Friday, December 31, 2010

A Triumphant Return

I have returned from a lively trip to the distant lands of Salt Lake City. Now, to have a rousing New Year's Eve of wine and Futurama.

We party hard around here.

I resolve to continue viewing free movies whenever possible in 2011.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Treat Your Cookies Well

Stephen's Lighthouse points out this article suggesting "that when faced with eating a gingerbread man, 76% of consumers feel some degree of guilt."

Aww...poor gingerbread man. Come here and let me guiltily eat you!

The piece does not cite an article for the original research on which this claim is based, but does summarize several key findings, which purport to reveal some key thing about your personality based on the way you approach the devouring of that poor little gingerbread person.

Do you break off a piece? Bite off a piece? Which piece first?

For instance,

Snapping off a limb (leg): Indicates a tentative nature, a desire to be liked and an unwillingness to be confrontational. Extremely insecure, often puts the needs of others before themselves.

I personally like to go for the head, usually breaking it off, which this piece claims indicates that I am,

Forthright, somewhat aggressive with narcissistic tendencies. Little regard for the views of others. Generally unaware of the effect ones actions are having on others.

Now this may be true of me. I really wouldn't know, since I pay little attention to the way I am perceived by others...hey!

Actually, though, I'd argue with this interpretation, because here's why I go for the head: to put the little gingerbread fellow out of its misery.

If some giant gingerbread cookie is ever eating you, wouldn't you hope it bites your head off first, rather than pulling off limbs one by one while you wait helplessly for the end? I thought so.

Therefore, by going after the head first, I'm actually demonstrating kindliness and deep concern for the effect my actions are having on others.

Well, on the imaginary consciousness of a roughly humaniform pastry, anyway.

Human beings? Whatever. I'll walk all over any one of you if you get between me and the cookie platter, while remaining blithely unaware of the effect these actions have on you.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Other Peoples' Statistics

I was sympathetic to the news in this article, San Francisco Library Doesn’t Know How Many Books it Has.

Because you know, it's surprisingly hard to get a count for that. The story says that the San Francisco Public Library can provide a number for how many titles they hold, but not how many specific items, and I myself have wrestled with this little distinction.

We don't have nearly as many books as the SFPL where I work, and it's still hard to get a good number. I was especially sympathetic when I learned that SFPL is using Millennium, which is the system we use for our OPAC. Ah, Millennium.

Hearken to these quoted words from a library spokesperson, who reports that Millennium is a "clunky system that works great for circulation but it's hard to pull out metrics that are newsworthy."

Yeah, that sounds about right. Except I can't speak to its efficacy for circulation, since I don't work on that aspect of things myself. Clunky, though, I can attest.

Now I can count items, because our Millennium gives us a Bibliographic record (a description of a specific title, edition, etc.) and an Item record (saying that we have a specific individual copy of said title, edition, etc.).

So I can run a list to pull all of the Item records that have our library's code in them (to differentiate them from all the items that might be in other libraries within the university system), and get a number that way.

But sometimes you might want to include also the number of bound volumes of old journals that you have, and there's no item for that, and sometimes you might want to count, or not count, electronic versions of titles, and there's an item for that but it's not easy to separate them out, and sometimes we forget to include our library code in the correct format (I'm sorry, but it happens), and sometimes depending on the definition you might want to include or not include titles available in other parts of the library system, and it all gets very confusing.

So I'm not sure exactly what issues the SFPL faces in coming up with a specific number of items, but I am sympathetic.

Also, I bet it's a lot. Just go with that, SFPL. "A whole lot."

I saw this on a roundup at This Ain't Livin'.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'I'll Have the Sidekick' Movie Review: The Green Hornet

Last evening we were privileged to witness the unveiling of the most recent superhero film that I know about: The Green Hornet.

Now I don't know anything about the character of the Green Hornet as traditionally presented, so perhaps someday someone can advise me: was it part of his deal to be super annoying?

Because I found Britt Reid, as played by Seth Rogen, intermittently amusing but mostly extremely irritating. I will state right now that my favorite part of the movie was Britt Reid getting beaten up by Kato.

Kato, Britt Reid/the Green Hornet's nimble partner, is played by Jay Chou. Kato is a martial arts expert and does most of the duo's actual fighting. Also the design and building of their heavily armed and armored car. Also the generally being cool.

Britt Reid is actually kind of a doofus. He may or may not have a good heart (he kind of lost points in that regard when we learn that he fired everyone who worked in his father's vast mansion, for no apparent reason), but he can't fight, he claims credit for Kato's ass-kicking, and he acts like a jerk to Lenore Case, his secretary (played by Cameron Diaz).

Again, I have no idea if this doofus-ness was the Green Hornet's thing all along, or if that's just this movie's take on it.

Let's just accept that in this incarnation, Kato is much cooler than the Green Hornet.

Which brings me to the fact that the movie does a somewhat interesting thing where it plays a bit with the whole idea of who gets to be a superhero and who's a sidekick, in a masked-hero-inhabited world.

Kato, who was Reid's father's mechanic and coffee brewmaster, essentially works for Reid. He drives the car, and sort of follows along with Reid's plans. So he's in the official sidekick position.

But he's so much cooler that this seems a little unlikely, and the movie suggests that Britt Reid pretty much knows that logically he is not the hero in their dynamic. Still, he clings to the 'hero' title rather than just saying "OK, we'll be equal partners," because...he has the money, I guess.

Possibly also because he's a white dude. White dude with money = main character: you can't argue with that.

Anyway, I'm not sure if this movie intended to raise thought-provoking questions about the nature of heroics and the inability of moneyed white dudes to share superhero status with Chinese dudes who work on their cars, but let's give it credit for having a little bit of something going on there.

Even if it doesn't do a whole lot with it, beyond making it clear that both Britt Reid and Kato are aware that Kato is awesome and Britt Reid is a doofus, but they're both just playing along with Britt Reid's need to feel superior.

The story: legendary newspaper owner/editor dies, leaving lackadaisical underachieving son to take over news empire. Son wants coffee, implausibly strikes up semi-friendship with genius mechanic/coffee brewmaster/martial artist from Shanghai.

While son is committing vandalism in a cemetery, he and genius stumble into saving a couple from robbery and assault. Son hits on brilliant idea of fighting crime as a masked vigilante while pretending to be a criminal himself, so that he can get closer to criminals and...fight them from close. Also, if bad guys think he's also a bad guy, they won't try that stunt where they threaten some innocents to make the good guys surrender.


Anyway, this conveniently allows the Green Hornet to wreck up the city, run cop cars off the road, etc., as part of his clever cover, rather than just because superheroes are horribly dangerous to have around, which is usually the lesson one might take from the numerous demolished buildings and traffic pileups that fill these movies in the wake of the dramatic fights.

Christopher Waltz is kind of fun as LA's main crime lord, demonstrating a sort of understated, almost self-deprecating blood lust. Edward James Olmos is also here for some reason, as a trusted elder statesman of the newspaper.

And then there's Lenore Case, who's apparently very smart and could totally be a journalist herself, but, for reasons she states she doesn't want to talk about (and which the movie, respecting her privacy, never explains), is working as a temp until Britt Reid hires her to be his full time secretary.

Actually, this is probably just a symptom of the horrible state of newspapers and journalism these days. I'll imagine she lost her job as a hotshot investigative reporter due to brutal downsizing in the industry.

Also, don't we say administrative assistant these days? Who's actually a secretary anymore? Aside from the Secretary of Defense. But whatever.

Both Britt Reid and Kato develop powerful crushes on Lenore Case, leading to many opportunities for them (mostly Britt Reid) to act like asses.

And then there's a District Attorney. There's usually a District Attorney. (I think he was a DA, anyway. Somebody running for office on an "I reduced crime in Los Angeles" platform.)

And there's a big plot involving Truth and News and so forth, and lots of fighting and car crashes.

Nobody visits a library onscreen, although Lenore Case provides the results of detailed research that may have involved one at some point, and one scene does prominently feature giant rolls of paper. There's the health issue of severe allergy to bee venom, and there's a USB drive and some mentions of the internet to represent technology.

The movie has its amusing bits, I won't deny that, and if you like Seth Rogen a lot, you may find the Britt Reid character less grating than I did. Jay Chou is fun to watch, and you get the sense that some of the people in the supporting roles (some of the criminals, particularly) were having fun doing it.

There are also stretches that just felt kind of dull to me, though. I didn't care enough about the larger story to have much interest in how it worked out, and watching the destruction of an entire office building, while entertaining, only goes so far.

It had moments, but personally, if I were contemplating paying for this one, I would probably just wait for video.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

One Is Not Everyone

I like this post by Tami on What Tami Said, entitled Rant: Hate Twitter? Fine. Stop being so sanctimonious!

This is a nice reminder not to descend too far into "kids these days"-ism, which is sometimes a temptation in relation to all kinds of newfangled gadgets and technologies (here, obviously, specifically in reference to Twitter).

It's only natural to assume that if something isn't useful or interesting to me personally, it isn't interesting or useful at all, but it's also kind of silly.

Like it, don't like it, whatever works for you, but don't act as if not liking it is a sign of your superior intellectual and/or moral qualities.

I mean, unless it's automatic puppy-kicking software or something.

Although proclaiming your dislike as a sign of your superior intellectual and/or moral qualities is entertaining. Fair assessment is good, but does it give us the opportunity to make sweeping pronouncements about how thus-and-such is the worst glob of awful coding ever sneezed onto a computer screen?

Where would we be without the ability to set ourselves apart from the unwashed masses who like stupid stuff we don't care about?

Who, in some other instance, are probably the freshly-bathed masses who like cool stuff we do care about. It's all very confusing.

But anyway, I generally try my best not to overestimate the extent to which my own preferences provide evidence for how much something either rocks or sucks, and to recognize that even things that don't serve any good purpose in my life or work may be of value to someone else. I think I can safely say that this is a clear sign of my superior intellectual and/or moral qualities.

I'm obviously way cooler than those unwashed sanctimonious masses.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Bitter End?

I've been looking on sympathetically to the Twittered expressions of sorrow over the possible cessation of (formerly, which I learned to type smoothly through repeated practice, which made me kind of resent them for changing it since I could no longer make use of this astonishingly unuseful skill).

I used Delicious for a couple of projects at different times, and thought it was OK, but I never really got into it, so I won't personally be among the mourners if it does go gently out of that good net, but I will extend solemn condolences.

Good luck finding another way to manage your links. I suggest my sophisticated method: copy and paste into word processing documents.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Go Where They Know You

GruntDoc explains why you're better off going to the same Emergency Department every time if you need to make repeated visits.

He notes,

Every ED has seen a patient, probably today, with “they saw me at the ER across town, but they didn’t do anything and I’m still sick”. While it makes some sense not to return to a restaurant that gave you a meal that wasn’t to your tastes, medicine is quite different.

The basic explanation is, if you show up at a new hospital for a continuing complaint, they're going to have to look at you as a complete unknown and may run tests or try courses of treatment that are redundant or have already been done.

Because the whole 'sharing of health records' thing is apparently not really off the ground yet at many institutions.

Repeated ER visits have happily not been a part of my life thus far, but I have made note of this advice, just in case.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Grimy Movie Review: True Grit

This evening we saw True Grit. It displayed no discernible connection to any kind of library, but there was plenty of health stuff going on, given the usual Cohen brothers penchant for offhandly jaw-dropping hideous violence (yet with a sort of upbeat cheeriness, and with such stolidly matter-of-fact characters that you can't help but kind of laugh!).

It's a Western, with a classic washed-out Western color pallet and lots of horses, plains, scrub, and guns. Lots and lots of guns.

I was interested to see how gunfire was repeatedly employed not only in the usual attempts to kill people, but also as a communication device. It makes sense; you use what you have, and a gunshot can be heard over a longer distance than a shout.

Anyway, the story briefly: a 14-year-old girl named Maddie (Hailee Steinfeld) hires a U.S. Marshal (Jeff Bridges) to track down the lowlife who killed her father and stole his horse and his two California gold pieces. A Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) is also on the trail of said lowlife.

So they all set out into the scrubby wilderness, and various humorous and/or horrible shenanigans ensue.

Everyone uses very stilted, formal language, with no contractions whatsoever (not a won't or don't or isn't to be heard), which makes for an interesting film style. I don't know if people actually talked like that back in the 1870s, but it sort of creates a certain mood and sets up a distance from the present time.

It could get kind of old, but the actors pretty much manage to make it work.

It was interesting. Not my favorite movie ever, but entertaining. Very Cohen, if you like their stuff.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Journals on PubMed

So I've been sitting here cataloging this afternoon, using the option that has replaced the just-retired Journals database on PubMed (an NLM catalog search limited to "Journals referenced in the NCBI databases"), works fine.

All the information I used to look up in the Journals database--ISSN, title abbreviation, sometimes notes on continuation and years of publication--is still here and looks basically the same. My work can continue unhindered by the need to learn a new layout or find a new source for this precious information.

OK, PubMed. I am suspicious of change, but you have proved my doubts unfounded. This time.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Sex on PubMed

I note that on PubMed Limits today they've changed the heading of the binary Male/Female check boxes from 'Gender' to 'Sex.' I just noticed it today, I mean--I'm not sure exactly when they did it.

Interesting. It always kind of bugged me that they called that very useful limit 'gender', since in many (though not all) health-related contexts, I see 'gender' used to describe social roles, and 'sex' used to describe biological distinctions. And in most cases, I think the thing that's going to be most likely to be in play for biomedical literature searches is the biological distinctions.

Say, if you're purely interested in whether a biological male is more likely to get kidney stones than a biological female, you don't especially need to care about the person's gender identity. Obviously it would apply to how you provide sensitive care and so forth, but does it affect the biological likelihood of kidney stones?

Well honestly, I have no idea, not being a doctor, but I suspect possibly not.

I'm one of those irritating people who, when someone asks a pregnant woman "do you know the gender?" always thinks pedantically,'probably not, although you can hazard a guess if you know the sex.'

I'd be even more popular than I am if I actually said that out loud, right? I'll have to try it sometime.

Now if PubMed were more into psychology, I would expect them to be all about gender. I should look at PsycINFO and see if they actually are.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spending Savings

I see it's just about time to use up the many, many Coke Rewards points I've accumulated for Napster songs over the past year. Those gift codes expire in January, after all.

I've been obsessively collecting Coke bottle caps...if only someone besides me wanted them, I could have my Christmas shopping done right now.

But no matter, I'm gonna stock up on mp3s.

This comes after my frantic stocking up on aspirin and OTC medical stuff, in anticipation of losing the ability to use flexible spending dollars for that come 2011.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Pass the Wine

T'is the season of large numbers of parties. I have been way too busy being sociable to think clever thoughts.

I do note, however, that it's Melville Dewey's birthday. I don't use Dewey Decimal Classification in my own work life, but I salute it anyhow.

Time to party.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Germs Check In...

I got to tour the not-yet-operational NEIDL facility (National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories--pronounced 'needle,' naturally) this afternoon.

I was certainly impressed by the extensive security measures in place. They have machines that scan your eyeball to make sure your iris matches the database! Like in the movies! It's high tech, baby.

Also, sensors that count how many people went through a door after one, authorized person opened it. So if I let you in and you're not supposed to be there, someone will be able to tell that it was me who let some unaccounted-for person into the lab.

Not that I will ever be authorized to let anyone into a lab in general, and certainly not in a highly secure facility. I signed up for the tour because I figured I'm pretty much never going to get into that building again. (Which is as it should be, since I have no useful purpose there unless people urgently need PubMed training in the middle of an experiment or something. Which one hopes they will not.)

And the 'space suits' for the level four pathogens--those must be a blast to work in. Several of us were greatly distracted by the thought of how long the suiting up and decontamination/unsuiting takes (the number 45 minutes was suggested), and the horror if you get all dressed and into your lab and then realize you have to go to the bathroom.

These are the issues that plague people at work, you know.

There's been ongoing discussion over whether or not it's a good idea to have a Biosafety Level 4 facility in the middle of a heavily populated area, but I have to say, they appear to be taking safety and security pretty seriously to assure that no one gets in who's not supposed to, and that nothing gets out that's not supposed to.

Would I personally want to move in next door to the NEIDL?

Heck yeah. Imagine how short my commute would be!


Monday, December 6, 2010

For Lowell! Movie Review: The Fighter

It will surprise possibly someone to learn that boxing is not foremost among my passions.

The Fighter is a moving about boxing. More generally, it is a sports movie, with the training and competition narratives common to the genre.

For the non-sports-inclined, it is also about family, and how family can support you, but sometimes also mess up your life, and how you need to find a balance with what's good for you, and what your family wants. It's based on a true story, so there's that.

It's also about Lowell, Massachusetts, which is generally considered to be one of the less-glamorous of the Boston suburbs, in 1993.

It's about Dickie Ekland, the Pride of Lowell as a welterweight fighter, who fought Sugar Ray Leonard at the high point of his career, and also got addicted to crack. He trains his brother, Micky Ward, who is also a fighter.

They have seven sisters, and their mother is Micky's manager, and things aren't going too great in his career as the movie opens. But of course he gets an opportunity, or there wouldn't be much of a story, and we get some dramatic familial tension, ups and downs of life and crack addiction, and some boxing.

I thought the movie did a nice job making all the people involved sympathetic and believable, with all their quirks and flaws (although it was kind of hard to differentiate the seven sisters, who often seemed to be presented as being one big scary mass).

It's filmed with a low-key, gritty look, mimicking television at times and in general looking more like something you might see around town (especially if you go to Lowell) than like glossy movie sets.

It was also fairly relaxed in pacing. You get a lot of time for character development and interaction between the people on the screen--it's not nonstop fighting or heart-wrenching drama (although there's some of each).

There are health issues aplenty, what with the crack addiction and the frequent facial damage of the boxing. I did not see any libraries, however. But there were posters of old fights at the gym, so that's semi-archival, right? I say yes.

Boxing has not become one of my passions following this movie, but the fight scenes were nicely done, and sufficiently exciting that I was thoroughly engaged. "Punch him!" I would have yelled helpfully at the screen, if I hadn't been in a crowded theater where that would be rude.

Also, "For Lowell!"


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Crushing Health Issue of the Day

I just ate a grapefruit, and for some reason it provoked hiccups.


I hate the hiccups.

See the Mayo Clinic's explanation of this phenomenon...which doesn't really help me in my current situation.

Once The Simpsons is over, I'm going to play Assassin's Creed II: maybe climbing some walls in Venice will distract me.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wind? Pfah!

I choose to disbelieve in wind chill. Yeah, yeah, a breeze makes you feel cooler (or freezing colder) than if the air is still. That's why we use fans.

But I am not really interested in hearing "it's 40 degrees out but with a wind chill factor of 20, so tremble!!!"

Do we hear "it's 95 out, but with wind chill it only feels like 80, so feel good!!!" in the summer? No. And I don't want to.

The thing is, wind is variable. Maybe the wind chill is 15 out in the park but only 5 on the street in front of your office. Maybe it's 20 during gusts, but 0 during lulls.

I just don't think talking about wind chill says much that's particularly valuable. Sure, tell me if it's windy out, but don't expect me to get all worked up about some specific number.

Bah. That's what I say.

On a happier note, it turns out that scrubbing the spots vigorously with soap and soaking garments in cold water and Woolite for 24 hours will do a pretty good job of taking out a red wine stain. I can wear these clothes again!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Career Advice

I have long preferred red wine. I like white perfectly well, nothing wrong with it, but red is more my thing.

The bold flavor, the vivid color, the fact that I have red hair, whatever. The point is, given a choice I will generally pick the red.

I have just revised my personal code to start choosing the white at any event where I'm wearing semi-professional clothing. This follows a dramatic spill this evening that has probably ruined a perfectly good top and pair of trousers. (One of those arm jostling things where splash goes everywhere...totally self-inflicted, so I can't even be filled with righteous rage at some clumsy oaf.)

If I'd been drinking white wine, it would all be good, but as it is? Total suck. I believe in life after stains for clothes, but where am I going to wear stained work clothes? Nowhere. They're as good as dead to me.

So an otherwise pleasant event will unfortunately be forever tainted as "that time when I splashed red wine all over myself and ruined a practically new pair of pants and a tried-and-true sweater."

Note to self: you are a clumsy oaf. Drink white wine.