around the web

Women, am I right? /snark

Yesterday, the United States nominated it’s first woman as the presidential candidate for a major political party.

Today, Kaspersky decided to celebrate that by releasing this ad:


Well, Kaspersky, you just made my decision for the security suite in my house a lot easier, since it was between one of two companies–and the other company didn’t release a sexist ad suggesting women know nothing about cybersecurity.

Edited to add: And no, the fact that Kaspersky was co-founded by a woman (who later left or was ousted, depending) does not make me want to support the company. The faux pas is even worse knowing that a woman helped found the company. Additionally, the leadership team today contains no women with the exception of the head of HR.

Women are not required to support organizations who have once had (or even currently have) women in positions of power, especially when that company shows its true colors. This ad had to make it through several layers of acceptance within the company and its ad agency before being released, so it’s not a small oversight.

People have always been people

This is a short article, but I highly recommend reading it. I think we forget that people are just people, no matter when they lived. The world wasn’t black and white (literally or figuratively) way back when. People walked on green grass. They ate, slept, worked, and loved. They lived their lives and felt human emotions, just like we do today.

Isabel Allende said it the best:

“People in other times, in earlier times, were not less sophisticated than we are. They were just as we are, with less technology.”

We aren’t any better today than we were yesterday: we just have more technology that helps us figure things out. We are building on the knowledge of our forebears, so we owe them a debt of creating a ladder we continually climb in the quest for new technologies.

What? Say it isn’t so… (It is.)

Because I’ve known all of this for years and years, I told my now-husband, “If you do get me an engagement ring of any sort, I will not marry you.” And I meant it. You know what he got me instead? Sand (long story), and I loved the thought behind it more than any other rock.

We will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary in about a month, and I’m still glad that he listened to me, knowing me well enough that his friends’ admonitions that “She’s just saying that! All women want a diamond ring!” fell on deaf ears. Some women don’t buy into “tradition” simply for tradition’s sake, especially when the reason behind a so-called tradition is simply a bunch of dollar signs. I guess Adam was wrong about one thing: some men do get out of buying a worthless ring, because their girlfriends know the score.

I can’t be the only one

no thanksI can’t be the only person in the world who takes great pleasure in clicking the links that say things like this, right? I am only on your site to check things out, so these overlays are obnoxious and often pop up right when I’m trying to click on something else on the page. Then when I see what the “no” button says, I take even more pleasure in saying, “No, I hate being given free things,” because I’m apparently a very contrary person. (I actually like free things, but not for something I’m not even sure I like yet.)

Breaking Cat News: Special Report


Read the whole Special Report by clicking the image above or by clicking here.

Breaking Cat News has a Special Report that the cats of BCN have just released. Check it out for smiles, some laughs, and even a few heart-rending moments. I chose the section that is most relevant to our recent situation (we adopted a 8.5-year-old, little girl a little over a year ago. She’ll be 10 in February, and every day she does something new that reminds me how much she needed to have a forever home of her own. She has come out of shell so much that she’s a new cat! :


If you’re ready to accept a special someone into your home, please consider adopting from a local shelter.

As a person who has had mostly Siamese cats in my life, I just had to also show you this one, but you have to go read the comic to find out who he’s responding to. (And that guy DOES deserve a Siamese cat on his face! So does the guy who doesn’t want to spend time feeding his cat. Jerkface.)



Yeah, access isn’t a problem…

Many of you already know about my passion for bridging the so-called digital divide that separates communities of people from access. The areas that I am personally most interested in are low income and rural areas of the United States, which are often the most under-served communities in term of broadband access. A lot of you have heard the stories about how my parents only had access to dial-up until the past few years, but you might be surprised to learn that they still don’t have access to true broadband services. In January 15, the FCC increased the benchmark for what could truly be considered broadband service from 4Mbps/1Mbps (i.e., 4 download/1 upload) to a speed of 25Mbps/3Mbps. “The 4 Mbps/1 Mbps standard set in 2010 is dated and inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way, the FCC found.”

The 4 Mbps/1 Mbps standard set in 2010 is dated and inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way, the FCC found.

Using this updated service benchmark, the 2015 report finds that 55 million Americans – 17 percent of the population – lack access to advanced broadband. Moreover, a significant digital divide remains between urban and rural America: Over half of all rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service.

The divide is still greater on Tribal lands and in U.S. territories, where nearly 2/3 of residents lack access to today’s speeds. And 35 percent of schools across the nation still lack access to fiber networks capable of delivering the advanced broadband required to support today’s digital-learning tools. (source; also attached at bottom of this post)

That’s a huge difference for rural folks, those living in territories or Tribal lands, and schools, people. Yet broadband providers are arguing that the old rules were fast enough, even as internet access needs get faster and faster. (Have you tried to access anything on the internet from dial-up lately? Believe me, it’s worse than you remember it being in the late 90s…)

FCC's Fixed Broadband Deployment Map, showing deployment of the updated standard as of January 2015.

FCC’s Fixed Broadband Deployment Map, showing deployment of the updated standard as of January 2015.

Pick an area you know well and zoom in on that map above. (If you click it, it will go directly to the FCC’s original image, where you can zoom in more.) I chose Illinois, of course.

When you know an area well, you can usually determine why the broadband follows the routes it takes. I can see Quincy, Illinois, on there. (That orange-ish belly button.) Here, I’ll help you a little bit:

Illinois broadband service (zoomed in)

Illinois broadband service (zoomed in)

Illinois roads (via Google Maps)

Illinois roads (via Google Maps)

















Clearly the areas with access are the more settled areas: Chicago, greater St. Louis, I-55 (travels from Chicago to St. Louis), Springfield (capital city), Champaign-Urbana metro area (home of the University of Illinois), and so on. While this made more sense 10 years ago, we’re long past the time that broadband services have gone from being a nice way to browse the internet without lag to being an educational necessity.

Today’s news that the FCC’s Connect America Fund will be partnering with broadband providers to expand service is welcome, but it’s not enough. Seven million people in 45 states and 1 territory hardly makes a dent in the 55 million across the United States without access.

Did you know?

  • The FCC provides a yearly broadband report on their findings based on speed tests and other information. Here’s the 2015 Broadband Progress Report site, where you can also find a link to past reports. (I download these every year to keep track of where we are.)
  • If you want to see the state of broadband service in your area, check out the National Broadband Map. Don’t see your provider? Let the FCC know, and they will take it into account for the next cycle.
  • If you’re interested in helping the government learn about speeds offered by different providers and how that stacks up against actual speeds consumers receive, you might want to sign up to participate in SamKnows.
  • The FCC measures both fixed and mobile broadband. Want to know more about their methodology? Check it out here.

Document attachment: doc-331760a1_broadband_speed_reclassification

The information age is here! (Are you sure?)

As you might expect of someone who is working toward becoming a “real” librarian (one with an MLIS, that is), I am very interested in information. Librarians are more than people who check out books to you and catalog those books when they first arrive at the library. We’re expected to be, quite literally, masters of information. (The MLIS stands for Masters of Library and Information Science.) My main focus, in fact, is the information science part, as I am largely interested in the digital archive and information architecture part of the job (i.e., more database, less paper). I not only am interested in how information is collected and disseminated, but I am also interested in information in general.

In one of my previous classes, I became particularly interested in the divide of information between groups of people. This could be a class divide (rich/poor) or a racial divide (people of color/Caucasian) or a country divide (United States/South Africa), but I am interested in the disparity between any and all of these divides. (The technical term for this is “digital divide.”) One of the big questions I quickly came up with myself was, “Even if we digitize what we consider everything, how much are we actually marginalizing the part of the world that relies on oral history or oral storytelling? [These still exist, by the way.] How much history and cultural richness are we actually losing by digitizing so much, but ignoring so much a the same time.” And perhaps the most concerning to me was one evening when I turned to my husband and said, “I just realized that when we speak of digitization of information, we are speaking from a mainly West-centric view, which means we are largely ignoring and losing how many cultures and worlds of stories and histories and mythology by our rushing ahead of a world that still has too many areas that are far, far behind our digital egocentrism. What are we losing that we don’t even know we’ve lost? Will future generations think we’re a more homogenized world than we truly are, because our digital focus is so centralized?” Yes, I mourn for the unmourned, I suppose. (I also am viscerally saddened each time I learn of a language dying with a single person who was the last native speaker of that language. We have then lost something we never quite understand and can never retrieve.)

I was greatly interested in this article (preserved via PDF below), then, that I ran into earlier this week: “5 Myths About the ‘Information Age’.” I was most happy to see numbers three and four listed, because they also readily tie into the digital divide. Anyone who has searched for any bit of information online without finding it can attest to the fact that not everything is online. And, as mentioned above, there are vast swaths of information not found online, because those cultures or communities are not engulfed in a race to digitize their beings. In a society where it seems everyone has a computer in his/her pocket, it might be hard to understand or remember that not every country has the riches of technology that we do.

And number four. Oh, number four! My first big paper in my MLIS program was on my new love: the digital divide. Again, it’s hard to understand that not even everyone in the United States has access to broadband services. And I don’t mean solely because they can’t afford it. Oh, no, not at all! I mean, quite literally, because broadband is not even available where they are. Before I moved up to Duluth, broadband wasn’t remotely possible in the area where I lived, which was the largest city in a three- or four-county area. It was still years after I left that town before anything other than dial-up (yep, “simply” DSL or cable even) was available. In fact, in the small village where I lived the longest while growing up, broadband service only recently became available. (Are you interested in the state of broadband in the United States? Well, so is the government. Here’s the latest report from August 2012, which includes a link to a map showing the latest data about areas with and without broadband. Yes, there really are a lot of areas without it. Surprising, eh?) This is a big reason that I signed us up a few years ago to participate in the FCC/SamKnows program that measures broadband service: existing broadband should be at the speeds stated and there needs to be an expansion of broadband available at higher speeds to rural areas in the United States. We are lagging behind the world in this area (and in high-speed public transportation, but that’s another gripe for another time), and it’s sad how little most people think about this problem, which is to the detriment of rural education and literacy.

While many of us think we’re living in the “information age,” we’re actually in a fairly small bubble of people who have access to vast amounts of (but not remotely all) information at our fingertips. We’re a privileged group, and I think more people need to recognize this fact and push for greater digital literacy and equality.

Edited to add: This is an interesting breakdown of the latest Pew survey of home broadband access from the Librarian in Black. The survey includes smartphone use, although if one reads through digital divide literacy, one notices that there also tends to be a divide of people who only have a smartphone. Most especially, this divide has shown that knowing how to appropriately search and find reliable information is more prevalent among people with devices such as a home computer or a laptop and less among people with only smartphones. And as the Swiss Army Librarian mentions and as I ran into regularly into my digital divide research, there is a small subset of users who choose to not have broadband access of any kind, and those users must also be accounted for.