Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Clows on the web

I found this endearing essay by my very own dad on the internet. The Clows in the Red River Valley appears to have been written in 1969 (wow, dad existed back then?). There's some funny tidbits, such as the sheriff who drank moonshine, and how my ancestor Charlie Clow accidentally became an American.

This essay popped up in my rambling genealogical search. I'm getting used to doing reference work, and genealogy is a big deal at Clark County (and just about everywhere else, to hear those patrons talk), so I'm researching my own family history to get acquainted with that kind of research.

So far, I've determined that bucketfuls of Clows emigrated to Prince Edward Island (imagine my proximity to Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon!) from Suffolk, England, and from PEI to the Red River Valley in northwestern Minnesota. I also found out that my Grandma was born on the White Earth Reservation in MN (as reported on the census). So I've got some small amount of Ojibwe (Chippewa) blood in me.

An altogether very enjoyable way to work!

A mouse is just a mouse

I helped a lady at the library who had no idea how to use the computer. This observation didn't hit me until after she had left--I could have demonstrated a few basic things for her. My perspective needs to be adjusted. I'm used to working at an academic library where everyone knows how to use the computer and is keeping up with the trends. At the public library, they offer beginning computer classes. By beginning, I mean they literally start at the beginning, demonstrating how to turn on the computer, use the mouse, etc.

This is one of the reasons why I like working in libraries, and why public libraries hold a special place in my heart. They are the poor man's university, often the only place where people can access information through free books and the internet.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fashionable disability aids

This is a hearing aid.

In animal print.

Is this a style of hearing aid my audiologist will recommend when I go and get checked out?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Killing ourselves thinking

The power of the brain amazes me.

Somehow I am able to go from whining about a paper, the initial composition of which is like pulling teeth, to knowing exactly what to write and tying it all together in a logical fashion. It's that in-between period that I can't understand. What happens that enables the finished product?

All I know is that while your conscious part feels dead, somehow the unconscious part is plugging away, percolating ideas while you sleep, while you stare aimlessly into space. I first discovered this while studying for exams--we would study late into the night, force ourselves to sleep at least 4 hours, then get up and study a little more before the test.

Somehow, things made more sense after sleeping than before. We no longer had to cram stuff in--it was already neatly organized in our thoughts, like a book had been written and filed away while we slept, and all we needed to do when taking the test was to pull that book out.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We are family

We went to Aunt Opal's 90th birthday celebration in Springfield, Ohio this past weekend. Debbie has a large and rather rambunctious family. I'm still a little shell shocked from all the noise, but it was neat to meet some more of her folks and see how far the Noble & Ryman side of the family extend.
Aunt Opal let Jon and I root through one of her desks (which looked like it hadn't been touched since the 40's), so we had a lot of fun looking at old pictures of the Ryman family, various papers, the inevitable bullet casing, pocketknives--all the stuff you find in old desks. I think this is why I like to go antiquing--not necessarily to buy anything, but just to look at old things and imagine their history.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tagging and cataloging should be friends

Tagging is Web 2.0's answer to cataloging. Basically, you assign a word or term that you think is important to whatever item you want to find again, like a website or a picture. This is particularly helpful when you've accumulated a big list of pictures and want find all the pictures of your pet porcupine Prickly. You can tag those pictures "porcupine" or "Prickly" or "pet" or whatever term is meaningful to you.

Tagging becomes pretty cool when you can share your tags with other people, such as on the website LibraryThing. You can see if other people have used the same tags as you, or if they have better tags. This social aspect of tagging ties into the concept of Web 2.0, where people can share information and even create information together.

Some libraries are joining the tagging bandwagon, such as UK Libraries with their Encore interface or the Ann Arbor District Library, which allows its patrons to tag materials in the catalog.

I think this is all very cool, even if some librarians don't. Some catalogers are decrying tagging, saying it is akin to letting a bunch of typing monkeys go wild in the world of information, which should be carefully organized and categorized just so. I think they're missing the point of tagging. It's just another form of organization, albeit a much more relaxed one.

Besides, I think the popularity of tagging should be a clue that users don't find much use for the standard library catalog (what do you expect if the standard subject heading is "cookery" not "cooking"?), which is static in comparison to the dynamics of the web. I'm not advocating the abolishment of subject headings (they're still quite helpful for researchers), rather pointing to the need for libraries to evolve and take advantage of new technology.

The unending search for knowledge

A search on Wendell Berry in google turns up 1,150,000 hits. How much of this is actually relevant to what I'm interested in is anybody's guess, but google does a pretty good job of pulling the good stuff to the very top.

A keyword search in EKU's library catalog, eQuest, turns up 92 results. A subject search in eQuest brings back 9 hits, while an author search brings back 69 hits ( the man is a prolific writer!)

Obviously the results list for these searches in eQuest is much smaller because the search was limited to just what the library actually owns . This is good for those of us who are physically stuck in the Crabbe Library and just want to know what books there are for us to touch.

Searches in eQuest will bring back much smaller, precise results, especially if one limits the search to subject headings or author headings--those carefully controlled terms that only a select few can establish, and which are only applied to those records that are explicitly about those certain subjects, or written by those particular authors.

For example, the subject heading "Berry, Wendell, 1934- --Criticism and interpretation" will only be attached to records for books that are actually studies of Mr. Berry's books, so one can be pretty certain that searching by this subject heading will bring back only relevant results, not some children's book that happens to have the words "berry" and "interpretation" scattered somewhere in the text.

Compare this with a google search, which does not rely on actual assigned subject headings, but on different factors, such as the number of times a certain word shows up in a website, and what part of the website it appears in (in the title of a website, or down at the bottom?). But while a google search will inevitably bring in some irrelevant results, it still does a pretty good job in pointing out many websites of interest. Hence, the googlization of the world (of which I am a happy partaker).

My favorite way of searching for books is to do keyword searches in Amazon. When I find a book of interest, I'll search for it in my library catalog, or worldcat (notice the worldcat search box in my blog?), to see what subject headings it has been given, and search library catalogs by those subject headings. I've found quite a few things of interest this way.

And the pile of things to read grows and grows..

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Making friends

A junco made friends with us on top of Grassy Ridge in Roan Mountain State Park, TN.

We were admiring the view of Roan Mountain and the surrounding ridges when Jon whispered, "There's something coming our way." No sooner had he said that than this little slate-colored bird fearlessly stuck its head around the rocks we were sitting on. We must not have appeared threatening because it approached us and took its time hopping a circle around us on the rock, pecking here and there, clicking its beak, fixing us with a curious eye now and then. I could have reached out and touched it.

While we're on animal matters... a mouse landed on my head while I was asleep in the Fire Warden's cabin on Roan Mountain. It must have been making a flying leap for our food bag, which was suspended from a mouse deterrent hanging from the ceiling. I don't think either of us was very happy with the situation.

Monday, October 08, 2007


I'm working on my resume and not enjoying it at all. How does one convey that you are knowledgeable about something even if you don't know it all? Writing down my skills and qualifications always makes me feel as if I am over-stating myself. I hate these types of grey areas, especially in such a changing field as libraries where technology keeps leaping forward like Hagrid's skrewts.

I just want to say: here I am. I do a good job because I am always learning.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Here there be dragons

Fairy tales are more than true,
not because they tell us that dragons exist,
but because they teach us that dragons can be defeated.
G.K. Chesterton

There's something fishy here

Dwain and Miah had a sushi bonanza last night.

I think I can safely say that I will never, not ever, like the taste of raw fish all by itself. Having tried it twice over the past year, I can safely add it to my list of abominable tasting things (which is very short, thankfully) and never try it again.

However, the sushi rolls (rice, seaweed, various veggies, some raw thing or other) were quite delicious.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Originally uploaded by ozimanndias8
The Edwards...

I'm trying to figure out how flickr posts to blogger.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A tooth

Autumn has a tooth now. If only it were this easy to excite such declarations of pride in our loved ones.

We saw her last Saturday, and I can't get over how she keeps changing. Perhaps the most unnerving of all was the fact that she has started thinking. She would gaze at you with a somber expression and it was quite clear that she was sizing you up. Not unlike suffering the steady gaze of a cat (of which I suffered plenty last night).