Monday, August 31, 2009

Battling With My Blog Feeds

It turns out that paper tickets and not being allowed to check oneself in online are just as annoying for everyone as I expected. Oh well.

I am still trying to recover from some dedicated party-attending over the weekend that involved very limited sleep, but here are some things I liked this evening.

A reminder from Greta Christina that we should be involved in politics (I like the argument that it's a good idea whether you think politicians are honestly trying to do the right thing by their constituents, or are just trying to get re-elected: either way, they have a reason to listen to you!).

This interesting quote from How We Drive:

There are many words for what happens when people texting while driving crash, but “accident” is not one of them.

I could argue about that from a definitional standpoint--it's an accident if you didn't do it on purpose, after all, and presumably very few people crash on purpose--but it makes a telling point that if you choose to divert your attention from the road in order to send a text message, you can't exactly profess shock if you happen to not stay exactly on the road.

And some fascinating excerpts that Navelgazing Midwife has taken from A Nurse's Handbook of Obstetrics (linked copy digitized by Google, 7th edition copyright 1915, and, I deduce, once the possession of a certain Lane Library).

All are interesting, but for some reason I especially note that

When the baby is about two weeks old, the doctor probably will order one teaspoonful of freshly extracted strained orange juice to which an equal amount of boiled water may be added to prevent the baby from "choking."

I know we're into fruits and vegetables, but two weeks? I've never heard of anyone being advised to give food other than milk/formula to a two-week-old baby these days.

Brandy on the gums to soothe teething pains, yes, everyone I know still does that,* but orange juice?

*Note to Child Services on behalf of my child-having friends: this statement is a lie. Why would I make up a lie like that? It is a question that will bedevil the ages.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Air Travel History Theme Park

I recently bought some plane tickets via Travelocity, as one does when one finds the lowest price there. I am ever mindful of the fact that you get what you pay for; I accept some loss of refundability/flexibility when using discount travel sites.

But in this case, there was an extra twist: the particular flights I wanted were only available as paper tickets (because the deal was just that awesome). I didn't even know they printed paper tickets anymore!

OK, that's an exaggeration, but really, buying online and having to get paper tickets mailed? Isn't that more trouble than it's worth for everyone involved? (Well, evidently not...but it should be.)

And now it develops that I can't check in online in advance with these tickets, but have to actually wait in line at the airport tomorrow, as if civilization had never advanced to the point that the internet possessed the capability to assist us with these annoying details.

What is this, 1997?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Update Your Pages

I found this amusing note upon logging out of the Personnel section of the website at work today:

For added security, If you are using this application in a public area, you may wish to close the current window -or- quit Netscape Navigator/Internet Explorer. This step clears 'left over' visited images from memory.

It's amusing to me not because of the advice to close window/quit browser -- that's obviously wise counsel, and I do it when using public computers -- but because it assumes that the only browsers someone would be using are Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer.

If you don't keep an eye on these sorts of things, they become entertainingly dated in no time! At least it's entertaining for someone like me who apparently has nothing better to think about of a Wednesday.

That reminds me I should update my own various profile pages and so forth, but on the other hand, if I don't get around to it, I can imagine it providing a moment's amusement for some other worrisomely under-occupied person someday. If that's you...enjoy!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mmm...Cloned Worm Genes

Can I resist a post from Genetics & Health with a title like Cloned Worm Gene Acts To Glue Bones? I cannot.

I am intrigued by the idea of using glue based on cloned worm genes to repair fractured bones. If it works (and note that this theoretical product has yet to be tested in living creatures, so it might turn out to be a total failure), that would be awesome. Fixing broken bones is good!

On the other hand, consider that people who had this treatment would effectively become part worm. You could have worm genes! Imagine the playground taunts!

As opposed to being taunted for being part construct, if you have your bones held together with plates and screws instead.

Can you live with that?

Yeah, me too. Theoretically.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Updates to Posts You Will Have Forgotten

Speaking of mosquitos, I got a bunch of annoying bites while outdoors over the weekend. Sigh.

And speaking of malaria, perhaps you will enjoy these Chinese anti-malaria posters, from an exhibit at the National Library of Medicine.

I particularly like the very emphatic gentleman second from the top in the gallery of images. He may be able to end the transmission of malaria through sheer force of will.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I'm back!

I know everyone missed me terribly. There were no real health, technology or library connections involved in my absence, it was just a housewarming party in another state.

I ate a lot of chocolate. That's healthy, right?

Now I must catch up with sleep. And the internet.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Party Idea

I see on Healthbolt that it is World Mosquito Day: the date when, in 1897, the connection between mosquitoes and malaria was discovered.

The day is seen less as a celebration of all things mosquito--though someone would probably be up for that party--than as an occasion to press for continued work in the battle against malaria.

Come to think of it, I would be up for that party if it involved a theme event where everyone dressed up as mosquitoes for charity and drank red wine through straws or something. We could have contests to see who could most effectively puncture a plastic bag full of wine with their straw! Oh, this could be good. All proceeds go to anti-malaria programs, of course.

I have previously expressed interested in mosquito-killing lasers, but since I haven't seen these on the shelf in my local grocery store yet, I assume they must still be in development.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reviewing a Thing or Two

Zipcar: Love it.

My sister is moving across town, and needed some stuff hauled from one place to another. Not a lot of stuff--a footlocker, some plastic storage bins, several boxes--but more than would easily fit into the single car belonging to my household.

So I reserved a little Zipcar SUV, easy as pie, and got the job done in a few hours for under $40. Even filled the tank with gas, which is included in the Zipcar rental.

Honda Element: Quite like it.

This was the little SUV I used, and I was quite pleased. I am not one of those people who really enjoys feeling that I'm driving a hulking behemoth that's eight feet off the ground, so this was a good option. It handles very nimbly and feels very manageable for something that holds as much as it does (easily one footlocker, two large plastic storage bins, and five or six large cardboard boxes--I forgot to count).

The rear seats fold up out of the way to make more room in the back, and this was easily accomplished with a quick review of the owner's manual. I don't necessarily want to ever own a car again, but if I should need to, and should want something that holds a fair amount, I would consider this vehicle. In the meantime, I'll certainly keep it in mind for the next time I need to haul some stuff.

Berryline Frozen Yogurt: Adore it!

If you have not had Berryline, and you are anywhere near Boston, you must go. There may be a line, especially on these hot evenings, but it usually moves pretty quickly, and is worth the wait. They do 'tart frozen yogurt,' which is a way of saying that it tastes more like regular yogurt.

Most frozen yogurt is sweeter and seems to be working on being indistinguishable from ice cream. And don't get me wrong, I enjoy that frozen yogurt, and I very much enjoy ice cream, but the slight tartness makes a taste sensation all its own. It's fantastic with fresh fruit.

Just try it.

All in all, it has been a most satisfactory evening.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Advancing the Frontiers of Zombology

Although I personally have moved on from the living dead to focus on other terrors (ahhh!!!! Flying Heads!!!!), I am pleased to see that others have the zombie menace well in hand.

Via Respectful Insolence, please direct your attention to this scholarly paper addressing When Zombies Attack: Mathematical Modeling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection.

The paper has a broader application than merely demonstrating how vulnerable civilization is to collapse:

This is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the first mathematical analysis of an outbreak of zombie infection. While the scenarios considered are obviously not realistic, it is nevertheless instructive to develop mathematical models for an unusual outbreak. This demonstrates the flexibility of mathematical modelling and shows how modelling can respond to a wide variety of challenges in ‘biology’.

Those of you still on zombie-watch duty can disregard that optimistic bit about how "the scenarios considered are obviously not realistic."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Not Keeping Records

It's just one thing after another.

Not only were we using a forbidden symbol in our cataloging (which I still plan to correct, as soon as I get word on what new, allowable symbol has been assigned to signify the needed characteristic), but now we get word that we must do a Purge.

All the items referred to in records that have been assigned various status notes indicating that they are not where they ought to be must be sought!--and, if not found, must be given up for lost, and their records deleted.

It's a good project, certainly. I'm all for streamlining the catalog. Records for items that do not exist serve only to frustrate anyone who might happen to be seeking said item.

The only thing is, it's about Project 12 on my list right now. Where is the time to be found for all these worthy undertakings?

Here and there, I suppose. I am rarely bored, at least.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Highway as Food Source

Healthbolt has a post about a book called The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America’s Underground Food Movements.

In addition to other things, no doubt, it seems that it talks about eating roadkill. Which I'm all for, I guess, as long as it's fresh. I mean, if you hit a deer and kill it, you might as well eat it, right?

If you eat meat, that is. Maybe even if you usually don't, depending on your reasons for vegetarianism: after all, wild animals that run in front of your car were at least not part of the factory farm system.

Once when I was a kid my mom hit a pheasant with a car, and we stopped and got it, and later ate it. It's dead, it's perfectly fresh, why should it go to waste?

The only other time I recall being in a vehicle that killed an animal, it was a cow, which would have been legally someone's property, so I don't know what happened to it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Even the Most Adequately Laid Plans...

I was going to sleep in really late today. It was my big plan for the weekend.

It's been a busy week, with some nights of fitful sleep. (When I know I'm going to have to get up earlier than usual, often I just wake up repeatedly at gradually less ridiculous hours, because I'm worried I'm going to miss the time I actually need to wake up. "Is it time yet? Can't be late! No, it's 2:30. OK. Go back to sleep. Is it time yet? Can't be late! No, it's 3:28." And so on.)

So anyway, here it was Friday night, a long and busy day behind me, yawning with weariness, and darn it, I am going to sleep forever on Saturday!

So I woke up at 8:30. Which granted is two hours later than I usually get up, but it's not late. Not like I used to be able to sleep late. I blame the fact that I can really no longer stay awake very late unless there's a darn good reason.

In college I'd still be up at 2 in the morning as a matter of course. On weekends I might not go to bed until dawn. So naturally I could then easily sleep until 3 in the afternoon.

I don't usually do that anymore.

I also blame the fact that when I woke up at 8:30 I was starving. There was no chance of going back to sleep when my stomach was shouting at me in apoplectic rage.

"What in the hell are you playing at?! Usually at this time of day we've had two full meals and three tasty snacks!* We're running on empty down here! Do you want me to cut off the glucose supply to your precious brain?! DO YOU?!"

Fine. I accept that I'm all grown up and old, and I need structure and routine. I got up and had ice cream for breakfast. That shut the stomach right up.

*My stomach is exaggerating. Usually by 8:30 I've had one meal, and at most two tasty snacks.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I've Missed You, Wimba

Went back to school this evening, to address the latest Distance Ed class at University of Alabama SLIS. The old Wimba classroom looked just the same, except the window seemed so much smaller than I remembered! [Nostalgic sigh.]

Although this was possibly because I had shrunk it up into a corner of the desktop in order to be able to cast an eye on my notes in case I forgot something I meant to mention.

You will be proud to know that I refrained from shrieking "Run! Run while you still can!" despite how obviously hilarious that would have been.

It made me fondly remember my own days in class, all of a year and half ago. [Nostalgic sigh.]

On the other hand, I am also thankful that I don't have homework at the moment. Workwork is keeping me busy enough right now. I like to imagine I'll take more classes in something one of these days, but not just this minute.

Maybe Tuesday, when I have an online class in MARC scheduled ('cause if I'm cataloging, I might as well have a refresher).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Toying With Baby Care

Know what I like to think about after a long day of library orientation classes and exciting catalog intrigue?*


Sociological Images is not the first place I've heard of this 'breast-feeding' doll, but it's the one I've looked at today. And I have to say that even after having heard of it a few times, I honestly do not get what the big deal is.

The doll comes with a sort of halter top that you ('you' probably = 'female child' here) put on, and it has flowery decorations on it that abstractly (very abstractly) symbolize nipples, and you place the doll's mouth against the flower decorations and pretend-nurse it, and based on the pictures it maybe makes suckling sounds. (Irrelevant but related: the picture of the box this doll comes in renders the suckling sounds as "chup chup chup," which for some reason strikes me as almost unbearably cute. "Chup chup!" Isn't that a perfect representation of nursing baby noises? I mean, when they're not slurping and grunting and whuffling like starving piglets. Babies are not exactly dainty eaters.)

Anyway, apparently some people are very disturbed by this.

I dunno, I grew up with people who nursed babies, so when I was a kid and played "babies" with my dolls I always pretended to nurse them, because that's what one did with babies based on the models I saw around me. I didn't have an elaborate garment or sound effects, but come on, when you're a kid you play at being a grown-up. Grown-ups with babies nurse babies.

Why is it any concern to anybody if this doll acknowledges this?

But it seems some people don't think little girls should pretend to nurse baby dolls because...I makes you think that they're imagining they have breasts? And that's only OK if they're putting on bikini tops and pretending they're sex symbols?

You know, we live in a weird culture.

*It turns out that for years we've been employing a forbidden symbol to designate items as 'electronic books' in our OPAC! Will our heroes escape unscathed, or will there be horrifying consequences for this heedless error? Tune in later** for the continuation of this epic drama!

**Or possibly never, depending on if I ever remember to post a follow-up.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Expanding the Vocabulary

For those MeSH-users among us, Rachel at Women's Health News proposes that we suggest the addition of 'doula' to the vocabulary. (See a definition of doula at DONA International.)

A doula is not necessarily trained as a nurse or a midwife, and does not serve the same purpose while attending labor and birth, so it makes sense to have a specific term for this role, if there's enough literature on the topic. I get 114 results for a keyword search, so there's not a huge body of incompletely defined work out there, but it could also be an idea that's still gaining strength and will be of more interest to researchers as time goes on.

The concept is at least a called by a straightforward and easily searchable keyword, unlike some other ideas one might try to find, but as good MeSH-users, we always like to take advantage of a controlled vocabulary when one is available.

Do it, MeSH! Bring us doula!

You too can suggest this or other terms, using this handy form. I assure you, it's a thrill. I feel all engaged in the process now.


Update 8/13/09: I am informed from NLM that "More suggestions doesn't affect what is done," so if you're going to use the form, pick an exciting new term to suggest rather than this one.

Apparently there is not strength in numbers in this particular issue. Now we know! One idea could be all it takes!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Checking the Catalog

I've been enjoying the opportunity to become better acquainted with MARC lately.

The relationship is developing slowly, with many references to the official MARC Bibliographic page, but I'm confident that in time I will speak fluently of fields, indicators and subfield codes, as the need requires.

Yes, I shall be a cataloger.

Sadly, I sold my AACR2 to another student while I was still in school, deciding I could use the $70 more than the undoubted satisfaction of having a giant volume of cataloging rules hanging around. Now I can't set it on my desk as a talisman of my awesome power.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Worth of a Kidney

I found this interesting article on Health Beat about the idea of creating a legal market for donor kidneys. It talks about the ways that kidney donation by live donors is expanding, and wonders whether, since the need is still far greater than is being met, it might be effective to pay donors a set price, within a regulated market.

There's a decidedly uneasy feeling to this idea from an ethical standpoint, but it might still be something worth considering and talking about, even if we ultimately decide we can't do it without crossing a line we don't want to cross.

The article also discusses organ markets in other parts of the world that inevitably exploit those with few other options, and addresses the fact that we know very little about the long-term effects of live donation. A living person can donate a kidney with relatively few immediate ill effects, but apparently there have been no real studies of how donors fare years later.

This is definitely one of those topics that is fascinating but not really easy to think about.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Whither MyNCBI?

Catching up on the latest news about the long-promised PubMed redesign, I was caught up short by the following info from the question and answer list:

  • Is “Preferences” replacing “MyNCBI”? Undecided.

Well, for pity's sake. I was just working on a tutorial for MyNCBI, which I personally have long loved and wished to introduce to the eager masses of students.

Now it might not even exist under that name!

Guess I better put that project on hold. No point in recording detailed, throat-hoarsening Captivate tutorials if the thing I'm talking about could look different in a month (the current proposed launch date is mid-September).

If only I had a huge and ever-growing collection of other projects to work on instead.

Thanks to the Krafty Librarian for the tip.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Making Apologies

I see on Racialicious that California has approved a bill to officially apologize to Chinese American citizens for discriminatory laws passed during the Gold Rush and later.

Some of these laws, which "barred Chinese from owning land or property, marrying whites, working in the public sector and testifying against whites in court," were on the books until the 1940s.

The bill would also honor the ways in which workers from China helped make California what it is. Most notable may be the fact that they basically built that side of the Transcontinental Railroad.

This reminded me that on a tour of Havre Beneath the Streets we learned that Chinese railroad workers lived underground because it was safer for them not to be outside in town after dark. Although Chinese immigrants are not as big a part of Montana's history as they are in California, they were certainly there--and, unfortunately, apparently no better treated.

It's a good idea to acknowledge when you've been wrong if you hope to be right, so I think this is pretty cool.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Oh, How We Suffer!

I am distressed to hear from Well about this downside to the overall awesomeness of life as a redhead: apparently, we don't respond as readily to anesthetic as people with hair of other hues.

The speculation is that a gene mutation associated with red hair is also linked to pain receptors, making the bearers of said genes more sensitive to pain and less responsive to anesthesia. The story specifically discusses the possibility that redheads may be less likely to go to the dentist than other people, perhaps because it's more painful for them.

Distressed though I am on behalf of my color family, I'm not sure I myself got my red from this particular mutation, since I've never noticed that I'm more sensitive to painful stimuli than my dark-haired friends and sisters. In fact, I'm punching myself in the head right now, just for fun!

OK, that part is untrue.

I've never avoided the dentist due to fear of pain, though, and have found the anesthetic used on me to be quite effective. More than once I've bitten half through my lip in the aftermath of a dental procedure because I couldn't feel it (when it's numb, isn't a lip pretty much twice as big as usual, and always in the way of whatever you're trying to say or eat or sip cautiously through a straw?)

More research is clearly called for, given that this is a topic of such obvious importance to the world.

In the meantime, dentists, if you have red-haired patients, give them some extra drugs. Maybe that's what my dentists have been doing with me, and I never knew.

Oh, hey, I did need an extra dose of anesthetic drops at my last eye exam, where they touch that thing to your eyeball to measure the pressure. I kept involuntarily flinching because I could feel it touching. It didn't hurt, exactly, but it felt weird enough that I couldn't keep my head still.

Maybe my variant of the red gene is extra sensitive to eyeball touches, but not tooth pain. I'm telling you, we need more research!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mmm...Vintage Taste Sensations

Sociological Images reminds us that perceptions of deliciousness vary over time, with a charming ad for 7-Up recommending that it be mixed in equal parts with cold milk to make a special treat for the children.


I dunno, I haven't tried it, so in all fairness I can't state with certainty that it would not be stunningly good. And I guess a root beer float is essentially a dairy product mixed with a soda product. A 7-Up float wouldn't seem completely outrageous, right?

Maybe soda and milk do go together like peanut butter and jelly (a combination that people who think of peanuts as mainly savory might find unappetizing).

I'm not rushing out to try it, but I suggest that you do, and let me know how it goes. In the interests of science.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Good news, everyone! I found some industrial strength makeup remover. My lashes are unharmed. That's a relief, given my terror of dust particles.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Glamour! OK, Glamour Over.

I was at a photo shoot for a Zipcar story yesterday, and got my hair and makeup done. This is extremely rare in my world. It looked OK--nice but minimal.

The thing is, this mascara is still on. I know you're not supposed to sleep in it, but I don't own industrial-strength makeup remover, and I can't get it off. I'm afraid all my eyelashes are going to fall out.

Anyway, watch your newsstand for the August 14th issue of Fortune. I might be visible in a crowd of people sitting on a Toyota Tacoma.

Or not. I figure the odds are good they won't actually use the shot, and I got PerMascara for nothing. Well, not nothing. I got some cookies, and a cute Zipcar flash drive.

Should you ever be called to one, please be aware that photo shoots take just about forever. Plan to stay many hours.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Searching for Direction

Stephen's Lighthouse has good advice about getting to know Bing, Microsoft's new 'decision engine.'

Since it looks like being Google's main competition in the search engine field, as librarians we should be familiar with it, know what it can do well and be able to judge when it might be useful. I confess I've used it only casually, just to see what it looked like, but the advice is well taken.

I'll give it a try when I actually care about the results, and see what I think.

In other news, I took my MINI Cooper out for a spin today. I'm honestly a little too tall for it, and had to scrunch down a touch to look through the windshield and see whether lights had changed, but it's a fun little machine.

I look forward to enjoying some of my other cars in future, now that I have such a vast stable from which to choose (20+ within a few blocks of work alone!) I must say, I am liking the Zipcar experience.

One thing with which Zipcar cannot help me, however, is my nearly supernatural inability to ever get anywhere without mishap. Is there a wrong turn somewhere along this route? Let me at it!

Fortunately I was wary and went prepared with a number for the place I was going, so I was able to get straightened out that way.

It turned out the problem was that there are just too darn many Washington Streets, and I was on one of the ones that wasn't the one I wanted to be on.

That's practically a legitimate wrong turn, you know.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Excuses to Celebrate

From Got Medieval, the important reminder that the feast day of St. Lawrence of Rome, patron of librarians, falls on the 10th of August.

The post recommends celebrating with a cookout, given that Lawrence was martyred on a gridiron, in the non-football sense of "A grated iron utensil for broiling flesh and fish over coals."

Not being well versed in saints, I was interested to learn that librarians have two other patrons: Jerome, and Catherine of Alexandria.

Good news! Since Jerome's feast day is September 30th, and Catherine of Alexandria's is November 25th, we still have time to celebrate all our patron saints this year!

I'll depend on Got Medieval to suggest further party themes for these upcoming events. I've got to be honest, the suggestion for The Decollation of St. John the Baptist on August 29th is much more interesting than St. Lawrence's cookout, so I've got high hopes for something really dramatic.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Verbing Weirds Language*

With my fondness for words, I enjoyed this post on Dangerous Intersection about the use of 'text' as a verb.

I concur with the author: it seems incorrect, but it's the way people refer to the concept of sending text messages on their phones, so I use it.

Language changes, that's all. Sometimes I like new words/usages, sometimes I hate them (oh how I hate them), but if that's the way people are conveying information, I can only argue with them so far.

'Text' as a verb is actually not one of the ones I especially hate, but 'video' is. "I'll video that event for you," makes me blanch in horror. There's no particular logic to this contradiction, that's just how the words strike me.

The post also talks about how Twitter has tried to define using its service as "tweeting," only to find that many people say "twittering" instead. You can't always (or even usually) establish linguistic usage intentionally.

I myself prefer "twittering," not only because it derives more naturally from the name of the site, but because it sounds more like something I'd want to do.

Tweeting seems a little monotone to me, like belting out a single note over and over (maybe from a boiling teakettle?), while twittering suggests varying notes of discourse, like a bunch of birds sitting in a tree and vocalizing up and down the scale.

I am obviously reading into this my own prior associations with both words. Which is naturally the correct one.

Twitter with me, people! And text me if you want, but please don't video it.

*Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

Post! Post!


Oops--missed it. It's past midnight.

Oh well, lost that day.