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.