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.

Lyre Birds and Smart PC's

Have you ever seen the Planet Earth series? It's awesome! This clip of a lyre bird is one of the many scenes that just blew me away. This old world is full of so many strange and wondrous creatures...

Okay, I think I've mastered Podcasts 101. My favorite is "This American Life" (TAL) from Chicago Public Radio. You can check it out by going to the NPR website. It was easy to subscribe -- just clicked on the Bloglines icon. As an experiment, I also downloaded something called Juice and can use it to grab podcasts. I selected one called Book Babbler. But since we already have ITunes on this PC, I was able to download episodes of some NPR programs there. too. They just started playing without my having to select a player. It's a mystery to me how it happens, really magical since I didn't even tell the computer to use ITunes. It's just smarter than I am, I guess.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Performance Appraisals

In the next few month, SPL's Performance Appraisals will be undergoing a much-needed change. Even those of you who aren't particularly subversive may identify with the fellow in this clip from the British version of The Office.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Frustrating YouTube Foray

Well, I just wasted a couple of hours laughing at YouTube clips. Not really wasted -- laughing is healthy, right? It doesn't take much to amuse me -- anyhow, my favorites were funny animal clips and hilarious bits from the TV series "The Office" (both British and American versions). Finally I selected one to embed on this blog. And FINALLY I found instructions for how to do that. Found the "Edit HTML" tab on Blogger - check! Found the HTML code on the video I want to embed - check! Copied that code - check! Next I'm told to "Copy the HTML code into your website" -- huh?!? Where?!? Do I just stick it down at the bottom of the page of gibberish, or what? Should I check out a few books on HTML from SPL now? Help!

(Wait, wait! I just read Ray's instructions and with his help, was able to add my Rollyo genealogy search box over there in the sidebar. Try it out! You might find a long-lost ancestor or two. I did! And now I'm wondering if maybe ole Ray has provided the answer to my YouTube dilemma. Can it be that the same instructions will plant my favorite video in the siedbar, too? Am I brave enough to try that?)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Yelp Knows

Moving on to Thing #19, I read about the Web 2.0 Award winners. (I noticed the awards are given each May, so am wondering when the 2009 winners will be announced...?) Anyway, I was already familiar with many of the sites, such as Craig's List and Geni and of course, the wonderful Google applications. I did notice a lot of duplication: several similar sites for entering family tree data or doing word processing or displaying & editing photographs. Guess everybody grabs the same idea and tries to do it just a little bit better. How about some original ideas, something no one has ever tried before?

I decided to focus on Yelp, not because it's particularly original but because I'd never looked at it before but had heard others sing its praises. Basically, it's a site where anyone can post reviews of local service providers, businesses, events, etc.. The concept is very familiar because whenever we travel, before booking a hotel, I go to Trip Advisor to read what "real people" have to say about their experiences there. So - what I like and find useful about Yelp is that I can get other people's impressions of a particular Sacramento doctor, auto repair shop, restaurant, or whatever. Such personal recommendations seem far more likely to produce satisfaction than my usual, eenie-meenie-minie-mo method of selection.

Of course, one downside is that Yelp is far from comprehensive. It's just the luck of the draw whether a particular place or person will have been reviewed at all. Furthermore, some of the reviewers are probably just bitter people who had one bad experience and are out for revenge -- trying to ruin someone's reputation and hurt their business. So just as with all the information gleaned from the Net, users have to take it with a large grain of salt. If there's just one review and it is either extremely good or terrible, I would ignore it. But if there are several and they all lean the same direction, then that can be revealing. You begin to discern a pattern. For instance, we've been using a dental group that seems rather shady. Sure enough, on Yelp I found 4 reviews of that group -- all negative, validating the concerns I have. That has convinced me it's time to find a new dentist!

How could Yelp be useful in a library setting? Well, folks often come in asking where they can find a good plumber or pizza restaurant or whatever. Now they can just jump on SPL's computers and go to Yelp for advice!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Purloined Aphorism

The following document was created using an online word processor called Zoho and sent to this blog with the push of a button. The only problem I had was scrolling up and down. Finally, after wild, random clicking at the bottom of the page, the problem was alleviated somewhat but never really resolved.

(Filched) Words to Live By

I realized recently that rather than being a deep thinker or creative writer myself, I go through life collecting aphorisms. A particularly pithy, succinct line encountered casually can stick in my head for years to come. Whether it shapes my views or merely reflects them, I'm not sure. Way back in high school, it was a line from Emerson (I think?) that kept echoing for decades: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." The truth of that sentiment struck like a bolt from the blue! It seemed to me that along with most of my friends -- and their parents -- I had been going along, blindly and smugly following the herd, never giving much thought to why we did what we did. A few years ago, I lifted a line from Rumi ("This moment is all there is.") Next came a sentence in a greeting card, author unknown: "Show me a day when the world wasn't new." Finally, just last week I picked up this tidbit in Nevada City: "When you stumble in life, make it part of the dance." My gut response was, "Yesss!" as if I'd bumped into an old friend unexpectedly. That line is mine now, because it expresses so perfectly my present philosophy.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Even though I'm a longtime fan and frequent user of Wikipedia, I didn't really know much about wikis until doing all the wiki readings. Unfortunately, I still haven't been able to watch the video, since our two antique PC's seem to have all kinds of necessary stuff disabled, are running low on memory, or whatever. But I will remedy that soon...Meanwhile, I learned a lot from reading some of the wikis of other library systems. For instance, one internal library staff blog explains how to embed almost anything into your website (or blog, presumably).

Anyway, I went to the SPL Wiki Sandbox last night and played around, having fun, just as the directions said. Got a little carried away. Later, I realized I had done a bit more than edit, maybe. And a voice in my head said, "Uh-oh." And then, "Fix it!" (Yes, there is a voice or two in my head some days...) So I went back to the sandbox this morning and tried to straighten up for the next kids/editors.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Like Drinking from a Fire Hose

Since it's hard to find time to explore the 27 Things during the week, what with work and eating and sleeping and all, I'm trying to whip through a week's worth of stuff in just a weekend. Whew! So after watching the Otter tutorial and reading the Beginners' Guide about Delicious, I checked out that site and came to the conclusion I don't really have a burning need for any more tools for social bookmarking at the present time. Maybe later? Right now, my nosiness is more than satisfied by Facebook. I did register on Technorati, sucked in by the chance to "claim" my blog. But after an initial delay due to something called pinging I was given Error Code 401 and told to contact Technorati Support. There were 7 steps laid out for me to follow in order to rectify the problem -- and then I came to my senses. Guess my blog will just have to be an orphan...

And then I read that loooong thing about the future of libraries. The one thing that will probably stick with me is the term "technohustle." I felt a bit like I'd wandered into a convention of used car salesmen or telemarketers. Why the hard sell? Of COURSE things are changing and will continue to change. The technology today is way beyond what most of us could have imagined in our wildest dreams a few years ago, truly exciting! And it continues to evolve, rapidly. Does that necessarily mean we will not recognize libraries in five years...and would that be a good thing? There has been huge change in the past 5-10 years, but when I walk into a library, I still know it's a library....and I'm glad!

A few more tidbits I gleaned: "There are Second Life subscribers who spend more than 40 hours a week online." (Those are not well people. Get them some help.)

In the future, library patrons "will expect librarians to be Virtual Reality coaches and will collect librarian 'superstars' based on 'buzz' and customer ratings." (Really?! Well, I predict that in the future, many library patrons will still like to read quaint things called BOOKS and will have an appreciation for librarians who do, too.) Do any of you remember a couple of decades ago -- no, longer than that--when everyone was confidently predicting that by now we'd all be whizzing around, skimming merrily over the earth in flying vehicles like the Jetsons had? Well, I was about to say that never came true, but then I Googled it and look at this!

Okay, enough ranting. Did you see the article in the New York Times last week called Immaterialism? It's about all the nonexistent "things" people give each other on Facebook and similar sites and how some folks have figured out how to make money off that weird urge.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


The blogs of other SPL folks are providing a treasure trove of ideas I can steal. In fact, I'm spending so much time playing with those apps (is that the right word?) that I'm no longer charging ahead with the 27 Things. Smilebox is FUN! (The old Gold Rush era building, photo #3, is now the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, where we stopped in last Sunday for a trail map. That building housed the original Nevada City library from 1858 untill about 1903.)