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Librarian Blog

Good cause to worry

Much was made over the weekend about the possibility that Russian hackers would try toi meddle in the November elections in the United States.
President Obama even had a conversation about that subject with Vlad Putin, the Russian czar.
Comments about the issue have tended to focus on what may happen based on what actually has happened in the past. The Russians have, in fact, hacked the Democratic Party and various other political venues just recently. They are not likely to change their behavior unless there is some penalty for doing so. Putin is not inclined to penalize them. So, it's safe to say they may, in fact, try to affect the elections just from that perspective.
There is another perspective, though, and that is technical.
Pricenomics, an international group that crunches data on all sorts of subjects for clients worldwide, just issued a report based on data from HackerRank, a customer.
It is disturbing.
The report is about which countries have the best technologists -- potentially the best hackers.
Here is what the report concludes:
"According to the data, China and Russia score as the most talented developers. Chinese programmers outscore all other countries in mathematics, functional programming, and data structures challenges, while Russians dominate in algorithms, the most popular and most competitive arena. While the United States and India provide the majority of competitors on HackerRank, they only manage to rank 28th and 31st."
Maybe we could just hire all those experts and bring them to San Jose?

A joyful-er noise

The Adult Spelling Bee is coming up on Oct. 28 at the community center, sponsored by the Friends of the Library.
This year we should have about 20 teams, up from 15 we had last year in the first-ever Wimberley Bee.
Last year, we had some issues with the community center sound system, which has apparently not been improved upon since then.
Nobody liked the way the P.A. system sounded, frankly.
So, we are looking for a substitute.
Know anyone who has a portable system we could use?
Please contact me at 512-847-2188.

Writerly art

More thoughts on the death of handwriting.
A couple of sessions ago, I wrote a brief obituary for the art or necessity of handwriting, particularly cursive. Research shows it is on the way out in classrooms all across the country, to be replace by instruction on typing, I guess.
Now comes Anne Trubeck, a professor at Oberlin, who takes a booklength rope to hang cursive until it is dead, dead, dead. Or so she thinks. Jessica K. Jenkins thinks not, in a book review published Sunday in The New York Times book section.
Jenkins' main argument is that cursive instruction or handwriting may be going away but shouldn't because brain studies show a positive link between writing by hand and accumulation of information and knowledge and because kids ought to write pretty.
Those may be unfair summarizations of what she writes, but they are close to her arguments.
The brain studies, if they rely on MRIs, may be unreliable. An article in the very same New York Times suggests that MRI brain studies don't get the results they intend for a variety of reasons. So, the jury seems to be out on that.
As for the artsy argument, it sounds pretty esoteric, unpersuasive -- just as are most arguments, alas, that suggest art has a value in the course of human existence, even the one posited by Keats: Truth is beauty, beauty truth. I mean, who cares about either these days unless one can make money off it.
Where does this leave us? Probably in the hands of people who don't get or don't care about the nuances of destroying cursive and handwriting but want to soldier on for the good of tomorrow's technological demands. One need not be a Luddite to see the folly in that.

Butting out

I'm full of excellent advice on, among many other things, how to raise children.
Just ask me.
Go ahead and ask -- because you'll be the only person to have done so in my long tenure as a parent and grandparent. No child of mine or anyone else has ever asked me so much as a question about how to dispose of a dirty diaper, much less how to stop babies from playing all night and sleeping all day. And that's completely in spite of the fact that I do know these things.
Like your children and granchildren, mine know everything. Or they can afford to hire someone not related to me to tell them what to do.
I don't resent all this. Maybe they know that my advice at this stage in my life would be for them to relax and let their kids be kids, for the most part.
That's not a very satisfying answer to a quesion about how to get a kid to get along in kindergarten.
Although, I have learned recently that it is very sound advice, indeed. Alison Gopnik has written a book about letting kids be kids. It's called "The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children." (Whew)
I read a review of the book in Sunday's New York Times.
I would buy the book, but won't.
Why should I? I could get better educated on my philosophy and still nobody would care.


One of our volunteers sells a lot of books on Amazon. She's very professional about what she does. And she offered recently to sell the book about the May 23, 2015, flood at Amazon just to see if there was any interest out there.
I'm happy to say that the first flood book she listed has now sold. Others, of course, are available.
Be aware, though, that there are two selling intiatives under way at Amazon. The one I'm talking about sells the book for $26.95. The other is trying to sell the book for $45. The lower figure is the best figure because you can buy the book from us for $20. We don't mail oiut copies. If we did, it would probably cost us close to $6.95 to do so. Obviously, someone is making a lot of money off the sale of a book that costs $20 for $45.
I'm not saying you shouldn't buy that $45 version. I'm just saying there is a much cheaper and more realistic option.
Or ...
You can come to Market Day next Saturday in Wimberley, and buy the book in person for a flat $20. I'll be there selling and signing the book.
So, stop by!
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