Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Back from the West Texas Town of El Paso

I did not fall in love with a Mexican maid, but I've played a lot of cards, spent a lot of time making and laughing at awesome family jokes (really, really awesome in many cases), cracked and eaten a heroic amount of pecans (they grow on a tree in the back yard), and slept a little. 

The planes took off and landed near enough to on-schedule as not to be worth complaining about, and the trip was uneventful. My main complaint is having lost my water bottle because I forgot I'd filled it after going through Security in El Paso, and then we had to change terminals in LaGuardia and go through again. Note to LaGuardia: connect your terminals like a normal airport, will you? Thanks.

Regardless, it was a good vacation.

Happy new year to all my legions of followers, and I will attempt to get caught up on my blog reading next month.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

But Before I Go--

Many of us may have heard before that NORAD tracks Santa each year (now illustrated with images from Google Earth), but this year, they've set it up so you can also follow his progress via Twitter!

What a time to be alive.

This was another timely update from Jane's E-learning Pick of the Day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vacation Ho!

I am going to be away for a week visiting family, and am unlikely to either read or post to blogs. My legions of devoted followers and followees will, surely, await my return with bated breath.

In the meantime, safe travels to travelers, and happy holidays to all.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstice at Last

The days will start getting longer! More light! We're not condemned to freeze forever!

I was getting worried, what with the snow and the waking up in darkness every morning and walking home in darkness every night. 

I know, it will be a while before I actually notice a difference. But it'll happen. I have fair confidence in the ecliptic.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ooh, Here's One for the Pages!

This is so going on my vital and health statistics subject page. When it's got some information on it, I mean.

The State of the USA will track 20 key indicators of national health, broken into three categories. Just look at the fine data we will one day have available for ready perusal:

Health Outcomes

  • Life Expectancy at Birth
  • Infant Mortality
  • Life Expectancy at Age 65
  • Injury–Related Mortality
  • Self-Reported Health Status
  • Unhealthy Days, Physical and Mental 
  • Chronic Disease Prevalence
  • Serious Psychological Distress

Health-Related Behaviors

  • Smoking
  • Physical Activity
  • Excessive Drinking
  • Nutrition
  • Obesity
  • Condom Use

Health Systems

  • Health Care Expenditures
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Unmet Medical, Dental, and Prescription Drug Needs
  • Preventive Services
  • Preventable Hospitalizations
  • Childhood Immunization

These 20 indicators were chosen based on the advice of the Institute of Medicine, another organization for which I feel great fondness.

This is gonna be sweet.

Health Populi alerted me to the coming sweetness, thus earning my eternal gratitude. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008


The NY Times' Well has a post on six medical myths of the holidays. 

Things we've probably all heard, but that turn out not to be supported by solid evidence.

So you can go ahead and:
  • feed your kids sugar straight out of the bag (it doesn't make 'em hyperactive);
  • taunt the depressed people among you (suicides do not increase over the holidays);
  • chow down on poinsettias (not poisonous);
  • forget your hat (only 10% of body heat escapes through the head);
  • eat at any hour of the day or night (eating late at night is not more associated with weight gain than eating at any other time);
  • and always drink in moderation (there is no proven cure for a hangover).

I know I plan to take all that to heart.

Well, except for taunting depressed people. That's just mean. 

But the big poinsettia salad, that's going on the menu. Also handfuls of sugar for all the children I meet. Here you go, kid! Parents love that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mmm, New MeSH Vocabulary

The NLM Technical Bulletin reports that PubMed's MeSH Browser has been updated with the 2009 MeSH vocabulary. 

This is the kind of thing that just makes my heart go pit-a-pat. 

Check out this Introduction to MeSH 2009 for details, including new, changed and deleted descriptors. They added Telenursing! And Wilderness Medicine! But not Medical Professionalism, which is what I'm writing a tutorial on. Oh well.

In other news, apparently it's a good time to be a librarian, as U.S. News and World Report has declared that it's a Best Career for 2009.

The Annoyed Librarian is annoyed about the story, feeling that it casts an overly optimistic light on a grim and dreary field, while Stephen's Lighthouse has a more upbeat take but notes that everytime he posts a positive story, people comment, "saying it's not true and their lives are awful and the world is ending." 

My initial snarky instinct was to remark that I'm certainly pleased that my decision to move to a lower-paying job right before the economy collapsed has been validated by the national media...but overall, I'm basically on the upbeat side. 

After all, I get to care about the 2009 MeSH vocabulary! Woooo! 

Clearly, I need to be in this job.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Moderately Amused Movie Review: "Yes Man"

If you've seen even a hint of a preview, you already know what this movie is about.

Stodgy guy who never does anything interesting commits to saying 'yes' to every opportunity that arises, and wacky hijinks ensue.

So the question you have is, were the wacky hijinks funny enough to be worth watching? 

There were funny moments. If you dislike Jim Carrey, you'll want to stay away: he does his standard crazy-face-making stuff, and it's occasionally amusing and occasionally feels kind of forced. Also, he looks a little old for it in this particular film. 

His two best pals in the movie really look like they're his kid brother's pals who happen to be hanging out with him for reasons unknown. I mean, I'm all for people of different ages being friends. Absolutely. It's good to hang out with people at different stages of life--you get the benefit of different viewpoints and experiences and takes on things.

But here the friendship was sort of presented as being one of those college-buddy things, and unless Jim Carrey's character (Carl Allen, if you want to know) took a long time to get through college, that doesn't really work.

Nevertheless, there are some funny scenes as Carl takes on all sorts of strange challenges and engages with quirky people, and some possibly-heartwarming scenes (I am too grouchy to have my heart warmed, but someone might) as he meets and falls for Zooey Deschanel's character (Allison something).

Allison is a bit of Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but, in a twist for the type, is not called upon to draw the hero from his shell and add whimsy to his life, since he's already doing that with the 'yes' thing. She actually kind of becomes the voice of reason.

Also, there's Terence Stamp. I will say no more. It's just, he's Terence Stamp

So yeah, not the most hilarious movie I've ever seen, but good for some laughs of a Monday evening. It felt basically good-natured, and most of the jokes did not make me cringe. It was all right, you know?

I did not percieve any very profound health or library tie-ins. But cell phones were prominently featured, so there's a technology hook. The characters could all have been Twittering a lot without mentioning it. 

Plus, Allison's band has a song that talks about a hacker friend who's deleted someone's MySpace and Facebook pages. Topical!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Twitter for Health

Science Roll has some interesting ideas for using Twitter in health management contexts, including automatic tweets to a doctor if a patient's blood pressure or blood sugar strays from optimal levels.

The post is inspired by a man who's designed a sensor that monitors a pregnant woman's belly (his wife, though presumably the idea would transfer) and automatically generates a tweet whenever the baby kicks. I guess this is cool, although personally I don't know if I'd want to wear a kick-monitor around all the time if I were a pregnant woman. 

But to each its own (call back to my own recent grammar whine, thank you!) 

Still, very interesting thoughts about how we might use these new media to keep physicians updated about their patients.

One can almost imagine, given enough monitoring sensors, a sort of automated background check of one's system functions, with regular updates: "Ten o'clock and all's well!"

Or, "Sound the alarm, blood pressure is rising!"

Which is interesting, and certainly in no way disturbing to contemplate from a privacy standpoint.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Focus! Focus!

This evening I was pleased to participate in an online focus group for a consumer product (platform provided by Invoke Solutions). 

It was kind of fun. Reminded me a little of being back in online school, but with less free chat and more "rank the following possible product names in order of how much they make you want to rush out and buy this." 

But the general idea is much the same, with slides on one part of the screen and another section dedicated to communication, in this case via text and between one moderator and everyone else.

I think the product managers probably either loved or hated me (depending on whether my comments were intelligent or merely annoying), since I seemed to say a lot more in answer to every question than anyone else. Not having anything to say has rarely been considered a problem of mine when 'saying'='typing.'

I am sworn to secrecy about the product we were focusing on, but let me just say that now would be a good time to send me lots of chocolate.*

In any case, the distance-participation technology continues to advance, so I see no reason why I will not shortly be able to do everything in life from inside my living room, including provide exemplary library service and receive chocolate.

*This is true of all times. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rights of Humans

Feministing points out that today is the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Cool.

Unfortunately, I doubt anyone would say that universal human rights have been achieved in the 60 years since it was declared, but it was a good thought, and certainly remains something to work towards.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Protecting You from Socialization

Stephen's Lighthouse reports the weird fact that the Calgary airport, while it offers free wireless internet (which is certainly good) blocks access to Twitter and Facebook.

Hmm. I don't know, this just seems bizarre to me. I suppose it's based on that panicky idea of social networking sites as seething swamps filled with sex predators trying to befriend naive children, and the airport doesn't want to risk an outcry? (After all, where better than an airport to lure a child into a restroom...OK, I'm just going to stop.)

Because otherwise, what are the airport tech people trying to do? Protect people from possibly missing their flight announcements because they're so enthralled with posting status updates? 

The post does not report on the accessibility or otherwise of MySpace, Orkut, Friendster or any others; presumably they're blocked as well. 

Seems a strange thing to be concerned about. But hey, free wireless, I guess, and you know what they say about beggers and their ability to be choosers.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Where There's Smoke, There's Research

Alan Blum was at Boston University Medical School today to talk about universities' relationships with tobacco companies. 

He argues that universities should not accept tobacco money for research, or permit them to recruit on campus, period. We know tobacco is harmful, so from a public health standpoint it's flat wrong to enter into relationships with them: taking their money puts us inevitably into a position of support for their existence, and this is not something an educational institution should be doing.

He says that the idea of scientific research being carried out at prestigious institutions has been used by the tobacco industry for decades to promote their image of corporate responsibility, healthfulness or at least less-unhealthfulness, etc. Universities that accept their money (even if these universities don't all give the companies veto power over the results they publish) are culpable

It's a pretty fierce call-out.

The whole "consenting adults should be allowed to risk their lives using whatever products they want" argument was set aside here, which made sense to me since it's not the relevant part of the discussion in public health terms; regardless of the choices consenting adults should be allowed, the question of the moment was whether or not educational institutions should be supporting the industry that's promoting their arguably bad choices.

And I have to concur, it's one thing to say people should be allowed to smoke if they want, and another to say that we (in a general sense, not me personally) should encourage them to do it, whether directly or indirectly.

On the other hand, as someone from the audience mentioned and Mr. Blum concurred, we (once again, in a general sense, not me personally) need money to do research. These big studies, which undeniably provide some good information, don't fund themselves, and there's not always a government grant. 

Where is a good place to get money? Is any source of money 'clean'? Is it better not to do research at all than to participate in the process of a industry that, as a Philip Morris representative in a video clip stated bluntly, makes "a product that harms people"?

It's an interesting question, and it was an interesting talk. It's awfully hard to have clean hands in life, isn't it?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Go Work in Health Care

The Health Care Blog has an interesting post on the economy, noting that the health care sector is one of the only places jobs are not being lost at the moment.

Especially libraries, right? Everyone needs libraries! Well, they're not specifically mentioned, but it does say that "hiring remained robust at the nation’s hospitals, physician offices, diagnostic labs, nursing homes, and home health care agencies." 

I'm going to assume that this will spill over to libraries, just to comfort myself.

Anyway, the post observes that while it's good to have robust hiring somewhere, this could also mean less impetus for controlling those out-of-control healthcare costs we hear so much about. After all, if people are making a living with the system the way it is and jobs are being lost all around in other industries, do we want to mess with something that's sort of working?

There's more information in the Health Care Blog post, which details some of the complexities of the situation.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Comment! Comment!

The final set of MLA goals is posted for review. Comments are requested by December 15th.

I do my best. I'm pretty sure I'm singlehandedly reshaping the future of the association. 

Mainly for good.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Netflix! Apples! It's So Perfect

Long has my wretched life been made sadder and grimmer by the knowledge that Netflix's "play instantly" feature (using which one can stream certain movies and television shows to watch on the computer) did not work on Macs.

I want to stream video content on my computer at no extra charge! Why, oh why, is life so cruel?! Why is the Mac so despised?! Or ornery---I heard it was actually an issue with Apple not bothering to play well with others.

Either way, it was a sad state of affairs that deeply inconvenienced me personally. 

But now, today, I received word that instant play is available for the Mac! This is a joyous day. I have downloaded the software, and it all appears to be in working order, and I can watch movies instantly without needing to have the discs mailed. More fabulous value from my Netflix account!

Bless you, Netflix and Apple. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Modern Academia

Tiny Cat Pants pointed out an intriguing (though as yet somewhat sparsely populated) social networking site:

To be fair, both Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day and Science Roll saw it earlier, but I must have been ignoring them. I was probably distracted by zombies or something. 

Aside from having a great URL, aims to list academics from all over the world, displayed in a tree format, with links to other people working in the same research area, other people from the same university, etc. It also offers said academics a handy way to have a professional webpage, and although it's not totally clear to me how this works (the FAQ is a little spare), it appears you can upload your papers, presumably to share.

You can browse departments or research areas, search for universities and people, and invite others to join, just as you'd expect from a social network. I imagine you can also send internal emails and such.

Signing up looks pretty easy, although I didn't try it since I figured I'm not an academic. There's no written guideline that I could find on who's allowed to sign up and who isn't (although the process involves placing yourself at a university), so it's kind of a self-defined community, but I'm not a researcher or anything, so I'm self-excluding.

Anyway, it really is pretty cool to look at. Try typing a university name and watch how neatly it scrolls!

I do kind of wince at the automatic news updates' use of the plural pronoun, as in "Muttonchops Wilkins (University of Whiskers) added themselves to the department Mathematics." 

I know, I know, 'they' and 'them' for an individual is commonplace now because it avoids the whole 'he or she' question. I recognize the issue and I can deal with the solution, which is at least easier than getting everyone to adopt some entirely new pronoun that we just made up.*

But 'themselves'? As if there are literally multiples of this person? Can't we at least say 'themself,' which, though a grammatical monstrosity, at least sounds singular---and, in a way, by its very weirdness calls attention to the fact that it's being intentionally used in order to address an accuracy issue with the language, and is not just sloppiness?

So that's my language whine of the day. Come on,, take a stand for decisive singular-plural pronouns! The people (by which I mean the various 'themselves' of me) demand it! We can make this good English, by gum!


*Although honestly, I'd cast a vote for calling everyone 'it.' I like the utilitarian functionality. "Muttonchops Wilkins added itself to the department Mathematics:" what's so wrong with that? 
Of course, I have always secretly admired robots. But I digress.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

M-E-H. Meh. Movie Review: "Nobel Son"

We have a not-such-a-loser! This was easily the best free movie I've seen recently.

That doesn't mean I liked it, exactly, but I didn't want to beat myself about the head and shoulders for watching it.

See, there's this guy who's a real jerk, and he wins the Nobel Prize in chemistry, and then his son is kidnapped and held for ransom (the prize money, of course), and all manner of wacky hijinks ensue. It's a sort of light-hearted black comedy that opens grisly and then backs off on the adult content. There wasn't even that much swearing!

I really like many of the actors here (it's got quite a cast: Alan Rickman, Mary Steenburgen, Eliza Dushku, Danny DeVito, Bill Pullman, Ted Danson...), and there are some quite enjoyable performances and fun character moments. 

The story really falls apart as it gets toward the end, though, as a situation that was sort of moderately believable becomes completely ridiculous, without being enough fun to make you overlook the rapidly compounding implausibility. 

It's as if there was this character-development movie all about Alan Rickman's obnoxious genius character and how everyone hates him, and then there was this other brutal-action type movie with an improbably complex plot, and they go together a little unevenly.

But nice work by the actors, and I did find it mostly entertaining and not horrible. 

I did not observe much in the way of library tie-ins, although one character does spend a lot of time working on his thesis in a bookstore/coffee shop, which is...not the same thing. OK, never mind.

The main health take-away for me was that cutting off someone's thumb is really gross. I'll be putting that tip to good use the next time I'm trying to decide whether or not to cut off someone's thumb.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oh Yeah, Second Life!

I haven't written anything, or, to be honest, thought anything, about Second Life in a while.

But as long as it's World AIDS Day, it seems a good time to note that it's still around and kicking, with a new island dedicated to HIV/AIDS education. Cool.

I sometimes think I should check out that site again, but the single-button Mac mouse isn't really SL friendly, so I tend not to get around to it. Even though I do think it has some interesting potential.

And I was thinking of making a Facebook page for the library where I work, but I can't make a Second Life island, and if I can't rule the place, what's the point, right? 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

So Many Memories

Dangerous Intersection posted about this interesting article on how false memories can be created and made convincing. 

Apparently it's not even that hard! Also, since the article is from 1997, apparently this isn't really news, so who knows how many of my carefully stored reminiscences are complete fabrications? 

Well, that's not quite true. You have to at least have some access to the person and get them to think about the past and about things that might have happened. I don't recall anyone ever taking that kind of time with me. Although, if there's a complementary technique for removing actual memories, that might not mean much. 

If there is such a complementary technique, it's not mentioned in this article (though here's a mention of a pill that can remove the immediacy of memories).

This does make you wonder to what extent you can trust your own mind---and if you can't trust your own mind, where does that leave you? In yet another relationship with a slippery, unreliable thing working in its own self-interest. The difference between oneself and other people blurs. Everything is alien to some degree, even inside your own head. 

Weird, I tells you.

I'm not actually that concerned about having sinister people implanting and removing memories from my head to further some conspiracy.* But it's interesting to me to think about, not least because I myself nearly implanted one false memory in my head that I know of, so who knows on how many other occasions I might have been successful?

It was no big deal: I was on a car trip with my mother and a friend, and my mother was explaining some part of our past that I, as a child, had understood differently than I understood it as she told it to her friend, and I thought "so that's how that worked out!"

I imagined turning to my sister to exchange this new understanding: pictured how we'd nod at each other if we were both there in the back seat.

Later, I remembered that moment, and really thought that my sister had actually been there...only the fact that I remembered other things about the circumstances, including that I was the only kid along on that trip, made me realize that I had made up the part about exchanging a significant glance with my sister. If I hadn't particularly remembered the other details, if more time had passed before I thought about it again, who knows?

Not that complicated, not that hard, not that sinister...but also, the brain, not that trustworthy. 

I suppose we just have to make peace with the slippery, unreliable things in our heads, try to understand both their strengths and their limitations, and do the best we can.  

Here's to you, mind-thing! Now let's get back to killing you with wine.

*I already accept that this is true, and it doesn't bother me. I'm confident that our new insect overlords have our best interests at heart.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Science Fiction

GruntDoc points us to the results of Medgadget's 2008 Medical Sci-Fi Writing Contest. Congrats to the winners--everyone go check out some science fiction!

The novel I was writing instead is not nearly so medical or science fictional, although I am happy to report that I did put in a library and some health issues. I've got my own back like that. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Kind of Dental Appointment

They thought I needed a filling replaced, but then they took a closer look and decided it was OK after all. They just put it on the watch list.


The better to eat everything in sight tomorrow. As is our hallowed custom.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's True, I AM Ugly

Librarian In Black makes a good point about Gmail video chat with this post: "maybe I don't want to see your ugly mug."

Given my hideous dead-eyed visage early in the morning, this is a very good point.

I personally have not tried video chat, because I am not cool enough to know people who want to video chat with me, but the overall point of the post---that you're ugly---no, wait, actually I think the point is that having video associated with chat just as a matter of course may be unnecessary.

Because do we really need to see and be seen at our computers all the time? At a moment's notice, in our pajamas maybe, our hair uncombed, bad lighting...

My answer: yes. 

Why not? I'll just wear an adorable furry animal mask if I need to chat early in the morning.

Monday, November 24, 2008


I am pleased to announce that I have crossed the 50,000 word mark, and therefore am officially eligible for the fame and glory that comes with NaNoWriMo completion. 

I can't actually submit it for verification and claim my fabulous prize (the right to say I finished the aforementioned fame and glory, of course) until the 25th, though, so I may as well go back and make a few edits. Maybe add a little gratuitous nudity and some cursing.

Sample dialogue:
"Consarn it, Ebenezer Yakbane, put some dadburned clothes on!"

I will now attempt to get caught up with my blog subscriptions. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gender Issues

OK, everyone seems to be doing this, so I can't be left out!

GenderAnalyzer thinks there's a 75% chance this blog is written by a man. So there you go. 

Maybe it's the fascination with zombies? Which actually was more marked on my other blog, so perhaps not. The grouchiness, then? The self-aggrandizement? The obsession with the size of my written output?

I'm naturally inclined to assign immense importance to any information about myself presented by strange websites that give no information about how they draw their conclusions, but in the interests of scientific accuracy I do feel compelled to note that when I click for the results of the survey question "Did GenderAnalyzer give the correct result for your blog?" it appears GenderAnalyzer is only right 53% of the time, so they could really just be flipping an electronic coin back there. 

Either that, or a lot of people are lying. It is the internet. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Goals and Aspirations

Although I'm pressing ahead with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I'm apparently failing at National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), which I did not officially sign up for but which from reading other peoples' blogs I've gathered is a quest to publish a blog post every day in November.

Well, see, the thing about that is...yeah, I haven't done it. 

I get absorbed in my other project, and then I look up and it's past midnight, so no post that day. I could set the clock back on my Blogger account or something, but the day I resort to cheating to reach an arbitrary and fairly pointless goal is the day I...shake my head sadly at how pathetic I've gotten, I guess.

Or else it's the day I'm getting paid for it. But then, that removes the "fairly pointless" aspect from that description, since getting paid can give anything a nice, sharp point. 

Many's the time I've injured myself badly on that point! 

Anyway, I'm not posting every day (which is no doubt a source of great sadness and lamentation among my legions of loyal followers), and I still haven't caught up with everything in my feed reader (which is no doubt a source of great sadness and lamentation among the legions of blog authors who depend on my eyeballs for their self-esteem), but I am trucking along quite well with the novel, thank you.

Just crossed 49,000 words, and some quick arithmetical calculations will tell you that this is very close to the 50,000 words required for successful completion of the NaNoWriMo challenge. 

None too soon, either, because I'm pretty much out of plot. 

So that works out nicely, don't you think? 

I concur. Let's have some wine.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grumpy Movie Review: "Australia"

So it's possible I'm just cantankerous and grouchy and hate everything. In fact, this is almost certainly true.

Nevertheless it remains that I got a free pass to Australia tonight. The movie, sadly, not a quick trip to the continent itself, which I'm sure would have been most agreeable. Though possibly not after Australia sees this review.

While recognizing the great amounts of hard work that undoubtedly went into it, and the very fine scenery, this movie was...difficult to watch. I kept wanting to raise my head and bellow at the ceiling "is this movie ever going to be over?!" Because it's two hours and 40 minutes long, and I swear I could feel every minute.

Several people applauded when it was over (which it eventually was, my doubts to the contrary), so clearly other people thought it was better than I did. Maybe it was. 

But here's what I thought it was: Baz Luhrman repeatedly bonking me on the head with This. Is. What. Australia. Is. All. About!!!!

Gestures at very serious historical issues, without anything really being said about them. Passionate, uncompromising characters who buck convention in often-foreseeable ways. Vast, sweeping vistas (I did like those). Cattle drives. Danger. Almost cartoonishly overdramatic moments. Lessons learned about the human heart.

And this! Is! Hugh Jackman! In manly close-fitting garments! 

Don't get me wrong, I have as much appreciation for Hugh Jackman in close-fitting garments as the next person. But if that's what this is going to be about, just send me a picture. (Honestly, go ahead and send me a picture.)

I'm sure this was a labor of love (it has that feel to it), and it was at many times and in various ways lovely to look at. Other people may like it more than I did. I thought it was rather dreadful. Sorry, everyone involved. Good hustle, though!

There were no very clear library tie-ins. 

Health messages include:
  • Deserts are dangerous
  • So are rapidly filling water tanks
  • So is getting run through with spears
  • So are stampeding cattle
Take those to heart, OK?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Not Primarily Caring

The consistently awesome Health Beat has a very interesting post on why medical students are not choosing to go into primary care. 

We hear a lot about how primary care physicians aren't as well compensated as specialists, but the post points out that it's not all about the money: it's also the pressure of having to see so many different patients for such short periods of time. There's a good point made that we think of primary care as being the most personal of the medical fields, but in fact doctors often have no time to get to know their patients so that opportunity for personal interaction is lost.

This promises to be part one of a series, so I await the next installment with interest, especially since I just had to change my primary care physician when I got new insurance (after having the same one through three or four insurance plans previous; all things must come to an end, I suppose).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hunting Flu

Practically everyone has been noticing Google's Flu Trends, but I saw it on David Rothman's page first, so he gets my credit. Save that up for exciting prizes!*

It's an interesting project, based on the idea that if a lot of people in a certain region are running searches on flu-related topics, a fair number of people in that area probably actually have the flu.

The site charts flu activity for the entire country, or state by state (it's currently low both nationwide and in my state), and you can mouse over a nice map that's color coded to indicate where things are busiest. Nothing's very busy right now---the whole map is a soothing blue. 

It looks like Texas is the place to be, with 'minimal' flu activity, which is the lowest level. I have my plane ticket! Though unfortunately not until late December, by which time things could have changed.

There's also a handy link to the CDC's site, as well as a flu shot locator and recent 'flu in the news' stories.

The site says it can estimate flu activity in an area "up to two weeks faster than traditional systems." Fascinating!

I'm immediately curious whether this would work with other ailments as well. Obviously not every illness lends itself to the kind of on-the-spot searching that would allow for tracking of trends, but might there be some others for which it could apply? 

I'm sure that will be forthcoming as soon as the Google folks figure it out.

*Prizes not specified, guaranteed, or probable. But all the more exciting for that!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Finally, Plain English Healthcare!

The Common Craft folks, whom we might remember from such straightforward and funny online videos as their explanations of blogging, wikis, and zombies, now have one up to explain Why is Healthcare So Expensive?

This actually might be an older one, since I don't see it on their website. Nevertheless, Science Roll found it on YouTube, and I'm all over it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Practically Stranded on a Desert Island

I had offsite stuff to do at work Thursday and Friday mornings, and friends to see Friday night, and mad writing to do Thursday night and today, so I have spent a relatively small amount of time at the computer lately and as a result am almost completely out of touch.

I have not read a blog post in days. I have no idea what anyone is saying about anything. I am cut off from the public discourse! 

I'm totally keeping up with people on Facebook, though. That counts for something, right? 

I also finished a few thousand words today, so at least it's not as if I'm foregoing blog-reading in order to stare at a blank screen and think about how I should be writing but am not. I have to say, this deadline thing is working really well in terms of motivation.

Conveniently, I suppose, I also have few other social obligations this month. There's Thanksgiving, of course, but it's so late this year that with any luck I'll be done by then.

I'll try to read some blogs later, after the fiction-writing centers of my brain give out for the night. 38,000 words and counting!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

MLA Comments Step 2

The next section of the Strategic Plan is on the blog for comments. 

I'm so there! You know, eventually. When I've read some of these other blog posts that are piling up in my feed reader, and written another few thousand words.

We have until November 28th this time. So get out there and commentate! What do you think about recruitment, membership and leadership in the profession, and about life-long learning?

Personally, I don't hold with any of it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Page 70

This is the grimmest hour of my life so far.

On second thought, it's actually not that bad. Maybe 71 will be the final straw. 

I'd press on, but I'm sleepy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans and Soldiers

I admit I mostly spent the day writing escapist fiction. 

But I did also read up about the history of Veterans Day (which I had forgotten used to be Armistice Day---I like the sound of Armistice Day, but since it suggests a final peace that sadly did not prove to be final, it makes sense to recognize all veterans instead).

I also like this post from Stephen's Lighthouse with ideas on how libraries could be of value to people currently serving in the military. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Novelicious Pep Talks

It turns out a fun thing about this National Novel Writing Month is that if you sign up, you get these encouraging emails on a regular basis.

Mostly stuff like "just keep writing!" and "it'll all come together," and "don't give up even when you get discouraged and realize that everything you've written is a giant seething mass of awful that you'd rather eat with splintery chopsticks than allow anyone to read!" 

The kind of stuff one needs to hear, when engaged in the heroic task of typing 50,000 words.

It's kind of cool, though. Makes me see how those programs that people can sign up for to give them email encouragement with their exercise programs or whatever could be useful. Support in numbers and so forth.

See, there's a health tie-in there, it's not all about me obsessing over my giant seething mass of awful (23,000 seething words so far).

Philip Pullman says the darkest point is page 70 (name-dropping from the pep talk emails is a perk of NaNoWriMo membership). I imagine that's because you've gone far enough that things have started to develop, and thus can begin to look catastrophically bad, but you haven't gone nearly far enough to feel that the end is in sight and you might as well finish.

I just got to page 50 myself, so I guess I'll see presently. 

Meantime, and apropos of nothing but my having just thought of it, I've heard that keeping a journal or diary is good for one's health because it releases emotions and lowers stress or something: is that also true for blogs? I demand research!

Medline doesn't have an index term for blog (and given the recent rumors about the slow death of the medium, it may be that it never will...let us all bow our heads respectfully), but you can get a few hits with a keyword search. Including this one called Psychotherapy 2.0: MySpace blogging as self-therapy.

Nice. I feel saner already.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More on the Death of Blogs

Rough Type has further commentary about the increasing mainstreaminess (and hence uncoolness) of blogging: blogs are getting to be more and more like other websites, with front pages and such, and that means they're no longer the rebellious cry against conformity that they may once have been.

Or something along those lines. 

Specifically, the post argues that the 'blogosphere' as a specific voice distinct from that of the regular media, business, etc., is pretty much done. Everybody's got a blog, nothing special about that.

Just crawling along in the dusty wake of the hot trends, that's me.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Slightly Insane Money-Saving Tips

You mean besides picking up stray bottle caps on the street to get mp3s? (Don't knock it. I've put together most of an album that way.)

I was going through some boxes of random ancient stuff with the intention of throwing most of it out, and I found a handsome datebook with some nice prints of artworks. Unused. From 1998.

But thanks to the hard work of this kindly soul, I was able to determine that the dates on a 1998 calendar will again match up with reality in--wait for it--2009! Yes!

Except I already have a datebook for 2009, because when I started my current job they ordered me one thinking it would be for 2008, but since it was already August, all the office supply store had was 2009.

So I can either wait until 2015, which is really not that long when you think about it (what's six years between friends?), or I can give this handsome calendar to someone else this holiday season and try to convince them that it's an awesome present. 

"No, honest, it's good for 2009! I've been saving it just for you, it's definitely not a random semi-junk item I found in the basement at work!"

These are the issues I confront, in these trying economic times.

Friday, November 7, 2008

National Distance Learning Week

Whee! We get a week?

The Distant Librarian advises that November 10-14 is National Distance Learning Week. This celebratory event was declared by the US Distance Learning Association, which I am humbled to admit I only just heard of despite my own distant learning.

Apparently I was too busy doing far off schoolwork to be bothered about associations. This is why I argue school should include less work: so we have time to get deeply involved with supportive associations.

Anyway, hooray for long-distance education! There's a message of support from Ted Kennedy and everything. 

I was very pleased with my personal remote education, and am definitely inclined to take another distance course someday, when I'm done writing novels and so forth. (Only 36,000 words to go. Yeah, that's still a lot.)

There's just something about being in class in your own house that's pretty darn convenient. Plus, I'm antisocial and hate human contact. It comes of being a home-schooled weirdo; you can look that up.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Why Coke Sucks and Pepsi Rocks

I've decided it's time to write a fierce and inflammatory post. So all you Coke fans out there? You're WRONG! 

I say this not as someone who prefers either to the other as a beverage. I don't habitually drink either Coke or Pepsi, and if I do drink soda, whatever's around is fine with me.

No, I'm speaking as one who has had occasion to critically examine their rewards programs.

You see, both Coke and Pepsi are currently running programs where if you enter alphanumeric codes (found inside specially marked bottle caps) on a website, you can get Points and redeem them for Stuff. 

Being extremely fond of Free Stuff, I recently began to collect both varieties of bottle cap, with the intention of getting some mp3s for my newish iPod. The iPod must be fed, after all.

Here's why Pepsi rocks: it's simple, and you see progress fast. 

Each code is worth one point. Five points will buy one song. Easy! 

You enter the points through a nice straightforward interface at Pepsi Stuff: sign in, hit 'enter code,' type code (10 characters) into field, hit the arrow or the Return key, see updated point total.

The site is directly linked to Amazon, from which you get your mp3s, so you can click another button and go straight there to download a song. Amazon music downloads work on any old system, so it goes straight to my iTunes and thence my iPod.


And here's why Coke sucks: it's not simple, and you only see progress slooooowly.

Each code is worth three points. Forty-three points will buy one song, which is a weird number that is not a direct multiple of any number of caps, but essentially, it takes 15 codes to get one song. 

Why are Coke's songs three times as expensive as Pepsi's? Who knows. (Other than that Coke sucks.)

You enter codes through an obnoxious interface at My Coke Rewards: first you wait for the site to load, which involves an animation of a Coke bottle filling up. Cute, but I kind of just want to get to business.

Then you have to click a link to 'sign in,' and wait for the site to reload with fields to sign in.

You enter your login info, and then have to wait for the site to reload with your account information. 

Then you have to click 'enter codes,' and wait for the site to reload with a field to enter the code. 

Then you enter the code (15 characters) into the field, hit Return, and wait while a pop-up appears that makes you select the specific variety of Coke product your bottle cap came from.

As someone who gets most of my bottle caps by scrounging (you can find a lot of those things lying on the ground!), I neither know nor care what specific variety of Coke product the bottle cap came from. Further, I don't know why Coke cares, and even if they do care, I'm annoyed that they make me do the work. 

If they really want to know what the people who use this website drink, they should differentiate the codes, which they can obviously do since if you enter a code from a blue cap, you get to pick from the Sprite line, while if you enter a code from a red cap, you get to pick from the Coke line.

Anyway, you pick a Coke product at random (if you're me), and only then does your point total update. 

And then, to make the suckage even more inarguable, Coke's mp3s come through Rhapsody, an OK product, but one that only works on Windows-based systems, meaning I have to use my precious lunch time to download songs onto my work computer before I can get them onto my iPod.

Also, you have to redeem your points for another code and enter that on the Rhapsody site, adding yet another step to this process.


To sum up, Pepsi's mp3-gettin' system is streamlined and awesome and I love it and it's given me several hassle-free songs. 

Drink Pepsi! And send me your bottle caps!

Coke's system is slow and byzantine and annoying and it takes forever to earn enough points for a song, and I only keep using it because I keep finding Coke caps and might as well save them. (I can't resist Free Stuff, even if it is irritating.) 

If you insist on drinking Coke, still send me your bottle caps!

My husband, a near-lifelong Diet Coke drinker, has actually switched to Diet Pepsi to get caps for me. That's true love.

In closing, Pepsi is the nectar of the gods and Coke is monkey spittle. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Waiting for election results was a lot more engaging last night than it has been in the past. 

Not only were we flipping through the different TV channels (if you show a commercial, you're out!), I was also obsessively refreshing NBC and CNN online, and checking in on Twitter and Facebook for NPR updates and notes from fellow observers.

It was fun to see the comments on Facebook status lines and the Twitter updates, showing how people reacted as this or that state was called. Sharing the night with all those people, as well as the people physically in the room with me, added an element of broader interactivity.

Love those tech tools!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Crucial Follow-Up Point

Oh, I am in on the MLA blog! 

You have to register and then be confirmed as a commenter by the account administrator, and that has now been done. Officialness=me.

Sadly, I have not had time to read anything at all today, including the MLA Strategic Plan, because I was writing a tiny novel. 

This is going to cut into my blog-review, I have to say. It had better be really darn satisfying to declare "I wrote a novel."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Weekend Update

This is what I accomplished this weekend.
  • Ate a significant quantity of food, including considerable amounts from the candy group as well as a token nod to the ice cream group
  • Watched the possibly-soon-to-be-hit movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno (some funny bits, got kind of sappy toward the end, and I could really have lived without the super-original "black women are ferocious harpies" bits)
  • Read the already-hit book -- and no-doubt-soon-to-be-hit movie -- Twilight (which I will say was miles better than the last super-hyped book I read, The DaVinci Code, for which I promptly conceived an unwavering hatred that has yet to waver)
  • Commenced writing the greatest novel ever known to humankind for NaNoWriMo; and by that I of course mean the greatest novel I have ever written for NaNoWriMo (only 45,100 words to go!)
  • Registered for the MLA Connections blog so that I can sign in and submit brilliant comments about the Strategic Plan as soon as I think of some
It's been pretty productive, as you can see.

Friday, October 31, 2008

On the Other Hand--

Rather than trying to write a novel next month, I could return to Medgadget's Sci-Fi Writing Contest. I love that contest.

Either way, I've clearly got to get some fiction writing done. It's like a message from the internet, which cannot be disobeyed. It says, "write some fiction, you lazy oaf!" 

The internet is often rude and disagreeable, but it has some good ideas.

In other news, I did not dress up for Halloween because I work in a sober and responsible house of learning, but I did spend the day reviewing the Hematology subject page. 

Mmm, blood.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Planning to Strategically Plan

Ah, MLA Connections has a new post about the Strategic Plan.

I swear I am going to read it and try to think of an insightful comment. Honest. I put a reminder on the 'sticky note' widget on my computer desktop.*

We now have more time, too, through November 14, so potentially others will seize the chance to join me in agitating for redheaded librarian subsidies. I haven't given up that dream.

*This is true. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rainy Day

Here's a picture of the view from my window this afternoon. The rainbows (you may be just barely able to make out the second one on the left) were a clear signal that it was time to declare freedom from the office and race hooting into the streets to revel in the beauty of nature. 

That, and it was 5:00 pm.

Those rocket-silo-y things in the foreground? Yeah, those are rocket silos. 

The rest of y'all can get careless if you want, but Boston is prepared for the Martian invasion.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ha!--Take That, Stereotype

I am pleased to hear from Stephen's Lighthouse that a new study (reported on Ars Technica) indicates that many popular stereotypes about gamers are wrong.

I could do no better than quote at length from the Ars Technica report.

  • 55 percent of gamers polled were married, 48 percent have kids, and new gamers – those who have started playing videogames in the past two years—are 32 years old on average
  • More than 75 percent of videogamers play games with other people either online or in person
  • More than 47 percent of people living in gaming households saying that videogames were a fun way to interact with other family members
  • 37 percent of gamers said friends and family relied upon them to stay up-to-date about movies, TV shows and the latest entertainment news, compared to only 22 percent for nongamers
  • 39 percent of gamers said that friends and family rely upon them to stay up-to-date about the latest technology
  • In terms of hard dollars, the average gaming household income ($79,000) is notably higher than that of nongaming households ($54,000), but the value of the gamer as a marketing target can be seen in a variety of ways
  • Gamers are 13 percent more likely to go out to a movie, 11 percent more likely to play sports, and 9 percent more likely to go out with friends than nongamers
  • Gamers are twice as likely as nongamers to buy a product featuring new technology even if they are aware that there are still bugs
  • Gamers are also twice as likely as nongamers to pay a premium for the newest technology on the market
  • Gamers also consume media in different ways than nongamers, with hardcore gamers spending five more hours on the Internet, two more hours watching television and two more hours listening to music than nongamers per week
And the counterintuitive kicker:
  • Gamers are twice as likely to go out on dates as nongamers in a given month

It's true that I am an old-fashioned gamer myself, being prone to tabletop role playing games where these days the term usually means people who play video games. I'm actually not positive I'm even included in this study, which refers specifically only to videogamers, but I nevertheless feel a kinship with my fellow amusement-seekers of various stripes. 

I will therefore claim for myself the study's positive findings, and confirm that I do have some marginal social skills and am not locked up in my parents' basement eating potato chips every single day.  

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Like Running a Marathon

I've been thinking this may be the year I try National Novel Writing Month

I first heard about NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago when I had just started a master's program, which seemed like pretty much exactly not the right time to undertake something like this, so I put it aside even though it sounded kind of fun. But now, recently freed from coursework obligations, I clearly need a new project.

For those unfamiliar with the premise, NaNoWriMo is basically a big loose internet club in which people commit to finish a 50,000 word novel (they call this length a short novel, because novella "doesn't seem to impress people the way "novel" does") during the month of November. And yeah, it's not as if it would necessarily be a good novel, but I think it's sort of like people who work really hard toward completing a marathon, even if they know their times aren't going to be competitive.

Just finishing it, just being able to say "I ran a marathon," is an achievement. And since for me, saying "I ran a marathon," would be immediately followed by "I hate everyone and everything, so get away from me while I crawl into that alley and die," saying "I wrote a novel" might be more my style.

I have to confess I'm not really bursting with novel-length ideas right now, but deadlines are motivational, so I think sometimes if you just start somewhere and keep going, you'll get to your goal. 

Especially if that goal is a set word count. 

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I hear it was (on the 24th, technically yesterday although I'm still awake) the anniversary of Black Thursday, the first day of the market crash of 1929. 

I don't have anything particularly profound to say about that, other than I guess it goes to show the current situation could be worse.

Or possibly that it will be, given that 1929's Black Thursday was followed by Black Monday and Black Tuesday, and we all know what happened after that.

I'll just remain optimistic and comfort myself with the thought that even if I lose all my money, it's not money and material goods that make people happy anyway. 

Well, maybe a little. My laptop makes me pretty happy. 

My extensive shelves and piles of books make me happy, but also threaten to crush me beneath their accumulating weight because I'm running out of room for them. So we see that possessions are certainly a mixed blessing.

Not that I'm about to give any of those books up.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Seriously? Wikipedia in Court Cases?

Well, huh.

Feminocracy points out this post at Feminist Law Professors about an article (yes, it's a long chain of referrals) exploring the extent to which Wikipedia has been cited in U.S. court cases.

According to the abstract (full text is not available), as of last month, Wikipedia had been cited nearly 300 times. The abstract further explains:

Courts cite Wikipedia for a wide range of purposes. Some citations are merely mundane references to everyday facts well known by the general public. In other opinions Wikipedia is cited as a basis for the court's reasoning or to support a conclusion about an adjudicative fact at issue in the case. In a notable recent case, Badasa, v. Mukasey, 2008 WL 3981817 (8th. Cir. 2008), The Eighth Circuit remanded a Board of Immigration Appeals decision because it upheld a lower court's finding based on information obtained from Wikipedia.

Now where I work our official position is that Wikipedia is not an irredeemable tool of the devil, but it's also not your go-to source for stuff that really matters. 

You know: look at Wikipedia, but if it's really important (as perhaps might be true when using information "as a basis for the court's reasoning or to support a conclusion about an adjudicative fact at issue in the case"), double-check with another source. 

One that has identifiable authors, and can't be edited at a whim by random passers-by.

I'm no legal scholar, so it may be that this is perfectly reasonable in some way that's not evident to me, but I have to say, I find it at least interesting that this particular resource (which certainly has clear strengths as well as weaknesses), is considered to be so reliable.

Maybe we've misjudged poor Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Well, NOW I Feel Like a Slacker

T. Scott calls our attention to the MLA Strategic Plan, now being reviewed for updating. Member comments on the project were solicited on the new MLA blog, Connections, back on October 9, but none have been forthcoming.

Yeah, before I felt moderately lazy, but now I feel like a complete slacker: I confess, I am one of the people who has not submitted any comments. In fact, I may have been the first person to not comment, thus encouraging others to follow my bad example.

My first excuse is, I missed the initial launch of Connections (on my reader now, I promise!), as well as the post with this announcement. I didn't know! I'm innocent!

My second excuse is, I've only been an MLA member for about six months, so where do I get off having opinions about the Strategic Plan? Don't I need to, I don't know, marinate for a while in the lucid broth of membership before I can venture to hold forth on the priorities and business plan?

But now that I realize no one else has any opinions either, I'm totally going to sway the entire association to my nefarious purpose by submitting hundreds of comments calling for increased subsidies for the wine and chocolate needs of redheaded librarians.

Join me! We should get in on this now while we still can! 

And by "we should get in on this" I mean "you should help me gain greater access to wine and chocolate." If there's a sweeter reward than knowing you've helped fill my pantry and wine cellar...well, I'm not offering it today.

Comments will be accepted through the end of the month. We need to get cracking if we're going to make the depth of our feelings on this issue known.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Visual Reminders of Unpopularity

Now that I finally signed onto Twitter, I am naturally enthralled by this fun toy (one of Jane's E-Learning Picks of the Day): the TweetWheel.

Enter your Twitter username, and the site will pull all your followees and followers and make a nice little diagram showing which of them are linked to each other as well as to you. The illustration on Jane's site shows a lovely, colorful web of contacts. 

For me, it merely serves as a reminder of my glaring shortage of cool friends; most of the people I know are largely or entirely absent from Web 2.0, so there's not much to work with.

You really have to wonder why I bother to associate with these people at all. They do nothing for my TweetWheel! What's the point?

Actually, they do sometimes give me chocolate. Maybe that's it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Non-Sensational Take on Sugar

The Nutritionista, on the NutritionData blog, offers an unexcitingly commonsense review of a recent study on fructose, in which it appeared to make rats resistent to leptin (the feelin' full hormone that lets us decide it's a good time to finish eating for now).

She advises not letting this enforce concerns about high-fructose corn syrup (the sweetener of the devil!), and suggests that maybe enormous amounts of any form or sugar are more problematic that any specific version. 

So we can absorb HFCS-containing products, and other sugary products, without risk of sudden incapacitation or death, as long as we consume moderate amounts?

Sigh. Once again, this 'moderation' advice. Just once, I want to be advised to eat all the sugar I can hold, right out of the 5-pound bag. Is that so wrong?

But I will take the comfort that's offered in the general support for the idea that it's not so much about certain foods or products being evil and deadly (except for rat poison cookies, and Skittles), it's more about getting a nice selection of things and not overdoing any particular one.

Monday, October 20, 2008

In Case of Emergency, Call iPhone

Lest you think your iPhone is just an adorable, awesome toy (although I know you don't think that), GruntDoc points out that it can also be an emergency instruction manual.

A number of downloadable apps can offer advice in case of an emergency. GruntDoc promises to review the three recommended on the Unofficial Apple Weblog, so we'll know if they're worthwhile. 

I do like the idea of having access to this kind of information in a hurry. It really exemplifies the coolness of having the internet in your pocket. 

Which I think we can agree is the next best thing to having it plugged directly into your brain. 

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Soooo Behind the Times

The new Wired issue has an article (not presently online) called "Kill Your Blog."

The author declares that blogging is so 2004, and no one is doing cool stuff there anymore. Blogs are corporate now! The sharp, witty people are all on Twitter, or Flickr, or Facebook. 

Sigh. Just like me, not being up on the latest trends.  

True, I am sometimes on Facebook, but I've never done much with Flickr, and despite all the Twitter-news I hear, have still not actually signed up or anything. I suppose I should do so. 

On account of the fact that I'm constantly striving to keep up with the latest thing, lest my cool factor diminish.

Updated to note: 
I signed up for Twitter, OK? Am I cool now, huh huh, am I?

Yes? Whew!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bad Genes! Back, Back!

Genetics and Health presents this report of a study suggesting that disease-causing genes go way back in the tale of life. 

Like, back to the first cell. 

So apparently disease isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Sigh...guess I'll have to keep drinking wine.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Exercise Against Cancer!

The American Institute for Cancer Research sent me this list of links to web tools for tracking what you eat and how much you exercise. It's designed to help you live a healthier life and, with any luck, avoid some lifestyle-based cancer risks.

I rather enjoyed MapMyRun, which informed me that I walk .83 miles from the train to work every day. Way to go me. I then climb 11 flights of stairs (most days), so I think that absolves me from joining a gym, right?

If you factor in all the wine I drink, I'm easily the healthiest person on earth.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day

I find it's Blog Action Day, and the theme is poverty. 

I'm about ready to go to bed, once the debate is over (politics!), and I don't have any brilliant thoughts on the topic (even though I have been thinking about money lately), so I'm stealing Healthbolt's idea and suggesting that you go play Free Rice. 

It's an addictive little game where you're asked vocabulary questions (at least, addictive for those of us weirdos who like vocabulary), and for every correct answer, 20 grains of rice are donated to the United Nations World Food Programme.


Help end world hunger

Twenty grains of rice may not seem like much, but it adds up. Especially if you keep playing. Must...keep...playing...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Interesting Thought

There's an interesting take on the economic crisis on Dangerous Intersection (drawing from a Harper's Magazine article), based on the fact that more (money, fun toys, options in the toothpaste aisle) doesn't necessarily make people happier.

I've certainly read this idea before, and it makes sense. Basically (here's an old-ish article on it), having money makes you happy to an extent, because it's hard to live comfortably in our society without money. But once you have enough to provide for your needs, having more money doesn't cause a corresponding increase in happiness, because, well, once your needs are provided for, you can only be so much more content. 

This relates back to the current financial situation because it follows that less money will not automatically result in misery. People might not be able to afford as many things, but they may not be, overall, measurably less happy in an economy that is not growing constantly. 

This is a somewhat hopeful thought. Once we got used to living with less, toning down our expectations, we could be just as happy as we are in more prosperous times, even if the economy go into a prolonged lull. 

On the other hand, that optimism does still assume the bit about the "basic needs being met," which could be difficult for people close to the edge now (we hear enough about problematic healthcare costs already), and it still promises to be pretty tough for a lot of people getting to the point where we get used to the lowered expectations.

I liked seeing this post's take, though, because it's often interesting and useful to see ideas that are a bit contrary to the prevailing opinion. Definitely something to think about.

Monday, October 13, 2008

And to Show I'm Serious--

Here's a picture of the rabbit that lives on our grounds. Look, you can just make out its cotton tail! (Now 50% wool.)

Actually, it's probably one of many rabbits similar in appearance. Since it was not readily identifiable, and also it ran away when I got closer, I did not get a signed permission slip.

I think wild rabbits are much cuter than domesticated ones. Especially the domesticated ones with big floppy ears. Rabbits should have tall, perky ears, the better to hear things coming! Like me, with my camera. 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Posting Photos: Buildings are Fair Game

Since many, including myself, have wondered about the legal implications of posting photos online if they show people at library events (do we need permission from every person depicted? permission of parents for minors? should we just stick to pictures of plants and landscapes?), I must note this helpful article that LibrarianInBlack uncovered in Marketing Library Services.

Titled "Laws for Using Photos You Take at Your Library," it concisely addresses the legal rights of publicity and privacy, how to write a consent form, and how long to keep the consent forms.

And yes, the general rule seems to be that you need permission from identifiable persons if you're going to post pictures of them. 

This is why I only take photos of people wearing furry animal masks. It keeps things simple. 

Although a follow-up question would be, what if someone was wearing a really unique, handmade mask that everyone who knew them would immediately recognize as theirs? What if you took a crowd shot with no visible faces, but someone had a really identifiable back? (Say they had a dramatic neck tattoo.)

Clearly this question is not entirely settled, but I think we can safely say that caution is warranted. And when in doubt, just take pictures of flowers, buildings, attractive landscapes, and people in mass-produced furry animal masks. 

Saturday, October 11, 2008

But I Don't Want to Wait That Long!

Nevertheless, this promises to be interesting and useful information once it's collected.

Genetics and Health observes that a study is beginning to determine whether having genetic information about their personal health risks will actually cause people to make choices for their lives that result in better health.

If I know I have a genetic susceptibility to Illness X, will I take special care to avoid other things that might contribute to developing it? Will I lead a well-planned and healthy life to make sure I limit my non-genetic risk as much as possible, since I know the genes are against me?

Or will I just think, "heck, Illness X is gonna get me anyway, bring on the alcohol/tobacco/forbidden foodstuffs/risky sex/side-effectsy-medications/explosives/bad television/recreational drugs"?

Since personalized genetic testing has not been available for long, it's not surprising that we don't know how to answer those questions. Good thing the Scripps Translational Science Institute is starting a 20-year study to find out.

I am, as indicated, saddened that it will be a while before we hear anything from this study, but that's research for you. 

In the meantime, since I haven't had my own genetic code examined (I'm curious, but not enough to pay for it), I personally will continue with my accustomed habits regarding alcohol/tobacco/forbidden foodstuffs/risky sex/side-effectsy medications/explosives/bad television/recreational drugs. 

Especially explosives.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Calling It

So I was out at a social event this evening, meeting new people from various walks of life, and the standard question came up: "What do you do?"

"I'm a librarian," I said.

I don't think I've ever said it before. 

It was not exactly earth-shaking, on account of it's just true, so whatever. And it's not something really intriguing that will make people sit up and take notice (not like "I eat worms for charity"). But I've now been a librarian for two whole months, and it was kind of fun to be able to introduce myself that way.

In other news, although I am pleased to have a job as a librarian, I am also extremely pleased to have a long weekend to look forward to. Guess what I'm doing tomorrow to celebrate?

Yeah, I'm going to go give blood. Later, I might write a letter to my congressional representative, volunteer at a food bank, sit in on a town meeting, walk some needy dogs, recycle my plastics, smile at babies, and eat worms for charity.

But probably I'll consider giving blood to be enough upstanding-citizenship for one day, and will come home and read blogs instead. Just a guess.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Writin' About Distance Education

As one who had a recent satisfying experience with distance education myself, I was interested to hear from the Distant Librarian that the Journal of Distance Education/Revue de l'Éducation à Distance has made its archives (dating from 1986) available online.

Cool! I don't at this time have any very pressing distance ed questions that I need to research, but it's nice to know that this resource is available should any arise. 

It would also be very interesting to see how the field has changed in the time the journal has been publishing. Someday, if I get a few spare hours, it would be fun to look back at older issues and see what concerns and approaches remain constant, and which ones differ, as computers and the internet become widespread. 

Since I didn't participate in distance education before a couple of years ago I have no personal comparison, but I'm sure it must have been very different in the 1980s. 

If nothing else, I imagine the sheer expense and hassle of having to set up a loft for the carrier pigeons must have deterred a lot of would-be distance students. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Annoyance: Brilliant Tactic!

Irascibility can lead to fame and fortune! 

The Annoyed Librarian is now blogging on the Library Journal website. Surely this will give hope to prickly and irritable library bloggers everywhere. 

Not me, though. I'm mild-mannered and sweet-natured; ask anyone.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Will be Interested in This

Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day highlights what looks like another nifty tool: Capture Fox

It's not a way to save programming from Fox TV, which was my first guess, nor a way to conveniently steal pictures of foxes from nature websites, which I didn't think was very likely. It's actually a screen capture program that works with Firefox. 

I already have one of those, so mere screen capturing wouldn't excite me that much, but this one records frame by frame, and also saves your voice, so you can make little movies and tutorials.

Love it! It claims to be easy and free, two things that are hard to argue with. I have plans to try it out soon, and maybe use it next time we need to make some tutorials. 
I guess if I were really smart I'd try it out before I wrote about it, but it's not available for the Mac so I have to wait until I can play around with it at work, and I'm impatient. Besides, Jane wouldn't steer us wrong, would she?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Stronger Faster Higher Education

The Krafty Librarian raises a good question: is it a good idea for librarians to go back for further advanced education, whether another graduate degree or a doctorate? 

I've wondered about this myself, and have so far concluded only that I'm not going to do it right now. I only finished the first graduate degree five months ago, and I'm enjoying not having homework to do and am still settling into my new job, so it seems fair to take a break for the time being.

On the other hand, I'm certainly not ruling it out for the future. I liked being in school for the most part, and enjoyed taking classes, learning about new things, and being able to be part of discussions. Education is good.

My current employer also has nice benefits in terms of support for continuing education, so I will probably be looking into that in the future (although unfortunately online courses, with which I've grown very comfortable and which have so many convenient features, are not mean I'd have to actually go to a specific place and sit in a room with a bunch of other people to take a course? What's that about?) 

There are some good, thoughtful comments in response to the Krafty post, several suggesting that a good choice for another degree would be an MBA rather than a Ph.D in library science, at least if the goal is library directorship or management.

I've never been very drawn to the MBA idea, but on the other hand, almost every subject I've ever taken a class in has been even more interesting than I thought it would be, so I would probably find it fascinating if I got into it. (When it comes right down to it, learning new stuff is just cool, almost no matter what it is. I'm sure there's some subject that wouldn't hold my interest, but I'm not going to make a guess as to what it is without having tried it.)

I'll definitely be interested in continuing education in general, by means of short courses and so forth even if not working towards a formal degree (those informal degrees that are just scrawled on scrap paper, that's what I want), so I fully plan for there to be learning...whether it eventually means I wind up with more degrees, I'm not prepared to say yet.

It's a very good question, though. Maybe I'll just observe Michelle from a distance and see what she decides and how it works out. :)

Friday, October 3, 2008

See, Here's Your Problem

I have identified a glaring flaw in the internet, which is that I can't do other things and surf at the same time.

I mean, I can do some other things, but not to the extent that is possible with other forms of media. For example, I can be listening to music while typing right now, or while otherwise educating and/or entertaining myself on the web, but I cannot be darning a sock.

Which I could be doing if I were watching TV, as long as it wasn't something with subtitles that I had to watch nonstop, or if I were listening to the radio, or having someone read a book out loud to me. (Yes, we used to do that when I was a young'un. One person would read, and the others would sit around and sew, or draw, or knit, while listening. It was heartwarmingly wholesome, I can assure you.)

Don't get me wrong, I love the internet to pieces, but I can't help but notice that there's a hole in the pocket of a pair of trousers that I've been meaning to patch for weeks, and I haven't done it yet, and I think it's partly because I go to the computer for my news and socializing instead of turning on a less interactive information/entertainment machine that would leave my hands free.

Or maybe it's also because patching holes in pockets isn't the most fun I could imagine of a Friday evening after a hard day's work, so I've been avoiding it. Hmmm. 

Nevertheless, for arts-and-crafts type people who like to work with their hands, the internet must be a less appealing option than it is to me, who hasn't handcrafted anything in years. 

All the more reason to hurry up with that internet-directly-into-the-brain thing. Then I could get my mending done and keep up with my blog-reading!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Aww, Shucks

We get a whole month?

Well, I for one am deeply moved. In fact, I move we have a giant month-long party to celebrate this National Medical Librarians Month.

I'm late getting on this bandwagon since already an entire day has passed without me ringing any bells, tooting any horns, unleashing any enthusiastic shouts from within the hushed stacks, or popping any champagne corks, but I'm confident I can make up for lost time.

Join me! 

Just a minute here while I finish the latest round of hacking coughs.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Amazingly, We Have Not Just Now Invented Literary Cleverness

I like these two posts on Got Medieval about the clever ways people used to comment on, illustrate and reuse text while inscribing manuscripts. 

I have often thought that if I had to be a medieval something, scribing would be kind of cool. This is partly because I'm lazy, and being a peasant seems like hard work, and partly because I like painstaking detail work. 

I'd say it's also because I like books and words, but I imagine that's like saying I became a librarian because I like books and words. It's all very well, but it's not as if I sit around caressing book covers, swaying to the music of flipping pages, and mouthing glorious poetic phrases all day long. It's a job, after all.

Of course, as a woman, I would be pretty much left out of the scribing career path (having a weird name might or might not further hinder me), but let's not let historical accuracy get in the way of my fond mental picture of myself hunched over some desk or table, growing steadily more nearsighted, smudged with ink, snickering to myself as I decorate a page with bizarre marginalia (see the aforelinked blog for multiple fine examples).

I don't know that I would have been creative enough to have come up with the many-layered... joke?--casual aside?--thoughtful commentary? in the second post there, but after a few years of inhaling ink fumes and having the blood supply to my brain cut off by the kinks in my neck, anything is possible.

I'm also interested in the first post's description of how reading books, hearing them read, and copying texts was an active and participatory experience. The author explains how people would make their own books, putting into them anything that was going around through the culture that they liked: songs, recipes, stories by other people, biographical notes on themselves, and so on. 

Not unlike a blog, as others have noted. 

This tendency to collect information seems like a very basic impulse, and I remember doing something similar as a kid. I had a notebook where I'd write down quotes I liked (from my readings, or from personal conversations), copy songs or short stories word for word (at least that was the intention), write horrible verse, compile lists of classical composers, even draw little pictures in the margins. 

Maybe I could have been a medieval scribe after all.

Monday, September 29, 2008

On Odd Names

As an odd-name-having person myself, I was naturally interested in this little discussion going on about whether strange names hurt one's job prospects (also see here, regarding Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale's baby, and here on a number of "celebrity baby names gone bad," and for a current-events take, consider the younger members of the Palin family).

I personally have not felt impeded by my name in terms of career advancement, but you never know. I guess I could be even more wildly famous and successful and possessed of adoring fans by now, if only I'd been able to pass as normal. Alas!

It's certainly true no one can ever spell or pronounce my name right away, and I have to explain it a lot, but I don't really care. 

And it does sometimes gets a little old having to explain it again, but it's also kind of nice to be the only person associated with it. After all, I'm unlikely to be confused with anyone else. When I Google my name, any reference I find is pretty much guaranteed to be me, which is, if nothing else, convenient for ego surfing.

We weird-name-people have that going for us. 

Of course, my own name is sort of marginally weird rather than really outrageously weird, and at least has the advantage of not being something that's a word for something else, like, I don't know, Starlight Happiness. Word names seem to get people looking askance a little more than if it's something that might conceivably be a family name, or come from some obscure ethnic heritage, or something.

Also, it's not really a 'normal' name with a different spelling, like Elizybethe or something, which also seems to be a pet peeve for some people. (Although it is a lot like a variation on Allen or Lynn/Lynne, so that's not entirely true.)

I'll admit I do hear names from time to time and wonder what those parents were thinking...but I would certainly hope I'd never assume anything about the person's character from it, or decline to hire them, if that were the context. 

I generally have to think, heck, it's not as if I'm one to talk about other peoples' bizarre names.

Finally, would I give my own kids, if I were to have them, creative, weird, unusual names? Well, I'm not ruling it out. Keep an eye out for the birth announcements of Starlyght Happinesse.