Friday, July 8, 2011

Don't Shoot the Messengers

I will never understand the myth of redemptive violence. I just read this article about the jurors in the Casey Anthony trial, which says that the judge is not releasing their names out of fear for their safety.There are worries about Casey Anthony's safety too.

I can understand why people are upset about the verdict; they feel that Anthony got away with murder and will now be free to live her life while her daughter lies in her grave. What I don't understand is how committing bodily injury upon Anthony or the members of the jury would revive baby Caylee. How would rewarding suspected violence with violence rectify anything?

I also don't understand why people are so furious with the jury.

Sign hanging in a Florida restaurant

It was easy for the public to come to a strong opinion about this case after the media bombarded us with coverage, but the jury could not take any of that into consideration. They could only consider what is presented in court, and even then they were not able to simply rule based on their gut opinions. They could only give a guilty verdict where they felt that the prosecution proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that a crime was committed in they manner they described.

I served on a jury for a felony murder trial last year. It only lasted for one week and was emotionally exhausting. I cannot imagine what the jurors of this case must be feeling, especially when Juror #3 expressed that their ruling made them feel "sick to their stomachs," and Juror #2 said, "I wish we had more evidence to put her away. I truly do. But it wasn't there." The conflict must be devastating

They served, taken away from their families, jobs, and lives. They ruled, as the law requires, based on what was presented in the courtroom. Why do we want to harm them, not thank them for their service and pray for their emotional healing?

Post script:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What Does the Internet Know About You?

I read the article "What the Ultra-Personalized Internet Is Hiding from You" by Eli Pariser, and as a soon-to-be librarian am embarrassed to admit that I was surprised by some of what it shared. It said that "in polls, a huge majority of us assume search engines are unbiased." I know I did....Oops.

I knew that Gmail used information in my emails to recommend advertisements for me. Facebook does the same thing.  What surprised me was that this personalization stretched to the results I see in the Google search engine. The author had two friends of similar demographics search Google for the same thing, and  they were each shown significantly different results. 

How does this happen? "According to one Wall Street Journal study, the top 50 Internet sites each install an average of 64 data-laden cookies and personal tracking beacons when you visit them." They then use these tracking devices to spit back information that is similar to what you have viewed in the past. This is how Facebook decides what to show in your Top News Feed. 

This means that you are shown information that you are more likely to be interested in, that aligns with your likes, values, and beliefs. So this is a good thing, right? In some ways I think it is. Facebook ads have led me to artists and charities that I did not know of before and now support. I'm also rocking out to a 1990s summer hits mix on Pandora as I type this all thanks to digital personalization.

What I worry about is that "all of this personalization isn't just shaping what we buy....The algorithms that orchestrate our ads are starting to orchestrate our lives." If the information we retrieve from search engines is customized to our already held beliefs and preferences, how will we access well-rounded information? If Facebook is only showing us posts by people we agree with, couldn't we quickly come to think that our views are only views on an issue?

Also, "while Google has (so far) promised to keep your personal data to itself, other popular web sites and apps...make no such guarantees." A giant market is actually growing, revolving solely around collecting data about internet users. The internet started as "an anonymous medium where anyone could be anyone" but it has morphed into "a tool for soliciting and analyzing our personal data" where your views and preferences may be unknowingly used to shape what you think and what you buy. 

Though once true, now the internet likely even knows what breed of dog you are.

This is a scary thought, but there are steps you can take to avoid it. Awareness is the biggest step. You can also check out GOOD Magazine's easy guide How to Stop Websites from Tracking You and's guide How to Delete Cookies. Inform yourself and take action, but use this personalization to your advantage too.

Now it's time for me to listen to Ace of Base on my Pandora mix.

Monday, July 4, 2011


It's July 4th, so in the United States the word of the day is freedom. Freedom is one of those words that I hear so often in American rhetoric that it has begun to lose its meaning for me. This may have started when some Americans were mad at France and decided that they would replace the word French with the word Freedom in all food products.

 Freedom evokes images of flags and soldiers, but what were (are) they fighting for? Librarian that I am soon to be, I looked up freedom's dictionary definition.

Freedom: the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint. 

The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint. What are things that can cause confinement or physical restraint, from which all people have the right to be free? Lack of access to food, shelter, safety, clean water and air, healthcare, and education to start. All cause confinement and restraint and all stem from poverty. Eradicating these things may be why our country is entangled in several wars. 

I pray for everyone who is serving in the armed forces to protect freedom. But what about the rest of us? On this day that Americans celebrate freedom, let us ask ourselves, what are we doing to help those in need, to eradicate the plague of poverty that separates people, including many Americans, from freedom?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bike Snob

The Tour de France started yesterday and I've decided to use it as inspiration to get back in the saddle (yes, I went there) with blogging. I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but within the last year my husband became a serious cyclist. He rides to work, rides for fun, and rides to raise money for charity. I'd never thought much about cycling, but now it is a common topic of conversation in our home. I've also been bringing books about cycling home from the library for Jason to read. Most of them have been either technical books or biographies of cyclists, but this one had Jason laughing out loud. He liked it so much that I decided to give it a read.

I am by no means a cyclist (I haven't even been on a bike since our trip to the beach last summer.), but I enjoyed Bike Snob: Systematically & Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling by the blogger BikeSnobNYC. I liked learning about the cycling's history

and the different types of cycling that are popular today,

but the author's witty tone and the book's artwork and design are what made the book for me. An example: below is the title page for the chapter about cycling safety and etiquette.

This is a humorous, informative read that I'd recommend to everyone and say it is a must read for anyone who is or loves a cyclist.