31.12.04

Year-End Thoughts

I'm not a maths person by any stretch of the imagination, but I can read some stats and interpret them.

For example, I'm really pleased to see that the readers of this blog are not all MSIE users: 34% of you perfer some other browser (and, really, for the 66% of you that are still using MSIE all I can say is WHY???? Try Firefox. Really. It's so much better.)

Another stat that pleases me is the number of returning visitors. There are 19 of you that have visited over 10 times! Quite possibly that number is higher, but some of you may have your cookies off and appear as new visitors each time. In either case, thank you. Even though you don't comment regularly (if at all), knowing that someone is reading this makes me happy. I hope I don't disappoint you in 2005.

In the "imponderable" category is the 25% of viewers that are not from America. I think that's because of Blogger's "next blog" function, and because of skewed search results. Still, bienvenue, wilkommen, néih hóu and czesc.

Happy 2005 to all!

29.12.04

R.I.P.

Jerry Orbach, Star of 'Law & Order,' Dies. Usually, when a star of this magnitude dies, there's a call for a marathon of his works; my morbidly inappropriate sense of humour recognizes how redundant that would be. Just yesterday I was watching Dirty Dancing and admiring him in the role of Daddy.

My fondest memory is of him in Chicago. Years later, watching James Naughton in the same role, with the same choreography, I missed Orbach's twinkle. I think I'll listen to the CD of the original cast, and maybe follow it up with the cast album of Carnival.

He will be missed.

Next Step

Now that you've taken the time to clean your computer's HD, it's time to tackle that new bugaboo, "information overload" (aka "data smog", aka "info obesity"). Librarian in Black recommends this survey: Assessing and Addressing Information Overload.

Good luck!

Ponderables

I found this sig file on one of the listservs I frequent:

An optimist is a person who does crossword puzzles with a ballpoint pen.

Now, most of the people that know me would say that I am not an optimist. Yet I do crossword puzzles (NYT, WSJ, G&M) with a pen - sometimes ballpoint, sometimes fountain, sometimes whatever comes to hand. Do I now have to reconsider my outlook on life?

28.12.04

Personal Outrage

I'm adopted. And even if I weren't, this "concept" for a reality show would disgust me. 'Who's Your Daddy?' TV show sparks fury The best thing that could happen is that no one will watch, but I fear that people will, much as they watch car accidents and other disasters. Bread and circuses, folks, bread and circuses.

27.12.04

Give your computer a holiday gift

Clean it up - do a full virus check, defrag your hard drive, etc.. Then go to Corey Seeman -- Resources for a Healthy Computer for free ways to keep it clean and running smooth.

26.12.04

These poor people

The news from Asia is just horrific. God help them and their loved ones.

UPDATE: For "you are there" reports, check out 2bangkok.com's blog or go here for a good round-up of the news/blog postings. (þ: Jeff Jarvis)

24.12.04

Links Galore

  • You know that song in that commercial, the one you really like but can't figure out who sings it or where to find it? Check out Adtunes.com - they'll have the answer.
  • Of course, there are a lot of fake bands out there, so you better double check. As the site says, "[f]inally, all the fictional bands and singers from TV and movies listed in one convenient, scarily obsessive place. Why? It's the Internet, stupid! The Internet was created for such things as this!" (þ: Research Buzz)
  • If you celebrate Christmas, tomorrow (or Sunday) is the day when you start to thank people for their generosity. Before you do, take a few moments to check your handwriting against the best available.
  • Some of us don't use Google as our everyday search engine. Which means we miss the Google Doodles. Lucikly, we can go here to catch up! (How long will it take for Coke to claim infringement?!)
  • Finally, a little something to make you feel completely stupid.
Merry Christmas!

21.12.04

If you haven't given yet...

Earlier there was a bit of a to-do about Target's saying "no" to all solicitations, including the annual Salvation Army drive. There's also been a whole "buy blue" thing happening, in which people that vote "blue" are supposed to buy from companies that support "blue" causes (for example, Powells is preferable to Amazon).

Now, here's a conundrum: Walmart, a huge "red" supporter, has come to the Salvation Army's aid:Wal-Mart's Salvation Army save (þ: Major Dad 1984). So, what do "blues" do? Here's my suggestion: forget the blue/red crap (for a great rant on that topic, go read Aravis' blog). People aren't one or the other, and neither are corporations.

Give to Sally A. and feel good about it.

'Nuff said.

Tis the eternal season

According to the newsletter I get from Encyclopedia Brittannica:
One of the most common gifts of all is the toy. The ball, the doll, the kite, and the yo-yo are thought to be the oldest playthings, and human and animal figures -- sometimes mounted on wheels and dating as far back as 2,600 BCE -- have been found in ancient Egypt, India, China, and Mesopotamia.
So give in to your inner child, give a toy (to yourself even!) and just let the wonders of the gift-giving season take over.

20.12.04

Notable Quotes

Christmas Amnesty. You can fall out of contact with a friend, fail to return calls, ignore e-mails, avoid eye contact at the Thrifty Mart, forget birthdays, anniversaries and reunions, and if you show up at their house during the holidays (with a gift) they are socially bound to forgive you -- act like nothing happened. Decorum dictates that the friendship move forward from that point, without guilt or recrimination.
The Stupidest Angel, Christopher Moore

17.12.04

Links Galore

15.12.04

So many books... Part Two

At first I thought that using GalleyCat's analysis of the "Best of 2004 Fiction Lists" might be a good way to sort the wheat from the chaff. Then I noticed the Philip Roth led the list, with 23 mentions. I hate Roth's work. However, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is second with 20 mentions, and I liked that book. So I guess it's a toss-up. Still, it's a good collection development tool.

Imponderables

From the Floor reports that Thomas Kinkade has acquired the rights to Maurizio Cattelan. Why does this strike me as not the best mix?

So many books...

As the holidays grow nearer and I look at Mt. Bookpile to determine what I'll read during my upcoming Break, some thoughts about reading crossed my mind. In part, they were inspired by a post by OGIC on About Last Night entitled "The Five Hundred Twenty". In it , she quotes from another blog and then comments:
My financial adviser informs me that I must die when I am 87 because I will run out of money at that point. So, assuming she is right, at two books a month I will read only 520 books more in my lifetime. Do I want to waste one of those precious allotments on an award-winning book that I find neither enjoyable nor enlightening? I do not.

My own expected number of books-yet-to-be-read is higher than 520. But that doesn't make it any less stark, wherever it may fall. This is why I want to know if Critic X didn't think a book was the best of the year as reputed, and why I don't want critics to pull their punches. It doesn't mean I implicitly trust any one critic's judgment (well, maybe Wood's, tried and true), but, like Marjorie, I do want as much varied input as possible, and I want critics to write with readers, not authors, in mind. The 2003 Booker showed me that awards committees can be every bit as fallible as critics; I hasten to add that the converse is also true. All we can ask of each is frank and searching judgment, and to please keep in mind the (shudder) 520.
Like OGIC, my total is above 520 (assuming I'll live to 87, that's another 44 book reading years and at my usual rate of about 100 books/year, I'll get 4400 in). That's books, which doesn't include magazines and newspapers, which I also read in quantity.

Now, 4400 sounds impressive - and it probably would be if I could guarantee that each of those books would be "quality" books. But, as I've mentioned earlier, some books are just disappointing. I don't judge quality by pages, or by good reviews, nor do I restrict my reading to serious literature/non-fiction. Genre fiction (particularly a good mystery) is just fine with me. Earlier this year I was introduced to a good YA/fantasy writer by one of my students and now I'm eagerly collecting the author's works. To me, that's quality: a book or author that leaves you wanting more, that gives you "earworms".

Still, I'm left feeling that if I've only got another 4400 books to read, there should be some criteria that will allow me to avoid the disappointing ones and concentrate my efforts on the really good stuff. Unfortunately, even the best of critics/recommenders and I diverge on occasion (the Confederacy of Dunces incident still rankles!). I'm also left wondering what on Mt. Bookpile should be gifted (or regifted) without being read... and if there's a way to organize them in a "read this first" order.

If you have ideas or helpful hints, please pass them along. I'm all eyes.

14.12.04

Doing your civic duty

This article about how you can Stop the Parents Television Council before it gets beyond the TV caught my attention. I'm not big on censorship and while I have advised people not to read/watch certain things, that is based on my knowing them and not on some blanket assumption that if I find it offensive/bad everyone else will.

All it takes is sending an e-mail to Michael Powell. And telling everyone you know to do so, too. Let him know that there are a lot of responsible people out there and that 350 members of the PTC shouldn't be allowed to judge what's best for the rest of us.

13.12.04

I haven't forgotten you

Yes, I know blogging has been slow recently. This Friday I start my Winter Break and I'm trying to get through a long list of "things that MUST be done" before I take some much needed rest. So, during this lull, check out some of the sites mentioned under "Daily Reads" and "Friends and Fun". I enjoy them, so why shouldn't you?

11.12.04

I'm so vain

Have you ever "googled" yourself? I just did. It's a little frightening to see nine-year-old messages appear (I posted to a professional listserv while doing an internship). It's also strange seeing others with your name. I've never thought of my name as being particularly unique, but it's not the most common of names or combinations. Yet there are three of "me" born in the 1800s. Another "me" is CEO of a corporation and an Amazon reviewer. Still another is a student. I'm the most popular "me" out there, though. Which is a good thing, right?

On the other hand, it makes me think that J.J. Luna's How to be Invisible should be the very next book off Mt. Bookpile!

10.12.04

Imponderables

Teen Accused of Robbing Own Sister at Shop.

She's back!

CoCo's Corner has returned. Go see what she has to say.

Links Galore

9.12.04

A propos of my Blog Thoughts posts

Martin from Chapel Hill has posted some questions for a Blog Ethics Analysis 2004. In essence, he's trying to figure out why we blog. Go help him figure this out. I plan to.

It's nice to be needed

I've been thinking quite a bit recently about technology, information, blogging, etc. and heard a great term for what I'm starting to feel - media obesity. In previous incarnations, this was known as "data smog" or "information overload". I think now, with the plethora of ways to get information, "media obesity" really fits what I'm feeling.

For example, I have DTV at home, with 200-300 channels. I have an iPod with 2500 songs (and more stored in my iTunes). I have a T1 connection at work that gives me fast access to the web (and however many gazillions of pages are available) and databases. While I'd like to believe I'm judicious about what I'm watching/listening to, I suspect I'm not. And, let's be honest, if there are that many pieces of information coming my way all day, every day, how much am I really taking in?

Worse, how much am I really enjoying and learning from?

It's time to do some serious weeding.

Today, this article crossed my path. William Brody writes
Massive information overload is placing librarians in an ever more important role as human search engines. They are trained and gifted at ferreting out and vetting the key resource material when you need it. Today's technology is spectacular — but it can't always trump a skilled human.

Have you hugged your librarian today?
I am a librarian who knows how to "ferret out" quality resources. It's time I did it for myself, not just my patrons. And then, I'll give myself a big hug.

8.12.04

You know you're old when...

A young child, completely innocently, says "You have salt-and-pepper hair" without realizing that perhaps you didn't want to hear that!

My nominee for Best Award of the Year

This year's Foot in Mouth award goes to Boris Johnson MP. (þ: Language Log)

7.12.04

And now for something completely ridiculous

Aravis is trying to help the police find this man. You can help, too.

Good art gives you earworms!

I usually don't write about the arts because, quite honestly, I don't know that much about them. While I've been to many of the great museums, seen a number of operas and ballets and modern dance performances and plays and musical events, my "scholarly knowledge" of all of that is minimal. I do know when I like something and when I don't, but being able to express what I like (or don't like) in educated terms is something I can't do.

What I can say is that good art gives you earworms. What are earworms? That's the term for that annoying snippet of a song that gets stuck in your head for a while. For example, around this time you might find yourself "rum-pum-pumming" to "Little Drummer Boy" for no reason except that the tune is running through your mind. I admit that it's difficult for a piece of art to get stuck quite the same way that a melody does, but believe me, it can and does. Sometimes it's the color, sometimes it's the composition - but if you find yourself thinking about Monet's Waterlillies or Rosetti's Beata Beatrix, that's an earworm.

You may not realize what the dance step is called, but when you see a triple fouette it's impressive and the sight will remain with you. A hauntingly beautiful sonata can do the same. So can a passage from a book, or a movie.

What's "great" however, is up to you - the audience. I am of the opinion that even the mediocre can be elevated to great by one element. For example, to me, this lyric from Beau Dommage rescues an otherwise so-so song:
"Ne a Montreal
D'une famille normale
Eleve dans le noir
Entre la t.v.
Et le purgatoire"

(very loose translation: Born in Montreal to an average family, raised in the dark between tv and purgatory). What an image!

The movie Casablanca was considered mediocre, but how much of the dialog has entered our culture? I'm shocked, shocked that you would think that movie anything but great.

Almost 30 years ago I read Night by Elie Weisel. There's a passage that haunts me to this day - an earworm that elevated the book in a way that The Diary of Anne Frank has never done.

That's right: earworms strike again.

Last night I was at Rose Hall at the Jazz at Lincoln Center space. (Side note: if you ever get a chance to go, do so!) The performances were great, but the "earworms" I'll take with me are of tiny fingers flying over a keyboad producing a torrent of sound... the high note on "Ave Maria"... a string sextet weaving melodies onto melodies... What did I hear? It doesn't matter. It was great because those moments stayed with me and will live in my memory.

Don't let anyone tell you that you don't know great art. If you get earworms, you do.

6.12.04

Notable Quotes

Get your own geek.
Nicole Noone, The Librarian

5.12.04

Well Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse Him

With all the news reports of a new King Tut exhibit to tour America, Steve Martin feels it's time to clear up some misconceptions we might have about the King. (login required)

3.12.04

Links Galore

Imponderables

I just love this list: Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year 2004. The top word is "blog" (widely reported on other blogs) but the others in this top ten are:

2. incumbent
3. electoral
4. insurgent
5. hurricane
6. cicada
7. peloton
8. partisan
9. sovereignty
10. defenestration

Given the events of 2004, I understand why people looked for 1 through 9. But number 10? Could someone please explain to me why this was the 10th most searched for word of 2004?

2.12.04

Imponderables

America believes in the separation of Church and State, right? But what about when the State mentions Church? Apparently, that's a no-no: Declaration of Independence Banned at Calif School.

Holiday Gift Ideas

Thanks to Aravis for pointing this out: .

(This site is part of a family that includes The Hunger Site, The Breast Cancer Site, The Child Health Site, The Rainforest Site, and The Animal Rescue Site. Click often.)

It's Back!

After an extended hiatus, Day by Day returns.