Friday, November 14, 2008

Front groups

Ever wonder about those so-called public interest groups that are actually backed by the industry they claim to be exposing? There is a group called SourceWatch that keeps track of where information (and misinformation) comes from, and they have a spot on their website that is devoted to just front groups at

Check out the US examples, one of which is the Greening Earth Society. It's funded by an association of coal-burning utility companies.

Tina Lau, North County Librarian

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Google flu

(CNN) -- If you have a fever, headache and runny nose, you might go to Google and type the words "flu symptoms" to see whether you've come down with influenza.

Google knows that you might do something like that, and it also knows which U.S. state you're in. Now, it's putting that information together in a tool that Google says could detect flu outbreaks faster than traditional systems currently in use.

Google's new public health initiative, Google Flu Trends, looks at the relative popularity of a slew of flu-related search terms to determine where in the U.S. flu outbreaks may be occurring.

"What's exciting about Flu Trends is that it lets anybody -- epidemiologists, health officials, moms with sick children -- learn about the current flu activity level in their own state based on data that's coming in this week," said Jeremy Ginsberg, the lead engineer who developed the site.

The tool, which launched Tuesday, operates on the idea that there's likely to be a flu outbreak in states where flu-related search terms are currently popular.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collaborated with Google on the project, helping validate and refine the model, and has provided flu tracking data over a five-year period, said Dr. Joseph Bresee, chief of the epidemiology and prevention branch in the CDC's influenza division.

Although it doesn't replace the need for real viral surveillance data, Flu Trends is a good model, and the CDC looks forward to testing it this flu season, Bresee said.

"We really are excited about the future of using different technologies, including technology like this, in trying to figure out if there's better ways to do surveillance for outbreaks of influenza or any other diseases in the United States," he said. "In theory at least, this idea can be used for any disease and any health problem."

Researchers found a tight correlation between the relative popularity of flu-related search terms and CDC's surveillance data, Ginsberg said.

posted by Tina Lau, North County Librarian

Friday, October 31, 2008

Jack-o-lantern etymology from OED

You can get an RSS feed or email feed for word of the day from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). I use Bloglines ( to read RSS feeds every day.

Today's word is jack-o'-lantern:

{dag}1. A man with a lantern; a night watchman.

1663 STAPLETON Slighted Maid III. 48, I am an Evening dark as Night, Jack-with-the-Lantern, bring a Light. 1698-1700 E. WARD Lond. Spy II. (1709) 32 Each Parochial Jack-a-Lanthorn was Croaking about Streets the Hour of Eleven. a1704 T. BROWN Lett. fr. Dead Wks. 1760 II. 195 Who should come by before I could get up again, but the constable going his rounds, who quickly made me centre of a circle of jack of lanthorns.

2. An ignis fatuus or will-o'-the-wisp; = friar's lantern (FRIAR n. 9b); fig. something misleading or elusive.

1673 RAY Journ. Low C. 410 Those reputed Meteors..known in England by the conceited names of Jack with a Lanthorn, and Will with a Wisp. 1749 FIELDING Tom Jones XII. xii, Partridge..firmly believed..that this light was a Jack with a lantern, or somewhat more mischievous. 1750 S. HALES Earthquakes 10 Plenty of inflammable sulphureous Matter in the Air, such as Ignes fatui, or Jack-a-Lanterns. 1775 SHERIDAN Rivals III. iv, I have followed Cupid's Jack-a-lantern, and find myself in a quagmire. 1862 H. MARRYAT Year in Sweden II. 67 As a mist rises, Jack-o'-lantern flits his pale light over the swamp. 1870 LOWELL Study Wind. 5 Supplying so many more jack-o'-lanterns to the future historian.
attrib. 1750-1 Student II. 352 a mere Jack~lanthorn nature, neither here nor there. 1817 COLERIDGE Biog. Lit. 293 The characters in this act frisk about, here, there, and everywhere, as teasingly as the Jack o'Lantern lights which mischievous boys..throw with a looking-glass on the faces of their opposite neighbours.

3. A lantern made of the rind of a large turnip or a pumpkin, in which holes are cut to represent eyes, nose, and mouth; a turnip- or (in U.S.) pumpkin-lantern. North Eng., Sc., and U.S.

1837 HAWTHORNE Twice-Told Tales 222 Hide it [sc. the great carbuncle] under thy cloak, say'st thou? Why, it will gleam through the holes, and make thee look like a jack-o'lantern! 1959 I. & P. OPIE Lore & Lang. Schoolch. xii. 269 As soon as it is dark on Hallowe'en they take the lighted ‘Jack-o-lanterns’ and put them on their gateposts.

Hence jack-o'-lantern v. intr. (nonce-wd.), to play or move erratically like a will-o'-the-wisp.

1891 G. MEREDITH One of our Conq. I. iv. 52 His Puckish fancy jack-o'-lanterning over it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Election-year Mudslinging

If you are wondering about negative stories concerning any of the presidential or vice presidential candidates, a great way to check it out is by going to It's a nonpartisan site that debunks lies in politics.

A more general site that's good for rumors, urban legends, and virus scares in general is at I try to always check those emails that get circulated about free money from Microsoft, Sarah Palin's list of banned books, etc.

Tina Lau
North County Librarian

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

LibraryThing meme

This is a list of the top 106 books most often marked “unread” by LibraryThing users. The rules: bold the ones you’ve read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary

The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice

Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace

Vanity Fair

The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner

Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha

Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo

A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath

The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels

Les Misérables

The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves

The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey

The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island

David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Digital textbooks for half the price of printI

This posting has been moved to

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Access to congressional reports

Check out OpenCRS at, a new website that collects and makes freely available reports from the Congressional Research Service. (This is the research used by congressmen, and is very current. Latest reports are about the financial market crisis.) They have an RSS feed if you'd like to be alerted when new reports are posted.

Tina Lau
North County Librarian

Summer schedule is now online

Cuesta's new summer schedule is now online at, or click on Find Classes from the Cuesta homepage. The schedule won't be in print for a few weeks.

Tina Lau
North County Librarian

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rumor about $600 rebate from government

I checked it out at,,id=179181,00.html and an individual who has earned more than $3000 in 2007 will get $300 back in May. You must file your 2007 income tax return to be eligible.

Tina Lau
North County Librarian

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Textbook Rental Service

I just found out about a textbook rental service called Chegg (for "chicken and egg"). There's a good article about it in Business Week Online at

Prices seem to be about 50% of retail for textbooks. Check it out at!

Tina Lau
North County Librarian