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Swedish cow guts power train

The crazy Swedes have introduced a train powered by methane produced from cow guts, or biogas as it appears to be known. Apparently, one cow would get you about 2.5 miles on the train. As Sandy is 60 miles from London, it would require 60/2.5 = 24 dead cows to get me from Sandy to London each day. This doesn’t include return journeys.

Quick response from HearFromYourMP

On Thursday, I signed up to HearFromYourMP who will add you to a queue of other people in your constituency. When enough have signed up, your MP will get sent an email. It’ll say ’20 of your constituents would like to hear what you’re up to– hit reply to let them know.’ On Friday, Alistair Burt walks into the Father’s Group in Sandy where I go with my son. Scary.

Of course, I didn’t ask him any of the questions I would have wanted to (will he be supporting the government’s new paternity leave plans, does he support the East-West rail link while opposing the Willington rowing lake, &c., &c.). He seemed quite nice as well, which is a really annoying trait in a politician, although being liked is his job. That said, two babies and four toddlers were present, none of whom he kissed. Scandalous.

Lisjobnet revamp

CILIP recently revamped Lisjobnet, its job advertisement site. You can now search by keyword, location, or secor, which is welcome if overdue.

It would be nice to have definitions of their geographical areas. I live in Bedfordshire, for which it is always hard determine the correct region. I think I would come under East of England. Something few job search sites do is let you combine areas: I would like to look at Hertfordshire (South East), Bedfordshire, and Cambridgeshire without checking two times or more times. There are other related problems, such as not being able to combine sector and location.

Most importantly, there is no RSS feed, although it wouldn’t be much use if you couldn’t refine a little more than All Jobs. There is at least an email alert now, but that does just give you All Jobs.

CURL RSS feed

CURL has introduced an RSS feed for its news.

Ireland out

Ireland are out of the World Cup. And thank the Lord. Don’t get me wrong:

  1. I have absolutely nothing against Ireland
  2. I welcome European and Irish political, cultural, and economic cooperation
  3. My family is of Irish descent (isn’t everyone’s?) and my surname is Irish

But at least we won’t now have to put up with the embarrassing spectacle of large amounts of English people regarding Ireland as a home team. It’s not, and they fought long and hard so that it isn’t. A similar and only slightly less forgivable thing happens with Scotland: if England go out, the English start supporting other British teams, like Scotland or Ryan Giggs. I doubt if the pubs of Glasgow will be filled with England fans next summer, nor can I see many Dubliners cheering on England, the ‘home’ team, in lieu of the Republic’s finest.

Then again, with Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ryan Giggs, and the Republic of Ireland out, maybe they’ll have to.

Library standards

This is something I’ve been to write about for ages, but someone else has provoked me into at least a brief version of it: Priscilla Caplan, writing in Library Journal, has proposed a single standards body for libraries (via Catalogablog). An excerpt:

As a community we’re investing heavily in library systems, information systems, and repository systems that require appropriate and robust standards. At the same time, our standards development processes have become increasingly ad hoc, sponsorship is scattered, and mechanisms for ongoing maintenance are often informal and unfunded.

I’ve thought about this mostly in terms of cataloguing where for instance the International Standard Bibliographic Description (ISBD) is maintained by IFLA; the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, which are based on the ISBDs (at least for now) are maintained by the Joint Steering Committee for Revision of Anglo American Cataloguing Rules; and MARC21, which is used to encode AACR2 for computer catalogues is maintained by the Library of Congress. This leads to all kinds of fun and games, as changes to one are now extremely difficult without changing the others, which can’t really happen because the governing bodies are all different.

These differences obviously exist for historical reasons. E.g. MARC21 used to be USMARC and was the US counterpart to many MARCs, such as UKMARC, although most UK (at least academic) libraries now use MARC21. Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) are now very widely used, although still, understandably, under LC’s control as they were primarily intended for internal use. The corresponding LC authority files have in fact been opened to wider control, under the NACO scheme (the SACO scheme does something similar for subjects, but LC still has control, as I understand it). The LC does handle a lot because it started a lot and it has the money to keep it going (unlike the British Library, for instance, who once had their own version of MARC and several attempts at subject description schemes). However, one wonders what should happen when this gets past a certain point and international use becomes more prevalent than local use. This is a situation analogous to the present situation with governance of the Internet.

What worries me more are the large amount of organisations who seem to be adding to standards a la Microsoft and version 4 browsers. LC has long had Library of Congress Rule Interpretations (LCRIs) which deal with policies and ambiguities with AACR2. And these are understable as many ambiguities and room for interpretation exist. However, what seems wrong is that many libraries treat these as the ‘rules’ too when they are only really one library’s policies. Similar versions exist elsewhere, notably Canada. Cataloguers on mailing lists not infrequently refer to OCLC MARC as though it were the MARC21 standard itself. Both RLG and OCLC have their own input standards, many of which are not compatible with ‘standard’ practice. An example that I like to bang on about is ebook cataloguing, where netLibrary, a subsidiary of OCLC, lobbied LC to introduce an LCRI to significant change the ‘rules’ so that ebooks are not catalogued as electronic resources as stipulated by AACR2, but as books, with a note added to explain that the book in is fact an ebook.

One thing I find distinctly odd is Priscilla Caplan’s seeming assumption that the problem is not necessarily international. She does define the situation as international at the beginning and asks whether a standards body should be international at the end but the bulk of her discussion is concerned with the shortcomings of the (U.S.) National Information Standards Organization and library membership thereof. With the web and the way computer catalogues work now, standards have to be international: one country cannot make all the changes and arrogantly assume others will follow suit; similarly one country cannot go it alone. I don’t know enough about the W3C, but its stewardship of a range of Web standards seems a good model to follow. On a related note, I find it incredible that AARC3, or RDA as it is now called, is still being approached an as anglophone rather than international enterprise.

So, yes, an international (not US or UK, or anglophone) standards body for description, subject description (even if we break off from LCSH), and MARC (or something better) that involved libraries, system vendors, and others involved in the book and information trade.

Bedford-Cambridge rail link resurfaces

Although not a new idea, the BBC reports on the renewed efforts of the Bedfordshire Railway & Transport Association (BRTA) to get some action on the Bedford-Sandy-Cambridge railway ultimately linking Oxford, Bedford, Cambridge, and the east coast via Sandy. The BRTA seem a lot more keen on making the route go through Potton through which the old railway used to pass, rather than following the East Coast Main Line down to Hitchin which seemed to be the preferred route of East West Rail, although as they haven’t updated their website since February 2004 I’m not sure if this is still the case. An interesting fight seems to be on the horizon about the local councils’ enthusiasm for an Olympic boating lake near Willington which would muck things up for the railway. I think we can do without an Olympic boating lake, although I am a little concerned about the cycle route to Willington which I assume would be destroyed as it faithfully follows the old railway for large stretches.