Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Woo-Hoo! Crossing the Finish Line!

I did it! The 27 Things have eaten up a lot of my free time in the past few weeks and more than once left me gritting my teeth in frustration. Still, I've learned a lot, and writing a blog has actually been fun. I feel more able now to help patrons in their Web 2.0 explorations. Today, speaking with a woman who was checking out a set of CD's for learning Spanish, I showed her how to use Mango and told her about my recent positive experience with it. Then shortly afterward. a fellow asked about SPL's digital library, and I was able to guide him through the steps of checking out an e-book.

Another thing I liked about the 27 Things was that it brought a lot of SPL staff at different branches together in a common activity. That almost never happens. Even at the big annual meeting in October, people tend to sit with their friends rather than talking to other library staff they don't know. And sometimes we even helped each other figure things out! There was a bit of camaraderie. And I learned some surprising personal things about other staff -- who's hilarious, who likes birdwatching, who's into science fiction, who's building a new house, etc.

The one suggestion I would make is that it would have been nice to have one place we could all go to post our questions or problems with the technical stuff. It was rather hit-or-miss to have to post our desperate pleas for help as comments on someone else's blog, hoping they or another reader might answer.

Should the SPL 27 Things Challenge be repeated? Maybe for any SPL patrons who are interested -- why not? But it should be advertised widely first.

Okay, now I'll kick back with a glass of ice-cold lemonade or maybe a margarita and root for others who are nearing the end of this great techie adventure. Go! Go!

A Work in Progress

Thingfo is turning out to be more of a challenge than expected, but at least I now have a little box ("Chatterbox") on my blog that is constantly receiving feeds I requested by entering certain tag words for content on Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. I decided to monitor other people's posts about birds as well as some of the places I or my husband once lived (Lithuania, Ahwaz, Gulfport)just out of curiosity. There are still a few kinks to iron out. For one thing, after I changed the colors of the template several times, I could never manage to save my preferences! Also, I can't seem to turn off the "12 Seconds" thing, even though I decided not to use it. Oh, well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You Good

Well, after plowing through the first three Mango lessons in Mandarin Chinese, I'm confident I now know as much Chinese as I will ever know! (In other words, it's HARD!) I was reminded, strongly, that I have always been a visual learner -- and there were no visual cues to hang onto. I quickly got "hello" (which translates literally as "you good") and "goodbye" but when it came to repeating a long sentence such as the Chinese for "Please tell me your honorable surname" my mind froze. Auditory learning is not for me. Furthermore, Chinese is a tonal language, and I fear my old ears just can't distinguish among all the subtly different tones. In order to retain anything at all, I had to write it down phonetically and memorize the sounds. That's cheating, I guess. Oh, well. Mango is certainly a tool I will recommend enthusiastically to anyone who's interested in learning a language.

PS - I signed up for Twitter and am now tweeting away. Check out my newly embedded Twitter badge on this blog. There's an awful lot of self-involvement and navel-gazing in this whole idea, no? I suppose it would be a good way for a large family or group of friends to stay in constant contact, if they all signed up for Twitter. Maybe it could work among SPL staff? The problem is that most of us are too busy working to do any tweeting. I found a site called Twellow (the Twitter Yellow Pages) that could be a good resource for finding folks with similar interests whose tweets might be something I'd actually like to read.Right now, instead of following the tweets of a bunch of librarians, I think I'd prefer to follow a few comedians. And maybe a couple of cheerful Buddhist monks for good measure? A daily dose of humor, a little spirituality...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mango Mango (and Maybe a Fox Trot?)

To tell the truth, China was never very high on my list of places I'd like to visit, but recently two friends returned from vacations there (separately) bursting with enthusiasm. So now I'm rethinking the whole thing. Beijing? Naaah -- too many people and way too much pollution. But Shanghai sounds fascinating, and I'd like to see some of the smaller towns and the countryside, as well. With that in mind, I've decided to take my Mango lessons in Mandarin Chinese! Stay tuned...

We just got back from a few days in Cambria. It's so beautiful there, and still relatively quiet. There are tourists, of course, but far fewer than in most California beach towns. I tried to embed a slide show of some of my photos. See it there, on the right? But Flickr is giving me fits. Sometimes it works correctly and sometimes it just sits there, frozen, with the big black & white arrow blocking the view.... Any hints about how to fix the problem would be welcomed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Walking in Their Moccasins

Today I downloaded Overdrive Media Console and then checked out three E-books. So -- I did it, but I'm still a little confused about how I would actually listen (if I wanted to, which I don't really) to what I have checked out. I can probably figure it out, but shouldn't that be very, very clear for our patrons from the get-go? Also, why don't the items I checked out show up on My Account? I thought maybe I'd made a mistake and didn't really have anything checked out, but then when I tried to check out another e-book, it said I already had three items out. Anyway, I do think it's a good idea for all SPL staff to go through the procedure. In our little branch, we have had very few questions about the Digital Library so far (only one, in my case!) but I'm sure people will discover it eventually. Or maybe we should be more actively spreading the word?

Perusing SPL's catalog is something I do every day, all day, as part of my job. Therefore, it was a snap to find and check out Twilight in 3 clicks, get financial advice about how to save money, and find information about job-hunting. Nobody asked, but I will say that the new web page has a lot of room for improvement as far as I'm concerned. The colors are nice, the design attractive...BUT what is MOST important to users? Finding what they're looking for quickly and easily! And what are most people looking for? The catalog, their own account information, the PC Reservation button, and/or location and hours of branches. Those things should be in BIG letters, maybe bright red, maybe with a bold circle around them or an arrow or blinking light! Instead, the page has lots of information, all in the same-size and color font. It's way too easy to get lost in there.


Lifelong learning comes in many flavors. Last week I agreed to join a group of friends in 6 weeks of something called Zumba in order to improve our physical fitness. How hard could it be, after all? And the others joining aren't exactly spring chickens, though they are all younger than me. This morning, I looked at a few YouTube videos to see what I've gotten myself into this time. See the woman in the back row in the baggy, lime green t-shirt? I can ALMOST keep up with her....I think.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Woodpeckers, Herons and Egrets, Oh My!

Today a friend and I went over to the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park for a hike. It was a little cooler than Sacramento, at least, and we got to look at vineyards along the way. But the coolest thing was that we saw a pileated woodpecker! I was pretty excited, let me tell you. I had only seen one once before, down in Alabama.

On the way over, we had driven back into the farmlands behind Davis to check on a rookery we've been observing for the past 3 or 4 years. There are tons of black-crowned night herons, snowy egrets, and cattle egrets nesting there now. No babies yet -- probably by mid-June they will have hatched.