Sunday, December 9, 2012

Monsters! Science! Giddy Joy!

You must join me in saluting an awesome article summarized by Scicurious at Scientopia. It is awesome because it looks at monsters from Dungeons and Dragons (in the course of some totally scientific research about gaze following).

I wish I'd thought of that.

Well, you can be sure that my entire future research energy is going to be dedicated to figuring out a way to make D&D relevant to some totally scientific medical library topic.

Perhaps this will give me the 'in' I need to begin my study of the information needs of liches.

You have inspired me, Levy J, Foulsham T, and Kingstone A! Time to haul out my battered research texts, by which I mean the Monster Manual and associated monster-heavy tomes. There are a lot of monster books published for the d20 System under the Open Gaming License, and for a while I bought every one I could find.

You can never have too many monsters, that's what I say.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I Could Use That Much Sleep, Though

Because everyone loves to hear about other peoples' dreams, here's last night's entertainment at the Theater of My Brain.

I dreamed that I was very tired (also true in real life), so I went to bed, and when I woke up I realized I had slept for three days straight, and missed my flight to Portland, OR, for Christmas (this flight is real).

I was very distressed that not only had I missed a holiday vacation of awesome familyness, but it was all my fault, and I was therefore not going to be able to get any use from the enormous amounts of money that I spent on the plane tickets (the high cost of these tickets is true in real life).

Doing a little highly sophisticated dream interpretation, I perceive that certain themes occupy my mind:

  • sleep
  • time/being late*
  • money* 

Obviously my spirit is troubled, and vague premonitions of ill fortune disturb my peace of mind. I should take a nap.

*These themes also appear in another recent dream, suggesting ongoing preoccupation.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Goose-Related Observations

I saw that someone had won a "Golden Goose Award."

Why Golden Goose? I thought. What's a golden goose? There was never a golden goose! There was an ordinary-looking goose that laid golden eggs!

I was filled with outrage.

Then I found out that there actually was a golden goose (egg type unspecified), helpfully noted by Wikipedia as "not to be confused with the goose that laid the golden eggs." Upon reading the summary of the tale, I recalled that actually I did once know about the Golden Goose, because I remember all the people being stuck together. I suppose it must have slipped my mind in the 25 years since I first read it.

Thank you, Wikipedia. I will not make that mistake again, I can tell you.

It remains unclear why someone named an award after this Golden Goose, or whether the recipient now has the power to make people stick together after the first one tries to pluck a goose feather. One can only hope so.

In seemingly unrelated yet also goose-related news, I understand that kiwi fruits are also known as Chinese Gooseberries. Chinese geese must be enormous.

I want one.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

At Least I Had Clothes On

My work sent around one of those helpful "check on your withholding status because the end of the year is coming and we're going to be preparing your W2" notes recently.

I can only assume that it was this which prompted my brain to deliver me a dream in which it was April 15th and I had completely forgotten about taxes.

I was frantically explaining to someone that it was all because of the baby having distracted me (a pretty good excuse) and trying to gather my paperwork, convinced that I could still get it done in time.

With online filing, this is probably true, although not recommended, so I was right not to be totally panicking in the dream.

"Having a baby should just automatically get you an extension!" I said.

So thanks, I guess, work. That was entertaining.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Food! My Peanut Butter!

Darn it, my grocery store is going out of business.

Johnnie's Foodmaster (how can you not love a grocery store named "Foodmaster"?), which we liked to support because it was a small, family-owned local chain, is closing up after selling 6 of 10 locations to Whole Foods and apparently not feeling very attached to the other four.

Whole Foods has its charms and all, I guess, but a small, family-owned local chain it is not. And Shaw's, the small-ish, slightly local chain with a store I used to like to walk to, is no longer within walking distance.

I understand that grocery stores are a tough business, and maybe the owning family just felt like getting the heck out, so good for them for managing it if that's the case. I hope all their employees do OK in the new stores or find good jobs elsewhere.

And I suppose we'll just have to drive to Shaws. Even though we don't like their store brand peanut butter as well.

What about our store brand peanut butter? Nooooooooooo!!!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Having Your Say

Since we just had an election, in which I certainly hope everyone voted, I greatly enjoyed this timely piece from Lowering the Bar about Susan B. Anthony's arrest for voting in 1872. That shows real dedication to the idea of participating in the political process.

As the piece notes, 'the "B" stood for "Badass."'*

There's a nice summary of her grave offense, arrest, trial and sentencing.

*Not really: it stood for 'Brownell,' which is less awe-inspiring but perhaps more dignified.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

You Must Be (Mumble Mumble)

Like many people, I'm apologetically not that great with names. Odds are, if I'm introduced to someone in some sort of social situation, I'll have forgotten their name by the next time I see them.

And I kind of just figure, well, I'm not that great with names, sorry!

But then I was thinking about it and I realized that in fact, I'm not that great with names because I don't really pay attention to them. Odds are, if I'm introduced to someone, I'm automatically assuming I'm not going to need to know their name anytime in the immediate future, so I'm not even really making an attempt to remember it.

Then when I meet people again, usually I have to be reminded of their names, but after that I remember, because I paid attention the second time.

It's sort of as if I unconsciously decided, somewhere along the line, that unless I see you more than once, your name is irrelevant to me.

I'm not even going to listen to it the first time: you could say "Hi, I'm Morgethern Hanretty the Bold Destroyer of Marmite" and I'd just smile and say "Hi, I'm A'Llyn," and if someone asked me two minutes later "who was that?" I'd have to shrug. Not that great with names, sorry!

But next time I meet you, then I'll listen. Honest.

I must hasten to assure you that it's not that I'm stuck up and think I'm too important to bother with your name. I'm assuming you don't really care about mine either, so we're even. I would never expect you to remember my name if we only met once.

And if you do, well, good for you I guess, but also, you wasted brain cells on that that could have been devoted to important blog posts or something, so I'm not sure about your priorities.

So let's just all agree that we don't care about anyone's name the first time we meet them, unless we're going to be sharing an office or hunting werewolves together or something.

Even then, I'll probably give you a mental nickname like Office Dude or Werewolf Hunting Lady at first. You know, just in case you're eaten by a file cabinet or a werewolf before I really have a chance to get to know you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Let's Talk Storms. And Politics!

It seems that Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the entire east coast right now, so at my place we're sitting around enjoying our electricity and internet while we can.

It somewhat reminds me of what we decided to call the Best Trip Ever (positive thinking!), when I visited my sister in Jamaica right when Hurricane Dean was coming through. She was in the Peace Corps at the time, and we found ourselves holed up in the US Embassy in Kingston for a couple of days, sleeping on the floor in someone's cubicle, freezing cold because the air conditioner was set way high and we had foolishly not packed warm clothes to visit or live in Jamaica.

Good times.

I don't really anticipate Sandy being quite that exciting once it reaches the Boston area, but you never know. Mainly, I hope lingering power outages don't interfere with the election.

I'm eager to get votin,' not only because of this whole presidency thing we've got going on right now in the United States, but also because we have all kinds of interesting ballot questions in Massachusetts.

Check it out: We've got medical marijuana, assisted dying, and something about requiring car manufacturers to make repair information available to the owner, not just to licensed dealers.

I don't own a car, so I don't really know much about this last one, but as a librarian I guess I pretty much have to vote for freely available information. I should probably try to get a copy for the collection, too.

As for medical marijuana and assisted dying, yeah, if anyone cares about my politics I'm going with yes for both.

The medical marijuana opponents are arguing that medical use is just a wedge, and will lead to looser laws regarding marijuana in general, and I say "not necessarily, but frankly I hope it does." I just think marijuana is a stupid thing for law enforcement to be spending time on and for people to be going to jail for.

And if you're worried about the slippery slope and fear that if we decriminalize marijuana in any way, next thing you know toddlers will be buying crack cocaine out of vending machines in the subway station?

Nah. I think it's possibly to draw a legal line between marijuana and cocaine. As evidence, I will point out that we have maintained a legal line between marijuana (illegal) and alcohol (legal) for many years! And you cannot try to pretend that alcohol is not a drug, frequently abused, with profound consequences for society. Easily as significant, I would argue, as the consequences of marijuana use.

Good people, I don't smoke marijuana, so personally it doesn't even matter to me, but it is my nonsmoker's opinion that we should be decriminalizing marijuana at a rapid pace, and that is my political statement of the day.

Oh, except I also have a second political statement of the day, which is, I would really like the option to be available for me to die at a time of my choosing rather than just waiting around for my body to suffocate me or whatever if I happen to come down with some horrible fatal condition, so I am pro-assisted dying.

And if you're worried about the slippery slope and fear that if we legalize physician-prescribed medication to end life, next thing you know toddlers will be buying suicide pills out of vending machines in the subway station?

Or, more to the point, the toddler's parents will be urging grandma to take the suicide pills so as not to eat into their inheritance with healthcare costs?

OK, I actually don't want to be as flippant about this one, because I think there are legitimate questions about, say, whether death is really the best option in cases of incurable illness, or only the best option given the lousy support systems in place to care for people with incurable illness. I can see having reservations about this.

We certainly don't want suicide to become "the logical choice" that gets pushed on people because it's convenient for other people.

Still, I think that denying all people the option to make that choice because some of them might be constrained by material considerations, and calling it good (rather than, say, working on the systems that might make the material considerations less pressing) is a cop out.

Also, I think it's entirely possible to value one person's choice to die, and another person's choice to live, if both have similar diagnoses. If I have the right to request medication to end life, that doesn't mean I have to take it. And if I decide to take it, while you, with an equally grim prognosis, decide to wait for the end to arrive naturally? I totally support you in that.

Basically it comes down to this: Choice. I am for it.

Also freely available information, the better to allow for educated choice. In car repair, as in life.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Just...Can't...Write That Much...

As the end of October nears, inevitably National Novel Writing Month draws closer. I hear its siren call!

But alas, given that I can't even keep a blog updated these days, I fear I'm going to have to sit this one out. I just don't have the time or energy to spare for 50,000 words this year.

There are too many people clinging to me and demanding that I feed them or change them or rock them to sleep. OK, there's one person doing that, but that turns out to be too many for me to get much else done.

Have no doubt about it, another terrible novel will be written by me in the month of November--but not this year.

However, I encourage everyone else to do it. It's good clean fun, unless your computer is really filthy and/or your novel is porn (neither one of which should stand in your way), and there's a nice "Winner" web logo in it for you if you finish.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sadder Food Thoughts

As attentive news perusers may have observed, another salmonella-based peanut butter recall has the nation in its sticky grip, with about 240 products (not all even peanut-related: some other nuts have also been effected) on the FDA's list.

I don't see the generic store brand we tend to buy around here on the list, but the fact that the recall has expanded to so many different brands and products makes me less confident that this means my own peanut butter is safe. There, in the cupboard, even now, it could be seething with bacteria.

In case you're wondering, and have forgotten how to type a word into a search engine yourself, here's some info about salmonella. I must say, it sounds like a real fun time.

Since I live mostly on peanut butter (slight exaggeration only), this hits close to home for me. Come to think of it, since I try to keep peanut butter in my home at all times, this hits me right where I live: my house.

Sigh. It's a sad thing when you can't trust your peanut butter. I'll tell you right now, though, I'm not going to stop eating it. Not until they recall every jar on every shelf in this great nation!

And if they do that, I'll go to Canada. Don't push me on this.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Random Food Thoughts

I'm starting to think that almost anything is better roasted than cooked any other way. I'm sure there are exceptions, like lettuce (although actually if I had to cook lettuce--gross--I would probably take roasting over a number of other options), but it works so well for so many things!

I'm just thinking especially of things I only had steamed or boiled when I was a kid, and thought were OK, but have since had oven-roasted and thought were much more delicious.

Like asparagus, and cauliflower. Both great roasted. Try it!

I know steaming is supposed to be one of the healthiest ways to cook, because you can make things all nice and tender without adding a lot of fat, and I certainly appreciate some beautiful bright green steamed snap peas or broccoli, but honestly, just drizzle something with olive oil and roast it and it will probably be awesome.

Also kind of awesome, the way that when you get vegetables from the Community Supported Agriculture farm, they leave on parts that you don't usually see, like the greens on radishes and carrots and the outer leaves of cauliflowers. This inspires me to try perfectly edible parts of plants that I wouldn't have thought to eat otherwise.

More food for your CSA dollar, more interesting meals, and more vegetables in your diet.

Radish greens are pretty delicious, very fresh-tasting and a little spicy. Carrot greens are a little tougher and I wouldn't really go out of my way to find them, but they're all right. The cabbage-y leaves of cauliflower, if you toss them in with the florets and roast them together, are very nice.

To sum up, roast more plants, and eat more of the plant, and you shall not go far wrong.

Unless you eat more of the potato or the tomato, which you should not do because the greens are kind of poisonous. I'm all for increasing variety in ones diet, but only non-poisonous variety.

I mean, unless you're trying to make yourself sick for some reason, in which case I wouldn't advise it, but I suppose it's a free country. If you try to make someone else sick, though, there's definitely a law against that, so it's not a totally free country.

I should probably stop now.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Also, Carefully Refold That Map

Here's some sobering advice about the dangers of relying on smartphone maps out in the desert, where it really matters what road you take.

The short version is, just don't rely on online maps if there's any chance that taking the wrong road could leave you stranded in the wilderness to die of heat stroke, dehydration, or being eaten by bears.

Shockingly, mapping software is not always totally accurate, and in the wrong situation, that can be a very bad thing. As the article points out, once you get far enough away from civilization, you can't even call up your phone maps to try to work out a better option, because you'll lose your cell signal! Thanks for steering me towards my doom and then abandoning me, phone.

I haven't actually been in the wilderness in years, and have no plans to go until I'm fleeing our killer robot overlords, but this is a good reminder that when I go, I need to make sure to take a printed map.

Speaking of killer robots, xkcd's "what if?" feature argues that robots are a long way from being able to produce an apocalypse. A telling quote:

What people don't appreciate, when they picture Terminator-style automatons striding triumphantly across a mountain of human skulls, is how hard it is to keep your footing on something as unstable as a mountain of human skulls.

So that's good...I guess...although there goes my excuse for looking askance at programmable microwave ovens. I just don't trust those things.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Does Not Follow Procedure

Because I tend to get bored, having nothing to do but lie around twiddling my thumbs all day, I rashly proposed a poster for MLA'13, which the organizers rashly accepted.

This means I have to actually make a poster based on my very boring citation-counting project, which is so clearly going to interrupt my thumb-twiddling schedule that I don't know why I ever thought this was a good idea in the first place. I'm having all kinds of questions about poster-making.

Like, do I have to cite references? The helpful poster advice sites talk about a references section, but...uh...I didn't actually do any research in the literature before undertaking my little project. I will hang my head in shame now. I know, it's ironic, considering my entire project is about citations, that I don't have anything to cite myself.

Obviously I should have reviewed the literature first, if only to make sure someone else hadn't already done what I was thinking of doing, but better, but I had an idea I thought was mildly interesting, and I was lazy and wanted to get started, and I just skipped that.

So I did not, in fact, refer to anyone else during the course of my work. Should I pretend I did, or should I just omit references and boldly declare, "Behold, I am a wretched novice researcher, and I didn't consult prior literature"?

The thing is, trying to find something to cite after the fact means more work, which, with all this thumb-twiddling to be done, is not entirely what I'm after. That, plus the fact that I think people in general should make a lot more bold declarations that begin with 'Behold' than they do, is kind of inclining me towards just admitting that I skipped the very important review of the current literature that we're always telling students they should start with, and leaving out the references section.

Or maybe there's a paper somewhere that describes the horrible things that happen to people who don't review the literature before undertaking a research project, and I can cite that.

Ha--actually, if I can find it, I will totally cite that. Don't even think I won't.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Naturally PubMed is Involved

Here's a nice health literacy post from Harriet Hall on Science-Based Medicine, in which she details step by step the research process she takes when investigating an exciting supplement to determine whether it's worth taking.

Whether you are embittered and already filled with suspicion and mistrust regarding the wonderful promises of pretty pills in colorful bottles on the store shelves, or are an optimistic soul filled with hope and enthusiasm, it's probably a good idea to do some research anyway. And sure, I have to say that because I'm a medical librarian, but I would totally think it was true anyway.

This post provides some excellent tips on how to look into and evaluate supplement claims.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

MeSHmas is Here!

It's that merry time of year when good little medical librarians everywhere get shiny new MeSH terms to enjoy.

Among my favorite of the things we can now search for directly are the more specific forms of Prejudice: Ageism, Homophobia, Racism and Sexism.

Also exciting additions: the specific Meals of Breakfast, Lunch, and Snacks.

Not Dinner or Supper, which still map back to Meals, possibly reflecting insoluble regional disagreement over which of these means "the last major meal of the day." Not Dessert either, which is a sad omission for those of us who always try to save room for pie.

You could probably get at those articles before by using Prejudice or Meals plus the relevant keyword, but it could be useful to be able to search directly for the attitude or meal in which you're particularly interested.

All those articles on Ageist Breakfasts will no longer elude me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sleep Tight

So we slept with the baby, the first few months, but have been gradually transitioning him into his crib as he gradually transitions into waking up fewer than four times every night, and I was just thinking how odd the expectations are with regard to sleeping.

I mean, to the extent that being partnered is considered a natural state for adults (that is, to a pretty great extent), sharing a bed is considered the natural sleeping habit for adults.

And yet, for years and years before this, all through childhood, sleeping alone is considered to be the natural state. (In contemporary US culture, at least: obviously there's a lot of variation between cultures and time periods.) You spend years accustomed to having your own bed, and then you're supposed to just naturally make this big shift and spend years sharing your bed with someone else.

When you think about it, doesn't it seem more reasonable that children should be the ones who customarily sleep with someone? After all, they get anxious and scared of the dark (unless that was just me), and having someone to curl up next to makes it somewhat less alarming. (It's a known fact that monsters don't like to pounce if there's more than one person in the bed.)

Presumably as adults we're less likely to be scared of the dark, and yet that's when we're expected to be able to curl up next to someone as a matter of course.

Personally, I often shared a bed with one or more of my sisters as a child, because there were sometimes more of us than than there were mattresses, but a lot of people don't have this experience. Thanks for helping keep the monsters off, sisters!

Now I feel kind of bad about putting the baby in his crib all alone, although I think he's too young to be scared of the dark at the moment.

Also, I'm suddenly kind of worried about monsters again. Thanks for opening up old wounds, brain.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Good Friend, Store

I have to give a shout out to Victoria's Secret for their persistance, demonstrated by their continuing to send coupons for free underpants even though I only buy something there about once every two years. They followed us to our new address, even though we didn't give it to them, and the post office doesn't forward catalogs!

This might seem a little creepy, but since it means continued coupons, I'm all for it. Sure, I'm being stalked by a lingerie store, but at least they're giving me stuff.

As you can see, I am easily mollified.

It might seem like kind of a poor return on the investment for them, if I spend $30 on a sports bra every two years, while cheerfully accepting 6 or 8 pairs of $7-10 underpants in the same period, but I suppose I'm more likely to buy something if I go in there to pick up free garments than if I never go in there at all.

There's this sense of guilt they probably rely on, where you feel kind of like a lowly moocher if you only go in to redeem a coupon, so you buy a little something as long as you're in the store. Because it's only polite, you know.

And I'll acknowledge that I have felt that sense of guilt, as if I had some sort of social relationship with a store that increasingly doesn't make anything I actually want to wear, and I have in years past purchased things I didn't entirely need, so I'm not saying it doesn't work. It works nicely: the store was kind enough to give you a little present, so obviously the courteous thing to do would be to spend some money there!

Lately, though, given the lack of anything in the store that I want very badly, I'm trying to embrace my inner lowly moocher a little more. "Yeah, I'm just here for the free stuff. Hand it over, I'm in a hurry."

After all, they don't have to send coupons. And you never know, I might buy something, one of these times.

Monday, August 20, 2012

This Could Be Brilliant

The American Prospect directed me to a clever new site called ToS;DR, for Terms of Service; Didn't Read.

It refers to the many, many (many) pages of dense legal language that define our relationships with online services like Google, Twitter, Facebook, Steam, etc. The site states,

 “I have read and agree to the Terms” is the biggest lie on the web. We aim to fix that.

Good idea! Because, yeah, I admit I click to indicate my understanding of and agreement to terms that I haven't actually read. I mean, how can you read that stuff? Does anyone read all their terms of service in full?

We should, yeah, long...eyelids getting heavy...ooh, look, something shiny somewhere else on the web! Yeah, yeah, I have read and agree, sure.

ToS;DR rates terms of service for various companies/services from A to E, with A being the best, and puts nifty little icons next to specific aspects of the terms, like a thumbs-up symbol for a "Promise to inform about data requests" or a red X for "No Right to leave the service."

 A lot of the ratings are still in progress, with "no class yet," but you can view the positives and negatives that are listed.

ToS;DR invites user input in developing its ratings, so if you have read and understood your terms of service, you might want to send them a note listing good and bad points for them to add to their lists.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Take Your Due-Date Slips Back, Ebooks

Sarah, the Librarian in Black, had a post a bit ago on how she's "breaking up with" ebooks, which she argues have been like a bad boyfriend/girlfriend for libraries: promising more than is delivered, ignoring our needs, acting all charming to win us over and then turning into a jerk, etc.

She makes the argument that 'we in libraries are actually doing a disservice by offering what’s "barely good enough." We give people the false impression that they can get their eBooks through their libraries.'

This is an interesting point. If all we can offer is a bad ebook service, maybe we're better off not even saying "we have ebooks!" at all--it's not as if that money couldn't be spent elsewhere.

And it's true that libraries can't offer every format for everything. We can lend movies, but (in most cases) not in the 35 mm reels you'd need to project them in your private large-screen theater.

Maybe we could likewise just say, we lend books, but not in the electronic format you'd need to read them on your tablet.

There's a difference, obviously, in that most people have no desire to borrow 35 mm film canisters, while many people probably would like to borrow ebooks, but hey--if the publishers won't grant licenses libraries can work with, what can we do?

As I've noted before, the library where I work has stayed mainly out of the ebook fray by purchasing items you read online at the publisher's website, rather than ones that are downloaded to some other server or device, but it sounds as if that model is a lot more available for academic texts than popular works, so is not a viable option for public libraries trying to make sure everyone who wants it gets the latest bestseller in a timely fashion.

We could call it the "only offer ebooks no one wants to read" approach?

But that's not fair to our perfectly nice electronic titles: it's not that no one wants to read them (well, it probably is for some of them), just that they have a very specific and fairly small audience compared to popular novels and such.

In any case, I could certainly see how breaking up with ebooks could be an unfortunate, not-especially-crowd-pleasing option that would nevertheless be the best move for a library.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

By Any Other Name

The Krafty Librarian highlights an NLM Technical Bulletin announcing that PubMed Central is changing its name to PMC (which is what we all called it for short anyway).

I agree with her that I don't think this is really going to solve the problem of people confusing PubMed Central with PubMed, to whatever extent this is a problem, since PMC on its own is unlikely to really mean anything to most people, but whatever.

The problem of me continuing to call it PubMed Central when talking about it in classes will also be a tough one to solve. Sorry, NLM. Old habits and all.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

That's Politics

I was amused to see, on the Library of Congress Blog, that the origins of the phrase "keep the ball rolling" lie in an 1888 political stunt.

There's even a nice picture of the ball in question, which is revealed to be more than twice as tall as the guy standing next to it, and is covered in campaign slogans lauding the presidential fitness of Benjamin Harrison. Dedicated Harrison supporters apparently rolled it from Maryland to Indiana.

It must have done the trick, because Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland in the Electoral College (although he lost the popular vote, so I guess it only did the trick with electors and failed to impress the common voter).

Cleveland, of course, then won again the next election, to fulfill a perhaps-long-held dream of being the only person (so far) to serve two non-consecutive terms as president.

When I run for president, you can bet that I will encourage my legions of dedicated supporters to roll a giant ball covered with my campaign bumper stickers from Maryland to Indiana. No, wait: TWO giant balls! One starting in Florida, and one in Oregon, converging on Nebraska.

That will be easily twice as effective as Harrison's stunt.

Three times, assuming we can figure out what his color scheme was, and pick a better one.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Speaking of Traffic, Sort Of

One of the fun things about having ZipCar as your vehicle is the opportunity to drive a wide variety of automobiles, some of which give you the chance to try out newfangled gadgetry like the rear view camera in the Honda CR-V I drove today.

In case you haven't seen it, this is a little panel in the dashboard which, when you put the car into Reverse, displays a view of what's behind you. In full color, no less, with lines superimposed to indicate exactly where you'll end up if you slam on the gas and back up right then.

It's cool, but also a little weird. I found myself alternately watching the panel, and looking over my shoulder, the way we did back when I learned to drive.

I suppose practically speaking there's no need to look over the shoulder anymore, since the camera can see a lot more than I can through the back window, but it just felt wrong, somehow, to be backing up without glancing behind me.

Even though, in fact, I might actually be worse off by looking, since I could back over a small object that wouldn't be visible in the back window, but would show up in the camera view. When technology presents an improved way of doing things that is opposite to the habitual way of doing things, it feels a little awkward at first.

In fact, it was a bit like a video game, maneuvering around while looking at a screen, and I'm all for video games, but again, it felt a little wrong to be playing one while driving.

I'd probably get used to it, if I drove more. In a vehicle that had that particular gadgetry.

On a mostly unrelated note, I kind of miss hood ornaments. The style of cars these days is to have the hood slope way down, so you can't actually see where the front of the car is. I can never tell how close I am to hitting the wall of the garage. Now a nice hood ornament gives you a point of reference, like a flag planted at the border of the car's sovereign territory, that says "here be the boundary!"

I want a flag, darn it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Traffic Light Update

Wondrous day!

There's a traffic light at the intersection of Tremont and West Newton where the 'walk' signal has never worked as long as I've been going by there (three years or so). I'd push the button sometimes, as a sort of ritualistic gesture, like rubbing a statue's toes for luck or something, but I long ago learned not to expect any result.

But today, without any outward signs of change in the light, the box with the 'walk' signal, or the pole with the button...somehow, the signal works! That little lighted walking person silhouette is displayed!

I was nearly too stunned to actually cross the street.

I salute the Boston Transportation Department for making this repair. I'd make some sarcastic remark about how it's good to see city maintenance done in a timely fashion, but honestly, it's not as if I ever reported that the light was broken, so maybe no one else did either. 'Walk' signals are more a suggestion than a rule in Boston anyway, so maybe no one ever missed it enough to call it in, and I suppose it's entirely possible they didn't even know about it until yesterday.

It's not exactly a lesson in the importance of civic participation, because I don't know that someone finally reported it and that's why it got fixed (although that's a touching story), but it's not exactly a lesson in the inability of a vast bureaucracy to fix a small pedestrian safety issue, either, because I don't know that they would have known it was broken (although that's an exasperating story).

So I guess in the end, it's a story with a very unsatisfactory lack of closure. Sorry about that.

The main thing is, I was excited out of all proportion to the meaning of the event when I saw that little walking person figure. And if something made me happy, that's good enough, right?

Of course right.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Moderate Yum

If anyone wonders how I'm feeling these days, a short answer would be, "tired and hungry." The lack of uninterrupted sleep, plus the need to produce sustenance for a rapidly growing small creature, means I am frequently yawning and wanting a snack.

I have formed a theory of desk drawer snackables that says that the food I keep around my office should fit into a nice middle ground: it needs to be stuff I like, because I don't want to hate eating it, but it can't be stuff I really like, because then it won't last.

For example, I got a giant 4-pound bag of raw almonds. I like almonds raw, but I love them roasted (with or without salt). So I got the raw ones, because when I'm hungry I'll enjoy eating them, but I won't enjoy eating them so much that I'll eat the entire bag in a week.

Because I wouldn't put that past myself. I really love roasted nuts.

I also had a quest going for a while, trying to find that perfect Clif Bar flavor that I liked enough to eat without gagging, but not enough to chow down like candy. I'm not sure I ever got it, and I sort of went off Clif Bars at some point, but at the moment the Odwalla Food Bar, Chocowalla flavor, is doing pretty well for me.

It's chocolatey enough that I like it all right and moderately enjoy eating it, but not so chocolatey that it might as well be a Hershey bar, which I would like very much and would eat by the carton.

Any hot tips about similarly good but not too good snacks are welcome. They should probably be accompanied by a sample of the item know, just so I can test it out.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mystery Solved?

I've often idly wondered why babies and little kids have such long, long eyelashes, and on reflection I think this is the answer:

It's not actually that they have super-long lashes, it's more than they have regular-length lashes that look super-long on those little faces. It's a perspective thing, in short.

So no need to be jealous of that kid's gorgeous long eyelashes. Be jealous of his tiny face instead. Your eyelashes would be just as impressive if your face were smaller.

That's my beauty tip of the day: shrink your face for dramatically longer-looking eyelashes!

On further reflection, it's probably easier to just use some mascara. Really, people, no need to complicate things. Makeup exists, just use it if you're that concerned about your eyelashes.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Always Explain Your Code

I'm having problems with my knitted code.

I'm trying to make a 9"x9" square, so of course an important thing is to have the initial set of stitches come out to be something that's 9 inches long. I have a pattern which specifies the use of a certain number of stitches to achieve this, but people don't knit exactly alike--some pull the yarn tighter, some leave it looser--and I personally never get the right size by using the specified number.

Generally I have to add more, but how many more depends on the pattern.

This square has a repeating pattern, so you can add a certain number of stitches to get another instance of the design, but the number of stitches per pattern-iteration is 14, which is a lot. I'm only about 4 stitches (and half an inch) short of 9 inches, and when I added 14 stitches it was 10 inches, easy.

The annoying thing is that you always have to knit several rows before you have enough of the representative fabric to get an accurate measurement. You have to run the code for a while before you can tell what it's doing, we might say.

This is probably fascinating to exactly no people, but here's the thing I should have learned from practicing coding, but didn't: comments!

I've knitted this square before, so I must have solved the problem somehow. I should have written a note on what I did. Presumably added some number of non-pattern stitches to the edges, but how many? I'll have to knit it again (4th time's the charm?) to find out.

Or possibly just give up in irritation and try some other square. Which I also will not know how many stitches to use for, but at least it'll be a change of scenery. You get tired of knitting the same first 6 rows over and over.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

To The Internet Television!

This is the world we live in:

I got an email from Netflix letting me know, just in case we might be interested, that they've added the 4th season of Breaking Bad to their streaming video lineup.

In fact, we are interested. As they no doubt know considering we watched all the previous seasons this way.

Then we can immediately turn on the TV, and the PlayStation, which plays games that look like movies and also transfers video through the internet at our whim.

So we live in this world in which a company knows what we want, tells us when it's available, and we can be looking at it two minutes later, in between playing video games.

Yeah, it's weird. Convenient, though!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I'm going to have to start writing blog posts during my lunch break or something, because lately I just don't seem to have the mental energy to even contemplate it once I get home after work, scrounge some food, and get the baby to bed.

Another thing I don't have the mental energy for is freaking out about cockroaches, which we find we have living in our bathroom. (Just the bathroom so far, so far as we know. But that's just where they've been seen, so who knows where they get off to when we're not looking.)

Once upon a time this might have had me all skin-crawlingly grossed out, but now I just kind of thought "what do you know, a cockroach." Who has the strength for more, in this sticky summer weather, and with how busy we all are? After a long day, I'd rather go sit on the couch than muster up a sense of horror at our squalid living conditions.

Squalor? Yeah, fine. The internet still works though, right?

I mean, I tried to squash it, in a cursory way, but it escaped behind the sink and I couldn't be bothered to run right out in the middle of the night to purchase some deadly, deadly toxic spray and take care of the situation.

Maybe later, cockroach.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hey, No One, Look at This

Now if it were my job to teach medical students about reading papers, as opposed to just finding them, I would suggest this detailed explanation on Scientopia about assessing the reported results of randomized controlled trials.

As it is, I'll just nod thoughtfully to myself.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Clever Trickses

You know I have to be interested in an article about high-powered Google search tricks. Some of these I already know and use--the nifty site:[whatever site or domain you want to search in] is one of my favorite things ever--but there are some others I wasn't aware of.

I didn't know you could do proximity searches, for instance, but apparently you can say wine AROUND(3) clothing to find results where 'wine' shows up within three words of 'clothing'. You probably don't need this all that often, but for certain types of searches it could come in handy. I'll have to remember this.*

LISNews told me about this.

*I'll probably have forgotten it by Monday, but my intentions are good.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Where Are All the Single-Edged Swords?

David Gorski, on Science-Based Medicine, has a detailed post about the internet as a means of conveyance for consumer health information.

The super short version is that, as we're well aware, it's awesome and wonderful that huge amounts of good medical information and patient support are available to anyone with an internet connection--and it's kind of terrible that huge amounts of wildly unreliable medical information are available to anyone with an internet connection.

In our library skills classes for the medical students, we try to point out reputable consumer health sites with solid information that doctors can suggest to patients (good old MedlinePlus!), but sadly not everyone can have a librarian following them around on the internet pointing out key markers of an authoritative site.

Not just yet, anyway. That's totally part of my vision for a brighter future once I run the world, though.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

As If We Needed a Reason

If you're interested in red hair, as who among us is not, you should check out this post on Pharyngula.

It considers the problems with this particular coloring--mainly outrageous but understandable jealousy among the less-fortunate, and I guess also "making red hair actually depletes the body of a protective substance, and has the side-effect of producing carcinogens"--and of why, in light of this disadvantage, red hair has survived as a trait at all.

My theory is, pure awesomeness, but there's also some discussion of a new paper hypothesizing that it might be associated with a lower risk of certain diseases. Those associated with excess cysteine, to be exact, and I'm sure I need hardly mention that these include rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

There's no actual evidence that this is true, but I think enormous quantities of funding should immediately be dumped into research on the question.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ensure Domestic Monster Tranquility

I was intrigued by this Slate article about the monster-fighting activities of various US presidents.

I suspect there's a secret additional line to the presidential oath of office, something like

...preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States--from monsters.

I certainly hope so, anyway.

Friday, June 22, 2012

In No Shape to Play

Drat. I'm so out of practice that it only just occurred to me that the baby's been asleep for an hour, and I could have been playing Skyrim all this time.

But I'm so out of practice that I hesitate to start now, because it will probably take me half an hour to remember the controls, and I can't stay up late playing unless I want to be really tired all day tomorrow, because I certainly can't plan on sleeping in.

Maybe tomorrow night.

In the meantime, I recommend this interesting story by Jay Stanley on Blog of Rights. He lost his credit card, and in order to prove that he was himself and get a new one, had to correctly answer a question based on information "obtained from third-party information services."

It turned out that the third-party information service was wrong, meaning that he couldn't prove he was himself.

The piece has interesting thoughts about account security (good in principle, but if it's so secure you can't access it, that's a problem); creepy information gathering (some company out there is just collecting bits of possibly-correct information about you and selling it to other companies for 'security' questions and who knows what else, and you have no real way to know what they have on file for you or correct any errors); and the way that even though we often hate phone trees* and assume that "getting to a human" will help resolve a problem, in this case "there was little difference between computer agent and human agent" because the human had no authority to override the computer.

*Not me, I love phone trees and will happily push buttons all day rather than talk to a person, as long as I can actually accomplish what I need to. But then, I hate people and can hardly wait for the arrival of our robot overlords. As long as they can get stuff done.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nooooooo!!! Oh Well

It turns out resveratrol, that stuff in red wine that had us all feeling virtuous when we drank red wine, is not likely to make us live forever after all.

Good thing I don't drink wine to be virtuous.

I mostly drink it because I can't make clothes out of it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Oh, If You Want to Talk SENSE...

I've long aspired to be crotchety and cantankerous, which largely involves complaining about kids these days with their weird hairstyles and their terrible music, but an annoyingly sensible post on no cookies for me points out that this is not a very good attitude to take for most people, considering most people were themselves kids with weird hairstyles and terrible music not so long ago.

Not me, of course. My hair was always perfectly practical, and the music I liked was only the best music ever. But the rest of you should cut kids these days some slack.

Sigh...OK, I admit it, my hair was weird. The truth is, there were no glorious olden days, good people. 

Our ancestors did their best, no doubt, but they weren't in possession of some special ancient wisdom that has since been lost (they produced us, after all, presumably by doing the best they could).

The olden days were just days. For many reasons, we're glad they're gone.

So why do we think kids those days were in possession of some special ancient good-kidness that kids these days are lacking? I suppose it's just crotchety cantankerousness.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tasting Just About as Sweet as Wine

Given my previously expressed interest in wine, I could not help but sit up and take notice (as opposed to lying down and going to sleep, which is my usual response to things) at the report of wine made into clothing (bioalloy project website here, summarized on Skepchick here).

I normally prefer to drink wine rather than wear it, and the fabric looks a little weird (honestly, it looks rather creepily like dried blood in some of the pictures), but I'm all for creative uses of things. This is cool, in a strange sort of way.

Inquiring minds naturally want to know, if you have a dress made of wine, could you chew on it to enjoy the wine later? That could be handy at sporting events and the like, where the concessions are always sooooo expensive.

Also, they probably don't have any good wine. Not that you'd want to use the good wine to make clothing, either.

Don't mind me, thoughtfully gnawing on my sticky-blood-colored sleeve while I watch this riveting baseball action. I'm just eating my garments, as one does at tense moments. Mmm...delicious tense moments.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


My slippery, unreliable brain is messing with me again. 

I had this little item that was lent to be by a friend, and I saw it several weeks ago and said to myself, said I, "since this is small and could be misplaced, I must be careful with it. I shall put it somewhere safe."

And then I put it...somewhere.

I guess it's safe.  Anyway, I have little chance of damaging it since I cannot for the life of me find it. My friend, who owns it, is also unlikely to accidentally destroy it since I can't send it back to her.

And I keep searching my mind, asking myself, "where would be a spot that I would have thought was safe?" But my sneaky, unhelpful brain, clearly trying to get me in trouble, just keeps suggesting the box where we keep postage stamps. I don't know why that's particularly safe, and anyway it's not there, so thanks for nothing, brain.

I may just have to buy her a new one. Fortunately, it only costs about $2, so it's not that big a deal, but it's kind of bugging the hell out of me.

*That's "Braaaain!!!!!" with a "curse you my old archnemesis" emphasis, not "Braaaains!!!!! with a zombie emphasis.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Oh, Come On!

After all my watchful eyeing of the shadows at previous meetings, this is the year there's a zombie hunt at MLA? When I'm on the other side of the country?

That's it. I want Boston to have liches. They're powerful magic-using undead. Way more challenging than regular zombies. All the zombie-hunting in Seattle should give people the practice they'll need. It'll be magnificent.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Good News!

Science-Based Medicine concludes that horrifying tales of pills made from human fetuses are probably urban legends.

This is good, because eww. Although to be fair a lot of medicine is eww, so I guess if it really did anything, we'd have to have a reasoned debate about the subject.

Which would never happen, so, again, good news!

The post is also a very nice example of the value of questioning ones own assumptions and the importance of doing the research on a subject.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Packing Up

Hey, this is cool: the MLA Relevant Issues Section is doing a service project at this year's meeting, for which they ask attendees to pack extra socks and underwear. These will be donated to the Pioneer Square Clinic in Seattle, which offers care to low-income and homeless patients.

A worthy cause, and who doesn't find the need to make a little extra room in the luggage for swag at the end of a conference? Prepare for swag by stuffing your bags with socks on the way out!

Saturday, May 5, 2012



I'm starting to get all bummed because I'm receiving exciting MLA-related messages (visit our booth! attend our presentation!) and I totally want to start making a schedule to make sure I catch everything that sounds interesting, but then I remember I'm not actually going to be there.

I'll miss out on so many exhibit-hall wanderings. Meet-ups with people I almost never see. Piles and piles of free food.

Don't get me wrong, I have a good excuse for not going, and I will cherish this time with my tiny redheaded child instead, but...exhibits! Meetings! NLM updates! The Bearded Pigs!

The MLA'12 Blog is not helping with all this nice info on Seattle.

I'll miss you, MLA. Don't have too much fun without me.

I'm going to advise my co-workers who are going that they must tell me it was the worst meeting ever, no one had any fun or learned anything interesting, and I'm lucky I didn't have to go. Boooooooor-ing, must be their verdict.

If you're going, consider yourself held to the same standard.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Well, Drat

This Atlantic piece (via Dangerous Intersection) strikes at a topic close to my heart: sitting.

Indeed, as Mr. Burns would say, "from the mightiest king to the lowliest peasant, who doesn't enjoy a good sit?"

Tragically, it appears that the more you sit, the more likely you are to drop dead at any moment. I sit a lot--my job is a desk job except when I'm teaching or messing around with print journals in the stacks--so my days are clearly numbered.

But surely it doesn't count if you're sitting under a baby? Because that's about all I've been doing lately.

A nice counterpoint to thoughts of sitting is this series on walking.

When not sitting under a baby full time, I do walk a fair amount on my way to and from my desk job, which probably adds somewhat to the number of my days unless I get hit by a car. This series looks at fascinating pedestrian behavior, as well as at how few people do walk, in the US, and why.

Obviously one of the big reasons why is that people live so far from things they need to get to. One of the things I miss most since we moved last month is the convenient 15-minute walk to a grocery store. I would often stroll over to do a little shopping, but that's unlikely in the new place, which is farther from groceries.

I mean, you have limited time to get stuff done, so if it's going to take an hour to walk somewhere, you're probably going to drive, even though an hour's walk would be healthier in theory (depending on how safe the route is and whether you're likely to get eaten by bears or something along the way).

I do appreciate the walking that's built into my day by my commute, though. I'm not wild about the fact that my commute is over an hour each way--that adds up to a lot of time spent neither working nor being at home--but it does mean that I get some exercise in, which is a positive.

It also means I generally get at least a little reading time each day on the train, so it's not as if it's time totally wasted.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

In Babyland

It has come to our attention that a tragic post shortage has recently afflicted this blog. We have traced the problem to the recent arrival in my household of a small baby, leading to my spending basically all my time in new-babyland rather than internetland.

I have no idea what"s going on on the internet! I am too sleepy to care.

One day I will care again. Until that time, please be comforted by the knowledge that this baby is a redhead.

Another one for the Gingers!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mmm, More Bugs

Going directly into my files for "life is gross, but whatever," and "let's all eat more bugs," here's Bug Girl with a nice post on Skepchick explaining why we shouldn't necessarily freak out about food products dyed with insect extract.

It turns out insect-derived dye (cochineal) may be more sustainable, and is certainly no more weird, than the alternative, Red Dye # 40, which is made from petroleum. Yum.

Bugs or petroleum? Honestly, they both sound so delicious that I wish there were a way to enjoy them at the same time, in some sort of super-red food that was advertised with the catchy slogan "Now with more types of dye!"

Somebody should get to work on that.

I am a vegetarian these days, so I suppose in theory I should prefer the petroleum, but I'm honestly not as concerned about consuming bug bits as I am about bits of larger animals. Call me a hypocrite if you must.

This being so, and since there are bits of bugs in a lot of processed foods (check out the post's link on coffee and chocolate for exciting details on exactly how many insect fragments are acceptable in 100 grams of chocolate!), I'm really not very concerned about this.

No, I wouldn't just pick up a bug and eat it, unless I were really hungry or getting paid a lot of money, but  if undetectable pieces of bugs are in the sweet, sweet candy I was going to eat anyway?

Whatever. It's still sweet, sweet candy. Hand it over.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Learn Something New Every Day important item in the field of Peep research, too long neglected by me (it's from 2003), and passed along by Catalogablog. This study focuses on the research habits of Peeps in the library, offering valuable insights such as the Peeps' tendency to employ advanced search techniques such as consultation with a librarian.

I note that Peeps do appear somewhat more likely than college students, the comparison group, to suffer injury and death on library premises. To avoid unfortunate accidents, then, one take-away message from this study is that Peeps should probably be closely watched while in the library.

But be careful who you have watching them, since some library staff may themselves pose a danger to sweet, sweet candy.

Not me, though. I'm more of a danger to chocolate than to marshmallow. Your Peeps are safe with me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When Duty Calls, Can You Hang Up?

Oh, heck. I'm on the Local Assistance Committee for MLA'13, and I just recently got forwarded mail (yes!--the postal system works!) asking if I want to chair the Carla Funk Award Jury for 2012-13.

I've done MLA committees in the past, I totally want to be involved, but do I want to do two of them in the same year? I kind of didn't specifically volunteer for a committee this year, partly because of this LAC commitment, and also because I'm not going to be at MLA'12 to take part in the committee meetings so I miss out on the transfer of information.

But they tracked me down anyway! Can I refuse my professional association in its hour of need?

I suppose not.

Ah, well. I mean, what else am I doing these days?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Crispy Deliciousness is Good

I thank Women's Health News for the happy information that popcorn is totally awesome for you. Full of antioxidants and stuff.

I like popcorn! I should eat more of it.

Of course they say you shouldn't drown it in butter lest that make it less totally awesome for you, but come on, even if it's partially awesome with a little butter, that's still some awesome.

So crunch up, everyone.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Well, That's Something

Many of us--OK, the few of us who cherish this sort of thing--were horrified to learn that the Census Bureau was ending publication of that huge and magnificent source of information, the Statistical Abstract of the United States.

We can be a bit relieved at the news that ProQuest has announced it will be taking over production of the report beginning with the 2013 edition. No word (that I could find) on how much it will cost, although the press release notes that the online and digital versions will be available for pre-sale starting next month.

It's hard to see it as a totally awesome development, with everyone's tight library budgets, if we now have to purchase something that used to be included in the cost of our taxes, but I guess it's better to have that as an option than it is to have this resource disappear entirely.

So thanks, ProQuest. I'm glad someone's doing it.

I initially saw this on LISNews.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Important Reading Update

I have much to catch up with online, but have been spending most of my non-work time either unpacking or reading.

I wanted to finish Neal Stephenson's  Reamde before I gave it back to the library whence it came. Which turned out to be a slight challenge, partly because it's over 1000 pages and I started it while we were moving, but also because I stopped reading it in the middle so I could read N.K. Jemison's The Kingdom of Gods, which I checked out of the library later but wanted to read even more.

So I wound up keeping Reamde a day late, possibly the first time I have ever had an overdue library book, because I really wanted to finish it (and couldn't renew it, since other people had it on hold after me).

I guess this speaks well for both books--I put all else aside because I couldn't wait to read The Kingdom of Gods, and I committed the grave misdeed of keeping a library book late because I couldn't let Reamde go unfinished.

Good work, authors, writing books I must read even when packing, moving and unpacking!

Now, all finished with these fine books, I should dedicate much more time to the unpacking, but it's also very tempting to play Mass Effect 3 instead. I was hoping to get through a significant portion of that before the baby, but it doesn't look as if that's going to happen, considering all the boxes everywhere, so I'll just have to do my best when I can. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012


After a hard day of moving and having no access to the internet yesterday (it was eerie and disorienting, and I had to strike a careful balance between taking deep, soothing breaths and hyperventilating), we are in a new apartment with our network set up.

Aaaaaaaah...that's the life.

I quickly enjoyed this post on Rough Type about one under-noticed sad aspect of the cessation of the Encyclopedia Britannica's print edition: the fun juxtaposition of terms on the spine, telling you which entries start and conclude a particular volume.

Now, although there is much more web-related material to catch up on, I have to go read a library book that's coming due soon. Or unpack some more, but you know I want to try to finish that book.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Too Easy to Steal

Bill at Unshelved talks about the intellectual property issues of comics, which are so easy to copy and post that it's basically impossible to assure that they're not being reposted on sites where you haven't authorized them.

I don't write or draw comics (my closest approach is probably the illustration for my awesome sock life extension plan, which, though awesome, is probably unlikely to be reposted by anyone), so this isn't something I've thought much about, but yeah, that's got to suck.

So, well, be nice and obey copyright law and link to the author's site, don't copy the whole comic, OK?

Unless it's something like xkcd, which you can post, with attribution, under a Creative Commons license. Basically, just make sure whatever you do is OK with the artist/copyright holder.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Keeping it Cool

Cleaning out the freezer this evening I found:

  • 1 1/2 bags of frozen green beans
  • 1 loaf of bread
  • 1 ready-made pie crust
  • 1 bag of whole flax seeds
  • 1 jar of ground flax seeds
  • 14 cooler packs of various sizes

I think we're probably OK on cooler packs. Maybe we could even take the opportunity provided by this move to get rid of a few.

Although I guess they do improve energy efficiency by keeping the freezer full of cold things, and the freezer at our new apartment is bigger than this one, so what the heck.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Yes, Spring

I was all proud of us for remembering to set the clocks ahead yesterday, and then I just noticed that our wall calendar was still on February.

 We've got a lot on our minds, you see...little details like what month it technically currently is tend to get away from us. But the clocks, we're on top of that.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


Ah, it's time once again for a Daylight Saving Time post!

Here it is: We woke up and set our clocks forward.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ah, the Good Bad Old Days

Those among my legions of followers who haven't been using public transportation in the Boston area for years won't get much out of this, but...remember before the Charlie Card, when you got a different-colored pass every month?

The Charlie Card is way more practical, don't get me wrong. Purely in terms of convenience, having the same card automatically reloaded with a new monthly pass is far preferable to getting a completely different card every month.

Still, from an aesthetic standpoint, Charlie is kind of boring.

Back in the day, remember how pretty the passes were? Check these out:

All those colors. I like colors.

Somebody used to have a job that involved picking out the colors for each month. That must have been kind of fun.

And yes, that represents several years worth of monthly subway passes that I have been holding onto even though we've been using the Charlie Ticket design since 2006. Because I knew that someday I would want to show them to you.

One day, when high-tech materials allow Charlie Cards to be remotely reloaded with a new pass and automatically changed to a cool new color scheme every month...then we'll be talking.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Heck With 'Em

Intriguing post on Librarian by Day wondering whether libraries should be investing so much energy in ebooks given the various flaws in the system.

I like one of the opening paragraphs, which responds to the "but patrons want it!" argument with the quite true point that patrons want all kinds of things that libraries can't always give them.

Ebooks are definitely an issue that not's going to go away, but it does seem worth considering not dealing with them at all (at the moment), among the other options for managing them. You've got to think about all the angles.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Snuff it Out, Then

Interesting news on Science-Based Medicine about smoking bans and public health.

It's obviously hard to draw precise conclusions about things like this given the vast number of potential confounding factors, but it seems a few recent studies are suggesting that bans on smoking in public places may in fact have measurable public health effects.

There are studies from Scotland suggesting a reduction in premature birth and low birth weight, and in hospital admissions for asthma, after a ban, and one from the US linking a ban to a decrease in incidents of acute myocardial infarction.

Meanwhile, predictions of economic devastation have not really been borne out. Apparently people still like to go out to eat and drink even if they can't smoke in the building.

I might argue that some of them, if they don't smoke themselves, like to go out even more if they know they won't come home smelling like cigarettes. But that's anecdotal.

Anyway, these bans are controversial, and no doubt this won't be the last word, but it's certainly interesting to hear about the results.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Entirely Too Busy

There's just too much going on right now.

We have to pack so we can move by the middle of the month, and we're having a baby at the end of the month, and now Mass Effect 3 is out. I so want to play it!--but I have this sense that the more responsible course would be to continue packing.

But I want to be playing it right now!

I'm still in the middle of Skyrim, too. Too much to do.

Then I see on Why Evolution is True that Oreos are 100 years old today. If I'd known sooner, I'd have gone out to get some, but I suppose it's just as well I didn't. It would only have been another thing I had to do, and I don't really have the time to plan a party right now.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Go Forth and Be Counted

Oh, we have an election tomorrow. Hm. Better go exercise that franchise.

There's that whole presidential primary thing, I suppose, if you're into that.

But mainly, here in Massachusetts, we also have some ballot initiatives, like medical marijuana, assisted dying, some business regulation, and something about the public schools.

I am all over that. If you're in a Super Tuesday state, better go be all over it too. The democratic process needs us!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

But I Might Want That!

Does anybody still want CDs? I was packing, and filled half a box with my (relatively unimpressive, I know) CD collection, none of which I've listened to in several years because all my music is mp3s now. I don't want to throw them away, that seems like a waste, but...what do you do with CDs anymore?

I haven't even gotten to my tape collection.

Or the floppy discs for my ancient computer. Or the computer itself, which, why do I want to expend the energy to cart that off to another apartment when I haven't even turned it on in a decade? (Does it even still turn on? I don't know.) And yet, if it still functions, it has copies of my college papers and such on it, and even though it's not as if I care about re-reading those (certainly I never have), I don't just want to throw them away either.

I mean, maybe aliens will land, and for some reason I'll be the person they wind up talking to, and it will be important that I convey some crucial point about Russian literature, and I'll be able to look it up in my old papers and basically cheat off my old self by stealing my arguments about Turgenev's approach to the transmission of wisdom, which I totally don't remember but could refresh myself on with a quick scan of those pages.

Hm. Even I have to admit that this is a pretty unlikely reason for someone to ever need their old college papers. And the fact that it's the best one I can come up with suggests that I could probably lose all access to said papers, and never miss it a single day in the rest of my life.

This is why our current apartment doesn't have room to add another person, you know. Because we're clinging to so many worthless, priceless relics from the past.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Precious, Precious Content

Props to the Krafty Librarian for reading the policies on content ownership for a ton of different social media sites and reporting them in one handy post.

It turns out some sites basically claim ownership of anything you post on them to do whatever they want with, while others specify that you do own your content, but still claim the right to use it in various ways.

To some extent I suppose that seems fair. If I build a platform other people like to use, it's reasonable if I get to benefit from their activity in some way. What way, though? Well, that's the question.

Since many of us are not going to swear off social media, I guess we'll all just play along with the grand experiment and see what happens. But if you want to be better informed along the way, it couldn't hurt to read up about these sorts of policies to figure out exactly what different companies can do with the information you give them.

Then make sure an unpredictable portion of that information is weird but plausible lies, just to throw them off.

For example, I used to collect china figurines of geese, preferably geese wearing gingham hats. Ideally there would be a basket tucked under one wing. Flowers in the basket were optional.

It was a thing I did.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Handy Tips

I have to admit I've pretty much forgotten all about Wolfram Alpha since its exciting debut some years back, but this How-To Geek post, as recommended by iLibrarian, gives some good tips on using it for 10 different useful tasks, such as generating hard-to-crack passwords, checking if you're legally drunk, finding words beginning with one letter and ending with another, and more!

You never know when any one of these things could come in handy.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Don't Argue With Common Knowledge

I thought this was an interesting post on Butterflies and Wheels, about a downside of Wikipedia's "let the knowledge of the masses be recorded" approach.

It tells the story of an event in history about which common knowledge says a certain thing, but concerning which a single historian has uncovered source material supporting an alternate course. He tried to update Wikipedia, citing the primary sources he had uncovered, but had his edits reversed because these sources, since they contradict common knowledge, are viewed as somewhat suspicious.

As the author, Ophelia Benson, writes,

There is something fascinating about that. I do get the reason – there are always going to be more cranks and monomaniacs wanting to publish their “original research” than there are genuine historians and people who know how to do original research, so Wikipedia errs on the side of caution - but it does mean that mistaken conventional wisdom trumps accurate new research.

Indeed. Often it's going to be pretty safe to disregard a single person arguing for a revised view of some well-known fact...but on the other hand, sometimes conventional wisdom will be wrong.

I'm still not going to be telling students that Wikipedia is the devil, but this is another bit of evidence to support the contention that you don't want it to be the only thing you ever look at.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Repurposing = Awesome!

The Krafty Librarian has presented a very crafty idea, using old unbound journal holders and brightly colored paper labeling to make booklike shapes that sit on the shelf with the print books in a certain subject, highlighting the existence of ebooks on the same subject.

I like it! Partly because we have stacks and stacks of unbound journal holders where I work, too, and I always like to reuse things, so the idea of getting some use out of them now that we have hardly any unbound journals left is appealing.

Also, we are always trying to promote our ebooks.

However, Krafty uses QR codes, with a "scan this code to see ebooks on this topic" message, and I'm not sure about that part. I don't sense a whole lot of excitement around QR codes in our user population. Not that I exactly have my finger on the pulse of what's cool with that population or anything, but the one time someone used a QR code (to promote a workshop), I never saw anyone actually scanning it.

In fact, the main topic of Krafty's post is actually how one generates interest in QR codes, rather than how awesome it is to recycle journal holders.

Given our extremely limited but unpromising experience, I don't really have any advice on how to generate interest in QR codes, hence my focus on the crafts part of the piece. I'm wondering if it might not just be useful to put those up as a reminder that the ebooks are there, because it's true that not everyone thinks to look.

Maybe we could steal the booklike shapes idea, and just put a note on the label to "see our ebooks page for online titles on this subject," with a short URL. (We'd have to actually make short URLs for our ebooks based on subject for this to work, but...I'm supposed to be learning to code, I could figure it out. Or steal it from someone.)

And maybe a QR code too, I'm not opposed to QR codes, I'm just not particularly excited about them, but maybe simply putting them out there would encourage their use. Anyway, they look kind of cool and decorative, so what's the harm?

On the other hand, we're pretty desperate for shelf space right now, so taking up room with this sort of placeholder might not fly.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Good News, Everyone!

Good people! The 6th season of Futurama is streaming on Netflix!

Must watch now.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Arrrrrr! Yes, Arrrrrr!

Wired magazine, as always a boundless source of valuable information, presents crucial details about talking like a pirate: specifically, why pirates say "arrrrr!" (Sometimes spelled "arrrgh," which I suppose is a silent 'gh' but which I can't help pronouncing as 'arg,' so I'm not in favor of it.)

The story (not yet online: page 58, March 2012 issue): Robert Louis Stevenson, in Treasure Island, has a lot of characters saying "ah," in such contexts as "Ah, that's a sweet pirate database full of MeSH terms like 'Artificial Limbs' and 'Parrots'!"

Then in 1950 Disney made a movie version, and Robert Newton, playing Long John Silver, had a Cornwall (Cornish?) accent which made this "ah" sound like "arrr."

And ever after, "arrrrrrrrr!" has been one of those things that pirates say, along with "avast," and "me hearties," and "booty," and that is how that worked out. Fascinating, right?

I know! It really is.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Old-School Writing

I found this post on Swan Tower, about the struggle to master a 19th-century handwriting style, oddly fascinating.

Possibly because my handwriting actually kind of looks like that? (Or did, when I wrote neatly, back in my careful youth. It has degenerated to a scribble over the years, which I blame on higher education--taking notes in college ruined my cursive with the prioritization of speed over neatness.)

But other than the elaborate capitals, that's basically the form I learned to write. Or, I may have learned the elaborate capitals, but I don't recall them. I gave up on writing cursive capitals soon after I started writing in cursive, and just used print ones instead.

One might wonder why I bothered to write everything in cursive except capital letters, and I'll tell you what I think: because connected letters in general are faster to write than to print*, but big loopy capitals are slower.

I was an efficient young person.

*For me, anyway. I know some people hate cursive and find they can print faster than they can write, but when I try to print quickly it always starts to run together in proto-cursive anyway, so if I don't expect someone else to have to read it, I just write.

If I'm making notes for other people, I do pretty much always print, handwriting is just not legible enough anymore for me to subject others to it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Never You Mind, PubMed

Sometimes an RSS feed reader can throw you off. For example, I saw that this new NLM blog, ReferencePoint, had posted a Fact Sheet sheet on the difference between PubMed and Medline.

I took notice, because this is a question that I think causes some confusion among the non-librarians among our patrons where I work (that is to say, pretty much all of our patrons), and that I usually brush over with something eloquent along the lines of "we use them pretty much interchangeably, but basically Medline is the database of citations, and PubMed is the search interface we use to access it, the way the internet is, you know, the internet, and Google is a specific interface to help you access it."

If the person seems to care at all, I might say something about the other interfaces for Medline, such as Ovid or the one in Web of Knowledge, and how they're kind of like other search interfaces such as Yahoo or Bing, and how some people prefer one or another of them for various reasons, but they all serve basically the same function.

In any case, I was interested to see how the experts at NLM would, no doubt much more clearly and accurately, explain the difference.

But then when I clicked to read more, there was no post! Removed for editing, perhaps, or updating, or because it incorrectly identified PubMed as "an especially rancorous panda." Who can say? Only the first few sentences linger, a ghostly remnant in my Reader.

Perhaps it will be reposted in the future. In the meantime, feel free to just substitute what I said here if anyone asks you about this topic.

I mean, the bit about PubMed being an especially rancorous panda. That'll get people's attention.

Edited to add that the post NLM blog post did go live, and you can see it here if you like.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Now THIS is Cool, Honest!

For those who get excited about dates with cool combinations of numbers, I note that it's 02-21, 2012...which is only cool in a sort of weird, obscure way if you sound it out, because zero-two, two-one is like two-zero, one-two if you reverse both the two-digit combinations.

See? See? It's a sort of double inverse or something!

Yeah, maybe I'm reaching a bit in my search for a cool date. I'm just desperate for some excitement in life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

But Whyyyyyyyyyyy?

Here's more, this time from Respectful Insolence, on the lack of evidence that patient satisfaction is the best measure for health care, since the most satisfied patients do not necessarily have the best health outcomes.

Sadly, it appears that getting what we want, medically (tests, specific drugs), is not always the best thing for us.

Hm. It feels like a touchy subject, because nobody wants "just shut up and do as your doctor tells you" to be the right answer. Especially not medical librarians with our "here, let me show you how to locate reputable consumer health information, which will be totally the coolest thing you'll do all day!"

I think that the problem is partly the concern about that attitude, which of course ideally would not be the presentation at all. If it's more like "here's what I think is the best approach for your situation, and here's why," then it's less of an issue to take the advice of an expert.

But then we have all the problems with physicians not having time to actually talk to people and explain what they think is the best approach and why, so you probably do get patient-dissatisfying dismissals of concerns or requests for test that may be entirely worth dismissing, but the approach is just wrong...

Like so many things in life, it's really a lot about interpersonal dynamics, isn't it?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Say Yes to Drugs

If you wanted a quick summary on drug-resistant bacteria, there's a nice one on Skepchick. The post talks about research in antibiotics, how drugs develop resistance to them, and potential new areas for exploration.

It also notes that "We are basically in a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ relationship with bacteria. We develop new drugs and they evolve."

This makes the whole process sound a bit futile and depressing, but I suppose if the alternative is to just shrug and drop dead from bacterial infections...well, keep up the good work with that research!

Also, don't go around taking antibiotics for viral infections, and if you have a prescription for antibiotics, take all of them as directed. Do your part to resist drug-resistance!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Less Drama Than Expected

So being a vampire never did much for me in Oblivion--I just stopped sleeping, pretty much, and the negative effects were minimal--and it's turning out that being a werewolf isn't doing much in Skyrim, other than (conveniently!) preventing me from ever catching any of the weird diseases that abound, like 'rockjoint.'

It's true! Beast Blood makes you immune to everything. For that reason alone, I think werewolfhood has been good for me, although honestly I never remember to use my power and actually turn into a wolf, so I'm missing out on a lot of excitement.

I should also explain, though, that I have the good kind of werewolfiness, where I don't change form uncontrollably with the full moons (how does that work with two moons, come to think of it?) and kill everyone around me.

I can change any time I want! And only when I want!

But I like my greatsword and heavy armor so much, it just never occurs to me to turn into a wolf and maul enemies with my bare teeth. So yeah, I kind of expected the life of the werewolf to put more demands on me, but what can you do? I guess the pack isn't into hassling people.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sadly Unperpetual Access

I always feel bad when I have to tell students that no, they can't keep getting awesome access to all our subscription-based electronic journals and databases after they graduate.

I mean, unless they want to come into the library to use our computers, which alums may always do, but if they move across the country or something it's not going to be that helpful an option.

I feel their pain. I love having access to all these databases! I don't even use them that often, not for personal use anyway, but it's just nice to know they're there. It's comforting.

Like a healthy savings account! Of information!

I was prematurely nostalgic for the University of Alabama's databases as soon as I started library school. "I'm going to miss these so much after I graduate!" I said mournfully.

"You're going to be working in a library after you graduate," my spouse pointed out reasonably. "You'll have access to databases that way."

Oh yeah. Sweet!

And so I do. And believe me, it's awesome.

This whole post pretty much proves that I should never not be a librarian, doesn't it?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Whatever You Say, Doc

Hmm. Skeptical Scalpel (via Grunt Doc) writes about a paper from the Archives of Internal Medicine that suggests that people who are more satisfied with their doctors have higher mortality rates than those who are less satisfied.

The post suggests that this is because people tend to be more satisfied when their doctor does what they want (like prescribing the medication they ask for), even if this is not necessarily the best course, medically. So maybe people are asking for drugs they see on TV, or whatever, and the doctor wants the patient to be happy and prescribes it, even if some other treatment might better control the condition.

There are interesting questions to ponder here about paternalism vs. patient involvement in care, and how well patients can expect to understand the fine points of treatment, and how much physicians should try to please their patients as opposed to sternly laying "doctor's orders" if their judgment indicates (but if your patients don't like you and leave to find someone who will give them the prescription they want, what good have you really done?).

I mean, we want people to understand their health and be involved with their medical treatment and so forth. At least, we do as librarians. Consumer health information! Why do we promote it if not to get people engaged?

And yet, no matter how much we read up on things, we still don't necessarily have a grasp on all the details and the background and the complicating factors, and there are times when we may do well to assume that our doctors understand it better than we do and trust to their judgment.

The paper is here, and I'll have to read it sometime, but right now I have to go to bed more than study.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Maybe Just Change the Mascot Already

A strongly written couple of posts on the Native Appropriations blog basically just completely explain why we should probably back off the whole "Indians as Team Mascots" thing.

I mean, those of us who were ever on that thing. I have never felt any attachment to a team with a problematic mascot, so I suppose it's easy for me to say.

But look, people who are in a better position than I am to speak on such things say that something is hurtful and offensive. With science! Is this thing really so important that it's worth knowingly continuing to hurt and offend people, or can we just drop it? (I know, I know. The answer in many cases apparently is, "it's totally worth it! Yay team!")

I'd like to point out, though, that it could be a nice boost to the economy if all these schools hire designers and stuff to make new mascots. And promote new mascots! And sew new mascot costumes!

Jobs could be created here.

Since the basic idea of the mascot is to present a terrifying face to one's opponents, I recommend that these schools pick from among the popular monsters of today, like zombies, sexy vampires, deadly viruses, and of course killer robots.

And in answer to the plaintive cry of "but where do we draw the line on what's offensive? How do we know zombies aren't offended?" I will merely say that classic zombies aren't offended by anything, duh, but if any do come forward to protest their mascotization, we should of course take their concerns seriously.

Right after beheading them and setting them on fire to make sure they don't get our brains. Safety first.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Let's Play

I suppose we can't really claim this (via Geek Feminism) as unshakeable evidence for the beneficial powers of gaming, but we can certainly applaud and wish this 100-year-old woman much joy of her Nintendo DS.

Her gaming collection is reported to be, "mostly built around puzzle solving, along with titles that calls upon a player's artistic abilities, like "Art Academy." We also see her interacting with "Pictochat," so Kit uses her DS as a communication tool as well."

These aren't the games I tend to play, so I guess even if this were evidence of the beneficial powers of her games, it wouldn't say anything about games where you wander around getting in fights and looting bodies, but as long as we're applauding, we might as well lump all games together and applaud them equally.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

This is Good, Right?

I see on Well that measured levels of trans-fats in peoples' blood may be declining, perhaps in response to the campaigns to remove trans-fats from food products.

A study "showed that in a nationally representative sample of middle-aged Americans, levels of trans fats fell 58 percent from 2000 to 2009." That's a big percent!

I guess we'll just have to wait and see whether there's also a measurable decline in heart disease and so forth.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pass It On

In addition to clothing swaps, I also like the idea of Freecycle--an email list that you can join where people post things they're looking to pass along, and other people who might be able to use those things can snap them up.

I got some nice little thank-you cards that way, which I promptly used. Also, I got rid of a dorm fridge from college that I figured I was never going to need again.

And then, a month later, I really wished I still had it!--nah, just kidding. I'm always afraid if I get rid of something I'll wish later that I still had it, but I have never regretted giving that fridge to someone else who, I hope, got some good use out of it.

The only thing is, it does tend to get a little unwieldy with the back-and-forth email tag trying to figure out who's going to leave what where at what time so someone can pick it up, etc.

I'm hoping someone will come get some old board games we never play, but I don't know if I should just leave them in the lobby all night, since that might be a fire hazard or something.

You know I would feel terrible if our elderly neighbors were fleeing from a fire, tripped over our unwanted "Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit" on the way though the foyer, injured themselves, and had to be taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

I mean, if I'm going to get Evil Points, I want it to be for something more intentional, and more clever, than accidentally felling my neighbors with a board game.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What, This Old Rag?

Ooh, I'm invited to a Clothing Swap! Where a lot of people can bring clothes they don't wear and trade them around. Unclaimed items will go to Goodwill.

I don't actually need any more clothes right now, but I do have some I should probably get rid of, for the sake of closet space and general tidiness, so I think this is a brilliant idea.

I don't think anyone necessarily wants my old clothes, because they're very old and were never that interesting (I have been accused of many things, but possessing a keen fashion sense has never been one of them), but you never know.