Monthly Archives: May 2006

Lunchtime Excitement

I just had a bit of excitement at lunch; I was having lunch outside at Republic, a noodle restaurant in Union Square, when the sky suddenly grew dark and the wind started picking up. A few seconds later, the huge (and heavy) umbrella covering about 6 tables was caught by a gust and started falling towards me. Luckily I was able to catch it, otherwise it would have hit me in the head.

The Proposition

I saw a great movie today: “The Proposition,” a gritty, violent western set in Australia at the end of the nineteenth century. It’s the story of three outlaw brothers wanted for a brutal rape and murder, and the lawman that tries to bring them to justice.

Both the screenplay and the score were written by Nick Cave, formerly the frontman for The Birthday Party and later Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and the author of “And the Ass Saw the Angel.” I was a big fan of The Birthday Party in my youth, and “And the Ass…” is one of my all-time favourite novels.

Although the story is typical western fare, everything about The Proposition is superlative: A great dramatic arc, good pacing, amazing cinematography, brilliant casting and acting, an excellent score, etc. etc. If you like westerns and can stomach the violence (I’m quite squeamish about movies but I didn’t have too much of a problem with The Proposition because of the way it was paced), you should see this movie.

My favourite bit of dialogue:

“Are we misanthropes?”

“Hell no! We’re a family.”

The Best Birthday Present

Today is my birthday, and I just got a great present — I learnt that my Dad, who had been in hospital for the last week after having a suspected stroke, hadn’t had any kind of “cerebral incident” after all, and was sent home today.

In the Blogosphere

Just a few hours after I posted my previous entry about the RLG/OCLC merger, it was picked up and cited (with my permission) by Paula Hane, a journalist and News Bureau Chief for Information Today Inc., in her 8 May NewsBreaks article “RLG to Merge with OCLC.”

I was amazed that she found my blog posting so quickly — long before it could have been indexed by any of the major search engines — so I asked her how she had come across it (I’m always amazed that anyone actually reads this blog, let alone journalists researching serious topics!). She told me she’d found it through a blog search engine called

I checked it out by searching for the same topic, and sure enough, I was able to find dozens of blog entries about the RLG/OCLC merger, just hours after the official announcement went out.

So I guess my online ramblings here are in fact a bona fide part of the blogosphere now.

RLG and OCLC to merge

After 32 years RLG (formerly a.k.a. the Research Libraries Group), my former employer in Mountain View, California, announced yesterday that it is merging with OCLC (still a.k.a. the Online Computer Library Center).

Both RLG and OCLC are often known as “library utilities,” because they provide products and services to libraries around the World — most notably the “union catalogues,” massively aggregated bibliographic databases with hundreds of millions of records about the book holdings of libraries everywhere. Now RLG’s Union Catalog (known to librarians almost universally, albeit incorrectly, as RLIN) will be merged into OCLC’s WorldCat database.

The part of RLG that I used to work for, Member Programs, will continue as RLG-Programs, a division of OCLC Programs and Research. It’s unclear at this point what will happen to the rest of RLG.

This merger is big news in the library world, at least in the world of academic/research libraries. Until now, they have always had a choice of two competing utilities, and two different union catalogues (and some used both). Now, “there can be only one.”

I’m sure there are many good and valid business reasons for this merger, many of which are set out in the press release, “RLG to combine with OCLC.” Still, for the library world, it feels a bit like the equivalent of Apple and Microsoft merging. And I feel bad for my friends and coworkers at RLG, who must all be facing a period of great uncertainty right now.

Feeding Frenzy

My friend Merrilee was berating me yesterday for not providing an RSS feed of my blog; she couldn’t understand why anyone would publish a blog and then not make it available as a feed that people who use content aggregators (e.g. Bloglines) could subscribe to.

I’ve never really got into web content syndication tools myself, and pointed out that I’ve had this blog since 2002 — before RSS feeds were in widespread use. Besides, I couldn’t believe anyone would actually want to subscribe to my inane ramblings — surely people just come here when they’re bored and have some time to kill?

However, she was adamant that I should provide a feed, so after a bit of faffing I’ve (hopefully!) set it up. First I had to activate the Atom feed feature on my Blogger account, then I created a Feedburner account to convert the feed into other formats such as RSS.

So now clicking on this little orange icon should enable my dear devoted readers to subscribe to my blog in a variety of feed formats:

Alternatively, the Atom feed can be accessed directly (without going through Feedburner) here:

Immigration protests

I went to an immigration protest demonstration in Union Square briefly today, although I didn’t boycott work — it was my first day back after my two-week vacation, so I went on my lunch break.

Immigration is a very complex issue, and nowhere more so than in the United States, a country that was built and populated (some would argue “invaded,” with some justification) by immigrants.

The nationwide demonstrations and protests were intended to raise awareness of the contribution made to the U.S. economy by immigrants — including an estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants — as controversial new immigration legislation makes its way through Congress.

Personally, I think the American economy would grind to a screeching halt without illegal immigrants — so much of the country’s underlying infrastructure relies on undocumented workers, who are often forced to work for considerably less than the minimum wage.

For many Americans, the idea of “illegal immigrants” conjures images of hordes of central and south Americans swarming across the Mexican border in the dead of night. And it’s true that the majority of illegal immigrants in the United States enter the country in this way.

But having been an illegal immigrant myself briefly in the past because of a “Catch-22” style administrative error by the Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Services, I know first hand that it isn’t always as simple as that. These administrative errors are not uncommon, but they are always stressful for the individual concerned.

I was lucky — in addition to being white, educated, single and employed, I could also afford to spend the significant time and money (several thousand dollars) on legal processes necessary to rectify their error.

Ultimately, though, immigration is not a single nation’s problem; individuals will always seek the best quality of life possible for themselves and their families — it’s just human nature. Until there is a more equitable global distribution of wealth, people will continue to migrate from poorer countries to richer countries. And if they can’t do it legally, they will continue to find alternate routes.