Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We Are Peanut Butter

We went shopping last night, because what with one thing and another, we hadn't been in a couple of weeks, and we were starting to complain about how there was nothing in the house to eat.

We hadn't shopped in ages! The house was empty! We needed to stock up!

Accordingly, we bought:

  • apples
  • carrots
  • celery
  • instant oatmeal
  • peanut butter
  • milk

That's a lot of food, right? We're all set with ingredients for many exciting meals for at least another couple of weeks!

Yeah, we're pretty gastronomically sophisticated around here.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Big Teacher is Watching

So the school associated with the library where I work uses a course management software called Blackboard, and I recently attended a little orientation on it (not that I have to use it very much).

And here's a fascinating thing I learned: if you're the instructor, you can set it up such that you can have a record of every time your students log in, which of the course materials they look at, and for how long.

The guy teaching us about Blackboard was filled with enthusiasm for these options, but it struck me as a little creepy.

I mean, I can see how it would be handy, if you have a student who says the reason they did badly on a test was because they were sick, to be able to say "hmm...perhaps the fact that you have not looked at a single one of the assigned readings contributed to that ailment."

But I also remember when I was in library school I took an ethics course, and one of the case studies we looked at was something like "a professor at your academic institution suspects that students aren't doing their reading, and asks if you can keep track of which of them check out the Reserve material and report back."

Obviously, librarian ethics prohibit any such thing. Patron privacy is a sacred trust!

Professor/student privacy, not such a major thing.

Still, kind of creepy, right?

So anyway, students, be aware that your every in-course move may be monitored. Put in the time to at least sign in and pretend to look at the readings before feigning illness (or actually getting sick).


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Latest Thoughts on School

I recently found an ongoing series by Andrew O'Hehir on Salon discussing homeschooling (part four, with links to one through three, here).

I'm always interested in this topic, and followed this series with special note since the author and his wife (who does the main work of teaching and has a blog, DIY Kindergarten, with an intriguing ancient-world-focused curriculum she put together for their twin children), are homeschooling for reasons I personally might be tempted to do it, if I had any children.

That is, more out of a feeling that it's probably nice for kids to have a lot of time to run around and be kids before getting buttoned into the full-day, work-centered life of sitting quietly and doing what you're told, than out of a feeling that the public school system is a wretched hive of scum, villainy and evolution.

In fact, my concern for my own hypothetical offspring is that the public school system is not nearly villainous enough. If kids aren't learning to smuggle things in spaceships, shoot Greedo first, and discuss finch bills and blind watchmakers right from the get-go, they're going to be completely lost when they get out into the real world, and I have no use for an 'education' that doesn't cover such basic details.

I was homeschooled myself, and it worked out OK for me, so I'm generally in favor of it in theory, although I'm also strongly in favor of public schools.

Because the thing about homeschooling is, it takes a lot of time, and at least one parent (assuming a two-parent family, which is another thing) kind of has to be home to school. At various points in my childhood, either one or both of my parents was around all the time, and that was fine for us, but it wouldn't necessarily work that well in situations where, say, there's only one parent available, or both parents need to have jobs to make money to exchange for goods and services such as food and housing.

Another situation in which it might not work that well is if someone has a job that they happen to like, and they don't necessarily think they would find optimum personal fulfillment staying home all the time schooling children. Some people have reasons for not becoming schoolteachers, after all.

So I'm totally into homeschooling, if it works for people who want to do it, and certainly not into saying it's a freakish and horrible choice that will result in terrifyingly maladjusted weirdo children who grow into wild-eyed, dawn-loathing, socially misfit adults (seriously, you can't judge all homeschoolers by me!).

On the other hand, I'm totally not into getting all evangelical about it and saying that if you truly care for your child's future you'll obviously homeschool even if you would really rather have a job, or don't really see a practicable way to not have a job.

Welcome to the middle of the road. Walk here with me, won't you?


Saturday, August 28, 2010


I just went to sync my iPod and got a message that one of the songs on my computer "could not be located"? What the heck?

It's right there! Did the file get corrupted and lost? I'm both puzzled and enraged.

My relationship to technological setbacks ensures that I go through much of life confused and bristling.


Friday, August 27, 2010

News of the Day

Two exciting stories grabbed my attention today.

One is this terrifying report of a study from Car and Driver, where they had people drive while texting, and then again after drinking to legal intoxication. They found that (spoiler!) both texting and being drunk are bad for your driving as measured by reaction time, but that texting is really, profoundly, alarmingly bad.

GruntDoc tipped me off to this important info. Don't text and drive, everyone!

The second, which appealed immediately to my sense of word love, is from The Health Care Blog and addresses a question that has occasionally plagued me: is the proper term "health care" or "healthcare"?

A clue may perhaps be seen in the way the reporting blog is titled, but basically, it's kind of a free for all. There's a strong grammatical argument for making it two words, as the AP style guide dictates, but really health care, healthcare, whatever. We know what you meant.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Go Away, Morning

A post from s.e. smith at This Ain't Livin' on a topic dear to my heart: sleep schedules.

It begins crisply with the observation that "It is generally agreed upon in our society that people who wake up early are better people."


With the 'healthy, wealthy and wise,' thing, the early bird getting the worm, the whole idea that smart, productive people sleep little, and get up first thing in the morning, the better to beat the day into submission--while the late-sleepers are slugabeds, layabouts, and probably up to no good anyway, staying up all night.

If one person sleeps from 4am to noon, and one sleeps from 10pm to 6am, the second one will pretty generally be seen as the one who's getting things done and being a hard-working, upstanding, in-fitting member of society.

Hmph. As a person who has long been no fan of early mornings, but is trapped by the modern business day (plus an hourlong commute), I am filled with bitterness regarding this popular myth. If I could have set up a work schedule that involved being in business from about 11am to 7pm, I would have been all over that.

Of course, that would actually be possible in many libraries, but I happened on one where the librarians work standard business hours. And I have to say, I've kind of gotten used to it, and I appreciate the fact that this way my schedule more closely matches those of people with whom I may feel like meeting up after work, so there are advantages.

That doesn't mean it's not still true that the only thing that gives me the energy to get out of bed in the morning is the brisk surge of loathing with which I greet each fresh new dawn.

Pfah. I scoff at the dawn. It can keep its rosy fingers to itself.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who's That?

It's funny how even if you're not consciously picturing yourself as looking like anything in particular, you can still be slightly startled to catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror after a noticeable change in appearance, such as a new hairstyle.

I was going to say, "it's not as if you're going around all the time with this little mental avatar of yourself with a certain haircut"--but on reflection, I think it might actually be exactly like that.

When you look at yourself and have that half-moment of surprise, that "who is that?" reaction, it's clearly because your image is being contrasted to something, so you must have a kind of background picture of yourself in mind.

And in a world of mirrors and photographs, our mental avatars are based on what we actually look like, more or less, so we can be startled by a comparison. I wonder what it was like in the old days when there were no photographs and mirrors weren't very common or very good. I guess you could pretty much count on always being kind of startled, if you did happen to get a clear image of yourself somehow.

If you don't really know what you look like, do you form a mental picture of yourself that includes an image anyway, or do you not think that much about it? Since I have plenty of mirrors, I perhaps will never know.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Learning for Work

This is a really good question, on Reports from a Resident Alien:

Why is it that we are expected to learn some things on our own; but that we are not expected to ever learn other things without help--even when those things are of equal complexity?

She compares learning the tasks of a job in a lab, complex but also carefully explained and supervised, with learning how to take public transportation, which has its own complexities, but is rarely explained in much detail and certainly doesn't have an established training process.

I definitely remember the uneasy sense of uncertainty when I first started riding the subway (a confusion which is renewed every time I go to another city and use their public transportation, generally much the same, but always slightly different).

How, exactly, do you pay? How do you move--how do you hold yourself in the crowd? How do you signal you want to get off? It's not difficult, but it's not nothing. There's stuff you have to know, steps you have to take.

Why, indeed, do we get very careful instruction on some things, and limited instruction on others?

My theory: money.

People train you to do stuff that they need you to do for business, or that they assume you'll need to know to earn a living (if it's not actually training related to a specific job), while you're kind of on your own if it's just something you need to do for your own convenience.

Your convenience is on you.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Awww...Movie Review: Flipped

Tonight's free movie was arranged by Grace Hill Media, which aims to support family friendly media. The movie was Flipped, and my, was it ever wholesome!

Which is not a bad thing, if you can stand to spend an hour and a half watching something that has no nudity or explosions and only a couple of bad words. I know, it's tough.

It's basically a love story, but a very innocent one, both because the leads are 12 years old, and because it's set mostly in I think 1964. It's the 1960s as the cultural childhood of the U.S., with adorable actual children as well! It's filmed with this sort of soft gloss, the way the vintage ads from the time period look now, and has lovely scenes of classic cars and outfits.

It also has a pretty cute story and good performances. Sweet, but it mostly avoids being saccharine. Wholesome messages about caring for family, not suppressing your dreams because it will make you bitter and horrible, having spirit, sticking up for yourself and what (and who) matters to you.

Heck, friendly families need to watch something, right? They could do worse than this.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wait! Don't Go, Weekend!

Sigh. Where do these weekends disappear to so quickly? On Friday evening you have soooo muuuuuuch time ahead to get stuff done!

Wide expanses of unstructured hours, waiting to be filled with joyous pastimes!

Then, moments later, it's Sunday night, and you find you've accomplished only a tiny bit of all the game-playing, blog-reading, video-watching and clothes-shopping you planned.

That's the inexorable passage of time for you.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hot This Season: Last Season

I visited a thrift shop this afternoon to do some clothes shopping.

I'd been feeling that I could use a few more items of clothing suitable for wearing to work, and I found four pairs of pants and two shirts for $40. A fair price for used clothes in Boston, and a fabulous one compared to retail (I found a pair of pants that apparently was meant to retail at $248, multiply marked down and eventually thrift-shopped and purchased by me for $11), plus I get to give some deserving garments a good home and support the worthy mission of Goodwill in general.

I have concluded that there's pretty much no reason to ever buy any clothing retail.

Well, maybe undergarments. One kind of likes to feel that those are new, even though one knows rationally that there's no reason a secondhand pair of underpants, properly laundered, would not be perfectly serviceable, and just as clean as some pair of newly-manufactured underpants that might have fallen on the floor in the factory or something.

It seems weird, though, just the idea of wearing used undergarments. Ew!

My guess is that your overanxious brain leaps to the conclusion that, technically, having your naughty bits next to a piece of cloth that was once next to some stranger's naughty bits means you might as well be having sex with that person. And your brain is concerned that you don't know where that stranger's naughty bits have been, or whether that stranger is attractive enough to be worth sharing your genetic legacy with, so be careful.

Your brain does not seem to be familiar with the concept of washing machines.

Anyway, undergarments aside, I decided that I want to buy pretty much everything used, and I've been doing reasonably well at it. Save money! Save perfectly good garments from being wasted! It's a world of awesome.

Plus, this way if it turns out the clothes were sewed by underpaid children or any of the other horrible labor practices you seem to keep hearing about, at least I can feel that I didn't personally give money to a company that made that happen.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Spelling It Out For Us

Catalogablog reports that the Library of Congress is contemplating a change in listings from the abbreviation "Dept." to the fully spelled "Department."

This is a big job:

OCLC has agreed to change the approximately 48,000 1XX fields in name authority records, and the Library of Congress would change its approximately 200,000 bibliographic records and re-distribute them, beginnning no earlier than March 2, 2011.

The Library of Congress invites comments on the proposal. It sounds fine to me.

I like things spelled out. I'm horribly inefficient with text messaging, because I insist on using full words and punctuation, rather than the many amusing abbreviations that are featured in all the commercials.

That's bad for limited-character situations, and obviously for catalog cards in the old days, but if you have the room, I'm all for writing out words.

Do it, LC! Do it!

That's just my take.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Something is Up in the State of NCBI!

The renowned Krafty Librarian directs my attention to a new project from everyone's favorite center for biotechnology information, NCBI.

It's apparently going to be a consumer health information website called PubMedHealth. Krafty speaks for many of us:

I know what you are thinking, “What does this mean for MedlinePlus?”

Yup, that's exactly what I was thinking. Isn't MedlinePlus (a longtime favorite and a site I plug at every opportunity) a consumer health information website?

What will PubMedHealth offer that MedlinePlus does not? Will it provide a distinct service that the existing site could not reasonably do, or will it merely duplicate features we love in MedlinePlus and dilute the brand, so to speak?

We can only wait eagerly, and maybe speculate wildly and skulk around the internet in search of rumors.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To The Contrary

Like many of us, I have a touch of the cantankerous.

You know how sometimes, when everyone thinks you should do something, you sort of don't do it on purpose just to be ornery? Even if it might be a perfectly reasonable thing to do?

Well, I used to have this super long hair, which everyone would always notice (it was pretty noticeable--I mean, most people don't have a red braid three feet long, and I recognize that). Then I cut my hair, and pretty much everyone who'd ever seen me before noticed the change (it was a marked change in appearance, and I also recognize that).

The thing I found, though, is that about half the people who've said anything about it have asked "did you donate it?"

Which, fine, it's a fair question. You're always hearing about people with long hair cutting it off and donating it to some worthy cause. It's this thing that people do.

It has a special social resonance, maybe, because girls and women especially tend to do it, and we still have a bit of this idea of hair as a woman's 'crowning glory,' and so there's a sense that you're really making a personal sacrifice, you're surrendering part of your own beauty (which, for a woman, is obviously among your most precious assets!) to help someone who doesn't have that beauty.

Regardless of the reasoning, it remains this thing that people do, and based on the number of times I've been asked, it's this thing that people are expected to do, if they have long hair and happen to get it cut.

But no, I didn't. And at this point, if only because so many people have asked me that question, I totally never will.

The contrariness kicks in!

So I say "no, I didn't," and more than once people have said, in a kind of 'tut tut' tone, something like "you could make a lot of wigs for children with that much hair."

Then, despite general stubborn orneriness, I admit to beginning to wonder whether I'm a horrible person for not sending my severed braid to charity.

Does growing long hair confer an obligation to give it away if you ever cut it? What if you just kind of wanted to keep it as a souvenir?

Selfish and wrong?

I guess I have to say no. Otherwise, the ability to grow long hair would logically confer an obligation to actually do so, and to then cut it and give it away. Because you could be giving someone the gift of beauty, so why aren't you?

And then, logically, we reach the conclusion that if

you are capable of aiding someone in some way 
you don't do it 
you're a bad person

then almost everyone is probably evil.

Certainly everyone who hangs out on the internet a lot is probably evil, but we already knew that.

Finally I decided this train of thought was getting way too much like a Seinfeld episode, where someone spends days worrying and fretting and chewing over some real or imagined slight or moral failing or character flaw until you realize once again how shallow and self-obsessed everyone involved is. The end.

I should just move on from the hunk of hair already and do something useful with my time, is what I concluded.

Something like cataloging! Which, I believe, is precious work that is very well served by cantankerousness.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Journal Learnin'

I'm taking a short workshop on serials cataloging, and learned the following important things that define a continuing resource as a serial:

  1. It is issued in "a succession of discrete parts"*
  2. These parts are usually numbered (though occasionally other means of distinguishing said discrete parts may be seen)
  3. It has no predetermined conclusion, but is intended to continue publication indefinitely

I started thinking about things in daily life that might be cataloged as serials, and decided that breakfast is a good bet.

Each incidence of 'breakfast' will be a discrete event, with the possibility of sequential numbering according to the day on which the breakfast occurred, and there is no predetermined end point, since I plan on eating breakfast on a regular basis into the foreseeable future.

Cataloging 'breakfast' as a serial will save a lot of effort over considering each separate event as a monographic item that needs its own record.

This is what I think about, when I'm refreshing my cataloging knowledge while anxiously waiting for the muffins to arrive.

*Basic Serials Cataloging Workshop: Trainee Manual. Library of Congress, 2010.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Pure As the Driven Snow, I Tell You

I was intrigued by this post by Danah Boyd at Apophenia about name changes.

Apparently Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, has suggested (in a Wall Street Journal article that also raises some interesting points about net neutrality and the ability to 'walk away' from web services) that, in a world where everyone's youthful indiscretions are chronicled in merciless detail on the web, people will simply start changing their names when they get older, in order to break the historical link with said indiscretions.

Boyd finds this implausible, not only because legally changing your name is "a Pain in the F* Ass," but because, in a world of merciless indiscretion-chronicling which also has freely available and powerful search tools (a world, perhaps, much like our own), people would be able to find out what your prior name was anyway.

She's also talking about reputation in this post, and points out that very few people have the kind of utterly monstrous reputation that makes it worthwhile to raze the fields of one's personal history and salt the earth so nothing can ever grow again.

Most of us, while we may have some embarrassing moments that we're sorry everyone knows about (not me, of course!), also have certain achievements associated with our names.

We graduated from schools, had jobs, made friends. Rated clips on YouTube, tagged photos, maybe wrote or commented on blogs, generally built a name for ourselves in on- and offline communities. People know who we are. Some of them probably like us. We have connections.

I like this point about reputation. I think probably most of us wouldn't really want to just walk away from our pasts--even when people do change their names, often along with a life event like marriage, they're not usually trying to ditch everything associated with the name they had up until then.

I haven't ever done anything all that interesting, but anything even sort of interesting that I've done, I've done with the name I have. It would take some seriously chronicled indiscretions to make me want to break the link to the things I've done with my (totally unsullied!) reputation so far.

I may have a checkered past (although I don't!), but I'm not trying to get away from it.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

How Now, Good People?

I was fortunate to have the culturally improving experience of some free Shakespeare on the Common last night (a performance of Othello), and I came away with the bright idea that it would be fun to re-popularize the use of the phrase "how now?"

They use it a lot in Shakespeare plays, and I imagine it as equivalent to the "how are you?" of today, or more casually the "what's up?"

What's going on? What's happening? How's everything?

How now, dude?

It's short and sweet, it has a classical pedigree, and it rhymes. "How now" is the check-in phrase of the future, I can feel it.

It's not just for brown cows anymore.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Another Day

Sometimes there are days where you're just not sure what you actually did. I mean, what was going on that took up all that time between when I showed up at work and when I left?

I put stickers on some volumes of journals to mark the ones we mean to discard...talked to a student about a thesis...talked to a colleague about terrifying examples of IP questions we could use in classes...wrote some emails...wrote a single print letter to an archives donor...had a couple of reference desk shifts...did a little online course on human subjects research...

I dunno. Time passed.

And now it's the weekend, and not a moment too soon. Tomorrow, we're planning to go to Shakespeare on the Common. It's going to rock.

'Cause that's Shakespeare for you.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pressing Health Issue of the Day

My throat is sore. I guess that's what you get when you talk for three hours straight.

At least I've done my part to ensure that another incoming class of medical students is familiar with the library's copy card policy.

The librarians are here for you, future doctors. Right by the copy machine.

I'm kidding, of course. I try to stay far away from the copy machine, lest I be unwittingly sucked into the vortex of terrifying formatting questions or toner replacement issues (mess not with the toner replacement!).

Actually, I'll be here for the future doctors next to this computer (or one much like it), thinking deep thoughts about call numbers and Medical Subject Headings, with my frowny drawn-on eyebrows giving me a misleading air of grave dignity.

I just wish I could grow a big beard to go with the eyebrows.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You! Into the 'W's!

I've been putting call numbers on some books that don't have them pre-assigned in OCLC, and thinking sadly that we're not going to have NLM records in LocatorPlus to help out anymore.

I understand why they stopped putting NLM classification and Cutter numbers on cataloged items if they don't actually use them down there. It's extra work, and who has time to do work they don't have to these days?

It's handy to have those records as a resource, though. On the other hand, without them I'll get even more chances to classify things myself.

Ah, the heady sense of power that comes from sticking a classification on something!

Yessir, that rush is why we get into librarianship. It's like a drug.

Of course what's even more like a drug, are the drugs. Caffeine and chocolate, I mean.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Get It On Record

I loved this moment of librarian geekiness from Anna at Future Feminist Librarian Activist, relating how she was looking at the Library of Congress Authorities one day (as one does) and looked up her own grandfather, who was there.

Nice! It must be interesting to see a name you know well from personal contexts listed in this very formal LC style for the whole world to see and copy into its catalog records.

I don't have any relatives in the LC Authorities as far as I know, but we do put some of our graduate and PhD theses in the collection, so I've come across a few names in the catalog and thought "hey, I remember that student!"

It may be sort of the same thing. A kind of putting together of pieces, something you know in one context, someone you know in another. Almost like getting a joke, in a way, though not with the funny haha aspect.

A little mental snap, things coming together to look a bit different.

Some of those students may well go on to be listed in the LC Authority Files, too. They're not related to me, though, so heck with 'em.

It's up to me to get an authority record in the LC files to bring honor to my family name!

Great, pressure.

I have also looked up my own last name in PubMed, and there are some of us in there, though again, none related to me as far as I know. But at least whoever those people are, they've got us covered so I don't have to worry about writing up a medical research project.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Don't Email Me

Rob Lamberts, MD, on The Health Care Blog, writes about doctors receiving and responding to patient email: specifically, about why he personally doesn't do it.

Basically, it's because there's no way to be reimbursed for it, so he would be working for free, or worse:

Accepting emails from patients at this point would mean more time spent doing un-reimbursed tasks. Actually, it would potentially decrease our revenue, handling problems outside of the office (for free) instead of being paid for our services. Doing so would give us three options:

  1. Working extra hours to make up for lost revenue.
  2. Giving free care via email and just accepting less pay, seeing less patients total.
  3. Spending less time with each patient to make up for the decreased revenue.

It's hard to argue with that logic. Many of us are in favor of getting paid for doing our jobs. I myself have been known to enjoy it from time to time.

One idea suggested by Dr. Lamberts is to charge a fee for an email consult (he suggests $20, specifying that it would need to be enough to discourage frivolous inquiries, could be applied to the cost of an office visit if one were indicated, and would have to be covered by insurance).

I could see this possibly working, although you'd have to work out how the fee would be collected. An online Email Order Form where you have to give credit card or insurance info before the message is sent would work fine, I imagine.

I found the post interesting because it acknowledges the theoretical value of email for medical practice (he is busy and would be happy to take care of questions remotely and not make patients come in if they didn't have to), but still finds it financially impracticable.

I guess the lesson is that even useful technology is no use if it costs too much.

Many of us, especially those who are familiar with both exciting technologies and economic systems in which money is exchanged for goods and services, have probably run into this concept before.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Free Thinking

Jerry Coyne on Why Evolution is True has been pondering the question of free will lately. It's a good question. An excellent question!

Is everything we do predetermined by the way things come together in our brains based on what's going on while we're still developing?

By the way things came together in our parents' brains before us? By the environment around them? Around us? Experiences that shuffle our mental chemistry?

If you could account for everything that might have an effect on how the dice fall, you know how they'll land, right? It's just the not being able to account for everything that makes it worth betting on the outcome.

It's a question extremely worthy of pondering, and I'm enjoying the posts on it, but I suppose in the end it's not something that makes a whole lot of practical difference in day to day life.

I mean, we presently have no way of accounting for every possible variable, for dice let alone for peoples' brains, so we may not have free will, but we can still make unpredictable decisions.

Whether or not we're technically responsible for those decisions, well, that's the real question. I vote for continued investigation.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Go Ahead, Shave Those Eyebrows

GruntDoc asks a question that will surely be of deep interest to all eyebrow-possessing persons: is it true that if you shave off an eyebrow, it will never grow back?

Or is that an Emergency Medicine myth?

Commenters seem to concur that it's mostly a myth, pointing out that lots of people pluck their eyebrows on a regular basis and wouldn't need to do so if hair, once removed, never grew back.

I have no input into emergency medicine, but do recall being told, as a child, that if you plucked your eyebrows they would eventually not grow back. This was given as the explanation of why some of my great aunts had to draw theirs on with pencil.

So maybe eyebrow removal can become permanent after long periods of time, as you get older and hair gets thinner anyway. But apparently we need not worry about shaving them off occasionally.

Good thing, because that was at the top of my weekend to-do list. Shave them off, and draw them back on really close to my eyes, so I look stern and forbidding.

That'll cut down on the questions at the reference desk and leave me more time to assign call numbers.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Speaking of Games...

I like this long, thoughtful post by Ashelia on Hellmode about choices in video games. One is often presented with the opportunity, in games, to choose one of two (or more) courses of action.

A lot of times this doesn't really have much impact in terms of how things develop in the game, but it can be a way to personalize the character and the experience. The post suggests that it would be cool to have choices, and the moral decisions they often represent, actually mean something in the game.

It should actually matter whether you decide to kill innocents for personal gain, or rescue kittens from burning trees!

Obviously the more a player's choices are able to impact the course of the game's story, the more potential story branches you'd have to be able to get to, and the more complex things would have to be, so that's probably a lot harder to write and program...but it would be cool. Also, think of the replay value!

On the other hand, I can see a sort of upside to the more linear (or multi-linear) way for games to go. I mean, it's kind of nice to know that you can do x, y or z along the way, but that you'll still get to the same destination, isn't it? Because there's a story there, and you want to know how it turns out, and you like to know that you only have to play it a few times to try out all the options and grasp the whole picture.

If every choice you made really had the potential to make significant changes to the way things worked out in the end, you'd have to play the whole thing hundreds of times to get the full experience!

I'd never be able to leave the house.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Geek Digression Ahead

We're having some interesting adventures trying to coordinate our latest role-playing session using Google Drawing and Skype. It's good practice for important work-related online conferencing I may be called upon to do one day.

Oh, wait, I don't have to justify this. I'll be honest, then--it has no immediately foreseeable practical application.

It turns out to be about as hard as you'd think to come across a way to make use of ventriloquism in an adventuring situation.

Also, to find a reason to roll a d16. Any reason, any reason at all will be accepted! Very specific randomly chosen directions or phases of the moon is about all we've come up with.

Or I guess some sort of very heavy weapon. There are weapons that do d12 (between 1-12 points of damage, for non-geeks), so d16 is conceivable. Say, an extra-large greataxe with a nasty spiked blade!

You'd get better damage results with 2d8 or 4d4, though, so I don't know that anyone would be clamoring to carry it.

Especially not me. First Edition clerics can't use edged weapons.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hearken to Me, Good Young People

Librarian-validating news from the NYT (via LISNews) with the exciting headline "So-Called 'Digital Natives' Not Media Savvy, New Study Shows."

Based on a study at Northwestern University,
Apparently, the students favor search engine rankings above all other factors. The only thing that matters is that something is the top search result, not that it's legit.


In fact, a quarter of the students, when assigned information-seeking tasks, said they chose a website because - and only because - it was the first search result.

This is what we keep warning people about! Our constant harping on Wikipedia, however, appears to have had some results, since "only a third of the students used Wikipedia to search for answers when given particular tasks."

They need us! They still need us!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Video! Video!

Stephen's Lighthouse passes on the news that Netflix will finally be providing its rental-movie goodness in Canada, but, in what might be a sign of the future of rental-movie goodness, only in download format. No DVDs by mail in north North America.

Is the end of Zombie Shakespeare? I mean, DVDs?

I must say that ever since we achieved the magical combination of PS3 and Netflix streaming video right to the TV, we have watched a lot fewer DVDs. Our streaming options are limited at the moment only by the fact that Netflix's own streaming options are limited.

Some things we must still request in physical form if we want to see them.

And a lot of what is available to stream is kind of bad. Still, it's entertaining to flip through the many choices. It's like having a bunch of bad cable channels!

For someone who's had nothing but basic cable for years, this is exciting stuff.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wild Books

I'm following Aunt B's book-publishing saga at Tiny Cat Pants. She's working on publicity for a book of ghost stories she's self-publishing, and says,

This is where things really differ between a self-published book and a “real” book. If I had a publisher, I think my media list would easily be 100 places that should at least get a press release. As it is, I have about 20. Folks are very clear that they don’t want to see self-published books.
Which is fine. I just wonder how long they can continue to do so.

This is an interesting question for people into future-of-the-book musings. Can media that addresses books refuse to address self-published books forever? See this article for more.

Ooh, what about self-published e-books?