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21May
2012

up with access to information

maura @ 10:33 pm

I have never done this before, but I just sent an email to a big list of family and friends asking them to sign a petition in support of open access to federally-funded research. I’m not a spammer, I promise! I just feel very strongly about this issue.

Here’s what I sent:

Dear family and friends,

Apologies for this mass email, but I’d like to ask your help with a cause that I believe is very important. There’s a petition that began recently to ask the White House to require academic and scientific research funded by federal dollars to be made available for all to read free of charge. This is called open access publishing, and support for open access has been growing in the scholarly and library community over the past several decades.

Publishing used to be an expensive endeavor, but costs have plummeted thanks to the internet. However, a small number of huge corporate publishers still control access to the bulk of academic and scientific research results in the journals that they publish and sell to universities and other institutions, even research that taxpayers fund. Many of these publishers rake in profits of 30% (profits!), even during the recent recession. When research is published open access everyone — students, patients, researchers who don’t work at a wealthy university, you, and me — can read it free of charge. And while it’s unlikely that research results published by librarians like me will save someone’s life, consider the medical knowledge locked up behind corporate paywalls, or scientific research on climate change or other critical issues we face today.

For more details about the issues surrounding open access publishing, fellow advocates have put together a nice, short video that I wholeheartedly recommend: http://vimeo.com/42549003, and a great website: access2research.org/context.

To join me in supporting open access to federally-funded research, head over to the White House website: http://wh.gov/6TH. Click the “Create an account” blue button to sign up with your name and email address, then head back to this page http://wh.gov/6TH and click the green “Sign this petition” button. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. The petition has until June 19th to reach 25K signatures, which guarantees an official response from the Administration (which is currently considering a bill called the Federal Research Public Access Act). I’d be ever so grateful if you’d sign it!

Please feel free to share this with others, too! Thanks for listening, and please feel free to ask me any questions about open access publishing, I’m always happy to chat nerdily about it.

Take care,
Maura

les tags: ,
18May
2012

i’m in yr park occupying yr access

maura @ 9:21 pm

I took the day off work to celebrate May Day this year by heading into the city to do an open access publishing teach-in with Jill and Alycia, my OA peeps from Brooklyn College. Alycia made a sign, Jill made handouts (paper and web), and I made cards with the URL for the web handout. It was rad: although the chilly rain, early hour, and a timeslot up against someone famous made for a small crowd, we had some great conversations about open access with folks who stopped by.

oateachinholding oateachincards

I hung out at the Free U until midafternoon when I had to leave to pick up Gus from school. There was a great vibe in the park, friendly and mellow, and it was fun to wander around and see the groups of people clustered together reading, discussing, and, in some cases, drawing. I ran into a coupla folks I know (though not my labor doula, who’d called me out of the blue the day before when she saw my name on the class list). I listened in on the session about the imagery of protest and Occupy by Occuprint, a group collecting and sharing the posters created by Occupiers, which was really cool.

At the beginning of the day there were only a handful of park rangers at the park, but as the day wore on and got sunnier + more crowded police started showing up. I felt a bit more tense as the day progressed, too — there were intermittent helicopters starting around 1-ish and the occasional paddywagon with sirens on driving by the park, though again, the park itself was pretty non-threatening. I had to leave before the marching started for which I was both glad and sad. Despite preparations like not bringing my nice water bottle, I really didn’t want to get arrested. Also, the older I get the less I’m into hanging out in large crowds of people, even if it’s for something I want to do (like see a band play, e.g.). On the other hand, the photos and videos I saw of the marches later made me wish I’d been able to stay: that good feeling that can accompany solidarity is lovely and was clearly evident.

Even though there are no firm rules, I did try to keep to the no work no housework no shopping no banking spirit of May Day. Definitely that = yes hanging out with your kid, which meant buying him a cookie at a (non-chain!) bakery near his school while we chatted about his day. It also meant yes laundry, because my inner stinky hippie forces me to hang most laundry dry which takes time, and we needed clean clothes. But otherwise I was pretty good at taking the day off, an accomplishment in itself, I think.

Photo on the left by Alycia and on the right by me.

28November
2011

be cool, stay in school

maura @ 11:09 pm

Today there was a CUNY Board of Trustees meeting, hot on the heels of last week’s meeting after which a number of students/faculty/staff were arrested as they protested the proposed rise in tuition. Not that I assumed anything else, but it was still depressing to watch the tweets roll in this evening reporting that, predictably, the tuition increase was approved. The lone no vote was from the one student member of the BoT. Not sure if anyone was arrested at Baruch (where the meeting took place) today — I hope not, and hope all of the protesters are safe.

I’m not a dummy. I know that college is expensive. Heck, isn’t everything expensive? And I know that CUNY is far, far less expensive than many most other colleges and universities. And I know that the colleges need the money from this tuition increase, which they’ve been promised to get. (As opposed to the last time tuition went up and the state used the extra funds to make up budget shortfalls in other areas. Stay classy, NY!)

While there are lots of genuinely bad things that happened in the past, things we should learn from and try never to repeat, sometimes history outshines today. CUNY once had free tuition for all students. Again, not a dummy: I know it was a different world then. And I know that there are plenty of good and deserving services and programs to spend city, state, and federal money on now.

But I also know (because I used these stats in 2 conference presentations this semester) that in 2010, 38% of CUNY undergrads lived in households earning less than $20K annually (source: http://owl.cuny.edu:7778/portal/page/portal/oira/OIRA_HOME/ug_student_profile_f10.pdf). Thirty-eight percent! And I also know that a college education for everyone can’t possibly be a bad thing.

So I am sad about the tuition increase at CUNY. Because even if it’s inevitable or the only feasible way to move forward, it’s not the right way.

les tags: , ,
25November
2011

put yr wallets down!

maura @ 12:11 pm

It’s Buy Nothing Day, woo hoo!!!

bnd2011-black

This year the annual avoid-the-consumption-frenzy day seems even more significant, what with all of the Occupy activity this fall. BND also marks the beginning of my traditional holiday freakout, in which I try to reconcile my personal beliefs about consumption and materialism with the realities of time, space, and other people.

But that’s for later. For today there are cousins and the zoo and leftovers and togetherness and buying nothing, yippee!

4July
2011

don’t tell me the moon is blue

maura @ 9:54 pm

We’re back from our Midwest getaway. We slept and read lots and indulged in the culinary treats of the region, including cheeseburgers with peanut butter, frozen custard, and ribs. This year’s trip was a bit shorter than usual so we only had time for a quick overnight trip to Chicago, though it was still long enough for duck fat fries and the best dang Swedish breakfast for miles.

On the drive north to Chicago we passed through an enormous wind farm. And I mean enormous: definitely hundreds of acres covered by windmills, maybe more. When you’re in the midst of it the windmills stretch farther than the eye can see, and since the land is pretty flat around here that’s a long way off. I suspect it’s one electric company that owns the windmills (yes, I know I could google it, but I’m trying to avoid the internet when I write) because they seem to be located on many different corn and soybean farm fields. They’re spread various distances apart — sometimes there are multiple windmills in a row, and sometimes they’re more isolated — though all of them are pointing in the same direction.

It’s difficult to get a sense of the scale of each windmill. They’re almost toylike when you first catch a glimpse of the blades in the distance, and grow to truly unbelievably massive when you’re driving right past one. (I tried to get some good photos but the limits of the phone camera + shooting from the passenger seat thwarted the best shots.)

windmill1

windmill2

On our way up to Chicago the air was pre-thunderstorm still so most of the blades weren’t turning. But on the drive back south every windmill was working hard to earn its keep. When the angle lines up right and you can see an entire line of windmills spinning they sort of resemble synchronized swimmers in those old movies. It’s mesmerizing to watch the blades turn — I could watch it for hours, I think.

The windmills make the landscape seem somewhat alien, as if spaceships dropped them off and flew away. Maybe I’ve just watched too many scifi movies — with the summer haze they have a floating quality, like the big ship in District 9. Or maybe they hide something larger beneath, like the awful, crappy remake of War of the Worlds. And of course I can’t help but channel the Simpsons: I for one welcome our windmill overlords!

les tags: , ,
13December
2009

the worms go in the worms go out

maura @ 6:45 pm

Lately I’ve been feeling guilty about the compost. Our building has a courtyard which is sort of landscapey — not really a garden, but mostly plants + some brick area too. It’s pretty to look at + hang out in and a decent place for mostly little kids to play, we’ve got a sandbox and a kiddie pool and a bunch of riding toys. When a bunch of us wanted to start composting several years back we knew we needed a no-pest, no-smell solution. So we went with the compost tumbler: a big plastic barrel secured to a stand at its midpoint so it can be flipped over and rotated 360 degrees. It’s got a small, screen-covered spout at the bottom to allow air to get in but keep pests out, and since it’s mostly contained it doesn’t smell at all.

But (there’s always a but), it’s not exactly the easiest thing to use. Most food waste can go into the barrel (no fats or meats, but that’s true of other composters too), but it should be chopped into small pieces for best results. Food waste is “greens” and we need an equal amount of “browns” in the barrel, too, in order to make real dirt and not just slimy decayed food. Because we don’t have big trees (= dead leaves) in our courtyard, most of our browns are cardboard and newspaper, which also need to be torn into smallish pieces. So it’s kind of a pain to make a deposit in the barrel: first you dump your compostables in, then rip up + add the browns, then close it up and flip it a few times to mix everything together.

Once the barrel’s full the compost needs to “cook” down to become actual dirt. Depending on how attentive you are during this process it can take as little as two weeks, though we’ve never really gotten it down to less than a a month. And this is the bigger pain in the ass. Basically the barrel needs to be flipped at least 2x/day during cooking, which sounds easy but never really turns out that way. It’s heavy and a little dirty, so I never want to flip it on the way out in the mornings. We’ve tried making a schedule in which the compost contributors each take a different day, but inevitably we forget or leave town for a few days or get sick or… And it’s frustrating because we can’t put in anything new during the cooking, and it always seems to stretch on forever.

Last summer I had to bow out of composting because I was just too busy to deal with it. But I’ve felt guilty ever since, and moreso recently when we had to get rid of our Halloween jack o’ lantern. Yeah, we have a disposal, but we can’t put everything down there, and I know that composting is better. I guess the thing that is most annoying to me is that compost just happens. It’s ecomological! And if we had a yard* then I’d just have a plain compost bin and dump stuff in, cover w/a thin layer of dirt, and leave it. Easy peasy.

* I should point out that, all things considered, we are very happy non-houseowners. For all of the niceness of a yard I think the maintenance would kill us. It’s nice to have a super!

Really what I want is for the city to do it. I’m sure there’s lots of research on this that I’m too lazy to google right now that presents all of the complicated reasons why it’s too hard to do, but it seems kind of easy when I think of it. The DSNY could collect food waste 2-3 times/week. They could take it to sites within the city to compost it up, using all of the leaves they (used to) collect in the fall for browns. There are industrial composting solutions that make it happen even faster than Mother Nature, if speed is an issue. Then they could SELL it back to stores or even to gardeners directly. Compost in, money out, w00t!

You’d think they could at least break even, right? I’m sure there are many reasons why this isn’t happening, but don’t tell me and burst my happy compost bubble.

les tags: ,
27November
2009

who knows what day it is?

maura @ 3:47 pm

Yes, that’s right, it’s Buy Nothing Day! Once again we here at mauraweb! are sticking more to the spirit than the letter: we did buy the kids lunch, because they were hungry and we didn’t have time to eat at home. But we’re spurning the shops, oh yeah, even though Gus could really use some new shoes and a coat. Take that, consumerism!

Wish I could be making something crafty today in honor of BND, but I’m taking advantage of this relatively quiet spot in the afternoon here to draft a library blog post. Keep on keeping on, chickens!

23November
2009

the perils of illness

maura @ 5:36 pm

One of the problems with being sick is that you end up with lots of time to think. Yes, you get to read all of your RSS feeds and answer lots of email and write in your journal, and all of that is good. But also (if you’re me, at least), you end up feeling a bit powerless and start to resent the ailing body chaining you to the sofa, just a bit.

Sometimes all that time to think + powerlessness can be a little dangerous.

Exhibit A:
Lying on the sofa these past few days has given me a new appreciation of how shabby it’s getting. I mean, it’s not surprising: the sofa is 11 yrs old and has endured almost 8 yrs of Gus and nearly 2 yrs of cats. I love it, really I do, with it’s comfy cushions and beautiful dark red cloth with subtle little swirlies (I believe Ikea called it Morby Red). But that sofa is definitely showing its age.

The stinky hippie in me wants to just get a slipcover for it — the guts of it seem okay, it’s just the upholstery that’s worn. But of course Ikea doesn’t make that sofa anymore (nor slipcovers for it), and a custom cover would almost cost more than a new sofa. So I started browsing on the interwebs (you evil temptress, interwebs!) and before you know it I’d convinced myself that the best thing to do is to just buy a new sofa. A new sofa! What a thought! It’s even available in red! And we could buy a slipcover AT THE SAME TIME, so as to avoid situations like this in the future! If we weren’t all sick we’d be at Ikea right now, I tell ya.

Exhibit B:
So a fellow Food Coop-member is writing an article for the Coop’s newspaper about the evils of plastic, and I’ve found myself newly-energized to try find substitutes for plastic containers and utensils that we use for food preparation and storage. We’ve been saving glass peanut butter jars to store things like oatmeal and beans, and have plans to get additional jars to store bigger things and for freezer/fridge storage.

But lunches, I haven’t really tackled the lunches yet. I mean, we use steel water bottles, but I’ve still been packing food in plastic for me and Gus. Gus usually takes a sandwich so we recently switched to wax paper bags, but then the sandwiches get squished. What to do?

Enter stainless steel lunch containers! Of course there’s a dizzying variety. For me I decided on a 2 tier nested set, and I picked up a new lunchbag too, since it was on sale. The containers I wanted to get for Gus were out of stock, sadly, but I’ll be back for them later. On my way out I couldn’t resist getting some stainless steel straws, because lately the only fruit Gus will eat is in smoothie form and we’re going through a lot of plastic.

Phew. I am going to work tomorrow, whether I’m better or not. Staying home is dangerous!

13December
2008

hey, kid, secret history

maura @ 7:31 pm

Last week I started walking to work again (yay for anti-inflammatories!), which means that I had lots of time to think in the morning. So I thought a lot about my complicated feelings about Christmas. And I believe that I came to some sort of understanding about it all (though I don’t know that I can translate that into any kind of action).

It’s duh to even say this, but Christmas is fun + exciting when you’re a kid. When I was little, our Christmases went something like this: Decorate the tree on Christmas Eve. (Sometimes my maternal grandmother would be there, sometimes she’d be at my aunt’s house.) Presents + breakfast in the morning, not terribly rushed. Around lunchtime (after lunch?) we’d pile in the car and drive an hour or so to my paternal grandparents’ house. I can’t remember if we saw cousins then or not, but my dad’s brothers + parents all lived in the same town. Dinner there, then home.

But that was then; things are more complicated in our modern era. I have 2 siblings (and Gus has 5 cousins), my parents are divorced, Jonathan’s parents are divorced, and everyone lives in a different state. Before Gus was born we did a pretty strict every-other-year thing, but of course with all those constituencies there’s no way to avoid multiple locations + celebrations.

Once Gus came along we started trying to have Christmas morning here in Brooklyn (yo), though we haven’t always. Grandparents usually visit, but we’re not really on any kind of schedule these days. We try to arrange things on Christmas-adjacent weekends with whomever we don’t see on Christmas. And Gus’s birthday is at the beginning of December, so it often seems like a month o’ presents.

Add to that mix my increasing stinky hippieness over the past 5 yrs or so and my general dislike of (most) shopping, and it’s hard not to feel like Charlie Brown complaining about Christmas commercialism. I’ve taken some steps to try and deal with it: spending less $, doing the handmade thing when possible, and wrapping gifts in cloth rather than paper. But I still find myself thinking about big pink aluminum trees when the end of the year is nigh.

Part of it is certainly everything there is to DO. We bake cookies as gifts for extended family members, which takes a ton of (mostly Jonathan’s) time. Then there’s the gifts, the tree, decorating, wrapping, mailing, etc. There are things we could do that would take less time, but they would compromise my stingy + crunchy principles.

So what’s the solution? I don’t rightly know. The multiple extended Christmases are probably the heart of the issue for me, and the anti-consumerist hoo-ha the icing on the cake. I wish there were some way we could spend actual Christmas and the few days around it with some family each year, but maybe not run from place to place over the course of a month. And maybe that might mean not seeing some other family members right around Christmas that year, but maybe we could see them at other times? Maybe if we travelled less, the rest of the craziness wouldn’t seem quite so crazy.

But, but, but…I like seeing family at Christmas, even if it’s not on Christmas day. And I like Gus to see family too, esp. since we don’t see everyone all that often.

Maybe EVERYONE should just come to our house. 1300 square feet is plenty of room, right?

les tags: ,
11December
2008

like a stone thrown across the water

maura @ 10:58 pm

Guess what I learned today? You can make DIY shrinky dinks out of #6 plastic! While I have not yet tried this myself, apparently you just:

1. Get some #6 plastic (which you should really be boycotting if you can, because it is evil and not recyclable while so many others are).

2. Decorate with sharpies. What, you don’t have many colors of sharpies? What’s wrong with you?

3. Cut out the designs.

4. Bake in a 250-degree toaster oven for about 30 seconds. Watch the magic happen through the window!

I’ll let you know when we try it. Stupid lettuce growers always use #6 in their packaging, bah.

(Yes, I had a Food Coop meeting tonight, can you tell?)

les tags: ,