Duck Duck Book

3 – essential william h whyte
09.23.2004, 12:04 am
Filed under: social sciences

The essential William H. Whyte / edited by Albert LaFarge.
New York : Fordham University Press, 2000.
[MCL call number: 307.76 W6295e 2000; two copies, no holds]

William Whyte wrote the very famous book The Organization Man, about the move of the middle class to the suburbs and the impact of mass organization on our culture; and then much later he wrote City, about how people use public space and what makes a good one. Two very interesting and quite different subjects. Whyte wrote a lot of other stuff too, and the work reproduced in this book will give you a fascinating overview. Some of my favorites are about: why was the college class of 1948 different from that of 1938?; how you can ace a personality test; and why on earth are people always blocking the sidewalk?


3 – nazi census
09.23.2004, 12:03 am
Filed under: social sciences

The Nazi census : identification and control in the Third Reich / Gotz Aly and Karl Heinz Roth ; translated and with a foreword by Edwin Black, with additional translation by Assenka Oksiloff.
Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 2004.
[MCL call number: 314.306 A477n 2004; two copies, no holds]

This book has something of a lurid cover, black with giant orange and white letters spelling out the title, and I picked it up initially because I thought, “Nazi census, huh?” Which I guess is the idea behind the cover design. (Later on I had a hard time not being embarrassed to be seen reading it while on the bus.)

The book was written partly to illuminate a shadowy piece of Germany’s history, and partly as a contemporary political argument against the planned implementation of a census in the early 1980s. It traces the statistics-keeping practices and policies (including censuses, compulsory identity cards, and requirements that institutions such as hospitals and grammar schools snitch, I mean report information on people they served) of the Third Reich, from 1933 through the end of the war in 1945, and the careers of prominent Nazi statisticians after 1945 (many continued to work as statisticians for the German government). The authors argue that the information gathered by the government was used to restrict political opposition and free speech, and to classify the population in preparation for exterminating or terrorizing “antisocials” and the “genetically diseased.”

Part of the reason I read the book is that right about the same time I was enticed by the orange and black cover, I read an article from the New York Times about a scandal involving the United States Census Bureau. In 2002 and 2003, the Census Bureau provided the Department of Homeland Security with a list of cities in which more than 1,000 Arab-Americans lived, and also a more detailed zip-code tabulation of the number of Arab-Americans, broken down by country of origin. (N.b.: All this information is available on the Census Bureau’s website, though it’s not pre-compiled; the data is set up to be viewed one geographical region at a time. That is, it’s easy to find out how many people of Pakistani origin were living in zip code 97214 during the 2000 census, but if you want to know for all the zip codes in the US, you’d be at the computer for awhile. Also, as far as I know it is not only legal but compulsory for the Census Bureau to provide this kind of data to other federal agencies.) Arab-American and privacy rights groups got mad. The story was not followed up in the media, as far as I could discover.

And then shortly after that, one of my co-workers received the new American Community Survey from the Census Bureau, which replaces the long form from the 2000 census, and is compulsory. She brought it to work, I looked at it, and dang are they nosy! So, food for thought.

3 – how to restore
09.23.2004, 12:02 am
Filed under: art & entertainment

How to restore & repair practically everything / Lorraine Johnson.
London : Mercury Books, 2004.
[MCL call number: 745.1028 J67h 2004; six copies, no holds]

A revised and expanded edition of a 1977 classic, with practical, easy-to-understand tips on fixin' stuff — furniture, jewelry, household objects, books, and so on. Nice illustrations, clear explanations, I love it!

3 – hacking the library
09.23.2004, 12:01 am
Filed under: articles

“Hacking the library” [column] / Kendall Clark,
18 February – 2 June 2004.

This excellent series of articles discusses the whys and wherefores, the ins and outs of arranging a personal collection of nonprint media or books.  The series is written by a computer programmer and appears in a periodical about xml (if you don’t know what xml is, just read it as [technical] and read on. . .), but it’s completely accessible to people who don’t get what goes on behind the scenes in a computer.  This Kendall Clark person is a very clear writer and a great explainer.  He’s like the George Orwell of computer stuff.

The introduction, “Geeks and the dijalog lifestyle,” puts the series’ recommendations in context for people who think that computers are the center of the universe, but I think you may find it interesting anyway.  The following three columns give an introduction to classification systems (with examples and very clear explanations), take the reader through a series of practical steps towards organizing a personal collection of books, and finally, provide extra information on the what how why and what on earth for of International Standard Book Numbers (or ISBNs).

Here are three reasons to read this series of articles: 

  1. Your library is fabulously organized for your own purposes, but, your partner can’t ever find anything because your system only works in your head, and now you have moved to a new apartment where you have to share shelves with each other (this article may keep you from breaking up or having to move again). 
  2. You have always wanted to organize your personal library but the task has seemed too daunting.
  3. You are curious about how institutionalized libraries catalog and classify their books, or you wonder what the difference is between “cataloging” and “classification.”