You ever see something that’s a pretty good idea, but with the inclusion of one more thing it’d be an even better idea?

I have mixed feelings about OCLC’s Geek The Library campaign. Jessamyn has a wonderful post which farily sums up my feelings in general, but there’s something missing. They’ve got this visually stunning campaing, and it is stunning. They’ve got these images of people and what they “geek.” Nice. But what about me?

Or more importantly, what about you?

This is supposed to be a community based library support thing. And with that, you usually offer something to spread the word, right? So what would be better than the ability to make your own “Igeek” posters? Something you could make, print out, and stick up someplace the public could see it would be really cool. The design is eye catching and would make a nifty conversation piece. Hell, you can make your own warning signs and motivational posters, surely they can do this too. Indeed, all it needs to ask for is a picture and one or two words and then some code to put it all together.

So why, might you ask, am I not working on such a thing? Well, that’s simple. I have no idea how to actually code something like that. I might be able to throw something together in PHP, but I have a feeling that the finished product will look like something I threw together in PHP. However, I do have Photoshop and Publisher at my disposal and I bet y’all have something similar. So… here:


Oh and, for the record, just because I think the end result will look like crap doesn’t mean I’m not looking into it. But I really think it’ll be above my capabilities for programming.

Edit: Made the image clickable for the larger version.

book-seerWe’ve all had patrons who have that question “I just finished reading such and such, what should I read next?” My answer to that is usually Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but that’s a typical statement from me regardless of whatever they were reading.

A new site offers a fun and easy way to figure out what’s next on the reading list and it’s completely patron friendly. The Book Seer is nothing more than a cultured, bearded, Victorian era gentlemen asking what you just read. Then he searches through Amazon and LibraryThing to find other books like that for your patrons’ literary pleasure.

As an added bonus, it seems to work well with non-fiction too.

half-life_2_04_1024 I play a lot of video games and I’m particularly keen on the FPS style of game. For those who don’t know, FPS is short for First Person Shooter. This is a style of video game where the presentation on-screen is done right through the eyes of the character you’re playing, as if you’re in their skull, looking through their eyes. It’s particularly immersive and some of the greatest selling video games have been FPS style. Half-Life 2 (left) is one of the best and most well known of the genre.

But how do we perceive things as a first person in a world that does not exist?

Most FPS games have some kind of on-screen map so you can tell where you’re going, where enemies are, in which direction your objectives lie, and so on. There are basically two ways to display this map and I’ve become very familiar with both.

The first way is that you are a point on the map, which scrolls with you. The map itself is always oriented to the north no matter which way you are going.

The other way is that the maps spins with your perspective. So the map is oriented to the direction you’re currently looking.

So what’s better? And what does that say about our perceptions of direction in the real world and the virtual world. Researchers are working on this question, but what in the hell does it have to do with you? You don’t have some miniature map that points the way on your heads up display, do you?

Well, yes you do. And such things are becoming more and more common as handheld GPS shows up in standalone devices, phones, cars, and anything else they might think to stuff one into. Now you ask yourself a question. You’re traveling in an unfamiliar locale and you whip out your GPS. Do you want the map to rotate based on where you’re looking, or do you want to be a blip on a stationary map oriented to the north?

Just another way that the real world imposes itself on video games and vice versa.

One funny note. Many notice that Dr. Gordon Freeman, the main character of Half-Life 2 who’s sporting the glasses and crowbar in the picture above, bears an uncanny resemblance to another famous fictional doctor.


square-root-wallpaper The transmission of information through space is particularly interesting to me. All those awesome photos from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Mercury MESSENGER mission, and the Mars probes; all of that information was sent through the depths of interplanetary space back to Earth.

Let’s put it another way. A small robot orbiting or sitting on the surface of a planet hundreds of thousands to millions of kilometers away snapped a picture. Then that information was encoded and beamed back to a small, rather insignificant chunk of rock circling a class G star. The target of this transmission is moving through space and doing so while the origin of the transmission also moves through space.

Amazing, really.

Then we get to see that information, or the results of the information, from the comfort of our computers via the Internet.

But what happens if we can’t understand what we see because it’s in another language?

hdtv_077_1_l We simply take the information and transform it. In this case, we can look at the spectacular final photos of the Kaguya lunar probe. Why are they the final photos? Because the Kaguya was purposefully forced to crash into our moon. Problem is, the website containing these images is, as you might imagine, in Japanese.

No problem, thanks to a web page translator. Google Language, in this case, does the job for us. And while the translation is admittedly imperfect, you can still look and understand.

In short, you’re able to look at a webpage with complex information like that generated by a lunar probe and, even though that website was written in a language you didn’t understand, you can now.

It’s stuff like that which makes an amateur astronomer and information scientist titter with glee.