Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Before I Go

Please note, via Well, that the classic 98.6 is not actually a good average body temperature. It's apparently closer to 98.2, but there's some variation during the day (cooler in the morning), as well as over the course of life (cooler as one gets older).

The article points out that this could be relevant to health if one were to assume that an elevated body temperature was not a serious concern, where in fact it might be considerably higher than is healthy for that particular person.

So when taking temperatures of older people first thing in the morning, keep this in mind.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Goodbye, Sweet Virtual World

Well, I'm off to the other coast tomorrow to ring in the New Year with some family.

This will certainly be fabulous, but it does mean that I expect to be away from the internet for a while. It'll be hard, but I think I can get through this. Distraction is key.

Note to self:
When the urge to go online strikes, take deep breaths and try talking to a family member, or perhaps reading a book. A brisk walk may also help.

If all else fails, take up smoking. Heh.

Anyhow, Happy New Year to all my legions, and may we all have a good 2010.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Goodbye, Cruel Virtual World

If the holidays have you feeling like spending more time with offline people in face to face relationships, and you want to end it with all this online social networking, consider the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine.

The Suicide Machine promises to kill your online persona(e) and delete all your friends/contacts/followers/networks and posts, leaving only your famous last words to let people know you've committed online suicide.

It currently works on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, and apparently is popular enough that you may sometimes get the disheartening message "Sorry, Machine is currently busy with killing someone else".

The Machine is free and argues for its own relevance with these stirring words:

Everyone should have the right to disconnect. Seamless connectivity and rich social experience offered by web2.0 companies are the very antithesis of human freedom. Users are entraped in a high resolution panoptic prison without walls, accessible from anywhere in the world. We do have an healthy amount of paranoia to think that everyone should have the right to quit her 2.0-ified life by the help of automatized machines.

Check out the Memorial Pages for info on those who have committed web suicide already, with a picture of the deceased, the site(s) abandoned, the number of virtual friends left behind, and last words, if any.

I personally do not yet feel trapped in a "high resolution panoptic prison without walls" (I'm OK with my current use of social networking) but I have to say that's a very poetic way to put it, and if someone does feel thus imprisoned, this looks like a clever way to break free. Don't let ancient social networking site memberships keep you bound to an online existence that has become nothing but pain and trouble!

Sadly, this doesn't work for Friendster, which is the site I really never update. My other accounts are at least sporadically looked in upon.

Identity Woman brought this to my attention.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Early Science

I like Bad Science's discussion of the biblical verses of Daniel 1.8, which the post notes offers "a description of the first ever clinical trial."

I am too full and sleepy to say anything else. Happy Holidays, all.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

EFT for the People

Have you ever paid a credit card bill online, or filled out your bank routing information on your tax return, and thought "I wish the power of electronic funds transfer could be mine to use in other ways, for my personal whims"?

In a development having nothing to do with libraries, but something to do with nifty technology, my online bank (ING) now offers 'Person2Person' EFT.

Cutesy name aside, it's pretty handy. All you have to do is convince someone to give you their bank routing number and their checking account number, and you can move money right from your account to theirs by filling in a few fields online!

Unfortunately it doesn't work the other way around, so you can't add to your fortune, just pass it on to others. I should say, it's unfortunate for the first person who wished they could do that and couldn't--fortunate for everyone who's never wanted to have their bank account emptied remotely by someone else.

And I don't like to generalize, but I think that actually speaks for a lot of us.

Anyway, if you ever happen to be in a position where you want to send someone some money, this saves writing a check or buying a money order and mailing it. I love online bill payment and such, so this sort of thing is just a big barrel of sunshine and kittens as far as I'm concerned.

I tried it, and it was fast and easy. And free, which is important. It irritates me to have to pay to do things with my money.

The other person does need to have a bank account, so this won't work for everyone, but it doesn't have to be an account with ING, so there's some flexibility.

One downside is that it would be harder to surprise someone with a present this way than if you sent a check, since you have to get their bank info somehow and the most obvious way to do that may be to ask them, in which case they may wonder why you want to know.

But hey, if you get it once you can surprise them next time.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"To the Internet!"

I see on ScienceRoll (original story in the Sun) that the husband of a pregnant woman who went into labor did a Google search on his mobile device and helped deliver the baby based on tips from wikiHow. Now that's using technology to answer an immediate need.

The ScienceRoll post argues that this man should have called a health professional (dialing 911 or the UK equivalent) instead of doing a web search. I'm all for ready access to health information, but I do see that point: the internet is great, but presumably a live person would have been more helpful if there had been any complications.

Fortunately there were none, and the mother and baby were fine.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice Darkness

Sunset, before the longest night of the year.

Time to huddle in our lairs and await the return of the light.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Spying on Killer Robots

Dangerous Intersection points out a Wall Street Journal article about how some software you can get for $25.95 will let you capture video feed from U.S. Predator drones.

This sounds interesting, although probably beyond my techno-geek ability. Also possibly illegal in the U.S., although that's not stated in the article (and would be of small concern to the Iraqi militants who are described as using the technique).

I dunno, would the WSJ feel obliged to include a "don't try this at home" warning if we weren't supposed to do it ourselves?

If allowed, I certainly hope Google is using this information to update maps and such.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Image of Mom

Sometimes I kind of love sidebar ads.

Is this guy a mom? Someone who encourages a mom to return to online school? (Perhaps an online school teacher!)

So many interesting questions.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Good News for Archives

As part-time guardian of a small archive, I am excited to hear (via Shakespeare's Sister) of the recovery of millions of email messages from the Bush Administration.

Politics aside, it would be a shame to lose so much information. This sort of thing will be gold to researchers and historians in the future (if they can sort through it all; 22 million emails is a lot!).

In the name of archives everywhere, I celebrate.

Save it! Save it all! Preservation rocks!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Available Vocabulary

Ooh! Ooh!

PubMed New and Noteworthy posts the worthy note that "MEDLINE citations and the MeSH database have been updated with 2010 MeSH vocabulary"!


Yes, I can mock teenagers for swooning over New Moon (although I didn't, particularly), but are my own faint-inducing-situations any less peculiar? Many would say not.

A peculiar thing I notice is that while my RSS aggregator shows the quoted line above, when I actually click though to the post, it's different. So PubMed New and Noteworthy is like a citation to another page, with a brief commentary attached. Like a normal blog post, but visible only in a feed aggregator. Weird.

I'm probably the last person to notice this and think it's interesting. Fine, everyone else, move along.

But first, swoon with me over the fact that new vocabulary is now in the database.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Modern Technology

We have figured out how to get our TV to display things that are playing on our computers. We can now enjoy our streaming video in fine color and brilliant large-size-iness!

We could also enjoy enormous images of our email if we wanted.

We may not leave the house again.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Amusing New Obscenity

I've noticed my junk mail folder in the past few days has been featuring a lot of messages from a certain Facebook take-off, cleverly named "F**kbook" (bleeped out to protect the eyes of the innocent, if any of those should ever happen to stumble across this page).

Today I find a twist on this, with the alarming notice "F**kbook hacked!"

If true, and if anyone actually put up a profile with real personal information on that site, I imagine this could be a cause for some concern.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Learning Something New

Two posts on learning things previously not known strike me today.

Elisa at HealthyConcerns finds that you can use Flexible Spending Account money (those pre-tax dollars you can set aside to pay for healthcare needs) not only for things like doctor's office co-pays and prescriptions and glasses, but also for basic household health stuff like cough medicine and adhesive bandages.

I myself have been known to stock up on this sort of thing near the end of the year when I have money left over...and will have to do so soon. It then occurred to me that if I could only think of some way to present bandages and aspirin as appropriate holiday gifts, I could be in great shape!

Who do I know who wants a pack of cough drops?

And Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check reveals that the North Carolina Constitution basically bars atheists (and arguably people practicing non-Abrahamic religions, though I suppose that would come down to how you define 'Almighty God') from holding public office.

As quoted from Article 6, Section 8:

“The following persons shall be disqualified for office:

First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

Wow. That's pretty definite.

Article 6 goes on to also bar:

Second, with respect to any office that is filled by election by the people, any person who is not qualified to vote in an election for that office.

That one sounds reasonable.

Third, any person who has been adjudged guilty of treason or any other felony against this State or the United States, or any person who has been adjudged guilty of a felony in another state that also would be a felony if it had been committed in this State, or any person who has been adjudged guilty of corruption or malpractice in any office, or any person who has been removed by impeachment from any office, and who has not been restored to the rights of citizenship in the manner prescribed by law.

Yeah, OK, that makes sense too.

But obviously the most important thing is that you attend the right place of worship. Treason is also bad, but denying Almighty God, well, that's one step away from selling state secrets to the highest bidder anyway, right?

There is, naturally, some discussion on whether or not this is binding law given that the U.S. Constitution prohibits requiring a religious test as qualification for office (another Article 6).



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Extending Options

I use Google Chrome from time to time, so I should really check out this list of extensions to the browser, pointed out to me by Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day.

I use Firefox all the time and never really bother with any of those extensions, though, so I may not get around to making much use of Chrome's either. It's a shame, since I hear that's what's so great about Firefox (customization! cool plug-ins!), but I'm dull that way.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Krafty Librarian alerts us to the fact that Ovid is offering EMBASE Classic as a free trial this month.


We occasionally have people ask about this database, which I've heard described as "the European MEDLINE,"where I work, but we don't have a subscription because it costs a lot.  I'm automatically interested in it because it relates to stuff I do, but I've never actually seen it.

I may have to check this out. If I can dig out of the catalog updates and bindery preparations.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Yay, More Sports! Movie Review: Invictus

I am too weary to properly address this film, but I will say that it is about a lot more than rugby (although who really needs more than rugby?)

It is about how the love of a good sport (the aforementioned rugby) can unite a troubled and divided nation (South Africa).

I don't know anything about rugby, but the details aren't really important. The important thing is, it's a sports team that only white people historically rooted for, but which President Nelson Mandela supported as a way to give the whole country a shared enthusiasm and something to join together and cheer for. The movie covers their attempt to win the 1995 World Cup.

There are some decent sports-excitement moments, and thrilling scenes capturing the delicious madness of crowds. I was also interested in the characters of Mandela's bodyguards, who must look at said crowds with a wary eye, and who play major roles, and there are some interesting political details.

Not much in the way of libraries (though Mandela's office does have extensive bookshelves!), no more than a pulled hamstring for health, and of course this was back in 1995 so we don't see a lot of nifty gadget technology, so it unfortunately can't say much to the specific interests of this blog.

Sports movies, like sports, aren't really my favorite thing in the world, but this one was pretty interesting.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Stocking Up on Event-Specific Tunes

If you're in the mood for a bit of Christmas-inspired music, but not in the mood to spend money on it, I recommend Amazon's 25 Days of Free promotion, which promises to provide one holiday song per day, December 1st-25th, as a free mp3 download.

Today's offer is a song called Christmas Tree by the current Queen of Awesome Weird Pop, Lady Gaga, and I cannot sufficiently stress how entertaining this is.

And don't worry, it's not a situation where you have to check in every day to get that day's song, or you miss it: all six songs posted to date are still available for download at the time of this writing.

I have to say that despite general crankiness and lack of divinely-inspired awe, I seriously love the classic carols, so if Amazon just wanted to give away Oh Come All Ye Faithful and God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen all day, I'd be happy. But only if they're sung in the classically approved manner (i.e., the manner I recall from my youth, which may not be the manner in which they were sung when they were new).

I have very little patience for reinterpretations of the classics, in which people take the opportunity to show off their awesome vocal talents by inserting creative warbles into these songs. Just sing it!

Also, if you're going to do We Three Kings of Orient Are, please make it as doleful as possible, and sing the whole thing, because those slow, mournful verses, especially when you get to "sealed in the stone-cold tomb," are truly wonderful. "Merry" Christmas? I think not. It's like a holiday funeral march.


Friday, December 4, 2009

I Don't Think That's Me

effinglibrarian at LISNews has posted an amusing flowchart designed to let you know whether or not you should become a librarian.

Sadly, it appears I myself should not have chosen this line of work, since I have no cats.

Oh well, too late now.

Also, that bit about liking books interested me. I feel that as a librarian I actually almost don't like books, or at any rate don't value them simply for being books, the way I used to. Yeah, I guess it doesn't hurt to like books (though liking electronic books and journals--i.e., computer screens--is just as important where I work), but you also have to be a bit cavalier about them. I mean, we do have to weed.

We throw away books no one wants to read. (Yes, I feel a pang of regret. But I get over it.) A librarian's view of books is professional, not romantic or idealized.

I like them to the extent that I believe they may be of interest to the library's audience. Beyond that, I can't afford to care about them. There are too many, and we have too little space: just because something is a book, doesn't mean I want anything to do with it from a work standpoint.

Although I suppose it depends on how you define "book." Maybe we could agree that a librarian as a general rule probably likes "books" as a concept (the Works or Expressions in FRBR terms?), but that getting all excited about individual books (or Items?) will bring only heartache.

People will insist on checking books out, breaking their spines, spilling things on them, losing them, etc. You can be filled with rage and sorrow over such mistreatment ("aaaaaaaaargh!!!!!!"is the kind of thing you can say), but that's tiring. So after a while you get a little blasé about it.

Like books? Yes, I do, of course. Now get that out-of-date textbook off my shelves!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

No, I Can't Prove That's Me

Interesting Blog of Rights post on Real ID, the proposed national ID card that's been bandied about for years now.

I was a little fuzzy on the details of this plan (I remember reading about it years ago when it was first bandied, and then, like many of us, I kind of forgot about it when no major changes to my immediate state ID were forthcoming).

For example, I had forgotten that if your state's acceptable forms of identification don't comply with Real ID, you're supposedly not allowed to use said ID when going through airport security. As the post explains, states were not happy about this (there were numerous objections based on privacy concerns, and it would also cost a lot to implement Real ID requirements):

[A]lmost half [of the states] passed statutes or resolutions saying that they would not participate in the program. Every state was supposed to be compliant by May of 2008; none of them were.

This left the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with an unpalatable choice. They could effectively shut down air travel in the U.S., or issue blanket exemptions to all 50 states.

After choosing option B and giving the states exemptions and a new deadline of December 2009, we find that here in December 2009, Real ID is still not in our wallets.

I guess sometimes ignoring things (or, more actively, passing statutes or resolutions against them) is the way to go.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Yup, That's Me

I see on Well and PsychCentral that someone did a study and found that the way people present themselves on Facebook is generally an accurate view of their personality.

It doesn't say what personality traits are expressed by failure to log into Facebook and update your profile on a regular basis, but presumably neglectfulness, distance, and lack of caring for others.

For shame, me. Why am I not on that that site five times a day like a normal, sociable person capable of engaging with others?

And in examples of Facebook's usefulness, I enjoyed GruntDoc's post about someone being late to work and one course of action being "I’ll poke him on Facebook" to remind him.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Job Loving Movie Review: Up in the Air

Tonight's show was Up in the Air, featuring George Clooney as a guy who happily flies around from city to city, living in hotels (he was home only '43 miserable days' one year!), for his job, which requires him to show up at companies and fire people.

I feel a great love for my job right now, both by comparison with that job (I would seriously hate that job), and by comparison with the people in the movie who get fired, many of whom are given the opportunity to express their feelings about it.

We learn from this, in case we didn't know or couldn't imagine, that losing your job sucks. The movie finds some dark humor in the situation, but doesn't gloss too heavily over that basic fact, and I appreciated that it didn't try to pretend everything is all peaches and roses for everyone.

There was some nifty technology involved, since the main character's company is thinking about moving to a remote, teleconferencing sort of model (telefiring?) that would mean he wouldn't get to travel anymore.

The movie brings in interesting ideas about the way this sort of remote communication can work. It's less personal in a way, and can let us get away with things we're afraid to say to someone's face (being broken up with via text message is still seen as pretty low) but it can also allow for more contact (you can send someone sexy text messages when you're both lying awake in different cities).

Is this new, flow-chart-managed, videoconferencing business the wave of the future for mass firings, or does it not quite work? What do we lose when we make these switches? Is hiring a total stranger to physically come to your office and fire your employees less reprehensible than hiring one to do it from a computer screen?

Given the notable lack of libraries and medical themes, the technology was what mostly tied this to the nominal subject of my blog, and I liked it.

I also liked the movie for not getting too sappy. A lot of characters are given a chance to make their various points, and many of the points are good and well phrased. I felt I had room to think them over for myself, without the movie really beating me over the head with one specific takeaway message, like "family is the most important thing in the world" or "sacrificing everything for love is the way to go" (or, alternatively, "family is a bunch of weirdos you try to get away from," or "ditch that deadweight lover and pursue a high stakes career or you're nothing").

Overall, I quite enjoyed this film. There was a lot of fun dialogue, nicely acted, in an interesting story.

Wow. That was hardly grouchy at all. My movie reviews are getting way off track.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tuneful Movie Review: The Princess and the Frog

I was interested to see The Princess and the Frog, because I like to know what Disney's up to and to not give them any money in the process (I'm still bitter about the fact that they get to rewrite copyright law whenever Mickey Mouse is about to enter the public domain).

As you may know, this film has already been much talked about because this is the first black Disney Princess (copyright, trademark, insignia, coat of arms).

They didn't really get into race relations or anything (the movie basically glides over that whole issue, imagining that people 'from every walk of life' live in harmony--which I suppose may have been closer to true in New Orleans than in a lot of places in the 1920s), but I thought Tiana made a fine addition to the Princess line (as far as that goes, and not getting into my mixed feelings about said Princess line itself).

She's admirably spirited, hard-working, not inclined to lie around waiting to be rescued, puts a lot of importance on family, has an ambitious dream, and doesn't get intimidated by royalty or let herself be pushed around.

The story takes place in New Orleans, and of course depicts it beautifully. Lots of gorgeous scenes, lively music, etc. These animators can draw a nice picture.

In case you want a little plot summary: Tiana is a young woman who dreams of owning her own restaurant, and is working two jobs waiting tables to save up money for it. Her friend Charlotte, daughter of the Mardi Gras King, throws a masquerade ball in order to meet Prince Naveen, in town from his far-off land. Prince Naveen, who's a little short on cash, makes an unwise deal with the Shadow Man, who knows mysterious magics and has 'friends on the other side.' Prince Naveen becomes a frog, mistakes Tiana for a princess and gets her to kiss him hoping it will change him back, but instead she turns into a frog herself...and antics ensue as the two frogs head off into the bayou for a series of adventures.

I don't think that gave away anything that wasn't in the preview.

It seemed like there were kind of a lot of musical numbers, which for me means that they didn't all really grab me, but there were some nice showy ones. Fireworks, glowing flowers, etc.

There were the usual comic relief sidekicks (in this case a jazz-loving alligator and a Cajun firefly). The kids in the audience seemed pleased with them. The villain, as usual, had somewhat more flair and punch than many of the sympathetic characters. He also had some great creepy shadows running around to do his bidding. I want shadows to do my bidding!

I appreciated the fact that Tiana's competition for the hand of the prince in the story (Charlotte, a wealthy southern belle) is not presented as being a horrible person. She's a bit shallow, with that whole prince-marrying obsession, and a bit clueless about other people, but she's basically a decent person and Tiana's friend. It's nice to see some indication that female characters can be friends in the movies. (I do wonder idly if she might have been more classic-evil-stepsister-y horrible if she weren't white. Is the movie trying to give us a sympathetic white character in case we can't handle a black--though sometimes frog--main character? Or just trying to show that rich white women and poor black women can totally be best pals?)

The prince also had a bit more character than they sometimes do...he's a playboy and lay-about, but develops, learns and improves through the trials of his adventures with Tiana. Being a frog is good for the soul.

I did not observe a library, or any particular health tie-in, so I'm kind of at a loss there, but no matter. All in all, it was certainly a worthy addition to the Disney Princess (copyright, trademark, insignia, coat of arms) lineup, with a wholesome message about love and hard work and not giving up.

If you have a kid, and you're not totally boycotting Disney, you might as well go see it.

The tune I'm left humming is actually from that Simpsons episode where Marge is in the musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire: "Home of pirates, drunks and whores, New Orleans! Tacky, overpriced souvenir stores!"

But that's just because my mind tends to wander to Simpsons quotes at any excuse.

As my viewing companion said, "Disney may be evil, but they make a great cartoon."


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Don't Forget to Write

I like this post on Slate's doubleX blog, in which Mimi Swartz talks about using some of those nifty new technologies kids these days like to keep in touch with her son in college.

As she says, when we were in college back in the old days, you called your parents now and then, on their landlines of course since that was all there was, and maybe wrote an occasional letter, using the post office of course since that was all there was (well, in my day we did have email), but really regular contact wasn't common.

Now, it seems, Facebook, text messaging, etc. let you stay a little more in touch with family members in other places--not like long fireside chats every evening, but you can casually check in whenever the mood strikes, keeping caught up with the this-and-that of life. I think that's cool.

Of course, by the time today's wee kids go off to college, we'll be keeping in touch via telepathy-chips that will make Twitter look like notes in bottles (I guess it's kind of like notes in bottles already, except that anyone who wants to can fish them out of the ocean anytime), but meanwhile...we make due.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gaining Insanity Points

I vaguely recall signing up for a account with a weird little site called Sanity Score about two years ago. It's main feature is a quiz that asks you to rate the extent to which you agree with various statements about your mental state, so it can tell you how insane you are. (I'm not sure that's the preferred terminology for diagnosing mental illness these days, but it actually says right on there, "How insane are you?")

When I first took the quiz, I got a score of 14 out of 288 (a number that precise has to be meaningful). I just took it again, 'cause why not, and got 19.

I can't like this trend, since I'm clearly getting more insane at a scientifically calculable rate of 2.5 points per year, but I guess I do still have a little bit of leeway before I need to seek treatment.

It reminds of me those Lovecraft-based games where you investigate horrible occurrences and usually lose your mind. In those cases I think you generally start with a certain number of points worth of sanity, which you lose as you witness more and more hideous things from beyond the bounds of nature.

But losing points, gaining points, whatever, I'm just glad there's a tracking system.


Friday, November 27, 2009

What About Our Martian Colonies?

I see on MedGadget that there could be problems with reproduction in low- or no-gravity environments. It's only fair to note that no one has actually tried to conceive and bear young in zero-g as far as I can tell from other peoples' investigations, but recent experiments with in vitro fertilization in mice suggest that:

microgravity had minimal effects on fertilization. It may prove detrimental to subsequent development, however. Microgravity-cultured embryos successfully reached the two-cell stage and yielded viable offspring upon implantation into female mice, but at a significantly lower rate than their 1G counterparts.

Scientists are planning further experiments at different levels of gravitational pull, so we'll see whether or not the moon or Mars might make good places to develop viable offspring, even if zero-gravity isn't great.

If we're going to send an ever-growing army of the not-dead (by which I mean the living) to colonize the stars, this is important information to have.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Questioning Trucks

I'm oddly puzzled by that new Dodge Ram commercial, where a sort of stoic (possibly grizzled), old-fashioned-manly-type voice says "My name is Ram," and introduces himself, as this description explains:

After intoning, "My name is Ram, and my tank is full," the commercial keeps going (and going, and going) with stuff like "I am fueled by optimism, driven by passion and stopped by nothing," and "I am built to reward the doers who climb behind my wheel every day by working even harder than they do."

Then at the end it repeats "my name is Ram, and my tank is full," which sounds a little like something you shouldn't really promise in an ad, unless Dodge has actually perfected an endlessly self-refilling gas tank (which would certainly be something worth advertising).

I mean, I guess maybe it comes with a tank of gas, and all the ad is speaking for is the brand new model moments before you drive it away, but this phrase also raises questions for me about the extent to which the Natural State of an automobile could be considered to be 'possessed of a full tank.' I don't quite buy that this is one of the inherent qualities of a truck.

I would say that an inherent quality might be 'possessed of a gas tank which must have some gas in it in order for the truck to run.' That makes sense. But if you're going to claim that the vehicle's Natural State is full-tank, then does your truck become less Rammy if you happen to let it run down, in the course of a hard day's work? (During which you will not, however, be working as hard as your truck is. 'Cause that's how this truck rolls. On wheels.)

"I was driving a Dodge Ram, but I ran out of gas, so now it's just a hunk of worthless metal. Better get a new truck!"

The tone of the ad kind of reminds me of those Levis commercials that use Walt Whitman poems, with the flat, matter-of-fact-ish reading and the man's voice, so I also start to think "does this truck claim the soul of an unconventional poet, on top of all his other fine qualities?"

I'm inclined to look a little askance at this Ram character, to be honest. Just not quite seeing how all these pieces fit together.

Not quite sure, I guess, what advantages this automobile has over, say, a train, which I could also afford.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's like Friday! Whee!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

O.M.G. [Slump] Movie Review: The Road

A word I have often heard people use to describe the novel The Road is "bleak." I have not read said book, but I think I can safely say the movie does a pretty good job of capturing that general mood.

Another thing I can safely say is that, unlike in the last post-apocalypse movie I reviewed (Zombieland),  the moments of levity in this one were few (though not non-existent). I can further add that, as in the last movie I reviewed where coughing was a major plot point (Bright Star), in the post-apocalyptic world it will be possible to catch your death of cold.

This is not one of your happy-go-lucky "the apocalypse was just a bunch of zombies, no big" type movies. This is more a "got your soul-crushing hopelessness right here, buddy," type movie.

In case you're not familiar with the story, this film is about a man and his son heading south through a blighted landscape after some unspecified apocalypse. We don't know what happened, and it really doesn't matter. People are freezing, starving, and resorting to cannibalism; are specifics really crucial? To the characters, I expect not. Whatever it was, it killed pretty much everything and the whole world is now gray, wracked by earthquakes, and getting steadily colder.

Judging from the age of the boy, who was born shortly after the event, this film takes place 8-10 years out from apocalypse, and things are not going well. Nothing seems to be alive except a few people you don't really want to run into, the cars and buildings are mostly wrecks, and there's hardly anything to eat.

The movie does an excellent job of depicting this bleak world, such that walking off into the winter night without a coat, rather than continuing the struggle to survive, seems like a pretty reasonable option.

We follow the nameless Man, played by Viggo Mortensen, and his son, the Boy, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, as they head south (because you've got to head somewhere). They run into various people along the way, and the man's distrust of strangers is generally proven well-founded.

And soul-crushing hopelessness ensues, spiced up by moments of horror and occasional small triumphs that really sort of just underline the general hopelessness, so you're not quite sure they're doing anyone any favors.

There was no mention of libraries, which I suspect would have served little purpose in the film's world other than as a place to hole up and die (again, not an unattractive option!), but there was the nagging health issue of that cough, as well as some good do-it-yourself medical uses for staplers and duct tape.

I thought it was quite good. Well acted, moving, with lots of stark, soul-crushing cinematography. And was that a possible glint of hope? You should totally check it out.


Monday, November 23, 2009

On the Lookout for...Vikings?

I am not alone in my desire to look to the future when worrying about monsters! Well, sort of.

Aunt B. at Tiny Cat Pants points to this post by Shane Rhyne suggesting that the next big thing should be vikings. I'm with him about the need to look beyond vampires and zombies, but I think the casual focus on making a buck, as opposed to surviving the apocalypse, is dangerously misguided.

I expressed on Twitter the desire to create a new trend that I could cash in on. Zombies are starting to pick up serious momentum, but a true trendsetter is able to look beyond the immediate needs of the consumer and anticipate the next big thing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for cashing in on trends, but you have to be thinking about how you're going to be fleeing/fending off whatever it is that's going to be chasing/attacking you, as well as raking in the big bucks.

Also, vikings? I dunno. I guess they could bring about the downfall of civilization, but...

My money is on ogres.

Or dragons. Dragons may be due for a revitalization. Remember that movie, Reign of Fire? That tried reviving the terror of dragons back in 2002 and it was awesome...ly bad and hilarious.

Although I did actually like the beginning, where they had some characters acting out a crucial scene from The Empire Strikes Back for the kids who presumably had never seen it or any other movie. It was an interesting idea about how popular stories become legends that kind of define culture, and can carry on into other forms.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

It All Works Out

Recall how I decided to watch New Moon instead of Money-Driven Medicine last Wednesday?

I lamented the necessity of this difficult choice, on account of I really wanted to see Money-Driven Medicine, which is relevant to my professional as well as personal interests, but all is well! I have just seen on The Health Care Blog that the film may be viewed online this month at the Money-Driven Medicine website as part of a nationwide Watch-In.

I'll have to give it a look! I love it when things come together.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Girls Are So Weird, Right?

Having just recently been to see New Moon, and having chided myself for shallowness over it, I was interested in this piece from The American Prospect (you must also admire the punny title, Girls Just Wanna Have Fangs).

The article talks about the way that our culture sort of broadly derides the Twilight books/movies/overall phenomenon, perhaps not so much because they're poorly written/problematic in their presentation of relationships (which is not disputed) as because girls like them.

And anything meant for girls, and that girls like a lot but guys don't get, is bound to be pretty silly, isn't it?

This is an interesting (though not novel) point.

After all, it's not as if a lot of the stuff intended for guy consumption is high art. Nor, to be fair, is it as if it's presented that way--there was plenty of well-deserved projectile vomiting over the second Transformers movie too--but somehow it's not universally considered to be just plain frivolous the way Twilight is, although giant robots shambling through a half-assed plot that I suspect was pieced together from bits of 15 randomly selected other bad movies is in fact pretty frivolous.

I guess it all comes back to the way that we do tend to imagine the 'default person' as a male person. Ridiculously over-the-top movies aimed at guys are just ridiculously over-the-top movies. And I enjoy some of these as much as the next person. They're fun to watch, applaud dramatic explosions in, snicker at, and talk about later.

Ridiculously over-the-top movies aimed at girls are chick flicks. And I enjoy some of these as much as the next person too, but there sure aren't as many 'next persons' to enjoy them with. Because the 'default person' doesn't care about them. Only girls.

It almost makes me want to root for New Moon to become the biggest movie of the year, the one everybody has to see or be hopelessly out of the loop, just for some balance (darn it, I want to be able to dissect every hilarious slow motion sparkle with everyone I know!), but...enh. Maybe not quite.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Paths to Popularity

Another nice example from Sociological Images of how beauty standards change, with an ad advising that "if you want to be popular...you can't afford to be skinny!"

One way or another, it's all about changing something, isn't it? I guess there are a lot of things it would be tough to sell stuff to people by telling them things are OK the way they are.

One thing that we see doesn't change is goofy names/spellings for products: the one in the ad referenced is cleverly called "Wate-On."

Of course, phonetic spellings of words related to the product's intended purpose seem kind of retro at the moment--right now, we like to leave the initial letters off anything with an X in it ('Xtreme' is very hot) or attach any sort of masculinity-related term to pretty much anything marketed to men ("Dude-Wear Clothing!" "Bro-othpaste!" "Man-larm clocks!" "He-lium Balloons!").

This will seem very old-fashioned one day. Tomorrow, with any luck, because I'm already tired of it.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guiding Lines

Everyone is surely riveted to the kerfuffle around the recent change in the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations on mammograms.

I must say that my own immediate response was one of pure delight. I can wait until age 50 to be squashed and x-rayed?! That's much farther in the future than 40! Win!

But apparently I was missing some of the details, since there are plenty of people who are pretty perturbed about it.

I was filled in by some fine posts on the subject, to which I here give full credit:

Orac at Respectful Insolence has a well-reasoned post explaining the new guidelines, and another addressing some of the objections to them. (It's actually partly due to reading Orac's previous posts on the often-fuzzy issues around preventive screening that I reacted so casually.)

Christine C. at Our Bodies Our Blog also covers the new guidelines in a clear, straightforward way.

And finally, if you need any more, Naomi Freundlich at Health Beat has excellent details.

Something all of these posts explain is that  no one is telling women they can't get a mammogram before 50 if there's a reason to think they may need one. The new guidelines are just saying that in general, if there are no risk factors calling for increased watchfulness, you don't need to feel you're neglecting your health unduly if you wait.

After doing this reading up, I can say that I personally remain comfortable with the idea of forgoing the mammogram until age 50, unless something about my circumstances between then and now suggests I'm at increased risk of breast cancer and should do it sooner.

I'll be totally cool with it if that doesn't happen.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

O.M.G. [Swoon] Movie Review: New Moon

So this movie? New Moon?--everything I expected. Take that as you will.

We saw it with an entertainingly enthusiastic preview audience, so the showing was punctuated with applause, laughter, raucous hooting, and the occasional shout of "take it off!"

Seriously, I am not even going to run over the plot, because if you don't already know, you don't care. The story follows the book quite closely, as far as I recall (I read the book, but it was a year or more ago, so I can't swear to my memory of it).

But here are some general things you can expect if you choose to go see this film:

  • Lots of longing glances
  • Lots of hesitations before speaking (also long pauses!)
  • Lots of well-muscled, shirtless guys
  • Lots of attractively moody scenery (I did enjoy this)
  • Lots of extremely pale, moody people
  • Only moderately cheesy giant wolf effects (I do enjoy giant wolf action)
  • Some fairly heavily cheesy gothic vampire characters
  • Ever so much seething romantic tension! Seething, I tell you!

A few injuries and references to people getting sick, but no one spends any time in the library. Sigh.

I thought the character of Bella came across as less whiny than in the books, which was a plus. I also give the movie major props for the way they cover the movie that Bella goes to see, which was hilarious. (Face Punch! Best action movie title ever!)

It was two hours and felt slightly longer, but didn't make me actually check my watch.

Brief wrap-up: if you liked the first movie in this series, you'll probably enjoy this one.

If you don't know what the fuss is about but are curious, you probably want to see the first one first (and/or, just read the books a few times), on account of this one doesn't fill in the backstory for you.

But if you just want the giant wolves and seething romantic tension, dive right in.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Essential Shallowness Revealed

There's a screening of Money-Driven Medicine tomorrow at Northeastern University, which is practically down the street from me. It's based on the book by Maggie Mahar of the awe-inspiringly informative Health Beat, and promises to be both interesting and educational.

I really want to see this movie!

But...I also have a pass to a preview screening of The Twilight Saga: New Moon tomorrow. And you know which one all the kids will be talking about in the halls on Thursday.

I gotta see New Moon. And why?

Because I love the books? Tee hee. No.

Because I love the idea of elbowing my way through crowds of swooning teenagers? Well, kind of. I do like to elbow.

Because I know teenagers who will be swooning and want to be able to relate to their experience? No, I don't currently spend much time with teenagers.

Because I love handsome, sparkling, angst-ridden vampires? Not particularly.

Because this movie is getting a lot of hype and I want in on it? Yeah, pretty much.

So there you have it. I want to see this movie, rather than a no doubt much more intellectually stimulating movie with more redeeming social value, because media buzz has told me I do.

I am shallow. Sorry, Money-Driven Medicine. If you show up on Netflix I'll rent you, I promise.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Bad News About Bats

I've heard a bit about the mysterious bat die-off before, but this story from the Boston Globe Magazine has distressing details.

Entire species of bat are on the verge of dying off, which is bad because they play a major role in the ecosystem, eating all those bugs, and it could have seriously unbalancing effects if they disappear: "Kunz [a bat expert] estimates that there are 694 tons of insects loose in the environment now that would have been consumed by the estimated 1 million bats that have already died."

That's a lot of tons of insects. And a lot of dead bats.

This is also bad because bats are super cool, with their flying and their sonar and their insect-eating, and I just like their adorable hideous faces.

Good luck with this mystery, bat scientists, and good luck with the fight against extinction, bats.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ruling the Internet

Yowch. The Distant Librarian has news about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which I have to confess I was really not paying attention to, but which apparently could have a lot to say about copyright.

It's a treaty and is still in negotiations, so all information must be rumors at this point, but it doesn't sound great.

One of the leaks around ACTA suggests that there's a provision which will require ISPs around the globe to monitor and adhere to takedown notices upon mere accusation of copyright infringement, as well as a three-strikes and you're off the internet forever.

I should probably pay more attention.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Latest Horror Update

Hank at Dangerous Intersection reports on an investigatory mission relating to one of the many gathering threats that menace our fair world: killer robots. The intriguing title, In Which I Render God Speechless, gives a certain optimistic tone not borne out by the remainder of the piece.

While God (the name of a robot with whom the author exchanges words) may be speechless now, surely its descendants will only use the information gleaned from the post to design better, more lethal conversational ploys.

What makes it especially alarming is that Hank convincingly argues that the zombie invasion, which we all assumed would be bad enough, will be only a prelude to the super-intelligent robot attacks!

Buckle up*, everyone. It just gets more exciting from here.

*Your belts. Because the middle of a zombie and/or robot crisis is the last place you want to be distracted by ill-fitting trousers.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Things That Haunt Me

That pile of loose, jumbled pennies on the mini-dresser beside my bed, waiting for me to bundle them up into one of those paper tubes and take them to the bank.

Also, the fact that I can't think of a good word for that mini-dresser. End table? No, it's not a table, it's a little thing with drawers, the right size to sit next to the head of a bed and hold sleep-related knick-knacks. Like my night guard.

Also, the fact that I've chewed big dents into that night guard. I didn't know I grind my teeth, but apparently the dentist was not making it up when she said there were 'signs of wear.' So, fine, I guess I'm OK with the fact that I now sleep with a mouthful of plastic. Should I be worried about whether it has BPAs in it?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Benefits of Magazine-Reading

I was reading my American Libraries on the train on the way home from work this evening, and the woman next to me, noticing, asked where I was a librarian. It turns out she's a librarian at the university one stop down the line.

Then the man sitting across from us turned out to be a librarian at the university a bit over. It was the academic librarian car! Or, as another woman said, "the smart peoples' car." (I much appreciate that characterization of librarians, ma'am.)

This seemed like the right point for a rousing musical number, so we'll keep that in mind for the dramatization.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today I'll hail my grandfather, whose heavy wool coat from the Marines I proudly wore for a few years (until it started to look a little fragile), and still have in my closet.

I also like this post by meloukhia on this ain't livin', which nicely expresses the way we honor military veterans for their service, regardless of how we feel about any given conflict.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Letters Aloud

For some reason I was thinking this afternoon about the way that it absolutely did not compute, when I was younger, that in some places the letter Z is pronounced 'zed.'

I grew up pronouncing it 'zee,' and then we spent some time in Canada, and it just made no sense. How can you call it something besides 'zee'? That's its name! You can't just change the names of things!

I was aware that people spoke different languages, and sometimes had different accents even when speaking the same language, but for some reason the names of letters were non-negotiable.

That thing is a 'zee,' damn it, that's part of its essential nature, and I will brook no opposition. I mean, I will concede that in Nova Scotia people call it 'zed' for some unfathomable reason, but they're wrong.

Not necessarily wrong in a malicious way, you know, just horribly, horribly mistaken.

It made me think about how we attribute characteristics to things, and can come out of habit to see these characteristics as immutable, even if they actually look quite different from another angle.

Yeah, there really wasn't a moral there, I was just musing.

I would like to note that I've matured somewhat since then (getting older than nine will do that for you), and I currently have no objection to alternate pronunciations of the letter Z. Call it what you will, good people. The important thing is that we all use it to spell 'zebra.'

Now if you want to introduce an alternate spelling of zebra?--oh, you're wrong.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Peeking Over Walls

I was a callow youth 20 years ago, so while I remember the news when the Berlin Wall came down, I didn't really know what it meant. Berlin Wall?

What the hell is that, some kind of Wall in Berlin?

Jeff Fecke gives a nice summary of the historical background, and some personal perspective, on Blog of the Moderate Left.

I definitely remember the sense of unease he describes, of Us and Them dividing up the world, and what if They send bombs? It was no more than a vague backdrop for me, being callow and young and with no real understanding of history or politics, but it was there.

Interesting times. But then, all times are interesting, aren't they?


Sunday, November 8, 2009

This You Must See

The Slate review of the movie The Box includes this intriguing sentence:

There's also a very frightening sequence in the Richmond Public Library (played ably by the Boston Public Library), in which Arthur is pursued by Steward's slack-jawed henchmen as he desperately tries to remember how the Dewey Decimal System works.

Well, gee, I might just have to go see this movie now. Dewey Decimal Classification as a plot point? Filmed in a library I know?

That's a hard thing to resist. At the very least, it will have to go on my Netflix queue.

Besides, I do enjoy me some slack-jawed henchmen. It's actually a long-held dream of mine to have several of my own. I would also like some hired goons, for that personal touch.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Readin' Comics

Interesting xkcd comic today, reflecting on what happens after we're disassembled into our component parts and tossed into the bin.

From xkcd, under Creative Commons license

I don't at all remember which of his books it was, but I recall Isaac Asimov made an argument similar to this, using the idea of building an intricate castle out of wooden blocks and knocking it down, and explicitly discussing how this compares to human consciousness and death.

All the bits are still there (blocks, neurons), but the castle (or the person's consciousness) no longer exists. It existed as a combination of specific materials organized in a specific form. The castle was real, unique, magnificent perhaps depending on much effort you put into it, but once it's in pieces, it's gone.

It can linger as a memory, in pictures maybe, in legends of block construction to be passed down to future generations of builders, but there's no afterlife of wooden block castles where it still exists.

And if that's true of human consciousness, then indeed, we've got no real reason* not to check that 'organ donor' box. Someone else may as well get some use out of those component parts I no longer need. (This is not to say that I think believing in consciousness that persists after death means someone wouldn't check that box--this is certainly not true.)

*Well, some of us may have poisonous organs and wish to spare others from their terrible curse. That's a pretty good reason.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Random Updates

Eyeballs sore and itchy. Hate these seasonal allergies. New glasses pretty fabulous, however.

Spouse was sick today, but apparently it's not the plague since he's still capable of walking and eating some soup and toast. The flu may have bypassed us for now.

Gotta get up unpleasantly early tomorrow to go to a baby shower. That's just not right on a weekend, you know. Baby showers should be scheduled for 8pm, so I can sleep in and still get to Connecticut in time. Just keep that in mind when you invite me to one, oh legions.

Speaking of baby showers, you may recall my extensive rant on the doggerel associated with the invitation to one. Just because I happened to think of it the other day, I would like to share a bit of dreadful verse I myself wrote in my youth.

My sister and I had decided that our deity would be a silk flower that had been pinned to one of the bedroom curtains, and I composed this moving hymn:

Oh flower on the curtain,
Hear my prayer to thee.
Oh flower on the curtain,
Listen please to me.

Oh hear my faithful prayer,
That I am praying now--
Oh flower if you care,
Oh hear my earnest prayer,
And how! And how!

Oh yeah, that's magic. I mean doggerel. Many 17-year-olds write florid love poetry, you know.

I think in some way that excuses this.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

More Voting

Not only did I get to vote on Tuesday with my fellow citizens of the U.S., but now I got to vote today (or anytime between yesterday and December 8, but I got to it today) with my fellow members of the Medical Library Association.

I'm just bristling with exercised franchise.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yay, Sports! Movie Review: The Blind Side

I got an email that mentioned "tryptophan and other myths about turkey," and wondered idly "why are they talking about Thanksgiving already?"

Oh, right. It's November. Remind me again how that happened?

Oh, right. The inexorable passing of time.

Anyway, I saw The Blind Side tonight. It was surprisingly enjoyable.

Surprising to me, anyway, since I thought it looked a bit saccharine from the previews, and I don't care about football (the Crimson Tide excepted, of course).

If you're more into sports and heartwarming true stories, you may have thought it looked grand, and you will probably not be disappointed considering that even flinty old me enjoyed it.

Sandra Bullock does a nice job as the classic lovely Southern lady with a spine of steel, and Quinton Aaron is sweet as heck playing Michael Oher. There was a lot of humor, some fairly well-handled pathos (you have to do that right in heartwarming true stories, or else true or not it comes across as just soupy), likable characters that you basically root for. Plenty of fairly standard sports/bio movie moments (challenges, pep talks, triumphant scenes), but well done.

I've got nothing against standard material if you do a good job with it.

Also some lively sports action about which I will say nothing since I am in no way qualified to say whether it was well done or not. OK, I can say this: I'm sure it would have meant a lot more if I knew anything about football, but it was filmed and presented clearly enough that I could at least tell when something bad/good was happening for our hero.

They mentioned a library, since you have to keep your grades up to keep a football scholarship. Woooooo!!! Library!

Drug abuse featured in passing, but I didn't note other health connections, although watching people bash into each other did remind of the current research into whether repeated concussions contribute to dementia. That's well beyond the scope of this movie, however.

In closing, see this film for maximum heartwarminess.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Here's Money: Clean My Clothes!

We have new washing machines and dryers in our apartment building, and they are super cool and high tech.

In the old days of last week, we had coin-operated laundry equipment, with the old familiar slot that you drop quarters into one at a time, listening to them clink and jingle down to join a pile of other quarters (and filling us with the desire to crack open that box and steal them ahahahahahaha!!!!--oops, my criminal inclinations are showing).

The new machines are not only Energy Star rated, they have card readers in them, so you don't have to add quarters (and can't be tempted to steal the quarters back). You just add money to this card, which can even be done online, and then you swipe the card and the machine reads it and deducts the cost of a wash or dry, and there you go.

OK, it turns out the bar for super cool high tech in laundry machines is pretty low in my mind.

Nevertheless, I am moderately pleased since at least we no longer have to hoard quarters like precious jewels. We used to always be thinking of how to pay for things with strange amounts of change that would result in getting a quarter back.

I am less pleased that the company that provides the machines has taken this opportunity to raise the price of its services, but it remains more convenient than going out to a laundromat, so while I'm still going to complain about it, I won't actually resort to vandalism. (Laundry really brings out the petty thug in me.)


Monday, November 2, 2009

Here's Money: Give Me an Article!

I like this post from Sarah at Librarian in Black about DeepDyve, a new service that provides limited time access to online articles at the low low price of 99 cents.

She notes:

While I like the idea of being able to purchase articles one at a time instead of having to buy a yearly subscription if you don’t want one, it saddens me that services like this exist…and get subscribers. If only their customers would get library cards (for free) and access the articles they need for free from the library’s website. The success of a service like this speaks to the horrible job we’ve done as a profession of getting the word out about what we do.

Good point, that. I too appreciate the fact that a service exists to provide affordable access to a single article if that's all you want (it hearkens back to my deep-seated longing to buy a single cable channel), but it's certainly true that we'd like a person's first thought to be "does my library have access to this journal?"

I am definitely going to be looking closely at DeepDyve as an option for those occasions when it turns out we don't have access to the journal a patron needs, though. Because sadly those occasions do arise, and I hate to disappoint the wonderful, library-literate people whose first thought actually is "does my library have access to this journal?"

It seems likely that DeepDyve would cover a lot of the big, popular journals that we're likely to subscribe to, so I'll have to try to think of something we don't get that people ask for before I can test its value as a backup for our collection. And of course right now my mind is a blank. But something will come to me in time.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Not Just One Saint

Well, here it is November. All Saints Day! That's got to be way cooler than Some Saint's Day. Time to party!

I party in celebration of the return of Drugs and Poisons, a nifty little blog about, well, drugs and poisons, which is presently discussing mouthwash. I don't generally use mouthwash myself, but I like those bits Wired does on "What's Inside" various things, and I'm likewise pleased to know that mouthwash is not poison.

If anyone in the world reads blogs but does not have an RSS reader, I would highlight this as a fine example of something they do that's good: a blog can lie quiet for months, but as soon as something new is posted, I've got it!

Now if I had been just going to look at the site every so often like an RSS-less mariner drifting on the internet seas, I would have been disappointed many times by now, and perhaps even given up.

This particular blog, which is rendered in white text on black, also makes me grateful for the ability of feed readers to make everything come out in a uniformly readable way. White on black looks cool and all, but I swear it makes me a little cross-eyed after I read it for a while.

Speaking of eyes, I also party in celebration of the fact that I finally got around to buying some new glasses. It's only been since July that I had my eyes checked to get a new prescription. And since April before then that I barely passed the vision test at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and narrowly avoided having to come back and wait in line for three hours again to get my license renewed.

I think no one would imply that I don't get stuff done. Sometimes. Eventually.

I also party in celebration of the end of Daylight Saving Time, which promises a little more light in the morning. Getting up in the dark is just no fun.

On the other hand, this also promises that soon it will be deep night by the time I get out of work, but these are the trade-offs we must make.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

What We Need Are Some Standards

I see from Stephen's Lighthouse that the UN has formally approved a standard form for cell phone chargers.

I can immediately think of occasions where this would have been useful to me. I forgot my charger, and even though everyone around me had a cell phone, no one had the same model I did, and hence I could not simply borrow someone else's cord when my battery ran low.

I'm so accustomed to this situation that it didn't even really occur to me to complain about it (a startling event in itself, given my fondness for complaining), but on reflection it's pretty silly. Imagine if the outlets in houses were all different, so you could only plug in your phone in certain models of electrical systems. If you moved, you'd have to get a new phone. That would suck, huh?

Happily, we have standardized electrical outlets (within countries, at least; there may still be issues if you try to take your regional-standard plugs abroad), so you can at least count on one end of your charger fitting wherever you might be. We like this.

I for one applaud the march of uniformity in this matter. One day, maybe I can go on a trip and forget my cell charger, yet still be confident of being able to borrow one from someone else.

Perhaps laptop chargers will one day follow?

P.S. I spent more time debating the title of this post than actually writing it. Is it grammatically correct? Is "what we need" (singular, would take "is") or "standards" (plural, would take "are") the important thing here? The internet does not immediately offer an uncontested answer. Shocking!

I'm following this pronouncement on nominal relative clauses, which isn't even specifically about my question, but references it in passing and sounds really authoritative, but I could see the other side as well.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Peering at the Bookish Future

Spent an interesting few hours at a half-day conference on the Future of the Book at Boston University this afternoon.

James Tracy, the Headmaster at Cushing Academy (the school that made news recently because the library traded in most of the print collection for electronic books) spoke about that decision, explaining that the school hopes to explore options for the best ways to educate students for the world of the future.

The argument that keeping access to a relatively few, not especially rare print titles in a small school library is not inherently better than offering access to many thousands of electronic versions of texts is definitely interesting. If you're offering books, is there a special value to print that makes it worthwhile to have a library dedicated to that?

The next speaker was Richard Sarnoff, President of Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, who gave a publisher's perspective on electronic books, stressing that while they have a lot of potential, especially for academic texts that are frequently updated and that users may not feel a strong need to own permanently, they are and will continue to be a small part of total books sold for many years.

He believes that the audience for print books is so broad that it will be a long while before e-books get the kind of widespread use that digital music enjoys. I liked the point that books for small children, at least, are unlikely to go electronic in the near future, certainly until e-book readers are designed to handle being thoroughly drooled on.

I also liked the mention here of the way that e-books are designed to replicate the experience of reading print, rather than to take advantage of the chance to put in audio or video enhancements: while these may be useful in some contexts, there are many times, especially when reading imaginative works, where we don't want to be distracted from our engagement with the text. Despite the shorter attention spans that the internet might encourage, there's still value to long-form reading, and e-books can support that.

Finally, Ann Blair of Harvard spoke about note-taking in history and today. New means of taking, sorting and storing notes promise to add interesting elements to reading in the book's future, as access to scraps of parchment, and, later, paper, allowed for notes in earlier ages. She had some great images of notes from history, and a fascinating overview of how notes have been perceived over time.

I loved the idea that reference books are essentially a way of getting access to ready-made notes: summaries of the important information about various subjects. Rather than read all the background material and take notes on it, I can consult a reference book that breaks it down for me!

Overall, this was a very enjoyable short conference with some thought-provoking speakers. I am left fairly confident of at least one thing about the Future of the Book: one way or another, I'm going to be reading them.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Costume

I have decided what I want to be for Halloween, based on a remark from a conversation between a man and two small children.

I shall be Captain Awesome.

I'm not sure exactly what Captain Awesome wears (tights and a cape, probably?*), but with a name like that, you know it's going to be good.

*Either that, or it will turn out that Captain Awesome likes to go around disguised as a mild-mannered librarian. It's meta.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Latest Exciting News

PubMed is officially the new PubMed!

It's terribly exciting. Sadly, I got stood up today by the person I was supposed to meet for a discussion of how to make a smooth transition from Ovid to PubMed searching, so I didn't get to show it off.

It will be convenient not to have to keep telling people "now you probably want to click here, because even though this is what the site looks like right now, it's going to look like this sometime soon."

As I've been using the new design, I've quickly gotten used to it and I quite like it. It works well.

At this point I'm ready to say it: well done, NCBI!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vitamin Question of the Day

An important question on the Nutrition Data Blog: do you need to eat some fat to properly metabolize fat-soluble vitamins?

The answer given is no:

You generally have enough lipids on hand in the gut to handle any fat-soluble vitamins that come along, even if they are eaten with a low-fat or fat-free meal.

There goes my "I'd better eat six cookies with this multivitamin to make sure I absorb it properly" excuse.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Who Goes There?

Something probably close to many of us in this highly log-in-able world: a discussion of passwords.

We know we should use different, highly individualized passwords for every site, incorporating upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols to make them hard to guess...but we have so many things to log into, how can we remember that many passwords?

At my job before last, you had to change your password every few months, but you could reuse them, so I had two and I'd just switch back and forth. At my last job, you had to change every few months, and they couldn't repeat, so I wound up just adding one more character every time I had to change it.

It got pretty unwieldy after a while, so I decided to change jobs rather than try to remember the password. Let no one say passwords aren't important!

Personally, I rely far too much on my browser to remember passwords for me, in my Keychain. It's all good as long as I don't lose my hard drive (again), or find myself wanting to log in on another computer. And as long as not too many sites go the extra length for security by rendering the 'remember this password?' feature non-functional.

My current workplace does that. The browser remembers the password, all right, but the site refuses to accept automatically entered characters. It triggers a sternly chastising message.

It's for my own good, I know. And at least I can keep the same password forever, as long as I enter it by hand every time I log in.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Here's Money: Entertain Me!

Grim rumor via Cinematical holds that Hulu, our favorite place to watch TV shows online for free, may begin charging for said TV-show-viewage in the future. Maybe as soon as next year.

If you read the linked story, it isn't clear that there would actually be fees for all content on the site, so maybe some shows/episodes would still be free while others would have a cost.

While the natural response to hearing you have to pay for something that used to be free is protests and screaming (fun, too!), I'm actually withholding judgement on this until details are available. Because depending on how much it cost, I might be quite willing to pay to watch a show online.

Say there's something that runs on a channel I don't get. We'll use the example of Battlestar Galactica. 

While it was on, BSG ran free on Hulu on a weeklong delay (each episode became available online a week after it aired, so if you watched only on Hulu you were always a week behind and had to carefully guard yourself against exposure to spoilers). It was a fair deal and I was happy to get it, but I have to say that if I could have paid a couple of bucks to watch each week's episode immediately, rather than wait a week to see it free, I probably would have done it.

Also, I know someone who watched the first seasons on DVD as the last season was starting, and then couldn't follow the last one with us, because only the most recent few episodes were available at any particular time, so you couldn't start from the beginning. She totally would have paid (if it weren't too much) to get caught up so we all could have discussed plot twists in glorious and geeky fashion.

I imagine (perhaps over-optimistically) that this new situation, if it encourages even greater participation in Hulu (which does not actually have every single show out there right now, ahem) might help with an issue that I personally am bitter about: the fact that you can't order cable channels a la carte. 

I really only want about four of them, but you can't get them that way, you have to pay a large amount of money for a large package of channels, most of which you don't care about (the Big Deal of television subscriptions). In my home, we basically decline to pay a lot of money for cable, so we get basically no channels. It's the choice we've made, and we live with it, but we still complain, because darn it, we can imagine a better world, and why aren't we living in that world right now?

If there were a way it worked out to be cheaper to pay per episode online than upgrade cable to include a certain channel for the sake of a single show, I could easily see spending a few bucks to watch a show on Hulu, rather than waiting for DVD (which is the other way we watch a lot of our television).

So, Hulu, and shows that aren't currently available on Hulu (pointedly glancing at Mad Men here), work with me, and I'm willing to work with you.

On the other hand, I won't lie to you, if I think it costs too much I'll just keep waiting for Netflix. I am a patient person, and canny with my entertainment dollars. And obviously, you couldn't charge for stuff that's already on video the same way you could for current shows. Stuff that's on video would have to stay pretty darn cheap. If you're competing with my ability to rent a DVD, you have to go some to make it a deal.

But certainly for new shows, if there's a price point that seems inexpensive enough to me that I'd just as soon pay it as wait for video, and that's still enough to make it worth the content owners' while to sell it to me, I don't see why we can't all live happily ever after.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Access Allowed

I saw this site called WAVE on flip flopping joy, and it looks like an interesting resource for those working on making web sites accessible.

I'm aware of this topic, of course, but I don't really work with web design, so I'm not well versed in the principles. I ran this blog through WAVE, naturally, and found that it triggered 16 'Alerts' marked with right yellow icons (though no frightening red 'Errors').

Not knowing much about web design I have to admit I'm not completely sure what to do about these alerts if I wanted to make old Wretched Oddments a completely accessible site. One of them warns that there's an empty list (WAVE or the software it evaluates for apparently does not pick up Twitter updates). Should I not have Twitter updates on the sidebar? Should I try to find another way to show them?

I've honestly got no clue. It's interesting to reflect upon, however. And I'm sure the answer is out there on the old web.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Reading Other Peoples' Mail

Maggie Mahar at Health Beat has the first of a promised series of letters from people in other countries sharing their personal impressions of their health care. This one is from Canada.

It's interesting to get a personal take on another system, to add to impressions we may have gained from other things we've read and heard. I like that Maggie Mahar interjects her own comments at some points to clarify numbers or other points, making this a nice mixture of anecdote and data.

The best of both worlds!

There's something inherently interesting to me about comparing other peoples' experiences to my own--that sort of "so that's how it works in Canada?" thing--and of course with the current debate over health care in the U.S. this is a good way to see some different approaches to the issue and think about which aspects of various systems might be nice to have, and which send us reeling out of the room clutching our stomachs in an attempt not to vomit uncontrollably.

In my case, it's the plans that force everyone to ingest high-powered emetics that do the latter. I can live without those.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not the Music!

This post on the Blog of Rights made me think--it tells how "a group of musicians, including REM, Pearl Jam and The Roots filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to find out whether their music was played at the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay."

I've heard of music being used to harass people, of course (probably I remember it first from when the U.S. was going after Manual Noriega in Panama, way back in 1989). This article by Suzanne Cusick has an overview of the history and use of music as torture, including that instance. It seems to be in many cases as much about volume as about the specific tunes/notes of the music, which makes sense. Any sound can become just painful noise if it's too loud, so even if you liked the music in question it would be hard to handle if you couldn't even think through the din.

And there were those jokes about playing such-and-such music, pretty much anything one finds annoying, as torture. "Elevator tunes, now that would make me surrender!"

I never really thought about how someone who makes music might think about this concept, though. Especially someone who made a piece that was actually used in this way.

Really, wouldn't it be incredibly strange to hear that your work was used to torture someone? And by 'strange,' I mean really disturbing and unpleasant, although of course that's my own take, and it's certainly possible that some people would be pleased at the notion that their work had been put to such a use.

Even if you're in general pro-music-torture, though, I would imagine it would have to be odd to hear that your own music was used that way. You might make music you know a lot of people won't enjoy--you might proudly make music only a worthy few will appreciate, and relish the thought of the incomprehension and distaste of those who just don't get it. Heck with 'em!

But even then, you probably don't make music with the idea that it will be intentionally used to cause distress to someone. So even if you're pretty OK with it in general, that must be weird.

And, too, this brings up other interesting questions that start to look like ideas about intellectual property rights. Even if I do hate the fact that you use my music to torment prisoners, does that mean I have any say in it? If you legally paid for a copy of my song (and if torturing people with music is also considered acceptable, which is a giant bit of the story that I haven't even looked at), isn't it totally fine for you to do whatever you want with it, as long as you're not making money off it without getting my permission/giving me a cut?

Is this fair use?

I guess I'm really not going anywhere specific with this, it was just an interesting train of thought for me. If it were my music, I would be really unhappy to hear that it had been used like this, so good luck to all the musicians with their lawsuit, and I hope they get some clarification. Whether or not they have any legal ability to control the use of their music this way, they certainly have every right to express an opinion on the matter.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No Whining! Movie Review: Motherhood

We saw a free screening of Motherhood recently.

It was riddled with technology references, since the main character (Uma Thurman) blogs. It's modern! And cool! It speaks to me!

The movie takes us along with Uma Thurman's Eliza K. Welch in the course of a hectic day while she scrambles to accomplish a long to-do list in preparation for her daughter's birthday party.

Her children are actually incredibly well behaved, so I appreciated that the movie doesn't suggest that every single day of a parent's life will be marked by a screaming tantrum.

I didn't find the film especially significant, however. Eliza blogs her thoughts, which have varying degrees of profundity (just like on any blog), and also causes some trouble by mentioning a personal story about a friend whom she names. This seemed a bit unlikely to me (would anybody be that thoughtless?), but what do I know.

My own dear friend Muttonchops Wilkins once commented to me, while in the midst of a laughably complex plan to conceal the fact that he obtained his current high office through chicanery and lewd blackmail, that common blog etiquette dictates not writing about people by name if you're going to be telling personal tales. Oops.

It seemed to be trying to make some larger point about motherhood in general (my first clue was the title!), but I'm not sure it really got one across, to me anyway. I guess the message I saw was, motherhood is hard work, and sometimes frustrating, and it's tough to manage the changes in your own life and your children's lives and to negotiate the balance between who you are as you and who you are as a parent, but at the same time it's rewarding and wonderful. And taking the time to write or otherwise express yourself is important.

So blog! I guess.

And that's a fine and no doubt true message, if that's the message, but it's not really something we didn't already know. Life, hard, check.

Anyway, people who know (better than bon-bon-eating no-kids me) how tough it is to keep things going day to day in a busy life with children may find the movie reassuringly familiar, and it had some amusing bits. I felt in the end it didn't really amount to much, but it was a moderately entertaining "slice of someone's life" type film that people with little kids might relate to.

Libraries do not feature, but there are old books as well as blogs, and there was a limited health connection which restates the important message "careful what you let kids put in their mouths." (Not that you can completely control that.)


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Speaking of Money

Librarian in Black reviews the 2009 Library Journal Placements and Salaries survey. It doesn't look too good, she finds.

Average starting salary is down, part time jobs are up, job cuts abound.

Things could be worse, we don't see nationwide collapse of libraries, but we're all trying to cut every corner.

Good luck to all those hunting...I hear from many people that these are indeed tough times.

Edited to note that this year's survey, being based on information from 2008 graduates, is of special interest to me. My information is in there! I'm totally adding this to my Bibliography in My NCBI, since it's obviously all but dependent on me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Money Here, Please

Were you aware that this is National Save for Retirement Week?

Me neither, but I have it on good authority that it is true. TIAA-CREF tells me so.

So please take this opportunity to deposit some money in my TIAA-CREF account. You may be assured I will take good care of it, using it for only the finest bon-bons as I relax with Hedonismbot in my glamorous retirement castle.

Aw, who am I kidding? Hedonism isn't relaxing--it'll be non-stop action!

But don't worry, I'll find time to enjoy bon-bons.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Zombies: They Pull Me Back In

I keep saying that I'm so over zombies and have moved on to other terrors (isn't anyone but me concerned about the potential Giant Menace?), but I can hardly resist this University of Florida Disaster Preparedness Simulation Exercise addressing a zombie attack.

It is no longer actually available at the University of Florida site, but is presented by Library Preservation, where some insightful comments raise important questions about zombies in libraries. I found it via the estimable Future Feminist Librarian Activist.

I can see that my library needs to dedicate some serious thought to our disaster plan, which I don't believe says anything at all about either zombies or vampires, which, as the other popular monster of the moment, should not be overlooked. It couldn't hurt to focus a little attention on werewolves, either.

Also, of course, giants. They're not messing around, you know--they'll grind your bones to make their bread.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Follow Tips, Write Good

Stephen's Lighthouse points out this edifying post about 50 Writing Errors that Continue to Haunt Bloggers.

It is getting close to Halloween, so I figure some haunting is due. The list covers various commonly mistaken homonyms and the like (Conscience or Conscious, very different things), but doesn't say anything about zillion-word posts on verse structure, so I think I'm OK there.

I see that eminent/immanent/imminent, one of my favorite homonym confusers, did not make the list. I guess not enough people need to write about well-regarded inherent qualities that are about to happen.

I'm sure I've made my share of writing errors (there are certain words I just can't seem to remember how to spell), but I can't be bothered to go back and hunt them up.

I'm too busy reading other peoples' blogs! I just realized that I was so busy catching up on the 236 unread posts I had this evening, that I completely forgot to watch Dollhouse. It will be my fault if it's cancelled, right?

At least we have Hulu.