Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Heehee: Information Overload is Like Smoking Lots of Dope

University of London Institute of Psychiatry researchers report that the constant distractions of e-mail and texting on portable devices (such as the Blackberry) make you stupid, even more so than smoking marijuana.

In fact, info overload can drop your IQ by an average of 10 points, double the rate of loss of brainpower in dope smokers.

This finding reminded me of another article, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled Knowing When to Log Off - Wired campuses may be causing 'information overload'.

One excerpt from the article: "There's the real danger that one is absorbing and responding to bursts of information, rather than having time to think," says Mr. [Bill] McKibben, author of Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (Times Books, 2003). "What's only gradually becoming clear is not just a pragmatic drawback but an intellectual drawback to having so many trees that there's no possibility of seeing the forest."

Not everyone buys into the "information overload" meme, however, as this recent article from Random Access Mazar shows:

"Technology doesn't prevent us from doing anything. If we feel pressure to respond to email or to be on IM or to keep track of every minute change in the news or in our professions, that's a sociological issue, not a technological issue. Why are we feeling that pressure? Is this the fault of the unrealistic expectations of the people around us? Are these are our own expectations of ourselves? Does playing with email and IM make us feel that we're doing something useful when we're actually not? Isn't this often just a matter of being lazy and wanting to blame something other than themselves for our lack of advancement?"

Steven Cohen, on Library Stuff, chimed in with his two cents:

"If it's important enough, I'll see it. My fellow bloggers will link to it. Someone will send me an IM or an e-mail (yes, I still read e-mail). Somehow, the information will get to me. So, no, I don't have to read everything to stay current on what interests me. I'll use the power of my social network to help."

I'm kind of in-between on the issue. I think the pressure to cover everything is there, and the expectation in many workplaces seems to be that you will always be connected and that you can therefore process increasing tidal waves of information. So information overload is a real threat.

On the other hand, if you have built up a good network, as Cohen argues, there are ways to cover your butt.

By the way, since Monday, I deleted 222 e-mails. Then there are the e-mails I had to save for later reading, and the e-mails I knew were important enough to respond to.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:07 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Best of the Best Reference Titles

Another article in the May 2005 issue of the Canadian publishing industry magazine Quill & Quire is "Just enough information: The best of the best in recent reference titles".

Toronto Public Library collections librarian Margaret Henry was asked to pick worthy recent and upcoming reference titles. I love this kind of stuff.

Here are her choices/suggestions for your home library or for any collection (mostly in the public library context but many of the titles can be handy anywhere):

In the general category:

In the "Society" category:

In the "Writing, Research and Language" category:

In the "Health" category:

In the "History and Geography" category:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:23 pm 0 comments links to this post

Law Firm Marketing - 10 Things to Help Your Website Not Stink

LLRX.com has published an article by Andy Havens called So your firm’s got a website. Great. But is it stuck in 1997?.

"For those of you lawyers and firms with websites, (...) I’m going to make a broad, sweeping generalization – they stink. I know you’d like to think I’m talking about everybody’s site except yours, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that yours does, too(...) I don’t mean to be rude, I mean to be honest. So... with apologies to the delicate sensibilities of all the lawyers in the audience, here are the '10 Things to Help Your Site Not... Stink'."

This is sure to make people mad, but it might spark debate.

In order of increasing importance, according to the author, here are the things that stink and need to be fixed:
  • Bad lawyer bio pictures
  • Uneven lawyer bios - some are pages long, others terse and short
  • E-mail addresses on the site will attract spam
  • Bad use of Flash
  • Unchanging home pages
  • Inconsistent navigational aids
  • Little interaction with visitors
  • Organization by practice group (no one outside the law cares or knows what the hell they are)
  • Meaningless marketing blahblah statements (everyone is for "excellence" and "highest ethical standards")
  • No blogs ("public relations on steroids and a sugar high at the same time")

I was keeping score as I went through the list. I won't tell you how many of the above flaws our website has. Let's say: lots, to be honest.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:01 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, April 25, 2005

Quill & Quire Special Library Report

The May 2005 issue of Canada's book trade monthly Quill & Quire features a special section on libraries.

Among the articles:
  • Measuring up: Libraries find new ways to track performance and connect with patrons
  • School reading program hits Target: How one librarian built a more boy-friendly campaign
  • The great graphic novel rush
  • The host in the machine: How technology is transforming the library profession
  • Looking for leadership: New report highlights library staffing issues
  • One-stop info shop: Canada's merger of library and archives creates "massive multimedia collection"
  • Small steps for school libraries

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:47 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Montreal, UNESCO World Book Capital

As of this weekend, the city of Montreal is the World Book Capital for an entire year.

The idea is a UNESCO initiative that each year marks the contribution of a major international centre to the development and dissemination of literature and of a reading culture, not only locally and regionally, but on a worldwide scale.

The program was launched in 2001. So far, Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003) and Antwerp (2004) have had the honour of receiving the UNESCO designation.

There will be numerous popular and scholarly activities over the next 12 months, as well as promotional initiatives to reach people wherever they may be.

Some of the highlights:

  • L'autre Montréal, an urban collective that organizes theme-related tours of the city, will offer a literature tour showcasing the economic, social and ideological history of the city's print industry, bookstores and libraries and offering visits with well-known and less well-known French, English and immigrant authors.
  • Given the importance of children's literature in the Quebec book industry, the Château Dufresne Museum is hosting the 100% Audace exhibit this summer about children's book authors and illustrators in cooperation with the International Youth Library in Munich, the world's largest collection of kids' literature.
  • Accents graves Québec will create 12 "listening posts" throughout the city where the public will be able to listen to recorded messages and readings from local authors.
  • Rhizome Productions will produce 60 book quiz-style promos to be shown in all Montreal movie theatres.
  • An outdoor photographic exhibit, Je lis Montréal (I read Montreal), will show how reading and readers are everywhere. The exhibit will be right on the sidewalks of McGill College, one of downtown Montreal's major pedestrian thoroughfares, linking the gates of McGill University to Place Ville-Marie.
  • Universities won't be left out of the loop either. For example, the University of Montreal is hosting a series called Le Printemps du livre savant (Spring festival of scholarly publishing) that will delve into the history of the field.
  • And of course, the city's 56 local public library branches have planned a full year of outreach and promotional activities.
  • Finally, the new Grande Bibliothèque, that officially opens next weekend, will host an international copyright symposium in April 2006. The Grande Bibliothèque (Great Library) is the result of the merger of the various patrimonial collections of the National Library of Quebec and of the Montreal Municipal Library.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:19 pm 1 comments links to this post

TV Turn Off Week and Book Promotion

Tomorrow marks the start of international Turn Off TV Week, something I had never really paid much attention to until I walked into Librairie Champlain, a French-language bookstore in the East of Toronto.

I picked up two novels from the French publisher Folio and was handed a third novel (by Ian McEwan) for free as a gift as well as a "TV Quitting Kit" (or Trousse de décrochage télévisuel in French).

The kit contained a bunch of material, including what looked like the weekly TV guide supplement included in most Saturday newspapers, except that the "TV listings" were actually a catalogue for the Folio collection and the TV guide-style rows for what would normally be the TV "channels" were for the publisher's various collections (kids' lit, thriller, classics, etc.).

It even had flashy promos like those you could find in the TV listings for the top shows of the upcoming week: "Is your hippocampus getting lighter?" (because you watch too much TV) or an article announcing a shocking documentary about how 13-year Amélie was saved during a power blackout when she could no longer watch TV all day like a zombie and opened up a book.

If you flip through the Folio guide very quickly, it would look exactly like the TV listings.

A very funny and original piece of book marketing. I haven't seen any equivalent yet in the English-speaking market.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:45 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, April 22, 2005

Financial Services Resources for the Non-Specialist

As a follow-up to an item from earlier this week, I received news of a one-day workshop at the Faculty of Information Studies (University of Toronto) on May 6th.

The workshop will focus "on Canadian sources which are freely and/or easily available on the Internet or at a local library, although international (primarily US) and specialized, fee-based resources will also be mentioned".

The class will deal with:
  • Banking
  • Capital Markets (securities dealers)
  • Insurance
  • Asset Management (mutual funds, pensions), plus

In terms of basic financial literacy, many government agencies and financial regulators have set up "investor education" websites.

Among some of the more interesting are:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:22 pm 0 comments links to this post

Government Gazettes of the World

The University of Michigan Government Documents Center has produced a great list of government Gazettes from around the world, according to the Librarians' Index to the Internet "New This Week" collection of resources.

Gazettes are the primary means through which governments proclaim new laws, and propose and publish regulations.

"This website attempts to list all online government gazettes and their characteristics to aid researchers. A description of the contents and coverage are included for each gazette."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:10 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Overview of Government Revenues/Spending

The 2004 edition of Finances of the Nation is now available online. This is the ninth volume in the annual series by the Canadian Tax Foundation that studies the revenues and expenditures of the federal, provincial, and local governments of Canada.

It is one of the only places that allows one to easily see and compare how each level of government gets and spends your money.

Table of contents:
  1. The Structure of Canadian Government
  2. Summary of Budgets
  3. Taxes on Individuals
  4. Taxes on Business
  5. Sales and Other Taxes
  6. Property and Related Taxes
  7. Other Revenue
  8. Transfer Payments
  9. Social Services
  10. Education
  11. Health
  12. Transportation and Communications
  13. Protection and Defence
  14. Resource Conservation and Industrial Assistance
  15. Other Expenditures
  16. Public Debt
  17. Crown Corporations

    Appendix A: Financial Management System Perspective: All Governments
    Appendix B: Economic Perspertive
    Appendix C: Financial Results for Selected Municipalities

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:16 pm 0 comments links to this post

Using IT for Regulatory Compliance

An article in ITWorldCanada describes a discussion earlier this week at the NetworkWorld Conference in Toronto where legal professionals discussed the role of technology in meeting the growing number of corporate compliance regulations worldwide.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:32 pm 0 comments links to this post

April 2005 Issue of Marketing Treasures Newsletter

The most recent issue of this electronic bulletin for information professionals is available.

Content:
  • So You Want To Publish A Newsletter...
  • What Is A Call To Action
  • Working With An Embroidery Company
  • A License To Read (on specialty license plates)
  • Library e-Postcards
  • Ideas For Connecting With Clients

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:25 pm 0 comments links to this post

Core Reference Tools Survey

Diane Kovacs, author of The Kovacs Guide to Electronic Library Collection Development: Essential Core Subject Collections, Selection Criteria, and Guidelines, is asking librarians to contribute their favourite/best reference tools in various categories such as law and business.

She has posted a survey to the mailing lists publib, libref-l, LIS-LINK, DIG_REF, ERIL-L, Buslib-L, LawLibRef, Law-Lib@ucdavis.edu, LawSource and livereference.

She will post the data gathered to the those lists.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:13 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Law Newsletters Being Blocked by Spam Filters

The April 18 edition of Law Times has an article on page 2 entitled "Law firm newsletters blocked by e-mail filters".

Some of the country's largest law firms (including the one where I work and where I am in charge of publishing the newsletters) are reporting that the spam filters at the offices of their clients and mailing list subscribers are blocking their topical electronic bulletins.

Apparently, many of the more sophisticated spam filters automatically say Niet to bulk mailings or block messages that come with large attachments (such as PDF-formatted newsletters).

To get around this unforeseen problem, here is what some law firms have started doing:
  • Osler Hoskin & Harcourt, Aird & Berlis, and Torys are sending out each piece of their mailings as an individual message.
  • Some firms send out only an announcement containing a link back to the publication on the firm's website for viewing or downloading.
  • Many companies now also have anti-spam filters that don't allow e-mails to get through unless the originating e-mail address is "pre-approved". One solution is to have recipients "whitelist" the law firms from which they wish to receive newsletters. "Whitelisting" means programming the spam filter to create an exception for a named originating server.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:46 pm 0 comments links to this post

Library of Congress Website Redesign

I can actually find stuff I'm looking for!

The new LOC site is clean, readable, with just the right dash of colour.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:41 pm 0 comments links to this post

Securities Law Resources to Cut Through the Fog

I attended a lunch-and-learn session at the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) office in downtown Toronto today.

It was organized by the Toronto Association of Law Libraries (TALL) and featured OSC librarian Wendy Reynolds and Eric Leduc, librarian with the firm of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP.

Now, securities law is not exactly my forte. The jargon can be daunting: you've got your CSA, your OSC, the IDA, along with the MFDA and the SROs, as well as the MRRS to fit all the pieces together, if you want to call exemptions, applications, blanket orders, stop orders, national instruments and multilateral instruments "pieces". And don't confuse your FASB with your CICA, or mix up SEDAR, SEDI and SOX. You do that, you never know, they might send the RS to knock on your door at 4AM. Oh, and have you met EDGAR yet? I know there's a LivEdgar. Does this mean there's a zombie-like DeadEdgar too hiding out there somewhere ready to attack and no one has told me?

Anyway...

Well, Leduc and Reynolds did point out some great print and online resources to keep the confusion to a minimum.

Send an e-mail to Eric Leduc for the list.

One interesting resource mentioned at the meeting is a Deloitte document comparing securities policy changes implemented in the US and Canada following the introduction of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

As the Deloitte document explains, "(T)hese changes, aimed at restoring investor confidence, broadly impact a number of stakeholders and constituencies in the marketplace, including management of public companies, public accounting firms, audit committees, and others including regulators and standard setters, investors, investment firms and analysts, and attorneys. The following table inventories various ruling activities – both in the United States and Canada – arising from the adoption of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:10 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, April 18, 2005

Cost of a Baseball Game in Different Cities

This is a follow-up to my post on baseball fever resources.

The Fan Cost Index compares the cost of attendance at sports matches for a family of four. The Index takes into account two adult average price tickets, two child average price tickets, four small soft drinks, two small beers, four hot dogs, two programs, parking, and two adult-size caps. A no-frills evening at the ballpark.

Most expensive major league baseball park: Boston, coming in at $276.24 U.S. Cheapest: Kansas City at $119.85 U.S. A Toronto Blue Jays game is almost exactly the average, at $164.53 U.S. (league average is $164.43).

The Index also has stats for the NBA, the NFL and the NHL. Football is the most expensive game. A family of 4 pays an average of $321.62 U.S. for a game.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:48 pm 0 comments links to this post

ChoicePoint Wins Lifetime Menace Award For Its Threats to Privacy

This is a follow-up to last week's article on Privacy International's annual Big Brother Awards.

As predicted, ChoicePoint won the Lifetime Menace Award. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the US data broker had sold personal information about 145,000 people to criminals.

In honour of British author George Orwell, winners receive a statue of a boot stomping on a human head.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:39 pm 0 comments links to this post

Privacy Commissioner Issues Report on CIBC Privacy Breach

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart today released the findings of an investigation into the CIBC launched in late 2004, as a result of incidents involving misdirected faxes containing the confidential personal information of CIBC bank customers.

For background information on the CIBC privacy breach that lasted three years and how it fits in with the current calls for tougher privacy legislation:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:19 pm 0 comments links to this post

Teachers and publishers battle over copyright changes

According to an article in last Saturday's Globe and Mail, a new copyright battlefront is opening in Canada between teachers and publishers.

"Teachers are worried they could face lawsuits for distributing material downloaded from the Internet to their students. But rights holders say legislating open access to the Internet would mean they won't get paid for their work".

In March, the federal government outlined its proposals for copyright reform expected later this year. The issue of the use of material from the Internet for educational purposes has the potential to turn into a huge contorversy.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:10 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, April 15, 2005

"Cookbook" for Web-Based Government Information Collections

Andrew Hubbertz, from the University of Saskatchewan Library, has written a "cookbook" to help libraries build up local collections of web-based government information.

As Hubbertz writes in the introduction to the 15-page guide, the Web has become one of the primary ways used by government to disseminate information, but "(F)aced with the volatile, impermanent nature of the Web, libraries find they have little choice but to plunge into collecting Web-based government information".

The problem is the lack of established standards, tools and best practices. As well, most of the literature, Hubbertz explains, is written by digital collection development experts for other experts.

"Under the circumstances, what is needed is some basic guidance to help smaller institutions get started ... Every attempt has been made to encourage practices that are sound, viewed from a current perspective ... It is intended that a collection built along these lines will be of permanent value, even when the procedures outlined here are superseded by better ones."

According to the listserv of the Canadian Library Association's Access to Government Information Interest Group, the profiles of the libraries that have requested copies of the Cookbook so far break down as follows:
  • Academic libraries (all post-secondary) 12
  • Public libraries 4
  • Government libraries (departmental/special) 33
  • Legislative libraries 6
  • Library & Archives Canada and provincial libraries 7
  • Private law library 1
  • Other (library school student, government department, etc.) 5
The Cookbook can be ordered directly from the author via e-mail.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:00 pm 0 comments links to this post

Astronaut Trading Cards Help Library Programs

One of the coolest jobs I ever had was as a researcher and assistant to the International Science Film Festival in Montreal in 1996.

One of the projects I had to work on involved organizing a panel on the future of human space exploration that we managed to convince PBS to broadcast. The discussion, which included Hubert Reeves, one of the world's top astrophysicists-slash-science gurus, as well as science writers and space engineers, was filmed in English and then in French at the Canadian Space Agency in St-Hubert, Québec.

I remember walking into the place for the taping of the program. I thought I had died and gone to geek heaven. It was every kid's and big kid's dream come true.

So I have a soft spot for our people at the Agency.

Well, the Agency staff have come up with an interesting program to promote libraries and encourage kids to read: an astronaut trading card series.

400,000 sets of cards are being produced, with each card portraying a Canadian astronaut. Sets will be distributed to kids between the ages of 6 and 12 who enrol in library reading programs over the summer. The theme of the program is "Blast off" in English and "Vite en orbite" in French (Quickly into orbit).

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:30 pm 0 comments links to this post

CISTI Strategic Plan

The Canadian Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI), part of the National Research Council of Canada, has released its Strategic Plan 2005-2010.

We do a lot of health law work and CISTI's document delivery service is a major research tool so it is interesting to see the directions the Institute is taking.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:03 pm 0 comments links to this post

Avoiding Librarian Burnout

LISCareer.com is one of the sites I regularly visit for career management insights.

I came across this recent item on "library burnout".

The very nature of library work is, according to the article, a "continuous round of interruptions" which can end up destroying focus and frying anyone's brain. Equally important is the professional culture of librarianship with its built-in idea that we just can't say no.

The article contains useful tips on how to avoid burnout. And no, the suggestions do not include long liquid lunches or occasionally jumping over the reference counter to throttle obnoxious people. But the advice in the article will keep you sane and on the right side of the law.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:36 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Potential Theft of Lexis Information 10 Times Worse Than Thought?

LexisNexis reported in March that intruders had perhaps accessed personal details of 32,000 people in the US via a breach of its recently acquired Seisint unit. It now appears that figure is closer to 310,000 people.
Law professor Michael Geist puts the recent breaches of privacy at LexisNexis, ChoicePoint and elsewhere in the broader context of the need to reform privacy protection legislation.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:55 pm 0 comments links to this post

Free Online Course "Math For Journalists" (And Other Professionals)

I picked this up on Newslib, the mailing list of the News Division of the Special Libraries Association.

Reporters, researchers, librarians, we all certainly need information literacy skills but how often do we consider the need to maintain or upgrade our numeracy skills?

Debbie Wolfe, technology training editor at the St. Petersburg Times and Casey Frechette, course administrator at the top notch journalism foundation, the Poynter Institute, have created a free online course on math. Registration is free for this course.

It is part of the new "News University" training portal launched this week by the highly regarded Institute. For more information, read the interview with Poynter scholar Howard Finberg.

According to Wolfe, there are "six theme areas in the course packed with step-by-step formulas, recipes for double checking your work, pop-up screens with common English tips, story examples, public records data examples and skill drills".

The course covers percentages, averages, means and medians, ratios, ranks and rates, and advanced topics like cost of living and weighted averaging.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:29 pm 0 comments links to this post

Law Day Celebrated This Week

Law Day 2005 marks the 20th anniversary of the equality rights provision ("section 15") of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and law associations across the country are holding events to mark the occasion.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is organizing a Great Debate "Do we really need the Charter?" on Wednesday, April 13.

The Ontario Bar Association this year has put the emphasis on school-oriented activities such as mock trials for elementary and secondary school kids.

It is possible to find a description of the Law Day activities in each province and territory by going to the Canadian Bar Association list of regional branches. Each branch website has an events section that lists activities.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:13 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, April 11, 2005

Good Old Canadian Political Sleaze

We may be in the midst of the federal Liberal sponsorship scandal, but it's not as if Canada has been immune in the past to the kind of political doodoo we normally associate with Europe or Third World countries.

In fact, we have a pretty interesting history when it comes to good old fashioned sleaze, from bribes to our first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald in exchange for the contract to build the transcontinental railway to the Munsinger Affair under Diefenbaker, during whose term of office our deputy minister of defense had a long affair with a German hooker who may have been working for the KGB.

Then, of course, there was our minister of customs and excise during Prohibition who hired bootleggers to "guard the border" and there is the small matter of the federal Liberals in the 30s accepting over $1 million in bribes in exchange for the right to dam a river in Quebec. And then of course there's Brian Mulroney, who lost about one minister a year to allegations of wrongdoing, favouritism, conflict of interest, or all of the above.

The CBC and the History Television have some background.

To add to those lists:
  • Baie des Chaleurs scandal - railway kickback scandal that brought down the Quebec government of Honoré Mercier in 1891
  • Bingogate - brought down British Columbia Premier Mike Harcourt, involved the skimming of charity funds for use by the ruling NDP provincial government in 1996
  • John Edward Brownlee scandal - United Farmers of Alberta Premier during the Depression, he was destroyed by a sex scandal. He was found guilty of having "seduced" a young woman
  • Duplessis Orphans - several thousand orphaned children were falsely certified as mentally ill by the government of the province of Quebec, Canada and confined to Church-run psychiatric institutions in the 1940s and 1950s. The false labelling allowed the provincial government to earn tens of millions in federal subsidies. Many of the children were exposed to beatings, electroshock torture, sexual abuse, and neglect
  • Fast Ferry Scandal - a leading factor in the defeat of the B.C. NDP in 2001
  • Manitoba Legislative Building Affair - allegations of corruption during the construction of Manitoba's present legislative building led to the fall of the Roblin provincial government in the First World War period
  • Ontario Bond Scandal - led to the fall of the United Farmers of Ontario government of the early 20s
  • Pipeline Scandal - Diefenbaker Tories defeat Liberals in midst of scandal over pipeline to move Alberta oil to the East
  • Rivard Affair - drug dealer whose escape from prison in the mid-6os led to the downfall of federal justice minister Guy Favreau
  • Saskatchewan Tories scandal - Although Premier Grant Devine himself was never accused of criminal wrongdoing, several members of his Cabinet were sent to prison as the result of a massive kickback scheme that operated during his second term from 1986-1991
  • Tainted Blood Scandal
  • The list goes on...
Now whoever said Canadian history was boring?

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:50 pm 0 comments links to this post

ChoicePoint "People's Choice" for Big Brother Award

On April 14th, 2005 Privacy International will hold the 7th annual U.S. Big Brother Awards to shame the invaders and celebrate the champions of privacy.

Winners receive a very distinctive "Orwell" statue of a boot stomping on a human head.

Wired News is reporting that the most popular nominee is ChoicePoint.

"(A)t least one in five nominations submitted named ChoicePoint, the data broker that generated headlines earlier this year after selling personal information for about 145,000 people to criminals. ChoicePoint already received Big Brother's Greatest Corporate Invader award in 2001. This year, it could receive the Lifetime Menace award, previously granted to Osama bin Laden, Adm. John Poindexter and the National Security Agency, among others".

Privacy International is based in London, England, and has an office in Washington, D.C. It campaigns worldwide on issues ranging from wiretapping and national security, to ID cards, video surveillance, data matching, medical privacy, and freedom of information and expression.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:38 pm 0 comments links to this post

Peer-to-Peer Piracy Myth

University of Ottawa Law professor Michael Geist has published an article in the most recent issue of the peer-reviewed Internet journal First Monday on the topic of music downloading.

"Canada is in the midst of a contentious copyright reform with advocates for stronger copyright protection maintaining that the Internet has led to widespread infringement that has harmed the economic interests of Canadian artists. The Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) has emerged as the leading proponent of copyright reform, claiming that peer–to–peer file sharing has led to billions in lost sales in Canada. This article examines CRIA's claims by conducting an analysis of industry figures. It concludes that loss claims have been greatly exaggerated and challenges the contention that recent sales declines are primarily attributable to file–sharing activities."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:31 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, April 08, 2005

Political Corruption Resources

Canada has been rocked by recent devastating testimony at the Gomery Commission hearings about alleged corruption in the administration of federal government advertising/sponsorship budgets.

Many resources exist out there to track the phenomenon of political corruption on the international scale. Among some of the more prominent are:

Transparency International is a global NGO tracking corrupt practices worldwide.

It publishes an annual Global Corruption Report. It also makes available its CORIS database of corruption resources, including those on political corruption. It usually reports on places like Colombia or Turkmenistan. This week, Canada figures prominently in its news section. CORIS is a specialist portal which provides a single point of access to detailed information, research and news about corruption worldwide. This includes access to government documents; international laws, directives and legal conventions; research papers; studies produced by non-governmental organisations and news and media stories.

Project on Government Oversight. US-based organisation which campaigns to expose corruption and mismanagement of public funds in the USA, to promote the protection of whistle blowers, and to document political donations and campaign funding and political ethics.

Center for Public Integrity - Washington-based investigative research foundation, best known for its The Buying of the President 2004, which focuses on the relationships between major US presidential candidates and their donors. This week, it launched a new Lobby Watch.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has resources on public sector corruption in the Western industrialized countries: these include conference reports, country reports, and other resources.

Major political corruption scandals in the West:

Mani pulite (Clean Hands) - Italy: indictments of many prominent politicians from Left and Right, industrialists and judges on charges of corruption, many committed suicide in jail

Flick and Kohl Affairs - Germany: political money-laundering involving Chancellor Helmut Kohl and other high officials from many parties

FILESA affair - Spain: illegal financing of the 1989 Socialist Party campaign through a consultancy firm. Payments, totaling 8.4 million dollars, were received by the FILESA group from leading domestic banks and companies in return for "consultancy reports", with subsequent payments made by the group to the Socialist party to cover its electoral expenses

Dassault-Agusta Affair - Belgium: arms manufacturers bribe Socialist politicians in exchange for fighter jet and combat helicopter contracts. It has been speculated that Andre Cools, the former deputy prime minister who was shot dead as he left his mistress's flat in Liège, was about to expose corruption in his party. Despite his murder, the affair was leaked anyway. NATO Secretary General Willy Claes, two other former ministers and a raft of senior Socialist leaders were convicted of funnelling bribe money to party coffers.

Strauss-Kahn, Juppé, Chirac, Luchaire, Dumas-Elf, Urba, Vivendi Affairs, etc. - France: too many corruption scandals to mention - they affect the Socialists, the Gaullists, the non-Gaullist right, the Communists.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:38 pm 0 comments links to this post

Baseball Fever Is Back (Cubs Still Suck!)

The hockey season may have been ruined, but there is still baseball.

As American poet Walt Whitman wrote in 1846: "Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms...the game of ball is glorious". To prepare for the glory of the new season, here is a sampling of some of the vast baseball riches available on the Internet.

Elysian Fields Quarterly
Describes itself as "the literary baseball journal that is short on hype and long on content. Intelligent, quirky, iconoclastic, funny, and opinionated".

The Baseball Scorecard
Includes a glossary of baseball terms, a tutorial on how to keep score during a game, and links to other sites that offer information on scoring a game.

Major League Baseball
This "official site" of the major leagues is nothing if not content rich: it can connect fans to a massive database of historical statistics, and offers individual team histories, a listing of past winners of the various MLB annual awards such as Rookie of the Year, the "This Week in Baseball History" feature, features on the so-called Negro League from before racial integration of the sport, and everything one could possibly want to know about 100 years of World Series competition but was afraid of looking like a fool in a crowded sports bar for asking.

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
This site focuses on detailed profiles of historical baseball notables, lists and trivia. It also includes a wonderful daily feature called "This Day in Baseball History". You can also search the collections of the Library and Giamatti Research Center: there are online bibliographies on topics such as women in baseball, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente, archival finding aids, research lists and access to the ABNER catalogue.

The Baseball Almanac
For the trivia and stats freak lurking in the heart of every true baseball fan.

The Baseball Index
Free catalogue to the baseball literature, covering more than 200,000 books, magazine articles, programs, pamphlets, films, recordings, songs, poems, cartoons, and advertising items about baseball. A project of the Bibliography Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). The SABR site itself is worth a visit, in particular the "SABR Online" section that features syllabi of college courses, a discussion list, and forums. The site includes links to regional chapters, project pages, and member-recommended web sites. You may think it’s a game, to these people, it’s a serious scientific endeavour.

The Science of Baseball
Speaking of science, San Francisco’s science museum, the Exploratorium, has built a web site devoted to unravelling ancient mysteries such as "How Far Can You Hit One?" and "How to Find the Sweet Spot of a Bat".

TSN – Major League Baseball
Your one Canadian stop for baseball information: schedules, scores, standings, stats.

Sports Illustrated – Major League Baseball
From the masters of sports journalism, total coverage of the game. And back in 1998, SI/CNN compiled a collection of selected articles and photos from Sports Illustrated's World Series coverage dating all the way back to 1954

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:59 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadian Atlas Online

The Canadian Atlas Online was launched this week by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in both English and French.

It is a treasure trove of maps and photo galleries. You can explore Canada and its geographic regions virtually, moving in a snap from the Arctic, to Taiga Mixedwood Plains, and then to the Atlantic Region.

Under each region are subtopics such as "Industry" and you can find quizzes and interactive games on many pages as well as a resource centre for teachers. A kid’s area, called CG Kids Atlas, is also available specifically for children up to 14 years old.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:42 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Canada Keeps Top Spot in E-Government Survey

For the 5th year in a row, Canada has earned the top international spot in consulting firm Accenture's annual survey of government initiatives in electronic service delivery.

According to the article in the Globe and Mail, "(T)he overall average customer service maturity score — which measures four aspects of service delivery, including how well governments are delivering service across multiple channels — was just 39 per cent. Only Canada has an overall customer service maturity score of more than 50 per cent".

The study is based on the results of a survey of 5,000 regular Internet
users in 12 countries in North America, Europe and Asia, as well as a quantitative assessment of the maturity of e-government services in 22 countries.

The complete study can be downloaded from the Accenture website.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:19 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadian Government Information on the Internet Site Shuts Down

One of my favourite government information pathfinders, "Canadian Government Information on the Internet", is defunct.

Created by Mount Allison University reference librarian Anita Cannon some 10 years ago, CGII as it was known was a great way to find government information for all levels of government: federal, provincial, and municipal. CGII listed sites but also offered abstracts briefly describing the government information available.

In a brief e-mail message to a government documents librarian list, Cannon wrote:

"(A)fter several years of no longer being funded, (CGII) was removed from the Publishing and Depository Services web site on April 1st. I thank everyone at the former Depository Services Program who managed the site over the years and especially all of the government documents librarians and others from across the country who contributed their time and expertise in providing content. The site was unique in its scope and organization and helped provide access to Canadian government information on the Internet when other options did not exist."

An archived version of CGII should be made available at the Library and Archives of Canada website.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:28 am 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Great Books I Have Not Read

A Robert Fulford column in today's National Post caught my eye. It was entitled "The great unread: Many have bought these books, but has anyone ever finished them?"

I can't link to the item because the money-grubbing Post restricts most of its online articles to people who also have a subscription... (so why do they even have a website?)

Anyway, rant aside, the article was both illuminating and quite funny.

There is a twisted theory that publishing may in fact depend for its survival on printing "famous" books everyone feels obliged to buy but that no one really ever reads or finishes.

Fulford quotes some learned commentators on the subject. Anthony Burgess thinks this is probably a good thing. If you don't read those books, you'll never know how bad most truly are and so you can't feel depressed or angry that you've been duped into shelling out $40 for garbage.

Paul Wells of Maclean's magazine confesses that being a "serial book unfinisher" makes him feel ungrateful. "The author put his life into these people, and I can't even stick around to see who lives or who dies?" Sounds like me.

It's gotten to the point that a fellow in Vienna one day decided to create a Library of the Unread Book.

Julius Deutschbauer figured that the number of books unread probably exceeds that of the number actually read. Wise calculation, no doubt. He collected more than 400 books, all donated, that all share one thing in common: their owners would have liked to have read them, but never got around to it.

Now, that's my kind of library...

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:07 pm 0 comments links to this post

Micromedia ProQuest Shuts Down Demand Document Centre

Micromedia ProQuest unexpectedly closed its Demand Document Centre this morning.

This was confirmed to me in a telephone call late this afternoon after a very brief message sent out by a fellow law librarian over a local listserv piqued my curiosity. A news item should appear soon on the Micromedia Proquest website.

The Demand Document Centre offered the fast delivery of older corporate reports from more than 10,000 active filers and 32,000 historical companies in Canada. It also offered a similar service for US and international firms.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:44 pm 0 comments links to this post

Reference Services Review Available for Free This Week

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:38 pm 0 comments links to this post

2005-2006 Federal Department Estimates Available

The latest Weekly Checklist of government documents lists the "Reports on plans and priorities" for the various federal departments and agencies. The complete list of reports can be found on the website of the Treasury Board Secreriat.

These reports are individual expenditure plans for each department and agency (excluding Crown corporations) named in Schedules I, I.1 and II of the Financial Administration Act. They are tabled in Parliament by the President of the Treasury Board on behalf of the ministers who preside over these organizations.

They contain information on objectives, initiatives and planned results, including links to related resource requirements over a three-year time horizon. The reports also provide details on human resource requirements, major capital projects, grants and contributions, and net program costs.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:32 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, April 04, 2005

New Report on Preservation of Web-Based Provincial Government Publications

Andrew Hubbertz, Librarian at the University of Saskatchewan, has just published a report he wrote on behalf of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries on the preservation of provincial and territorial government documents on the Web.

As Hubbertz writes in the executive summary:

"(T)he situation is highly variable from one province or territory to the next. As well, it was found that most collections of significance are being created in legislative or government libraries. The most ambitious project is in Quebec, where the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec has a legal mandate to collect provincial web-based publications. The legislative libraries in Ontario and British Columbia are building comprehensive or fairly comprehensive collections. The legislative libraries in Alberta and Manitoba have more limited programs. In Saskatchewan, the University of Saskatchewan Library is attempting to build a comprehensive collection. There are no comprehensive collections in other jurisdictions."
Beyond the immediate situation, the author writes that the Canadian library community will need to tackle long-term access issues including migration, emulation, and archival standards, collecting digital objects without clear print equivalents, and collecting material accessed from a database via search engine.

As we say in French, the report is a very good preliminary "état des lieux" (description of the lay of the land).

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:26 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Ontario to Crack Down on Workplace Safety Violators

I was doing quite a bit of research last week on occupational health and safety issues and I came across this promising-looking provincial government announcement.

The Ontario government has made it its goal to reduce workplace injuries in Ontario by 20 per cent or 60,000 injuries by 2008 by going after the province's most dangerous workplaces. The government is hiring more safety inspectors and will give repeat offenders one "last chance" to improve their safety records.

The top 10 per cent of workplaces are estimated to be responsible for some 40 per cent of all injuries and costs incurred. The "worst offenders", the 6,000 businesses in the top 2 per cent targeted by the recent initiative - account for 21 per cent of all injury costs in Ontario.

The estimated annual cost to the Ontario economy of workplace injuries is $12 billion, factoring in lost productivity, retraining and rehiring, equipment damage and occupational health and safety insurance expenses.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:25 pm 0 comments links to this post

Reactions to Canadian Copyright Reform Proposals

This is a follow-up to last week's item "Government Announces Proposed Copyright Amendments".

So far, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) has welcomed the government proposals.

CARL is pleased with the recommendations to allow interlibrary loans through secure digital transmission direct to the desktop of the user and the use of copyright works for the purpose of remote learning, without incurring additional copyright liability. It also likes the proposal to allow libraries to make copies of materials in digital format for preservation purposes.

And University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist added his learned two cents in his regular copyright column last week (updated over the weekend). Geist calls the proposals a "genuine attempt at balance" and a "move away from the one-sided Heritage Committee recommendations" of last year.

Geist concludes: "(N)o one should be under the illusion that this issue is done. As I conclude in the column, once the legislation is introduced, compromise and balance will be forced to withstand the voracious array of well-funded lobby interests who will undoubtedly seek the return to a one-sided slate of reforms. Ottawa may have presented its plan, but the copyright battle is far from over".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:59 pm 0 comments links to this post