Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Talkin' Gov Docs

The Government Printing Office wants to tell you about interesting government publications (not an oxymoron). They have started a blog called Government Book Talk with a monthly listing for some publication of interest. This month in honor of March Madness they are having a "National Park Playoff." Vote for your favorite park poster or handbook.

The site still has some teething pains (when I first pulled it up it wouldn't work on Internet Explorer, on Firefox some of the boxes were blank, and they are still working on getting an RSS feed.) But it is a step in the right direction.

Sha na na na... Get a Job

I often make fun of illustrations in government publications, but this may be the best I have ever seen. If you can't get a good look, blow it up.

The Department of Labor publishes the Occupational Outlook Quarterly to help people decide what job might be right for them. In today's economy a lot of people are trying to think outside the box, and OOQ might give them some helpful ideas.

My favorite section is "You're a what?" which features such occupations as acupunturist, cobbler, and research chef.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Virtual Choir

Have you seen this video? Sorry I can't figure out how to embed it. It is a music video like the Pacific Ocean is a wet place. 185 people singing the same piece in front of their computers, and the sound is beautiful, but just as brilliant is the visual production which lets you see each choir member individually.

A demonstration of what web interactivity can achieve. Amazing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

spring haiku

Fetching the paper
I am surprised by darkness
Daylight Saving Time

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


So, a week before the official U.S. Decennial Census form goes into the mail one of our national political parties has sent out a fund-raising letter disguised as a push poll disguised as a survey disguised as a census form. Let's see if we can count the ways this is offensive.

* It shows contempt for the thousands of people who have been working for years (and spending millions of taxpayer dollars, by the way) to create the most accurate possible census.

* It shows comtempt for the U.S. Constitution which requires the census (Article 1, Section 2) as an important step in establishing Congressional districts.

* It shows comtempt for the party's own message, since it says in effect, "the best way to convince you we're right is to mislead you."

* It shows comtempt for the party's supporters, since it says, in effect, "We think you are too dumb to know the difference between a census form and an advertisement."

Apparently the party in question has been doing this sort of thing for years. That doesn't make it right, and doing it a week before the actual Census form goes out is disgraceful. To my mind, this is about two steps from claiming to be the Nigerian finance minister.

Shame on you, Republican National Committee.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Gonzalez Contata

This may be the most unusual music video I have ever put on this blog. Composer Melissa Dunphy has written an opera based on the Alberto Gonzales 2007 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing transcript. The opera is entitled: "The Gonzales Cantata."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Asir Weirdness

I've been working in this library for more than 20 years and there is no government publication here I haven't handled at least once. And yet there are still surprises. Take the attached brochure for Asir National Park, dated 1986.

If you have been to any of our wonderful national parks you probably recognize the format of this brochure (the original is in color, by the way). The National Park Service has been using the same format for their publications for a long, long time. I remember reading an article in a design magazine praising their grid format for its flexibility, clarity, and consistency.

So, hooray, a government program that works. A little unusual, perhaps, but why would I say it's a surprise?

Weirdness Number 1. Asir National Park isn't in the United States. It's in Saudi Arabia. Notice the photo of the Red Sea.

Okay, that's a little more unusual. But not a great shock. Another government liked the style and copied it. U.S. federal documents aren't copyrighted, so no harm done. Flattery is the sincerest, etc. What's the big deal?

Weirdness Number 2. This brochure is in the federal documents collection as an official U.S. National Park Service publication. Sudoc number: I 29.6: As4.

Fair enough. Our National Park Service helping out a sibling agency. All in the best interest and tradition, etc. So?

Weirdness Number 3. Nowhere on the publication does it mention the U.S. National Park Service. It says the publisher is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Agriculture and Water.

So it is a federal document that dares not speak its name. The only similar examples I can think of are the street atlases of places like Beijing and Moscow that were put out by the Central Intelligence Agency. Apparently no one wanted to stroll through those cities with a book with CIA stamped on the cover. Go figure.