Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thing 47: and furthermore

I've been trying to put my finger on why this round of Things was less rewarding. I think it just couldn't be as exciting to learn "more" as it was to enter a whole new world. In addition, I had already learned some of the techniques, and explored some of the software, in this year's exercises.

The library world has changed a great deal since "23 Things on a Stick." Life is more grim, both at work and at home. Sub hours have been nearly eliminated, so my connection to library life is very tenuous. When I did "23 Things," I had hopes of using some of the tools in work. With sub work disappearing and hiring frozen (in my system), the odds of me using these tools are considerably lessened.

Thank you for considering substitutes to be part of the library community. I hope that we still will be the next time we do "Things." If things continue to be this slow, I would understand if that changed.

There was something new for me in every task. I appreciate the range of choices in the tasks. I also appreciate the honor system which lets us go deeply into Things we're particularly interested in, or to skim the Things that hold no thrill. Even in the tasks I felt completely competent in, there was a new article to read, or an alternate site.

TV and video? got it under control.

But wait, what's that Joost thing?

Oh, Cool!

I wrote in my previous evaluation post that I'd like to tackle a smaller group of tasks that I don't feel fully competent in, or that I didn't fully explore. Perhaps we could have "Lazy On a Stick" or "Self-Paced on a Stick," in which we could revisit either group of Things. It would involve less work on the administrative end, and still be very useful. We could either totally self-direct the learning, agreeing only to tackle a certain number of Things, or you could design a menu based on blog comments indicating "needs improvement." The Top 5 most awkward Things.

My other idea is about developing community. There was a large cohort that did 23 Things the first time it was offered. In my system, I think the second cohort was smaller. At least, I didn't find too many people who were doing it.

How would it work to bundle about 20 participants in a group so we could support each other? If you figure for dropouts, that would leave a manageable number of blogs to read, and I think it would increase interaction. If you pick blogs to follow, you have an unrelated list. Generally for me, a list that is far ahead of me! If you had a group with interconnected nodes I think we'd hang around for each other even if some were slower.

I feel sheepish that despite the extended deadline, I ended up cramming it all in at the last minute, but I rather expected it to work out that way. Life is always full of immediate deadlines, and as the saying goes, "urgency drives out importance" It wasn't until this project was urgent that I could make the time to finish it. It's time had come!

I can't thank you enough for offering this opportunity. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thing 47: Evaluation

Superwoman!Image by Nils Noack via Flickr

I ended both Thing sets with feelings of regret. In spite of all I learned and all I did, there was so much left to explore. It's just hard to carve out the time I'd like to spend on these Things! I wish we didn't have a deadline, but conversely, I wouldn't have gotten any of it done without one!

My imaginary next Thing set (not swing set) would consist of me exploring 5 Things in greater depth. For starters, podcasts, screencasts, and mashups!

That's all for now, but I will try to add more tomorrow.

And again, thanks very much!
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Thing46: WebJunction Minnesota (WJMN)

WebJunction Minnesota is acting up tonight. Perhaps it doesn't like humidity. I like to think there are other More Thing-ers prowling the pages of WJMN tonight, this penultimate night of the "More Things" challenge!

I ws drawn to the courses offered by some of the affiliated library schools in core competencies for various aspects of librarianship. I'm vamping a little bit here because I can't get back to that page. It provided some ideas for further study, things that I could add to my resume.

I talked to Mary Wagner of St. Kate's last fall at the MLA conference, and asked her about any refresher or keeping up courses, but they didn't have any plans for that sort of course. So the offerings here interested me.

I saw a lot of "stub" profiles, probably people like me who created a profile but then didn't return to participate in the community. Things looked pretty quiet on the "Early Career Librarians" discussion, and I couldn't get to the proper screen for the MN Destiny group -- I kept getting re-directed to "101 Tech Tips in 30 Days," which interested me--until I realized it was more technical than I ever get!

One of the things I've taken away from the Things, More Things, and my own wikis ( a library substitute wiki now dormant because subs in our system are getting so few hours, and a family wiki created for an all-family celebration last Christmas) is that it really takes a core group of dedicated, involved individuals to create a sense of online community. At a certain size it becomes more likely to survive, but it's not a sure thing that a sense of community will develop.

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Thing 45: Cloud Computing

King CloudImage by akakumo via Flickr

I'm a big fan of cloud computing. As a substitute librarian, I want to be able to access my bookmarks, social web, documents, RSS feeds, etc., from any location. Just one example: I keep several prepared storytimes on Google Docs. Several times I've been called at the last minute for a shift that includes a story time. If there's time, I'll create something fresh, but it's great to have those storytimes available, either to use as is or to use as a template.

Gmail is my primary e-mail, and Google Reader my RSS feed. Google homepage is my custom h ome page. I like the idea of a custom desktop, so I will further investigate some of the virtual desktops described in the instructions for this Thing.

Kevin Kelly on the next 5,000 days of the web : Kelly talks about the need to give up privacy in ordere to fully participate in cloud computing/ web 3.0/the One machine. I'm not ready to jump into that as fully as he is. I predict too that there will be a generational drive, with the Boomers clinging to our vestiges of privacy and younger generations being more fearless, for better or worse.

I enjoyed Kelly's presentation, but I'm less enchanted with predictions than I once was. I think the overall shape of his predictions make sense, the way that everything will become increasingly connected, that devices will be a "window into the One," but we've lived throuogh a year that few predicted, and I'm more skeptical now, knowing the power of "Black Swan" events.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Thing 44: The Economy

Lots of good links here! Thanks!

I found out my car's mileage* and carbon footprint (, identified the pest that's been chewing up my plants (U of M Extension), tried very hard to connect with my bank on, and found a great t-shirt on a click-through from Frugal Dad to Dress Me: a picture of William Shatner with the caption, "Shat happens." He sure does.

I looked at and might go back to set up an account. I only have two bills that I don't pay with automatic online banking; but with so few, they often slip my mind until it's too close to the due date for comfort.

I was kind of baffled by the cell phone plan comparison tool. I didn't see the option I currently have, so it was like comparing apples to oranges. Nevertheless, I did pick up a few facts about other cell plans.

I investigated Deals and Coupons on, including a few articles confirming some of my beliefs about the value of spending extended time poring over the Sunday coupon circulars (low value; speed through and only grab coupons for significant discounts for things you regularly purchase), grocery flyers (the sale prices are often only a few cents from the regular prices; best deals are on fresh produce), and coupon indexers.

I've used Freecycle in the past so I checked out Craig's list, just poking around. My experience with Freecycle was that it was great for giving things away--it was fun to meet people who were eager to get daylilies or our foosball table--but when we were looking for items they were pretty junky. Also, it's pretty competitive. Some people must check constantly. Since I was more casual about it, I was too late for most things I was interested in.

I tried the Yard Sale treasure map, but found that I'm not interested in baby clothes or furniture. I might be past my primo garage sale years. This year I'm going to have a garage sale of my own, and I'm not interested in seeking acquisitions as I try to empty my house.

I liked the Savvy Shopper's Guide to this year's deal finders, and RetailMeNot. I added the Firefox extension for RetailMeNot. No more missed online deals for me!

I like the extremely frugal Hillbilly Housewife--low-cost, home cooking from scratch. She has lots of recipes for dried mixes (e.g. seasoned rice mixes) and a competent, straightforward style.

My latest cheap thrill is the realization that the bags which line cereal and cracker boxes make excellent freezer bags and lunch bags. I already drove my kids crazy by rewashing purchased zip-lock bags, now there is another set of bags drying on the counter. Someday they'll thank me. Someday, after the years of therapy and related bills, which will beggar them, leading them to economies like re-using plastic bags. It's beautiful isn't it? The circle of life. . .

My other favorite tip, which I don't use but which I hold in reserve for truly desperate days, is to tape the light switch on the refrigerator so it doesn't go on when the door opens. That's frugal!

*EPA Est. mileage 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined. Sounds about right.

Thing 43: Online TV and Video

Edie Falco at the premiere of Tennessee at the...Image via Wikipedia

This was certainly "easy to love!" I've been watching shows online for a little while know. I watch the Craig Ferguson Show, because I can't stay up so late! And between the first would-be conversion date for digital TV and the recent actual conversion, we couldn't get Channel 5. I'm a big fan of the George Stephanopolous show, which is on Channel 5, so I've been watching it from the network website. It was a real treat t be able to continue to watch it when my normal access method didn't work.

When I explored Joost (I'd been using Hulu before) I watched the pilot for "Nurse Jackie," Showtime's new show starring Edie Falco. Again, this was great, since we don't have cable! When I was watching "The Sopranos," I had to wait a year for the DVD's to come out.

Despite these opportunities, though, I don't watch too much TV on the computer because usually when I watch TV, I'm going through e-mail, Facebook, Reader, etc., and I don't have the processing power to do both at the same time! Or the screen space.

We do use the laptop for TV and videos in social situations, though, both in the context of our family, when we all sit down together to watch a movie, and when friends visit and want to show us a TV show or video they like. We can hook up the TV and laptop and watch on the bigger TV screen. We still have Netflix, and we also get movies out of the video store about once a month or less (but when we do, Jarrett takes out the maximum amount.)

Free on-demand access to TV and movies has changed our viewing habits. I often wonder how often our local video store will survive. And I wonder how the entertainment industry will replace those revenue streams. It seems unsustainable. I was going to write, "There will always be an audience for cable TV," but I checked myself -- is that true in the CEE, the current economic environment?

One effect we see already is the popularity of reality TV. Since it's cheaper to produce, it's fortunate for the TV industry that people seem to love it so much. I have a limited taste for seeing people humiliated, so I don't watch much. In fact, I don't usually watch American Idol, but I got caught up with Susan Boyle's story and followed "Britain's Got Talent" online. For a while I was checking in every night! I really enjoyed it. I think it's the pop diva "warble" of false emotion that turns me off to American Idol.

A "Cloud computing" aside: I usually use my litle netbook to work on the Things, but I'm borrowing my son's laptop tonight to use the full-size keyboard. I can access my blog, and the Things list, and most everything I do, but I use Firefox on the netbook and I'm using Safari on the Mac. On Firefox I use the nifty "Zemanta" extension, which provides additional blog fodder in the form of pictures and articles related to the blog text. I bet Zemanta would have an article for me about the financial future of the entertainment industry. Let me check.

OK, Hulu has ads. I forgot about that. So some money is being made.

I didn't want to monkey around importing Firefox to Evan's computer, so I saved and closed the post, then re-opened it on the netbook with Firefox and used Zemanta to look for articles.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thing40: Mashup your life

I hit a winner right away with "Wheel of Food." Thanks -- it's fun! Here are some Northeast Minneapolis lunch spots, if you're interested.

I tried "Let Me Google that for you" and thought it was odd. Well, that's too harsh. But it's my job to Google things for people, and I don't get requests to Google for people in other contexts. However, the answers that came up led me to a program I hadn't heard of before, called Muckety. It maps relationships. For instance, one relationship map showed Sonia Sotomayor's key professional and political connections. Neat! You can click on the picture, above, to enlarge it.

I also explored Visual Headlines and Interestingness.

For new mashups, I found GotFreeShipping? which searches Amazon and E-bay for items with free shipping.

Another new mashup is Geographical Media, "a news monitoring tool designed to make it easy to follow news and find statistics about the people, places and other things you are most interested in. We read thousands of news articles a day from news sources from all around the world and identify who, what and where they are about.

"Who are the most talked about people in the world? What about in Africa? What are people in Russia saying about Barack Obama? These are some of the questions we hope to answer by statistically exploring the world's news."

I tried to do a mashup using autism statistics from Fighting Autism, using Dapp Factory, but I didn't succeed. I think the data was not amenable to being selected as fields. These were charts of autism prevalence and rates in the 50 US states, but I couldn't select just the states as a field, or just the prevalence, or just the rates. I should have tried something simpler.

This is the Thing I dreaded most. I've been turning over different ideas for mashups, but most of them already exist! Maybe I need more information neediness.

Here's one I was going to invent is on Programmable Web--it's called CodexMap, and it "lets you find, and place, books graphically on a map. Whether the book was added to the system by our harvester, or by you or another user, you can interact with a map to find books.

APIs: Amazon EC2 + GeoNames + Google Maps + LibraryThing."

Ironically, the same info is available for fiction on NoveList, though without the map (last time I checked!)

So, I turned to the user-friendly BigHugeLabs and Hockneyized a photo. OK! Done!

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Thing 42: Music 2,0--Everything's amazing, nobody's happy

I was grousing that Pandora wasn't all I wanted it to be, and my son called me on it, saying, "Everything's amazing, nobody's happy." He was quoting comedian Louis CK, shown here on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, riffing on rotary phones vs. cell phones, wireless internet on planes, and flight delays.

I tried Pandora. Somehow I had gotten the idea that you could input multiple songs, and Pandora would find common characteristics. So I was disappointed to find that wasn't so. I had posted "Taylor, the Latte Boy," to Facebook, and it came up in Pandora when I logged on, so I started a channel from that. I like musicals, but not THAT much, so I wanted to enter another song, but on the same channel, to add some more data to the Genome Project -- but it was not to be.

I listened to an "All 80's" station which had the added interest of being from the U.K. Definitely out of my regular listening routine. I was surprised at how many of the songs I didn't know! A different set of hits!

I was one of the many heartbroken "Morning Program" fans who migrated to Heartland Radio when the Morning Program went off the air. It's not the same, though. He's clearly broadcasting to a smaller audience, which seems like a club I'm not part of.

I enjoyed this Thing and look forward to listening more.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Web 2.0 aps remaining from first web 2.0 collage

Web 2.0 Logo CollageImage by Mmmonica via Flickr

Web companies from the original web 2.0 logo collage which are still going

Meg Pickard, who created this image, wasn't trying to "call fail" on web 2.0, but to update an outdated imge. Her blog post, Game Web 2.Over? has additional images and thoughtful commentary.
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Thing 39: Digital Storytelling

Image representing Scrapblog as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBase

This was great fun! I used Scrapblog, which was very easy to use. It was only time-consuming because I played around with it so much!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thing 37, reprise

Image representing BubbleShare as depicted in ...Image via CrunchBase

This is more like it! Alth0ugh I must say, for all my exploring and playing around, the outcome isn't much different from the PictureTrail slide show I did in 23 Things. Hmm . . .

I wasn't sure how literally to take "tell a story." This is the story of spring in my yard, I guess!

Mother's Day 2009 Yard and Garden

BubbleShare: Share photos - Find great Clip Art Images.

This went well, just some network hangups on this end. Although as usual the frames were oriented to 13-year-old girls and their BFFs, and are cartoonish rather than subtle or sophisticated. Oh well.
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Thing 37: Photo Tales

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

I probably spent more time with less result on this Thing than any other. You've heard it before: I have a new computer. The old one is in a sad corner of the spare room, and I didn't trust my technology (or want the time-consuming bother) of putting the iMac back together, transferring the pictures onto my memory card that has been uncooperative lately, and uploading them bla bla bla. So I puttered around trying to copy my Flickr photos onto some of the other aps. N o can do. Tried with my PictureTrail photos. Looked again for the memory card and adapter and after a lot of fiddling, was unable to find any photos on the card!

So I took my new camera out of the box (Did I mention that the old camera broke? And that I didn't want to futz around setting up the new camera? And did I mention that I took advantage of Mother's Day camera sales so I'd have one for this Thing? And did I mention that I thank you for the excuse?) and futzed around setting it up. It went more smoothly than I had dared to hope, and I went out into the garden and snapped a c0uple dozen shots.

I was able to upload them to FLickr fairly painlessly, too. I'm getting better at this! Some of it, anyway.

I wasn't happy with any of the sites I tried. The mosaic site had a server error and didn't work. I've forgotten what the problem was with the second mosaic site. I wanted to caption all of the photos, but the photo captioning was one picture at a time, and I didn't have the patience for that.

Tiltshift, Comeeko, and Bubblr were all boring with flower pictures. I did use Flickrslidr to create code for an embedded slice show, seen above.

All that remains is to try some of the other slideshow software. Wish me luck.
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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Thing 41: Mash up your life

Image representing FriendFeed as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase

I set up Friendfeed and then never got around to checking it. When I finally did, it was great! Particularly for tne people I follow on twitter like mashable and Robert Scoble. I also like seeing all my social ap content on my Facebook page!

It is a timesaver. I have a Firefox tool that pops up my Twitter and Facebook feeds, but when I'm trying to get work done it can be fatal to follow some of those intriguing links. I like the formaat on FriendFeed better than on Twitter. It's easier to follow up on those leads, especially from prolific posters like -- well, mashable and Scoble. I subscribe to Jay Rosen, and I wish he was on Friendfeed.

I also have some personal/professional friends. librarians I don't see often, so it's fun to see both their personal and professional posts. Right now only one is a frequent user. I'm afraid others have set up Friendfeed as part of More Things, so it will be interesting to see if they continue once they complete the Things.

I like this more than I thought I would. The more active your professional community,the more useful this would be.

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Thing 38: Screencasting

Image representing ScreenToaster as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase

I skipped Thing 37 for now and went to screencasting. I chose ScreenToaster so I wouldn't have to download any software to my little netbook. It was pretty fun. You were saved from a very boring "How to use Gmail" screencast at the last minute when I got the Tweet about Mark Twain Motivational Posters.

It took me several tries to get it right. If you open ScreenToaster in one tab and your content in another, there is no indicator that you are recording. The first time through I got hung up and coludn't stop the recording. One nice feature is that you don't save the screencast until you have the one you want. You can record, view, and then just re-record, without having to name files and then delete them.

A feature that would be good would be the ability to change the shape and position of the recording area rectangle. My final screen wasn't placed quite where I wanted it to be.

A library could amass a collection of these to explain using the library web site, getting a hotmail or yahoo e-mail account, or navigating a subject area, say, the job search section of the web site. This would be great!

Personally? I don't know, I can't think of an application. I did consider stringing together some of my favorite design, art, and picture sites; but I'm not sure who would view it. I've been trying to persuade my sister to sign up on Facebook. Maybe I should send her a "how-to" screencast!

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Thing 36: Comic Relief

I had to laugh when I did a keyword search for "library" cartoons on Toondoo. Recent postings . . . by Minnesota librarians . . . who were new to the site and only had one cartoon . . . sounds like "Thing 36" to me!

#1 favorite:



Favorite #2

And here's mine:


I borrowed the punch line from a friend's nephew, a real hellion and a seething mass of unstoppable energy, not too interested in reading -- or coloring! BTW, since he's from Texas, it's pronounced, "CRAY-oh-las." "Don't be givin' me no CRAYolas, cuz I ain't gonna color!" It's a preference one is wise to heed!

I've wanted to try Worldle for a long time. Fun! Here is a wordle based on a blog post I wrote entitled "Credo," which means "I believe."
Wordle: Credo

This will be down to the wire just as the last Things were for me. Without the deadlines I would never ever do these Things!
I feel more than a bit wimpy choosing easy rather than useful generators. That's the down side of a deadline. I'm going to have to do one Thing a day, so I'm streamlining.

I think I remember hearing that one could spend hours on each thing or "as little as one hour." How could that be?

Though the generators I chose are just pretty pictures, I know from using the 23 Things blog and More Things wiki that the images you use really liven things up, and highlight important messages in a fun and memorable way. These would liven up any library communication, in-house or outside.

I love Emily Lloyd's "Shelf Check" srip. She's incredibily creative and perceptive. It would be fun to work in a library that used comics to communicate. My librarysystem is pretty formal -- I can'tvisualize comics being used here.

I found the ToonDoo site very clumsy to use. It wouldn't retain my search list of library cartoons. I would click on a cartoon, then not be able to go back to my list of search results. I had to redo the search over and over again. I ave to think it might have been me, but I looked diligently for the "proper" way to do this and didn't find it.


It's 12:18 a.m. and my son just asked me "What would happen if two black holes meet? Would they merge, implode, or devour each other?" We batted around a few ideas for a story he's writing, and used up my knowledge of physics in a nanosecond or two. "Oh, well," he said, "There's always wiki"

24/7 availability! Answer below.
They used the coolest phrase to describe a black hole: "God divided by zero."


Here's the answer:

Word on the street is that if two black holes collided, there'd be a bigger black hole. The ripples in space-time would be big enough to surf. Energy released in the event would be almost beyond calculation. This is an event you would not wanna see from the front row. Or maybe even the back row. It may not even be safe from the cheap seats.

First answer by Quirkyquantummechanic. Last edit by Quirkyquantummechanic. Contributor trust: 1131 [recommend contributor]. Question popularity: 5 [recommend question]

Further reading yields more detailed answers, plus links to science news RE: black hole research.
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thing 35: Books 2.0

Cover of "Proust and the Squid: The Story...Cover via Amazon

I found that I am content with the Book 2.0 tools I currently have, especially Shelfari. Perhaps if I had more time to partake in the community aspect of books 2.0 it would become more important to me, but my time is limited. I'm most interested in book reviews and recommendations, and I subscribe to BookBrowse, Harper First Alert, The New York times book section e-mail, and the Hennepin County Library weekly e-mails of "Forthcoming Fiction" and "Forthcoming Non-Fiction" lists, as well as HCL's weekly update of what's new on the NYT best-seller lists. That provides me with all I can read and more. And there are bo0klists galore on HCL's Book Space!

I feel like a curmudgeon on this round of "Things." Perhaps because I'm not working in a library right now (budget cuts). Perhaps because I go online after work, errands, housekeeping, dinner-making and dishes, laundry . . . oh, heck, and sometimes I skip all that virtuous stuff and just READ for a while. I want to spend more time reading, not talking about reading.

But when I hear myself say that, I also realize that I've often wanted to discuss a book with someone who has recently read it. I think the problem is that relationship-building takes time, so one can't just skid into a 2.0 site for a minute or two and expect literally instant community.

I'm currently speed-reading through LifeHacks, which has many pages devoted to tips and tricks to keep from getting side-tracked on the way by these very 2.0 aps, which can suck up so much time, and then one finds oneself at the end of the day with nothing done but checking Facebook, twitter, e-mail, and possibly RSS feeds. In fact, this is exactly what happens to me when I sit down to work on More Things!

Many "voracious reader" library patrons I meet come in with a list of books in hand, and just need help finding them or putting them on hold, but I still like to be prepared for
Readers' Advisory:

I really like the idea of ReadingTrails, but in practice they just seemed like old-fashioned book lists. Disappointing.

Similarly, I was intrigued with Book Lamp, but the dimensions they used didn't represent the things I look for in books. Somewhat useful, but it I think the job is done just as well with "reads like" suggestions available elsewhere.

I like Overbooked; I've used that before and it's a great resource.

Book Glutton's simultaneous reading plan seemed cumbersome and random.

Living Social -- I have the ap on Facebook but I don't know anyone who is active on it.

BookBrowse: I already subscribe to their e-mail.Very good!

I thought the International Children's Digital Library sounded great but found the interface too clumsy. The book page was either too small or too big. I have an extra-small screen (Netbook) but it was just ridiculous. It took a long time to load, and there were about 8 pages of material before I ever got to story text. It just wasn't worth the hassle. Maybe someday on a faster machine with a bigger screen.

I like the Vintage Children's books and Old Childrn's Books on flickr! Thanks!

Maryanne Wolf's Proust and the Squid; the story and science of the reading brain escribes the important difference between scanning electronic text for meaning and prolonged engagement with printed text, and the different brain activities associated with each. Fascinating stuff! And we have to keep reading books, not just quick-scanning, in order to continue to create modifications to our evolving and maleable mind!

I subscribe to and value "Shelf Awareness." It has some book industry news, some reviews, but what I especially value is the list of authors on the media circuit. It's perfect for the patron who comes in and says, "There was this guy on "Good Morning America. . . "

Here's an excerpt from Shelf Awareness. It's not a 2.0 tool, but it's a good tool.
* * *

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Chris Cleave, Author of Little Bee

This morning on Good Morning America: Whoopi Goldberg, author of Sugar Plum Ballerinas: Toeshoe Trouble (Hyperion, $4.99, 9780786852611/0786852615).


Today on Fresh Air: Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385527934/0385527934).


Tomorrow morning on the Early Show: Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee (Simon & Schuster, $24, 9781416589631/1416589635).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Michael J. Fox, author of Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist (Hyperion, $25.99, 9781401303389/1401303382).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Adam Perry Lang, author of Serious Barbecue: Smoke, Char, Baste, and Brush Your Way to Great Outdoor Cooking (Hyperion, $35, 9781401323066/1401323065).


Tomorrow morning on NPR's Morning Edition: Steve Miller, author of The Turnaround Kid: What I Learned Rescuing America's Most Troubled Companies (Collins Business, $25.95, 9780061251276/0061251275).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Joshua Cooper Ramo, author of The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It (Little, Brown, $25.99, 9780316118088/0316118087).


Tomorrow on NPR's On Point: Ruth Reichl, author of Not Becoming My Mother: and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way (Penguin Press, $19.95, 9781594202162/1594202168).


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance (Penguin, $20, 9780140250916/0140250913).

Worst-Case Scenario 10th Anniversary Display Contest
* * *

Movies: The Pale Horseman

Kevin Grevioux, co-creator of the Underworld movie franchise, will direct the adaptation of his graphic novel, The Pale Horsemen. Variety reported that "Grevioux and Len Wiseman wrote the original screenplay for the first Underworld pic, which bowed in 2003 and spawned two additional installments. . . . The film rights to several of Grevioux’s other graphic novels have also recently been picked up, including ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction, optioned by Benderspink, and I, Frankenstein, at Death Ray Films."

Books & Authors

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new books appearing next Tuesday, May 12:

Road Dogs: A Novel by Elmore Leonard (Morrow, $26.99, 9780061733147/0061733148) revisits characters from three of the author's previous novels.

Wicked Prey by John Sandford (Putnam, $27.95, 9780399155673/0399155678) is the 19th novel featuring Lucas Davenport, a security expert who has the task of guarding the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Terror on the Seas: True Tales of Modern-Day Pirates
by Daniel Sekulich (Thomas Dunne Books, $24.95, 9780312375829/0312375824) explores the scourge of modern piracy.

Cemetery Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central, $26.99, 9780446580298/0446580295) is the ninth mystery featuring FBI special agent Aloysius Pendergast.

Patrick Swayze: One Last Dance
by Wendy Leigh (Simon Spotlight, $24.99, 9781439149973/1439149976) is a bio of the actor, who is suffering from pancreatic cancer.

The Last Child by John Hart (Minotaur Books, $24.95, 9780312359324/0312359322) follows a 12-year-old boy searching for his missing twin sister.

How to Really Stink at Work: A Guide to Making Yourself Fire-Proof While Having the Most Fun Possible
by Jeff Foxworthy and Brian Hartt (Villard, $16, 9780345502803/0345502809) is a comedic guide to professional misbehavior.

Down Home with the Neelys: A Southern Family Cookbook by Patrick Neely, Gina Neely, and Paula Disbrowe (Knopf, $27.95, 9780307269942/0307269949) compiles Southern cooking recipes from the hosts of the Food Network's Down Home with the Neelys.

The Stalin Epigram: A Novel
by Robert Littell (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781416598640/1416598642) follows a Russian poet who speaks out against Stalin and experiences the worst of Soviet brutality.

Now in paperback:

An Inconvenient Book: Real Solutions to the World's Biggest Problems
by Glenn Beck (Threshold Editions, $19.99, 9781416560449/1416560440).

Whispered Lies
by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love (Pocket, $15, 9781416597421/1416597425).

Inaugural NAIBA Notable: Booksellers Find Wanting

The first NAIBA Notable title is Wanting: A Novel by Richard Flanagan (Grove Atlantic, $24, 9780802119001/080211900X), which is on the shortlist for Australia's prestigious Miles Franklin Literary Award. Publisher Morgan Entrekin said that Wanting has "similar rhythms and tropes as his masterpiece Gould's Book of Fish, yet may be more approachable for many readers."

On behalf of NAIBA, Lucy Kogler, Talking Leaves, Buffalo, N.Y., wrote in part that "the word wanting is not only the title but is one of the characters in this incredible novel. Having never before read Richard Flanagan I was utterly taken with his imagination, sense of politics and incredible ability to make me think about the title throughout the book."

Under this new New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association program, one book with "a large fan base of booksellers in the region" is chosen a month and promoted to other booksellers, store staff and customers. The NAIBA Notable titles are not necessarily regional "but an outstanding piece of work that booksellers want to sell." NAIBA is emphasizing that "independent bookstores in this region outnumber any other single retailer, and our collective efforts to support fine pieces of writing will be recognized. These great books need our attention."

NAIBA is asking all members to display the books and promote them online and in print. "Each book will come with its own features, some with author appearances, autographed stock, special coop promotions, etc."

Book Review: Seven Pleasures

Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness by Willard Spiegelman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23, 9780374239305/0374239304, April 28, 2009)

"Most folks," Abraham Lincoln observed, "are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." By that standard Willard Spiegelman, a professor of English at Southern Methodist University, is an extraordinarily happy man. And we should be equally pleased he's chosen to discourse on the reasons for his happiness in this erudite and spritely collection of essays.

Spiegelman has chosen seven "ordinary pleasures"--reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming and writing--to illustrate how simple activities serve to bring joy and fulfillment to his life. It's impossible to read this collection without pausing often to reflect on the similar pleasures each of us could add to or substitute on Spiegelman's short list, whether it's cooking, gardening or golfing. And whatever pleasures our catalogue may contain, he suggests, we should turn to them often to "increase a general sense of well-being," confident as he is that "happiness may come through grace or birth, but it may also come through training."

It would be misleading to suggest that Spiegelman's slim book should be consigned to the overcrowded category of slick, self-help tomes. Inspired by eminent muses like Emerson, Wallace Stevens and Auden, he brings to his task an impressive scope of learning, enriched by broad reading and extensive travel and reflecting a deep appreciation of the visual arts and a love of music. He's uniformly at ease discoursing on the delights (and inevitability) of getting lost strolling the alleyways of Venice, deconstructing an Edward Hopper painting or recalling the joys of browsing the aisles of a dusty used bookstore in his home town of Philadelphia. Firmly at home in the relaxed, occasionally discursive tradition of the personal essay, Spiegelman demonstrates an agreeable facility for summoning up an apt quotation or allusion that invests a seemingly modest insight with nuance.

Intermingled with his unabashedly intellectual pursuits, Spiegelman doesn't hesitate to celebrate our physical existence. He's passionate about dancing's contribution to mental health ("Put on your pumps, toss out your Prozac.") and there's wry humor as he describes how he almost squandered the joy he experiences in the swimming pool when he took lessons, striving to perfect his technique.

Willard Spiegelman is frank to acknowledge he's a lucky man--physically and mentally sound at age 65 with many friends and a stimulating profession--although he takes pains not to flaunt those blessings. In Seven Pleasures, he's graciously endeavored to help each of us understand how fortunate we, too, can be if we simply allow ourselves to savor our good fortune. That's the inspiriting message of this elegant, delightful work.--Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: A scholar's delightful discourse on the simple activities that enrich his life and on the joy we can experience if we seek out the corresponding pleasures in our own.

** Author Buzz 5/4/09: The Unit: A Novel by Ninni Holmqvist **
** Author Buzz 5/4/09: Happiness Key by Emilie Richards **
** Author Buzz 5/4/09: Promise of the Wolves: A Novel by Dorothy Hearst **
** Author Buzz 5/4/09: The Belly Dancer by DeAnna Cameron **

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Thing 34: online answer sites

Giuseppe Arcimboldo: The Librarian First uploa...Image via Wikipedia

The anonymity of an on line answer site is very appealing. Despite our best efforts, library patrons are often shy and hesitate to "bother" librarians. Even though (or maybe because) I'm a librarian, I hate to approach the reference desk and ask a question. It goes against the grain in a way I'm at a loss to explain. I get tongue-tied, blush, and stammer! I feel I shouldn't need to ask for help, that my question, even if complex or esoteric, and especially if simple, is intrusive and will be unwelcome.

And if I feel this way, how much more so the average patron?

Online, you pose a question and if someone wants to, and has an expertise, they answer! Marvelous! Because the answer is volunteered, there is a relief that you really aren't bothering someone. It's important, then, to be able to assess the quality of the source for your information. Are they an expert?

I looked at sites for questions that interested me - a home repair question and recommendaions about a good, inexpensive digital camera. I looked at several sites for the home repair question, and found good consistency. I need to repair ceiling cracks in a "popcorn" ceiling, and first remove the popcorn texture. It was enough of a "niche" question that my home-repair books didn't cover it. I was happy to find the info and felt it was reliable and consistent between sites.

The digital camera reviews didn't seem as reliable. Sometimes there was a lone voice advocating for a camera, with few corroborating reviews, "stars," or ratings.

The camera question would have been effectively answered at a library by reviewing Consumer Reports. I think the "popcorn ceiling" question was answered well online, and I don't know of any databases that would have provided a better answer. This kind of low-tech, low-risk repair DIY question needs hands-on expertise, not necessarily an academic answer.

People use these sites because we like to go online. IM reference has the same immediacy. I want a quick and dirty answer. In the case of the camera, I suspect there are only subtle differences in inexp4nsive cameras stocked by familiar stores like K-Mart, Wal-Mart, or Best Buy. You choose the features you want. If you aren't looking for high-end merchandise, you may choose not to research this question at all.

In the case of the ceiling repair, I was looking for a general idea, to know how complicated the task would be and get some idea of the time required. I won't be doing this until summer, and I can look ino it more as the project comes closer.

It's this kind of casual, low-stakes inquiry that you hate to ask a librarian about. You don't necessarily want to unleash that awesome dogged searching power. You don't want to wait your turn at the ref desk. You don't want to sit through a lengthy phone menu and then wait on hold for a librarian, specially if you suspect they will just look up your question on Google.

You just want a direction, a hint, a first cut. I wonder if this sort of casual, low-risk inquiry, which answer boards handle well, would have made it into the library even if the answer boards didn't exist. These are classic "ask around" questions, for friends and brothers-in-law. The web community, or web 2.0, is great for informal inquiry.

Questions for which a higher level of answer specifity is required, more high-stakes questions, demand experts. Then it goes back to information literacy, people's ability to discern the quality of the information they are getting.

Notes to self, from readings for Thing 34:

Link to Jessamyn West, and a somewhat contrarian (or more realistic) view of technology in rural libraries.

Ecerpt from Jenny Levine--Future of Librarians Interviews, on 2.0 aps in libraries

Obviously we're no longer gatekeepers of information, but our role is shifting to that of the guide, the trusted expert. Which we've always been, but you had to come to us to physically get the information, which is what has changed most dramatically. Expertise is another issue, as we move into an era of networked collective intelligence, but there is simply no substitute for the knowledge and guidance a librarian can provide. Those services will become ever more important as information overload grows and hits even more of our population.

In addition, there are numerous other options available to us if we want to take them, most of which revolve around training. For example, to help folks deal with information overload, we could teach them to use RSS aggregators and even help start them off with localized or customized OPML files of feeds. Some libraries have already begun offering a next generation of computer classes that help explain and navigate the new tools and information landscape. The Princeton Public Library has a "tech garage" where class participants can play with new devices in a hands-on way with guidance from expert librarians.

We can be a lot more proactive about information literacy, as well, elevating our efforts to fill the gap that is widening in regards to media literacies. We can help parents better understand things like gaming, help teach our youth how to be safe online, teach everyone how to manage their online identities, and in general help elevate the level of political discourse and democracy in our country. Pretty noble and lofty goals, but we could do it, and I actually believe libraries are the only institutions that can do this.

Artwork: Giuseppe Arcimboldo, The Librarian

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Thing 33: Travel 2.0

Amalfi, Italian Travel Poster, 1927. Artist Ma...Image by Joan Thewlis via Flickr

I would love to travel, but can't afford to, so this Thing was sweet torture.

I have a friend who travels to Paris regularly and stays at the Welcome Hotel. I looked it up on some of the review sites and it was described as my friend describes it: a very good value, good location, good service. That reinforces my belief in the accuracy of the forums. It didn't seem skewed by a few negative responses.

However, if a hotel wanted to hire some pay-per-blog admirers, they could influence the ratings. It's supposed to say in the blog that it is a paid post, but depending on the format and placement of the notice, it could be overlooked or discounted.

In addition, if someone copies the post to use in another forum, that information could be lost. This is of more concern in a competitive environment than in a social networking site.

I was interested in Green Routes, but at this time, they only have Minnesota information. I'm looking for ideas for healthy and interesting food between here and Chicago, and hope they add Wisconsin information soon! My only travel is to and from Chicago, where my son goes to college.

These would make great augmentation for the travel guides, especially since budget cuts mean fewer copies of, and less access to, current print guides. We would have to stress "Caveat emptor"--a good time to slip in a little information literacy education.

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