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, 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 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 "" (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: (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: (predictions and fun maps on all levels) (another political handicapper) (great blog for keeping track of conventions but who knows what it’ll do now)

How the other half lives: (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'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.