Author Archives: pfanderson

On Plastic, Straws, Food, Climate, and Culture — Impacts of Technology Change on Individuals and Communities

Seeking a Middle Ground Between #WarOnWaste and Accessibility (#a11y / #SpoonieLife)

This is not a new topic. We know plastic is bad. Bad for us, bad for animals. Bad for the environment. And then there is the whole deal with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, comprised primarily of plastic waste. So, bad. However, we’ve spent a couple generations now creating a culture that revolves around bad things like plastic and gasoline, and more. You can’t turn it over in a heartbeat. Because we know it’s bad, we want to fix it RIGHT NOW, but if we try to do that we really need to ask who is going to be impacted and how. This is part of how we need to be thinking about bringing in new technologies, and about replacing old technologies, and the whole spectrum of what are we doing with tech.

If we get rid of plastic straws (as some cities and even countries are doing, along with other single use plastics), who does it help, how does it help them, does anyone get hurt, again how, what are the alternatives, … we need to ask all these questions. We also need to ask what arrangements or substitutions are being put in place BEFORE the change is made, and what are the low hanging fruit with the biggest impact that we should be targeting first. I’m not sure these questions are being asked. It turns out that getting rid of plastic straws has a really big impact on the quality of life and the safety of people with a variety of disabilities. Here’s a wonderful infographic that is getting a lot praise on Twitter.

There are a lot of people who tweet about plastic waste, and the hot new hashtag for this is #WarOnWaste. Several people I know, including several with disabilities, have been responding to these. One in particular has been getting attention lately, a tweet by Elysse Morgan, an Australian news anchor.

I did not read through all the replies to her tweet, which has kind of gone viral in a bad way, but I read a lot of them. They bring up so many issues about how pre-cut foods help to prevent food waste and empower people with disabilities broadly, people in food deserts, amputees, single parents, the elderly, those with fine motor control, reduced upper limb strength, and on and on. A great many issues were brought up, a great many personal stories were told. I collected several of these in a Wakelet collection (Wakelet is the best replacement I’ve found for Storify, but that’s a different blogpost). Here they are if you’d like to scan through them.

Endorsement/Response

Seeking a Middle Ground Between #WarOnWaste and Accessibility (#a11y / #SpoonieLife)

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Are systematic reviews and meta-analyses still useful research?

Systematic!!!

If you haven’t already seen this trio of articles on the validity of the systematic review methodology, these are a must read. Each of the three articles (Yes, No, and Not Sure) are short – three pages. This is a topic that has been frustrating an awful lot of librarians for a really long time. Basically, from my own point of view, it isn’t that the systematic review methodology is bad, but that it’s been over-hyped, mis-used, applied in ways that never should have happened; that peer reviewers don’t know how to review these, don’t know what a good systematic review should look like or should include, and that means a lot of published articles called systematic reviews AREN’T (and should never have been published. In the words of my colleague, Whitney Townsend, they’ve been watered down. I think she’s being overly gentle and diplomatic.

For now, take a look at these, read them, and in a few weeks (if I’m lucky, and can find time to blog!) I’ll come back to this with a few more cogent thoughts. Who knows? I might go out and collect reactions from some of the librarians around here! (I said I’d have to be lucky!)

Are systematic reviews and meta-analyses still useful research? We are not sure
Morten Hylander Møller; John P. A. Ioannidis; Michael Darmon
Intensive Care Medicine
April 2018, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 518–520
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00134-017-5039-y

Are systematic reviews and meta-analyses still useful research? No
Sylvie Chevret; Niall D. Ferguson; Rinaldo Bellomo
Intensive Care Medicine
April 2018, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 515–517
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00134-018-5066-3

Are systematic reviews and meta-analyses still useful research? Yes
Djillali Annane; Roman Jaeschke; Gordon Guyatt
Intensive Care Medicine
April 2018, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 512–514 | Cite as
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00134-018-5102-3

Coding and tech comics & coloring books

First posted at https://michigan.it.umich.edu/news/2017/12/19/comics-coloring-books/


We are coming up quickly on the winter break, with families gathered and children out of school. With that in mind, it might be fun to have some some (slightly eccentric?) options for family activities and young folk distractions. Even better if these are options that promote learning, or just understanding more about what the old folks do with their days, eh? Here are a few highlights from my collections of (mostly free) comics, coloring books, and games around the world of geekery, coding, and tech. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find something that tickles your own funny bone!

A FORTRAN Coloring Book

Coloring Books

The first coding coloring book I could find dates from 1978 — Roger Kaufman’s FORTRAN Coloring Book, actually published by MIT Press and used as a textbook, back in the day. I was tickled pink when I found it, in part because I remember by Dad coding in FORTRAN when I was a young thing. (Yes, I have a copy on paper in my office. Honest!) It is robustly humorous for actual coders, and probably not as much fun for kids today. It is, however, available in the fabulous Internet Archive (but you might have to wait your turn to get access, since it is still under copyright).

Another rather amusing tongue-in-cheek (optionally NSFW) geek coloring book comes from the infamous Oatmeal. Check out 404 Not Found (and 404 Not Found NSFW). Not free.

With coloring books about coding going back so many decades, I thought there must be more, and oh my, there are.

ABC++ [PDF] (free)

The Coder’s Coloring Book [PDF] (free)

Kevin’s Python Coding Coloring Book (usually around $7)

Lady Ada’s E is For Electronics Coloring Book [PDF] (free as PDF, or you can buy a copy for $9.95)
(You might want to see also Lady Ada’s R is for Robots, which is not free.)

Programmer’s coloring book (About) [PDF] (free)

The SELinux Coloring Book (Github) [PDF] (free)

Soldering is Easy (free, but no PDF, only individual page downloads)

The Imitation Game, by Jim Ottaviani

Comics, Graphic Novels, Zines, Etc.

– About Coding & Tech-

These include comix for kids and comix for pros, but even those for kids are so well done I get a giggle out of them.

BubbleSort Zines. (Includes zines like “Hip Hip Array!” as well as t-shirts and jewelry such as “BYTE ME!”) (not free)

Code Cartoons (such as A Cartoon Guide to Flux and more) (free)

Google Chrome comic by Scott McCloud (free)

Grokking Algorithms: An illustrated guide for programmers and other curious people (~$17 onAmazon)

Hello, Ruby (for ages 5 and up) (not free, but free stuff available for downloading at the site)

How DNS Works (start here) (free)

Linux comics, a small zine. Others from the same author include “Let’s Learn tcpdump,” “Spying on your programs with trace,” and “Networking! ACK!” (free)

What Makes a Clock Tick (free)

Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby (free)

– About Geekery Other Than Coding –

We are very lucky here to have Jim Ottaviani on campus as a hard core science geek who loves and loves to make comics. I could hardly talk about comics and coding without mentioning his collaboration with Leland Purvis, The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded! But there are more comics and graphic novels about coders, geeks, and the work and culture they love. This is just a few selected titles, not at all comprehensive (try searching cyberpunk graphic novels to see what I mean). [NOTE: These are mostly NOT free, but for sale at bookstores both analog and virtual.]

Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics

William Gibson’s Neuromancer

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer (Pantheon Graphic Novels)

Tom Clohosy Cole’s Space Race

(And if this isn’t enough to keep people busy, you can always make your own, one way or another.)

Interested in emerging tech? Check out Cool Toys!

I’ve recently begun to write a few posts for the Michigan IT Newsletter, and will be reposting those here once they are released. This is part of my grand scheme to force myself back into blogging! Life’s crazy, so things are running late. Here’s the first piece I did for them, which was posted at https://michigan.it.umich.edu/news/2017/12/04/cool-toys/


The Cool Toys Conversation group started out as one of the many spaces on campus where people share cool tech they’ve discovered for education, research, clinical care, outreach, and productivity. Since then, it’s evolved to become more of a community of practice around emerging trends and technologies, but without ever completely giving up the original sharing of cool toys. Some of this happens in monthly meetings, usually at noon on the last Tuesday of the month (moving to BlueJeans only in January 2018), some in our email group cooltoysconversations@umich.edu (you may request to be added even if you aren’t part of UMich), and some on social media with the hashtag #cooltoysu. The scope of the resources shared is broad, as fits the scope and range of activities and interests across the university, with some of them focusing on pretty hard core tech and others focusing on links or apps or tech to do something interesting in another topic.

Here are just a few interesting things selected from the hashtag. Highlights include: augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, mobile apps, games, and productivity tools.

Seeing AI

Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you. Designed for the low vision community, this research project harnesses the power of AI to describe people, text, and objects.

Mirage

A fun little “photo” app, Mirage allows you to create 3D audio/video/emojis/doodles augmented reality content with your phone. You can also browse other people’s content, but right now, since it’s fairly new, you may not find a lot of content where you are. Here’s a nice introduction to augmented reality from Hackernoon.

The Evolution of Trust

The Evolution of Trust is a clever online game/interactive simulation that explores the mathematics of trust, distrust, and miscommunication through various character types.

Think Check Submit

This online checklist tool helps you choose where to publish your research. In their words: “Sharing research results with the world is key to the progress of your discipline and career. But with so many publications, how can you be sure you can trust a particular journal? Follow this check list to make sure you choose trusted journals for your research.”

Index App

Index touts itself as an alternative to Evernote, or as a one-stop-shop organizational tool. In their words: “Index is the easiest way to capture your ideas. #tag links, notes, files and anything from anywhere, and Index will organize everything into searchable, shareable #collections. Just promise you’ll use it for good and not evil.”

So Long, NMC, We’ll Miss You

NMC (New Media Consortium)

For those who haven’t yet heard, the New Media Consortium announced yesterday that they are in liquidation and going through bankruptcy proceedings. The New Media Consortium are the group famed for their Horizon Report series, and there are Horizon Reports in progress which some fear will not be completed or released because of these unanticipated financial challenges.

Official MailChimp announcement (this does not yet appear on the NMC blog or news feed): http://mailchi.mp/nmc/nmc-to-cease-operations

Library Journal: InfoDocket: New Media Consortium is Ending All Operations Immediately, Organization is Insolvent

EdSurge: New Media Consortium Unexpectedly Shuts Down, Citing ‘Errors and Omissions’ by CFO

Campus Technology: New Media Consortium Suddenly Ceases Operations

Bryan Alexander: The New Media Consortium: its sudden death and what comes next

As Larry Johnson says on Facebook, “Words escape me. … So oppressively sad.” The words reverberating through my social media streams include “in shock,” “reeling,” “stunned,” with some asking is this a hoax, and others saying they heard it from someone there.

For my part, it’s been an annual tradition here to schedule meetings in which we do a deep dive into the Horizon Report for Higher Education, and there have been a number of years in which this has been extended to a number of other NMC reports, or multiple meetings because one just wasn’t enough. The Horizon Report is always so rich, you see! Some years, we would have a meeting each month, to dig into one aspect at a time of the tech discussed in the report. It’s been truly fascinating. I’m so sorry, NMC. You will be truly, deeply missed.

Keeping Busy, the June Edition

I’ve been a tad overwhelmed for months now — major events, presentations, travel, etc. Lots of stuff to share, but as a quick overview, here are just a few of the Storify collections from recent events I livetweeted or attended or collected online. (I will be doing more blogposts on specific LARGE events for which I did several Storify, like the MLA Annual Meeting, or the Comics & Medicine Conference, or … and then also others from earlier this year). WordPress doesn’t like people to embed Storify links directly into the blogpost, so for each entry, I’ve embedded a tweet that has an embedded link to the Storify. This means, the easiest way to get to the good stuff is to click through.

June 7, 2017

The “Strategies to Empower Women” Symposium aims to close the historic gap that leaves females consistently behind their male counterparts in salaries, grant awards and opportunities for advancement. It was a really powerful event, and I was sad to miss the beginning of it. Making a Storify helped me find and read some of the early comments, even if I didn’t actually get to see the presenters.

“Strategies to Empower Women to Achieve Academic Success”

June 21, 2017

You need to look backwards to look forwards. You need that context of what happened and what worked and what failed to help inspire you to do something truly innovative. I was really delighted to hear Barbara MacAdam describe some of the evolution of library innovation on our campus through the lens of her own personal experiences.

“Barbara MacAdam on Library & Intellectual History at #UofM #UMich200”

June 24, 2017

Great Twitter conversation sponsored by the Journal of the American College of Radiologists on the topic of what is burnout among physicians and other healthcare workers, what does it look like, what do you do?

“Physician Burnout – #JACR June 2017 Chat”

June 26, 2017, AM

The Emergent Research series rarely has presenters from within the library, and rarely presenters who are not actually presenting research or data. In this case, the time slot was used to present really mission critical skills for researchers, faculty, and staff who work with data or concepts that should maybe not be completely public all the time to the whole world. They cast the conceptual net broadly, because, well, frankly speaking, these skills apply to everyone at the University, sooner or later.

“Digital Self-Defense (#MLibRes)”

June 26, 2017, PM

“The Evolving Bargain Between Research Universities and Society”

On D-Day, Exploring the Context of “As We May Think”

As We May Think (Cover)

During National Poetry Month (April), I thought it would be interesting to quote one of the poems published in the same issue of The Atlantic Monthly as the incredible essay, “As We May Think,” by Vannevar Bush.

“As We May Think” was required reading when I was in grad school, and it still it. This is a work that was truly seminal in shaping the origins of the Internet, hypertext, the Web, more. Provocative, inspirational, decades before its time. It’s online, easy to find, and it’s even open and free to the world. When I went looking for poems from the issue, though, that was not easy to find, much less free. I ended up having to request the print copy. Print. Really? You must be kidding me, but no, it’s true. It took me a month to believe I wasn’t going to find it online, and another few weeks for me to place the request for the print and find time to actually look at it.

You know what happens with print? You go looking for one thing, and find something else. You turn a page, and a picture catches your eye. You start to skim one article, but a beautiful word or phrase on the facing page distracts you. Before you know it, you are turning pages whether or not they have anything to do with your original question.

Let me tell you something about the issue of The Atlantic for July 1945. It was published less than a year after D-Day. It was published only a few months after the official end to the war. It was published when people first began to see, to believe, that World War II really was going to end, and stay done. It was the beginning of moving through the shock and trauma of the war, beginning to tell stories that couldn’t be born, that no one wants to remember.

When I first read “As We May Think” it seemed all shiny and glossy, this vision of what might someday become computers, personal assistants, ready flexible access to information. The dream that was so much bigger than people realized at the time, bigger than I realized when I read it in grad school. I had no idea that this was one essay of a larger series that The Atlantic was publishing on science and the war, no real idea of the world in which it was written. Sure, we studied WWII in school, read about the concentration camps, the war bonds, the atom bomb, the refugees, the destruction of historical treasures across Europe, the bombing of London, the evacuations, the debates in America about whether or not to enter the war, the American resistors who joined the war efforts in Europe early and were shunned as unpatriotic for the rest of their lives.

It never really came alive for me, though, in the way that it did when my computers broke this week and I went through the journal issue that contained Vannevar Bush’s essay. Some of what I found there:
– “paper bombs” as tools to influence thought
– Ad: advertisements on new technologies created for the war that had drastic impacts on food and home lives of civilians (from ice cream to oranges to vitamins)
– serious examinations of media reporters, “their reliability, their prejudices, and their mistakes”
– the role of propaganda on both sides of the conflict as obvious and visible even at the time
– first person reports of Buchenwald, shocking ghastly stories neglected from modern reports of the camps
– bitter heart-wrenching poems of soldiers from the fronts
– sweet stories of life back home, still edged with fatigue and loss and an undertone of the global anxieties, and stories of life with what we now call PTSD or depression or anxiety or others
– “Should Jews Return to Germany?”
– Ad: the misunderstood science that led to putting iodine in gasoline
– “Prithee, Little Book, Who Made Thee?”
– Ad: “Coal? Yes, indeed, it’s a big item in the drugstore!”
– Ad: “For the first time in history, a world without poverty and without war is technically possible. Whether we achieve it depends on how well we understand the ‘Economies Of Peace’.”
– book reviews of and advertisements for works by Henry James, Upton Sinclair, Thomas Mann, John Crowe Ransom, W. H. Auden, and other familiar names.

Somehow, “As We May Think” takes on a different flavor in the context of essays, and poems like this snippet from Sasserath, which resonate so very differently now than when they were written, that echo with limits and struggles that repeat now in some places and yet have become fictions in others.

“We who must live on substitutes for life,
The powdered egg, the dehydrated spud, …
Or learn the art of love with plastic limbs …”
“On Anodynes, by Simpson Sasserath, RT2/c

Reading and seeing “As We May Think” in the context of the series of which it was a part, similarly lends a depth that makes it seem even more extraordinary. The series was called, “A Scientist Looks at Tomorrow,” beginning in 1945 ad stretching to at least 1947. It included titles such as these:

– The Social Animal / Caryl P. Haskins
– Stars, Proteins, and Nations / Philippe Le Corbeiller
– A Design for Fighting / Harlow Shapley
– Penicillin, Plasma Fractionation, and the Physician / Dr. John F. Fulton
– A Physicist Returns from the War / I. I. Rabi
– Psychiatry and the Way / Big. Gen. William G. Menninger
– DDT and the Balance of Nature / V. B. Wigglesworth

I’m now curious to find them all, as a fascinating window into what was considered the cutting edge of emerging technologies in the mid-1940s. But the few sentences that resonated with me most closely came from a few months after the Bush essay, towards the end of the year, in an essay called, “The Return to Love,” by Rollo Walter Brown.

We can take our choice. If we do not believe that the awakening, the generosity, the loyalty, the warmth, expressed in love can transform the world into something more livable than what we now have, then we can take the alternative and believe that husbands and wives who cannot endure each other, neighbors who cannot endure each other, races who cannot endure each other, people who scoff at anyone who would make an improvement, can somehow, added together, constitute one world living in amity. We can wait among our raucous hatreds until somebody somewhere decides to enforce his special hatred with some super-super atomic bomb. That is something definite and “realistic.” But might we not have a more interesting world if we tried love?