Jessamyn West

I run librarian.net and metafilter.com. I am a techie librarian who lives in Vermont and travels the world.

Pietenpol's DIY airplane: "a common man's airplane"

Bernard Pietenpol wanted to build "a plane that was affordable and easy to construct for home builders." He designed and built the AirCamper which flew using an automobile engine... in 1928! The same plane can now be built for less than $2000 and there's a small cottage industry devoted to selling plans. Delicious Filmworks has just created a new short documentary about his vision.
800px-Pietenpol.air.camper.g-buco.arp.jpg"During the Great Depression, Bernard H. Pietenpol, with no more than an eighth-grade education, designed a "common-man's airplane" built with scavenged and hardware-store parts. Today his son and grandson carry on his legacy, and his airplane's simple design enjoys a popular following among people of all ages who share his dream of flight .
[via 10engines]

Valentine: serialized multilingual device-independent comics

EP01_anim_scr005.gif Valentine: A supernatural thriller published in 14 languages, and multiple digital reading devices, simultaneously. Creative Commons licensed. Multilingual peeks over at Robot Comics.
Valentine is a fantasy / thriller graphic novel series by writer Alex de Campi and artist Christine Larsen. It is available in 14 languages and counting. You can't buy it in a comic book shop because it's not a traditional comic; it's a project which has been tailored specifically to be enjoyed on wireless devices
First one's free, cheap after that. Full-color digest edition available in print format when the run's done. From an interview with de Campi:
The thing you also need to keep in mind is that comics overseas are far, far bigger than they are in America. In France and Japan, there are single issues of a bande dessinee or a manga tankubon that regularly outsell in volume the entire US comic industry's output for the year.

And the format thing? Well, frankly, that's just showing off. (No, seriously, as I was talking to people about "Valentine," everyone was like, "Oh, I read on Stanza, can you have it for Stanza?" and "Could I get it on my Kindle?" and "But, I have a Sony e-Reader"...) and the joy of doing one panel per screen is that it makes the format very adaptable, both for different size screens and for right to left languages. One panel per screen may not be the way of the future, as technology evolves on an almost moment by moment basis, but it has worked very well so far for "Valentine."

Book Sharing Bankrupting Publishing Industry!

pirate-librarians.jpgLibrarians are the worst sort of pirates. Eric Hellman has a wry look at how Offline Book "Lending" Costs U.S. Publishers Nearly $1 Trillion
To get to the bottom of this story, Go To Hellman has dispatched its Senior Piracy Analyst (me) to Boston, where a mass meeting of alleged book traffickers is to take place. Over 10,000 are expected at the "ALA Midwinter" event. Even at the Amtrak station in New York City this morning, at the very the heart of the US publishing industry, book trafficking culture was evident, with many travelers brazenly displaying the totebags used to transport printed contraband.

As soon as I got off the train, I was surrounded by even more of this crowd. Calling themselves "Librarians", they talk about promoting literacy, education, culture and economic development, which are, of course, code words for the use and dispersal of intellectual property. They readily admit to their activities, and rationalize them because they're perfectly legal in the US, at least for now.

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Build privacy into national broadband policy says CDT

rural-electrification.jpgThe Center for Democracy and Technology filed two sets of comments (1, 2) to the Federal Communications Commission regarding privacy concerns and expectations that will come along with a national broadband policy that they are currently stumbling towards. The FCC says that policies "...must promote technological neutrality, competition, investment, and innovation to ensure that broadband service providers have sufficient incentive to develop and offer such products and services." The CDT thinks we need to go much further than that "[F]ully protecting consumer privacy interests online requires a rigorous mix of self-regulation, enforcement of existing law, development of technical tools and standards, and enactment of new legislation."

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Puppets are fun

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater (covered in this previous Boing Boing post) is celebrating their 50th Anniversary all year. The Bob Baker theater, the longest running theater of its kind in the US, is the only surviving puppet theater in downtown Los Angeles which was home to thirty puppet theaters in the 1930's. Bob Baker bio & interview for the DVD release of Pinocchio.
cactus.jpgBaker himself loves recounting stories. He tells of walking through Disneyland with "Walt" on the day before the park opened. He remembers birthday parties for the children of Old Hollywood: Danny Kaye, Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell. His puppetry was featured on "Star Trek," "A Star Is Born" and "G.I. Blues" with Elvis Presley. He sold his hand-crafted marionettes at stores including Bullocks Wilshire and FAO Schwarz. He says he can look at any of the 3,000 puppets in his catalog and tell which one it is just from looking at the controls.

Make your own mossarium!

Moss is awesome! And simple to keep alive even if you travel.

Moss had its heyday back at the turn of the last century when both the US and the UK had their own bryological societies and people built mosseries into their homes where they could enjoy the greenery year round. It’s simple to build a mini-mossery, or mossarium, in your own home.

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The longest-running open source project: US Federal Depository libraries

200102744_6973023d9b.jpg The Federal Depository library Program (FDLP) is a geographically dispersed network of 1250 libraries around the US who for over 150 years have worked with the Government Printing Office (GPO) to insure that government information is deposited in local libraries and freely available to everyone. FDLP libraries have also assured the authenticity of government information through this distributed system. Documents librarians have long been advocates for government transparency, freedom of information, privacy and civil liberties (freedom to read etc).

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Librarians for Fair Access resists exclusive content contracts

such a bitter pill to take
Library database vendor EBSCO now has exclusive deals with content providers -- Time, Inc., and Forbes. Libraries who had been getting access to this same content through other vendors will have to pay up or lose electronic access to popular titles such as Sports Illustrated, Time and People. Gale, a competing vendor, has responded with their Fair Access campaign including the Librarians for Fair Access facebook group.

tl;dr version: If your library doesn't have EBSCO and wants to continue to offer electronic access to some magazines, they will have to get EBSCO. Previously, most magazines were aggregated and sold by many companies, more about the specifics here.

According to Gale: "If you currently receive Time Inc. or Forbes periodical content electronically from Gale or any provider other than EBSCO, you and your patrons will lose access to that content over [2010]."

What changed? EBSCO responds, in Library Journal "In many cases, an exclusive relationship is the only way you can have the content in your databases." They were the top bidder in an RFP put out by Major Magazines who felt that they were losing revenue because too many people read their magazines in the library for free. That said, EBSCO is no stranger to the idea of exclusive contracts.

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The unbearable awfulness of pine mouth

Pine_nuts_pinemouth.jpg Serious Eats is curious if you've ever experienced Pine Mouth, a long-lasting metallic taste in your mouth after eating pine nuts.

Roger Hyam's blog post outlines the issue and links to a medical article which confirms the syndrome but offers no obvious cause. Are Chinese pine nuts to blame?

Tips for avoiding Pine Mouth. Reports from Chowhound & Yelp. Official position from the International Nut and Dried Fruit Foundation.

[Image: Nuno Tavares via Wikimedia Commons, cc licensed]

Robots + Monsters reopens today, donations to aid Haitan relief


Robots + Monsters will be reopening on Monday January 25th, with the donations going to Doctors Without Borders and their Haiti efforts. From their press release:
The destruction and human suffering wrought by the earthquake in Haiti has touched us all, whether we have a personal connection to the country or not. Robots + Monsters is committed to help alleviate the suffering of the Haitian people by partnering with the humanitarian group, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders.)... More than 1,000 injured people have been treated by Doctors Without Borders medical teams in the first 24 hours following the earthquake and we are currently transporting additional staff and emergency supplies into Haiti.... Robots + Monsters has been fortunate enough to secure the very limited drawing time of many amazing contributors from the illustration and visual arts world, like Adam Koford, John Martz, Matt Rebholz, and Molly Crabapple, as well as many others, who will all be helping out for this great cause. Visit www.robotsandmonsters.org for more info.

310 class photos from 80 years of PS 99 in Queens NY

"The story of any community is mostly about its people, not its streets and buildings. The P.S. 99 class photographs taken over the years are one of the best records we have of the people who have grown up here over the past decades. There are links below to 310 class photos."

Ps99 kewgardens entrance

Kew Gardens was an immigrant neighborhood in Queens, New York which rapidly flled with European war refugees during the early 1940's. PS 99 was the one public school. Building construction had been halted due to the war efforts, so morning classes were given in the auditorium. Children wore ID tags like the one below "in case of a bombing."

3438636043_82c4ea5885_o.jpg

Kew Gardens is now one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the US. The Kew Gardens History site is collecting class photos that show the evolution of this New York neighborhood.

Illuminated 15th c. Manuscript - full of hidden demons

demonilluminated.jpg The Morgan Library in New York is currenty exhibiting one of the great masterworks of medieval illumination, the Hours of Catherine of Cleves. All 157 miniatures have also been digitized.

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Superman - The 1948 Serial

superman_kirkalyn.jpg "The Superman serial was a 1948 15-part black-and-white movie serial starring an unaccredited Kirk Alyn (but billed only by his character name, Superman) and Noel Neill as Lois Lane. It is notable as the first live-action appearance of Superman on film and for the longevity of its distribution." All 15 chapters are available at the Internet Archive's open source movies archive. Meanwhile, Superman is still on the list of banned Twitter passwords.

music for/by the birds


French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot has created "a walk-through aviary for a flock of zebra finches, and furnished them with electric guitars and other instruments" at the Barbican Gallery. Same project, different location. [via MeFi]