Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Step 1337ly, Everyone

I'm taking a short vacation to New Mexico, and would just like to note that I will be traveling on flight 1337 tomorrow.

Appropriate, given my vast, vast reserves of technological cool, right?

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Do We HAVE To?

I like this post on The Health Care Blog called The K├╝bler-Ross Model of EHR Adoption.

It works through a doctor's thoughts as she or he progresses through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining,  depression and acceptance with the approach of mandated electronic health records.

It's going to be a rough road, all right.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

So Much for That Technology

I see that it will no longer be possible to purchase a new typewriter in the future, as the only remaining typewriter factory in the world has ceased production.

As we are all no doubt aware, this is because pretty much no one has wanted to purchase a new typewriter in many years.

I certainly haven't. I used one a few times as a kid, for fun, but I was already working on a computer by the time I needed to write papers for school, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Word processing is a mighty gift to the scholar.

Still, it makes one feel a little wistful, doesn't it? You served us well over the years, oh typewriter, and we salute you.

I was alerted to this news by Why Evolution is True and 4&20 Blackbirds.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

To Accumulate Or Not To Accumulate?

Does anyone need an old PC laptop? Does anyone think I need an old PC laptop?

I have a Mac as my main computer, and don't see much call for a PC unless it's one that can play exciting video games, but a friend has offered me one.

I'm always kind of tempted to take stuff that's offered to me, in case it might come in handy someday, because you never know. You never know, everyone.

On the other hand, I'm perilously close to having too much stuff for this apartment already, and I do have a PC laptop as my work computer in case I really need one for something in the near future, so I should probably just pass on this.

I do kind of have too much stuff for this apartment. I should either do a major weed of my possessions, or move to a bigger place.

I'm not sure which of those options sounds more horrible, since I dislike both sorting/discarding possessions and moving.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fun With Your Library

I think I may have seen this in passing somewhere else, but just saw it again on the Wired site, where I actually noticed it: a treasure hunt sort of game called Find the Future (click for exciting video teaser!) to be played by 500 people staying overnight in the New York Public Library.

Wow, that's awesome.

There's pretty much nothing about it that's not wonderful. Spending the night in a library, hunting down fascinating items from the collection and, judging by the preview, joining your fellow players in writing a book about it. Nice!

The overnight event is May 20, and the game will be available to other players thereafter, both those visiting the NYPL in person and those joining in from online. I'm more likely to be in the latter group, since I haven't been to New York in about 10 years.

Brilliant. I hope this is a smashing success.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Living Up to Averages

I just saw this car commercial that said "they say" the average person will own 12 cars in a lifetime.

I've only owned three so far, and I'm already at the midpoint of my statistical average life expectancy. I need to buy nine more cars! Quick!

OK. Breathe. It's going to be all right.

What I actually need is to buy nine more cars over the next roughly 40 years.

Or, and this is even more attractive, don't buy any more cars, and let someone else pick up the slack. You suckers can buy nine more cars. I'm taking the train and spending that money on video games.

Of course I realize it's not that simple. If you don't live in a city with public transportation, you basically have to have a car if you want to go places and do things.

It's not so much the fun, glamorous toy in the car commercial as it is a critical and frequently troublesome tool that costs a lot. And costs a lot again when you have to fix it.

Probably some person who can only afford old, poorly maintained cars that break a lot and need to be replaced is taking up my slack.

Sorry, person. If it helps, I had a 17-year-old Subaru with holes in the floor that never gave me any trouble. I hope you can get something like that. Maybe on the younger end of its useful life.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Check Out This Great Idea!

Have I mentioned lately how much I love going to the public library website, searching for a title, saying "hold this for me" and having it delivered to the branch nearest me?

I really love this!

I'll read a review of some book that seems interesting, but that I can't really tell if I'd like enough to own, and I can borrow a copy and read it! And then I give it back, and someone else can read it!

Meanwhile, I'm already reading something else, because there is a huge supply of titles available!

You have got to get in on this public library thing. It is truly awesome.

To my government: Please continue to use my tax dollars to support this concept. Thank you.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My NCBI Redesign

PubMed has revealed a long-promised redesign of My NCBI, the super-delightful search-saving, citation-organizing, source-sharing, bibliography-compiling tool whose praises I am always singing. (Listen hard, you'll hear my tuneless warbling in the distance.)

It looks very...clean. I like how all the major components--saved searches, collections, filters, bibliography, recent activity and a handy-dandy search bar to run queries directly from My NCBI--are all right there on one page.

I don't notice any missing or significantly altered functionality, so at least based on a first look, this is pretty much an aesthetic redesign rather than a change in how the tool works.

I also like that you can customize the page so that various things will or will not show up there. This is a very nice, interactive touch that makes the site feel contemporary and modern and hip to what the kids these days like to do online.

It's like customizing what shows up on your blog page!

Although My NCBI does not appear to offer the option to show your Twitter feed.

It's traded the pastel tones of the last redesign for a spare blue and white layout. I was OK with the pastels, but this does come across as a little more professional.

Observe a tiny screen cap:



I think I can get behind it. Rock on, NCBI.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Sidelong Glance at the E-Reader

This is why I'm skeptical about ebook readers.

I have a co-worker who reads a lot of books. He used to buy a lot of books to read, and then lend them to me when he was done.

Then he got a Kindle. Now he buys a lot of ebooks, and I cannot borrow them.

You can see the problem.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Staying Alert for Monsters

Well, I suppose I have to salute this wise move on the part of Miller Library at McPherson College: a library guide in the context of a comic book about a zombie attack.

It's amusing, introduces library resources, and recognizes the growing zombie threat on college campuses these days.

Medical libraries could do this sort of thing, you know. Heck, zombies (or vampires, mummies, kelpies, demons...let's not limit ourselves) as a pressing health issue are perfect for us!

There could be references to how you research different types of monstrous infections, the basic sciences, a nod to Evidence-Based Medicine...

Someone who can draw should get right on that.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Phoneme Power

An interesting post on Why Evolution is True about the evolution of language. The post reviews an article that suggests, based on some intriguing phoneme studies, that language arose in southern Africa along with humanity and evolved into thousands of exciting variants as people moved around.

Nice work, humanity.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Data Gathering

I would like you to enjoy this post from Swan Tower which gathers and carefully evaluates data on the t-shirt-wearing habits of a subject in the researcher's household.

Now that's science.

Or something.

Makes me want to undertake my own laundry-related projects.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Car Freedom

In case anyone wondered, I am still using Zipcar after winning a yearlong membership in 2009, and I still think it is a pretty cool service for people in the company's service areas who don't feel the need to own a car but want to occasionally be able to drive somewhere.

Today I took a Zipcar out to Shrewsbury for the Regional Action Committee meeting of the New England Region of the NN/LM. It was a lovely day for a drive!

And a meeting.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Classic Wedding Movie Review: Jumping the Broom

I got a last-minute pass to Jumping the Broom this evening, and attended with minimal expectations, given that I had never heard of this movie and knew almost nothing about it.

Still, judging from the title it's about a wedding, and judging from the cast list it's got Angela Bassett, and judging from my senses that are capable of perceiving awesomeness Angela Bassett is awesome, and by all accounts it's free, so I'm in.

You have probably seen this movie before in other guises.

And it was freakin' awesome, right?

If your answer is yes, go see this movie. If no, avoid.

Because this movie, like others before it, follows a fairly standard path. We have a couple (Sabrina and Jason), whom we see very efficiently meet and get engaged, and then for most of the movie we have the main event of their big, flowery, fabulously planned wedding.

And there is much tension and occasion for both laughter and sorrow, because this wedding is an occasion for the previously unacquainted extended families of the couple to gather together, and these families contain many an interesting character, and there is much interpersonal drama on account of the families are very different.

In this case, one family (the bride's) is wealthy and oozing with highbrow culture and has a fabulous mansion on the Vineyard with servants and groundskeepers, while the other family is working class and lives in Brooklyn with jobs at the post office, oozing with forthright average-person quips and solid, homely traditions.

The groom's mother, Pam, is the one who wants the couple to jump the broom, while the bride wants to have a very "simple, modern" wedding without this tradition. (As Pam--played by Loretta Devine--explains in case we don't know, slaves on plantations couldn't legally marry, so jumping over a broom was the customary way to seal a union.) Sabrina similarly wants to avoid the Electric Slide, saying it's such a cliche at black weddings, but of course the groom's family wants this tradition as well.

The standard "modernity vs. tradition" arguments, and the working towards a compromise that represents the joining of two families with different ideas. Hilarity and heartwarminess ensue.

Members of both families obviously have moments where they shine and moments where they fail to shine, and in the course of the film uptight people are encouraged to relax, pushy people are encouraged to back off, and lessons are learned all round through the liberal application of ever so much melodrama.

Delicious, delicious melodrama.

We have family secrets! Misunderstandings! Culture clashes! Hashing out of old grudges! Last-minute issues that threaten to derail the entire wedding! Unlikely pairing off among the guests!

Every classic thing you would wish for from a dramatic wedding movie is here. Also, Angela Bassett. She plays the bride's mother, Claudine.

And everyone else was fine too. They played the material with sincerity and good will. I wished all the characters well.

In closing, if you liked this movie when you saw it before, you will probably like it again here. If you hated it before, you can probably safely pass on this version.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Footcovers

As previously noted here, I have a long, troubled history with shoes. I've therefore watched with interest the progress of the 'barefoot' or minimal shoe trend that's underway right now.

One thing about these shoes (the Vibram Five Fingers, with space for each individual toe, being a notable example) is that they tend to look a bit odd to people used to more conventional footwear.

People like me, and like the other people in my workplace whom I see on a regular basis. I'm not saying I'd be instantly fired for showing up to work in shoes with toes, especially since we have a loose-to-nonexistence dress code, but it would seem a bit out of place.

So while I've been intrigued by the idea of these thin-soled, flexible shoes, I haven't actually tried them. Not until now.

Now, I got a pair from a brand called ZemGear that, although they do make a shoe with a split sole (not room for each toe, but a separate space for the big toe and the other toes), also makes a more ordinary-looking one.



This is called the Playa Low. Pretty nondescript, right? It also comes in bright colors, but I thought solid black would fit in best in a work environment.

I have been wearing them around the office this week, and I must say, I have received no blisters or new shoe pain whatsoever. On that basis alone, these are among the best shoes I have ever worn.

It feels--and looks--like walking around in a light slipper, so it's not exactly like wearing an ordinary shoe, but to the casual eye I think it's not anything remarkable. They're made of a very light, stretchy fabric over a thin sole, so I'm not sure how well they'll hold up to long term wear, but I'm going to make sure to find out.

Your people who are really into stylish and adorable shoes will not be very impressed with these (sorry, Dr. Isis), but my main shoe concern these days is "will this cause me pain?" and if the answer is no, I'm halfway sold.

And if I can get away with wearing it at work, the sale is basically done.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Take a Look at This Other Engine

Lifehacker (via LISNews) has a nice post on "when not to Google:" highlighting three other search engines that are useful for specific sorts of searches.

The post argues that Google is great for searching broadly, but that there are other, more specialized tools that can serve well for specialized interests.

It looks at DuckDuckGo, Blekko, and the much-discussed (when it came out) Wolfram Alpha.

There are definitely some interesting tips there, and I will try to keep these sites in mind at the reference desk for those occasions when someone is looking for something particular.

Of course, that person will not show up for months, so I'll have forgotten all about it.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Planning the Day

I used to use a wall calendar a lot. I kept track of travel days and such on it. It worked fine when my schedule was pretty much the same every day.

The past few years, I've taken to a daybook. Too many meetings. Reference desk shifts. Classes. Etc.

I still have a wall calendar in my office, mostly for decorative purposes since I only today got around to changing it to April.

I suppose the logical next step is keeping my calendar on some high tech gizmo like a real up to date person, but I haven't managed to own anything with a planning function I like and that I'm not afraid of dropping. Paper is still cheaper.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

On the Ball Again

In unrelated (to pretty much anything) news, I finally caught up on the 500+ unread blog posts in my feed reader.

I have not been reading blogs as much lately, because I've been putting most of my spare time into playing Mass Effect 2. I think I'm making the right call.

My enemies aren't going to turn into corpses and loot themselves, after all.

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Fail Away, Everyone

I like this post from Isis the Scientist, stating that she believes 'impostor syndrome' is a scam.

Not because people don't sometimes feel unqualified for something, but because, as she says,

Here's the problem with Imposter Syndrome. Having Imposter Syndrome means that others believe that you are super great, but that you believe you are fooling everyone - that you will not be succesful. But, this implies that if you fail, then you truly are an imposter.

And the problem with that is, sometimes we fail! Not everything works.

Which doesn't mean we should instantly retreat into a pit of shame and never show ourselves in public again.

It means you try again, or try with a different computer, or try something else entirely.

This is a good reminder that failing sometimes is just something that happens, not a sign that you're an impostor and a complete waste of human potential.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

When Nerds Party

I was out at a bar with a bunch of other people last night. Over the course of many scintillating hours, the following topics were discussed:

Whether there's any point in having a landline anymore
Technique vs. craftmanship in art
Whether art is possible in programming
The spooky aspects of math
Star Wars v. Star Trek
Star Trek series vs. each other
Harry Potter vs. His Dark Materials
Logic problems involving gnomes and mischievous toddlers
Who played the princess in Conan the Barbarian
Whether the Silmarillion is worth reading

It was awesome. I'm only sorry I didn't manage to bring the conversation around to Medication Subject Headings.

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Speaking of Electronic and Paper...

You know, although I was just trying to comfort myself yesterday, I think it's actually true that splitting up a bunch of conjoined records will be less work than merging a bunch of single records, if only because it will be easier to find them first.

Since paper and electronic books are currently sharing a single record, obviously I only have to find that single record--then make two.

Whereas if I were joining paper and electronic journals into one record, I would have to locate both of them first.

What with the way our OPAC search works, it's easier to specify "give me all the bibliographic records that have both a print and an electronic monograph holding attached" than to say "give me all the bibliographic records for print serial titles that are the same as bibliographic records for electronic serial titles."

The latter is actually not easy at all, as far as I can tell, especially since on occasion we might even have slightly different versions of the title on the record for paper as on electronic. I mean, we shouldn't, but it's hard to be sure, right?

So, yeah, I got the better end of the deal.

It does occur to me that I should put some sort of note in the item record once I split the books, though, the better to de-duplicate for those organizations that ask for statistics on the number of titles held, as opposed to the number of items held.

My work is complex and fascinating, and don't you forget it.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Electronic Does Not Equal Paper

For years, and for no reason that I know of, my library chose to catalog electronic books on the same record as the print version, if we had both, but cataloged electronic and paper versions of journals on different records.

Mostly.

There were always exceptions, so I've always occasionally had to separate a pair of conjoined journals, or squash a pair of books together. For consistency, you know.

As I say, I'm not sure what the original reasoning was behind this policy. I'm sure there was some. Possibly it had to do with counting...for questions asking how many individual titles we have, keeping ebooks and paper books together makes sense. You count the bibliographic records, and you're good.

Why this doesn't make sense for journals, I don't know. We always have to de-duplicate those for the 'unique title' questions.

It matters little, though, because policy is policy. And now, policy is changing: it has been at last decided that system-wide, we're going with separate records all the way!

So now at some point, when I have the time, I'm going to have to track down every book title that we hold both electronically and in paper, and split them up.

I guess it was either that or find all the journals, and put them together. I actually not sure which would involve more work. I'll imagine it's the one I'm not doing, to comfort myself.

I tell you all this because I know you care very deeply.

Also, mostly, because it's what I'm thinking about right now.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring is Here!

Today I observed one of those signs of spring that doesn't get lauded in many poems.

That is, it was raining, making puddles on the sidewalk, and there were drowning earthworms in the water.

In the winter, when the ground is cold and frozen, you don't see them, but once it warms up the water drives them to the surface, where they get trapped in puddles on the sidewalk. You see them squirming around, or later just floating in limp, soggy tubes.

I try to fish them out if I see them still moving. Worms are good for the ground, and also I'm such a nice character.

If they're already dead, though, I just loot the corpses.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Speaking of Video Games...

Enjoy this post on IGN about the complexities of choosing to play nice characters over nasty ones.

I myself chronically play nice characters. Always trying to keep everyone (on my side) happy and give them what they want. Helping out the downtrodden. Sometimes not even charging them for it!

Of course, niceness can be relative. All those mercenaries and bandits and darkspawn and plasmid-crazed splicers I've killed horribly over the years would probably argue with the definition. Not that anyone ever asks them.

Also, the constant pillaging of the dead that's a feature of pretty much every game where you fight things isn't exactly considered heroic or socially acceptable behavior in most cases.

Still, you have to get stuff somehow.

As I like to say, I didn't get rich by not looting a lot of corpses.

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Brain Games

Since I've recently taken to video games, I was interested in this piece on Rough Type about what evidence suggests about whether or not said games turn your brain to mush.

I'm rooting for yes, because I have long distrusted my brain, and if through clever distractions I can reduce its ability to formulate deceptive schemes that will mislead me about the state of reality, that's probably all to the good.

The article's conclusion is less conclusive. It suggests that playing video games makes you better at doing things that you do in video games,  but does not necessarily improve other types of skills. As you might expect, it appears that

using media that train your brain to be good at dividing your attention appears to make you less able to carry out the kinds of deep thinking that require a calm, focused mind. Optimizing for divided attention means suboptimizing for concentrated attention.

Since I'm not sure whether my scheming subconscious relies more on multi-tasking or on calm, focused attention, I don't know if this is good or not. Still, the piece was pretty interesting.

Well, I'd better go fly my spaceship around.

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Statistics. Gotta Have 'Em.

Speaking of the Statistical Abstract of the United States, which I often do at length and with passion, you should check out this report from Library Journal, which explains the sad situation about how it has been proffered up for discontinuation in a recent budget proposal.

We are going to miss those numbers later if we don't have them, you know.

The article has links to a Facebook group you can join and an online petition you can sign, if you're into that kind of thing.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Important Day-of-the-Week Update

Friday night is here!

And not a moment too soon, if you ask me.

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