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Showing posts from July, 2014

Liberating balsam

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During our recent Staff Development Festival, Hannah Smith joined the rest of her team in a bit of community work.

10:00am Rowntree Park and the date was set for our Staff Festival team day! A chance to give back and support the endless task of keeping York parks green and tidy.

In all honesty, I’d never even heard of balsam until our day in the park but by the end of the day I was more than familiar with the tall stem and helmet shaped flower head of a plant which is currently invading the banks of our river.

It was a beautiful morning, the team rocked up, parked bikes and loaded all bags into David B’s Kia Venga (our very own Venga Bus for the day!)

We’d arranged to meet Jen from the City of York council who talked us through the jobs in hand for our morning's work and the various tools and safety related information. By 10:15am the team were out in the field stripping back, hammering, pulling, cutting and digging. By mid morning, thistles had been threshed, fruit trees pruned, w…

Our Staff Festival

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You may have spotted that we were short-staffed over a few days in July. Joanne Casey explains why.
Every year, the Information Directorate holds what we call Staff Festival. It's not quite Glastonbury - good weather helps, but we don't have to wear wristbands or wrestle with tents.

Instead, it's our annual focus on staff development, which springs from a belief that staff who are given the opportunity to boost their skills will provide a better service to our customers.

We've run our staff development events in various formats over the years - a fortnight of opt-in sessions, an all staff away day, or a week of events. This time, the event lasted three days: the first focused on individuals, the second on teams, and the third on the whole department. The overall theme was Brilliance, and how to achieve it.

As individuals, we tried to enhance our personal brilliance by selecting from activities aimed at improving the work life balance - from sessions on resilience to yo…

Mountweazels in Argleton: the phantom town on Google Maps, and the woman who never was

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Tom Grady goes trapping for Mountweazels. Have you ever been to the town of Argleton? Probably not, because it doesn’t exist and never did. But for a while you could find it just off the A59 on Google Maps. 
If you had been there, I suppose you might have run into Lillian V. Mountweazel, a celebrated photographer, known for her shots of rural American mailboxes. She never existed either but she’s in an edition of the New Columbia Encyclopedia. So what’s going on? Copyright traps my friend, copyright traps.

Most cartographers will deny it, but it’s rumoured that they deliberately introduce mistakes into their maps in order to catch out copyright violators. Usually the ‘mistakes’ are small, like an extra cul-de-sac here or an exaggerated bend in a road there: they are calculated imperfections that identify authorship and are often known as ‘trap streets’. But the settlement of Argleton could be the boldest example yet - a ‘trap town’. Or it could just have been a genuine mistake that go…

War heroes, abattoirs and Scalextric. It can only mean one thing: the Tour de France is nearly over.

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You might possibly have heard that some kind of bike race came to Yorkshire earlier this month. Tom Grady has taken the opportunity to gather a selection of random facts about cyclists. I'm a cycling fan so I'm not yet experiencing over-exposure and was fully expecting to be burbling on in this post about the history of the Yellow Jersey and who might win it this year. But then I thought "Hmm, people can find that out anywhere...what they really want to know is pointless facts like which member of the professional peloton used to work in an abattoir, and which one is a former Scalextric Champion." So that's what this blog post is about.
Cadel Evans, the 2011 winner of the Tour is an obsessive fan of Tintin (and we have a Tintin book in the Library, plus an illustrated Tintin dictionary - of course - as well as a film).As a young boy, the three time World Road Race Champion Oscar Freire, was also the Spanish Scalextric Champion (the history of Scalextric is touche…

Refurbishment of DL/138 IT Study area

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Andrew Mowle has good news for users of Derwent's IT rooms.
This summer, one of our Derwent IT rooms, D/L/138, is being completely refurbished. During the planning process we consulted with students, offering a number of options and suggested designs and asking them to express their preferences - the responses showed that what's most important to students is increased PC provision in this area.

The refurbishment will increase the room's capacity from 28 to 38, and the space is made more flexible by the introduction of power sockets at all desks to allow you to charge and use your laptops, mobiles, tablets etc.

The room is equipped with new Stone PCs on Stone Unistands - as the images below show, the stand gives easy access to USB ports, and allows you to store the keyboard neatly out of the way if you want to free up desk space to use your own device (obviously, you should only do this if there are plenty of free PCs; when people are waiting, it's best to go elsewhere…

A sprint or a marathon?

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As they complete work on the new student accommodation interface, Laura Hallett and Kathryn Woodroof provide an insight into their project management style.
Replacing a key enterprise system in any organisation comes with a fair number of challenges. You're faced with a stakeholder group reaching almost 100 who each have their own individual view on life "in the new world", existing enterprise systems to integrate with in a sophisticated manner, and project staff who have their day jobs to manage alongside successful implementation. The project to replace our student accommodation system started in September 2013. It should go live to our returning students applying for accommodation on campus, in November.

There comes a point in any project when you have to knuckle down and get on with the work of developing the product. We talked and consulted, planned and then planned some more, and then KxStudent was installed. Right, time to start moulding it to our requirements. Bu…

Parish library collections at the York Minster Library

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Maria Nagle reveals some of the parish library treasures held at York Minster.
While York Minster is home to the largest cathedral library in England, not all of the collections it houses are owned by the Chapter of York. 
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, many of Yorkshire's surrounding parishes deposited their own book collections into the Minster Library for safekeeping, as they did not have the space or necessary environmental conditions required to safely and securely care for their books. These collections provide a fascinating insight into the interests and reading habits of not just clergymen, but also their parishioners.

Many parishes benefited from large collection donations from local noblemen or prominent figures, which often held unexpected treasures and items not usually associated with religious libraries. For example, James Davis's donation to Riccall Vicarage Library in 1886 contains a large collection of travel literature exploring locations as far afie…

Someone wants your password

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Joanne Casey would like to know how we make everyone a little bit more suspicious.
There's always someone trying to steal people's passwords...

...and sadly, there are always people who allow them to do it.

It's pretty normal these days for emails to arrive in our inboxes purporting to be from 'York Admin', 'System Administrator Team', or similar.

These messages may warn you that your account needs to be validated, alert you to withheld emails, offer you an upgrade, or give you access to a shared Google doc. They include a link, which might appear to be a genuine University URL, and if you click on it you'll be asked enter your username and password.

These emails are always a scam - their sole aim is to steal your password.

Lots of people already know that, and lots more are suspicious enough to check with us before they respond. But each time one of these phishing emails is targeted at University email accounts, we see people hand over their username and…

The Neuton Project (no, that's not a typo)

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A guest post from Hannah Jeans, an intern from the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past who worked with us on the Neuton Project
This year marks the 600th anniversary of the re-founding of York’s Minster Library, when in 1414 the cathedral’s treasurer, John Neuton, bequeathed his book collection.
There had been a library connected to York Minster before: Alcuin is well-known for his part in building up the cathedral’s library in the eighth century. However, this library was destroyed when the Danes sacked the city in the late ninth century.

Neuton was the son of a local merchant, and probably attended school in York before going on to study law at Cambridge - he may well have been taught at the Minster school. He was clearly an avid book collector: at the time of his death he had built up a collection of around 100 manuscripts. He left a large proportion of these to the Minster, but some also went to his old college, Peterhouse, in Cambridge. The books he left to the Mi…

How to cycle as fast as Bradley Wiggins...

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A special Tour de France guest post by Dr Phil Lightfoot - Department of Physics
Unfortunately for my employers, the best ideas always seem to come to me en route to and from work, while cycling to the University on my mountain bike.
Temporarily disconnected from the web, my thoughts are forced inward and my imagination begins to wander. Despite the fact that the design has failed to significantly evolve in over 100 years, bicycles still represent the most convenient and efficient means of human powered transportation.
But why has bicycle design appeared to stagnate while the technology associated with motorcycles has consistently developed? What is the limiting factor and what can be done to overcome it? The answer regrettably is hitting cyclists in the face daily.
The average speed of winners of the Tour de France in the last 10 years is 24.9 mph. My highest recorded average speed along 8 miles of quiet country roads between the Physics department and a very disgruntled hungry cat s…

Professional cyclists vs. a big dinosaur [infographic]

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As the Grand Depart draws near, Tom Grady has uncovered some important facts.