Early progress on Denver Public Library / #visiblelibrary

So just under a week on from our big release of Denver Public Library catalog pages on the Web (in the form of Linked Data), progress is quite exciting. The Google bot is working methodically through the 3.7 million Web pages, with about 300 thousand indexed so far. The Bing bot is lagging behind a fair bit, but Google's Comscore ranking for search usage makes it our realistic priority now. A DPL Libhub page is already the #1 Google hit for the following sample searches (note, all sample searches done in an incognito window to step outside my personal Google filter bubble).

And now that DPL has taught me about this particular Vietnamese musician, Here's a Quang Dung music break. Nice in a Latin/Lounge way.

A DPL Libhub page is somewhere on the front page for the following sample searches.

As an engineer, I hate hearing stuff from people such as "I've never used algebra since grade school." Goodreads says this last book can help the innumerate fall in love with maths, so I hope a few people discover it at their local library, and actually, since it's an eBook, you can get it from DPL without even walking to the library, as long as you qualify to get a DPL library card, of course. If you live elsewhere, same applies to your local public library.

Of course none of these examples are very mainstream, but one wouldn't expect that so soon, and possibly not for a long while. However, libraries are most valuable as a resource for just such uncommon things, and you could imagine special interest and research needs leading people through Libhub to DPL, and into the habit of using their library. If we can succeed in that we'll have succeeded to our utter delight.

Update: Rachel Fewell, who has been leading this project from the DPL side, has also blogged some interesting findings and progress.

Early summer appearances for Ndewo, Colorado

The furious pace of work on my big work project has unfortunately stunted promotion of my book, Ndewo, Colorado, but with a little help from my fellow poet friends I have a couple of upcoming readings and other events.

I'll be reading with Wendy Videlock & Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer (absolutely stellar company!) in Grand Junction, Colorado the 21st of May. Our theme is "Ancient Myths & Legends." The three of us generally don't do your plain old stereotypical, angst-projecting poetry readings, so do come along for a treat if you're around the Western slope then.

From June 4-7 I'll be participating in Mystery and the Peripatetic, a poetry festival and retreat in Breckenridge, Colorado, run by the same, boundlessly energetic Wendy Videlock. The session I'll be leading Saturday late morning is titled "The Speakers:  A Look at Dialect and Idiom from Around the World."

Denver Public Library Data Pilot Release

A few months ago I mentioned my big work project of the moment, Libhub. We had done an experiment with a selected dozen or so catalogued items held by Denver Public Library, related to Molly Brown. The experiment was a success beyond our expectations. Within three days the alpha Libhub page for 'Margaret "Molly" Tobin Brown Papers' shot from nowhere to a top 3 hit on Google and Bing for the search "molly brown papers," a likely search string by someone interested in that topic, but not necessarily having any library in mind. This page links and on-delay redirects to the DPL catalog page for that item, and within another week that DPL catalog page had become the #1 hit for most cases of searching that target term. We were pleased to see examples of records from the test set which were appearing above Amazon book sales pages in search results. This validated our feeling that the content hidden in library catalogues is enormously rich and valuable.

Today we have taken the next, exciting step by publishing all 840,000 or so DPL bibliographic records. The result is around 3,740,000 resources, each of which is a separate Web page, with dense cross-linking (7,880,000 in all) derived from relationships within the MARC. Here are a few interesting highlights.

Project: Libhub

Have you ever noticed something missing when you do an online search for a book, music or a film you want to check out? Something big? If you're anything like me you've been lucky enough to spend valuable, serendipitous, formative hours in a library. I remember walking to Cleveland Public Library at least weekly in the few years when I lived there as a child, supplementing the supply of books my father secured from thrift shops. I'm pretty sure that's where I got the introduction to atomic theory (Democritus through Rutherford to Bohr and beyond) which cemented a lifelong fascination with science. There was Luton Public Library where I went almost every day of the summer of 1986 when my Mom bought me my first computer (a ZX Spectrum Plus) and I taught myself programming reading all the books and magazines they had on the topic. There was the library of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where I gorged on African and worldwide literature, history and esoteric religions and philosophies right around the time when I discovered my love for poetry. There have been many, many other libraries dear to me in all the places where I've lived.

And now when I search for a book, multimedia or other such resource, I'm struck by the fact that libraries have become sadly obscure on the Web, which is where my children and their generation discover and learn so much of what I did in the brick institutions. Search for a book and you'll find Amazon, B&N and other bookseller listings, Wikipedia pages, film derivations and fan fiction, but you'll go pages and pages and pages into results before you see any indication that you can stroll into your local public library and borrow it for free.

I've been thrilled to be part of a project, led by my company Zepheira, to work towards rectifying this situation. We've launched Libhub, taking sensible steps towards increasing the prominence of libraries on the Web. There are several things that make this a bit more complicated than it should be (and why this visibility problem is so persistent). Libraries have very rich electronic catalogs, but they are in extraordinarily antiquated and arcane formats and conventions. We've invested a great deal of our specialized data processing expertise to develop an engine which can ingest such library data and convert it into useful web representations, including technologies such as RDFa, Open Graph, Schema.org and the library-focused BIBFRAME which we developed for the US Library of Congress. We're planning to launch this Libhub network this summer.

We've been fortunate to have some great libraries working with us through this project, led by Denver Public Library, and we're been inspired by the many-chaptered story of Denver's own Molly Brown, best known for surviving the Titanic disaster. We turned a handful of DPL records into a tiny experiment ("the Linkable Molly Brown" as named by my colleague Gloria Gonzalez) as we continue to work on our Libhub engine. If you're curious for a sneak peek, and OK looking at something still packed with librarian/technical minutiae, a good place to start a click-round is with the record of her papers at DPL. Remember, this is just a quick experiment and we have a long road ahead, but one we're more delighted to travel than Dorothy was hers in Oz, starting out arm-in-arm with the redoubtable Molly Brown, and with fond thoughts of libraries swimming our heads. We'll see you along the way.

Open Letter to the Ambassador of the State of Qatar

Superior, Colorado, USA

20 January 2013

Mohamed Bin Abdulla Al-Rumaihi, Ambassador
Embassy of the State of Qatar
2555 M. Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20037-1305

Dear Ambassador,

I write with justice in my head,
I write with all impulse of peace,
In fervent hope of Mohamed
Ibn Al Ajami's release.

Please might we find your magistrate
Well understanding of the fact
That poetry surpasses state,
Liberty trumps Sedition Act.

It will be poets who ensure
The glory of your fine Emir
And even when they do incur
Displeasure, they're his vizier.

I pray you grant your poets space
To work the profit of their mind.
Reconsider this Ajami case,
In which all freedoms are enshrined.



Uche Ogbuji

Mohamed Ibn Al Ajami


Photos on the cloud, and your metadata

Every now and then I cast an eye about to see the state of the art on photo storage, sharing and backup.  Like most of us I have far more digital photos than I know what to do with.  For the most part we manage the lot on iPhoto on my wife's iMac.  It's getting to the point where iPhoto is struggling to keep up and I've pondered LightRoom, but it's still a tad bit of overkill, I think.  For now we just using the various tricks of the trade to boost performance.  I think the next step will be to move the iPhoto library to an SSD drive.  Time to start saving up!

Given my technical background, one of the biggest things I look for in photo management of all sorts is preservation of metadata.  If you are not familiar with photo metadata, you should really acquaint yourself.  It's also worth acquainting yourself as to why it's important to separate photo sharing from storage.  Whether it's the EXIF data recorded by the camera itself, or supplementary metadata added, sometimes out of band, by management apps (e.g. face matches, titles & descriptions you add yourself in iPhoto or other tools), it's really important that software respect what's there as much as possible, adding layers of metadata non-destructively.

Alas this is one area where cloud photo services fail miserably.  I think the most pernicious case of this is Dropbox, which is such a handy service for the most part, but I think is nothing short of evil with regard to photos.  First of all it is loud and persistent in pestering you to switch to its photo import and storage module every time you connect a memory card or such to your computer (I understand: they want to nudge people in a direction that leads to paying more for storage.)  The problem is that if you make the mistake of succumbing to their come-ons, you'll find that they happily mangle and destroy any photo metadata that precedes them.  The comments on their blog entries about the photo features are full of customers complaining about this abuse, but they don't seem to be listening.  They are not alone.  Google Picassa also mangles metadata.  Facebook surprises me by actually trying to do the right thing, and getting a bit tied up in knots as a result.

For now I'm sticking with iPhoto, and I'll copy photos from there to Dropbox, Facebook, etc. as needed for sharing.  I'm also trying out AeroFS, and hoping for good things from them, from the general perspective of meddling-free file distribution and sharing.  I hope more people get familiar with the issues here (there are real consequences to having your photo metadata mangled), and that it adds up to a voice in the marketplace for better solutions, including on the cloud.

Malala story is explosive mixture of emotions for me

by Chimezie Ogbuji

I had only heard about this story briefly.  Then, while the details of what happened was being discussed, they showed some video footage of previous interviews with her.  I was very impressed by the conviction in her voice as she spoke about her desire to have young girls such as herself receive education and even more so when I considered she would have had good reason to be too scared to speak with such conviction: the very tumultous nature of Pakistan, of where she went to school (in Swat), etc.

She was speaking like a woman at least 3 times her age.  It was more than just the clear benefit of the very education she was advocating for that you could see in the way she was talking and hear in her voice, but something much more.  Something more than just a girl more mature than her 14 years of age.

Then, they showed footage of what I believe must have been her first (or one of her first interviews) with her father.  She was saying "I want to be a doctor" and was immediately overcome with emotion and couldn't finish her sentence.

Her father was sitting next to her and the moment didn't change the look on his face and it was the look on his face that tugged on some strings burried very deep inside of me.  It was the look of infinite love and pride for your child.  He was smiling with such powerful pride.  

I imagine her emotions were more than just being camera shy, perhaps the thought of the danger of her speaking out crowded her mind at that time.  Then the father says "Relax" and looks into the camera, still beeming with pride.

I'm not able to see that video without losing composure myself.  This is because I know how that deep love the father was displaying could be so efficiently transformed into the deepest kind of pain and helplessness a person can imagine.  I don't believe that the aggregate of all the pain-by-proxy Pakistan, the world at large, and even myself might feel on her behalf would come close to eclipsing the pain he (and her mother) must have felt.

The intensity of the love he was showing in that video is exactly the inverse of the pain he must have been feeling as she remained in critical condition, unresponsive, and without anything else to be done but to place his faith in the hands of the medical professionals who were fighting to save her life.

And so, when I read in the Guardian this morning that "Malala Yousafzai can make smooth recovery, doctors say," I was overcome - again - with an explosion of emotions, not just for her but for her family as well.  Yes, Pakistan needs to heal in so many ways, but that family needs to heal first and this is a great first step in that direction.

I deeply hope that she fully recovers and can use the platform she definately will now have to help her achieve the goals of her incredibly brave activism.  I may be able to empathize with how her father, when he got word of her attack and when he was on her side, must have felt, but I can't say that I know what her recovery must be feeling like for him.  

However, at least I have some sense of the magnitude of how that might feel, because I feel some of it now.

Introducing Kin Poetry Journal

Continuing in the theme of too busy doing stuff to blog about it, this is a belated announcement of my new literary venture. I launched Kin Poetry Journal last month along with fellow founders Wendy Chin-Tanner and Eric Norris, and with plenty of help from Walter Ancarrow.  I'm very excited about some of the poets we have coming up, but then again I would say that so it's a good thing there's enough at the journal right now to let the content do the talking.

Poems on birth and infancy

[Crossposted with the Kin blog]

Yesterday David Orr of NPR blogged, "It's A Genre! The Overdue Poetry Of Parenthood," in which he suggested that poetry celebrating childbirth and early infancy has ben historically rare, but is emerging as a new genre.  Maryann Corbett, poet and author of Breath Control, mused on FaceBook that she thought there have long been a fair number of new-baby poems, leading to an interesting conversation on her wall.  I've gathered up some of the poems that were brought up in the thread and elsewhere.

I'll start with Corbett's own "Circadian Lament, Sung to a Wakeful Baby,"(Umbrella Journal) which was linked by one of her friends, not the poet herself.


Go back to sleep. You’ve made a slight mistake

switching your days and nights around this way.

The time will come for nights you spend awake,


for cough and colic, ear- and stomach-ache.

Though now you babble charmingly and play

the infant hours away (a light mistake), …


I mentioned  Catherine Tufariello's "Aubade" (The Nervous Breakdown).


Your language has no consonants.

No babble but a siren’s cry,

Imperious as an ambulance,

Yanks me upright, drains me dry,

Returns me to the languid trance

Of timelessness in which we lie.

Your language has no consonants,

Imperious as an ambulance.


Kin Poetry Journal co-founder Wendy Chin-Tanner ups the ante by touching on all the brute biology of birth, including post-partum marital sex, in "Veteran", also in The Nervous Breakdown.


When our bodies parted, it was without

violence. She slid from me like a sloop

on the crest of that final mighty wave,

the surge sucking her backwards before

spilling over, like breath, like confession,

her arms reaching forward towards the dry

open shore and mine reaching down between

my legs to receive, meeting her, round bright

bud of us combined, her astonishing

glaucous eyes staring steadily,

curiously, seeming to see.


A correspondent mentioned "The Victory" by Anne Stevenson, a taut, sharp lyric.


Tiny antagonist, gory,

blue as a bruise. The stains

of your cloud of glory

bled from my veins.


Some of the discussion was about whether such poems are a new phenomenon. I suspect some of the explicit imagery and language of recent poems is new, but the topic certainly is not, though the article seems tangled upon this point, mentioning, for example, Blake's "Infant" poems from "Songs of Innocence and of Experience." That brought me to mind of the twist represented by To an Unborn Pauper Child by Thomas Hardy. Every good poetic topic wants for a strong, countervailing current.


Breathe not, hid Heart: cease silently,

And though thy birth-hour beckons thee,

Sleep the long sleep:

The Doomsters heap

Travails and teens around us here,

And Time-Wraiths turn our songsingings to fear.


The list could go on and on. One of the correspondents mentioned A.E. Stalling's Olives, which includes poems on early motherhood, and the NPR article itself mentions Morning Song: Poems for New Parents. The latter of course recalls "Morning Song," by Sylvia Plath, one of my favorite poems.


Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

Took its place among the elements.


Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.

In a drafty museum, your nakedness

Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.


Jam Session at East Cleveland

by Chimezie Ogbuji

I had the privilege of having (the equivalent of) front row seats to a jam session at the home of a fellow Taichi student was kind enough to let me come.  He hosts these sessions at his home every year, apparently.  It was a blast.  Good food, folk, and an incredibly talented group of musicians: 2 trumpets, an alto sax, drum set, viola, piano, and an upright bass.  

The drum sets and upright bass had rotating musicians (2 on each).  One of the trumpeters was also a fellow Taichi student who had never played with the group before.  I couldn't even tell as they blew some incredible music from their horns.  

The rain caught up with the set and I had to leave prematurely, but took some pictures from the steps where I was sitting right in front of where they performed.