1994 Web Tools

Although written to entice “non-techie librarians” to check out the “new world” of the web, I think others may get a kick out of it too. When this was written very few libraries had public internet computers. We’ve come a long way in 17 years.

Getting the best toys: WWW and Mosaic

Originally published in Technicalities, March, 1994

There is an old line that you may have seen on bumper- stickers: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Some would describe that as a typical masculine trait, and perhaps it is. It may also be a librarian’s typical trait, since most of us are serious collectors, both personally and professionally. Regardless of whether we collect new toys in the rest of our lives, it is important to keep up with the new toys or tools in the Internet. Even if you’ve never heard of WWW or Mosaic or similar tools and services, stick with me; don’t let the strange looking “call numbers” put you off, as they are actually much clearer than the usual Dewey or LC classification numbers.

The three basic tools of the Internet are usually described as email, ftp, and telnet. We use email to communicate with each other, either individually or to groups through LISTSERV and similar programs. We use ftp to retrieve files, including programs, texts, and other types of information. Telnet allows us to connect to another account and to use the services of that account; the most common usage of telnet for most of us is to connect to another library’s online catalog. All of these services follow the “client-server” model, where a client program on our net-connected computer connects to a server program on another net-connected computer in order to get some type of information. In email, we often have a local mail program that connects to a mail server that sends the mail on to its destination. A LISTSERV or similar program is also a server, one that takes a message from a client and distributes copies to multiple recipients. The ftp service is similar, in that we log into a remote server that has files available for us to retrieve. It provides the service of organizing, indexing and delivering those files to us. Telnet is similar in that we connect to a remote port on a computer and use whatever services are available. The other well-known and highly used type of telnet service is Gopher, a specific protocol that allows you to search through nested menus to find information or services at a multitude of local or remote sites. Next time you read some techie-hype about client-server models, don’t be put off, since you really understand it already. Just wade through the chaff and try to sort out the useful information about the service being discussed.

Acronym Warning: Beware! Here be acronyms galore!! If you have used Gopher before, WWW and Mosaic are similar in concept, but much more sophisticated in development and appearance. WWW (or W3) has been under development on the nets for several years, but has only become widely used within the last year. The abbreviation stands for the World Wide Web of information servers that use the WWW protocol. All of the WWW servers use HTML (Hypertext Markup Language); you may have previously used some Hypertext applications on a PC or a Hypercard Stack on a Mac. Hypertext allows you to jump between linked points in a document. WWW takes that a step further by allowing the links to point to other remote servers or files, all transparently to the user. It also allows the use of both small (thumbnail) graphics in a text block and large graphics to which the thumbnails point. All of these images, whether text or graphics, can be displayed on the client program on your local computer.

All Web servers are addressed by means of a URL, or Uniform Resource Locator. This reference is analogous to an expanded ISBN for books, as it points not only to a particular WWW server, but also can point to exact documents, pages, and sections of pages on the server. URLs can also define other resources, such as gopher servers, ftp archives, and so forth, but have become the standard way of referring to Web resources. For example, the URL for the latest FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions document) on WWW is http://siva.cshl.org/boutell/www_faq.html.

This may look something like an Internet address, since that is a part of it. I’ll explain it: http is yet another acronym, referring to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. The :// sets off the actual address, that of a machine named siva.cshl.org, a directory named boutell, and a particular file named www_faq.html The .html extension on the file name indicates that it is encoded in the Hypertext Markup Language, which means that it includes internal and/or external links to related information. Your WWW client will connect to that machine, switch to the appropriate directory, and transfer the relevant document for display on your screen. If you choose one of the links, it will then proceed to jump to the appropriate place to give you more information. Just as your Internet email address contains no blanks, ever, the URL also contains no blanks, ever.

Well, what does all this stuff mean to us in libraries? Just as many libraries have quickly learned the value of Gopher as a tool to find information on a multitude of topics, today we’re starting to find the same information, plus much additional information, with a WWW browser. Remember, the server is a WWW server, and we need a WWW client, or browser, to access the resources on the servers. The two best known clients are Mosaic, developed by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois in Urbana, and Cello (which I assume means something exciting like Cornell Electronic Law Library Organizer, but even their WWW site doesn’t tell), developed by the Law School at Cornell University. Although both do the job, I greatly prefer the look and feel of Mosaic, and will refer to the Mosaic client from here on. The Mosaic client is available for Macintoshes, Microsoft Windows, and XWindows, free from the NCSA over the nets. The Cello browser is also free from the developers at Cornell via the Internet. Installing these applications is not as easy as installing a new tax program or game on your PC, but those who are experienced with installing network software shouldn’t have too much trouble; you may have to obtain some new drivers or graphics applications as well, but these are also available free. Both of these packages are still undergoing rapid changes and development, so what I tell about Mosaic now may be changed by the time you read this.

Describing Mosaic is much like describing a great meal or a wonderful person: almost impossible for the majority of us. You really have to experience it yourself to fully appreciate it. But, I’ll try anyway; apologies if any of this sounds like marketing hype, as it is not (not only do I have no vested interest in the things I’m describing, they are free). When you get Mosaic you will have some Home Pages already listed in it for you to try out. Each server has a Home Page that describes the services it provides, much like the top menu on a Gopher server. However, the Home Pages are attractive, use readable fonts, and often include some thumbnail graphics; each represents the design philosophies and personality of its developer. Some words in the document will appear in blue type instead of black. If you point to one of the blue words the arrow will change to a finger icon and allow you to push that ‘button’. The server will then either jump to the relevant part of the document, jump to another document on the same server, or connect you to a different server to get the needed information. This all happens because a Hypertext link has been embedded in the document, invisible to you except for the blue text, and the link takes you to the next point to retrieve the information you request. You can quickly jump from one location to another, as needed, to track down the information you need.

If this all sounds rather mystical or strange, think of a typical reference search. We start with an encyclopedia, perhaps, and find an article to give us some information. That article contains a cross reference to related information, so we jump to a different volume and page of that set of books. At that point we find a citation to a book that may have more information, so we go to the catalog to track down the book, go to the shelf to get it, and then browse through it. That may lead to another reference to another name, a journal article, or other needed information. All of us are familiar with this type of running around, tracking things down, finding documents, and so forth. WWW servers do the same thing without requiring us to move from in front of our workstations, as the links are made by the servers and the information is brought to us. There is really no substitute for trying it out for yourself.

By now, you’ve probably realized that when you started the reference search in the encyclopedia there was a logical organization to the volumes, plus an index in the back; how does that work on the nets? Well, it isn’t quite the same, but there is a new tool that attempts to bring some order to the Web servers around the world. A professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, has compiled a central registry of Web servers called The Mother-of-all BBS at the url http://www.cs.colorado.edu/homes/mcbryan/public_html/ bb/summary.html, and a corresponding index to it called World Wide Web Worm, or WWWW http://www.cs.colorado.edu/home/mcbryan/WWWW.html. This provides an excellent place to begin a subject search on the Web, although other central points are also useful as well. One of the convenient features of Mosaic is the ability to build Hot Lists of sources that you want to return to in the future. These work much like Bookmarks in Gopher clients. The current version of Mosaic doesn’t allow direct printing of documents, although it does provide for saving documents to your local disk, which you can later import into your word processor for editing and/or printing. As Mosaic continues to develop, many more features will be added. I also expect to see commercial versions on the market any day, which will undoubtedly fill in some of the gaps in the free versions that are available now.

OK, now that we’ve waded through a bushel or two of acronyms and a bunch of techie information, what kind of stuff can we find on the Web? I’ll describe just a few of my favorite resources out of the hundreds I’ve seen from the thousands that are out there. The Global Network Navigator is a service developed by O’Reilly Publishers, producers of some of the best Internet and Unix related books. You can reach this service at http://www.ora.com/cgi-bin/ora/aboutgnn/reg in order to register and begin to explore their many services, some for free and some for a fee. ANIMA: Arts Network for International Media Applications, http://wimsey.com/anima/ANIMAhome.html, has a wide variety of interesting art images and other poetic and media services available; one is a database of poetry fragments being developed from user contributions, called Poetus Interruptus. For the folks interested in soccer, there is a server with up to date information on the status of World Cup USA ’94 , the international soccer championship that will be in the USA this summer, at http://www.cedar.buffalo.edu/~khoub-s/wc.94.html. It has images and very detailed statistics on the teams, their records so far, scheduled games in the US, and so forth; it is updated regularly by a dedicated soccer fan. When I last checked, the information was less than 24 hours old. Another fascinating database of images is a collection from the Art History Project of Australian National University http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/Experimental/anu-art- history/home.html. Included are hundreds of images from ancient Rome and Greece, Pei’s works in Hong Kong, and many other interesting images and texts.

For the legally inclined, check out the home of Cello, the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University http://www.law.cornell.edu/lii.table.html. They have the latest supreme court decisions within 24 hours of issuance, complete copyright laws of the USA, the full text of the Brady Handgun Control act, and many other current resources that patrons are always looking for the minute they are released. This rapid dissemination of current information via WWW and Gopher servers is one of the greatest benefits of net access for librarians. For your daily dose of fun, try checking out the new cartoons created each weekday by Doctor Fun from http://sunsite.unc.edu/Dave/drfun.html. Finally, for art that is old and classic, try theLibrary of Congress Vatican Exhibit at http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/Experimental/Vatican.exhibit/Vatican.exhibit.html.

Previously librarians have had to learn how to use a variety of tools to browse the nets, including ftp, gopher, telnet, archie, veronica, and so forth. Mosaic packages all of these types of access into one interface. Simply plug in a gopher URL such as theMother Gopher’s gopher://micro.umn.edu:70/1 and start gophering. To do a Veronica search, put in her URL gopher://veronica.scs.unr.edu:70/11/veronica. Note that the URLs may include information to get you past the main menus of the servers, and can even take you right to a particular page or service on a gopher, too. Mosaic, Cello, the Web, and related services may indeed be the “killer applications” that will really bring libraries into the active reference use of the Internet. I’ll write more about the Web and some of the services in future columns, so please send any of your favorite resources to me.




When the police stop your car

In 1999 I was in a hurry to go see a lady friend in Albuquerque, and speeding down there from Durango.

It was a two line highway in NM at 3am. I got stopped. I saw the officer walking up on the left side of my SUV. I was in a hurry so reached for my registration and insurance in the glove box. As I did so, I saw the officer’s partner in the right rear view, and his weapon was just clearing the holster. I did the right thing, moving slowly back and raising my hands. I WAS VERY STUPID. The officer did the right thing. He didn’t know if I had a 9mm or anything else in there, especially since there was a great deal of drug running on that road.

The first officer told me to put hands down on the steering wheel and then to put window down and hands back on steering wheel. I did so. He asked me if I knew what I did wrong. I said I did and it was very stupid. He agreed. He then had me drop glovebox door and put hands back on wheel so his partner could see what was in the glove box. Just the papers. He then had me get them out, and we dealt with the speeding. Fortunately since I cooperated and they didn’t want to haul me to jail some 75 miles away, they only wrote me up for 85 in a 55. I was clocked at 93, which would have been mandatory jail, as well as having my 4Runner towed 75 miles.

I was reminded of a lesson that I already knew….when you’re stopped for ANY reason the answer is always “Yes Sir” and “No Sir” (or ma’am as may be appropriate). You don’t ever volunteer information, you don’t plead or beg or tell sob stories.

Or as I’ve learned as good advice for all, and wish I’d learned it long ago:

Show Up, Suit Up, Shut Up, and Follow Directions.

Family religious history

This was originally written in 2008 as a part of a class on American Religious History at Boise State University.  

Mother’s family

Maternal grandparents were originally Quakers in Iowa, who grew up in West Branch with Herbert Hoover. Sometime by 1920 or so they converted to become Christian Scientists, perhaps in part because my grandfather was a chemistry teacher in a high school. My mother was born in 1919. My mother and her brother were raised as Christian Scientists, though from some other family members (cousins, aunts, uncles) she also received a basic “mainstream Protestant” Sunday School background. When my mother was in college her father died. When she was a newlywed her mother died. Both were in their 40s and in general good health. Both contracted “lung infections”, and despite all of the prayers of the family and the Christian Science practitioners they each died within a few days of becoming sick. Even with the limited medical treatments available in the late 1930s and early 1940s my mother believed they would have both survived the illnesses if they’d had mainstream medical treatment. After that my mother gave up on Christian Science and started attending a variety of different protestant churches, mainly Congregationalist. Later in life she attended a variety of churches in the Protestant mainstream and for the last fifteen or so years attended a small Community Church.

Father’s family

My father’s grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, apparently areas that are now Poland or Ukraine or Russia. He never knew exactly where they came from, and we’ve not been able to figure it out, despite some work on it by my LDS sister in her genealogical research. There may be an answer someday. My father’s father died in an accident when my father was six years old, so very little is known about his background. My father’s mother was not observant of her Jewish faith or heritage as far as I ever heard or saw, and I visited her regularly and spent several weeks each summer with her. I received no religious training from her at all. My father never observed any religious practices, and never attended church with my mother when we were taken to Sunday School. I don’t recall him as being opposed to religion, he just didn’t care and didn’t practice it. It was just not discussed, and I’d consider him to be agnostic. He died of cancer when I was 17.

My background

As a child my mother took us (six children, I’m the oldest) to Sunday School fairly regularly, perhaps twice a month on the average. I recall attending Congregational, Baptist, and Methodist churches. My father was a traveling salesman and was only home about one week in six. My mother didn’t have a car and didn’t know how to drive, so where we went depended on where she could get a ride for all of us and where she happened to like the pastor. There were no churches within a reasonable walking distance, especially with small children, of where we lived throughout grade and high school. I always believed the basic tenets of Christian theology, but wasn’t otherwise observant. On a number of occasions, perhaps 20, during grade school years I attended an Episcopal Church with my best friend. At various times we did say bedtime prayers at home, but that wasn’t really consistent either. Between the work of teaching school full time, having a husband who was gone most of the time, and raising six children, my mother generally didn’t have time to do or teach us all the things she would have liked to. In her later years she apologized for that, but I reminded her she’d done a fantastic job, and she had absolutely nothing to apologize for.

In high school I dated a young lady for several years who was a fairly observant member of a local Methodist Church, and I frequently attended with her. I was even more interested in the MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) and their parties and dances, and there is no question the girl and the group were what kept me going. After we broke up during my freshman year in college, I rarely attended church. I did attend a Lutheran church a number of times with another girlfriend, but when she dropped out of college to become a Roman Catholic nun (much to the horror of her parents, and to me), I quit going. Needless to say this caused all sorts or ridicule about me “being such a bad guy that the girl had to run away and join the Convent”. She was a nun for about 30 years before leaving the order in midlife. One year of college (first junior year) I went to a small Presbyterian college and went to the required Chapel and Vespers services, as there were severe penalties for missing, and attendance was taken.

During my first two marriages I was in church for my own weddings, and a few other special occasions, but that was it as far as I recall. I never took kids to Sunday School. I married my third wife in a campus chapel. She was raised in the Episcopal Church, but hadn’t attended in years. I can’t pin down exact reasons for my decision to try the Episcopal Church again, but it wasn’t because she had any interest. One day I called up St. Mark’s Church in Durango, CO, where we lived, and found out the times of services and started going. Within six months I’d joined the church. My wife did attend for my confirmation at Easter of 1984, but don’t think she went on any other occasions. She did give me her late father’s prayer book as a confirmation gift, and though I never knew him, I treasure the book.

My Children

I never took my children or step-children to Sunday School, even in the “drop off your kids and don’t go to church yourself” mode that some do. I don’t feel guilty about it, but think it would have been good had I done so, assuming I attended myself. None of my children (all adult, three mine, two step) attend any religious services, other than those for weddings, funerals, things like that. I hope that at some point they may find some value in spiritual beliefs, whether mine or others. The four who have children of their own also don’t take their children to church or Sunday School.

That’s about all I know about my history. Some may have history further back, but what you see is what you get.

Christmas 2009 Letter

December 1, 2009
Merry Christmas to all,

You are receiving this early because, as some of you know, by the 10th of December we will be in our new home in St. George, UT.

New address:
Dan and Gail Lester
4621 Elrose Drive
St. George, UT 84790
(208) 283-7711 (Same phone as before)

This move has all come about in the last 8 weeks, an amazing case of God working in mysterious ways and making things all fall into place. In mid September we went down to St. George to stay at a time-share-trade there and spent 10 days touring North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. I had not been there since I was a kid and Dan hadn’t been for 30 years. The area is SOOOO beautiful and the people were so friendly. On our last day there, September 27th, which was also my birthday, we went to church at the Grace Episcopal Church. We absolutely fell in love with it and after talking with several of the people there, we suddenly found ourselves talking about selling our house in Boise and moving down there. Someone told us about a retirement community, SunRiver (www.sunriver.com), and we decided to go look at it after church. We spent 2 hours looking at the models and touring the fantastic community center and we were hooked.

The next day, we talked all the way home about it and when we got back to Boise we immediately took steps to put our house on the market. We found a fantastic Realtor who spent over 25 hours at our house working on everything from moving furniture, touching up paint, overseeing a major clearing out and directing an awesome staging. On Nov 1st, we went back to St. George to look at homes in SunRiver and our house in Boise went on the market on the 5th. There was an open house on the 7th, and on the 9th, just two hours after we had signed papers to buy a spec house just being finished in SunRiver, we got a message from our Realtor in Boise that we had a full price offer on our house. We accepted and signed the offer by fax that same afternoon. The buyers want to close the escrow on Dec. 11th and we will be packing up and leaving the 7th and finish this escrow from St. George. The four of us (counting Bobo and Dolly our Pomeranians) will leave Boise and hopefully be down there the next day. It is about 650 miles and weather could be an issue this time of year.

We have just passed the home inspection and the handyman and his assistant performed the few minor repairs that were requested by the buyer. We are very busy making phone calls for changes in our lives and doing final packing. It is amazing how much stuff you accumulate in 20 years. We have already taken 25 boxes of books to the public library, taken about 10 carloads of stuff to the goodwill and given away about half our furniture. We have bought a new washer, dryer, fridge, bed, recliner and flat panel TV which will be delivered from the Las Vegas branch of R.C. Willey (the Utah based furniture chain). St. George is just 1 1/2 hours from Vegas.

We will miss all our friends in Boise and of course my son, Chris, and his two kids (who are now 16 and 17 years old), but we are excited to enter a brand new phase of our life. We have already met some bridge players down there and are looking forward to swimming and working out in the gym and playing bridge several times a week. Although we don’t golf, we will get a golf cart, since about 70% of the residents have them and there is now a federal tax credit for buying a street-legal electric vehicle.

Our retirement started out last fall with a fabulous 3 1/2 month trip around the South Pacific, truly the trip of a lifetime. Some of the highlights included: blue starfish in crystal clear water in the Cook Islands, snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast, hearing Handel’s Messiah in the Sydney Opera House, watching the little penguins come ashore to Phillip Island near Melbourne, enjoying a fabulous view over windy Wellington, New Zealand, cruising Milford Sound, getting snowed on and seeing a wombat in Tasmania, helmet diving in Bora Bora, Christmas Day at Pitcairn Island, seeing the Moai statues on Easter Island, walking around Inca ruins in Peru, going through the Panama Canal, seeing the Indians on the San Blas Islands, visiting the Costa Rica rainforest, an airboat ride among the alligators in the Everglades, the unique funky atmosphere in Key West, Daytona Speedway, Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Epcot Center and, finally, 3 weeks in Maui sitting on the balcony of our timeshare watching the whales cavorting around.

Obviously, these are just the highlights.

We want everyone to know that we have a wonderful guest room just waiting for someone to come use it. (Remember we are very near Las Vegas)

Dan and Gail, Bobo and Dolly

Lesterland intro

My goal is to put all sorts of interesting historical (and current, perhaps) information here, oriented to the descendants of the late Andrew Lawrence Lester (1920–1960) and Dorothy Beth Hollingsworth Lester (1919–2006). It also includes related to step-siblings, cousins, ex-spouses, and so forth.