Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Laughing All the Way

I'm getting pretty cavalier about signing up for everything that comes down the pike these days. At first Library Thing sounded like something I'd need about as much as a hole in the head. (Another one, that is...). But then it dawned on me: people are always asking what I'm reading or how I liked such-and-such book. And all too often, I draw a complete blank! Of course, I could "opt in" on the SPL website and start saving information about what I've read there. But this website looked like more fun -- so I joined! About an hour later, reading Megan's blog, I noticed something called Shelfari, and right away I coveted that, too. So now I belong to both. It wasn't quite as easy as it seemed at first, though. I got caught up in some weird death spiral and titles kept disappearing after they had been entered and saved. There are a dozen books on my Shelfari bookshelf, but only one of them was still alive by the time I moved the widget to my blog. Oh, well. It's a start.

Watching the tutorial for de.lici.ous, I started thinking about the concept of tagging and how it might be put to use for people who are losing their memory, whether due to the normal aging process or Alzheimer's or chemo brain or some combination thereof ( a subject of more than passing interest to me). Last night I attended a meeting of my writing group, all women in their sixties. We were laughing hysterically over one person's vain attempt to remember the title of a book. She knew the 1st word was "A" and the last word was "Wife." The 2nd word started with an "R"...or maybe an "M"...and it had 2 or 3 syllables. It was like playing Charades. We were all yelling out helpful guesses: "rambunctious?" "malignant?" "rodeo?"Yes, this is your future, Youngsters, so get ready! Your only choice is whether to laugh or cry about it. Might as well laugh....But just think, if she had put that book on Library Thing or Shelfari, all she'd have had to do was remember tags. Well, first she'd have had to remember the URL for the site, then her username and password, and THEN the tags. The question is, would that be easier than just remembering the title itself?

P.S. Here's my best Rollyo search engine for finding your ancestors. I had first created one for finding information about birds but somehow, that one didn't pass the usefulness test.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cockles and a Tizzy

Oh, dear -- that title sounds almost obscene, huh? Not what I meant at all.

The tizzy came first: For days on end, I was struggling heroically with 27 Things #8 through #12, getting more and more frustrated. Some things worked okay, and I could actually see the point of them. For instance, I got the RSS feed thing down pat and set up my Blogroll using Bloglines easily enough. That could be useful. Ditto for Rollyo, my search engine of search engines. But shouldn't I be able to stick them on my blog, or put a button or link to them at least? Couldn't figure out how. At one point, I was given a bit of HTML for that purpose, but where does IT go?! Moving on, I played with some image generators and got frustrated because the photos I wanted to use were all too large. How to make them smaller?! I was pulling my hair out. Even started a blog entry (saved as draft) with the title "Kill.Me.Now." Quite a tizzy...
But then something happened at work yesterday that warmed the cockles of my heart. A Spanish-speaking couple came in with their baby and a daughter about 5 years old. For more than an hour, they sat at a low table in the kids' section, close to the Circ Desk. The dad patiently listened to the little girl read, occasionally correcting her in broken English. Both parents were beaming with pride. The girl was beaming, too, with confidence and pleasure at having her dad's undivided attention, no doubt. That little snapshot was a joy to watch. Our branch is in one of the highest crime/lowest income areas of the city, but there are lots of good folks here.
So, with a little perspective and a few deep breaths, my tizzy melted away. After all, I'm learning some things about Web 2.0. Others may take awhile. And to tell the truth, as I explore the 27 Things, I am coming across some options that don't hold much appeal anyhow. Do I really want to be able to paste a photo of my head onto a photo of some other body? Nope. And then there's Library Thing. Using it, I could catalog my entire collection of books! But here's the thing: even though I have been a voracious reader since age five or so, I am not and never have been a collector of books. I don't need to own them, thanks to the existence of PUBLIC LIBRARIES! True, there are bookcases filled with books in every nook and cranny of our house. But they aren't necessarily books I care about. They just found their way to our house somehow over the years and I've been too lazy to get rid of them. Someday, I'll set them free (uncataloged).
So, the lesson for today is Balance. Perspective. Calm. Ommmm....
(Do I get extra credit? I should get extra credit.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Better than Cyberspace

Let's see, I could have spent this perfect spring weekend hunched over my PC giving my arthritic neck and bursitic hip more reasons to complain, getting more and more frustrated when I couldn't figure out how to get the goldang text to wrap around the photos (grrr#*!##!!!) or how to embed that nice map I made on Google mapper into my blog.
Or - I could head west to Bodega Bay, unfold my lawn chair on a nice cliff and watch for whales...hard choice, eh?

P.S. See that cute little bucktoothed creature in photo#2 above? What is he -- a vole or what? He emerged from the ground just beside my foot, uprooted some wildflowers and quickly pulled them into his hole.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Eschew Obfuscation

Last night I tinkered with my blog and chose a whole new template and color scheme. Would you believe the photo of the young woman in the header photo with arms extended is ME? You would? Okay. No, Silly, this is Fantasyland, remember? Why put up a picture of myself with those unattractive little saggy things hanging down where arm muscles used to be when I can take on a whole new identity -- and new arms, to boot? This Web 2.0 thing is growing on me.

Still looking into RSS feed stuff this morning, investigating a whole host of interesting sites I might want to select for my aggregator. (Hah! Did you get that, how smoothly I'm incorporating the new terminology?) Actually, my language deficits are presenting a few obstacles to learning. It's hard to follow directions when you have NO IDEA what the words used actually mean! Just ask anyone who has ever tried to assemble a made-in-Japan toy on Christmas Eve. Could be the greatest benefit of this whole 27 Things exercise for me may be bridging the chasm that has always separated me from those who are fluent in technobabble. I know trying to communicate with Techie folk often leads me to the verge of babbling...They're all just obfuscating, if you ask me.

Really, though, is it so necessary to understand all the terminology, or is it just that I don't want to sound stupid? After all, little kids can figure out just about anything they want to do online, with or without understanding the terminology. But on second thought, maybe I don't want to bring age into this conversation... My theory is that our brains can only hold so much -- and mine is full. Let's see, which file should I delete?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Simplifying Things

I'm just dipping my toe into Bloglines and getting excited about this great discovery! I vaguely knew it was out there, somewhere, but had never tried it before. Now instead of clicking on all my fave sites every day, I can just get them all delivered to one place. Kewl!

Yesterday was crazy busy at work - definitely no time for 27 Things. I was just thinking that the creators of the 27 Things blog made the assumption we'd all have coworkers to collaborate with, but that's not necessarily the case. I'm the only one participating at my branch, so there's really no one to help figure things out. And in any case, there is no free time for that kind of collaboration.

Friday, April 10, 2009

1001 Ways to Fritter Away Time

Looking for another inane way to waste countless hours? Try the Warholizer (http://bighugelabs.com/flickr/warholizer.php ). See the cool, green self-portrait I made with it? Or make yourself a whole deck of trading cards, like I just did. Each one has a photo of a different bird, all taken by ME. Now what do I do with them?

Technology is the topic for today. Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with it. Right now, I'd just like to have enough knowledge to choose my first laptop, and maybe a GPS system...and maybe an I-Touch. And a little home music system with a docking station for my new I-Pod. And I'd also like enough money to buy all those toys.

As for the online stuff, what interests me most is mastering the tools for downloading and editing photographs. I have a Kodak Easy Share camera with a good, 10x zoom, so I've mostly been using the Kodak Gallery website tools. But lots of people have told me Google's Picasa is better. I want to try it next, after I finish familiarizing myself with what Flickr has to offer.

The most mind-blowing thing about the Net, to me, is the amount of up-to-date information that is now at our fingertips. That has never been true, in the history of the world! As a result, the balance of power has shifted. For instance, when my HMO refused to cover a particular test I felt was needed, I quickly and easily did some online research, wrote up my argument providing plenty of documentation, and mailed off an appeal to the California Dept. of Managed Health Care. They agreed with me! And the HMO was instructed to pay for the test once a year. In the past, I wouldn't have had a clue where to find that information. And "information is power"-- right?

Google Earth, more than any other site, makes me shake my head in wonder. Wow! How cool is that, to be able to zoom in on the back yard of a friend who is now living in France?! Of course, people can zoom in on our yard, too. That's okay.

I'm a little more dubious about the value of some of the Web 2.0 stuff, though. My initial enthusiasm for Facebook, for example, quickly waned when I saw how SILLY and pointless lots of the so-called communication that goes on there is. But I'm trying to keep an open mind. Maybe this "27 Things" experience will change my mind. Twitter, here I come!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Like Junior High, But Harder

A few eons back, when I was in 8th grade, I took a sewing class and was a total failure at it. Why? Because I was always too impatient (or lazy) to read and follow all the directions. I just wanted to skip a few steps and DO IT FAST! So I was introduced to a little item called a seam ripper. Very tedious job, ripping out seams and starting all over. That's what's happening now, with much gnashing of teeth. See the huge picture on the right -- the one of the egret looking at his reflection? Well, I was going along, following directions nicely, trying to figure out how to use the gadget or app or whatEVER they're called, that lets you put text on a photo. But the picture was too big, and I got impatient, and BLAM! it was right there, messing up my whole blog. And now I can't get it off, and the whole thing is ruined and I'm tired, so good night.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The "27 Things" Challenge - Bring it On!

So -- our employers are encouraging us to take on a challenge -- learn 27 cool "things" we can do on the Net between now and the end of July. Am I up to it? Mais oui...or at least, I hope so. On verra...

For the past decade or so, I've worked part time as a Library Assistant in a small public library here in Sacramento. During those years, we've seen tremendous growth in patrons' use of the public computers. Consequently, I've spent untold hours answering computer questions and helping folks do online research and solve computer problems. Which is actually pretty ironic, considering that I was one of those English majors who used to stick her fingers in her ears and sing "La, la, la!" whenever anybody talked about science or math...
As our 1st lesson about "habits of lifelong learners" points out, one of the best ways to learn anything well is to teach it to others. Thus, even though I'm older than dirt, my little library job enables me to keep up with the 21st century. (Well, most days, I'm almost keeping up, at best.) As a mom and a former teacher, I mastered "learning by teaching" years ago. A habit that may be less natural for me is the one about always keeping the end in sight. When I'm playing around online, I don't necessarily have any particular goal in mind. It's the process, not the product, that matters most. I'm just having fun! (See # 7 1/2.)

Who's the bird, you ask? That's a peregrine falcon I was lucky enough to encounter recently at the Sac National Wildlife Refuge, up near Williams. He looks pretty fierce, eh? More than ready for a measly 27-things challenge, with those sharp talons of his. Me too.