Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cat day

This is pretty much what I did today. Hopefully tomorrow will be more interesting blog-wise.

PS. The website I'm building for one of my classes is due on Monday. Yikes! But as soon as I'm done with that, hopefully I'll have time to work on the design for Looking-glass Books.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Books Week

Quote on the library door this week:
If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. ~Noam Chomsky

Happy Banned Books Week Everyone!

Top Ten Banned Books of the last year:
1) And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
2) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
3) Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
4) Crank, by Ellen Hopkins
5) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
6) Lush, by Natasha Friend
7) What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
8) Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
9) Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
10) Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

Celebrate by reading a book! For more info see:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


I extremely dislike talking on the phone. I know this isn't really that unusual, a lot of people would rather conduct business (and personal communication) by email or chat or texting. I will avoid phone calls pretty much whenever possible, and even when a friend calls who I know I will genuinely enjoy talking to, part of me doesn't want to answer the phone. Ironically every job I've ever had has involved some amount of phone answering, but despite lots and lots and lots of practice, my opinion of the telephone hasn't changed. I'd go so far as to say that some days I'd choose no communication over communication via phone.

However, today I made a call, and one that I technically wasn't even obligated to make. It was minimally painful, and resulted in a lot of good information. I wouldn't say I'm a telephone convert now, but I hope I did learn to take my blind stubbornness a little less seriously.

I'm working on a presentation for one of my classes comparing the Dictionary of Literary Biography in its print and online formats. The print source is pretty straightforward: 300 odd volumes going back to 1978 (they take up practically a whole bookshelf in the reference section). The electronic component is a little more confusing. Libraries can purchase digital archives of the DLB in ebook format, or they can sign up for a yearly online subscription plan, or they can gain access to some of the DLB's contents through product package deals. I was having a little trouble finding some of the information that I needed (especially with regards to pricing options) so I figured I'd do what the website suggested and send them an email for further information. I did not expect them to respond to a library student's random request for info. about their product, but less than twenty-four hours later, someone did. Regardless to say I was pretty surprised to receive their response, though a little disappointed that the email didn't really contain any of the specifics I was looking for. However, the representative who emailed me gave me her phone number and offered to go over things in more detail if I wanted to give her a call. I didn't really seriously consider calling at first; it's just not what I do. But I finally decided to bite the bullet and suffer through a few minutes on the phone to try and get some facts for my presentation. Beyond all my expectations, the rep. was kind and helpful and very willing to pass on pricing estimates. She even sent me a link to a trial version of the product (as well as some promotional material). And when I got off the phone I was shocked to see that we'd talked for more than twenty minutes. I walked away from the phone call feeling much more prepared about the subject I have to present on later in the week and being completely unarmed by how painless the whole process had been.

This may seem really elementary, but what you can get out of this scenario is simple: if you can't find something, ask. And if someone offers help, don't be afraid to take it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Carolina Tiger Rescue

Another off-topic post. Yesterday I went with a group of fellow library science students to Carolina Tiger Rescue, a nonprofit group that provides homes for tigers and other carnivorous species who have been rescued from neglectful situations or displaced when other sanctuaries or zoos have closed. They have more than 70 animals who live in enclosures across 50 acres of farm land in the North Carolina countryside.

It's always a little sad to see these amazing creatures behind fences and barricades, but the animals at CTR seem happy and well taken care of, and an "open range" type of sanctuary like the ones you see on National Geographic on hundreds of acres in the Sahara just isn't practical for central Carolina. We saw an ocelot, bobcat, and serval, as well as caracals, binturoungs, a glimpse of some lazy lions, and of course, tigers! Caracals are incredibly cute and have great ear tufts, and I'd never even heard of a binturoung, much less seen one. They look like slightly smaller, furry But the tigers were definitely the stars of the day. It was fun to see them doing the same types of things my kitties do--rubbing their heads along the wall, bathing their paws, and vocalizing to ask for food. Tigers make a funny sound called a "chuffle" (kind of like a horse snorting) to communicate with each other. And some of them are huge--Amur tigers can weigh up to 700lbs.

Rajaji (smiling because he just got some chicken) and a volunteer.

Rajaji with a friend.

I discovered it's tricky to take good photos of moving creatures through chain link fences, so here are some slightly more interesting clips I shot with my still camera's crummy video mode. Check out CTR's website at

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Peculiar Children

I always enjoy reading first novels. I think a first literary work says a lot about an author. Obviously it's not the first story he or she has ever written, or probably even the first project to have logged hours and hours, if not years of one's life. But it is fascinating to witness that first statement, printed words that cannot be taken back, painting a picture, a life, an adventure. I have thought so many times when an interesting plot line or character has crossed paths with my brain, that this could be my first book. And so far it hasn't happened, but maybe some day it will. I know there is a lot of hard, grueling work that goes into any publication--especially a first book--but I believe there's something more to it than that, something peculiar.

I just finished reading Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. It is a terribly fun, fast-paced read, and a very intriguing first novel. The story is familiar and fantastical both at once. A sixteen year old trying to prove--or disprove--the extraordinary tales he heard from his grandfather as a child, whose journey brings him to a island off the coast of Wales where he must confront truths which might be easier left undisturbed. Ransom Riggs (I'm not sure if this is his actual name?) has not only created a compelling story with his first novel, he's also created an unconventional and captivating reading experience. For the book is peppered with photographs--authentic, vintage photographs found and compiled by various collectors--some of which have received minimal alterations, true, but these unique and often haunting images truly set the tone of the story. They are placed within the pages physically inseparable from the dialogue and narration of the book, and as the protagonist, Jacob, finds and studies them in the novel, so the reader is able to also. It doesn't feel like a "picture book" by any means, but the photos do lend an air of authenticating the uncanny half-reality in which the story exists. I don't think I've ever read a book that incorporated pictures in quite this way, but Riggs definitely turns it into a powerful and provoking method of storytelling.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children also has a creepy book trailer; having finished the book I think it's almost a little misleading, but definitely it has the same fascinating/frightening page-turning spark. Months before I ever read the book, I saw both the book trailer and a sort of "behind the scenes" look at the shooting of the trailer (as it turns out, the author has a history of making short films). This second video is amazing. It's very cool to see the places Riggs traveled to as he undertook a real-life search for the home of the peculiar children, and honestly, I think this video is just as striking as the actual book trailer (if not more). As a film lover, I am excited about this new trend of book trailers, but as a life-long reader, I admit I kind of resent it. I rewatched the trailer for Miss Peregrine after finishing the book today, and I was very glad I hadn't seen it right before reading the novel. Even a book like Miss Peregrine with physical pictures integrated into the story itself leaves so much up to the imagination. When you are presented with a solid picture of a character or a setting, it's hard to push that completely aside and let your mind create its own view of the story. I worry sometimes that we're not leaving enough for our imaginations to do in this day and age. But at the same time, I really appreciate Riggs' commitment to reaching across mediums, finding a way to communicate his story through text and images and film. For good or ill the future is likely to be in these cross-media experiences.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Digital graveyards

When I stop and think about how many different files and folders I have stored on my laptop, and my current portable external hard drive, and my first external hard drive, and my old computer, plus a couple small flash drives, I start to realize just how thinly my personal digital collections are spread and also (somewhat alarmingly) how little I know or remember about what exactly I have saved. Countless mp3 files, old movie trailers, school-related documents from high school on. Photos by the thousands, other image files scanned from hard copies or downloaded from the internet. Email correspondence, computer games, and who knows what else. I certainly don't.

My laptop is fairly new (a little more than a year old now) and so on a daily basis I'm not confronted with an overwhelming amount of saved and stored data. But that in itself says something about all the old files I have tucked away, decaying in various places. If I haven't transferred them onto my laptop, or needed to go out and find them, or even thought about them at all for the last year (or last many years), why do I still have them saved? Why did I save them in the first place? It's just not something I usually think about since I'm never actually in danger of running out of storage space.

Catherine Marshall writes about personal information saving habits and makes a few startling observations. More and more people seem to be relying on computer crashes and other technological failures as a way of weeding out their old files. She speculates that the time-consuming and "cognitively taxing" work of keeping files neat and periodically deleting old data makes us prone to a practice she refers to as "benign neglect." Essentially, it's "easier to keep than to cull" and "easier to lose than to maintain." Unfortunately my data-keeping habits seem to match Marshall's depiction pretty closely. And despite all my good intentions and plans to one day get things organized in a thorough digital spring cleaning, nothing actually seems to change.

Marshall, Catherine C. "Challenges and Opportunities for Personal Digital Archiving." In I, Digital: Personal Collections in the Digital Era, edited by Christopher A. Lee, 90-114. Chicago, IL: Society of American Archivists, 2011.

Friday, September 23, 2011

An Archivist Post

When I first was interested in going to library school I didn't even blink at the fact that library science programs were combined with archives and records management programs. (Okay, to be honest, I may not have even noticed at first.) Then a little further down the road I can remember thinking, this is kind of weird, and not really seeing why the two should be lumped together--especially with libraries (and library schools) moving in the direction of information science. Sure, librarians and archivists both like to collect stuff and keep it well organized, but can future librarians and future archivists really both be thoroughly educated in the same program, aside from a few variations in courses? Intrigued by this conundrum and the archivist profession in general, I gamely signed up to take an intro class into the world of archives and records management.

And now after a month I'm beginning to see the similarities. They are much deeper than "collecting" and "organizing" and, to me, are more about the service orientation that both professions share. Librarians exist to take care of the books, and other information sources, make sure they are available to the public, and that the public is armed with whatever tools and education they need to access and benefit from the information. Behind the archivist profession all the organizing and filing and preserving also contains a strong focus on perpetuating the materials' availability for future researchers, employees, and everyday citizens. At their essentials, librarians and archivists are both about the information and making sure it remains usable, understandable, and helpful for whoever needs it.

In my archives class we are (already!) submitting topics for our final projects. Trying to follow this 'public service' perspective, I decided to look into the role of archivists in remote regions and developing countries. One of the first places I came across online was the Endangered Archives Programme, supported by the British Library, which aids researchers, archivists, and librarians who have located important cultural archives currently in danger of destruction or neglect and strives to preserve archival material in countries lacking the resources and opportunities to undertake such preservation on their own. While the EAP does support the transfer of copies of the material to the British Library for safe-keeping, the originals--and copyright privileges-remain with a local organization.

Specifically I'm going to study the efforts of a project called Digital Himalaya run by the University of Cambridge. For the last decade Digital Himalaya has been involved with the unique complexities of preserving and digitizing a wide range of materials including photographs, film, sound recordings, fieldwork diaries, census information, and maps from the Himalayas, including Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, and parts of Northern India. In addition to preserving materials, the project strives to fulfill the dual objectives of making these resources available to scholars and researchers worldwide and available to the local descendants of the individuals from whom the records were originally collected. I think the second part of their mission is really key. Without the drive to make archives available to everyone who might benefit from or appreciate them, the archive profession loses a huge portion of its purpose. What would be the point of keeping all that stuff, if the person to whom it might matter most never has a chance to see it?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's wrong with my writing?

This is pretty much my biggest fear:

(Yeah, I know, I'm not getting much accomplished on that paper just at the moment.)


I'm working on an assignment right now that is turning out to be one of the most conflicted paper-writing experiences I've ever had. I'll be at a total loss of what to write one minute, then suddenly feel like I have all sorts of interesting things to say; I'll jot a few of them down, while my mind is making all these connections to other articles and theories, and then five or ten minutes later I'll be back to feeling like I don't know where it's all going and even wondering if I completely understand the author's purpose in the first place.

Part of the reason for this is that I'm already sleep deprived, and, with the paper being due tomorrow, am beginning to enter panic mode. Yikes. So I really should get back to that...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Words on a page

I am upset with myself for missing two days of postings (a first). But then I have to ask myself, does it really matter? Who is actually reading this blog? Nobody. Will I ever go back, read the entries again, and take something new away from the experience? I don't know.

"But when the self speaks to the self, who is speaking? The entombed soul, the spirit driven in, in, in to the central catacomb; the self that took the veil and left the world -- a coward perhaps, yet somehow beautiful, as it flits with its lantern restlessly up and down the dark corridors."
~Virginia Woolf

I feel like I am speaking to myself, carrying on a causal, empty conversation for the sake of filling up blank space. I am the drifting spirit, the coward, trapped in a dark place.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I thought Lev Grossman's novel, The Magicians, was a very good read. The main character, Quentin Coldwater, is like one of those characters from "classic" children's fantasy literature by C.S. Lewis, E. Nesbit, or J.M. Barrie all grown up who's turned sarcastic and bitter towards the world. Quentin starts out as an ordinary high school student--or so he thinks--until he is recruited to attend Brakebills, a college for magic, located in upstate New York. The book races through Quentin's four years at Brakebills, where he is joined by a cast of fellow troubled students who would fit in just fine at any four year institution. The real adventures begin after Quentin graduates, when he's left behind the safety and security of a school he's come to think of as home and has to try to come to terms with what it means to be a magician in the real world.

As a child, Quentin grew up reading a series of stories, called Fillory and Further, about a group of siblings who fall into a magical world much like Narnia and solve a number of quests and mysteries while reigning over the land as benevolent young kings and queens. Quentin always wondered if the stories were really just fiction invented by their author, Christopher Plover. And even as a teenager, when something strange or odd happens, he can't help but entertain the notion that maybe there's more to Fillory than the rest of the world thinks. Early in the book, as Quentin enters a dark, gloomy house he thinks to himself that if this "turned out to be a gate to the magical land of Fillory, it was too bad he wasn't wearing more practical shoes." (pg 9) I love the tone this sets: somewhere between fanciful and realistic.

I also really likes the way Grossman incorporates the idea of Fillory so deeply into the books. It seemed so well thought out, so real, that I wondered if Christopher Plover really had been an English writer in the early twentieth century, just one I'd never heard of somehow. Joy Marchland writes: "When I finished the book, the first thing I did was Google "Fillory" on my Android phone to see what would come up." Well, I barely made it to the third mention of Plover and Fillory before I had to look it up. And here's what you find: a (seemingly) real website for the author. The site even contains "chapter one" of The World in the Walls, the first in the Fillory and Further series. Sure, once you really start to explore the site it seems a little shallow, but the fact that it even exists is pretty neat.

The book is definitely not a walk in the park. Quentin and his friends live dark, gritty lives for the most part, and the lighter moments still have an undercurrent of wild, almost dangerous energy to them. At its core, the novel is really about Quentin figuring out how to live his life, and what he finally comes to terms with is that "he'd thought that doing magic was the hardest thing he would ever do, but the rest of it was so much harder. It turned out that magic was the easy part." (pg 333) Life is tough is kind of the motto of the book, but as Quentin's friend Alice puts it, "Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there's nothing else. It's here, and you'd better decide to enjoy it or you're going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever. (pg 333)" Well put, Alice.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Into Battle

I'm going to stray a bit from the purpose of this blog... Purpose... And what was that, exactly? Maybe I should say I'm going to stray a bit from the purpose of this blog again. But, I really must put this somewhere, and I don't really have anywhere else right now.

Tonight was the night I vanquished a monster. Appropriately, it was a dark and stormy night (no kidding, it actually was). Thursday evening progressed the way it usually does. I ate reheated pizza and browsed free CSS templates online, caught up on some websites I follow and tried to keep the cats from chewing a hole in the blinds. Sometime after eight I walked into my room--I do not even remember the reason, for a moment later all coherent thoughts were driven out of my head in terror. For I had what every small child fears when the sun goes down and the house starts to creak: a monster in my closet.

(This is a long one.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Web studies

Lately I've felt like there have been a lot of serendipitous interactions between the different classes I'm taking this semester. One professor will introduce Belkin's theory of Anomalous States of Knowledge (ASK) for a discussion and the next week in another class we'll read Belkin's article discussing his propositions. It's definitely helpful to see how things like a single theory can apply to many different areas of library science, though it's been a tad confusing sometimes too--I'll get fuzzy about which article I've read for which class. The even more extreme example of this kind of thing consists of several events that have built up over the last weeks. In one class we spent a day talking about the flaws of library websites: what about them confuses users, and what could be improved (and the process to put these changes in effect). In another class we are coding our own websites as we learn about HTML and CSS. And finally in a third class we just turned in a paper analyzing the content of online archival institutions. So by rights I should be an expert or something now, right? I definitely notice the structure of websites more, and perhaps am a bit more judgmental about them too. And my own is definitely included in that critique. As soon as I understand CSS a little better, I'm planning to redo the look of the blog. This tan background has got to go.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Literary Birdhouses

So cute, right?

The Little Free Library is an ongoing project originating in Madison, Wisconsin, designed to bring books into the community in new, creative, and surprising ways. See more (or purchase one for your neighborhood) at

Don't you want one of these around the corner from your house?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Taking Flight

In 2005 a visiting artist-in-residence at UC Berkeley named Diaz de Rábago created an art installation inside the Doe Library. The materials for his sculpture? Wire cables and approximately 300 books!

The books had been withdrawn from the university's library due to their "unsalvageable" condition, and while it makes me twitch a little to hear any book deemed so, I have to admit, this is a pretty cool afterlife for a worn and tired library book.

Obviously I still have the Brakebills library from Lev Grossman's The Magicians on my mind. The library really doesn't play that much of a role in the book, but it was one of the most striking and memorable images of the novel for me (though since I'm an LS student, maybe that doesn't mean much...) But it does create a pretty fantastic image doesn't it? Rábago calls this work Babel Library IX. He's apparently very interested in this concept of gravity-defying artifacts, especially those related to books and paper. Check out his other creations on his website. (Look for the hanging chairs in Madrid, 2004.)

And one more shot of the books:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Library Quotes

A description of the library at Brakebills from Lev Grossman's The Magicians.

"Quentin had spent very little time in the Brakebills library. Hardly anybody did if they could help it... To make matters worse, some of the books had actually become migratory. In the nineteenth century Brakebills had appointed a librarian with a highly Romantic imagination who had envisioned a mobile library in which the books fluttered from shelf to shelf like birds, reorganizing themselves spontaneously under their own power in response to searches. For the first few months the effect was said to have been quite dramatic. A painting of the scene survived as a mural behind the circulation desk, with enormous atlases soaring around the place like condors.
"But the system turned out to be totally impractical. The wear and tear on the spines alone was too costly, and the books were horribly disobedient. The librarian had imagined he could summon a given book to perch on his hand just by shouting out its call number, but in actuality they were just too willful, and some were actively predatory. The librarian was swiftly deposed, and his successor set about domesticating the books again, but even now there were stragglers, notably in Swiss History and Architecture 300-1399, that stubbornly flapped around near the ceiling. Once in a while an entire sub-sub-category that had long been thought safely dormant would take wing with an indescribable papery susurrus."

Pages 127-128. Published by Viking in 2009.
(susurrus: a whispering or rustling sound, according to Merriam Webster, yeah I had to look that one up.)

I'm about halfway through right now, but will have to put the book on hold for a little while due to school work. More thorough book review to come once I've finished.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Google Ads Preferences

While I'm still on my privacy kick, I'll include this follow up from a class discuss yesterday. We talked a bit about Google and the implications of a commercial search engine with the intention of becoming essentially an online, computerized reference librarian, and since I hadn't really considered the commercial aspects of Google when evaluating the site as a search resource, I figured I would look into it a little more. In addition to the search-related ads you receive at the top and sides of a search results page, Google's "Display Network" incorporates personalized advertisements (which, like the search-related ads, are pulled from AdWords) into websites partnered with Google all across the internet. (A side feature of AdWords that I came across is the "Google Ad Auction" process, where companies actually bid on popular search terms with the highest bidder winning the "first place" spot in the results list when users search the corresponding keyword.)

The interesting part (I think) is how Google comes up with these personalized advertisements. By going to on your laptop or home computer, you can see a list of categories that Google has associated with you based on what websites you have visited recently. There is also a customization feature so that you can add or remove categories to better tailor the ads you receive to your interests. In an example on the Ads Preferences website, Google claims that, "throughout this process, Google does not know "Mary"'s name or any other personal information about her. Google simply recognizes the number stored in "Mary"'s browser, and shows ads related to the interest and inferred demographic categories associated with her cookie." But when you think about all the websites that people visit (social networking sites, personal blogs, bank and credit card websites, etc), it seems unrealistic that Google doesn't know your name or couldn't infer many other aspects of your identity as it "build[s] up a picture of your online habits." (Blakeman, 47).

There is the option to "Opt out" on your Ads Preferences page, meaning the ads you see will not be based on interests deduced from web activity and Google will (supposedly) stop collecting information about you.

I am certainly not anti-Google, indeed I use it on a daily, if not hourly, basis. However, I do think it's concerning for Google to market itself as a sort of digital reference librarian given the strong presence of its financial motivations throughout the Google universe. Google is unquestionably a remarkable resource, but when do we reach the point of putting too much trust in the system?

If you're interested, you can read Google's explanation of the Ads Preferences process and FAQ section at: or Karen Blakeman's interesting short article "What Search Engines Know About You."

Blakeman, K. (2010) What Search Engines Know About You. Online (Weston, Conn.) V. 34 No. 5 (September/October): 46-48.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Rolling Stone published an article last year about Jacob ("Jake") Appelbaum, his thoughts about privacy, his participation in Wikileaks and his work on the Tor Project. Internet privacy and anonymity has honestly never been something I've been that concerned about. But as more and more of our business transactions (does anyone have an electric or cable company that doesn't offer--and even recommend--paperless billing?), professional work, and daily lives are handled and stored in digital format, maybe it's something I need to reconsider.

We use our credit cards for purchases on, help Google learn our interests every time we search, and count on terabytes of online storage for photos, documents, and communication. Is there anyone who actually reads through the entire user terms and privacy agreements when they sign up for an email account or other online services? I think we do need to be asking questions like, where exactly is all my information stored, where is it going next, and who has access to it? I certainly won't classify myself as a person of a paranoid nature, but I'm going to say that I don't think it would be a bad idea to look into a program like the Tor Project.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Google Glove

I read an interesting entry on GeekWire about Google's latest patent for a concept called "Seeing With Your Hand."

The fact that it has a horrible name aside (really, Google, you couldn't come up with something better that "Seeing With Your Hand"?), it's a cool idea. Certainly not totally revolutionary, this "invention" has obvious connections to some of the fundamentals of tablet technology, and makes me think of Nintendo's Wii controller too.

The patent itself goes over the multiple functions that are proposed for this invention. Not only would the glove allow users to "see" and gather information in typically "inaccessible environments," but it could also be used to convey information and interact with the computer in a manner similar to the gestures we use, even unconsciously, in everyday life. Google is just at the beginning stages of developing this concept, and it could be years before it ever makes it to the masses in some form or another (or not, you never know), but the question of how to incorporate physicality into computer use has been under discussion for some time. In 2006, Scott Klemmer (et al.) made a case for the importance of this kind of technology in his article "How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design." Digital information seeking, Klemmer feels, could benefit enormously from the sort of bodily engagement that is a natural and essential part of information gathering and comprehending in the physical world.

Whether it is the early motor skills of a toddler that spark a child's spatial awareness and cognitive abilities or the use of gestures that aid in communication and express thoughts difficult to verbalize, there is great value in physical interaction with the world. Klemmer points out that systems that "constrain gestural abilities (e.g., having your hands stuck on a keyboard) are likely to hinder the user’s thinking and communication." If Google's invention could introduce a way to bring "thinking with our hands" into the digital environment, I think it would really start to take information seeking, compiling, organizing, and ultimately presenting to a completely new experience.

And if you're curious, and have some extra time on your hands, try browsing through Google's complete list of 797 registered patents.

Klemmer, Scott R., Hartman, Bjorn, and Takayama, Leila (2006). How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design. Proceedings of the 6th Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, pages 140-149.

Belated P.S.

I meant to add to that last post, that I've always thought Alice looks rather livid in Tenniel's picture of the Mad Hatter's tea party. It certainly wouldn't be the only time that she responds with frustration or anger when the structure of the world of Wonderland doesn't match her pre-existing knowledge-base about the fabric of "reality." (And--unfortunately--that seems to be a pretty accurate representation of humanity in unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations.) Or perhaps the tea party goers' logic (or mis-logic) is simply giving her a headache. I know how that feels sometimes.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Raven Call

Twitter. Is it the future? Is it the present? I'll admit (somewhat sheepishly): I've never really felt like I "get" twitter. Part of it, I suppose, is that it's hard enough for me to convince myself that my blog-writing could be meaningful in some way, either to others or to future-me, so keeping up a twitter account seems even more of a stretch. (What can you really say in 140 characters?) But maybe I'm wrong.


is live and ready to tweet.

I don't know how much I will wind up using it to do actual writing, but I'll admit, it was fun to do some searching and "follow" various people and organizations. Maybe it will at least be beneficial for keeping up with things in that regard.

* * * * * * *

It started with the Mad Hatter:
"...All he said was, 'Why is a raven like a writing-desk?'

'Come, we shall have some fun now!' thought Alice. 'I'm glad they've begun asking riddles.—I believe I can guess that,' she added aloud.

'Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?' said the March Hare.

'Exactly so,' said Alice.

'Then you should say what you mean,' the March Hare went on.

'I do,' Alice hastily replied; 'at least—at least I mean what I say—that's the same thing, you know.'

'Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter. 'You might just as well say that "I see what I eat" is the same thing as "I eat what I see"!'

'You might just as well say,' added the March Hare, 'that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!'

'You might just as well say,' added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, 'that "I breathe when I sleep" is the same thing as "I sleep when I breathe"!'

'It IS the same thing with you,' said the Hatter, and here the conversation dropped, and the party sat silent for a minute, while Alice thought over all she could remember about ravens and writing-desks, which wasn't much."

~Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

If you hadn't guessed yet, I love Alice in Wonderland. I think it's particularly interesting that this riddle from the novel is never actually answered. Over the years, humorous conclusions to the Mad Hatter's question have been invented: "because Poe wrote on both," is one. Another is, "because there is a 'b' in both and an 'n' in neither," or, "because they both have inky quills." But Carroll himself originally intended for the riddle to be left unanswered. Unanswerable questions are all around us in life, but sometimes it is in the act of trying to answer them that the impossible things of the world are conquered, and the incomprehensible on the other side of the looking glass starts to look a lot more like home.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


For blog that seems to purport the ideas of mixed media and digitization, this one, so far, has been essentially a text-only creation. That really wasn't my intention, and I need to make more of an effort to incorporate other methods and elements into my writing. I'm not exactly new to the world of blogging, but there are a lot of basic aspects of this particular medium that I need to brush up on.

So tonight, I've been playing around with some image options (through Picasa--which seems to be a great program; uploading and editing are quite fast, and very simple to use too). I'll start out with a photo of (appropriately) the building where I find myself spending a lot of my time these days. I hope that by the day I graduate I'll still have such good feelings about this place.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Past, Present, and Future

Today we had guest speakers in one of my classes. And what sorts of guest speakers do you get when you're a library science student? Why, librarians of course! Real live ones.

The two who visited our class were very interesting to listen to--they spoke about old card catalogs that took up whole rooms and the somewhat painful transition from card catalog to computer search engine. One of the topics they discussed was the shift that has occurred in users' expectations for the library. It's definitely true that new technology brings us new possibilities--in all areas of life, and the library is no exception--and with new possibilities we begin to develop new expectations.

One of the things that technology has brought about today is the assumption of instantaneous results. According to our speakers, people used to approach libraries with the understanding that a search or the discovery of an answer to a question could take a while; to use the catalogs, go through the proper subject headings, and find the resource you were hoping for would sometimes be quite a lengthy process. Today, we are so used to Google's 707,000,000 results in 0.15 seconds that the traditional library model seems like an awful lot of work.

When users have these shifts in expectation, part of the library's job is to adapt to the changes. It's tempting to write new user attitudes off to laziness or lack of thoroughness, but the reality is that the rest of the world is changing--the speed of transactions, the availability of immediate information worldwide--and the library must follow its lead. So where are we going in the next ten, twenty years? Wherever it is, you can predict that the everyday person (student, teacher, community member, etc) will be in the driver's seat and their new expectations will be the GPS.