Monday, October 31, 2011

Catalog, or Devour?

One of the things people tend to ask you when you're pregnant is whether you've had any unusual food cravings.

To which I say, not unusual, no. I mean, I pretty much always crave braaaaaaaaiiiiiiinnnss.

This is the photo that's going on all my forms of ID from now on.

Happy Halloween and stuff.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Peanut butter, which is roughly half my diet (I've eaten it no fewer than three times today, although that is slightly unusual), is going to be more expensive due to poor peanut crops. Noooooooo!!!!!

This was in Time near the beginning of the month, but I'm just now noticing it (courtesy of Why Evolution Is True). At this point it may be too late to stock up, since the piece says to expect higher prices "by the end of October"--which end, I notice, is now upon us.

Well, I guess I'll have to dedicate more money to the peanut butter fund. Not eating as much peanut butter? It doesn't bear thinking on.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Perfect Social Order (Shudder)

I recently tried to extend the idea of the uncanny valley to human development: now Nicholas Carr applies it to social order, saying that "Utopia is creepy."

Interesting. I suppose in the same way that a humanlike construct is appealingly like us until it is creepily too-close-but-too-far, a vision of some ideal society could also be appealingly pleasant until it becomes creepily too-far-from-known-reality.

This implies that there's a sort of knowable foundation for the behavior of human society in the same way that there's a sort of knowable foundation for individual human behavior and facial expressions; something that we can't really define, but recognize. And, of course, that we tend to recoil from close-but-imperfect copying of the function of a human society the way we recoil from close-but-imperfect copying of living facial expressions.

This is a little more abstract, since we can't actually look at any utopian societies and find them disturbing, while we can watch humanoid robot videos on YouTube, but I kind of like the idea.

Friday, October 28, 2011

So Much Science...[drool]

I see (via Ben Goldacre) that the Royal Society has made its online archives freely available, so anyone can read articles more than 70 years old.

This would be the same Royal Society that has been publishing scientific papers since it originated the peer-reviewed journal back in 1665. So yeah, lots of interesting stuff published in there between then and 70 years ago. Fascinating look at the history of scientific experimentation and the development of scientific thought, etc.

Royal Society titles are not specifically medically focused, so they're not terribly high on the must-read list among the users at my library, but obviously there are going to be articles that are relevant to health topics, and anyway, even if there was no connection at all, it's just cool that they're all out there.

Nice one, Royal Society.

I'm less excited by your frequent slight-yet-significant title changes over the years, but it's all good.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ah, Movies

Quick, what's the one upcoming movie you're most excited about seeing? Harold and Kumar's Very 3D Christmas, right? You can't wait to see that, and you're so excited because you have this secret plan where you're going to lord it over me that you've seen it and I haven't.

Well, I have passes for next week, so put that in your pipe and smoke it, Imaginary-Lording-It-Person.

Also, you shouldn't smoke, it's bad for you.

Last night, along completely different lines, I saw Martha Marcy May Marlene. I wouldn't say I liked it, exactly, but it was interesting.

It had no particular library angle, but did present the important message that being in a cult is not really great for you from a mental health standpoint.

So keep that in mind as you make your choices in life.

Edited to add:
I couldn't rest until I corrected the title of your most-anticipated movie: it's actually A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

Well, I could rest, since I went to bed and then didn't get around to making this change until the next afternoon. But I assure you my rest was fitful, and my thoughts were troubled, because inaccuracy weighs upon me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Move Along, Now

If you're contemplating NaNoWriMo this year, you may want to check out the blog SF Novelists, where James Alan Gardner has an occasional series underway called The Skill List Project.

See today's post on plot flow for helpful tips to keep your story moving.

It suggests, broadly, that every scene should either be a result of, or stand in contradiction to, a scene immediately previous. Either Scene A happens and causes Scene B, or Scene A happens and then Scene B threatens to throw a wrench in the gears of whatever A has suggested is going on.

There are obviously other things you can do for artistic effect, but that seems like a good, straightforward way to keep basic forward momentum going.

Good times!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Scary Food

I share the horror of Dr. Isis regarding the strange culinary innovation represented by serving spaghetti in a taco shell.

I mean, no judgment: whatever works for you, and if you've tried this and love it, you go ahead and enjoy it in good health, but it sounds kind of gross to me.

Also, it's just a weird item from a taste/balance standpoint, since it's basically serving a starch inside a starch, right? I mean, a taco shell is a starch normally served around some protein and vegetables. And spaghetti is a starch normally served underneath some vegetables and perhaps protein.

But taco shell and spaghetti together? It's sort of like putting noodles between slices of bread to make a sandwich.

Of course, I did once have a mashed potato sandwich, which struck me kind of the same way as a bit of a starch overload, and it was OK. A little odd, but not inedible. There was a lot of melted cheese in it, and melted cheese, in my estimation, helps make pretty much anything more palatable.

I haven't rushed to have another one of those, though. You just want some different types of stuff in a meal, don't you?

Again, no judgment, other than that this is strange and wrong and possibly inspired by the devil. Which is cool if you're into that sort of thing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Things Come in Pieces

We just got in some human anatomy models that some of the students requested. Now we have to figure out how to catalog them and organize them so that people can check them out.

I'm more concerned about the second problem than the first.

For the first part, well, if I can't find the precise models we have in OCLC, no matter--someone will have cataloged something similar, and I'll copy it. There's no plagiarism in cataloging! Just adopting (and adapting) the good practices of others.

But these things come apart into all kinds of small pieces, and so thinking of checking them out is like imagining checking out jigsaw puzzles.

What do you do if they come back with pieces missing? You can't really have someone behind the desk checking every one, but if one person loses a crucial lobe of the brain, that model is going to be less useful to the next person. It's a resource that you can imagine becoming rapidly less valuable to everyone as it's checked out repeatedly.

We once refused someone's request to order a pack of flash cards because we thought that cards would just get lost, so you see we have trust issues. These students are lucky we ordered these models at all. They'll be even luckier if we actually let them use the models, and don't just put them on a shelf for decoration.

I guess this second part isn't really my problem, though. We have a circulation department that can worry about circulation. So lucky me, the harder of the two questions isn't one I have to answer! I love it when that happens.

Just give me the body parts and I'll get them in the catalog somehow.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupy the Library

I see via Shakesville that the Occupy Wall Street Library (the existence of which is super cool) has a web site.

They're working on a catalog using LibraryThing, and are archiving documents produced by OWS activities for the future as well as accepting donated books and making books available.

Love it!

They obviously also have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, as well as a YouTube channel. This is the 21st century, after all.

I love the idea that a library is a fundamental enough idea that a group of people gathering for totally non-library-related purposes will spontaneously put one together.

Rock on, everyone.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Random Observation of the Day

You know that Bryan Adams song, "Summer of '69"? I'm not the only one who finds it melancholy and depressing, right?

It has this kind of upbeat rhythm, but basically says "my life has gone downhill since high school. Nothing since has compared to the satisfaction of playing with the band I had with some guys from school. It was great that standing on your mama's porch you told me that you'd wait forever, and that was sweet but silly because we were both so young and obviously neither of us will live forever, but nonetheless everything since that summer seems to have been a disappointment to me, because those were the best days of my life."

Sorry, dude. My sympathies on your sucky life.

This is why I don't do "bests." That's just what I need to make my existence more awesome: ranking the periods of my life so I can see how poorly my current situation stacks up next to my golden-hued memories of adolescence.

Because everything had an actual golden hue back then, when me and some guys from school had the philosopher's stone, so life was pretty great. It would be hard for today, surrounded by all these base metals that aren't worth lots of money, to measure up.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Old But Fine

Today I liked this post by Autumn on The Beheld.

It's about a lot of things, as you might expect from a piece titled "Evolutionary Psychology, Aging, Beauty, and the Baby Dreams," but the part I particularly noticed is the reflection that people look different at different stages of life, and are attractive in different ways.

Writing of herself at 20, the author says,
There’s an attractiveness I had then that I’ll never have again. And there’s an attractiveness I have now that I definitely didn’t have then.
This reminded me of something I was thinking about a few years back, also about aging and attractiveness.

You know how, lots of times, when you look old photos of yourself, you're kind of astounded at how young you looked? And how many times have you thought, or heard someone else say, "I was so insecure back then and thought I was completely hideous, but looking back, I looked perfectly fine." Maybe "except for that unfortunate haircut/outfit."

And you sort of wish the knowledge and experience you've gained since then could somehow transfer back, so maybe Younger You would spend less time worrying about it. 'Cause even the haircut, that was the era, it wasn't totally your fault!

I had been sort of fretting over the inevitable signs of aging at this time--is that a gray hair?--and happened to have stumbled across a lot of those "I thought I looked awful but I wish I'd known how good I actually looked" comments here and there.

I tried to imagine myself being 10 or 15 years older than I was at the time, and I realized "when I look back at pictures from this time, I'm going to be amazed at how young I was, and how perfectly fine I looked, and I'm going to kind of shake my head at the idea that I spent time worrying about being completely hideous."

It was actually kind of cool. And it still works! Because I'm older, but 10 years from now, I'm still going to think I looked so young today, and I may even think "yeah, I looked pretty good."

And I'm going to think that, 10 years from now, whether I spend much time today worrying about looking hideous or not. Because in 10 years, I'm going to realize that, you know, I looked perfectly fine.

It's a different perspective, and kind of made me worry less about what I looked like. I mean, I brush my hair and bathe and try to dress semi-presentably, but I look like I look, and if I'm not pinched with illness or bug-eyed with coughing, I look perfectly fine. I do look older than I did 10 years ago, because I am older. That probably shouldn't surprise me.

If I got paid for looking good in some way, it would make sense to put effort into keeping that specific look, but that's not my job*, so why should I spend more than maintenance amounts of time on it?

Of course, that's kind of easy for me to say because I've never really done much with my appearance, but have enough attributes of conventionally attractive femininity that I don't usually rouse the ire of the "how dare you leave the house without first making yourself attractive to me" police, so I don't mean to sound smug or as if this is a life-changing revelation. Certainly I'm not saying anyone who thinks a lot about their appearance is doing something wrong.

But still, I think imagining yourself 10 years older is kind of an interesting way to re-think where you are. You hear this recommended for thinking about your career plans and stuff, so why not for just thinking about your attitude to yourself in general?

Because you're still you in 10 years, you just have enough additional experience and knowledge that you're not caught up in exactly what you're doing right now.

Is 10-Years-Older Me going to shudder and say "yikes, I was hideous! And oh no, is that a gray hair?" Naw. I'm going to look at pictures from this time and think how young I looked. And was. And that I looked perfectly fine.

It's usually easier to be sympathetic and think kindly towards your younger self, once you're older and realize how much you didn't know and hadn't done. Well, you're still young to somebody (oldest person in the world obviously excepted), and there's still a lot you don't know, so why not have a little of that sympathy for yourself now?

You look perfectly fine.

*Put in any jokes you want about the monstrous appearance of librarians.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Plague on Both Their Houses

Spent another several hours trying to make Apache work with PHP, reading dozens and dozens of anguished messages on the forums from poor souls with similar problems.

Finally uninstalled the whole combo to try again, and now I can't even make Apache work on its own.

This project is cursed!

On the plus side, I have so far required less medication to stay upright today than yesterday.

Monday, October 17, 2011


It really sucks to be sick and have a backache at the same time. I wanted to spend all day in bed, sleeping off the worst of the illness, but I couldn't get comfortable there because my back hurt too much, so I figured I might as well get up.

Also, I did need more Tylenol.

I know: whine, whine, whine.

In other news, I didn't accomplish anything productive because I was too busy whining. I was kind of disoriented--I walked several blocks the wrong way down the street when I got out of the pharmacy--so my concentration was probably doomed anyway.

I did read this interesting post on Butterflies and Wheels that mentions the ways in which the work of journalism is changing.

In a conversation I had with a journalist recently, we discussed what he deemed the two temptations of our post-print era. One is getting mixed up in what he called the“information jungle.” The other is sitting complacently in a “filter bubble.” He suggested that the task of good journalism in the coming years will be to serve as a curator for the public, exposing citizens to, without overfeeding them on, information and ideas that challenge or deepen their firmly held beliefs. All right, but what shall we call it? How about “out-of-the-jungle, beyond-the-bubble Black Swan journalism?”

This idea that journalism may be more about a kind of curation that simply reporting facts reminds me of the idea that librarianism of the future (or of the present, really) can also be seen as more about curation than collection.

If everything (or a significant portion of the 'everything' that most people are likely to look at) is fairly readily available, which parts of it do we want to highlight and recommend to our users?

Except for historical or highly specific collections, it might eventually be less about collecting physical items and keeping them in a single spot, and more about linking to items in various locations online. And paying for them, of course. How many times do librarians roll their eyes when someone says they found a journal article 'free' online and turns out they got access because the library pays for a subscription?

Maybe journalism is looking at a similar problem, in that people find all their news 'free' online and don't really think about how someone--perhaps a professional journalist who might enjoy getting paid--may have been involved in writing and submitting the initial report.

Maybe promoting journalism as more 'curation' will make it seem more worth paying for, to at least enough people to keep news sites going?

Or maybe I'm too disoriented (and recently shivering, but now sweating!--it's the ague, I tell you!*) to actually think about any ideas.

*Incidentally, MeSH doesn't have a term for ague, but maps it to Chills, previously indexed as Shivering, which is much less interesting than the dictionary definition of ague.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Classic Ailments

Although I don't have malaria, I would like to claim the term 'ague' for my condition, because it sounds old-fashioned and severe.

Technically it means you have alternating chills, fever, and sweating, not necessarily as a result of a malarial infection, so I certainly can claim it. The real problem with the definition is that I haven't been sweating that much in between the chills and fever, so I should probably be wrapping myself in blankets and hot water bottles.

I tend to get a touch of ague half the time when I'm coming down with a cold. Like over the course of this weekend.

Yay! Weekend! Bleah.

This is one reason I like a flu shot.

Plain old colds give me headaches, chills, fever and joint aches for a day or more. Do I need that for a week? Yeah, I think not.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Not Feeling Fictional

November is coming up, and t'will be National Novel Writing Month once again, and I'm sitting around not having any inklings of ideas.

You can't start writing until November 1, so it's obviously OK not to have really fleshed anything out in mid-October, but in the past I at least had some loosely connected notions I'd been mulling over, and a kind of "here's where things will start" plan.

Now, I've really got nothing. Just not feelin' the inspiration. I'm feeling as if I may not get around to doing it this year, although I'll only be busier next year, so I kind of might as well go for it now.

I'm also concerned because the next Assassin's Creed comes out in November, and that will be very distracting. Veeeeeeeery distracting. Just thinking about it is distracting. Ah, to be climbing tall buildings right now!

Plus, there's all of this knitting to be done. It turns out I got way more yarn than I needed, but I wanted the free shipping that came with a $50 purchase!

Also, I'm a terrible judge of these things. It's like the time I needed to order an ethernet cable, and after considering the available lengths, decided 50 feet sounded about right.

Indeed. About right for when I need to take my computer out of the apartment and around the corner of the building. Which, you never know.

Be prepared by overestimating your need for everything, that's my motto.

This is why I really feel I should have about 8 or 10 novel ideas in mind if I'm going to tackle NaNoWriMo.

Eight or 10 ideas, 50 feet of cable, 20 balls of yarn, and a video game. That's preparation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I AM THE ALL-EXPERT! (Not really)

I know and appreciate that all librarians are assumed to know all things, but I think it's funny how apparently randomly people sometimes select my library (and presumably yours as well) as a resource for their particular question.

For example, I work at a small academic medical library associated with a specific school, in Massachusetts. I'm really not sure why someone with no apparent connection to the school picked us as the lucky recipient of a general question on "is there a [specific health-related thing] in Massachusetts?"

I mean, I can look it up, but we don't speak for Massachusetts where I work, nor are we really experts on state policy. Maybe you want to ask the State Library of Massachusetts or some other specifically-Massachusetts institution? Just a thought.

These very general questions also always make me wonder how much time I should spend on the answer, because I wonder "did he also send this same message to 20 other libraries in Massachusetts?"

And if we're all carefully answering the question, well, that is not economy of scale.

But if no one else answers the question because we all think it's generic and someone else will get it, the poor questioner may wind up with no response at all, and I don't want that.

I am a librarian! I want people to get their answers! I just want it to happen in the most efficient manner possible, and sometimes, that means I really shouldn't be the one giving the answer.

So I try to write a quick, general answer that suggests possible (possibly more appropriate) resources for similar future questions, and it always winds up taking longer than I expect, so I just hope for the sake of economies of scale that anyone else who received that particular question ignored it.

Let's not duplicate effort here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grrr of the Day

It's always comforting if people on the internet have had the same annoying problems you have with, say, installing software programs and making them talk to each other.

Ideally it's even helpful, if they can tell you what they did to fix it. But when you see a lot of comments like "I don't know what I did, but it works now"--I'm not sure that's either comforting or helpful.

It at least implies that the problem can be fixed, which is good. On the other hand, it suggests that the solution remains a mystery, which means I could be fiddling around with the problem for 20 hours before I unwittingly stumble across the answer, or might potentially never stumble across it at all, and that's bad.


Stupid internet. Be more helpful!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Persistence, Persistence

I just could not seem to get a handle on my latest afghan square. I would misread the pattern (repeatedly, in different but equally wrong ways), or it would be too wide, or too narrow.

I tore the whole thing out no fewer than 5 times, and was seriously contemplating just moving on to something else. Yet I persevered, and it turns out the 6th time was in fact the charm. So that's done.

In unrelated news, I just completed 700 charge cycles on this laptop battery. Party!

I have no idea if that's a significant milestone for a battery, but it's a nice round number, so I'm going to stand by the call for a party.

I got the computer in January of 2007, so that actually doesn't even seem like that many cycles. It's only, what, about 12 charges per month? Three a week?

I suppose that sounds about right. It seems like I'm on the computer all the time and must need to charge it a lot more than that, but I guess most of the time when I'm on a computer it's at work, which obviously doesn't wear down this battery.

Anyway, the battery condition is still listed as 'good,' so perhaps I'll get another several hundred cycles out of it. I used to faithfully do the whole calibration process every couple of months, as advised in the manual, but I confess I've fallen out of that habit. Still, I am generally careful about disconnecting it once it's fully charged.

Basically, I'll do the best I can to maintain this machine without expending any additional thought or effort on the project.

It's literally the least I can do.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Keep It Coming...

I will say about Elsevier that they know how to bribe a librarian.

I mean, win a librarian's heart. Because the way to a librarian's heart is with a good bribe.

In celebration of National Medical Librarians Month, they've sent out postcards with codes you can redeem for either chocolate or coffee. I picked chocolate, but the results show coffee currently in the lead with 58% of the vote.

I imagine coffee gets some votes for its legendary ability to make coherent thought possible first thing in the morning. Me, I drink green tea, so coffee has little hold over me.

Chocolate, on the other hand...

Bribery aside, I should note that having entered about a million of them into the catalog, I do quite like Elsevier's ScienceDirect interface to e-journals.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sad Feet

Sometimes you don't realize how much momentum you've got built up until you run into something.

To cite an example from my own busy life, yesterday I stubbed my toes on the sturdy wooden base of a coat tree. Wait, no, I didn't just stub my toes, I really smashed them into that thing.

The nail on one toe was a bloody mess, and that toe is now all purple bruises and soreness. I don't think it's broken, and I suppose it doesn't really matter since you can't do much for a broken toe, but it's not happy. It seems unfair that toes, given that we walk on them all the time and might wish them to be tough enough to endure all kinds of insults, are so darn sensitive.

The pain of a stubbed toe is so severe. Surely a nice hoof would be more practical, for beings that walk around on their feet a lot. But even when I was a kid and went barefoot all the time, until the soles of my feet were tough as leather, stubbing my toes still hurt. Kind of a lot.

I should also note that this coat tree has been in the same place in the apartment for the entirety of the 10+ years we've lived here (right in the doorway, where you'd expect!*), so you really wouldn't think I should be bumping into it anyway, but sometimes you roll a one on your Walk check.

Anyway, here I was just puttering around the house, getting ready for bed, and there was still enough vigor in my stride to do damage by walking into a coat tree. Imagine if I'd actually been going somewhere.

Striding briskly along on my way to the train, perhaps. If I walked into a coat tree while going full speed ahead, I'd probably knock myself over. As I said, sometimes you don't realize how much energy you have invested in going a certain direction, until something suddenly arrests that motion.

And the moral is, if you're moving right along and everything's going fine, just watch where you're going. I guess that's not a very profound moral, but there's nothing else written on my injured toe.

Well, I'm off to see if I can walk into any walls while brushing my teeth tonight.

*Just kidding. It's out of the way, against the wall. Easy to avoid...or so you'd think.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pilot Light Lit: Check

Add another skill to my list: relighting a pilot light!

I confess I was a bit anxious about striking a match in the kitchen this evening, given the smell of gas, but nothing exploded and the little flames caught most satisfyingly.

I like a gas stove, although it's occasionally a little nerve-wracking, because I like to be able to tell by looking at it whether or not the burner is on, and whether it's on low or high. Electric can be deceptive, since it can be quite hot without glowing red, or it might not be hot at all.

I suppose electric is more like the wood-burning stoves of my youth, which also offer few clues as to whether they're on 'high' or 'low' heat, and you can always splash a few drops of water on either of them and see how rapidly it boils away, but again, I like gas.

Look! The flame is high! That water will boil soon!

Or look! The flame is low! That rice will simmer quietly for 45 minutes!

As you can tell, cooking is very exciting in my house. That's why I don't do it often: it's exhausting.

Anyway, if your stove isn't lighting and your kitchen smells like gas, your pilot light is probably out, so based on my newly gained experience I say you should lift up the top of the stove and look for a little flame midway between the burners on each side.

If there isn't one, light a match and touch it to the little raised section between the burners, and a flame should catch most satisfyingly.

Or the kitchen could explode. I guess you never know with gas. But from my vague knowledge, there's probably not enough gas to explode as long as the smell isn't so powerful that you can't stand to stay in the building. If you can't stand to stay in the building, probably call someone instead.

Also, I am not a natural gas expert, nor do I play one on TV, so possibly it's safer just to ignore everything I say.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Uneasy Thoughts

The white-text-on-dark-background of this Tumblr is kind of hard to read, but We Are the 99 Percent is...OK, hard to read in pretty much every way. Some pretty grim stories about how tough things are right now.

My spouse and I both have stable jobs and earn decent salaries. We have health insurance, and savings accounts. We're doing fine by any objective measure. Great, even. No complaints.

I feel very fortunate, and also insecure, because realistically it would be pretty easy to lose what we have. Someone gets seriously ill, loses a job, can't find another job, family can only support you so happens all the time.

I dunno, I'm not out occupying Wall Street right now, or even Boston, but it's hard to say there's not something to be upset about here.

I got to the Tumblr via Alas, A Blog.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

World Domination Cannot Be Far Behind

I'm taking a web development class, and it promises to be good, clean fun.

I'm already plotting how to use my forthcoming knowledge to make millions (of page views).

I suspect pictures of kittens will be involved. Or naked people. That seems to be what the internet likes.

Does someone have a naked kitten site already?

I hope not, because hairless cats are creepy looking. They can't help it, I know, and I don't hold it against them, but it's true.

I bet chimpanzees think the same about us.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegetable Know-How

I've heard that the heat in some hot peppers is mainly in the seeds, rather than the flesh. I believe it.

Because I sliced up a little poblano pepper and tossed it in a salad and ate it with perfect calm.

And I scooped up the seeds, and that sort of pale inside bit that holds the seeds, and tossed them out, and my hands were burning for hours.

Good thing I didn't absentmindedly rub my eyes. These are the adventures one gets into, when one purchases the Box 'o Veggies at the farmer's market.

Another adventure is squash seeds. I love to roast and devour them, so it saddens me to think that people scoop them out and throw them away. People should be sending them to me instead!

Because know what would make my day? Receiving a gallon jar of squash guts in the mail.

All right, maybe not, but only because they would probably spoil.

Having someone knock on my door, and when I opened it they wordlessly presented me with a gallon jar of fresh squash guts, gave a curt, knowing nod, and hurried away? That would make my day.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Learnin' Stuff

I was at the 40th anniversary party/slash 9th edition book launch for Our Bodies, Ourselves, yesterday. There were a lot of amazing women from all over the world who spoke about their work in women's health as global partners of OBOS.

I was knitting an afghan square, not taking notes, and the event was streamed and will be archived, so I won't say much even though there were many cool moments I could highlight.

One thing that did strike me, and then made me wonder at how striking it was, was Miho Ogino, who edited the Japanese edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves (published in 1988 and now out of print, she said, but not before inspiring many other women's health books), mentioning that, unlike in many countries, there was no religious backlash to the book's content in Japan.

She said this was because Japanese society is not strongly religious, and did mention that there was some cultural resistance, as of course there may be anywhere.

"Imagine no religious backlash!" I thought.

And then I thought how unfortunate it is that the default assumption is that religious figures would naturally object to frank information about women's health and sexuality. Can't have people knowing stuff about stuff.

Speaking of frankness, another recurring theme was how tough it is in some languages and societies to even find words for some of these topics. There might literally not be a word for something, or the one commonly used might be inherently associated with shame or secrecy--obviously not what you're going for when you're trying to present facts about health.

Anyway, a very interesting day.