The True Scope of History

Human anatomical modernity began approximately 200,000 years ago.

Human behavioral modernity began approximately 50,000 years ago.

The entirety of humanity’s known written record dates back approximately 5,000 years.

Consider what this means: Our brains have been as complex as they are now – we’ve possessed the same curiosity, drive, wanderlust, intelligence, and creativity – for at least 50,000 years. We’ve been exploring, experimenting, testing, learning, and figuring things out this whole time. It may be that we’ve been this curious and intelligent for the full 200,000 years of our existence.

If we take the 50,000 year mark – this means we only know, at most, 10% of everything we’ve done in that time. 90% of our own history is unknown to ourselves, except through some cave paintings and fossils.

If we take the 200,000 year mark – that percentage drops to 2.5%, leaving 97%-98% of our own history completely in the dark.

Humbling, ain’t it?

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The Potential of Ebooks: A Modest Proposal

A colleague of mine recently recommended the book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It looks like a perfect creepy read for Halloween! I’m looking forward to it.

You can preview the first three chapters (plus the Prologue) through the publisher’s website. So, I clicked the link to the PDF and started scrolling through.

I was actually a bit disappointed. Not with the book, it’s really good (the Prologue and first chapter are, anyway!)

No, I was disappointed because the images don’t move. Reading it online, I found that I really wanted the images to be animated gifs.
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On the Perception of Librarians

ReadWriteWeb offers these 5 Commandments For Smartphone Owners. In particular, #2 (I will help people with my smartphone) and #3 (I will support my community with my smartphone) speak to me very powerfully. These are the reasons why I got into public service in the first place!

I recall an incident that occurred while I was still living in Chicago…

There was a homeless man standing on a street corner downtown, which wasn’t the least bit unusual or remarkable. He had a suitcase with all his possessions in it, and he had that lost and scared look endemic to the indigent. What made this homeless man different from the rest is that, unlike every other homeless person you pass on the streets of a big city, he wasn’t asking for money. He was asking everyone who walked by if they knew where the nearest homeless shelter was. He just wanted to get off the street and get help.
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How NOT to Handle Bad Press

This post appeared on the Facebook page for the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library today. Take a minute to read through it.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151169164137976&set=a.380087232975.161981.5530982975&type=1

It’s in response to this article:

Stolen Wallet Leads to Major Library Fines from Kansas First News

All I can say is – Shame on you, TSCPL!
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On the Virtues of Limitations

I spend a lot of time thinking about limitations. As creative people, limitations constantly chafe. They’re perpetual thorns in our sides. We think to ourselves, “If only I had more time, more money, better resources, I’d be free to truly explore my ideas and realize unfettered creativity!”

But I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I think quite the opposite. I think that limitations – when approached from the correct perspective – can be one of the most powerful tools in a creative person’s arsenal.

OK, let me back up. Start over and give some context for that statement…
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Showing My Age: An Ode to the Blue Screen of Death

Blue Screen of DeathThe other day, I was talking with some of my fellow librarians, and conversation turned to new technologies and digital information services. As it turns out, some of my fellow librarians are also fellow science fiction fans; naturally, we brought up the SF trope that someday our brains will be wired directly into our computer networks – no more external interfaces, the access and use of digital information will all happen through pure thought!

As is my habit whenever people discuss the concept of direct neural-computer interfaces, I offered my usual words of caution:

“Right, because I really want the blue screen of death IN MY HEAD!”

One of my fellow librarians didn’t get the reference. She’s in her early 20s, and she’s never seen a blue screen of death. She’s never even had a hard drive crash on her. She had no idea what I was talking about.

I should probably update my reference, but somehow, “Because I really want a network crash IN MY HEAD!” lacks the same punch.

Functionality vs. Style

In my previous job working for a non-profit (I’ve talked about it before) we used a few different CMS over the years to manage our online fundraising website. One in particular was absolutely awful and caused us major customer-service headaches! Horrible user-interface, bad data management, non-existent reporting capabilities… It was a nightmare.

The following year, we switched to a different CMS and our lives got much easier. 90% of the functionality of this new system was leaps-and-bounds better than the previous year’s. However, one of my coworkers hated the new site. She thought it was ugly, she thought it was primitive. She would see cool flash animations and interactive content on other websites and she wanted to do things like that on ours. But we couldn’t do those things on our site, the new CMS wasn’t configured to handle the type of coding that generates that kind of decorative bling, and so to her it meant that our site didn’t work well enough. She was hung up on looks and blind to essential functionality. She decided that the whole site was deficient just because we couldn’t pretty it up to her standards.
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