School in 1962-63.

Then, everything changed.

Math became completely foreign. It was no longer a language I was familiar with. It was like going into a world where people on Friday spoke English and then on Monday they spoke Japanese.

This would not have been a particularly big problem, except that you had to pass some math to get out of high school and you had to pass two years of math to get out of college, and the latter was a big, big deal because if you didn't keep your IIS deferment by staying in college you got drafted into the Army, and this was not a great time to be in the Army.

How I made it through is another story.

But, here's the thing: I always thought my failures at math after my sophomore year were MY fault. I just didn't measure up. I didn't have the right stuff. If math had been football I would have been playing checkers.

Now, it turns out that I was totally wrong. It wasn't me. It was my math teachers!

Elizabeth Green, writing in the Sunday New York Times magazine, makes a strong case that every time something changes in the world of math instruction, the teachers don't understand what to do. They get no instruction themselves. And the texts don't help, either.

Wow. What a revelation.

But, this is definitely NOT about me.

It's about the future of this nation and its economy and its government and its competitiveness.

Read the article. It seems to add up.

Disappointing ...

My grandsons, ages 15 and 12, were in town last week, and we tried to do two interesting things a day while they were here.

On Friday afternoon, we drove into Austin to the Harry Ransom Center to see the World War I exhibit.

I picked that particular activity because they are boys, and boys are generally more interested in war than girls are, because I figured it wouldn't hurt them to learn some history and because I figured it would be a great way to spend two or three hours.

In my head, I imagined all kinds of neat things that a museum could do to make a war that happened 100 years ago interesting. Like weapons. Like video. Like mind-numbing big black-and-white images. Like great maps, even interactive maps. Accessible audio. Things to touch. Things to hold. Things to process in some way besides through the written word.

When we drove away from the museum about an hour after entering the exhibit, I asked the boys what they had learned about World War I.

In unison: "Nothing."

The things I imagined, it seems no one else imagined at the Ransom Center.

Even I got bored with it.

I could go on and on about it. But I won't.

Time to come clean

Being a United States senator does not require one to be ethically and morally upright, as we all know.

But, gosh, you expect your Army colonel to be so.

Maybe not more run-of-the-mill officers (like those below-field-grade folks in the Air Force nuclear missile service who cheated on exams), but a COLONEL.

Here, though, we have one John Walsh, a colonel and a U.S. senator, who stands accused of plagiarizing a key paper leading up to his getting a master's degree from the Army War College in 2007.

The good senator from Montana has been found to have stolen a significant amount of this paper, including ALL the recommendations, which were swiped wholesale from four scholars' earlier published work.

The War College is "investigating" and the senator is dissimilating. Holy mackeral, he says, it was probably the result of PTSD he suffered by serving in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, where one assumes, he was NOT a lowly infantry grunt but a guy with a cushy, no doubt traumatizing, desk job.

It should not take the Army more than a couple of hours to figure this out. Everyone else has.

The senator is standing for election. Time to give him the dusty old boot.

Plagiarism is fraud, pure and simple.