Monday, February 28, 2011

Trippy Movie Review: Rango

This evening, good people, I saw Rango.

And that is one weird movie. A rip-roaring good time, to be sure, with goofy action to entertain the children and some big-worded, rather naughty jokes for the grown-ups. But weird.

It features:

  • A perfect classic wild west movie town in miniature, made out of bits of rubbish and inhabited by lovingly detailed and astonishingly grizzled desert animals
  • Johnny Depp as a lonely lizard with big dreams who becomes the unlikely sheriff of the town
  • A mariachi band of owls who continually predict the lizard's tragic death
  • A posse (of course)
  • A wild wagon chase (of course!)
  • Let's just say basically every western movie cliche, carefully redone with small animals (but of course)
  • Bats out in the daytime, which bothered me slightly because they must have been unhappy
  • A truly surreal visionary conversation with the truly legendary Spirit of the West
  • Walking cactuses
  • Ever so many romantic misunderstandings (OK, not all that many)
  • No library, sadly
  • The helpful health-related advice that an arrow through the eye is not necessarily much of an inconvenience, although conjunctivitis is a bit disconcerting to others
  • A show-down! (of course)
  • A reminder that water is extremely important in the desert, and golf courses in the desert are...kind of evil

The animation was very nice, with beautiful detail and some really lovely scenery. Lots of clever visual jokes with the buildings being made up of pieces of recognizable items, like a Pepto-Bismol bottle, the Telechron face on the clock tower (those things are collectible, you know), and so forth.

And it was kind of worth it just for the meeting with the Spirit of the West. 

Man, that was bizarre. Awesomely bizarre.

This movie was like a combination of classic western and light-hearted fever dream. 


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Some of These I Get

I enjoyed this compilation of tweets on the important theme of #hipsterscience, conveniently posted by DrugMonkey.

For some reason I especially like:

You get a better shave with a blade you’ve freshly knapped from fair-trade, small producer obsidian


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Getting Some Exercise

After a dreary yesterday of rain and snow, today the sun was out and the wind was relatively restrained. It was a nice day.

For a white wedding!!!

Um. Not sure where that came from. Anyway, a nice day for a white wedding, or a Walk For Choice, which was what we actually did. It was definitely cool, but basically a good day for walking. Only my fingers got pretty cold.

Much like a wedding, it was an occasion for a few hundred people in festive garb and accessories to get together and celebrate human hope and enthusiasm while shaking our booty to some rousing chants on the grand dance floor that is the Boston Common.

There were a few more signs than at the average wedding, and perhaps slightly more discussion of contraception, cancer screenings and abortion. Although I may just not be attending the right weddings. A few good signs might do wonders for a reception.


Friday, February 25, 2011

When EBooks Go Bad

Sarah, the Librarian In Black, in a post rousingly titled Library eBook Revolution, Begin, covers recent changes in how the way ebooks licensed from Overdrive (which we do not have where I work, but which a lot of public libraries use) will be managed.

She breaks down three major changes, of which the first mentioned is the one that struck me most just because it's closest to my personal workflow.

Essentially, ebooks would be licensed for a limited number of uses, after which they would no longer be available (and presumably would have to be re-purchased).

There are a few things here that might kind of make one bristle.

I'm grouchy enough about annual maintenance fees for large ebook collections--now I'm supposed to be cool with the idea that once Person Number 26 (the reported number of allowed checkouts) is done with this single item, it's going to disappear?

And, because I am Technical Services, this point especially gets me:

How could you even put this content in your catalog? You’d have to track circulation and then remove the title from your catalog once you hit your cap. Can you imagine the workload impact?

Yes, that could be pretty annoying. I mean, nothing lasts forever, but if you're spending time cataloging things you kind of want to be able to assume that they'll stay in the collection until you remove them.

Obviously the vagaries of existence on the shelf means that some things will be lost or stolen rather than intentionally weeded. That's kind of a point in favor of ebooks, since there's not a physical item to be lost.

But it's definitely a point against ebooks if they get intentionally weeded for you, based not on your library's exacting standards ("this cover is ugly"), but on the fact that some arbitrary number of people have looked at it. As I said, I don't use Overdrive or the e-checkout model, but I'm pretty skeptical on behalf of those who do.

Christina Pikas is equally displeased about this on her LIS Rant.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jingles of Yore

I was thinking about jingles. A catchy advertising jingle is a deadly and terrible thing.

I do not, and never have, bought Skippy peanut butter, but I can still remember the "everybody's Skippy-dippin'" song from...I want to say about 1984. Maybe later. Maybe it was the early 1990s.

Fortunately, the internet knows: here it is, from 1989. I was sort of close. Sometimes it runs through my head when I'm spreading non-Skippy peanut butter on something. Thanks, Skippy.

Also, "Trust Woolite (wo-wo-wo-wooliiiite!) in your machine)."

And that Reese's Pieces jingle! Actually, to this day I kind of like that one. "Time pieces. Chess pieces. Mantlepieces. Reese's Pieces."

Sorry, I totally can't find it online. Man, that was the one I really wanted to see, too. Internet, you have failed me!

I actually may have fewer of these things lodged in my memory than many people, because there were long stretches of my formative years during which we didn't watch TV. Nevertheless, the ones that linger, sure do linger.

And I was thinking about one jingle that I've never even heard vocalized, but which I still recall from the time I found it when I was looking up (in a book!--because the internet existed, but I didn't yet know that you could use it to look up every darn thing you ever wondered about) the origins of the phrase "hit the spot."

So I was in the library, in college, and I found this book of phrase etymology, and it included as an example of early use of the phrase,

Pepsi Cola hits the spot,
Twelve full ounces, that's a lot.

This was, let's see, going on 14 years ago, and I still think of that bit of doggerel every time I hear that something hits the spot. Thanks, Pepsi.

I couldn't find a recording of that radio jingle, but you can see on this page that I'm not misremembering it (although I didn't have the whole thing).

I don't know if these are good advertising jingles from the standpoint of their producers, since I don't use Skippy, and very rarely eat Reese's Pieces (I prefer my candy to be chocolate) or drink Pepsi (or any other variety of soda--it's just not my beverage of choice).

I do have some Woolite in the closet, though. It must have been the "wo-wo-wo-wooliiiite!" that got me. And do I still think of that ditty every two years when I wash something by hand?

Yes, I do. Thanks, Woolite.

So the little jingles may be memorable, but effective?

Enh. Middlin'.

I can't really think of anything very recent that sticks in my head the same way these ones do. I'm not sure if I don't pay as much attention to commercials these days, or if the jingles aren't as catchy, or if my brain is just too full of old ones to remember any new ones.

Or, possibly, I'll remember this decade's horrible tunes 20 years from now.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Please Enjoy Some Robots

Today I am thinking about robots. I had two posts that got me pondering.

There's Joseph Kvedar at The Health Care Blog writing about "emotional automation," or whether we could get machines to display behaviors that would make people respond to them as if they were people.

And, following on this, whether that could be used for good (as opposed to the evil schemes that, I am sure, spring immediately to mind for most of us...having a robot that could talk other people into cleaning my house for me would be only the beginning!).

He asks:

Can we take advantage of some of those “Darwinian buttons” that deceive us into believing we’re interacting with a person rather than a technology and combine them with some of Cialdini’s persuasive techniques with the hope of delivering compelling, motivational health-related messaging to individuals?

I don't see how it gets my house clean, but I suppose it might be interesting to someone else. Imagine we had little robot pillboxes that could follow us around and remind us to take our medications, and do so while playing on our social instincts so that we feel rude if we don't? Or something.

Then there's Jim Razinha on Dangerous Intersection (they're always writing about thought-provoking stuff over there) discussing Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, and how Asimov depicted robot/human relations.

He talks about how early robot stories focused much more on the 'Frankenstein complex,' or the fear that robots would come into conflict with humans. We certainly still see plenty of that, but we also now have cute, friendly robots. And/or robots that clean our house for us!

Man, I want a Roomba so bad.

The piece closes with a mind-crampingly dreadful pun of the sort that I personally would never, ever stoop to, but it goes along nicely with the first.

So that's the anthology I have assembled this evening.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More Video! Yay, in Theory!

So Amazon is now offering streaming video with a Prime membership?

I got a free trial of Prime a few years back and then became addicted to it after I realized the glorious wonder of being able to order people birthday presents a couple of days in advance and have them get there on time with no shipping fees. It saves a lot of having to plan ahead.

Anyway, they have lots and lots of largely older movies available (1,666 as of this evening). Some of them are pretty awesome, you can tell just from the titles: Eyeborg! Dinosaurus!

Plus 484 TV shows.

I dunno, I don't find anything on their list that I want terribly desperately to see at the moment, but if I were bored some afternoon, flipping through's like having 500 mediocre movie and TV re-run channels at my disposal!

It's like cable, baby!

This is a potentially interesting development in the online video world, since Amazon certainly has the large customer base and processor power to stir things up a bit. Will they tear my affections away from Netflix? Or the PlayStation? Or the occasional time we actually watch TV as it airs?

And all this just goes to show why we don't actually have cable, or any intention of getting cable at any point in the foreseeable future.

I can hardly keep up with the video available for free and/or through subscriptions to existing services. Especially not when I also have video games to play.

Consuming media is a busy job these days.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Confession Time

I feel kind of guilty that I've wasted food. I just dumped a whole, previously-unopened carton of "natural beef flavored" broth down the sink.

Its expiration date was March 18, which is not too bad, except that it was also 2006, which if I'm calculating correctly was some time ago now.

We don't like to throw away food in this house. Much better it sit in the cupboard untouched for a minimum of five years.

I don't so much feel guilty about throwing it away just now, which was probably a wise call.

Although it still smelled OK, as far as I could tell given my limited experience with such products, and if I were of the meat-eating persuasion at this point I might have had a go at making something with it just to test the quality of modern broth-preservation technology and the steeliness of my own stomach.

That would have made a much more entertaining story to have related here, assuming I survived. Alas, it is not to be. My apologies.

I more feel guilty about ever having bought it in the first place.

I don't think we've ever used broth for anything. Why did I think we'd use this? But it was on sale on the "dented carton" shelf ($1.25 marked down from $2.49! I have no idea if that's a good price or not!), and I was filled with the optimistic notion that I'd one day make some enticing recipe that called for broth.

Anywhere from five to probably eight years later (I have no idea when we actually bought this item, or how far away the expiration date was at that point), I have been proven wrong. For shame.

Clearly, we should stick to our usual purchasing habits, heavy on the peanut butter, to ensure that we do not make this type of error again.

And indeed, this type of error weighs heavy on my head, so for the most part we do stick to our usual purchasing habits, and consume pretty much everything we buy, limiting my food-waster's guilt to the point that I can become convinced it's somehow an interesting story for this blog. Yay! I rock!

I'm still working on an ancient jar of grape jelly that has half crystalized to sugar. I'm determined, I tell you. I will finish the jelly! It will not be wasted! I have some about every couple of months. We'll get there, the jelly and I.

Or else I will pass it on to my descendants. Either way.

The thing is, sometimes I fear this caution may limit my ventures into trying new things. We don't buy much outside the staples because I'm not sure we'll do anything with it and I don't want it to go bad, so my diet is a bit limited. Though deliciously heavy on the peanut butter.

I was very tempted to buy into a CSA last year, but I wasn't sure we'd use that many vegetables and I couldn't face the thought of having them go bad.

But this year, I've been thinking maybe I'll buy in anyway, and just count on that guilt to prod me into doing something with pounds and pounds of vegetables.

We should be eating more vegetables anyway, that's basically a given. Unless you subsist entirely on moss and radishes, you pretty much know you should be eating more vegetables.

And even then, you should be eating more kinds of vegetables.

So if we have lots of vegetables hanging around, weighing heavy on my head with the potential of going bad, then I'll simply have to find some way to make them into food.

Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew. I can surely come up with something.

Use guilt as a force for good, is what I'm proposing.

I mean, even more than I already do, given my low levels of wasted food.

So use guilt as a more powerful force for good, is what I'm actually proposing.

It's a small step from eating more unwasted vegetables to saving the world, right?


Sunday, February 20, 2011

If You Want to Bring Up Logic...

I've never liked the Pascal's Wager argument, and Greta Christina nicely explains its logical flaws.

I like this point:

When you're lining up at the gates to the afterlife and God is looking deep into your soul -- and when he sees that your belief consisted of, "Hey, why not believe, it's not like I've got anything to lose, and I've got a whole afterlife of good times to gain, so sure, I 'believe' in God, wink wink" -- do you really think God's going to be impressed? Do you really think he's going to say, "Oo, that's sly, that's some ingenious dodging of the question you got there, we just love a slippery weasel here in Heaven, come on in"?

Ha. Heaven loves a slippery weasel.

The Wager is a very rules-lawyer kind of thing. If you can find a loophole, exploit it!--and all will be well.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Thrill of the Forms

Ugh. Time to think about doing taxes again. I'm having some issues with Free Fillable Forms, where I can't find a place to enter my W-2. I'll have to try again later.

I shouldn't have gotten married--my single income would be low enough to let me use one of the other, less clunky free e-file systems.

Ah, the halcyon days when I was young and poor and filing single with the smooth-running software of professional tax-preparation firms!

Needless to say, I'm not about to pay to file taxes now. I just don't hold with it. You can keep your smooth-running software, professional tax-preparation firms, while I fight it out with pencil and paper, if need be. When I get fabulously wealthy, which will surely be any day now*, I may reconsider.

*I have big plans involving grease. Or possibly savings and wise investments. But most likely grease.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Monster Update

For those keeping an eye on the approach of the zombie apocalypse, this Sociological Images post about the history of the zombie may be of interest.

I was interested to hear that the zombie is in a way very modern:

What makes the zombie unique from other movie monsters is its unique place of origin. Whereas Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman all have ties to the Gothic literary tradition, the zombie stands apart in having a relatively recent (and proximal) origin.

Check it out.

Me, I'm continuing to focus my attention on the monster under the bed. Something must be done about the Ankle-Grabber!

When I was a kid we usually just slept on mattresses or bedrolls placed flat on the floor, so the monster would have had to be too flat to be much of a problem. It was a happy thing.

I've decided to form a campaign to encourage all children's beds to be kept on the floor to ensure that the youth of today can grow up in the same monster-free contentment I did.

Join me!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gadget Love

I got this iPod Touch for Christmas, and only just now got around to writing a blog post on it. It's more convenient than Twitter or Google Docs, because you can actually get on the Internet, and add titles, and handy stuff like that.

On the other hand, this tiny keyboard is slowing me down quite a bit, so I don't think this is likely to become my default posting option.

Yessir. That's what I have to say about that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Spam Heeds My Cry

Displaying its concern for my approval, spam has undertaken to get more interesting and personal. I have one here that addresses me by name! Well, there's an extra 'T,' but it's almost my name. Oddly, they got the first name exactly right, weird punctuation notwithstanding, and messed up on the last name.

Anyway, this author purports to be an attorney, and spins a tale of drama and intrigue about a client with my last name who died unexpectedly of "a heart-related condition," leaving millions of dollars unclaimed.

The author proposes to present me as the next-of-kin so that I can claim the money! And, I mean, hey, it's probably a long-lost cousin or something, so it's only fair to keep it in the family.

It's hardly like a crime at all. I should totally do this.

Now this is the kind of tale I enjoy in my spam. The author clearly put a little thought into it.

Of course, I'm still going to blacklist and delete, but with an appreciative nod to the creativity involved.

Choke on your own spam, you pestilent scourge of the in-box, but nicely done!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What Might Have Been

Man, I wish I were in New Zealand right now. Or, more precisely, next week.

As The Hobbit Movie Blog reports, there's a casting call for elven extras on February 26th. And I would make an awesome elven extra!

The description might as well be (very briefly) exactly me, personally!

WOMEN – aged 17 – 40, Height 5ft 9 (175cm) and taller

Sigh. That could be me, looking elvish in The Hobbit...if only I were in New Zealand.

I guess I could quickly book a flight to Wellington right now, but then if (I should say 'when,' on account of it's such a perfect role for me!) I got the job, I'd have to quit work here at the library...and I'm sure getting a work visa in New Zealand is a pain...

Alas, I fear it is not to be. But if you're in New Zealand and bear some resemblance to a Middle Earth elf, get the heck over there.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Information Wants to Be Free of You

Mike Shatzkin on The Idea Logical Company makes an argument that we should perhaps just get over our longing to "own" ebooks and accept that, as digital entities based on software, they can only ever be held close to our hearts for a little while, as long as we hold the license to access the file, before they are gone.

Here's a main point:

First sale rights make complete sense with something physical. They make no sense with something digital. When you lend, give, or re-sell a print book, you don’t have it anymore. When you lend, give, or re-sell a digital file, you still have it and you could lend, give, or re-sell it again and again without limit. Surely, that’s a distinction that justifies a departure from the physical world paradigm.

Perhaps it does, indeed, but don't call me Shirley.

There's a lot more interesting stuff to the post, about how publishers and agents have, each for their own reasons not wishing to rock the book-selling boat, allowed this idea of ebooks as being fundamentally similar to paper books to take hold, even though it may just not be a very good way to approach things.

Having dealt at work with the faint uneasiness that comes from discarding thousands of volumes of print journals because we have online access that takes up less room, even though we now no longer physically own the material, I guess I could see dealing with the same model for my personal reading material.

I already do it with my money, right? I get paid, but it's direct deposit, so I never even see a paper check. I've never possessed the physical representation of all the money I own in the world. It's all in computers.

And if I do it with my life savings, I could do it with my copy of The Lord of the Rings, if I wanted an electronic copy of that.

The internet is really all about paying to access things, rather than to own them. You pay just to get on the internet, and then once on it there's all kinds of stuff I wouldn't even want to own, it would make no sense for me to own it, but I might pay for a license to access it.

I don't want to own a copy of every movie I can think of, or even every movie I'd like to watch, but I'll pay Netflix to use theirs.

And if we imagine that Netflix also offered ebooks, it could make sense to think of purchasing a license to some individual book so that I could access that one anytime I wanted without it counting against my monthly total or whatever, rather than thinking of owning some discrete individual copy of that book.

It's an interesting shift in the 'possession' model, that's for sure.

I saw this on LISNews.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Extra-Curricular Activities

In my attempt to continually expand my horizons and explore alternative career options, I made my stage debut over the weekend in the medical campus VDay production of The Vagina Monologues. (I did not perform one of the titular monologues, but I did some explanatory-type interludes.)

I'll be keeping my day job...for now. But I'm certainly entertaining offers for future theatrical appearances. We could probably do well with, I dunno, Oklahoma! 

The obvious next step is a musical, right?

It was fun to get a chance to meet people from the various schools in a non-library context (not that the library context isn't fantastic), and to try something I hadn't done before.


Saturday, February 12, 2011


Spam messages about unclaimed riches aren't even trying anymore. I received this convincing missive:

DEAR, I need you
for claim of
get back for
more details

Pathetic. Come on!

Where are the romantic tales about the uncle who was the prime minister of somewhere and died of malaria before dispensing his vast blood-diamond-based fortune? Or whatever?

I suppose it does have a weird sort of poetry. But if I'm going to get conned, I need more than weird poetry.

Bah, I say.

Also, blacklist. And delete.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Today I have been keeping busy updating MeSH terms in our OPAC, which apparently has not been done since the turn of the century. No, OK, more like the turn of the decade.

I don't know why not, because it's totally awesome. It's like there's a party in my office, and only me and a few hundred new and old MeSH terms were invited. I get to pass down the ruling on all of them.

So long, Hermaphroditism. You had a good long run. Now get the heck out and make way for Disorders of Sex Development!

The term change affecting the largest number of records so far has been Biological Evolution, replacing Evolution.

My personal favorite, however, is Siphonaptera, replacing Fleas. I like it because it has 'siphon' in it, and it makes me think of a flea with a tiny siphoning mouth.

And then, having done that for a second, I shudder and decide I need a new favorite. The word is a lot cuter than the reality.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Do It For The Love

It's been a busy week, but I did get a couple of nice compliments. Ah, the lifeblood of my fragile self-esteem!

Or, alternatively, of my vast and swollen ego!

One student said that she'd heard from some friends that I was their favorite librarian. (Awww!)

She said the description was "the tall thin woman with the short red hair."

I was a little taken aback, although the description is accurate. I'm just still not used to it, I guess, because ever since forever, until not that ago, it would have been "the tall thin woman with the freakishly long red hair."

It takes a few years to shed that identity. Even after you've shed the hair.

Then another student said everyone keeps telling her about how great the librarians are in our library, and how we're all so helpful and everything. (Awww!)

Being anecdotal, this is not A-level evidence of my awesomeness. You will also note that both of these comments were second hand, so it's possible both of the students who told me were, themselves, horribly disappointed in their library experiences.

Nevertheless, I'll take it.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Lab is In Your Hands!

This is so awesome.

It is The Lab: a set of little training movies from the Office of Research Integrity of the Department of Health and Human Services, in which you get to make key choices for any (or all!) of four characters involved in a case of research misconduct in a lab.

You can follow, and place yourself in the shoes of, a grad student, postdoc, or principal investigator in a lab, or the Research Integrity Officer for the university. The idea is that you get to make choices for the characters that will have good or bad results within the story.

The bad ending? Research misconduct is discovered, there's a lot of negative media coverage, donors withdraw funding, and the PI is fired, leaving everyone in his lab jobless and forever tainted by the scandal. Avoid this ending!

The production quality is quite good, for a training video. They have decent actors, and spend a little time giving the characters backgrounds and details. I was kind of getting into the story, and I don't even work in a lab, or know anything about working in a lab.

Now I want to make similarly wonderful training videos about PubMed searching in the library!

In the bad ending, the student fails to find any good information and gives a terrible presentation, resulting in shocked silence followed by shunning, lest the taint of bad literature searching wear off on the student's peers.

I saw this wonder on Take it to the Bridge.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An Apron Completes My Baker Disguise

The whole apartment smells like butter cookies.

This is because I'm baking shortbread, which is basically butter cookies.

This is the ancient family shortbread recipe passed down from my foremothers:

  • Take a pound of butter, four cups of flour, and a cup of powdered sugar
  • Mash it all together until it achieves a uniform consistency
  • Squash it into a pan so it's evenly distributed
  • Bake it at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until it's light brown (depending on the pan size and how thinly squashed it is, it may need more time--possibly a lot more time)
  • Cut it into rectangles in the pan while it's warm, then let it cool before removing it

I made a big double batch for a bake sale, and it was pretty thick in the pan. I hope it wasn't too dense to bake all the way through.

It's kind of nice to do a little baking on a cold, cold night. Get things all warm and smelling like pastry.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Oh Yeah, Another One

Also, there's this Body Browser from Google. They do streets, museums, and now the human body.

It's an interesting anatomy tool. You can look at muscles, organs, nerves, bones. There are a lot of anatomy tools out there, so I don't know that the students on the medical campus will be relying on Google, but they do bring their massive world-bestriding brand name to the task, so now when people have anatomy questions they'll promptly find a resource.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Confinement of Information

Have you ever been curious as to whether there were any government files kept on your suspicious behavior?

Have you ever considered filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get access to said hypothetical records?

Erich Vieth of Dangerous Intersection tried it with the Department of Homeland Security, and offers some illuminating commentary on the unhelpful response he received.

As a librarian, I was particularly struck by the fact that DHS states it "does not maintain a central index of records about individuals."

This means that in order to access records, you must "describe the records you are seeking with as much information as possible," including "the type of record you are seeking, the DHS component you believe created and/or controls the records, the precipitating event that you believe warranted the creation of records and the time period that you believe the records or files were created and compiled."

So you have to know what happened, before you can get information about what happened.

And if you don't know of a specific precipitating event that might have resulted in records-creation, and you just wonder if your name shows up anywhere in their files, too bad, they have no way to find it.

Is apparently what they're saying, although that seems ridiculous.

Because seriously, no central index? You can't just look up a person's name?

That's grand for privacy purposes, perhaps, since it means it must be very difficult to find out what you know about anyone unless you know exactly what they've done and when, but it's kind of incredible to me from an information organization standpoint.

How do you ever look anything up? I suspect there's some twisty language trick going on, like maybe they have several non-central indexes that they consult one by one, or they officially call it 'main index' instead of 'central index,' or something.

If not, they really ought to look into that, because if you're trying to keep track of people who've done or who might do things, being able to look them up by name and find all the references associated with that name (maybe even cross references to alternative forms of the name, if you want to get fancy!) can really help.

I know, because I use this trick with authors of books all the time.

It's super-handy, DHS folks! Talk to your local librarian for more information about how you can use indexing to make your job easier!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

My Secret Cooking Tip

Every now and then, in places too numerous to cite, I read or hear people stating that rice is hard to cook. This baffles me.

Rice is one of the easiest things in the world to cook.

Here's how:

Take some dry rice, keeping in mind that it will approximately double in bulk once cooked. (Usually it doesn't quite double, so err on the side of more if you really need a certain amount of cooked rice for a recipe.)

For example, let us say that you want to end up with a couple of cups of cooked rice, so you take one cup of dry rice.

Put the dry rice in a pot big enough to contain it plus twice that much water.

Add twice as much water to the pot as you added rice. In this example, since you are using one cup of rice, add two cups of water.

Put it on the stove. You can put a lid on it if you have one, or not. Whatever.

Turn on the stove. Use a high setting.

Keep an eye on the pot, and when the water is boiling, turn the heat way down, until it is just simmering. You want smallish, quiet bubbles, not the roiling bubbles of a full boil, but it should be actively cooking, not just sitting there.

Cover the pot, if you have a lid for it, but leave a crack for steam to escape.

Go away.

Check it occasionally by lifting the lid and poking at the rice with a fork. Eventually, when all of the water is gone and the rice is soft and cooked enough to eat, turn off the heat.

Eat the rice.

You really can't go wrong here, unless you leave it on the heat for too long and it burns. You do have to keep an eye on it, but other than that it doesn't call for any complex procedures on your part.

If you find that the rice isn't quite as done as you'd like, but the water is all gone, you can add a little more water, or you can add a little more water anyway and let it cook longer, if you like it sticky. You can add a little salt to the cooking water, if you want, or use broth instead of plain water.

Mess around with it if you like. You don't have to. It works out pretty much fine regardless.

So the basics are, put rice and twice as much water in a pot and simmer until the rice is cooked.

It is super-simple. I mean, I know you can do other things with rice, but for a basic cooked grain product, I don't understand what people are trying to make that causes it to be considered complicated.

Now go forth and make some rice, and then put things in it and create side dishes or whatever. You'll want to do something with it, since plain rice is pretty boring.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Capture the Elusive Building

The ACLU confirms that you have the sacred right to photograph federal buildings.

This is a relief to me, since I have based my retirement plans on becoming a famous and ridiculously well compensated federal-building-photographer.

Yeah, OK, I haven't. In fact, I have rarely had any desire to photograph a federal building, other than the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica, where I wanted to memorialize the thin yoga mat in someone's cubicle on which I and my sister slept for a couple of frigid nights while Hurricane Dean bore down on us.

Most people do not pack warm clothes when they go to Jamaica, but if there's any chance that you'll be sealed inside a highly air-conditioned building for days, you really ought to consider it.

Anyway, the point is that federal buildings belong to citizens, so go out there and take some photos. Here's the important info:

The three-page document plainly states that “absent reasonable suspicion or probable cause” security personnel must allow individuals to “photograph the exterior of federally owned or leased facilities from publicly accessible spaces.”

Do it!

The keen mind will note that the document in question does not actually cover what I wanted to photograph, which was the interior of an Embassy from a space that was not open to the public. But if I want to go back and take a picture of the outside of that building--which I probably will not, but one never knows--I'm golden.


Thursday, February 3, 2011


I would like to direct you to this delicious article about eating bugs.

High-quality protein! Much more energy-efficient than meat! In most cases, no more legs than crabs, shrimp and lobster!

You go first. Have some insect-flavored wine to go with it.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Glorious Pigments

The world is abuzz with Google's latest offering, Art Project. It's pretty cool, if you like art projects.

It's much like their street view feature, but indoors in famous museums around the world. The Uffizi! The National Gallery! MoMA! Versailles!

All blissfully empty of other people you have to jostle around to get to the paintings.

You can swing dizzyingly around corners, admiring the decor and peering at works of fine art. It's terribly exciting.

I also just can't get enough of those European exit signs, with the little figure booking it for the doorway. I have such an eye for art and style.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hip Hip Hooray!

I was reading MLA News, as one does, in a vain attempt to keep informed about the events of one's profession, and I saw that Steven L. MacCall, of the University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies, received Library Journal's Teaching Award at ALA Midwinter.

I had a number of classes with Dr. MacCall at ye olde UA SLIS, and I had to give a cheer at the news.

I was especially impressed by the article's noting,

Further, the announcement of the award led to a string of congratulatory remarks on the school's online discussion lists with the subject line, "Dr. MacCall's awesomeness."

I am no longer subscribed to SLIS-L (in a vain attempt to keep down the flood of messages in my inbox), but that made me wish I were.

I would totally have participated in that email string, for Dr. MacCall's awesomeness is indeed immense and far-reaching.

His enthusiasm for librarianship and for interesting new ways to do address the old and new questions of the work is undimmed even by the inevitable technology issues and the many miles between teacher and students--he definitely proves that distance education can work.

Also, in a feat that will long be lauded by my legions of devoted followers, he is pretty much the reason I have this blog, and part of the reason I work in a medical library today.

Congrats, Dr. M. That award could not have been more well-deserved.