Friday, April 22, 2011

"I'm so glad we had this time together."

Or as they used to say on the airline skit on SNL, "OK, buh-BYE." If you're actually one of the 3 or 4 people who pay any attention at all to this self-indulgent glimpse into the carefully crafted public image I allow to represent what's going on inside my head, you might be wondering what's been happening here. For a few weeks now my co-workers have been in pursuit of self-improvement (oh, and CE credits) by completing a series of "23 Things" designed to help them develop new skills with technology. I'm a little handicapped in this effort since it takes a bit of effort beyond the assignments to feel like I've actually learned something. So, the preceding series of posts is largely my effort to take seriously the challenge of expanding my skills. At the same time, I wanted to try to offer something that might be useful or enlightening to anyone who might inexplicably find themselves here and decide to hang out for longer than it takes to type in the address bar.

So now, having completed the 22 actual "Things" I'm left with Thing 23, reflection on the experience. I have two conclusions.

1. Technology is constantly evolving. Even a service like Flickr that I've been freeloading off of for years (I refuse to pay for it so I live with the 200 picture limit) is continually developing new features and changing the way the site works. So the work of staying caught up with that sort of technology is never finished. I can see why for some people that's not inspiring. In a place like a library that's built on the philosophical foundation that "knowledge is power" no one can really afford to sit still.

2. There's something significant to be said for the effect that shared experience has on people. I've seen the success of the "23 Things" concept first hand now and can attest that it had a positive impact on workplace morale that exceeded what I would have expected. Listening to people talk about their own experiences, they don't necessarily first mention how useful that database is or how handy that newsletter is. Instead, they talk about the people that helped them complete the exercises, the encouragement they got from others, or the courage they found in knowing that everyone was in it together. I don't think you can separate the value of those two experiences--the learning and the bonding. That combination is what makes it so difficult for online learning to measure up to classroom-based education, and it's why we all tend to end up being true to our school.

Congratulations to everyone who completed 23 Things. Thank you to the committee and sub-committee that made it happen. Now what?


Don't know what to read next? Try Novelist.

Novelist is a subscription service from EbscoHost that many public libraries offer to their registered users. It provides a number of ways to search for titles that you might enjoy, maybe because other people liked them, maybe because they're similar to other books that you liked, or perhaps because you're looking for something totally different from what you've been reading.

My favorite way to use Novelist is to put in a title that I really liked, and then look at the genre, subject, and location descriptors to see which things appealed to me the most. Then I use those for locating a new author or a related book, or maybe to branch out to something that I hadn't paid much attention to before. One author I discovered this way is Mayra Montero. She's a Cuban writer who I found on Novelist by starting my search with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I've read several of her books and found each to be engaging and well written. Set in Caribbean tropical locales they contain intrigue and I feel immersed in a culture totally different from my own. She writes in Spanish and I think the translations were done by Edith Grossman, who has also translated Garcia Marquez. Montero's book In the Palm of Darkness is about a biologist searching for a near-extinct species of tree frog in a rain forest. It's a great introduction to her work for someone who's never given her a try.

If you have Louisville Free Public Library card, you can access Novelist from the Research Tools page.


Bookletters: they're like letters about books.

One under-appreciated service provided by many public libraries, including Louisville Free Public Library, is Bookletters, a collection of email newsletters that you can subscribe to. They vary in subject matter and frequency, but they all contain short descriptions about new or important books and a link back to your local public library catalog so you can check the catalog or place a hold request. I'm personally subscribed to the non-fiction Bookletter. It seems to me that this are really useful for library users who want to find something new to read. It's more informative than a simple list since you get descriptions, book jackets, etc. but briefer than a full review. And if I were still working the reference desk I'd be browsing these to know what people were going to be coming in looking for. Two of the most useful newsletters for that purpose have to be the "Book Sizzle" and "Books on the Air" Bookletters, which highlight the titles that are getting attention in the press or whose Authors have been making the rounds on popular TV talk shows.


"What can a rebuttal do to an incantation?"

Abraham Lincoln was more intellectual than you've ever been told. The Gettysburg Address was more thoughtfully and carefully prepared than you've ever understood. And its impact was at least as enormous as you've always thought it was.

I recently saw Black Swan at the cinema. And as good as that movie is, I wonder if it's hard to make a movie when you have Tchaikovsky's lush Swan Lake score as the musical backdrop for whatever is happening on the screen. Not to take anything away from the actors who did a first rate job in their respective roles, or the director who created some stunning visual images. But wouldn't you really also have enjoyed listening to the soundtrack while watching an unedited live webcam pointed out onto Central Park?

Likewise, I imagine it's hard to write a bad essay if you get to quote Lincoln's Gettysburg Address repeatedly. But Garry Wills has gone beyond that. In Lincoln at Gettysburg he's accomplished a couple of things that as a geeky historian type I find thrilling. First, he's explained exactly what the Gettysburg Address was and what it was not (for instance, it was NOT the keynote address of the day--that was a long-winded and best-left-forgotten speech by Edward Everett). And second, he's explained WHY it has become what it is for Americans--essentially a post-war (post Civil War, in case there's confusion about that) re-commitment to the principles of our nation's founding. But it was also a work of rhetorical genius that resulted from President Lincoln's intellect and learning. Not exactly the story as widely understood in American popular mythology. This is an important book, worthy of the Pulitzer Prize it won in 1993. Now time-tested, it's still a great read that will change how you look at Lincoln, how you hear the words and phrases of the Gettysburg Address, and how you view the last 150 years of American history.


In one ear and out the other?

Learn French by Podcast? I don't see how it could possibly work any less well than any of the other ways I've tried to learn a foreign language. And it wasn't wasted time really, since even if I'm still functionally uni-linugal, I can rock some crossword puzzles and occasionally figure out what I'm ordering at a French restaurant without having to say something like, "now what exactly are 'poissons?'"

So, I'm a "fan" of podcasts, but not so much a consumer of podcasts. That is, I've listened to some, and in one case even helped mount and "produce" one. But I've never been motivated enough or organized enough to actually have my itunes and my ipod conspire together to produce an ongoing body of work for me to listen to. So I still do podcasts the old fashioned way, by going to the site and getting the one I want and listening to it. I'll call it an area for future growth and leave it at that for now.

As for that podcast I helped produce? That would be the newly launched series of podcasts from the Louisville Free Public Library. Only one entry now, but more coming soon. Details? You can find those at iTunes, or here:


Interesting? Maybe I hope not.

I had a professor on my thesis committee who used to "encourage" us never to describe anything as "interesting." He called that particular adjective a "non-word" that doesn't really describe whatever you're talking about. So his direction was to actually decide what it was you wanted to say, and say that instead. Over time I came to believe he was completely right about that. With that in mind, here's an interesting book that you can download from and listen to, in only 7 hours and 34 minutes. Well, you can download it and listen to it if you have an LFPL library card and an mp3 player (or, I suppose, a computer would do too.)


Eternal Chalice: the Grail in Literature and Legend
Modern Scholar; Unabridged.
by Potkay, Monica Brzezinski.
Publication: Prince Frederick, MD, [Boulder, Colo Recorded Books, 2007.
Subject: Grail.
Grail in motion pictures.
Downloadable audio books.
Language: English
Duration: 7 Hours 34 Minutes
Product ID: 186125
EISBN: 9781429457613
ISBN: 9781428116764
File Size: 155 MB (CD Quality)


An interesting video? Yeah!

The "100% accurate" Louisville Youth Orchestra opening for My Morning Jacket at the Yum! Center on October 29, 2010. (15)


A Couple of Nice RSS feeds

If you want to keep track of new DVDs that have been added to the Library's collection, there's an RSS feed for that. You can find the RSS feed here. So, I added that to my Google reader feeds. There's a great selection of discs that includes Criterion collection movies, documentaries and PBS-type shows.

I also added a feed to the Library Renewal site. If you haven't gotten to know it, you might want to give it a look. Library Renewal is a group of library supporters, workers, and activists who are fostering dialogue about changes in the publishing industry and the effects of those changes on libraries. Their site is at

(13 & 14)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Round Up

Lucky photo of a ride at the Kentucky State Fair. ISO 100, f3.2, .25sec, 9mm.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ól, ceol, bia agus craic

For good food you can't beat tapas at The Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville. They're only open Thursday - Saturday evenings, from 7:00 pm until 10 or 11:00. Wine list and full bar, plus a variety of meat and veggie tapas and outstanding pizzas.

Need something good to listen to? How about some Arturo Sandoval. Try the free music player at Even people who think they don't like jazz are going to find their hips starting to move when they hear what this guy is doing.

And if you need to slow it down and read a good book while you're sitting on a beach or at poolside, for Summer reading I highly recommend Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez. This is a novella about demonic possession or intellectual obsession, or both. Beautifully translated from the original Spanish, it's a lyrical and mesmerizing storytelling turn from one of the great masters of our era.

[Insert non sequitur about wikis here:]
I can see where wikis can be really useful in some settings, and I've actually used and helped create at least one for that sort of thing. But I am one of those old fogeys who also doesn't think that a wiki is quite right for some endeavors. I don't think that the so-called wisdom of the collective mind is the equal in terms of authority and expertise a credentialed, focused, peer-reviewed body of research.

(18 - 19 -- in case you couldn't tell.)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

So much information, so little time.

There are so many resources available through local public libraries these days. From the web site of my own local library I have access to a complete online "library" of useful and valuable material. There's Morningstar, the searchable New York Times, and full text of thousands of magazine and newspaper articles. The Heritage Quest database has Census records up to the 1920 census--no more wandering around looking for the exact reel of microfilm you need. And I also really like the Novelist site for those "What book should I read now?" kinds of questions. And the thing is, that without a library card you can't get to any of that content. But with a card, it's all free and accessible from home. It's like something out of science fiction.

What do I wish more people knew about?

What would I keep before everything else?
That's a really hard question, but the thing that seems most useful and hardest to duplicate in print are the full-text magazine and journal databases like Ebsco Academic Search premier. In addition to academic journal content, it also includes full text from things like "Smithsonian" and "People Magazine."


If this makes no sense to you, then ignore it.

It's a work thing:

10b: 3-18-2008, 4
10c: Telos, no; Brit Journal, yes (Ebsco Acad Search Prem., FT with 12 mo delay); Clin. Medicine, yes (Ebsco Acad Search Prem., FT from 2004-).
11a: Duane F. Kelly; B; 4-stars
11b: Yes, from Ebsco Masterfile Premier, from August 2009. (Probably ought to be something that references C-R on the Consumer Info page.)
11c: I found 94. You'll probably want to select another specialty.
Highland Coffee will annihilate you.
12: See above

Facebook? Nobody goes there anymore . . . it's too crowded.

The more people there are in a place, the less attention anyone pays to people. This seems to be as true in virtual places as anywhere else. Facebook has been a really powerful thing for me since it has helped me renew some friendships with friends that I'd lost touch with and even some family members that I don't see very often. But over time, and especially over the last few months, it's become increasingly difficult to maintain interest and devote energy to keeping up with it. There's a reason why before Facebook we didn't stay in touch with everyone we ever knew. In fact, there are a lot of reasons. So, I'll be watching to see what happens with Facebook now.

Twitter? Well, what can be said about Twitter that hasn't already been said? I read or was told by someone once that Twitter was where you followed the people you wanted to know, and Facebook was where you followed the people you do know. I can see that being a useful way to use the two sites together to be better informed and better connected personally and professionally. But like Facebook, it reached a saturation point for me where there's maybe a 25% chance I'll see something posted to Twitter by someone I follow. Unless of course they happen to be one of a very small group of people whose posts to Twitter I have forwarded to my cell phone. So, if I don't ever look at what they've posted on Twitter, am I really "following" 200 people? I don't think so.

That said, for an organization like a library or a university or even a small local business, Twitter can be a power tool for maintaining public awareness and communicating with customers or your community. So at this point in the evolution of the two, I'd say Twitter is the more useful to me as a one-to-many way of keeping in touch with a sort of "inner circle" of people, and as a way for that smaller group of people to share things with each other that they pick up from elsewhere.

So that's it. Nothing creative or insightful here, just an assignment completed and some thoughts recorded. I'll be back in a few weeks to delete this post.

(5 - 7)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

My Flickr Bicker

I've had an account on for a really long time--so long I don't really know how long. The oldest picture I have on there is from 2006 . For backing up, sharing, and ordering prints of photos I usually use Google's Picasa web service. Recently I had occasion to revisit Flickr as part of a staff-training exercise where I work. Here's what I was reminded of.

I like the layout and features of Flickr better. And there are people I know who use it and that I have connections too. And they've really evolved some great tools that I wasn't aware of like the ability to search for photos based on geography. So, if I like it so much, why no just use it? Well, because Google is free. I've got about 175 photos up on Flickr. From time to time I'll go through and clean out the ones I'm tired of, and upload some different ones. Because unless you pay for Flickr you can only upload 200 photos. Technically, that's not correct. You can upload more than 200--you just can't actually view them. And isn't that the point after all? I'm not sure why Flickr has stuck with the archaic 200 item limitation for their free accounts. I guess the business model is successful enough that they can. But I don't care. I want to upload more than 200 photos. Even if there's still a limit, 200 just isn't enough. And I know they won't listen, but that isn't the point of a gripe session anyway. So, flickr, loosen up on the disk space and let me upload more than 200 photos for free.

(8 & 9)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Google Apps

Google continues to expand its reach in the online realm. And today's New York Times carries a story about yet another ambitious Google undertaking that has terrific potential. Google Art is a new project that offers access to collections and even interior views of Art Museums from around the world. You can read the article from the Times by clicking this link, or you can see it for yourself at