Monday, November 23, 2009

This makes me sad::

I wonder sometimes if writers read other stories in their own papers. The New York Times earlier this week published articles about veganism and the healthfullness of organic, local farming, promptly followed by an article on Saudi Arabia buying up Ethiopia for arable land. Half the time one writer elucidates a problem and suggests a solution and then another writer publishes something on a similar topic that ignores the first writer's exposé completely.

*sigh* It's just really been getting on my nerves. I may have mentioned before, but it was listening to NPR for an extended period of time that made me really acknowledge how much I want to disseminate information amongst the masses. Also known as being a librarian/information tech etc. It was the hour or two of listening to people reporting on misinformation and rumor and not covering all the points that could have been very relevant that put me over the edge. Point being, I make it my personal goal to educate as many other people about as many things as I can. Hey, a blog's not a bad place to start trying.

The entire point of this post, however, is to present the ironic juxtaposition of two articles on tonight's Washington Post (online) lead page. On the right we see a picture of some icebergs near New Zealand which have broken off of Antarctica and are threatening ships in the South Pacific. Right next to it is an article entitled "Skepticism on Global Warming: Percentage of U.S. that believes in global warming dips from 80 to 72."


Icebergs? anyone?* Part of me wants to be fair and say that perhaps science *is* a belief, maybe I worship the all-mighty laboratory gods instead of Allah, Zeus, Vishnu, whoever. But then my degree in biology comes over and kicks me and makes me repent my blasphemous words against the doctrine of Fact. Am I any better than a TV evangelist if I go around saying "Yes! Convert to my way! Science is truth!"? While pressuring others to take up your own beliefs is a questionable practice, the facts (cough) remain: science is tested, true and tangible, and I'll be damned if those ice caps aren't melting.

*To be fair, these things do happen as the result of local shifts in weather and temperature, and may not be linked to global warming. The irony stands.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I have no words

Last fall I was beginning to explore ideas for my Plan of Concentration project in the world of children's books and attended a book making workshop with Linda Lembke of Green River Bindery. At that point it was my intention to create my own wordless picture book using my own photographs to tell a semi-autobiographical story. The original concept was a little too much to execute in the time I had, so the eventual product was simplified considerably (result is the purple book with the leaves at left). Now apart from the fact that the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center (BMAC) is awesome (It's one of the things that enamored me to Brattleboro in the first place, thanks to an Andy Warhol exhibit) there's the fact that I love children's books and bookbinding as an art. So, all of this led to my being at an exhibit of artwork from Kaori Hamura's book Dream Seasons, a wordless narrative illustrated with stylized paintings on wood (if you like paintings on wood, also check out Audrey Kawasaki). The exhibit also included a list of other wordless children's books and related works, and I thought I'd share some of it here. The list was originally produced by BMAC, but I'm adding a few books of my own, as well.

Wordless Children's Books
David Wiesner is pretty good at purely illustrated stories, and wildly popular, too. My favourites are Tuesday, and Sector Seven, but there's also Flotsam and Free fall and a few others. He's very adept at putting the extraordinary into a context that makes it seem quite, well, ordinary, as in the cloud factory in Sector Seven, but while maintaining a sense of wonder, as in Tuesday.

Chris Van Allsburg put together a book of illustrations that are explained only by a single line of text that merely alludes to a greater, unknown story and inspires plenty of speculation among readers. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick goes under wordless books for me because so much of the value of the book comes from what the reader's mind creates to fill in the whole story behind each illustration.

The Arrival
by Shaun Tan is just a plain beautiful book. It's more of a graphic novel, with many, many detailed illustrations in order to get the story across, but still with plenty of room for imagination (which is what I think wordless books are really all about).

A few more, which you may look up on your own (builds character):
Home, by Jeannie Baker
Museum, by Barbara Lehman
Oops, by Arthur Geisert
The Red Book, also by Lehman
The Snowman, by Raymond Briggs
Trainstop, also by Lehman
Un-brella, by Scott Franson
Yellow Umbrella, by Jae-Soo Lui

If you're into this sort of thing, go check out the tag lists for Wordless, Stories Without Words, and Wordless Books on LibraryThing.

Do you prefer book links to LibraryThing or to Amazon? I think LT provides more information on a book, but if you want to go buy it right away you might want Amazon. However, I highly recommend hunting down books at your local bookshop, or at least clicking through a website like FlashlightWorthy, which provides awesome books lists and could use some support. If you're actually reading this, why not comment? Comments are constructive!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wishful listing

Dear Santa,

This year for Christmas I would like to receive the following...

My computer has been acting up lately, fighting back against my overuse by occasionally turning itself off and complaining constantly, or just refusing to comply with my commands. Don't get me wrong, I love my little iBookG4, especially because it still runs OS9 applications (read: games, aka Power Pete, which technically came with OS7), but if I could relieve it of some of its burden we'd both be happier. I'm torn though. Since I also need my computer to be able to handle advanced graphics work, a desktop with a tower and wide-screen might be best, but I'd also like a more competent laptop... For now, the 15 inch solid state MacBook Pro (previous link) would fill in fine; I can always add the larger display later. And the Mac Pro Nehalem can just wait until I pick up the Epson 9900(with orange and green inks. whoa).

Meanwhile, my communications capabilities are suffering from another case of outdated technology. Three years of being in my left pocket have been hard on my Nokia. At the same time, my ipod classic did the thing ipods do and broke its headphone jack, and quite likely has a hard drive failure as well. My immediate thought was to get another ipod, but as it turns out I might as well get an iphone 3GS 32 GB and solve both problems at once. And again, the solid state drive will help a lot when it's bouncing around in pockets and bags. Next issue: bluetooth earbuds/headset and laser keyboard (although I'd prefer if it were a smaller device. If only someone would develop it further!).

If I'm going to be getting that Epson 9900, I should really also have a digital camera. I'm conceding the point of digitization in photography only because buying a few medium-large format film cameras (with lenses and different backs), learning colour processing and setting up a colour darkroom (or at least getting a film scanner and settling with the printer) all poses slightly more difficulty than spending a few grand on two pieces of equipment. A quick browse through some old Photocritic posts pointed me at the Nikon D90, but further research and recommendations are welcome.

On a less selfish note, a good way to connect with other artists/photographers in the area is to hunt down your local darkroom. The Washington School of Photography, for instance, has a camera club and workshops for community members.

...Anyway, Santa, I don't know how to prioritize my phone, computer and camera needs, but there you have it. My best to Mrs. Claus and all the elves. See you in two months!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Self-development... really what this blog business is about for me at this point. It's a good way to get my thoughts out in a somewhat public way without too much pressure, but still enough to keep me on my toes (hopefully). In lieu of spending a few hours collecting links and thoughts right now, and in the interest of posting *something* (it's been a while), here are some thoughts I've written out in other forums recently.

Someone asked me how I relate my interests to each other, specifically, Biology, Photography and Librarianshippy:

I would have to say that it's a lot about documentation and archiving visual information. I started out taking photographs (years ago) with the intention of putting them all in albums and preserving them for posterity. My intentions have shifted since then, and now I feel as if I try to document fleeting feelings I have about a place or time. This is actually extraordinarily difficult. How do you capture all the feelings, nostalgia and hopes of a sunrise without making it look like just another sunrise? I can't say as I've found the answer to the problem. My interest in biology also motivates me to examine landscapes and fauna [especially in close-up form].

And in the process of applying for a job I wrote out this, in response to some questions on the application:

The degree I received from Marlboro College is in photography and biology because I am also a photographer with a passion for knowing how things work on the molecular level. You could say I have a weakness for genetics. However, on a recent 13 hour solitary drive, I came to the conclusion that I really want to make information and knowledge available to as many people as possible. This solidified my conviction that I would like to become a librarian, which had previously been based on my love of books.
It is hard for me to pinpoint specific areas of literary interest. My personal collection is greatly varied, ranging from classic children's books to mysteries and science-fiction, with themes of food, history and, of course, books about books. It's always been very difficult to name my favorite books, but the two that spring to mind are Gastronomical Me, M.F.K. Fisher and The Big Golden Book of Elves and Fairies.
So that's kind of what I'm up to these days. Thinking a lot about what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, where I'm going, and trying to make long and short-term plans make sense together. Meanwhile, my life, built here in Vermont for the last four years, and in this apartment for the last two, is being packed into boxes and shipped off to the future. How strange it will be when I get there to meet it all, and open box after box full of the past.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Books and Sharing

I have determined that sharing books makes them more enjoyable for all parties involved. This means that being a librarian is a fantastic job! I've also found that passing off a book to a friend, or receiving one, makes reading a shared experience, instead of a private one. I used to always have my pile of books that I would blaze through and not really talk about with anyone. Books were a private affair, something personal and intimate that had nothing to do with anyone else. Of course, books present themselves differently to each reader depending on that person's history, but there are certainly things that may be common to multiple readers, and this is what is enjoyable when sharing.

And in the vein of sharing, don't forget about Bookcrossing, where you can tag and release a book into the wild. I found my first Bookcrossing book in Glastonbury Tor, lying on a bench in the corner. It was Caught in the Light, and it was a very odd read, but something new and different that I might not have picked out for myself. Having another person's insight (un-informed in this case) into what I might like broadens the spectrum of book possibilities.

Recently, I've shared the following books in some way:

MFK Fisher's Gastronomical Me, originally lent to me by Tristan (who might in some circumstances be called my boss) when he found that I was helplessly interested in the culture and cooking of food. The book came to me at a critical turning point in my life in the Fall of 2008, and gave me great hope for the future, not to mention inspiration for a way of living fully. I received my own copy as a birthday gift this year, and immediately passed it on to Dan, who is plodding through it and enjoying it thoroughly.

Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, came to me from D, although we found the copy together in the Arlington Public Library's bookshop. There's a theme emerging here about food writing, which goes on to include Deep Economy (to some extent. Also lent to me by T) and Secret Ingredients, which I picked up in a moment of impulsiveness at Brattleboro Books (website has issues).

I just passed off The World Without Us to T last night, my copy of Ex Libris is with D, and I'm moseying around in D's copy of High Tide in Tuscon. I ritually post links in my twitter to interesting reviews, poke people when I think they might like something, and talk to shopkeepers and librarians for recommendations. The nice guy in Mystery on Main (David?) and I spent a while perusing shelves for books about books (a new favourite category, along with food/cookbooks). We came up with The Last Detective and The Oxford Murders, which I need to go back and get. At the time I bought Booked to Die and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. All of this was inspired by The Club Dumas (made into the movie The 9th Gate), which was lent to me by Don, mid 2008. At some point I'll collect more of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's books.

Of course, before any of my books leave home, I brand them with my embossing stamp, just to be sure then come back.

Questions for readers: Too many links? Would you prefer links to Amazon for books? I think Library thing is more useful for seeing recommendations, tags and similar works with.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wherein I wish I had better colour correction capabilities

A couple of weeks ago Marlboro VT had its annual town rummage sale. The first day, everything is for sale by donation. The second day, everything is free. There are two parts to the sale: the clothing and accessories, and housewares, which covers pretty much any random piece of junk you want to get rid of. So there I was, walking into the housewares section, located in the Town House (where Town Meetings are held each year), and lying plaintively on a table near the door was an open case with an old typewriter sitting in it.

Hello, the typewriter seemed to say. I'm old, and beat up, I could use some help, maybe a little love and a new ribbon. Just take me home, please? Don't leave me here...

Well. I browsed the rest of housewares for a while, and was leaving again when I felt its lonely little self reach out to me. Oh, all right, I said to myself, and bundled the thing up and brought it home with me. A girl and her Remington Rem-riter, a Remington Rem-riter and its girl. hm. I felt hugely guilty stripping the paint off of its casings, but I'm pretty pleased with the results. It also took a while.

The process included: dismantling the casing, unscrewing the carriage/ruler assembly, stripping the paint using a green stripper and a lot of patience, doing a coat of rustoleum primer, then a coat of copper spray paint, then some acrylic topcoat, dusting, wiping and oiling the insides, figuring out which pieces went where in what order (my notes were uniquely unhelpful), and finally, the test run. It still needs new ribbon, but it's damn shiny and happy looking now.

Somewhat ironically, or anachronistically, I don't have a printer, which leaves me without blank sheets of paper for my typewriter...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

LC-Primary Sources

I recently became more interested in exploring the Library of Congress both as a resource, an entity, and (because everything is right now) as a place to potentially work. Today I ran across this in my news feed: The Library of Congress Teacher's Page. It's intended to provide primary sources for the typical classroom lesson, and dabbles in most of the standard themes we all went through in school.

Several things struck me immediately. First, there are pre-constructed lesson plans available (there's not log in to the site, which is nice. Yay free information!). Now this may just be me, but I'd be irked if I knew my teacher was pulling something straight off the internet. However, using some of these for ideas and as support could be good. An example:

I'm interested in WWII, so I browse down the lesson plan list (by theme) to there, and find... mostly sources from the great depression. Hm. Actually there's nothing from the war in there, so I try "What is an American." This gets me a reference to de Crevecoeur (surprise), and some "life history" stories collected by the WPA. There's also an extensive, drawn out lesson plan, which (dear god) takes up classes from September to June! eesh. In any case, a teacher who knows what they want to present to the class could use the lesson plan themes to track down the sources. Kind of neat, but like most things on the internet, a lot of links to click through to find what you want.

A simple search using the search box on the front page brings up a few more hits for "World War Two", but it's still all within lesson plans and feels like it's being handed to me: This is what you should know! *ribbon on top* The point of the Teacher pages is primary sources, and if you dig a little you can get to a good chunk of information, but it can't possibly be everything the Library has. However, I do definitely support using primary sources for research, as they allow students to put more effort into reading and analyzing, unlike standard textbooks. Students will also get first hand perspectives and different voices from a primary source, which makes the experience of learning less monotonous, and hopefully more engaging.

Without the structure of a lesson plan, I think it's wildly entertaining to just browse the collections. And just in case everything the Library has isn't enough, they provide a nicely selected set of links from the outside.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Just a couple things

I was hoping I'd spend less time around my computer this week while my primary online contact is out of the country, but so far that's failed completely. This might have something to do with all the online applications I'm working on, but hey.

In any case, here's a link to Abby (the) Librarian's blog, which recently posted a giveaway of Catching Fire. It's the second part of the Hunger Games trilogy, the premise of which sounds a little silly, but apparently is completely riveting. I figure it's worth a try.

Then, I read an article that introduced me to the concept of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Nöosphere. I think I had heard the word before, but not known the meaning. It's basically a "sphere of human thought", that represents humanity's development into a highly cognitive species. It's also the next step after the biosphere and geosphere concepts. The Noosphere could also be comparable to the blogosphere, the idea that everyone is connected by these ideas and ways of thinking, by the internet, for example. At Princeton, the Noosphere is being studied as a literal global consciousness that has the power to alter elements (specifically random number generation). The data seem show that if enough people are thinking about the same thing, the numbers change slightly, are less random, and deviate from the prediction.
De Chardin envisioned all this coming to resolution at the "omega point", when human thought will reach its pinnacle... and that's pretty much the end of history. What's up with Omega though? Maybe it's just me and Star Trek Voyager, where the Borg hailed Omega particles as the ultimate symbol of perfection, but I know I've seen it elsewhere and am interested in the root meanings that lead to this stuff.

Well, that should be it for now. Not a terribly coherent post, but ah well. More next time, hopefully on eco-guilt and the economy and whatever else is on my mind/reader.

Friday, July 17, 2009


If I was a skilled blog writer, I would have a clever title that wraps up the various subjects in my posts and ties them all in a neat bundle. For example, "Sources" should have the bits I'm going to write, but also something about, I don't know, primary sources, research, reference, wells, genealogy... But it doesn't, so here we are anyway:

I take distinct pleasure in knowing where things come from. Not just that, but having a story of some sort attached to things. It gives them meaning beyond "thing," making me feel a little less guilty about all my material possessions. I tend to buy more when I'm on vacations, because it allows me to come back and say, oh, this skirt/pair of shoes/earrings/etc came from London/Avignon/Greece/etc. Far better than *another* shirt from the Gap. Who doesn't have one of those? It occurred to me as I was making toast this evening that this applies not just to material things, but food as well. My dinner tonight:

Toast: Oatmeal molasses bread I made yesterday from organic ingredients. The recipe came from a baking book I first met while house-sitting my first summer in Marlboro. That was my first time with a kitchen all to myself, and I went a little nuts cooking.. at least when there were people to feed. On the toast is soft goat cheese I bought from a friend in Marlboro the other day, and cinnamon pear jam from Sidehill farm in the Cotton Mill complex in Brattleboro. I discovered them while gallery sitting during the Cotton Mill open house three years ago. They also make a very tasty mango-habenero jam.

Salad: Less of a story here. Some goat feta from the same source in Marlboro, and fresh avocado, pepper, romaine, cucumber from Dutton's farm stand in Brattleboro. I had bicycled to Dutton's earlier this week from a friends house in West Bratt as a trial run for biking in town. I'd say it went fairly well. I just like being able to get somewhere on the bike instead of going for the heck of it all the time. Ah, but the reason I started in on salads at home in the first place goes back... five or six years now, to when I had my first goat cheese salad at the Riverview. Which reminds me, I forgot the cranberries.

*runs off to perform salad modifications*

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Brevity and selection may be hard for me...

Alright, here's a post at last! I've been meaning to write an actual post for a while now, and have a list of subjects to discuss, but what actually spurred me to get all this down was a massive reading list on google reader this morning and a potential library job in my future. So, here's a run down of a few things I found interesting:


Among all the sites on the web that "foster the qualities of 'innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration'" (according to AASL through SLJ) are a few of those that I've recently been prodding. Certainly most of the sites listed are more traditionally educational that Facebook, Google Reader and Twitter, but I appreciate the recognition of alternative learning resources. GReader and Twitter in particular are great for finding and following interesting feeds (and twits, as I like to call them. "tweeting" is just so... cute?). Clicking through links and finding more and more information can be very addictive, as demonstrated by the massive number of tabs I have open continuously.
Also on the subject of internets and social sites, apparently tagging is becoming important as a reader advisory (RA) practice. Being kind of new to this, I don't know much about RA in general, but I'd bet it's a lot about knowing your collection (and beyond) and being able to help patrons (or whoever) find things that are good for them. Apart from *actually* knowing every book you've got, there are always jacket blurbs and being familiar with an author, if not the book specifically, to help with advising on a reading choice. That said, if tagging were to be used on books, it would be.. why, it would be like the subject index in the card catalog. No? Nevertheless, imagine having a tag cloud for your library, like mine, here and having everyone find books they might like through it.
And also in the world of reference and internet and research, credo reference is gathering reference engines and working with IP adresses to make getting access easier. Haven't had a chance to look into it yet, but definitely something to keep in mind.

In my absence from the public library scene, it appears that a new genre has developed. Mostly blamed on the massive trend towards porphyria in fiction, urban fantasy also covers other elements of fantasy in a gritty, reality-based settting. Presumably, this brings the traditional fantasy world closer to home, elevating the believability factor and perhaps making it easy to approach for readers today.

Here's a list of books about, well, books, from Library Journal. I can't say a lot about it because I haven't read them yet, but several will certainly make it to my (epically long) "read right after I've read all these other books" list. Someday, someday.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Whoa, Internet spaz-fest

It's always oddly awkward starting a blog. You have to find something enticing to draw people in, not over-do it, don't post every hour, get your formatting decent (without posting about what a hassle that's been)... So here I am, guys.
I'm also here:
Facebook (for RL friends only)