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.