This strikes me as an interesting idea October 27, 2007Posted by Ian in policy.
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A US senator has proposed the government establish an $80 billion dollar prize fund to give to companies who agree to make their patents public domain. Details @ Marginal Revolution.
I think a prize system would be okay if the drug company or innovator has the option of either retaining the rights themselves or taking the prize money. From the sounds of this proposal companies do not have the option… In fact the more I read the more it sounds like a lame attempt at excessive government intervention… hmmm – it’s times like this where I wish I knew more about how the drug industry really worked.
The Canadian Dollar October 22, 2007Posted by Ian in misc., policy.
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For the last little while the Canadian dollar has been pretty strong – we’ve even been higher than the USD. But you’d never know it if you came up here to do your shopping. Especially for cars, books/magazines, etc. The car situation really pisses me off. In the summer we bought a Honda Fit, which is a fantastic little car. After tax and all that jazz it came out to $22,xxx. If we had bought our car stateside it would have cost about $3,000 less. The car I wanted however, was a MINI Cooper S, which up here starts at $30,600 (a lot more than I can afford). In the States it starts at a paltry $21,200 – which would have been affordable. The other car we were interested in but couldn’t afford was the Volvo C30. The price difference isn’t as bad $27,xxx vs. 23,xxx but it was still way out of our price range. Of course for some cars it doesn’t matter because the companies won’t honour the warranty if it isn’t bought up here…
I understand that it takes time to adjust for currency fluctuations but come on, the Canadian dollar has been rising for several years now and things (books especially) are still being priced as if the dollar were at $0.65US…
We’re all fat… October 22, 2007Posted by Ian in policy.
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A study reported on today finds that 2/3 of all men and 1/2 of all women are either overweight or obese. I have some reservations that BMI was one of the measures used but overall I don’t think anyone should really be surprised. Human beings are just not healthy by default they need incentives. Some people are blessed in that they find out door activities fun and stimulating, some naturally choose healthy foods, but the rest of us need some kind of incentive to lead a healthy life. I believe that people won’t start changing their behaviour until they have to start paying out of pocket to treat the illnesses brought on by their lifestyle choices.
The study can be found in Circulation: The Journal of the American Heart Association [direct link to the abstract and full text]
Health Care October 21, 2007Posted by Ian in policy.
Question about health care: Would government health care (eg. Canada’s) work better (ie. be less expensive) if people were forced to pay for part of the cost of their treatment if the person’s behaviour was directly responsible for their illness? Is there any place in the world where this is done?
NY Times Death Watch? October 18, 2007Posted by Ian in misc..
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Interesting opinion piece about the woes of the New York Times over at ABC News. I don’t read a lot of news papers – I get my editorials from the blogosphere and my headlines from ctv, cbc and occasionally google news – but I really hope that the Times can learn its lessons and recover. I think the author of the piece makes an important point when he says:
Most newspapers adopted the always dangerous strategy of trying to become more like one’s competitors rather than establishing the defensible position of being even more true to oneself. Like most newspapers, the Times decided to become more timely, more hip, and more judgmental than the electronic media — when it should have become better reported, more objective, and better written; professionalism being the one arena where the new competitors would have a hard time competing.
Of course one could argue whether journalism is a profession at all… Good writing/reporting seems more like an art form to me.
An opportunity for the library to do more? October 18, 2007Posted by Ian in libraries.
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Today, our library rolled out a new twist on document delivery – we can now deliver pdfs direct to the desktops of our patrons. I was talking to one of our patrons about it and he was justifiably grateful as the old process was highly inefficient* and lead to a lot of unwanted paper and in some cases people in his department were taking the printed articles, scanning them and converting them into pdfs. What he said next got me thinking – he said that many people in his department would look for other means of getting the articles instead of using our document delivery service.
Why did this get me thinking? Well, to use document delivery is essentially 1 click entering a username and password and then 2 clicks and the request is made – easy peasy. What they were doing instead was googling the article title/author to see if it existed someplace for free online. I applaud their ingenuity but I can’t help but wonder if there is an opportunity here for libraries to provide a value added service.
What if we could do something to eliminate the need for them to search the internet themselves? What if our serials resolver could search the title/author on the internet and include that in it’s results when checking our journals? I envisage a results screen that says something to the effect of “we don’t own this journal electronically but we have found possible matches at the following websites”. Right now with our software it is not possible but down the road it should be.
*The old method of document delivery was that the article was sent to us as a pdf and then printed and sent by internal mail to patron or alternatively the patron could pick up the paper copy at the library. We had to do this because copyright law said that we weren’t allowed to email pdfs directly to our patrons. That has changed thankfully. Now patrons must click a box saying that they verify that the article being delivered is for academic purposes only.
Libraries in private hands… October 14, 2007Posted by Ian in libraries.
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A few days ago one of the work peeps sent this article around the office. It tells the sad(??) tale of communities letting their libraries be run by private companies who hire fewer staff and keep shorter hours.
The problem is shrinking budgets. Although you have to wonder sometimes (emphasis is mine):
Jackson County lost 36 percent of its budget in one fell swoop last year when Congress failed to renew the rich subsidies designed to help parts of the country where logging has been hurt by endangered-species regulations. Rather than cut back on, say, law enforcement, county officials closed the libraries. (Congress later approved a one-year extension of the logging subsidies.)
Book lovers complained bitterly about the closings, but two ballot measures to raise taxes and reopen the libraries fell short. Then LSSI offered to run the libraries, underbidding the public employees union.
Two things here:
1. This community was living on borrowed time – if you are counting on a federal subsidy just to offer basic services perhaps you need to reexamine how you are doing things.
2. No politician is going to
fall on his/her sword raise taxes just for the public library. In the city where I used to live in one year the city told the public library that they had to open another branch and then cut their budget by a few hundred thousand to help them out.
In general, I have no problem with private companies running libraries. So long as users have reasonable access to relevant material.
I hope he wins… October 14, 2007Posted by Ian in academia.
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The Duke University Lacrosse mess is taking another interesting turn as their now former lacrosse coach is suing the school saying that they breached the terms of his dismissal agreement and he should be compensated for that.
Quite frankly couldn’t have happened to a nicer group of people.
If you don’t know about the case the description on wikipedia is an alright place to start.
Acquiring a modicum of culture October 12, 2007Posted by Ian in misc..
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In library school a certain someone was amazed at my lack of cultural knowall. I am happy to say that I am getting a little better. Strangely enough, Maya and I have watched quite a few non-hollywood films recently. Last night we saw Pierrepoint about Albert J. Pierrepoint, Executioner. It was a fantabulous thing and Timothy Spall was brilliant. Another film that we saw and give two thumbs up to is an Irish flick called Once… Yay indie film…
Now I just have to get around to reading Dostoevsky and watching Kurosawa and I’ll be set!
It’s enough to make you weep… October 12, 2007Posted by Ian in environment, misc..
And for those of you out there celebrating – don’t be too smug a British Judge thinks Al might have stretched the truth a little too much in An Inconvenient Truth (from the Torygraph):
Mr Gore claims that a sea-level rise of up to 20 feet would be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland “in the near future”. The judge said: “This is distinctly alarmist and part of Mr Gore’s “wake-up call”. He agreed that if Greenland melted it would release this amount of water – “but only after, and over, millennia”.”The Armageddon scenario he predicts, insofar as it suggests that sea level rises of seven metres might occur in the immediate future, is not in line with the scientific consensus.”
The film claims that low-lying inhabited Pacific atolls “are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming” but the judge ruled there was no evidence of any evacuation having yet happened.
The documentary speaks of global warming “shutting down the Ocean Conveyor” – the process by which the Gulf Stream is carried over the North Atlantic to western Europe. Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the judge said that it was “very unlikely” that the Ocean Conveyor, also known as the Meridional Overturning Circulation, would shut down in the future, though it might slow down.
Mr Gore claims that two graphs, one plotting a rise in C02 and the other the rise in temperature over a period of 650,000 years, showed “an exact fit”. The judge said that, although there was general scientific agreement that there was a connection, “the two graphs do not establish what Mr Gore asserts”.
Mr Gore says the disappearance of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro was directly attributable to global warming, but the judge ruled that it scientists have not established that the recession of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro is primarily attributable to human-induced climate change.
Oh just in case anyone is wondering what the hell global warming has to do with peace the prize committee says:
Indications of changes in the earth’s future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.
I think what upsets me the most about this is that there are places in the world – like Burma, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe – who are truly trying to tame violence and bring peace and prosperity, but instead it is awarded to a body of the UN that is proficient in writing press releases and a man who prattles on about how we’re all going to die unless we make sacrifices, but then lives in a massive house and flys from speaking engagement to speaking engagement in a private jet. In fact that’s the thing that bothers me the most about famous people who crusade for causes like this – they expect all of us to do the sacrificing but seem unwilling to make any sacrifices themselves…