Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two Unrelated Items

Well, first, everyone is all over the PubMed redesign (announced, with info on the specific changes, on PubMed New and Noteworthy, and noted by lots of people).

I'm all over it too, of course. It's big news in my world.

Now we can start making our Captivate tutorials to inform our students about how to switch over to PubMed once Ovid Medline is gone! We've been champing at the bit for this.

Having spent a little time poking around the new site, I am basically cool with it, as the kids said about 50 years ago. Things look a little different, but I think I can find what I need, and I haven't found that anything I loved is totally gone. The cool tricks we try to teach students to use (do any students use them? we can dream) are still there.

I like that you can now see the MeSH terms on an article by just clicking a little plus sign at the bottom of the abstract. It was never much fun to explain to people that they had to change the dropdown 'display' from Abstract Plus to Citation to see them: not that that's difficult, but it's not intuitive, or likely to be easily remembered by someone who doesn't use PubMed a lot.

When you're just trying to give someone a handy tip ("looking at the MeSH terms assigned to an article that's good can give you ideas about search terms to use to locate more articles!"), it's nice if the tip is actually going to be easy for the person to apply later.

I imagine we'll pretty much immediately start teaching this (sorry, class who got the PubMed presentation yesterday--that's old news!), and I anticipate getting to know it much better. For now the new PubMed and I are on cordial but still distant terms, but I hope to grow to love it in time.

Ideally, about 20 minutes of time. I'm a busy person, you know.

Second, as if it weren't enough that not sleeping well might incline one to be more susceptible to catching colds, now Genetics and Health presents the suggestion that poor sleep may be associated with Alzheimer's Disease.

Well, that's it, I'm going to bed. Perhaps I'll dream of biomedical information searches in wondrous new interfaces.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Let the Record Show

I have previously written about unreliable brains and their secretive plans to make us think that events happened differently than they in fact did.

I'm not sure why they do it, but there's documentation. It's happening all around you, people! The plot even extends inside your own head!

T. Scott is with me on this (though in a less alarmist fashion), with an interesting post about keeping a journal over the years, and sometimes finding, on re-reading entries, that the way he remembers something is not the way he initially wrote it down.

I too have kept a journal for many years, and one of these days if I go back over the collected volumes, I expect I'll be startled to find things I thought happened one way, that actually were somewhat different. If my contemporary description is to be believed, that is. There's always the chance that I lied about it when I first wrote it down, and remembered it accurately, but in general the opposite is probably more likely. I don't remember lying to my journal, anyway.

Mostly when I glance back over the pages I find that I seem to spend a lot of time talking about how tired and busy I am. I am apparently always simultaneously stressed out and on the verge of falling asleep. My faithful legions of blog followers are fortunate, since I occasionally try to think of something more interesting than that to say here, or at least to find interesting things that other people are saying.

This makes me wonder if memory will get better now that it's easier for people to record and document events in their lives. If we can go back and fact check our recollections, will we be inclined to preserve the memories more accurately?

Or will we just misremember the things that aren't recorded, since pretty much no one documents everything, and think we remember perfectly the things that are recorded, even if the memory has actually faded and what we're remembering is the documentation?

Knowing the wiliness of our slippery minds, I'm betting on the latter.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Away With These Wicked Books!

In honor of Banned Books week, I'm passing along this link from Sociological Images to a mashup of Google Maps and reported complaints about books: Book Bans and Challenges 2007-2009.

You can see little balloons for all the reported challenges in the U.S. Hover over a point to read the details, and how the case turned out.

See what's up with books bans in your neck of the woods! You'll notice that there's not a lot going on with book challenges in the west and the middle of the country there.

Is this because people in these states respect all forms of literature? Because libraries don't bother to order books they think will be challenged? Because challenges aren't reported?

These questions are not answered by this site, but are nevertheless interesting to ponder. You go first.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Toss the Shoes

This Well piece on running barefoot (which follows another story) is kind of old, but I forgot to notice it when it was new, and still think it's pretty interesting.

I guess the idea is that considering you put huge piles of pressure on your feet walking or running anyway, what's the difference if there's half an inch of rubber between your foot and the road?

One obvious difference is, at least the rubber will keep bits of broken glass from getting stuck in your feet. Also, there's a lot of grit and dirt out there, some of it kind of gross. We used to run around barefoot all the time when I was a kid, but we lived in the country. When we went into town, we had to put on shoes, because, as my mom once said, "people chew tobacco and spit on the sidewalks." 

She probably assumed people didn't want to see grubby barefoot children running around in the aisles of the supermarkets, either. There's no logical reason it would be any dirtier to have people walking around stores barefoot than tracking the same dirt in on their shoes, but somehow it's way more off-putting.

Probably a class issue. "No shirt, no shoes, no service" and all.

We had super tough feet, though, and didn't seem to suffer any ill effects from the lack of shoes. We'd run around on gravel roads and in prickly forests and through stubbly fallow wheat fields. Sometimes we did have to pick stickers out of our feet, but it was just one of the costs of doing fun.

We could justly sneer at anyone who was a tenderfoot. Also, we sometimes ate thistles. Just for the hell of it. Yeah, we were tough.

Now, years older and with the paper-thin soles of one who wears shoes everywhere outdoors, I myself am a tenderfoot. I limp with every step over gravel. Siiiiigh.

Maybe I should take up barefoot running to recapture the glory of my youth. The only problem is that I'd have to take up running, and no way.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Color of Blood

I kind of like this recipe for homemade hand sanitizer, posted on Healthbolt. I usually just go with soap and water, or sometimes the bottled purple stuff that's scattered in convenient locations all over where I work (including, lately, right in front of the elevators, which is a nice way to make it available to pretty much everyone who passes through the building except lone weirdos like me who climb the stairs).

I like that stuff, 'cause it's purple. But I also like the idea of just mixing up a batch of my own purple stuff, using ingredients I have right to hand around the house:

  • aloe vera gel
  • grain alcohol
  • tea tree oil
  • fragrance 
  • purple food coloring (although that's my own addition, and might dye your hands)

On second thought, I don't have those things around the house. And it's hard to even find purple food coloring, so you have to try mixing your own out of red and blue, which even though they tell you that's the way color works, it never actually comes out purple, it comes out this strange muddy color.

Beware of trying to make purple. That's why they had to make purple dye out of sea snails in the old days: it's really hard to get it to come out right. Not that making it out of sea snails was exactly the work of a lazy moment.

I also hear (check ye olde Wikipedia) that the most popular purple shade was "exactly the colour of clotted blood, and is of a blackish hue to the sight, but of a shining appearance when held up to the light."

Clotted blood, eh? That sounds more like a very dark red than what I today think of as purple. I would call this purple:

Clotted blood, not quite so much:

I mean, it's a little purple, but really more red. But I guess the Phoenicians liked the color of blood more than the color of crocuses.

In closing, and to bring this back to the original topic of today's ramblings, please sanitize your hands if they come into contact with blood clots.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Bundle Up Movie Review: Bright Star

We saw a preview of Bright Star last night, and I must say it really addressed the health concern of the old days, when it is suggested that you could in fact catch your death of cold (although even in the old days, getting chilled was probably not the direct cause of tuberculosis).

The movie presents the love between John Keats and Fanny Brawne. There were no evident libraries, but there was of course literature, and the whole health angle.

It was beautifully done. The settings and the clothes were wonderful to look at (although, to modern eyes, those outfits aren't really terribly flattering to the human form).

There was some nice acting as well. Nice interplay between the characters, main and supporting. It was one of those leisurely movies where things happen, and there are dramatic moments that then drift into other moments without there being a big This Is The Important Bit scene.

One can get used to action movie pacing, where things seem to always be building to explosions, so this was an interesting difference. Don't go to it for the explosions, but do go for the passion, the poetry, the garments, and the consumption.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Enjoy Not Parking Here

You must enjoy this picture of book-shaped bollards (from A Don's Life via How We Drive). They have been set up in front of Cambridge University Library.

I would dearly love to just post that picture right here, because I know no one will actually click through to look at it, but I fear to copyright-infringe, and dare not.

So go look! Do it!

I want those in front of my library.

Also, I did not know that those short sturdy pillars that get put up to keep cars from parking somewhere were called 'bollards,' and now I do.

I have been both delighted and educated.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Well Slept

Via Well, a sad story for anyone who has trouble getting that regular eight hours of sleep that we're told is optimal (does anyone actually sleep eight hours a night?): we're probably going to get sick, too.

We can tell because some people in a study who slept less than seven hours a night were almost three times as likely to catch a cold as some other people who slept at least eight hours.

As in all things, we must caution against reading too much into the one study referenced, which looked at only 153 people and their responses to cold viruses after their sleep patterns had been observed for two weeks.

This should not be taken either as license for extremes of behavior, which I contend is the main reason we like to read health news stories, or as proof that we're doomed, which is the other popular message. (We are all going to die. But not immediately as a result of poor sleep quality, if judging solely from the information presented.)

Interestingly, "percentage of days feeling rested was not associated with colds," according to the study authors, so you may not even be aware than you're at risk. You could feel just fine, but be an unwitting virus magnet!

Perhaps you're a victim of sleep inefficiency; the people with less than 92% sleep efficiency were five and a half times as likely to catch the cold as the people whose sleep efficiency was 98% or greater.

Five and a half is more than three, you'll notice, so in fact you might be better off getting seven hours of efficient sleep (sleep efficiency is defined simply enough as "percentage of time in bed actually asleep") rather than nine hours of inefficient sleep.

So it's not enough to just be in bed for eight hours. Even being in bed with your eyes closed, pretending to be asleep, will not substitute.

If only that were one of those things that you can actually choose. Yes, I'll take the restful, efficient sleep tonight, thanks! Last night's tossing and turning and waking up every few hours was a lot of fun, but I'm in the mood for something a little quieter this evening.

This actually feels like one of those "stands to reason" type findings. Sure you're more likely to get sick if you're tired and run down. Since common sense sometimes turns out to be wrong, though (thanks, lazy deceitful brain), it can be useful to get some confirmation.


Monday, September 21, 2009

It's They!

Via Alas, A Blog, I find this Motivated Grammar piece in defense of the singular 'they.' Foremost among the many reasons we should chill out about it: it's been in use just about since people have been writing in English. Some fine examples from various time periods are presented.

Yes, it seems we've always known that "he or she" can be awkward and that the generic masculine seems weird when used to include female persons. That's all very well when you're not actually that interested in talking about female persons, but sometimes it's just unavoidable to include them in a sentence.

I myself have been pursuing a poorly organized campaign (consisting of occasional mentions on this blog) in favor of calling everyone "it," which if memory serves you will find in E. Nesbit's Five Children and It.

This is partly because I like objective, neutral language, and partly because I like robots (Vote Machine!) and partly because I like poorly organized campaigns. In the absence of any signs of success in this mission, however, I will happily promote the singular 'they' as an alternative, confident that it has sound grammatical foundations.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shiny New MeSH

I had heard that 2010 MeSH is available for review, but I am not as cool as The Krafty Librarian, who was inspired to write this entertaining review looking at it from a fashion standpoint.

I was only inspired to think "good thing I haven't gotten around to assigning MeSH to anything lately--I probably would have picked last year's terms!"

Fashion is an ongoing challenge for me.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Awareness, We Must Increase It

Among other things, September is Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month, and Naomi Freundlich at Health Beat had a good post about how we've gotten better at helping children survive to young adulthood, but haven't really managed to do much to help make said young adult's lives better.

I don't know a lot about Sickle Cell, so this was very informative.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

You Can Do This

For those of us who are not scientists, I recommend this referral from Bad Science to a helpful post by Dr. Alicia White on How to read articles about health and healthcare (PDF).

It's got good tips on evaluating the stories one reads, which tend to be full of exciting claims that grant license to drink beer until we're silly (I'm sticking to my theory that it's all about people wanting license for extremes of behavior).

It turns out that if you read carefully, the research usually does not support sweeping generalizations. (See how I nimbly avoided making a sweeping generalization about how research never supports such things? That's accuracy for you.)

But it's OK: I give you license to eat cake until you're silly. Go ahead! Have at it!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ha Ha!--Ew. Movie Review: Zombieland

This evening's entertainment was brought to us by whoever made the movie Zombieland and made available a free preview screening of it to the Boston movie-going public.

It had no conceivable connection to library science, but did offer a health angle since, like many of your modern zombies, the ones here are the result of a virus, rather than witchcraft. The virus even has a pedigree: mad cow to mad human to mad zombie.

You can't argue with that kind of attention to detail.

The virus causes "swollen brain," fever, insanity and of course a ravenous hunger for flesh. It's not completely clear that it causes death, so these zombies may not actually be undead (except in the sense that so many of us are, of not-dead), but that's what makes it scientifically plausible.

Anyway, the movie was pretty amusing at points, and featured plenty of splattering gore and exciting zombie-caused and zombie-experienced deaths. Many of the college-age guys leaving the theater with us afterwards were extremely pleased with it, so I expect it to do well at the box office.

Jesse Eisenberg is the narrator (called Columbus--everyone goes by the name of the city they're from, so as not to get too familiar with each other: a wise move when you might have to shoot someone at any time if they fall victim to the plague), an unlikely survivor of the zombie apocalypse.

He is joined by Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee, playing that role he plays so well--a slightly off-kilter, manically energetic guy who sometimes (as in this case) has a heart of gold. You can tell because it doesn't even occur to him to hit on the young woman they meet, even though she may be one of the last women on earth and is way cute: she's clearly destined to end up involved with the young man, and that's totally cool with Tallahassee.

I tried not to speculate that, if these are really the last people on earth, Tallahassee would wind up hooking up with the little sister after a while. I mean, when she's older. You'd assume the question would have to come up eventually, right? If you were just bumming around a world full of zombies with nothing to do? Yeah, he's 35 years older than there's anyone around to point out that that's totally inappropriate.

Oops. I started speculating. So the movie didn't completely engage my full and undivided attention.

I should perhaps have previously mentioned that they meet up with two sisters, played by Emma Stone  as Wichita, and Abigail Breslin as Little Rock. It's not explained why they're "from" different cities, but maybe they're going by where they were born. I'd have a different name from my sisters according to that system (just call me Havre), so it works for me.

Once assembled, our crew of adventurers drives around, kills zombies, and holes up in the palatial Hollywood mansion of a certain popular movie star. And morbid shenanigans occur.

This was not a particularly thoughtful movie or one likely to promote any sort of extensive personal growth, and the characters do a few unbelievably stupid things, but it was entertaining. I've seen a lot worse.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baseball. Apparently Boston has a team.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Not Messing With Any States at This Time

Like lisa* at Sociological Images, I have long been familiar with the phrase "don't mess with Texas" (living in a New Mexico tourist town, one becomes familiar with many things Texas) but I wasn't aware that it was an anti-littering campaign.

I must say I regard it somewhat more kindly now, since I am in favor of not littering. It comes across as a sort of tough, "don't try to push me around" statement, which would appeal to people with a sense of themselves as rugged outdoorsy types. Pretty clever, really.

Advertising: Not Solely For Evil!

My sisters and I used to take the phrase for a challenge, and talk about how we would totally mess with Texas, but we always meant hassle it, not litter in it. 'Cause we were raised better than that, I hope.

New Mexico's anti-litter campaign was something like "be kind, don't litter," which always struck us as somewhat uninspired. Maybe, being rugged outdoorsy types, we would have responded better to a tougher slogan. (I mean, we didn't litter, so our response was technically correct, but then, we weren't planning on littering anyway, so I can't completely credit the campaign.)

Unfortunately, I can't think of any tough slogan phrases that have any rhyme or assonance with 'New Mexico.' Probably something the sloganeers also noticed.

*I am assuming that blog etiquette calls for listing someone's name the way they give it, and am therefore eschewing capitalization.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Follow Advice to Good Effect

nojojojo at Angry Black Woman told me to see Sleep Dealer, so I put it right on my Netflix list. Just saw it tonight, and it was awesome.

In an interesting sci fi plot it addresses water rights, labor, technology, migration, intellectual should check it out.

It wasn't specifically about libraries, but it did have some bits about storage of information, so I'm taking that.

Also, you know, I guess not everything has to specifically tie back to my personal interests. It can't hurt, though.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not Your Grandfather's Bed

Here's a health topic you don't hear much about: from RH Reality Check, Sex and Dementia: Shrouded by Taboo.

You hear a lot about sex, of course, but usually with the unstated idea that it's only really seemly in the right sort of people.

Relatively young, fit, attractive people, preferably. Not older people, as a rule, or people with nonstandard bodies.

But since sexuality seems to be pretty standard in humans, one can imagine a lot of times that doesn't work out too well. The article covers some interesting points:

Another funny thing about sex and Alzheimer’s is that it touches upon so many hot button issues: the right to privacy and pleasure, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, gender stereotypes, monogamy versus infidelity, sexual exploitation versus consent, masturbation, pornography, and icky denial over our parents, the elderly, or those with disabilities desiring or doing it. If we’re sexual beings from cradle to grave and the brain is our biggest sex organ, could “Alzheimer’s sex” be a cultural flashpoint? Ground zero, who wins when the absolute of religion and tradition clashes with the continuum of sexual sovereignty and human rights?

Definitely worth a read.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I will probably fail to post precisely at 09:09:09, since I don't have a second timer handy on this draft...but there you are. I did my best to appropriately commemorate this awesome occasion, as I planned.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Risking Tickets

Slate has an article by Tom Vanderbilt about how traffic tickets serve the greater good.

I liked its point that many people tend to think of traffic violations as not 'real' crimes. Everyone does it, we think. And seriously, almost everyone does. Speeding must be the most common crime in the country. (I'm just guessing on that, and have no citation to back me up, so don't even ask.)

Just get on the the highway somewhere and you're surrounded (if not by people stuck in traffic and frustrated by the inability to go anywhere) by people blithely flouting the law.

I myself am strictly law-abiding in many ways (I dutifully declare my internet purchases for purposes of state sales tax), but I still disregard the speed limit. I don't habitually break traffic laws in other ways, although I've racked up a few parking tickets in my time, possibly since I rarely drive or need to park these days, but here I am, deciding which laws I want to obey and which I don't, exactly as one should not really be able to do in a society of law (right?).

I was particularly struck by this example of how we tend not to take traffic crimes seriously:

Even the most socially abhorrent driving crimes, like a fatal crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver, often evoke curiously lenient legal responses. Consider the nonautomotive case of Plaxico Burress, who accidentally shot himself with an unregistered, concealed gun. Stupid? Yes. Illegal. Yes. End result? A painful leg injury (to himself)—and two years in jail. Now compare that with fellow NFL player Leonard Little, who in 1998 ran a red light and smashed into a car whose driver died the next day from her injuries. Little was found to have a BAC of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit in the state of Missouri. Stupid? Yes. Illegal? Yes. End result? Another person lost her life. Little's sentence, compared with Burress', was minor: 90 days. He missed only eight football games and was able to keep his license.

Put like that, it does seem a little off.

The piece argues that traffic tickets are good in a couple of ways, one being that a lot of people wanted for more serious crimes are caught during traffic stops, and one being the suggestion that enforcing traffic laws is a way to encourage generally more lawful behavior, kind of the way that the 'broken windows' theory suggests that cracking down on petty crime will help keep neighborhoods free of more serious problems.

I don't know that I would ever actually want a traffic ticket, and I argued about a couple of mine (I contend that it's legitimate to contest tickets given for violating parking rules that were not posted), but in general I figure them's the breaks. If I'm violating a law, I know I'm taking the risk of a ticket.

The question then arises, given that I just admitted I speed practically whenever I drive, but have never gotten a speeding ticket, should we be getting more tickets, to even further advance the greater good?

After all, a lot of times you don't get pulled over for speeding. I've heard the argument that cops figure it's actually safe for most people to drive faster than the posted limit, but that having it lower than most people drive both keeps you from driving even faster, and gives them a reason to pull you over if they think you're doing something else you shouldn't be doing.

Either one of those notions could be dissected on its own, but I've already said too much.

For any reader's patience, I mean.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Chirps of Health Info

News from NLM's New Files email that MedlinePlus is now on Twitter, providing links to consumer health information to the info-hungry masses.

Mmm...delicious information.

That makes me wonder: do you normally hunger or thirst for information? Maybe it's different for different kinds of information.

Let's say you hunger for hearty, detailed information, such as might be located by ongoing research, while you thirst for more self-contained gulps of knowledge. Ready-reference questions and such.

So have I stated it, and so it shall be.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Career Potential

I just like this post title from LISNews: Today’s Librarian: Hip, Delusional, and Doomed.

I'll give them delusional, and potentially doomed, but I'm damned if I'll cop to being hip.

No one accuses me of trendiness or style, sir! (Or ma'am, but I'm going with the Battlestar Galactica gender-neutral 'sir.' Because I'm hip like that.)


Sad News from the Old Home State

Since I was born in Montana, this post on 4&20 Blackbirds had a certain familiarity that makes it, I guess, especially sad. Not that it wouldn't be sad no matter where it was, but when you have a sort of connection, no matter how slight, it feels a little closer.

It's the story of a woman about to lose her home because of healthcare bills. We've heard the like before, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Spreading the Good Word

MLA Connections has a post about an event at the ALA meeting in Chicago to promote the Spectrum Scholarship Program.

The Spectrum Scholarship Program is ALA’s national diversity and recruitment effort designed to address the specific issue of under-representation of critically needed ethnic librarians within the profession.

MLA members were present specifically to encourage consideration of careers in medical libraries (I suppose that really goes without saying). In the interests of furthering this worthy goal, I will share my own latest story about how awesome it is to work in a medical library, specifically one associated with a medical school because that's the only one in which I've worked.

See, if you get your health care through the teaching hospital associated with the school, you can run into your doctor, who's a resident there, when she comes into the library to study for the board exams, and she can update you on your test results.

It's super convenient.

Unrelated update: OK, so how come I can no longer double space at the end of a post so it doesn't wind up squashed into the 'posted by'? Siiigh...back to putting a period there to make it stick, I guess.

At least I'm not alone. Sid Schwab at Cutting Through the Crap sometimes does this as well. Sometimes one wants a little space, you know?


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Martian Vacation...FOREVER!

Dangerous Intersection, quoting Lawrence Krauss, wonders if it wouldn't be worth considering, as a means of making a trip to Mars financially feasible, not planning for a return.

Just send some people to Mars and leave them there. Somebody would certainly be willing to go--heck, it's the first trip to another planet, and this opportunity doesn't come up often! Or ever!--but would it be morally acceptable to send them, knowing they were going to die there?

I was thinking how people used to go off on years-long sea voyages chasing whales and such, and often never returned, but there was always the possibility that they might, and the general idea that they at least intended to, which makes it different. There's something awfully final about knowing you're never coming back to an entire planet.

What I would wonder is, whether there's a specific time limit on the mission (we're sending you to Mars and then you have enough food, water and oxygen to gather information for six months, and then 'bye), which is appealing only in a very daring, suicide-mission, my-life-for-discovery way.

If it would instead be something where you could plan on having enough supplies to live out your life on Mars, that's much less alarming. (At least until Space Madness sets in when you're overcome by the unbearable desolation of being millions of miles from everything on Earth.)

It would be kind of lonely, and the living conditions would probably be pretty spare, but people have lived decent lives in spare conditions before. We could just send a few thoughtful introverts who got along OK but didn't need a whole lot of human social interaction, and they could putter around out there and send back reports and meditate on existence and eventually manage each other's bodily remains until finally one lingering hermit closed up the shop and went to bed.

Or possibly they'd all perish in a ghastly fashion, depending on whether or not it turns out Mars is inhabited by secretive subterranean life forms that are just waiting for us to come along and give them an excuse to flip out, as I like to speculate.

Anyway, I'm going to go on record as tentatively supporting the Send Hermit Volunteers to Mars program.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Fun with the Flu

I previously noted a game called Sneeze in which you try to spread a virus to as many people as possible in various environments. It appeals to my natural urge to cause trouble and behave in an antisocial fashion.

Now Healthbolt points me to The Flu Pandemic Game. This one is not a computer game, like Sneeze, but a pencil-and-paper role playing game, with dice. As a longtime tabletop gamer, I love it!

It has a serious purpose, having been "designed as a training resource for [Camden Primary Care Trust] staff and to help managers of local businesses and voluntary organisations develop their business continuity plans." Rather than trying to spread illness, in this game you're trying to keep things going while the flu spreads. Less antisocial, but one can't always play the trouble-maker.

You can download a free PDF of the game in two versions, one for GPs and one for healthcare and related organisations. Yes, I meant to use that spelling, it's from the UK. Also, you must provide your own dice, pencils and paper.

Healthbolt calls the game "a unique, even bizarre, way to combat" the flu, but despite being a gamer geek I won't take offense to this categorization, merely note that games are actually good for all kinds of things in addition to having fun, and have long been considered for application to various health projects.

Don't forget Outbreak at Watersedge, which lets you play through epidemiology concepts and which I mentioned years ago!*

And here's a whole site on Public Health Games, here's Games for Health (which holds a conference), here are some posts on AIDS-related games, here's The Great Flu. I could probably find a bunch more with a bit more searching. I know I've seen surgery games that were supposed to be educational, and there are undoubtedly others.

Games are good! And the gaming in libraries trend is not just for public libraries. Maybe we should have game night at my work.

*Though on another, now lost blog, the late lamented Creature From the Health Librarianship Class. I miss the Creature! Speaking of which, I was once told that it was just dormant on the UA server and would one day be visible again so I could at least link to it, but I think that's a vain hope now. It reminds me, yet again, that backing up is good to do. Not that I ever heed these reminders: if Blogger goes down, Wretched Oddments is just as lost.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


There are various interesting social issues arising from Facebook (the awkwardly public breakup via Relationship Status changes is often referenced). One I haven't seen addressed before comes in a post on Feministe about how best to react when the birth mother of your child posts a picture of said child on her page.

It's another demonstration of the way that the complexities of human connections become evident in different ways when we can make public statements about who we know and our relationships with them.

I mean, if you give birth to a child and know where it is and keep track of its growing up, you're bound to feel some connection, but it's probably fairly private. It's real, it's complicated, but it's mostly known to you, your close friends, family, the adoptive parents of the child.

If you can make these statements to the general world--look, here's a child I gave birth to and feel a connection with even though I'm not raising her!--that's another thing.

Not, I think, necessarily a bad thing, but a new one, at least on this scale. I've come across the idea that the web makes social life more like it was in small towns in the old days, where anyone who cares can know all about you.

There are positive and negative sides to this, as to anything, but it's an interesting thought.