Six impossible things before breakfast.

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

Monday, May 14, 2012

Looking to Summer

The cats and I fell through the looking-glass and have found ourselves in summer break!

Updates may be sporadic, chaotic, and off topic (but that's hardly unusual here).

Hopefully I'll be seeing you again (figuratively speaking) soon.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die;
Ever drifting down the stream--
Lingering in the golden gleam--
Life, what is it but a dream?
      ~Lewis Carroll

Monday, May 7, 2012

Saftey Advice

Workplace safety training for librarians:
"Be aware of distractions. For instance, running or walking while reading can make accidents more likely. Whether you are walking across campus or around your office, always be aware of your surroundings."
Only librarians would need to be lectured on the dangers of walking while reading.

In other news, I'm trying to decide what to do with this blog over the summer... I think I'm going to be pretty busy with work, so I'm debating a summer hiatus. Or perhaps just infrequent book reviews as I make my way through a long list of summer reading. I don't want to abandon this space, but I'd also rather save it for worthwhile posts instead of feeling an imposed need to create content just for the sake of a daily update. More thoughts on this later.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Turning in that last paper is such a good feeling!

Now it's time to sleep!

Monday, April 30, 2012


One project left and I'm finished with my first year of grad school! I am so excited!
(And so sleep deprived...)

I am already starting to accumulate a list of books I want to read over the summer--I need to make it my goal to add some more non-fiction titles to the list--and in some cases the books themselves are starting to creep into my apartment. They've been a pleasant sign of what I have to look forward to as soon as I get this last little bit done. Admittedly in some cases I haven't quite been able to resist reading just a taste... or a little more than that. Right now, however, I'm inclined to think I will take a couple days to just sleep before diving into that glorious pile of summer reading.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Last one for now, I promise! Thanks PhD Comics for entertaining me through another all-nighter. You'd think by grad school I would have figured out this is always a bad idea.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Any minute?

Another gem from PhD Comics:

It's probably a bad sign that there seem to be so many parallels between my life and this comic...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Presidential Words

"Higher education is the single most important investment you can make for your future."

It's also "one of the best investments American can make for our future."

"We have to make college more affordable... This shouldn't be a partisan issue."

President Obama, 04/24/12 UNC Chapel Hill

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Bard

William Shakespeare, born in 1564, will turn 448 this year, and while his exact birth date is unknown, it has long been celebrated today on April 23rd.

So whether the 23rd marks Shakespeare's true birthday or not (it is also believed to be the date of his death), Happy Birthday Mr. Shakespeare!

Shakespeare was quite a popular figure in a lot of the early digitization efforts for public domain texts. The first online version of the complete works of Shakespeare was offered by MIT in 1993, and the site is still alive today for anyone looking for access to his plays and poetry.

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

Shakespeare, Hamlet 3.3

Saturday, April 21, 2012

iPods bring new life to old songs

Music & Memory is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving quality of life for the elderly and infirm in an unusual and creative way: by using the distribution of refurbished iPods to bring personalized music opportunities to retirement facilities and nursing home patients. And it's not just about listening to music, the group has found that for many individuals, hearing melodies from the past strengthens connections to memories of people and events from the patients' earlier lives. By using digital technology to bring familiar sounds of decades long gone by, older generations can once again experience life more fully. In an article on, neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks says that "Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring with it memory... Music brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can."

In addition to collecting iPods (and iPads) for distribution, Music & Memory also encourages people to set up mp3 players and digital music libraries for elderly friends, relatives, or neighbors who may benefit from the transforming sounds of their past. In an age where younger generations are constantly discarding last year's model for a new iPod touch, smartphone, or tablet/computer, this project seems well poised to put our inherent waste to good use. Not only is there the potential to help the aging members of society, but Music & Memory is also providing new life for something else entirely: technology itself. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book igloo

What do you do when you have too many books to fit in your room? Build a new room out of books!
This construction is part of Miler Lagos' series called Home.

A view from the inside:
Add a few pillows (and maybe a lamp) and it would look just like the perfect little reading nook; I'd love to have it in my apartment! (But realistically, there isn't anywhere it would fit.) To see this sculpture at the Magnan Metz Gallery opening, watch this video over on YouTube.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Google Glass

Another cool idea from Google...

The unveiling of Google Glass came with this video demo of a day in the life with Google Glass, which helps us see how we might incorporate such a gadget into our daily lives. It looks pretty cool, I have to say (though from a practical standpoint seems to do all the same things an iPhone can do). With the introduction of this early prototype, Google is encouraging feedback about the device, always a smart idea in my opinion, and in this case it looks like they've gotten some valuable responses. I was pleased to see, for example, that they updated their Google+ page to address concerns about using Google Glass with prescription glasses. And personally I think the device actually looks a lot better incorporated into a pair of real glasses than as a standalone accessory.

 Read comments about Google Glass or leave your own on Google+

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lions, Tigers, and Pirates

A recent TED Talk caught my attention today. In it Rick Falkvinge, an unlikely politician and founder of a modern political movement in Europe, talks about falling into politics and changing the world. The party is based on the principles of civil liberties and Internet freedoms; in the last six years it has become a major party for people under 30, and today--represented in 56 countries--it is called the fastest growing movement in Europe. The name of this movement: "The Pirate Party" (or "Piratpartiet," in Swedish.)

Falkvinge describes the party as a protest movement that has solidified into an ideology. The essence of that ideology? Freedom of Speech and Openness = "Leave the Net Alone." Based on a firm stance of anti-censorship, anti-wiretapping, anti-online tracking, and pro-anonymity, the Party argues that just because technology and methods of communication have changed over that last decades, doesn't mean our rights to privacy should be rewritten (or revoked). I thought one of the most interesting sentiments he expressed in his talk is that "entrepreneurs do not get to dismantle civil liberties even if, and perhaps especially if, they don't get to make money otherwise," as he argued against anti-file sharing and distribution legislation. In one of my classes today, we talked a little bit about the role of librarians enforcing copyright law within the library and the ethical conflict one faces when patron freedoms and access rights run counter to the librarian's perspective of their legal responsibilities. I think ethics are kind of fascinating, something that affects us every day, but that we rarely stop and think about.

While unquestionably a visionary and quite brilliant, Falkvinge also seems more than a little eccentric. In his talk he vacillates between seeming almost uncertain about his presence on stage and confidently declaring that this is his "chance to change the world for the better." He paces (a lot) and quotes Futurama ("When push comes to shove, you gotta do what you love--even when it's not a good idea.")

But I think the best quote of the presentation is one of his own: "Whether you believe that you can or cannot change the world… you're probably right."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Forgotten Fairytales

An article in The Guardian last month described the exciting discovery of 500 new fairytales, originally collected by Franz Xaver von Schönwerth in Bavaria over 150 years ago. Von Schönwerth was a local historian, and though he published some of his research in the 1850s, it never became popular and much of the material he amassed over the years remained unseen until recently cultural curator Erika Eichenseer began to sift through it. The stories were gathered firsthand from country villagers, laborers, and servants, and many are not found in any other European collections. Von Schönwerth was a contemporary of the famous Grimm brothers, and was known for his faithful and authentic recordings of the material he collected. Eichenseer prizes Von Schönwerth's work most for its unpolished nature; his writing lacks the "literary gloss" of other fairytale collections. Even Jacob Grimm is said to have praised Von Schönwerth with the comment that "nowhere in the whole of Germany is anyone collecting [folklore] so accurately, thoroughly, and with such a sensitive ear."

Dan Szabo has begun to translate some of the stories into English, and The Guardian currently has one of them, The Turnip Princess, available online. In its current state it's a bit fragmented, and it doesn't read in the straightforward style of the fairytales that we are used to. But it's neat to read it and imagine how it might have been told to children hundreds of years ago. I hope that in time the whole collection will be available for English readers. And I can't help but think with a smile of all the new potential material that this discovery provides for Disney.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Power of Books

Too tired to post anything tonight. Will write tomorrow.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Shelves in the wind

Impractical but oh so awesome.

I love the way an unusual or creative book shelf can make something as ordinary as books on a shelf into visual art and the focus of an entire room.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Casual Vacancy

Big news today on the literary front! JK Rowling has just announced the title and release date of her new book! The Casual Vacancy will be in stores later this year on September 27th!

Little, Brown Book Group unveiled the announcement along with a short summary of the new story. While some of the descriptors sound like classic JKR, such as "blackly comic" and "constantly surprising," the plot sketch wasn't at all what I was expecting. From the limited information we have, it sounds like a book about small town politics, and while I could immediately envision the type of fun quirky village-dwelling characters that I can imagine JKR would really enjoy writing, it all sounds so dramatically, entirely different from Harry Potter that it's hard to think of it as JKR's work at all.

Described as being "for adults" the book will undoubtedly fly off the shelves this fall. It will be really interesting to enter a new world of JKR and meet new characters, and to see what kind of reception The Casual Vacancy gets from JKR's massive worldwide fan base.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Weird Sisters

While not the sort of book I would usually pick up, The Weird Sisters left me interested to see what comes next for first time novelist, Eleanor Brown. This lighthearted family drama follows the stories of three sisters who live very different lives; each faces trials that bring her back to her college-centric hometown and the family that lives there, where the resulting intersections cause the siblings to reflect, remember, and eventually move on with their lives. As one of three sisters myself and someone who grew up in a town where life revolves around the local university, I started off the book with some natural connections to the story. But my family (I suppose I'm glad to say) has very few literal similarities to the Andreas clan, who are not exactly a fairy tale bunch. Though it's always refreshing to meet characters who are inherently human, with flaws that may even outnumber their positive qualities.

Rose, the eldest in the family, is controlling to a fault, a frequent accusation of oldest siblings (I'll remain silent on whether it's a true or false one). Bean, the middle daughter is constantly striving to be someone else--anything but ordinary--essentially afraid of who she really is and where she comes from. Cordy, the youngest, has never had to account for herself and runs from responsibility, avoiding the stigma of settling down, until her circumstances force her back to her small town roots. One of the things that initially drew me to the book was the Shakespeare connection: Dr. Andreas, the father of the trio, is a well known Professor of that immortal figure and has ensured Shakespeare's omnipresent status in his children's lives by gifting the sisters with given names from Shakespeare's works: Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia, heroines from As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, and King Lear. Personally I think the book jacket summary over-sells the girls' struggle with their literary namesakes, it might have been neat if there were more parallels between the novel and the three plays.

One other aspect of the book I found somewhat disappointing was the use of Shakespeare quotations. The opening of the novel gives the impression that the Andreas family's internal communication consists almost entirely of Shakespearean language, and while there is a smattering of couplets and iambic pentameter, I guess I was expecting much more integration of words of the Bard and the dialogue and narration of the story. Overall, I'm afraid The Weird Sisters didn't quite live up to my expectations, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book (I did.) or that I wouldn't recommend it to someone looking for a quick read with a cast of entertaining and truly interesting characters (I would.)

Voltaire on Work

"Work banishes those three great evils: boredom, vice, and poverty."

--Voltaire, Candide

I got a job! =)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

National Library Week

This week is National Library Week!

Celebrate by visiting your local library, checking our a book, or hugging a librarian.

What with the past few years' financial issues, budget and staff cuts, and ever-growing competing presence of the World Wide Web, librarians deserve more than a week of appreciation, but it's a good time to start.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Coffee Bunny

It's that time of year again...

Less than a month until the end of the semester. When all the deadlines start coming one after the other. And the number of hours per day you spend sleeping decreases dramatically. And all you really want is a couple months of summer vacation. But there's just so much to do, and you have to find somehow to keep going...
Coffee is the answer to everything!

Welcome to the time of year I become inevitably, thoroughly, enthusiastically addicted to coffee.

PS: Happy Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2012


Listen to books. They usually give good advice.

Book art sculpture by Isaac Salazar.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Camera Irony

I'm always fond of art with a sense of irony, and that's something Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs' work definitely has. In their recent book, As Long As It Photographs It Must Be A Camera, the pair display the products of an innovative project: experimental homemade camera manufacturing. One of my favorites: a camera made out of photography books!

This photo-book camera is not even the most unusual of Onorato and Krebs' camera creations, which include camera made out of materials like rocks, antique musical instruments, and turtle shells. (All of which, according to Onorato and Krebs, actually work!) The artists cite simple imagination as a major inspiration for their work; and when asked about their approach to the As Long As It Photographs project the photography duo says: "we're having good fun… we're curious, trying to experiment with different things." There's an interesting interview and a nice gallery of images from the book on American Photo.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Likely Search

One of the things I've enjoyed discussing the most this semester has been the subject of information retrieval and the different philosophies and corresponding technical methods used to achieve IR. Google's PageRank algorithm of course features heavily in such discussions, but not everyone thinks Google's invention is the best tool for returning search results. Some sites, like alternate search engine blekko, advocate human curation over computer programs, a careful but time consuming method that may not be entirely realistic on the grand scale of Internet searches.

Edward J. Black discusses another way that human beings can be involved in the determination of search engine results: through the content they share and the pages they "like" via social media networks. While surveys show that people are definitely heavily influenced by shared content, it's debatable whether integrating social data from sites like Facebook will actually improve the quality of search results. Regardless, it’s becoming more and more true that “today’s webmasters need to do more than just optimize their websites to rank well in search results; they need to facilitate connections with a user’s social network.” Read the full article, “Likes are the New Links,” on the HuffPost Tech Blog.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Computer literacy for all ages

While there is a lot of hype these days about making technology available to kids, elementary school isn't the only venue for encouraging computer skills. Today, the North Carolina News & Observer ran an article about the importance of teaching computer literacy to another user group and one on the opposite end of the age spectrum: older generations. The story caught my eye because of a number of recent class discussions revolving around accessibility issues and serving users with special needs. (It always surprises me how unintentionally well-coordinated different classes can be).  The article describes a program at Pace University in New York that offers computer courses to elderly citizens interested in learning to use email, ebooks, or even just to be a little more comfortable navigating files and basic programs on their home computers. I was particularly impressed by the age of the oldest senior to participate in the program so far: 101 years old! The strongest incentive for the 75 and over age group to improve their computer literacy is to facilitate communication with children and grandchildren who increasingly rely on digital means to communicate and share pieces of their lives. This certainly isn't a surprising motivation; in the simplest terms the older generations attending these classes just want to be able to navigate our increasingly technologically complex world. They don't want to feel left behind.

In addition to poor eyesight and arthritic limbs, some elderly users striving to familiarize themselves with computers face the challenge of fading memories. To overcome this barrier, re-offering classes can be very helpful; the program coordinator has found that repetition is one of the best ways for the elderly to learn new technical skills. Jean Coppola describes the benefits of repetition saying that after "the third or fourth time, something clicks… By the second time, they’re beginning to understand. By the third or fourth time they’re comfortable with it. They’re no longer confused. They’re no longer afraid.” An interesting part of the article is the description of the "sensitivity training" that student tutors go through before they begin leading classes. These sessions help the college-age participants really understand the special needs of the elderly user group. Anyone who has helped an older relative or neighbor struggle to learn a technical skill that comes so naturally to many of us we don't even have to think about it will agree that there is certainly a place for computer literacy programs in libraries, and the elderly are just one population that can be targeted for such outreach. I'm sure our libraries would benefit if librarians tried to devote a little more time to personally understanding the positions, difficulties, and information needs of special user groups and designing new ways to make library collections and services more universally accessible.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Kodak Kittens

Developed "by a small group of dedicated imaging scientists after a very spirited lunchtime brainstorming session," Kodak is proud to bring the world KODAK LivePrint!

The steps are simple:

And kittens are just the beginning. For Easter, Kodak plans to unroll a special on rabbit LivePrint Stations ("Buy 2 Bunnies, get 10 free!") And a little further down the road, there are big things coming in 2013:
See the original news item here.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


By now most people have probably seen the "NEW" flag that appeared on Google search bars across the Internet and given into the temptation to check out the oddly named new Google function: "Play." But what is Google Play exactly? I kind of hate to say it, but basically to me it just looks like another way to generate even more dollars for Google. Now there is a Google-specific page to serve as a gateway to your favorite music, movies, books, and apps. Rent movies, buy e-books, store them all in the Google Cloud, and "share" them with your friends--not really, of course, but you can post about them, or email suggestions to your friends about what music and movies they should be buying too.

I have to say I'm a little bit disappointed in Google. They are such an Internet and computing pioneer, I have come to expect bigger and more innovative things from them. I suppose I need to devote some more time to exploring the possibilities of Google Play, but for now I'm filing this post under Google disillusionment.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fantasy Accents

A BBC article asks the question many, including myself, have often wondered: "Why are fantasy world accents always British?" Matt Zoller Seitz has a simple explanation: "A British accent is sufficiently exotic to transport the viewer to a different reality... while still being comprehensible to a global audience."

I'm not complaining, I love British accents. But I've noticed that sometimes it "fits" with a story, set of characters, and general fantasy environment (for example, I think the Medieval tone of Game of Thrones works well with its British vocalists, even though the author, George R.R. Martin, is actually American) but sometimes it just sounds like an extra gimmick, an exotic flair thrown in to distract American audiences from cheap costumes, campy sets, and bad acting.

George R.R. Martin agrees that the British accent lends itself well to many stories set in the Middle Ages as they are "full of castles and lords and swords and knights and all the other trappings that we associate with England in this country. It seems natural. It would be hard to do with a group of actors who had thick Southern accents." Brian Wheeler points out the the British accent's dominance has spread to include other geographic areas too, such as inSpartacus and HBO's Rome series. But in contrast, when popular shows are set in modern times (like House or The Wire), British actors are instructed to speak in American dialects. It's one of those interesting bits of modern culture; more subliminal messaging coming from the television networks.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


With the arrival of spring, the notion of walking to and from class is much more appealing that it was a couple months ago. And these walks are a great time to zone out for a while and listen to music or, if I haven't reached that level of exhaustion yet, listen to audio books. As a penniless grad student I unfortunately don't have a lot of extra money to purchase audio books, and though the library has a great collection, it's hard to make use of it when you don't plan ahead and instead decide at 8:30am that you'd like to have something to listen to when you walk to school at 8:45am. Which is how I discovered LibriVox.

LibriVox, a project defined as an "acoustical liberation of books in the public domain," produces and provides free audio books for users to download. Of course, their scope means you won't find the latest Game of Thrones volume or something recent like The Hunger Games, but there are tons of great titles available. Little Women, Pyle's Robin Hood, Pride and Prejudice, and lots of Dickens. Fiction, Non-fiction, poetry, and dramatic works, the collection is quite diverse. Their lofty goal is "to make all public domain books available as free audio books." Now that would be quite an achievement.

Naturally you run into some issues with a project like this: poor audio quality, scratchy recordings, and volunteers who are obviously well-meaning but have no business going into the field of narration work. There also seem to be duplications of some books (maybe waiting for a quality control system to determine which is the better version?) and I question the usefulness of including recordings that are still works in progress. But I do admire the community behind LibriVox and the feat they are attempting. I will definitely be scouring the site for material to make my morning commute (and my next road trip) a little more enjoyable.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reference Revisited

Delft University of Technology (apparently the largest and oldest public technical university in the Netherlands) found a creative use for its outdated reference books:

I would love to walk into a library and see something like this! And it would have been so much fun to build--like putting together a giant puzzle of pieces that didn't all come in the same box.

 Photos via Recyclart.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Happy Tolkien Reading Day!

Since 2003 March 25th has marked the annual Tolkien Reading Day when fans are encouraged to... what else? read Tolkien and share his amazing stories with your friends! The tradition was begun by the Tolkien Society who are promoting the 2012 75th Anniversary of The Hobbit as part of this year's Tolkien Reading Day events.

So if you're not stuck inside doing homework, get out and do something Hobbity! Or just try to snatch a few moments away from your textbooks and papers to curl up with your favorite Tolkien book.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Medieval Margins

It's always amusing to see how little some things change over time. Even over a lot of time, like hundreds of years. Apparently Medieval monks used to like to complain about their jobs just as much as office workers, state employees, and even students do today. To alleviate boredom and vent their dissatisfaction, monks would doodle and write notes in the margins of the manuscripts they were working on. These comments range from humorous to depressed to surprisingly bawdy.

Lapham's Quarterly cites a list of interjections and sketches that have been found along the margins of ancient manuscripts. For example, in a volume from 1323 you can find "a picture of a scribe harassed by monkeys: while he tries to copy, they mimic him, drink his ink, and distract him." Some of my favorite comments include: "St. Patrick of Armagh, deliver me from writing," "Writing is excessive drudgery," "Thank God it will soon be dark," "Oh my hand," and "Now I've written the whole thing: for Christ's sake give me a drink."

Colin Dickey writes "it is in these marginal comments that we learn as much—if not more—about the medieval world as we do from the texts themselves." Annalee Newitz compares the monks' messages to today's texts or tweets: snarky comments about their daily drudgeries released during a brief escape from work.

Friday, March 23, 2012


As can be seen from the smattering of book reviews I've included on this blog, I will read just about anything--and will usually enjoy it too! So today I would have been remiss to overlook a book as present in the news as The Hunger Games, especially considering the premiere of the movie that promises to be the kickoff of the next big fantasy franchise.
I mentioned reading the novel last month, but didn't really elaborate much on my thoughts. Ironically I didn't really find the book overwhelmingly spectacular, but I'm totally psyched to see the film. And also rather ironically, as I read the three books in the Hunger Games trilogy, I found myself liking them more and more. Undeniably, Suzanne Collins' characters are fascinating, but something about the narrative of the first book just didn't flow well in my opinion. I'm not a big fan of present tense writing, so maybe part of it was just getting used to that particular style.

But one of the things I admire most about Suzanne Collins is her involvement in the film adaptation of her book. I've read lots of authors' thoughts on that topic, some love the films their books inspire and some despise them, but most feel it is best to keep an arms-length distance from the production. Collins' TV screenwriter background put her in the unique position of being familiar with the world of actors and scripts, and so she undertook the impressive task of composing the movie's screenplay herself. I think it would be really hard to see something you had created changed and tweaked for the movies, but I also think it would be incredibly exciting to be part of the process of literally bringing your words to life for millions of movie-goers around the world. So kudos to Suzanne Collins! Hopefully I'll have a chance to see The Hunger Games in theaters soon, and I'm already looking forward to seeing how they adapt Mockingjay!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Time and NPR bloggers have recently been passing around the somewhat startling assertion that the color pink is simply a figment of our imaginations. As the product of two colors found on opposite ends of the visual light spectrum, pink just doesn't fit into the color wheel as we understand it (and is mysteriously absent from the rainbow). So where does pink come from? Even for someone who doesn't know the finer points of light waves and the electromagnetic spectrum, this idea is an interesting puzzle to ponder.

A YouTube video blogger provides some insight while offering his own amusing take on the pink issue.

Let's relabel all the pink crayons in the world (and all the pink sheep) "not green." =)

It's strange to think our brains could--and would--invent a fictional color palette, and it makes me curious about what other sorts of gaps our brains unconsciously jump over. What about when we're searching for information, or reviewing and constructing ideas? It's easily accepted that we make logic leaps and assumptions when we approach new situations or unfamiliar topics, but it's a horse of a different color (or maybe a sheep) to think about our brain inventing something that's not actually there and then convincing us that it is.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Magician King

Lev Grossman's sequel to The Magicians came out last year, but I only recently got around to reading it. The Magician King has the same dark themes of the first book, so it's not a book I'd recommend if you're looking for something light to make you feel good. If you're looking for a thoughtful book that isn't afraid to talk about ugly parts of life, then give Lev Grossman a try.

I think the main character of the books has grown up a little since The Magicians, but his mood swings are definitely still there. Not that he doesn't have any excuses: Quentin's life has been rough. But his high school friend Julia's has been so much worse. The structure of the book unfolds the parallel stories of Quentin's journeys between Earth, Fillory, and what lies beyond, and the tragic path that Julia followed after her rejection from Brakebills as she searched for magic in her own world and in her own ways. It takes Julia a long time to find what she's looking for, and the sacrifices that are collected along the road are truly heartbreaking. I always admire a writer who is able to create a character who carries Julia's level of pain. Writing someone like that, fictitious though she or he may be, is never easy.

In the present, the narration follows Quentin and Julia on their unintentional trip back to Earth (they are utterly dismayed to find themselves once again in New England) and the struggles they encounter as they try to get back to the land where they reign with Brakebills graduates Eliot and Janet as kings and queens. Lev Grossman wouldn't write a story as straightforward as that, of course, so there are many twists and turns, old acquaintances turn up, and unique beasts deliver cryptic messages. There is humor too, and it's not always black. In light of the weeks we have spent on systems modeling in one of my classes, I particularly enjoyed the reference to flowcharts ("there is nothing that cannot be flowcharted," according to Julia, p. 316)

Monday, March 19, 2012


Just beautiful.

distorted gravity by Anka Zhuravleva

The world can be really cruel sometimes, and she can make us do cruel things to ourselves. Thank goodness there will always be books to pull us back onto our feet and then some.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Freeze-dried books

Who knew?

One technique for salvaging water damaged books is to freeze the books solid and then remove the water through a highly controlled vacuum freeze-drying method. During the process, the water in the damaged material sublimates--passes from a frozen solid state to vapor (gaseous state), without reentering the liquid state. This way you avoid issues such as inks running or book boards and pages warping and wrinkling. There is a whole industry of manufacturers (such as Freezedry Specialties, Inc., who also happen to recommend their services to taxidermists) dedicated to providing libraries, museums, and other collectors with this futuristic disaster relief technique. Interesting things can be learned from textbooks sometimes.

Photo Via.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Last semester I wrote about how out of my depth I felt during the beginning weeks of classes when my professors seemed to lapse into foreign languages full of complicated acronyms and unfamiliar terminology. After I eventually found my footing in the world of library lingo, I became more confident about my understanding of the principles and practices of information science. Since then I've been keeping up pretty well, despite the technical nature of two of my courses this semester, and I'm almost surprised how comfortable I feel with work models and the basics of XML schema. Ironically it's when we hit MARC, a 40 year old cataloging format, that I start feeling the water over my head again.

I know librarians love organizing and classifying things, making information neat and tidy, and lending an air of authority to it all, but the librarians who invented MARC must have been the most detail oriented, obsessive compulsive catalogers in the world. The technicalities of MARC data elements are astounding, and while the system has worked more or less since libraries began implementing it decades ago (though most of them, I dare say, don't understand all of its components), it seems like they made the whole thing far more complicated than it needs to be.

So after many years of revisions and changes, you can imagine that the problem has naturally gotten quite a lot worse. Today it is generally agreed that MARC is no longer serving the library as well as it used to. It remains to be seen if the research being done in the realm of Linked Data and the Semantic Web will yield more straightforward results, but the current problem is how to transfer all the MARC encoded data into a new format. It isn't very often that I spend hours reading a short article and realize at the end of it that I have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, but that's how I felt today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Awful Library Books is a popular library blog which displays the results of postponing the dreaded library tasks of weeding and collection management. The site is run by two librarians who turn archaic books discovered on library shelves into humorous blog posts. Weeding may be a difficult process, but it is still an essential one for nearly all libraries. Deselection ensures that library users can find what they are looking for more easily: it improves browsing by eliminating unnecessary or outdated materials and frees up shelf space for new books. But despite this important role in the library circle of life, weeding is generally considered one of the least desirable tasks on a librarian's to-do list. Even the many euphemisms we use for weeding (terms such as thinning, deselection, deaccession, retirement, reverse selection, and book stock control) suggest it is an unpleasant duty (Johnson, p. 139). Some of the biggest conflicts relating to weeding can arise due to the emotional investment users, donors, and librarians themselves may have in materials undergoing reassessment; because of this, Johnson describes collection management as “more politically charged than collection development” (p. 138). This sensitivity makes it even more important for libraries to have a “disposition policy” to stand behind when weeding decisions are questioned or challenged (Johnson, p. 143).

Johnson's text may be a little outdated, but the fact remains that “shelf scanning” is still one of the most common weeding techniques. Quite basic and very time consuming, this title-by-title approach seems tremendously inefficient. It seems like libraries could benefit from a push to utilize more effective and technology driven methods. Though traditionally intuition has played a large role in library collection management, modern library science scholars are increasingly supporting the notion of “data-supported collection decisions” (Connaway et al, p. 372). However, a new system would still need to address the three fundamental weeding criteria (“Has it been used? Is it worn? Is it outdated?” Johnson, p. 141), which is an ambitious goal for an automated process. Circulation statistics are invaluable data, but do not represent items of the collection that have been used inside the library without being checked out. And the third question is tricky for a computer to answer because even a so-called “outdated book” can be useful to some types of research and as an artifact of its time. Despite these challenges I still believe that for efficiency's sake and in light of our ever expanding collections, librarians need to devise new ways to implement computer-assisted weeding. New techniques will also be important to help libraries deal with the increasing number of e-resources libraries maintain: just because an item is digital doesn't mean it isn't possibly taking up unnecessary space or in danger of being outdated.

One of the things that struck me while I was reading Johnson's chapter on collection management is that librarians involved in the weeding process need to be sure that they do not just think about the effects their work will have on current users, but increasingly they need to be mindful of future users too. Different libraries may have different weeding needs (and weeding may be a higher priority in some libraries, such as small, popular fiction-driven public libraries with limited space) but all libraries should take care not to let weeding be neglected, unpleasant though it may be.

Connaway, L. S., O‘Neill, E. T., & Prabha, C. (2006). Last copies: What‘s at risk? College & Research Libraries, 67(4), 370-379.

Johnson, P. (2004). Fundamentals of Collections Development and Management. Chicago: American Library Association.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

Daylight savings

This year daylight savings was planned (purposefully, I'm sure) to steal away one of my last hours of spring break. So cruel. When this time of year rolls around again, I always find myself wondering if daylight savings is really actually helping us any more. I know originally one of the primary reasons for its implementation was to provide farmers with more daylight, but farming is no longer one of the major industries in the US. Germany was the first country to use the daylight savings model, but is their 1916 attempt to conserve energy still effective today?

Here's a funny and very informative video about the history of daylight savings and what daylight savings looks like today. I think it's really interesting to consider the possibility that if daylight savings gives people more time, but they don't use that time to go outside and take advantage of the extended natural light, we might actually be using more electricity because of daylight savings. And then there are states like Hawaii and Arizona who don't subscribe to daylight savings simply because they don't need any extra sunlight. But for the rest of us, if daylight savings causes the world to use more rather than less energy, plus results in huge costs of lost productivity the week after we "spring forward," time-zone inconsistency headaches, and even higher heart attack and suicide rates, then why do we continue to deprive ourselves of sleep every year?

Saturday, March 10, 2012


No, this photo hasn't caught a wall of bookshelves in mid-collapse, and you don't have to worry about the boat going down either. It's just a fun bit of architecture and a creative (if maybe slightly impractical) way to display your wall-full of books.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Literary Origami

As a kid I was quite the origami enthusiast, and while today I probably don't remember how to make much except the quintessential paper crane, I am still drawn to origami creations. The work of a Chicago artist (named Betsy) recently caught my eye; the artist finds used books and provides them with "a second life as a small work of art."

Through complementary folds, each book is transformed into a unique, sculptural form.

While perhaps not strictly "origami," these folded books capture the same graceful energy that emanates from traditional origami creations.

This piece (one of my favorites) reminds me of rolling ocean waves. I imagine the books are even more fascinating to examine in real life.

You can follow Betsy's work on the exploded library tumblr.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


When the iPad first came out in 2010 my impression was that it was a cool but gimicky toy. It seemed kind of pointless for the average person who already owned a highly portable laptop, didn't use (or have any particular desire to use) an e-reader, and generally felt the same way about the iPhone: trendy, but unnecessary.

Two years later I am not only longing for the day when I leave behind my penniless grad student status and can afford an iPhone, I also find myself almost drooling over yesterday's reveal of the new iPad and its amazing retina display. With a pixel density of 264 pixels-per-inch, the new iPad screen is gorgeous, and while reviewers say it's a bit heavier and thicker than its predecessor, the killer visuals, 4G/LTE capability, and English, French, German and Japanese dictation tools should keep Apple consumers happy.


Letters, words, radicals, characters, alphabets, hieroglyphs... One of the most impressive things human beings have developed is, no doubt, language. And written language is particularly fascinating. I've always thought Linguistics would be a very interesting field of study, but you certainly don't have to be a professional linguist to marvel over words and language. A very cool sculpture by Ron Ulicny made up of scrabble cubes makes me think of the literal building blocks we use to create language and express thoughts. Information boiled down to its fundamental components.

spew, 2011.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Big Brother Google

Last week on March 1st, Google changed their privacy policy, a change that applied to all of their products and services. The technical specifics of the policy revision can be a little dense, unless you're used to reading legal jargon, so over on Pleated-Jeans, Jeff Wysaski made a "short and sweet" version for the rest of us.

According to Jeff, "For the record, only the first two are actually true."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Vennesla Library

A stunning and unique library space, the Vennesla Library and Culture House in Vennesla, Norway, has received lots of press about its original and innovative design, its open atmosphere, and its constructional and operational sustainability.

Admittedly, I usually have a more traditional taste in library architecture, but the Vennesla Library looks so bright and inviting--it's simultaneously open, even cavernous, and intimate (see the little reading nooks in the lower right corner?). I always enjoy seeing new library spaces--they are a reminder to the community that libraries are alive and flourishing.

Check out the links for many more photos of the new library.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book jackets

An interesting article I bookmarked some time ago, but never had time to properly read. That's what spring break is for.

Michael Dirda reviews a book entitled Book-Jackets: Their History, Forms, and Use, by G. Thomas Tanselle, and discusses some of the history of book jackets. Apparently early "slipcovers" date back to the 1820s, though it wasn't until the 1870s that they were common artifacts. It seems that the graphic possibilities of the dust jacket were exploited beginning in the 1910s. The original "paper wrappers" were for primarily protective purposes, but soon covers were also incorporating descriptions and endorsements.

As Dirda says, "Jackets are vexing. Should you read books with their jackets on or off? Should research libraries stop removing jackets from their open-shelf books? Should I just stop worrying about things like this and buy an e-book reader?" I tend to take the dust jacket off when I read a book, and for some jackets I remove them permanently (like Mary GrandPre's Harry Potter book covers--both for sentimental reasons and because they are such exquisite works of art). But with the aid of mylar protectors, I don't see why libraries shouldn't leave the covers on books. As Dirda mentions, there is something romantic about scholarly shelves of leather and cloth bound volumes, but simply discarding a book's jacket is not a solution. Tanselle suggests cataloging and preservation as an option for libraries who wish to display books without their jackets. Dust jackets can tell a lot about a book, and Tanselle and Dirda both regret the fact that so few early jackets have survived. Many probably don't truly consider book jackets as an important part of the book itself, but for their artistic merit, as well as for the contextual and historical value they can contribute, they certainly deserve the attention Tanselle gives them in his book.

Nature's space

Library, 2007 by Lori Nix
Nix is a "non-traditional" photographer who constructs her subject matter in miniature form instead of taking it from life around us. This image is part of a series called The City, a futuristic imagining of our world without one key component: us. The act of Nature reclaiming the cityscape both hints at past destruction and exudes a sort of present peace.

As I begin a week of no classes, a week of spring break, I find myself longing for the stillness, the silence, and the serenity of this gorgeous photograph.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Belated Happy Leap Day

Missed February 29th completely. After my midterm I promptly sat down in a very Herminone-like behavior to check my test answers, but stopped after the first two I looked up were wrong. Last night I dreamed about facets for the second time this week. I'm approximately three classes behind on half my readings. The section that messed up the grade for a team project we just got back was one that I wrote. I nodded off in my favorite class and I'm 100% sure the professor noticed. The twitch in my eye is back and I'm afraid may be permanent. My job search is floundering. I have a pounding headache.


It's finally spring break! =)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Midterm limerick

Just checking in to say...
I have no time to blog today.


Without any rest I sit writing
My sleepiness constantly fighting.
One project tomorrow,
A midterm will follow,
Spring Break never looked so exciting.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Beautiful and sad at the same time. An abandoned library in Russia.

It is awful to see books treated this way, but don't they almost look like they are waiting for something?

A few more pictures from the library here; though I can't seem to find much of anything about the where, when, or why.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Classification warfare

As my head tries to wrap itself around the complexities of categorization and classification, I find that latching on to concrete examples in my readings is one of the best ways of making things stick. Over time, standardized systems of classification have been developed to aid in finding and retrieving information and resources. Inevitably, when there are numerous systems there are also overlapping systems: multiple ways of classifying or describing the same things. One obvious example of this is the friendly competition between the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) and the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) both of which are used to classify books. The overlap here is mostly resolved by the fact that DDC is mostly found in school and public libraries, while LCC is the preferred system in academic and research libraries. However, the debate certainly isn't just two dimensional. Internationally there are many different standardized forms of classification for library books, and crossing into the commercial sector, again you will find distinct methods for recording and describing books in the publishing industry and book market. One of these systems is known as the Book Industry Standards Advisory Committee (BISAC) classification scheme, which was designed to encourage consistency among book placement in retail stores to make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for.

When Google began their great digitization project, many academics were upset to learn that Google planned to classify books in their new digital collection by the BISAC system instead of LCC. Scholars felt that the BISAC categories where less specific and less useful. Some suspected Google of having financial ambitions with future plans to establish ties to the electronic book market. "In the words of UC Berkeley Professor Geoffrey Nunberg, 'In short, Google has taken a group of the world's great research collections and returned them in the form of a suburban-mall bookstore'" (Nunberg, 2009 in Hemerly, 2012).

And what has Google recently unveiled but their very own Google eBookstore. From a Google Books profile, there is a prominent "BUY EBOOK" icon above even the title of the book. In addition to the unmissable Google eBookstore plug, Google also provides links to print sellers of the book. Going back to the eBookstore, where might one find free eBooks? (Since Google's initial mission was to build a digital library after all.) The answer is all the way at the very bottom of the homepage. With this obvious commercial mindset Google Books seems to be drifting further from the library model the project began with and the original ideals that brought Google into partnerships with organizations like the Library of Congress and the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Over the last few years, Google has become a giant in the book industry; based on their current activities, I think it's reasonable to be a little concerned about where they will lead us from here.

Hemerly, Jess. 2012. Classification. In Glushko, R. (Ed.) The Discipline of Organizing.

Monday, February 20, 2012

President's Day

The real meaning of President's Day:

"It’s the law that on Presidents’ Day, the kids who go to school dressed as their favourite presidents get a big bag of candy."

Read the whole story over at Neil Gaiman's tumblr.

From the wonderful world of Anansi Boys.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

When the only thing I know how to do is read...

I thought this clip was pretty funny. I love Sheska's rant about being fired from the library because she read too much. And it's kind of pathetic and cute at the same time that she doesn't think she has any skills aside from reading. I admit I've had this same fear myself: what am I equipped to do in the real world when the only thing I'm good at is reading books? Poor Sheska. It's easy to get distracted around all those books and forget that there are other things you're actually supposed to be doing as a librarian.

Unfortunately we aren't all gifted with photographic memories.

From FullMetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Episode 07.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Choreography

I have always been a big fan of stop motion animation, and this video is a fun, imaginative, and colorful look at the secret life of books: what happens after we turn out the light, close the door, and turn the key.

"There's nothing quite like reading a book."

Via Colossal.

Mozart Schmozart

"Glenn Schellenberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, says that there is no Mozart effect. Any number of experiences besides listening to music might improve cognition. Most people find the music of Mozart pleasant to listen to, and it might increase dopamine levels in the brain, which is generally thought to improve cognition. But “eating chocolate might have the same effect,” Schellenberg says."

I was kind of sad to read this; I always liked the concept of the 'Mozart effect.' Though I do agree 100% with Schellenberg's other comment that eating chocolate may improve cognition. That's certainly always been my experience.

Maybe there isn't anything particularly enlightening about Mozart's compositions, but the article agrees that music in general can boost brain function; it's all about listening to what makes you happy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tree of Codes Pt. 2

It's really hard to describe Tree of Codes, it's the sort of thing you really have to see to understand completely--well actually you really need to feel it. But this video gives a very interesting glimpse of the process required to produce the book.

The book itself is so fragile; it's quite an engineering feat that they were able to pull the whole thing off! I've always been a fan of "behind the scenes" features on the world of filmmaking, but I think this was the first time I saw an equivalent inside look at the publishing industry.

And this next video is just for fun: reactions to the book from people on the street!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tree of Codes

Painstakingly cut from the fabric of an English translation of Polish author Bruno Schulz's work, The Street of Crocodiles, Tree of Codes is a unique and compelling novel of dark poetry and heartbreak by Jonathan Safran Foer. The book follows the “luminous journey” of the protagonist as he searches for independence and the ability to cope with his father's madness and death (p. 84). The storyline is primarily an interior examination of a deteriorating life, and Foer explores what happens when the fine line between internal psyche and external reality grows even finer as nightmares climb out of dreams to enter the real world. Fans of Foer's earlier work, such as Everything is Illuminated, will recognize his introspective tone, and Tree of Codes also shares his earlier interest in the intimacies of family dynamics.

The coolest thing about the book is probably its experimental structure which wholeheartedly embraces the physicality of books: format and content are beautifully and inseparably linked through a seldom used die-cut technique. Foer has literally carved away Schulz's words to create a new story out of their pieces; because of this method the text is quite light on each individual page, but another consequence is that the sentences, though often short, are spaced irregularly and are not always straightforward or easy to follow. A phrase, such as “the calendar is a moment, a colorful lie,” spread out across the page may deliver a powerful visual or sensation, but its meaning is more difficult to interpret in the context of the plot (p. 122). Another effect of the physical form of the book is the visual depth created through the die-cuts; between the cut-outs in each page, a glimpse of the words to come is revealed. And even though these previews might not make any literal sense, they still set the tone of the novel by foreshadowing emotions and images to come. The beautiful poetical language and metaphorical details are some of the signature aspects found in Tree of Codes. Foer's construction of “dialogue swollen with darkness” often reads like poetry, and it is not only his choice of words, but also his use of blank space that contributes to the complex and sophisticated style; in the novel Foer writes that “the silence talked,” and so too does Foer find a way to speak through the emptiness on the page (p. 14).

The novel has received a lot of mixed reviews since it came out a little more than a year ago: some critics hailing it as genius and others degrading Foer to an English grad student with an exacto blade and a recycled idea. While genius is a bold term to assign to anyone, I'm tempted to say that in this case, Foer deserves it. The book is just plain cool. And if Foer owes a lot to the beautiful language of The Street of Crocodiles and Bruno Schulz, he has still created an unusual visual artifact and through it given us an extraordinary reading experience.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bench of Thought

Another stylish piece of literary furniture perfect for a cozy reading room.

Spanish artist Alvaro Tamarit (fyi: site is in Spanish) created this functional sculpture entitled Bench of Thought (Banco del Pensamiento).

Via Recyclart.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Deborah Barreau

“Everyone is indispensable.”

~Deborah Barreau
July 9, 1949 - February 10, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Metadata's Social Consequences

Continuing on yesterday's theme of the everyday person pitted against the information professional, I came across this example in a reading for class.

"In the mid-2000s, the Chinese government began a process of modernizing nationality identity cards, which required storing citizens’ names in a computerized database (Lafraniere, 2009). Given the wide breadth of characters in Chinese, the people implementing the system decided to limit the characters that could be used. The implementation covered over 32,000 of the 55,000 characters in the language, leaving many characters out of the system.

"The result of this simple decision about what information could be stored had a significant impact: some people had names with obscure characters that could not be entered into the new government database. For many people, the best alternative was to change their names to something the system could handle. In this case, metadata had a social consequence" (p. 14).

When the authority (in this case the Chinese government) creates a system that isn't able to adequately meet its users' needs, the users are the ones who suffer but the designer of the system is the one at fault. At first glance this situation seems pretty crazy; a government identification system that forces people to change their very names because it can't deal with unusual or obscure words! But then you realize, wait, that actually seems a little familiar... because a lot of "difficult" names were changed when immigrants arrived in the US more than a century ago. As information professionals, of course it's important to build accurate, usable, and consistent systems, but the most efficient system in the world is not a good one if it does its users a disservice.

Greenberg, Ryan, Kimra McPherson, and Matthew Mayernik. (2010). Metadata: Storing Descriptions. In The Discipline of Organizing, edited by Robert J Glushko.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


An entertaining video from Xtranormal

by: j.weinheimer

The video is a little long, but it's an amusing perspective on the user--librarian information gap and the importance of maintaining a user-centered mindset. It demonstrates the problem that's probably at the root of a lot of the issues people have with libraries today. Library users and librarians think about library materials, and how to organize, arrange, and describe them, very differently.

It is still important to keep track of the intrinsic "details" of a book--to some extent at least--which includes basic semi-invisible metadata like publisher, page count, ISBN number, etc. But we also have to keep track of the details that are meaningful to users, things such as table of contents, illustrations, and plot summaries. Making everyone happy may result in a lot of information to log into library catalogs and bookstore databases, but if everyone is able to find and use the information that they are looking for, wouldn't it be worth it? And with the capabilities and independence of automated processes increasing, it may not be that much work after all.

P.S. What is FRBR? FRBR stands for "Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records," and is an entity-relationship model developed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions that defines a vocabulary rule set for library catalogers. Under FRBR, an item is an exemplar of a manifestation which is an embodiment of an expression which is a realization of a work. They even have a blog.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Lindsey Schell’s chapter on e-books in academic libraries in No Shelf Required discusses many of the challenges and issues that arise when a library decides to allocate a portion of their collection space and financial budget to e-books. Despite the licensing headaches, e-book format restrictions, ILL ineligibility, strict Digital Rights Management enforcement, and occasional patron resistance, it’s undeniable that e-books are here to stay, and it is up to university librarians to overcome these challenges and successfully incorporate e-resources into our existing and often long developed academic collections.

Schell’s case studies were interesting examples of the trial and error technique many university libraries are implementing to come to grips with the e-book situation. The University of Texas at Austin and Penn State have each tried to integrate e-books into academic library settings by targeting specific types of books or specific users. For example, one of the groups Penn State targeted for their Sony Reader experiment was Honors English students. Schell indicates that literature classes are a popular choice of a potential user base for e-resources since “assignments may focus on close reading” and students could benefit from “keyword and proximity searches for textual analysis” (p. 80). In general, Penn State’s study found that many students appreciated the e-reader’s capabilities, despite complaints of battery issues, slow refresh times, and a lack of highlighting and annotating features.

I don't own an e-reader, though I've definitely benefited from using e-books for research--it's undeniably faster to simply click on a link and have the whole book at your fingertips, than to have to go to the library and crawl the stacks to find one title you think might be useful (I won't go into the downside of limited digital browsing options here). But I still have some doubts when it comes to the use of e-books for pleasure reading. Recently I have read a couple of e-books "for fun" and while admittedly they were PDFs read on my computer, I didn't really find I was inspired to join the e-reader movement.

After reading a print version of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (I heard a lot about it over Christmas break and decided it was time I went ahead and read it) I was having trouble finding the sequels in print at the local libraries and so opted for e-versions. Then I read the graphic novel/manga series Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa. While both series had great stories, interesting characters, and were quite enjoyable to read, the only extra thing I got from reading them in e-book format was a persistent eye twitch. Yes, easy access to the e-books was convenient, but all in all, I think I'd rather have read them in print.

That said, e-books are still very new. Right now there may not be a lot of added benefit from choosing an e-version over print, but who knows what innovations and improvements are right around the corner? It seems like the future of e-books will likely hold even more challenges and issues than the ones Schell outlines in her chapter, but as the technology continues to develop, the opportunities e-books create are sure to keep growing as well.

Schell, Lindsey. (2011). Chapter Five: The Academic Library E-book. In Polanka, S. (Ed.), No Shelf
. Chicago: American Library Association.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


It's refreshing to read scholarly articles whose authors aren't above using a touch of humor. Phillip Armour's writing is clear, concise, and entertaining as he writes about aspects of project planning and management that often come with unrealistic expectations.

"According to the late Joseph Campbell a myth is not, as we may think, untrue. A myth is something
that is extremely true. It is the essence of truth dressed up in an allegorical costume that helps us remember its lesson. If a myth is truth packaged in a fabrication, then something that appears perfectly
reasonable but is, in essence, wrong would be an “unmyth” (p. 15).

Information Science context aside, I really like this idea that a myth is truthful at its heart. Myths are metaphors: imaginative illustrations to help us understand and cope with reality.

Armour goes on to talk about how the idea of an "accurate estimate" is an oxymoron, though it is certainly possible to make a "lucky estimate." And how designing a "defect free" system is an impossible goal since "we cannot test thoroughly for things we don’t know we don’t know," the "Second Order Ignorance" phenomenon (p. 18).

Though it may not seem the most "scholarly" of articles, Armour's readability makes his points meaningful and, maybe most importantly, memorable. I appreciate (and sometimes even enjoy) the challenge of reading a particularly dense and difficult article, but I'm glad when professors are open to assigning the lighter ones too. They also can have value and often, I've noticed, spark the most interesting discussions among students.

Armour, P. (2002). Ten unmyths of project estimation. Communications of the ACM, 45(11), 15-18.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Yet another reason to be a Google employee

The latest news from Google is that they have filed for a special experimental license to test a new Wi-Fi "entertainment device" in employee homes. According to the report, the product "requires testing outside the laboratory environment" and will involve syncing into home WiFi networks while utilizing "Bluetooth to connect to other home electronics equipment." Whatever it is will be tested between January and July 2012 in Google employee homes ranging from California to Massachusetts.

If working in the Googleplex complete with five star meals, beanbag chair style meeting rooms, and slides to get you from one floor to the next weren't sweet enough, now you might also get to test out the latest top secret electronics...

Google HQ in Mountain View, CA

Friday, February 3, 2012

Unique shelves

Bookshelves. Something you find in probably almost every house, apartment, and dorm room across America. Usually not the most decorative piece of furniture in the room; an item that is owned more for its utility than its visual appearance. And there's nothing wrong with that, since the books that the shelves hold are, after all, the main event. But there's no law that says your bookshelf can't be a little bit more interesting...

Not all bookshelves have to be made of wood (or fake wood-like substances). They don't even need to stick to one wall.

If you're running low on space, look for unexpected places to store all those books you accumulated in grad school. How about the ceiling?

 Or what about a bookshelf that doubles as a door?

 (I like the way it isn't really trying to be a "hidden door" bookcase, rather the bookshelves are just an additional element built into an ordinary door.)

And probably my favorite: bookshelf staircase!!

Here's another (maybe slightly more practical) variation:

But practicality is overrated more times than not. I wonder if you could somehow merge the two designs together...

It's definitely decided. I don't have enough bookshelves in my life.