Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Finish Line!

I just came back from the final in-person event at the BPL. It was great to meet so many of you in person - to shake hands and chat! Especially Jennifer and Michael, who made this program possible for all of us. Jennifer invited us several times to applaud ourselves - but as Michael pointed out, this great program would not have happened without her very hard and dedicated work, so I applaud her once again! And thanks to all of you, whether I met you this morning or not, for participating and making this all work. I will keep you in my blog roll.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thing 25: It's Thanksgiving, let's eat!

Hi everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving! I have journeyed to Syracuse with my wife Cathy and son Gregory, where my mother-in-law Lola is preparing to fete us all with her usual aplomb! I can't wait.

Looking over the food blogs Jennifer gave us in this Thing is only whetting my apetite. I couldn't resist "What's for Lunch, Honey?" - one of the food blogs in the blog roll "Simply Recipies". Maintained in Weimar Germany by an Indian-born cook and mother, Meeta, it has a very nice look and feel. Here is her take on how to do the Thanksgiving Day feast. As you can see, she does a great job of both dispensing advice for planning and preparation as well as focusing on the food. Very useful!

In a similar vein, Epicurious has a nice page on how to create a heart-healthy Thanksgiving Day feast. Their recipe for Ginger-Pumpkin Souffle really appeals. Too late for me to integrate any of this advice into my Thanksgiving Day this year - but maybe next. At least I now know where to go for the recipes!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thing 24: microblogging

At SLA mid-winter earlier this year, Stephen Abrams put up the view of all the people who were twittering the conference, including him putting up the blog of al...you get the picture. It was very funny, and a good illustration of the power and immediacy (or should I say the power of immediacy...) of microblogging.

How could it benefit our library? Well, we serve a patron base of just over 300 students and faculty - most of whom are taking the same limited number of classes. I wonder if we could somehow facilitate their team-based exercises using twitter. (I wonder if they are doing that already.)

This might be especially useful to our reserves, which are open stack and self serve...and because of our self checkout machine, which does not self check in, they are also non-catalog based regarding checkout (ie, we use a pen and paper). Could we set up a twitter site to help students keep track of what's in and out? It would only work well if everyone who took out a reserve voluntarily opted-in.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thing 23: online music

The Tolkien Ensemble is a group of Danish musicians who came together to try to set the poetry J.R.R. Tolkien created to music - and to try to interpret and express the various moods of Tolkien's works with original music as well.

I was delighted that a search on Seeqpod brought up several of their recordings I was not familiar with, including this musical interpretation of Tom Bombadil's Song. I quickly learned to manipulate the search in Seeqpod to include video as well as audio, but found that loading was slow, at least with my home connection, and it was easier to go to YouTube and view the videos.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thing 22: ...and this is my boy Sherman

I love the wayback machine. First of all, anything that references a cartoon I regularly watched in my youth is cool. Secondly, I have used it many times to discover stuff I remember but can no longer find on the web. However, I confess that I have not spent alot of time examining its other features before today.

So, here's the URL for the first site for Olin College. Olin was only established in 1997 and opened its doors to students in 2001, so I am not surprised the first instance of a website was in July 2000. That is probably just when they were starting to recruit students (notice the picture is a model of a campus - not a campus).

I will definitely spend some more time playing in the music and video collections. Here's a link to a 1986 performance by Camper van Beethoven - the precursor to Cracker. At about the same time as this clip I saw them open an R.E.M. concert in Pittsburgh, so for me this is like taking a journey with Sherman and Mr. Peabody in the Wayback Machine!

Thing 21: E-Books

I decided to indulge a different interest of mine from Tolkien for this thing, and went to the Gutenberg site and searched on Russian Literature. Naturally, the holdings could not reflect the vast dimensions of this topic. However, I did find some things that really interested me. Here is a link to a book about Russian literature published in 1911. Dated, but not if you're interested in the 19th century.

I was able to search easily and quickly, and move about through the hyperlinked references. This is especially useful for the many author references. I can see that there is alot of content in there if I want to go after it.

The library where I work is already pretty oriented to online reading. We are less than a decade old, and have only about 12,000 print volumes. However, we have nearly 3 times that number from ebrary, netlibrary, and specialized to engineering providers such as Knovel.

The access statistics I'm tasked with gathering tend to show the our students make full use of these resources, and definately prefer online serial resources to print - in fact we have jettisoned print wherever we have electronic coverage that we know is stable. Online searching of content for journals is so useful, and specialized indexes such as Web of Science, which allows searchers to rank articles according to number of times cited, facilitate this trend.

In this respect, we are rapidly moving beyond the old model for research.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thing 19: Clip, Clip

Well, I'm keeping with the Tolkien theme I started in the last thing, my review of Perry Bramlett's "I am in Fact a Hobbit" on the BPL Booklist. I logged into my delicious account, and searched "Tolkien". Here is a link to the page I found.

Needless to say, I was intrigued by the site "What Tolkien Officially Said About Elf Sex" (before you get to offended, bear in mind that Tolkien was a socially conservative Catholic academic.) I was intrigued that someone scoured the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit to find Tolkien's official quotes about this subject.

I also found "Write Your Name in Elvish in Ten Minutes" interesting. Unfortunately, I don't think I can share it with you here!

Thing 17.2: Harvesting the Bounty!

Wow, there is lots of great stuff here! I hope that some of you were able to calm your pre-election fears with the statistical analysis available at 538.com (I see that at least one person did - fantastic!)

My personal fav among these was the "FreeLanguage" posted by Olga. I used it to take the 10 one-minute language lessons (more like 3 minutes each) in Russian, and brush up on my old college-level Russian. I even learned a thing or two. It was easy and fun (I love that Russian is being taught by a woman with a Scottish accent). And the great thing is that you can do it with any number of other languages, and learn the basics ("Hello", "Goodbye", etc) in a number of different tongues.

I can definately see how that would help in putting an English-challenged patron at ease when they approached me for a reference question. Spaceeba, Olga!

Thing 17: Classrooms without walls

This is an interesting assignment, because at Olin College we are constantly striving for innovation, and there are a number of things going on all the time which by design push the boundaries of the traditional education experience.

Once such thing is called a "co-curricular": this is an un-graded class which students participate in, in order to expand their horizons in some new area. Examples include foreign language tables, Jazz and Blues excursions, an examination of archives and special collections we used to jump-start our own archives with student help, etc.

One that I was involved in last semester, the Blues Co-curricular, included students performing the pieces we listened to in class on their own. I'm not sure how problematic it would have been from a copyright standpoint to try to mount the published pieces either on the web or via a course software system like the one described in this thing, however, I'm sure it would have been no problem to use such a delivery system to record and publish the students own pieces.

The pieces could be combined with links to online content, background, playlists of professional performers and/or venues, etc. Something to consider for next time.

Thing 16: My office is now online!

I can see the usefulness and applicability of this immediately. At Olin College, I am preparing to lead for the 4th year running a project to interview all of the seniors before the graduate. The results are placed in the archives.

I coordinate a number of staff volunteers from across campus to conduct the interviews. Who gets to interview whom is always a bit of a challenge: in the past I have sent out the list of seniors, solicited my interviewers' desires, and then made assignments as best I could.

But let's say that I can place the spreadsheet in Google Docs, and send the link to my team of interviewers. Then they can put in their preferences, discuss them among themselves, and arrive at the optimum interview schedule - saving me alot of trouble.

We have also had requests from our seniors to share and/or see the results, but this becomes a problem because they lose their privileges to log-in to the internal network after they graduate. However, I could use this function to share the results with those of them willing to have their interview so posted.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thing 15: Itsy Bitsy Etsy

Once again I am very excited about the possibilities inherent in these websites. I really liked some of the t-shirts on "Threadless": "If you're interested in Time Travel meet me last Thursday" would work very well on my geeky college campus. But mostly I am excited about the possibilities of making my own bumper sticker for just $4.95 postage paid on MakeStickers.com, or uploading images of my two-year-old onto t-shirts or coffee mugs for his grandparents at the Cafe Press.

I have a favorite bumper-sticker place where I have bought several progressive stickers which adorn my ride, including a great Orwell quote ("In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."), but there are so many great Orwell quotes - now I know how I can make my own.

One question: how am I gonna get the Desiderata on a bumper-sticker?

Thing 14: the Backyard

Technically, I don't have a backyard here in West Roxbury. However, I do have a great view off my back porch. I was disappointed by what I found - or rather could not find - in both "American Towns" and "Wicked Online". The only thing scary that seems to be happening is a "Howl-oween" parade of doggies in costumes (which I am picturing as a weird spin of "Best in Show", West Roxbury-style), but I have already missed it! Too bad.

We will be handing out candy on my front porch in two days, as we have each of the last two years since moving here. The neighborhood does a pretty good job with it.

Thing 13: Library Thing

The first thing I did for this Thing was to read the comparison between "Library Thing" and "Visual Bookshelf" - I have to admit I had somewhat the same experience as the author of that post: I joined "Library Thing" some time ago, added a some of my books, then did not return until jogged to by this assignment. I guess I just didn't find the time to get my collection in there. It IS very interesting to see how many others own the same books you own, their relative popularity, etc. I will try to finish uploading my collection and post a link to it before Dec. 2nd.

My picks for Halloween: one has to be Anne Rice's now classic "Interview with the Vampire". Believe it or not, I bought a paperback copy of this book in 1977 (the year after it was published in hardback) because I thought it looked intriguing. I can remember at 15 being fascinated by the way the book began, with a "vampire" speaking as though he was a regular human being, but it was way over my head at that age and I didn't return to it 'til years later.

I still think it's a good read, and Rice definately took a well-worn subject in a paradigmatically new direction with this publication (comparable in this sense to what J. K. Rowlings did with the magic paradigm - but geared to a much more serious audience). I must confess that have not read any other of Anne Rice's novels, and I'm not widely read in vampire fiction.

My other recommendation is a video: Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas", which is a hoot and great fun at Halloween or Christmas. It also features an awesome score by Danny Elfman which I strongly recommend as an addition to your audio collection. It is necessary listening at Halloween.

Thing 12: Can you hear me now?

Ah, back at last! I've been really busy lately car shopping, after my wife was in an accident last week and our car was totaled. She is alright and our 2-year-old was in day-care, so the important stuff is covered.

Now on to Thing 12 - podcasting. I am really enjoying surfing the sites Jennifer gave to us in this thing's description. As is always the case, I had no idea there was so much available to us. For example, my pick is "The Buddhist Geeks", one of the "Buddhism" picks under "Religion", a subset of Podcast.com. I specifically recommend show #87: "Does the Web have a Buddha-nature?".

I am impressed by the range of subjects appearing under "Religion": not merely the main faiths you would expect, but also subjects such as Atheism and Agnosticism, New Age, Yoga and Meditation, etc. The Jewish section includes "Oypod", and "The Avatar Professional Course" under New Age has nothing to do with Second Life! (BTW, Second Life quite naturally has its own section.)

All this just under "Religion" - there are lots of other subjects. There are no excuses for being bored anymore!...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thing 11: You oughta be in pictures

Now Youtube I've heard of, and used. I'm certain I haven't begun to realize its full potential, as looking over the search results illustrated. With everyone in the world able to upload their lectures, performance pieces, etc - this is a fantastic example of how the internet is bringing us all together.

All of this is well-illustrated by this video from UC Berkeley of "Library 2.0" - a recent lecture by "Information Wants to be Free" blogger Meredith Farkas:

I would love to see our library use this tool to imbed instructions and other interesting videos to our website. Just for fun, here's an example of an instructional video parady many of you may have already seen - I must confess, I often feel like Ansgarr as I'm working with these new tools!

Thing 10: What do I see there?

Wow - this aspect of Google Maps is absolutely fabulous! I have used Google Maps alot, but I have never discovered this particular aspect of it before.

For this discovery activity, I re-visited a site I had been to years ago, Capetown, RSA (also the picture at the top of this blog). Since it is a very beautiful setting, it was easy to find stunning photographs - here's a couple:

I would not of course say that this did anything more than reinforce my view that the Republic of South Africa is among the most beautiful places in the world - and reminded that the world is still a beautiful place. In the bustle of day-to-day living, worrying about the stock-market, etc, it can be easy to forget!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thing 9: Flikr

Yes, I have a Flikr account, but my wife is the one who really uses this photo-sharing piece of software at home. I searched and found several images of Olin College - where I work; this is the one I liked the most.

How it could be used is a good question. I really liked the use of images of book covers that Jennifer pointed out to us. We currently expend a lot of energy to laminate and display covers for our books. This would be a way of making the information and opportunity for serendipitous discovery more widely available. I would love to see a canvas of other online photo uses to generate more ideas.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thing 7: Feed Me!

Wow - this is great! It was easy to add all of you to my reader since I am "following" many of your blogs, and they were automatically added to my reader. I just finished dashing through your comments much faster than when I was clicking on each one at the "26.2 Things" homepage. I miss seeing the personalized touches we've each given to our blogs, but the convenience of reading this way is a real advantage.

As many of us described in our blogs, I have struggled with this concept - not really "getting it" and not utilizing either rss-feeds or blogs and other information outlets as much as I could have. Now that I've done this exercise, I wonder why it has taken me so long.

In addition to all of our blogs from class, I've added several library-related blogs that I've had book-marked for some time but not been reading and one political blog that I've been reading since it was recommended by a pol-saavy faculty-member at my school.

If you're not totally sick of politics by this time, the political blog is "http://www.fivethirtyeight.com" (that is the number of votes in the electoral college) and it is both generally unbiased and really good at exploring the statistical aspect of all the elections - not just the executive but the House, Senate, and Gubinatorial Races as well.

Here's a cut-and-paste of the rest of my friend/faculty-member's comment of political blogs, for anyone who might be interested:

"Here are the blogs I read every day:

www.electoral-vote.com (it posts only in the morning)

(that’s a great site for keeping up with house races)

(that’s the best site for the senate races)


(4 just liberal blogs that keep track of good daily news, Kos being the biggest with lots of posts)

A good place to keep track of the daily state and national polls:

Congressional Quarterly has a great site with interactive maps of all the races:

Huffington post is great but also has non political stuff, but mainly a political blog: Nice columns

Then the graddaddy of the new 2008 blogs:
(this has all the stats and modeling and trying to predict the election after rocking the primaries using models similar to what he uses at Baseball prospectus to predict future stats for players)

Some others:
http://cookpolitical.com/ (predictions and fun maps on all levels)
http://rothenbergpoliticalreport.blogspot.com/ (another political handicapper)
http://demconwatch.blogspot.com/ (great blog for keeping track of conventions but who knows what it’ll do now)

How the other half lives:
www.redstate.com (but be prepared to get mad reading here [if you are liberal])

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thing 6: "Social Commerce"

Well, this was an interesting assignment. I've used Craig's List before - but it's been awhile. Mostly I've used it when I was apartment hunting in the past, and once in a while to scan for computer equipment. I once flirted with switching to a MAC and was intimidated by the prices for used Apple products on Craig's List.

This time around I looked for two areas of current interest: exercise equipment and toddler toys. I found deals on both: for exercise equipment, prices varied widely. As with Apple computer equipment, many people on Craig's List wanted to sell their still-in-good-shape used equipment for close to the retail price. However, some were willing to part with good equipment for bargain prices, ie, a stationary bike for $50, a total gym workout machine for $100 or $150 (same item - different sellers), or a very useful-looking "edge glider" for $40.

Similarly, I found some children's toys for bargain prices. "18 games/puzzles for $18" was my favorite - with a pic so you could see what you were getting. In both and all categories that I could see there was fantastic variety of merchandise and price, and at times very entertaining and imaginative postings ("Make Chuck Norris proud" one exercise equipment ad said).

I also looked at other areas of Craig's List. I found the topics in politics to be of generally low quality (crank-level, often). I also thought that the way strings were presented in all topics was confusing and hard to use. I also examined both the "Service Offered" and "Jobs" sections and found many ads for Web-developer in each - I wonder if the interface can be automatically set to help those people get together?

Finally, I found it interesting to view the "Free" category: hey, who doesn't need a box of empty VHS cassette tape boxes, or a light-up globe featuring the USSR - they're free and their going in the trash otherwise. "Boxes for moving" would be very useful if I were. Most bizarre, but thoughtful: "50 lbs of coal and coal-sifter...would prefer to give to someone for heat".

The real revelation here is that neither the Globe nor the Herald came close to the variety or quality of Criag's List. I couldn't find anything on the Herald site except for outside links to classifieds for cars, homes, and jobs. However, I did learn that Sarah Palin is distantly related to Princess Di. The Globe site had a section for classifieds, but it was woefully inadequate compared to Craig's List: no exercise equipment at all, only one ad for children's toy and that was for high-end merchandise.

So the bottom line is that handing functionality over to the people trumps the traditional format in this case hands down. Now if only I had the time to scan for everything I need on Craig's List every day...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Thing 5: vision improvement books reviewed

Well, this is an easy one for me. I often leverage the awesome information Amazon gives us by presenting not only the publisher's information, but also any number of personally supplied reviews from customers. Of course one is wise to view the personal reviews carefully, but when one of our faculty-members told me he relies upon Amazon reviews for computer science books - and he is a published computer scientist himself - I began taking them more seriously.

Lately I have been thinking a great deal about vision improvement, partially because my current subscription seems to have worsened. In High School I briefly owned a book about vision improvement through exercises designed to strengthen the eye muscles. I found a similar book in a used bookstore some time later, but did not use or hold on to either long.

A search on "vision improvement" in Amazon revealed a host of books on the subject. The book I had owned years ago must have been "Sight Without Glasses" - a classic in the field (published in the '30s) by William H. Bates, MD. He was the first to recommend a program of exercises instead of glasses - a set of techniques still referred to as "the Bates method." I distinctly recall selling it to a used bookstore clerk in Pittsburgh who swore up and down that it was a hoax book.

Nope - it was legit, but widely disdained. Bates was a pioneer in this field whose work has been built upon over the years. Today, the searcher interested in learning more has a number of titles and techniques to choos from, among them: "Re-learning to see", "Take off your glasses and see", "The Secret of perfect vision", etc. All advocate exercises to improve eye-muscle relaxation and control, and maintain that prescription lenses actually worsen the problem. I do recall reading enough of the Bates book to understand his thesis: the vision of eyesight correction which won out is that only through prescription lenses can vision be improved. This view is somewhat self-serving, since the public must then come to the optomatrists for glasses.

Among the best-reviewed of the books is "The Program for Better Vision" by Martin A. Sussman, developed right here in MA by the Cambridge Institute for Better Vision. The book I owned for awhile but did not read was "28 Days to reading without glasses" by Lisette Scholl (I remember that distinctive name). It was not among the better reviewed titles, at least according to Amazon.com's voluntary reviewers.

So I both learned something about a subject which has long dwelt at the back of my mind, and used Amazon's power to take a virtual and memory tour of my former bookshelf - all the way back into High School (which was long ago for me). Very enlightening.

Thing 4: Social Networking

It was good to follow the links from this activity to both of my Facebook and Linked-In presences, which I have hitherto largely ignored. I found a number of invitations to interesting groups awaiting me: a Simmons alums' group, an Educause group, and "The Library Society of the World" - so those should prove interesting. I saw that many people I know belong to each.

I also joined the Library 2.0 group Jennifer linked to in this activity's description. Although the 3 of us who are the sole staff of the library where I work each really have our hands full, I cannot help but imagine that receiving posts from these sites and expanding my personal frame of reference will have a very positive impact both immediately in my current position as I absorb new ideas and in terms of my long-term development as an information professional.

Life with Gregory

My apologies to all for having been absent from the 26.2 activities for about a week - my nearly two-year-old son Gregory was sick (just a virus - whatever happens to be going around), and as always this really impact my wife's and my life. We each missed two days of work last week, so I have been playing catch-up ever since.

To the left is Gregory Niccolo celebrating his first birthday last November. My wife and I are both over 35 and having our first child (of two, we hope), so it has been a real adjustment. But, as all parents say, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything!

Greg is named after two relatives on my wife's side: her mother's favorite cousin "Uncle Greg" and her Grandmother's younger brother, whom Mussolini sent to Ethiopia in 1938, where he perished - along with many other Italian young men. We thus intend to honor all victims of a poverty draft, wherever they may be.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Greetings from Boston!

Hello to anyone who takes the time to read this Blog. I am completely new to this, in fact I created this blog as part of a class entitled "26.2 Things in Boston" - which is about "Library 2.0", social networks, etc.

What is the name of the city behind me in the picture above? Why, it's Capetown, South Africa, and I am sitting on the edge of Table Mountain, the outcropping of rock that borders the city. I visited South Africa in 1998 to see a close friend get married. I am sorry I have not journeyed back there again, as it is a very beautiful country.