Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tragedy Narrowly Averted

I couldn't find my phone today.

I looked all over my office, the reference desk, the back room (even though I pretty much never take it out of my office while I'm at work), but there was no sign of it. I knew I had it yesterday, but not last night, so I'd last seen it in my office, but couldn't recall exactly when.

Calling it produced no sound, but then, it's set on 'vibrate,' so that's not a reliable indicator of whether or not it's in the area.

I was all set to retrace my steps back through the doctor's office buildings I wandered all over yesterday looking for the location of my eye exam, but I had a last, ground-level look around my office first.

And joy! I must have dropped it on the floor and then kicked it under my desk. So I may have some unresolved anger issues regarding this phone, but at least it was found.

It was an emotional reunion.

Cries of "you terrible gadget! How could you frighten me like this?!" mingled with murmurs of "come here, all is forgiven!" and showers of kisses.

I have an inactive backup phone that I could have transferred my account to, so it wouldn't have been the worst thing ever if it had actually been permanently lost, but I was still pretty happy to see it.

The slightly relevant point of all this (aside from my just liking to tell dramatic stories about myself) is that this reminded me that I really ought to back up my data.

Yet again, in yet another format, I have non-redundant data that is pitifully vulnerable to loss! When will I learn?

Yes, it's not a lot of data--I don't have a smartphone--but there are phone numbers in this device that I have not recorded on paper. It would be a real pain to get them all again. Let this be a lesson to me to save my contacts list in another place as well.

I'll get right on it. As soon as I'm done eating cherries and reading blogs.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Agreeing on Terms

As I learn Tech Services sorts of things, I am finding new love for the MeSH Browser. It's so user friendly. And subject headings mean so much more to me if I get to stick them on books myself!

Yes, it is pretty much all about me.

I look forward with gleeful anticipation to a possible future project assigning MeSH to a collection of graduate theses that are currently searchable only by title keyword. I'm somewhat saddened by the thought that this will probably not happen for some time because there are enormous teetering piles of more immediate priorities, but one can dream.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mmm, Fruit

I am loving stuffing myself with fresh cherries. Summer fruit is a wonderful thing.

I also have pears, grapes, peaches and kiwi fruit on hand.

It partially makes up for the fact that I feel like taking a shower by the time I get to work in the morning. And, tragically, there is no shower at work.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Belonging, Distantly

It is the time of year when a young librarian's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of renewing professional memberships.

Ah yes. They seem to come due about now. At least, those that aren't due at the beginning of the year. Which is in fact half the total.

OK, so I'm reading into a statistically not-remarkably-significant trend.

But since I haven't really thought much about these professional organizations since the last renewal, it does make me wonder,

a) should I be getting more out of this and/or putting more into it?

b) if I'm not going to get out/put in more, should I be paying for it?

Enh. I will, I guess, just in case I one day feel like getting or putting more. I'd want to have that connection established at that point, after all.

But I haven't really found the time to be very engaged lately in ALA or M[assachusetts]LA, so I do kind of have to think about what it is I'm doing.

Just saying "you go, ALA and MLA!" I guess. "I heartily endorse this event or product that you might be promoting!"

Declaring membership in the community is something, I reckon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Early Proto-Twittering

I've kind of fallen off Twitter in recent weeks, but the news from Future Feminist Librarian Activist that John Quincy Adams will soon have a daily Twitter feed renews my interest.

History, don't you know.

Mr. Adams' tweets will come courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and will begin on August 5th and recount his travels as taken from his diary, 200 years later to the day. Apparently he could sum up a day's events in a single line. I have rarely been a diarist of so few words myself, and look forward with interest to admiring the concise writing that will no doubt be on display.

I'm so in.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

So I need to make a character for a Star Wars roleplaying game. I'm basically burnt out on Star Wars as a concept/storyverse, but roleplaying is roleplaying.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Making Faces

So I've been hearing a lot the past few hours (thanks Healthbolt) about this software that lets you take a photo of yourself (or someone else, if you can bring yourself to be interested in anyone else) and reshape the face so you can see what you'd look like with, say, a different nose.

It's designed for plastic surgeons, but that doesn't mean the rest of us can't amuse ourselves with it too.

I could not resist giving it a shot with a handy photo of myself.

I always wondered what I'd look like with big, doe-like eyes. What the heck, a different nose as well. Might as well pout up those lips and sculpt those cheekbones as long as we're at it. And isn't there entirely too much forehead and chin on me?

I think you'll agree that the results are well worth the trouble.

I'll be saving up my money for plastic surgery as soon as I can spare some from the ice cream fund.

It's kind of weird, because it turns out you can change a lot without making the face completely unlike the original. Evidently we recognize faces based on some understanding of all the parts together, rather than the relative sizes of specific features.

As a sort of off-label use, I imagine this program could really be good for when you're playing D&D and you want a nice visual representation of your character who looks kind of like you but is half troll.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ooog...Full of Ice Cream...

Sometimes, of a slow evening, it is important to watch Futurama* DVDs and attempt to eat one's weight in ice cream. I'm pretty sure Ben and Jerry's is health food.

Then later, one must brush one's hair.

Yeah, I got nothin.' I'm still trying to get caught up on blogs, and work, and email.

*Tonight's quote: "I'm saving my neck for a rich, handsome Dracula!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Satisfied Movie Review: Humpday

This evening's free movie screening was Humpday.

Uncharacteristically for me, since I seem to hate nearly everything I see, I enjoyed it and thought it was pretty good.

The low-key, naturalistic acting and the dialogue were a lot of fun, and the relationships between the characters felt very real, although the specific situation (two straight guys who are old friends decide to make a porno film together to enter in a contest) might not be one of those with which everyone can immediately identify.

I quite liked the main characters, who were all sympathetic and believable as they try to figure out things about themselves and their lives. It reminded me a bit of Shortbus, which also had likable, rather sweet characters muddling around their lives in the context of sexuality.

There was no specific library or health connection, alas. Nobody even did much research. But not everything can (or should) revolve around the library.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

No New Information

I'm just back from a quick jaunt to the moon, in honor of the moon landing. Woohoo!

I mean Salt Lake City.

Either way, I was not checking up on the internet in my absence, so I hope it's been behaving.

Friday, July 17, 2009

NCBI Totally Loves Me

Oh, My NCBI, always coming up with new ways to impress me!

I like the (relatively new, I think) option to make public and share a collection, either by emailing a link to someone, or by just pasting it into your page like so:

I should note that "View my collection" is their default language for this link. I might also like to edit it to read:

Alternatively, and a little less dramatic with the colorful underlined link-y look, I might go with something like:
I found a few articles from NCBI, collected here as "Honey and wounds".

I could see this being handy if you're working with someone else on research, and want an easy way to say "here, this is what I found." Or if you wanted to share the results of some searches with your adoring legions. Heck, you could just do little collections of articles all the time to illustrate points you're talking about: "see here for suggested reading."

I like it.

I guess I can now never delete that semi-random collection I put together for demo purposes, lest my links go bad. Well, it couldn't have happened to a nicer set of articles about honey and wounds.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cutting Cars

As well as being annoyed with the internet, I went to the Low-Car Diet kick-off event yesterday. I will plug it shamelessly on account of I like anything that gets me on the news. My fame must enlarged! Fed like the ravenous beast it is!

Anyway, I got a fine T shirt and a reusable shopping bag and other fun stuff, and got to drool over an attractive bright yellow MINI Cooper. I should have taken a picture.

This is the kind of car I would never actually buy, even if I were going to buy a car, but it would be kind of fun to drive one around.

Also to park it. I always see those tiny cars parked in little spaces that no other car would fit, and think "that person must be glad they have that car!" Good for the city.

Know what's even better for the city, though? No car. Parking in the city is always such a hideous, expensive affair. Outside of big cities, or even in big cities without public transportation, I know you pretty much have to have a car to get anything done (even for me, it makes grocery shopping and visiting people a lot easier), so it's nice to be somewhere with a few more options.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Ire is Leveled

A curse on you, slow internet. I hate when I write a long, newsy email and then hit 'send' and the screen just whirs and eventually dies, taking my carefully crafted sentences with it.

I hate you, slow internet! I hate you! [Shaking an ineffectual fist.]

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Taking Health Notes

I'm playing with Google Health, which I had never much gotten around to looking at even though I signed up for it right away (because Google owns everything else in my life, why not this too?).

It's pretty easy, and moderately easy to conceive of as useful.

I put in my Raynaud's phenomenon and my Chickenpox (links to the site's suggested "more info"). Easy as pie.

And those are just two of the hundreds of conditions available! For everyone, I mean, not that I personally need to add hundreds more conditions to get my record up to date.

You can also enter your own text if you want to keep track of a condition that isn't on their list. I like that option--it's nice to be able to add freeform information as well as picking from a list, since it gives you more control over the record as a whole.

Importing information from a provider worked like a charm as well. Makes me wonder if I could still access (and import) my information from my last insurance plan, which used online records.

The main thing that's bugging me right now is the lack of fuzzy dates. If you want to add details for a condition or medication, you have to pick a precise beginning and/or end date if you want to include one at all. And you know what? I really don't remember the precise dates on which I had Chickenpox.

It was well over 20 years ago. I wasn't paying attention at the time, OK? I was probably feverish and cranky. I could ask my mom, but I'm too busy whining. Besides, what if she doesn't remember either? Can't you just let me fuzzily select "Winter 1982" or something?

But no, I have to say "December 1, 1982" or some such exact date, and this unwarranted precision offends my well-developed sense of wanting things to be accurate. I can include a note stating that the date is approximate, which is better than nothing, but it's not completely satisfactory to me.

But overall, I can see that if Google Health continues to operate reliably and to effectively safeguard personal health information, it could be useful to come back to the site over the years to review this history.

For example, if I actually did know the precise dates of my Chickenpox infection, I could check that against historical news reports of outbreaks in the area at the time and gain a fuller understanding of how my own health fit into the larger health portrait of the region!

Or, you know, I could check the date of my last tetanus booster to see if I needed another one, or whatever.

We can generally assume our doctors will tend to have this information on file, but if we move and change doctors (as one often does, in the course of leading an eventful life that goes past the age of eight), stuff could get lost along the way. Especially from Chickenpox infections back in the last century.

Plus, it can be nice to have this sort of thing in one place for yourself.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Not a Drug! At All!

Interestingly, Cheerios has been called out by the FDA for claiming to be a drug. Dangerous Intersection has the news.

You can't just go around making specific health claims about your product, you know. People will start thinking they can rely on a specific result if they take a specific dose, and stuff.

I like Cheerios, but them's the rules.

This is why I like to make only broad, unverifiable claims about anything I talk about. Possibly, to a certain extent, not that anyone could prove it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Unexplored Childhood

There's an interesting piece in The New York Review of Books on Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood.

It talks about the way children (and adults) like adventure stories, relating this to the fact that every person's childhood is an adventure through an unknown, only gradually discovered territory of land and relationships. So many children's stories are about children dealing with things in situations where adults are only marginally present, and an important part of progress through childhood is to live in and explore the adults-nominal world each child also inhabits at times in his or her life. (The title really foregrounds the idea that this is a boy's concern, but the text is more general, and I think applies to girls as well.)

I like the idea.

The article also laments the way that children no longer get to go outside and play as much in the U.S. because we're so worried about them eating dirt or being kidnapped or getting hit by cars. I've heard this concern before, and it does seem unfortunate. I spent a lot of time running around outside as a child, having bold adventures in what seemed like vast expanses of unexplored wilderness (ah, the cow pasture across the road! the fallow wheat fields!), and I remember those days fondly.

Kids should get outside sometimes, right?

The piece includes a grim tale of two children living on the same street a few houses apart who had never met, presumably because they never went outside to play and run up and down the street (although one can also imagine a blood feud between their parents, just to keep things lively).

The moral is, live next to unexplored wilderness and kick the kids out into it once in a while. Sadly, this is not that easy for many people.

Also, be sure to warn the kids about the dangers of getting eaten by mountain lions if you are out in the wilderness. This information from a study at UC Davis suggests that the old advice about holding your ground if you do see a mountain lion may be faulty: you might want to just run for it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Have My Own Definitions

To this day, when I see the brand name Cover Girl, in my head it sort of refers to covering ones face with makeup.

Because when I was little, I didn't know about models and magazine covers.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Taking Class Online

Found this expanded discussion of class lines on social networking sites (previously mentioned) on Racialicious.

It's a "rough, unedited crib" of a talk given by danah boyd, and suggests that the migration of large groups of people from MySpace to Facebook as the latter was surging in popularity represents a kind of online "white flight." It's a very interesting piece, with a kind of disturbing take on how we pick our pastimes.

The discussion in comments is also interesting, with people talking about their own experiences, and ways in which the author's observations don't necessarily hold true in other countries.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Translating Through Time

Got Medieval needs your help!

Explain why a knight fighting a snail is funny.

Apparently you can find that particular image all over in the margins of medieval manuscripts, but no one at the time ever bothered to explain the joke, leaving modern viewers baffled.

I know why I find a knight fighting a snail to be amusing: 'cause it's a knight, and you expect them to be all serious, and then there's one getting all worked up about a snail, which is kind of a silly-looking creature to be threatening a knight.

But I don't necessarily expect that my sensibilities would have been shared by the artists who made these little pictures. Nor would I expect my mild amusement to be the foundation for an extensive series of illustrations.

So basically I got nothin.'

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Aw, Darn It

I missed a momentous occasion today, as noted on Alas! A Blog with the descriptively titled missive Posted at 12:34:56 07/08/09.

Maybe I can get it together to publish a post at 09:09:09 09/09/09. I haven't missed that one yet, and it's just as cool.

I have to admit I'm not very good with special dates, though. I'll probably think of it the next day.

But I'm also holding out for 11:11:11 11/11/11, which is arguably even more awesome since...only one can be the coolest date of all.


Also, on a completely unrelated matter*, look at us here in Massachusetts, kicking up dust in federal court!

It was only a matter of time until DOMA got challenged from somewhere, and I reckon this state is a fitting candidate on account of our general fondness for riling things up on the marriage front.

I myself got married in another state, but I assure you it was riling-ly unconventional. My dress was blue! People were fainting all over. (You can trust my notoriously unreliable brain to remember this one correctly. I would never make something like that up for the sake of a feeble joke.)

Anyway, it will certainly be interesting to see how this shakes out.

*In terms of numbers. In terms of momentous occasions, we can just pretend I totally meant to have that connection in there rather than thinking of it minutes later.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fabulous Car Fortune Favors Me!

Hey, I won a Zipcar membership as part of their Low-Car Diet promotion!

The membership is only $50 a year, which is really very reasonable if you kind of want to have access to a car, but don't feel the need to own one. Insurance, taxes and parking would be a heck of a lot more than $50, even after you paid for the car.

I'm sort of tempted to reserve some cars and drive around just to try out different models--but that kind of a little bit defeats the purpose of the 'low-car' idea which is that for a month participants try to swear off cars. Also, we have to blog about it.

If only I were comfortable babbling on the internet! It's really too bad, is what it is.

Getting by without a car should be pretty easy for me on account of I already walk and take the train to work, but I've long found the Zipcar idea appealing, so it will be fun to know more about it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bribing Children

LISNews links to this post by a homeschooling parent in Seattle who spurns summer reading programs.

She argues that offering children prizes for reading a lot of books undermines what should be the real reason they read books--you know, 'cause books are awesome.

I have recently been thinking about rewarding behavior that ideally is its own reward, and I was a homeschooled child who once participated in a summer reading program, so I could naught but comment.

To the internet! Is what I said, before showing up here.

When I was 11, I thought the summer reading program at the library was the best thing ever. I read books all the time anyway, and now I could get a coupon to Dairy Queen for it? Sweet!

So in retrospect the program did not actually motivate me. I don't think I read any more than I would have without it, which was already about twice as much as was required for that free ice cream cone or whatever.

I guess I do get the whole "bribery is icky" aspect of trying to convince some child who normally wouldn't be reading all the time to read for ice cream, though. I mean, doesn't that kind of cheapen the whole thing? If you're only reading because you want ice cream, are you really getting everything you could out of it?

At the same time, this assumes that reading and learning are only ever to be properly valued as abstract jewels free from that taint of filthy lucre. And certainly they are valuable in that sense. If you like to read and learn stuff, I think you're more likely to have a sort of lively, thoughtful mind that will make you good at getting stuff out of life.

But reading and learning stuff can also be put to the service of making money and earning a living, and we can't really argue that that's a waste of time. Maybe it doesn't really matter if kids read for the love of reading or for the love of ice cream. Or money. They're going to wind up doing a lot of boring stuff for money later on, right? Get 'em in the habit!

Besides, maybe they start reading some boring book for ice cream, and then discover that it's actually fascinating and cool!

Bribery: is it really so wrong?

Yeah, I'm working on a parenting book right now that will lay out my theories on child rearing in more detail.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

In the News Weeks Ago

Some things I never got around to mentioning lately...

If anyone is interested in a nice charitable endeavor, my friends Erika and Petra are collecting donations to renovate a school library in Thailand.

The Distant Librarian notes that Dartmouth is now beta testing a new federated search service called Summon. You can test it yourself on the Dartmouth Libraries page! I gave it a shot, looking for 'edible wild mushrooms,' and retrieved thousands of results including--on the first page--a book, a lot of journal articles and some newspaper articles.

I really don't have any smart review notes, though...the whole reason I meant to post about this was to make some sort of goofy joke about how much I wanted to use something called Summon because it would make me feel like a wizard casting a Summon Information spell ('cause you know, usually you Summon Monster, right?)...yeah, it needs work.

Dangerous Intersection has an interesting piece about how impartial focus groups could be useful to help settle all kinds of questions. Sadly, it would probably be pretty expensive to make this kind of service widely available.

And there was a really interesting Blowfish Blog piece called "Special Rights, Not Equal Rights" (linked from Greta Christina's Blog) about how weird it is to be in a same-sex marriage in California right now. Since it's no longer legal to get married, but if you already were married before Proposition 8 passed, you still are, there are a lot of people who do have 'special rights' denied to others.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Let Us Hold in Memory...

On this momentous day we commemorate the time when, as Got Medieval explains,

"Light from a star in the constellation Taurus going supernova reaches Earth. Arab and Chinese astronomers mark it down. Europeans, not so much. The remnants of that star come to be known as the Crab Nebula."

Also some sort of something to do with a British colony declaring freedom from tea or whatever. History was one of those subjects for which I could muster only desultory interest.

Heh. Happy 4th to my legions in the U.S.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Different Sides of Online Tracks

Interesting post on Feministing about "The Online Class Divide," specifically the ways that MySpace and Facebook have divided up the online social networking world.

Or, more to the point, the way that people have segregated themselves on the two sites...largely along racial and class lines, according to the argument here. I signed up for Facebook just because it was the one promoted on the university website when I started grad school--I didn't realize I was following trends established by my social status.

I suppose one often doesn't.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Who You Callin' Helpful?

I was mildly amused by this Rough Type post about a study suggesting that people who contribute to Wikipedia, rather than being motivated by a desire to selflessly advance the frontiers of human knowledge, tend to be cranky and anti-social, and to prefer communicating online because they don't really like personally interacting with fellow humans.

They sure have my number!

Well, except that I don't contribute to Wikipedia. But if I did, you can bet it would be in a dour and grouchy fashion.

Or...maybe the fact that I don't contribute to Wikipedia is evidence that I'm less cantankerous than I think?


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hark! A Train!

Apparently my habit of wearing earplugs on the T is well-advised.

This Healthbolt post says that the subways in New York City (and, one can likely assume, those in other cities such as Boston), have "noise levels ranging between 80 and 120 decibels."

In case you, like me, have no real sense of what a decibel actually sounds like, the helpful comparison is that "normal conversation is between 60 and 70 decibels."

So the takeaway is that subways are loud.

As you probably know, regular exposure to loud noises can cause hearing problems over time, so this is of potential of concern to those who ride the train a lot. I'll hope that my earplugs help with that, 'cause there's no way I'm driving into Boston.

I need the train, loud or not.