Monthly Archives: October 2013

“The Fine Art of Baloney Detection”

the-demon-haunted-world-q3jfla5kHere at the library we think a lot about research and information literacy. In short, we think about helping students to develop the skills which will empower them to understand an information need, to be able to identify the best sources, and to be able to critically evaluate that information for credibility, reliability, veracity, and to follow where the evidence leads. All of these skills are essential for writing good papers but are equally important to being savvy information consumers as professionals, citizens, and individuals who operate in a world of often dubious if not outright misleading claims.

One could call this skill set and the ability to employ it in your own writing critical thinking ability. But, I prefer to call it  a “Baloney Detection Kit.” The late great Carl Sagan coined this phrase to denote:

“…the means to construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and—especially important—to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument. The question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion follows from the premise or starting point and whether that premise is true.”

To build your “Baloney Detection Kit” with the tools for skeptical (or critical) thinking proposed by Dr. Sagan check out The Demon Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark from the library.

More than halfway there….

There are only six full weeks left until the semester ends. With this in mind, I am providing you with a special library list of 6 things to help get you to the finish line without stumbling along the way.

1. Your final decisions about any inter-library loan (ILL) needs should be made in the next week. This means you need to wrap up the bulk of your research when it comes to acquiring sources. Assess what you have now, determine what you cannot live without and put those ILL requests in at the circulation desk ASAP. Why you ask? So that your resources have time to get here. Books requested from other libraries are mailed to us via media mail (what use to be called 4th class mail) and it can take a bit of time for the item/s to arrive.

2. Check your printing account, is it running low? Take a bit of time to add money to it now so that you don’t run out just before you are ready to print the final draft of your paper. Wondering how you add money to your printing account? Log on to your Spartan Web account, go to campus life, then information technology, and finally lab printing. FYI: your tuition pays for $30 worth of printing at the beginning of each semester, for some this is not enough. You don’t want to run out of paper.

3. Get enough sleep. Don’t invite a cold or flu bug into your immune system by staying up all night or abusing your system with junk food. Sleeping regularly for at least 8 hours a night will allow you to complete your projects and papers in a timely manner.

4. See the reference librarians now and NOT later. Our vast depth of knowledge can only solve procrastination slightly.  You need to have time to pick, review, read, and evaluate your resources. You also need time to write several drafts of your paper. Remember, time moves forward whether one likes it or not…

5. Speaking of writing, do you need to get your paper evaluated by the staff of the Saunders Writing Center? The Writing Center is in Plant Hall, Room 323. You can call 813-253-6244 for an appointment or just drop in. Center hours are: 8:15 am – 5 pm Mondays and Wednesdays, 8:15 am – 4 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays and Fridays 8:15 am – 3 pm.

6. Finally, if you are feeling confused or anxious about something regarding you class consider approaching your instructor. They were undergraduates too, albeit awhile ago…communication is great tool to use to calm nervous feelings, misunderstandings, and ultimately results in better learning.

You have probably heard it before but don’t forget college is not a mad dash to the finish line. You have to pace yourself and with some attention to detail you can easily accomplish what you must and beyond.

To connect to better writing, visit the Saunders Writing Center in Plant Hall, Rm. 323, or call (813) 253-6244 for an appointment. – See more at: http://www.ut.edu/academic-support/saunders/?terms=saunders%20writing%20center#sthash.ZckQtDpX.dpuf
To connect to better writing, visit the Saunders Writing Center in Plant Hall, Rm. 323, or call (813) 253-6244 for an appointment. – See more at: http://www.ut.edu/academic-support/saunders/?terms=saunders%20writing%20center#sthash.ZckQtDpX.dpuf
To connect to better writing, visit the Saunders Writing Center in Plant Hall, Rm. 323, or call (813) 253-6244 for an appointment. – See more at: http://www.ut.edu/academic-support/saunders/?terms=saunders%20writing%20center#sthash.ZckQtDpX.dpuf

 

 

Florida Electronic Library

As many resources as we have, sometimes they are just not enough. Don’t forget you also have access to the Florida Electronic Library and their extensive collection of databases.

The Florida Electronic Library (FEL) is a gateway to: electronic magazines, newspapers, almanacs, encyclopedias and books, and the Ask a Librarian reference service.

“Florida Statute 1006.72 requires that Florida College System institutions, state universities, school districts and public libraries, collaborate to identify and acquire licensed electronic library resources. The FEL Program Manager works with the Florida Library Network Council (FLNC) to coordinate this process, and cost efficiently and cost effectively, license a collection of statewide core electronic resources.
– See more at: http://www.flelibrary.org/about.php#sthash.f5dqNFKo.dpuf

Upcoming Event: Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading

Next Saturday, October 25, is the 21st annual Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading.  The 10 am to 4 pm event will take place on the campus of USF – Saint Petersburg. If you can, I recommend you take the time and head down to the Festival.

The visiting authors list is jammed with exciting and interesting individuals from all walks of life. Some you might find interesting include:

Raymond Arsenault, a professor of Southern history at USF-St. Petersburg and editor and contributer to Dixie Redux: Essays in Honor of Southern History Sheldon Hackney. Arsenault also wrote the 2006 book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.

Mark Billingham is one of the UK’s most popular crime writers. He has won the Sherlock Award for Best Detective. More information about him can be found at http://www.markbillingham.com.

Nancy J. Cavanaugh is a Floridian and has been both a school teacher and librarian. She has a second middle grade novel coming out this month called Always, Abigail.

Here is an author you might want really meet up close: Roy Peter Clark. Clark has taught writing at the Poytner Institute since 1979 to students ranging from young children to Pulitzer Prize winning authors. Clark’s recent work is titled: How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times.

Carlton Ward, Jr. is a conservation photographer from Tampa. His most recent work The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition: Everglades to Okeefenokee, 1,000 Miles in 160 Days documents a journey through our state’s natural landscapes. I also recently read that Ward  opened a gallery in Hyde Park Village, you can read all about it here.  The gallery’s opening reception is scheduled for Friday, November 15, 6 – 9 pm and the public is invited. In the meantime you can also view Ward’s photography from the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition just down the block at the Oxford Exchange but you’ll have to act fast since the exhibit will only be up until October 26.

Well, there are many many more authors to meet and greet next Saturday at the Festival of Reading, I couldn’t begin to tell you all about them. This link provides you with more bios and more information all about the Festival of Reading. So, consider getting ahead this week on you course work so that you can get out and head down to Saint Petersburg for the Festival of Reading on Saturday. Rumor is the weather is going to be GRAND!

Neil Gaiman on Reading and Libraries

Librarians love Neil Gaiman. Why? Because Neil Gaiman loves libraries and isn’t shy about telling people. Here are some passages from a recent Gaiman talk.

ON READING:

“Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end … that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key.”

ON LIBRARIES:

“Libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.”

“We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.”

Thanks, Neil!

Classic Reads: The Jungle

the_jungleThe story of workers, increasingly comprised of immigrant laborers, paid low wages toiling long hours in extraordinarily dangerous and often unsanitary conditions with little to no protection or recourse. The story of the American meatpacking industry, where behind the walls of packaging plants the realities of slaughtering and processing animals into meat is anything but appetizing. I could easily be describing a news story or any number of books and documentaries chronicling the current state of American food, in particular meat, but this story is from the book The Jungle which is now 107 years old.

Upton Sinclair wrote the 1906 muckraking novel The Jungle to expose the deplorable working conditions experienced by Eastern European immigrants toiling in dangerous and unsanitary slaughterhouses in the Packingtown District of Chicago. The general public however seized upon the books descriptions of contaminated and rotten meat and consumer demand quickly led to the passage of The Federal Meat Inspection Act and The Federal Food and Drug Act, which in effect established the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Not so different than the one Sinclair told, the story of today’s meat industry involves working in a job with one of the highest rates of injury and illness (see, Safety and Health Guide for the Meatpacking Industry and Poultry Processing Industry eTool) , low wages (mean hourly wage of $11.99), and an increasingly immigrant workforce drawn primarily from Latin America who are disproportionately vulnerable to exploitation (Artz, Jackson, & Orazem, 2010). It is the story of the cost of cheap meat involving regular outbreaks of foodborne illness, concerns over antibiotic use in livestock, abuse of animals, and pollution from factory farms. Today it is also the story of the public’s right to know how we get our meat when Ag-Gag laws limit the ability of muckrakers like Sinclair to inform the public to just what is going on behind those factory walls.

Source Cited:

Artz, G., Jackson, R., & Orazem, P. F. (2010). Is it a jungle out there? Meat                      packing, immigrants, and rural communities. Journal of Agricultural and                Resource Economics, 35(2), 299-315.

Check out these other books from the library to learn more about the modern food system.

fast food nationOmnivoresDilemma_fullfactory farming

The Freedom to Read Statement

One of the most closely held librarian values is the freedom to read. For sixty years the American Library Association has supported the Freedom to Read Statement.

“The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label “controversial” views, to distribute lists of “objectionable” books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.”

A library collection that contains only “safe,” or “acceptable” works is failing to do its job, especially in an academic environment. If we represent a wide diversity of views we must on occasion hold unpopular items, or even information some might consider “dangerous.” But, in a democratic society we trust the citizens to draw their own conclusions and make their own decisions without the aid of a censor, no matter how well-intentioned.

“Ideas can be dangerous; but … the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society.”

You can read the rest of the statement here.

DVD Documentaries at the Library

Here are five excellent documentaries available at the library. You can check their status (whether they have been checked out or are available for check out) in the online catalog.

Take the title and call number to the Circulation Desk and someone will pull the DVD for you. DVD checkout is for three days.

Title: Restrepo: one platoon, one valley, one year
Call Number: DS371.4123.K67 J86 2010

restreposmlMovie description: “RESTREPO is a feature-length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, “Restrepo,” named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military. This is an entirely experiential film: the cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 90-minute deployment. This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you.”

Title: Food, Inc.
Call Number: HD9005 .F66 2009

FoodIncsmlMovie description: “In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.”

Title: Crumb
Call Number: NC1429.C79 C79 2006

CrumbMovie description: “Terry Zwigoff’s landmark 1995 film is an intimate documentary portrait of the underground artist Robert Crumb, whose unique drawing style and sexually and racially provocative subject matter have made him a household name in popular American art. Zwigoff candidly and colorfully delves into the details of Crumb’s incredible career and life, including his family of reclusive eccentrics, some of the most remarkable people you’ll ever see on-screen. At once a profound biographical portrait, a riotous examination of a man’s controversial art, and a devastating look at a troubled family, Crumb is a genuine American original.”

Title: Manufacturing consent
Call Number: P96.C76 M36 2002

Manufacturing_ConsentMovie Description: “Funny, provocative and surprisingly accessible, MANUFACTURING CONSENT explores the political life and ideas of Noam Chomsky, world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist. In a dynamic collage of new and original footage, biography, archival gems, imaginative graphics and outrageous illustrations, the film highlights Chomsky’s probing analysis of mass media. A mammoth two-part project, MANUFACTURING CONSENT is nonetheless light on its feet, favoring a style that encourages viewers to question its own workings, as Chomsky himself encourages his listeners to extricate themselves from the ‘web of deceit’ by undertaking a course of ‘intellectual self-defense.'”

Title: Mr. Death : the rise and fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.
Call Number: D804.355 .M7 2003

MrDeathsmlMovie description: “Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., an engineer from Malden, Mass. decided to become the Florence Nightengale of Death Row — a humanitarian whose mission was to design and repair, electric chairs, lethal injection systems, gallows and gas chambers, . In 1988, Ernst Zundel, publisher of “Did Six Million Really Die?” and “The Hitler We Loved and Why” commissioned Leuchter to conduct a forensic investigation into the use of poison gas in WWII Nazi concentration camps. Leuchter traveled to Auschwitz and illegally took brick and mortar samples for analysis in order to “prove” that the Holocaust never happened.

“Leuchter fully expected his involvement with Ernst Zundel to be the crowning achievement of his career, but instead it ruined him. Reopening the doors to this century’s keystone atrocity. Morris bypasses a more obvious discourse on bigotry to examine instead the origins of evil in vanity and self-deception.”

New Arrivals: King Arthur in Popular Culture

king arthur book cover

Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, the Knights of the Round Table, Camelot, The Holy Grail…the stuff of medieval legend to be sure but each of those words still has the power to elicit a response (if only of superficial recognition) among even the most thoroughly modern audience. Very few of us have probably read Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur or could be considered scholars on the intricacies of Arthurian legend but most of us could sketch the basic story, relationships, and intrigues. Perhaps this is because the legend of Camelot is seemingly inescapably all around us. In King Arthur in Popular Culture, a collection of 18 essays, the presence of Arthurian legend in our everyday lives is explored in interesting ways. From King Arthur Flour, to television shows like Babylon 5 and Dr. Who, tarot cards, video games, and comics it appears the lure of Camelot remains.

From the publisher’s description:

“The legend of King Arthur is embedded in British and American culture. Contemporary America, in particular, is a rich breeding ground for the Arthurian mythos, not only in films, novels, short stories, and fantasy and science fiction, but in other areas of popular and mass culture as well.

“This work is a collection of 18 previously unpublished essays that demonstrate the impressive extent to which the Arthurian legend continues to permeate contemporary culture beyond film and literature. The essays cover the Arthurian legend in economics, ethics, education, entertainment, music, fun and games, the Internet, and esoterica.”

New Book: No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller

No_One_Would_ListensmlHarry Markopolis clearly documented to the Securities and Exchange Commission (Appendix B) that Bernie Madoff was either front-running or operating a Ponzi scheme. I kept thinking of the billions of dollars (at least 55!) that could have been saved and the investors who might not have lost everything had the SEC been doing their job to stop fraud and protect investors. In May 1999, Markopolis first warned the SEC but it wasn’t until December 2008 that Madoff was arrested when his sons turned him in to authorities. Markopolis, who understood the math, tried to duplicate Madoff’s consistent returns but the numbers wouldn’t add up and there was no mathematical model that could explain it. I do not have a business background but this book reads well for the layman too. Appendix C contains an, “Online Resource Guide for the Classroom and Beyond.” MAIN HV6697 .M37 2010

This ties in with another new title recently received:

SociopathNextDoorsmlStout, Martha. The Sociopath Next Door: the Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us. New York: Broadway Books, 2005. MAIN RC555 .S76 2005

Not all sociopaths are violent serial murderers. This book describes the nonviolent but just as lethal sociopath that exists in our everyday world. Bernie Madoff was the first person who came to mind when I read this book.