November 2003 Archives

sweet potato and turnip gratin

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Here's what I wish I'd brought to dinner, George. I've made it the past two Thanksgivings, and just didn't have time to shop and prep this year. But it's truly awesome, and as far from heart-healthy as anything I've ever made. :)

Sweet Potato and Turnip Gratin
(From Nathalie Dupree's Comfortable Entertaining)

This gratin is particularly welcomed on the holiday table by those who love sweet potatoes and hate marshmallows. The cream and butter make this so delicious your guests will lie in bed and remember it happily all year long. You only serve this kind of dish once in a very long while, so the caloric intake is moderated. If your meal has too many sweet potatoes, see the variation for turnip gratin.

2 to 3 pounds white turnips, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 to 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated imported Parmesan cheese
1 cup bread crumbs
2 cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350∞F. Butter a 3-quart casserole.

To blanch the turnips, bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the sliced turnips and cook 5 minutes. Remove them and drain thoroughly in a strainer.

Gently combine the turnips and sweet potatoes. Place a layer of the vegetables in the casserole and dot with half the butter. Sprinkle generously with tarragon, salt, and pepper, and cover with half of the Parmesan. Make another layer. Top with the bread crumbs and pour the cream around the sides. Dot with the remaining butter and Parmesan. Bake until the vegetables are soft but not mushy, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

The gratin can be made ahead several days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Let defrost in the refrigerator and reheat for 30 to 45 minutes in the oven, or reheat in the microwave.

Variation
Omit the sweet potatoes and double the amount of turnips.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

i'm number one!

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David Weinberger mentioned that Google had updated their index, so I hopped over there to do a quick ego-surf.

Yes, it's true. I'm now the number one "liz" on Google.

(When I grow up, I'll try to be more like David, who claims to have lost great respect for Google based on his sky-high pagerank.)

belated recipe addition

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A little after the fact, here's what I actually brought to Thanksgiving dinner. (Inspired by George's "Carrots and Turnips" post...)

Aunt Deb's Infamous Sweet Potato Casserole

3 c cooked, mashed sweet potato
1 tsp cinnamon
1 stick butter (or margarine)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Combine above ingredients and put in well greased casserole dish

Topping:
1 c brown sugar
1/3 c butter (or margarine)
1/3 c flour
1 c chopped pecans

Sprinkle topping over casserole. Bake 350 for about 30 min. (Can bake ahead
and reheat, but it doesn't really save any time . . .)

peek into my neighborhood

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Just found a webcam at the West Henrietta Baptist Church, about a mile from my house. Gives a good sense of what the weather is like here. And today it's not very nice. (Weez, you owe me big-time...the drive to your house this morning to feed the animals was not fun...took me over an hour round trip!)

Hard to believe that the break is almost over. In only two days, the winter quarter begins. And I'm not nearly as ready as I'd like. The course syllabi are starting to take shape, and the courseware's been updated a bit (still working on a "public" version--what I've got now is pretty customized to work with my databases and server setup, so that things like office hours get pulled from a central place). But there's still lots of work to do in organizing the order of content presentation, thinking through the readings, deciding on assignments, and getting my head into the professorial, performance-focused place it needs to be on Monday.

So today is course-prep day. A good day to have a fire in the fireplace, a cup of hot tea, and a wireless network.

(For other real-time views of Rochester, here's a list of local webcams.)

vacation, all i ever wanted

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It's been quite a week.

Gerald's back went out Sunday, leaving him in bed, immobile, hours before my grandmother was due to arrive for a dinner that's been postponed twice already. Have I ever mentioned that I'm not much of a cook? Gerald's the master chef around here, but he was in no position (literally) to be preparing anything. So rather than cancel dinner yet again, I grabbed the kids and headed out to the Pittsford Wegman's super-duper-supermarket, where I picked up salmon fillets in dill and lemon sauce, linguined (did you know that was an adjective? I didn't...) vegetables, and roasted potatoes, all cooked and ready to pop into the oven for warming, along with some shrimp for an appetizer, and a fresh baguette. Then back home to transfer the foods to my own dishes and hide the plastic containers, and out again to pick up my grandmother.

Dinner was a success, despite it being punctuated by phone calls from the doctor's office. The only pharmacy open on Sunday night is conveniently located close to my grandmother's assisted living facility, so I dropped her off, then cooled my heels in the drugstore waiting for the much-anticipated valium (no, not for me, alas). Once Gerald was medicated and the kids were in bed, I cleaned the kitchen and threw laundry in the machines, then crashed...thinking that at least I'd have a couple of days with the kids in school to get my own stuff done, and take some time for myself. (She said, in a tone heavy with foreshadowing.)

The next morning I got up early, packed lunches and backpacks, and waved to the kids as they pulled away. Gerald's the room parent for Alex's 2nd grade class, and he'd promised to provide drinks and snacks for the Thanksgiving party. After showering and dressing and taking care of Gerald, I was getting ready to head out and buy the supplies...when the phone rang. School nurse. Lane threw up in gym. <sigh> Rushed to the grocery store, grabbed drink pouches and pre-packaged snacks. (Once again sacrificing thriftiness for convenience, something I hate to do.) Dropped the grocery bags in the school office with a plea to the office staff (who adore Gerald) to make my apologies to Alex's class. Picked up Lane, who admitted on the way home that he'd chugged an entire bottle of pink lemonade and eaten a bunch of cookies for his snack, and moments later gone off to gym to jog and skip. No big surprise that he left the cookies and lemonade on the gymnasium floor.

Cooked (if you could call it that) dinner for them and Gerald, fed and medicated everyone as needed, and crashed again, relieved that Lane was fully recovered and at least I'd have one day of peace and quiet coming up.

Or not.

After spending the morning worrying about Gerald, doing more laundry, and trying to get the syllabus up for my grad web design class, I got another call from the school nurse. Alex this time. He's recovering from a bout with pneumonia, and the symptoms sounded suspiciously like when he was diagnosed, so I picked him up and headed over to the pediatrician's office, leaving word with Lane that he'd need to let himself into the house since his dad couldn't get up. The pediatrician couldn't tell for sure if the lungs were clear, so we went off for x-rays. Except now Alex was hungry, and feeling terrible, and really wishing for some homestyle chicken soup. (I did mention that I can't cook, right?) So we made a detour to Fox's Deli for world-class matzo ball soup to go, then off to the radiology clinic for chest x-rays, which were clear.

Back home, again, to deal with sibling squabbles, Lane's "worst day ever" at school (fourth grade is full of social trials and tribulations, it seems), and Gerald's continuing excruciating pain. Got Alex to sleep, and was chatting with Lane when our neighbors called around 10pm to tell me that Lane and their son had apparently attempted to access a porn site on their computer. So we had a chat about that. (It's hard to be a librarian who hates filtering software and knows how flawed it is when you're also a parent of two intelligent, adventurous, curious boys. Cognitive dissonance to the extreme.)

This morning I had planned to meet a grad student for coffee at 9 to help him prep for his first-ever "I'm the professor" teaching experience. I was going to bring Lane and his friend (who we were watching for the morning), and Gerald would have been fine with Alex for the hour or so I'd be gone. But the chiropractor called at 8am to say she could fit him in for an emergency appointment at 10. No phone number for the student, so I emailed him to cancel, hoping he'd get the mail. But what to do with the 3 kids? An hour with them in the chiropractor's office seemed like a very bad idea. So I called my mom, who's trying to get ready for the big (12 person) Thanksgiving feast she's hosting tomorrow. She graciously came over and watched the boys while I took Gerald in. (And he's walking now! Yay!)

Back home, picked up all three boys, whom I'd promised to take out to lunch. Back to Fox's, with a short stop along the way to break up sibling squabbles in the back seat. Plenty of soup, latkes, sandwiches, strudel, cookies, laughter and full stomachs later, we headed back to the house.

Gerald was feeling much better, and showed me two cards that had arrived in the mail from the kids' school office--a "get well" card for him, and a "sympathy" card for me. Gotta love those women! Then he kicked me out of the house, telling me to find someplace to sit and relax so that I could decompress. But as soon as I left, I realized that my mom was probably even more stressed than me, so I headed to her house to see how I could help, and ended up volunteering to pick up my aunt, uncle, and cousins from the airport, and drop them at the hotel (two of them) and my mother's house (the other two). During rush hour traffic. The day before Thanksgiving.

That accomplished, I headed back home. Where I am now. Sitting on the couch, listening to Sarah McLachlan, and feeling...

Thankful.

Thankful that I have such a wonderful husband--who takes care of me in so many ways, and who I could take care of this week because I'm actually on vacation, with pay. Thankful that my kids have illnesses no worse than an upset stomach, and misbehavior no worse than visiting an off-color web site. Thankful that we have good health insurance that keeps me from worrying about doctor's visits and precautionary x-rays. Thankful that my mom is making her trademark wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, and that my grandmother lives here in Rochester now where we can see her not just for holidays, but regularly. Thankful that my house is warm and lively and a place that makes me happy to come home to. Thankful for the many blessings and riches in my life, which have been highlighted rather than hidden by the stresses of the past few days.

Happy Thanksiving to you all.

chronicle of higher ed article on weblogs

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The November 28 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article entitled "Weblogs Come to the Classroom." (subscription required for access)

Increasingly, private life is a public matter. That seems especially true in the phenomenon known as blogging. Weblogs, or blogs, are used by scores of online memoirists, editorialists, exhibitionists, and navel gazers, who post their daily thoughts on Web sites for all to read.

Now professors are starting to incorporate blogs into courses. The potential for reaching an audience, they say, reshapes the way students approach writing assignments, journal entries, and online discussions.

The stuff about weblogs in the classroom is pretty standard fare, though it's nice to see it finally getting some coverage in the academic press. Unfortunately, it leaves out a lot of the folks in my sidebar who are using (and talking about) weblogs in classes, and doesn't mention "hub" sites like Educational Blogs and Weblogg-Ed.

There's some mention of wikis, as well, but the professor quoted (Patricia Pecoy at Furman University, who doesn't appear to have a weblog of her own...) clearly isn't aware of a lot of the already existing uses of wiki in educational contexts:

Ms. Pecoy also sees a technology that she says could soon rival blogs -- a type of online program called a "Wiki." As with a blog, users can post comments on a Wiki. But unlike a blog, anyone who uses the Wiki can edit and change any of the posted comments. Such a feature could be useful in Ms. Pecoy's class, where students could help polish and correct their peers' French, she says.

"In Hawaiian, 'wiki wiki' means 'quick,' and this is a quick way to have a collaborative writing project," she says. "No one I know of is using one yet, but that is coming down the pike next."

A Google search on "course wiki" yields quite a few hits, including a wiki page that collects links to educational wikis.

kids' blogs

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My son Lane and I are working on setting up his new blog. He'd really like to see some blogs by other kids in his age range (he's a 9-year-old 4th grader). Anybody know of some sites I can point him to? Thanks...

woohoo!

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michigan.jpg

tonight's googlejuice update

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Took another peek tonight at the search terms that are bringing people to my site--they're often informative, and sometimes quite entertaining.

Tonight I discovered that I'm currently the number one hit in Google for "hoppy toad" and the number two hit for "happy dance." Great juxtaposition!

It makes me a little sad to see that there are anumber of people getting to my site based on searches like "os x mail has lost all my emails"--I feel their pain. Wish I had better news for them.

new quarter, new courseware

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Am working on version 0.2 of my MT Courseware for next quarter. The drop-down "QuickLinks" menu didn't work from an interface standpoint, so I decided to add tabbed navigation elements at the top of the content area. Since I'm teaching web design next quarter, and one of the goals of the class is to get them to renounce table-based and non-standards-compliant authoring, I figured putting in a table-based, Fireworks-generated DHTML menu would be a bad example.

So instead I turned to the wonderful A List Apart, which has great articles on CSS-based navigation--and a great example in their own new design.

After a lot of css and xhtml tweaking, I finally got the effect that I wanted, which can be seen on the new course site. (Again, since it's a production course site, please don't leave comments there...)

The most frustrating part was getting it to work perfectly in Mozilla and Safari, only to find that in IE5/Mac instead of a horizontal navigation bar I suddenly had a vertical bar. I don't even want to tell you how many hours it took for me to discover that the problem was carriage returns in the html for my unordered list. Aaargh.

At the moment, I think it works cross-browser, cross-platform; I tested it in IE6/WinXP via Virtual PC, as well as my Mac browsers. If it's not working your configuration, let me know in the comments here.

Once I'm sure I've squashed the bugs, and cleaned up the categories and css a bit, I'll post the new templates.

a public service message

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If you use blogrolling (and I know most of the blogs I read do), you really ought to consider upgrading to Gold status. Why? Well, you could do it because it gives you the ability to create multiple blogrolls (that's how I separate out the daily, academic, rit, and tech blogrolls in the my sidebar--as well as maintaining the misbehaving elsewhere list and my class blogrolls). But more importantly, you could do it because Jason deserves some support for providing such an excellent service. It's free for you, but it's sure not free for him--he pays for the resources to support it, and the time to keep it humming.

So do the right thing, and upgrade. Mkay?

new music purchases

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I splurged on two albums this week on the iTunes music store. The first was Sarah McLachlan's Afterglow, and the other was eastmountainsouth's self-titled album. (I really wish there was a way to link directly into the iTunes store from a web page. Is there? Anybody know?) (Thanks, Jay!)

Both were recommended to me by Simon Phipps, and his advice was right on. I was fairly certain I'd like Afterglow, but the eastmountainsouth music really caught me by surprise. I described it to my husband as "Cowboy Junkies meet Sarah McLachlan," but after hearing it he corrected me, saying it was more like "Cowboy Junkies meet Natalie Merchant."

Either way, we like it, a lot.

We also both really liked the eastmountainsouth web site; there are four streamable songs on there, and a nice scrolling montage of photos of the band. I'm not usually a big fan of web sites in constant motion, but this one really works.

silly season

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There's something about the grayness of November, combined with the grading of student papers, that causes university teachers go just a little bit insane at this time of year--often with hilarious results. Witness this excerpt from Alex Golub's "Sample Job Letter":

While some would balk at the task of attempting to shove even the slightest bit of erudition into a gargantuan classroom full of massive hordes of unwashed, half-asleep freshman, my own experience teaching at [my school] has more than prepared me for this daunting task. Indeed, I have found the experiences fills me with a pleasure which, although it leaves me feeling all dirty inside, I feel compelled to experience again and again. Whether it is demonstrating the location of China on a map, clarifying the non-existence of Dragons, or explaining that the intricacies of T�ang poetry are more than �that ching-chong ching-chong talk�, my experience teaching has made me realize how vital statues of dead Chinese people dressed in the clothing of extinct ethnic groups are to the course of human history.

Read the whole thing. It's delightful.

"I teach for free; they pay me to do the grading."

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What a great quote.

Found in the comments of an Invisible Adjunct post on grading; attributed to someone's "senior colleague."

(IA, you need permalinks for your comments. I'm going to post a tutorial on that this week, since it's easy to do in MT if you know which tags to put into the templates.)

happiness is...

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promo_spot2_b.gif

  • An "imperial latte"--with beautiful foamed milk swirling around on the top of the mug, just like in the picture.
  • A double chocolate chip muffin
  • Sunshine (!) streaming through the windows of the coffeeshop
  • Free wifi
  • The end of grading in sight.

--
Update, 1:28pm

Grading done. (Well, except for participation grades, which require a spreadsheet that hasn't been delivered to me yet. But the part that requires thinking is done.) Woohoo! Too tired to celebrate properly, so will instead sit here savoring the coffee for a little while, and looking out the window at the traffic on Park Avenue.

I must say, Spin Caffé gets high marks for service and quality, as well as their brilliant decision to provide free Wifi. I will most definitely be back. Perhaps if enough people vote with their feet--and wallets--more places will realize that wifi is a valuable thing to provide to their customers, and that it shoudl be thought of as an amenity, not a marketable commodity.

rushkoff blog

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Somehow I missed that Douglas Rushkoff (a professor at NYU in the same Interactive Telecom Program where Clay Shirky teaches) has a weblog. (And has, apparently, since several months before I even started mine.)

Which reminds me that I have to get moving on my blog panel proposal for the upcoming Media Ecology conference here at RIT in June, where Rushkoff will apparently be giving a plenary presentation. It's due December 1st. Ack!

I've noticed that when I'm on the right track intellectually, everything starts to seem connected. In this case, Rushkoff is connected to Sue Barnes, a new faculty member at RIT whose interests are very close to mine. He's also connected to Clay, with whom I co-author Many-to-Many, and to Howard Rheingold, who I know through a couple of channels, and who's speaking this spring here at RIT.

All of that points to the best kind of convergence, the kind that says to me there's a critical mass of connections and content and interest to spin into something really interesting.

web design classes

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As this quarter draws to a close, I'm already thinking ahead to next quarter's web design classes. I'm teaching two of them--one undergrad, one grad. They're very similar, but in the grad class I often take on real-world projects (non profits, preferably) and focus more on the context and users, and in the undergrad class I focus a little more on the back end tech.

The experiment with my MT courseware in my intro class this quarter was moderately successful. Not as interactive as I would have liked, but that's partly (if not mostly) my fault--I didn't provide the sparks that might have gotten more of a conversation going.

I used a class weblog in last year's web design class, and gave all my students authoring capability. This quarter I'm going to keep control of the class blog, but encourage students to use comments and trackbacks (from their own class blogs). I'll probably set up specific items that are intended for trackbacks--topic-focused posts that encourage aggregation of related resources.

The nice thing about using weblogs in a web design class is that the weblogs are both a communication tool and a teaching medium...as they learn CSS design techniques and backend programming, they apply those to the weblogs they're using in class.

The ongoing problem in those courses, however, is the tension between wanting to explore conceptual and theoretical aspects of the web environment (from aesthetics to cognition to social impact) and needing to impart specific technical skills.

The pressure for the latter comes from both the students (who at RIT are very career and skill-focused) and the downstream professors in the concentration-level web development courses. The pressure for the former...well, that comes mostly from me. I regularly tell my students that the sign I've seen on a colleague's door in the imaging arts & sciences college--the one that says "Those who know how work for those who know why."--is more true than they realize.

setting the record straight

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This week's issue of The Chronicle of HIgher Education has an article on post tenure review here at RIT (subscribers only; email me if you want the full article). It's a feel-good piece that has our administration all in smiles this week, and most of it is a pretty accurate picture of how post-tenure review was implemented here.

But at the end of the article, in the second-to-last paragraph, there's a startling discussion with our provost.

Faculty Evaluation and Development grants have also been used to help midcareer, untenured faculty members. When the information-technology department began to grow, the university hired many of its own master's graduates. A dozen or more of those people are coming up for tenure soon. "Now we are saying they need Ph.D.'s or they will not get tenure," says Mr. McKenzie. Ten of those professors are currently enrolled in Ph.D. programs at George Mason University. Rochester is paying their regular salaries and giving them significant reductions in teaching, plus $1,500 each for tuition. Some of the professors are exempt from teaching, while others are teaching one or two distance courses. "They are valuable people for us," says Mr. McKenzie, and worth the investment.

Let's start with the first problem in this paragraph, the provost's statement that "Now we are saying they need Ph.D.'s or they will not get tenure." This came as news to the 14 15 untenured faculty members in our department whose master's degrees are from RIT. Is this an unreasonable requirement for tenure? Not if it's communicated to the faculty in question when they're hired, and reinforced through reviews and support. But it wasn't. Ever. None of these faculty were ever informed that a PhD would be a requirement for tenure. In fact, they've been told on numerous occasions that it would not be a requirement. Imagine their surprise when they read in the Chronicle about this requirement. It's worth pointing out, as well, that there are some real issues with rewriting tenure requirements on the fly, and doing it only for faculty in one department.

Then there's the over-the-top, completely false claim that RIT is providing generous support for "those faculty" to pursue doctorates. We have one faculty member, not ten, about to start a PhD program and George Mason. And he's definitely not getting the attractive package described in the article, not by a long shot. The rest of "those faculty" are teaching 9 classes per year (3 per quarter), which doesn't exactly give them a lot of time to work on advanced degrees.

The article appeared online on Thursday, and there's been no official response yet from our administration--departmental, college, or university level. "They are valuable people for us," the provost says. At the moment, I doubt that's how they feel.

--

Postscript: A colleague suggests "Master is tricksy" would have been a better title for the post...

there's no place like home

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From today's weather alerts:

... HIGH WIND WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM EST THIS EVENING... EXPECT WEST WINDS 35 TO 50 MPH THROUGH THIS EVENING WITH GUSTS AS HIGH AS 60 MPH. THESE WIND SPEEDS ARE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING PROPERTY DAMAGE, POWER OUTAGES AND DOWNING OF TREES.

and...

... WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT TODAY... SNOW WILL OVERSPREAD THE REGION THIS MORNING AND CONTINUE THROUGH THE AFTERNOON BEFORE TAPERING OFF EARLY THIS EVENING. ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 5 INCHES ARE EXPECTED... WITH THE GREATEST AMOUNTS OVER THE BRISTOL HILLS SOUTH OF THE THRUWAY AND LESSER AMOUNTS CLOSER TO LAKE ONTARIO. TEMPERATURES WILL FALL BELOW FREEZING THIS AFTERNOON SO UNTREATED ROADWAYS WILL BECOME SLICK. EXERCISE CAUTION AS THIS IS THE FIRST SNOWFALL OF THE SEASON.

<sigh>

useless faqs

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I received email today alerting me to a competition for faculty and students to develop plug-ins using the Eclipse Platform. Never heard of it. So I went to the eclipse.org web site, and checked out the FAQ. Under "What is the Eclipse Platform?," I found this:

The Eclipse Platform is an open extensible IDE for anything and yet nothing in particular. The Eclipse Platform provides building blocks and a foundation for constructing and running integrated software-development tools. The Eclipse Platform allows tool builders to independently develop tools that integrate with other people's tools so seamlessly you can't tell where one tool ends and another starts.

Huh? For "anything and nothing in particular?" Does this answer actually say anything? Or is it just a string of buzzwords, signifying nothing? I'm not willing to spend much more time poking around this site for information, but I'm curious as to whether any of the more technically-minded folks who read my site have any knowledge of or experience with this IDE.

everyone should have a library to love

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Torill Mortensen writes this lovely ode to a childhood librarian:

I think everybody should have a library close by, a library to love.

However, much as I love the librarians at the library here in Volda, not many come up against the librarian of my childhood.

[...]

It was the first hint that people valued the reading of books, and the reading of books in a certain order. It was also the first time an adult had encouraged me to read a book since I had learned to read. And it was the first time I understood the power of librarians. Since then I have worshipped them.

I wonder if every academic has one of these larger-than-life librarian stories in their childhood. For me, it was the librarian at the Eastham Public Library in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The picture on their web site shows the front of the library, which used to be the sum total of the place--a small, weathered Cape Cod building. In recent years it's been expanded, but they've retained the original front building.

Every summer when I was a kid we'd spend the last two weeks of August vacationing in Eastham. And as strong as my memories of beach and sun and salt spray are my memories of that little library, and of the grandmotherly librarian who--mirabile dictu!--remembered me every year when I returned. I'd walk in the front door, she'd smile in recognition, and immediately steer me to new books in my favorite series (I loved series books. From Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, and The Happy Hollisters to The Prydain Chronicles and The Dark is Rising. I read so quickly, even as a child, that series books allowed me to prolong the narrative in a much more satisfying way than stand-alone novels.)

That's not why I went to library school, but it's definitely the archetypal image that I hold in my head about libraries and librarians. And I worry that my kids won't have that experience, as libraries move inexorably online, and virtual reference and Amazon recommendations replace the warmth and sense of belonging that the librarian in Eastham gave me every summer.

this one's for you, o great seer

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what kind of social software are you?

"You find yourself in the beta of some game where you can't kill anything. You get sprinkled with pixie dust, and get scared at the sheer goodwill."

What kind of social software are you?

number portability and telephone books

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Maybe I'm anachronistic, but I like having a telephone directory. A printed one. I look things up in it a lot (white pages as well as yellow pages). One of my great frustrations with cellular numbers is that they aren't in a directory--printed or online.

With the upcoming number portability, I suspect more people will begin moving from land lines to cellular-only, which leads me to wonder what's going to happen to directories, directory assistance, and the like. If I move my land-line phone number to a cellular provider, will it still be in the phone book? If I give up my land-line entirely, will people be able to find my number at all if I don't give it to them? Will phone books become anachronistic? Will I have to pay for each directory lookup because I'll have to go through a third-party provider for the information?

shirky touches off a storm of semantic web posts

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Clay's latest essay, The Semantic Web, Syllogism, and Worldview, has resulted in quite the flurry of interesting responses.

Mark Pilgrim has a number of these responses collected in his "B-Links" sidebar, but I'm going to put them here, as well, so that I can find them more easily in the future.

(I'll update this list as I find other interesting responses. Feel free to add relevant links in the comments, as well.)

My inner librarian has a response brewing, as well, but it will have to wait a bit. It's the last week of the quarter, and I've got exams and project to give and grade. Next week is blogging and reading catch-up time.

pleasant surprises

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Who would have ever thought I'd hear my 9-year-old son say to me "Mom, we need to buy more octopus!"?

Lane and I had dinner tonight with my mother and stepfather at a new Japanese restaurant here in Rochester, called Edoya, and it was a lovely meal.

We feasted on sushi and sashimi--maguro (tuna), tai (snapper), ebi (shrimp), ikura (salmon roe), masago (smelt roe)--along with tako yaki (fried octopus balls), kaki fry (fried oysters), chicken teriyaki, miso soup, tamago (omelette), and edamame. (Oh...and a custard dish that had various kinds of seafood in it. I can't remember what it was called, but it was very good. My mom had to call ahead to have them make it especially for us, as it's not a standard item on the menu.) Lane ate some of everything, and pronounced it all delicious. (I ate most of it, and agreed.)

At the end of the meal, the chef (who owns and runs the restaurant with his wife and daughter) brought over a small plate of food, and set it in front of my stepfather with a great flourish and obvious pride. "Fish liver," he said solemnly. "Anko." We weren't sure what he meant, but Don took a bite and was clearly delighted. "Like foie gras, but fish," said the chef. Don cut off a small piece and put it on Lane's plate, and Lane popped it into his mouth. "That's good!" he said.

The chef went back behind the counter, got a piece of paper, and started writing. A few moments later he returned with the paper, which bore a sketch of fish with an antenna-like projection that had a light at its end. "An-gler" he said, carefully. Lane looked delighted--"Just like in Finding Nemo!" I looked back at him. "Be careful," I said, "or you might have to join the shark's club." He thought for a minute, then burst out laughing. "Fish are friends, not food," he intoned solemnly. But he didn't look at all convinced.

asian travel plans

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E-mail from my mother:

I booked it...Rochester to Narita Feb. 21, Tokyo to Shanghai March 3, Shanghai to Rochester March 6. Whee!

That's for her, my son Lane, and me. We're pretty excited!

Suggestions for must-see places and people in Tokyo and/or Shanghai welcome. We'll be staying with a Japanese friend in Tokyo, so it won't be a strictly tourist's view of the city. And my mom has spent a good bit of time there, so between her and our hostess, we won't be completely stuck in tourist mode.

binge behavior

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One way that people who know me well are able to gauge how stressed (or depressed) I am is by watching my eating habits. When things aren't going well, I tend to binge. My drug-of-choice in tough times is Ruffles potato chips, preferably with a big container of french onion dip.

Rationally, I can look at that bag of chips and know that it's going to make me feel ill in the short term, and make me overweight in the long term. But rationality doesn't play into the decision. It's a kind of short term gratification that feels great at the time, and it somehow fills an immediate need for me. I've never had a problem with drug or alcohol addiction, but I suspect some of what I feel when I'm weighing the decision about whether to wolf down that bag of chips is what someone with a substance abuse problem wrestles with.

I was thinking about that this morning at the gym. I try to make workouts a regular part of my life, and to make sure that it's part of a routine. If it's not a routine, it's too easy to fall into bad habits. The same thing is true for what I eat...if I get into the habit of buying healthy foods and having them easily accessible--at home and at work--I eat better. I'm less tempted to binge on potato chips if I'm full of chicken makhni. I'm less tempted to grab a pizza for lunch if I've brought in a hard boiled egg, salami, and sharp cheddar cheese. (Obviously, I'm trying to reduce my carb intake.) And it's true for finances, as well. If I have a budget, and stick to it, I'm less likely to binge on spending. If I don't, the money (like my trim figure) slips away when I lose control.

It's hard, though, to stay balanced in all areas. Physical health, emotional health, fiscal health, intellectual health. I don't think it's a "choose any two" kind of thing, but I do think the hardest challenge I face on an ongoing basis is finding a balance. Not to obsess about perfection in any one area, only to find that I've let something else fall part. And I'm also learning to recognize my own warning signs...when I find myself overindulging regularly--whether on potato chips or shopping trips or blog reading--I know I have to stop and reassess the choices I'm making. The things that are hardest for me--whether it's changing my eating habits, going to the gym, or or turning off the computer--are probably the most important things to look at.

So now I'm going to (a) turn off the computer, and (b) go home and spend some time with my family. The first one is hard, the second one is easy. The rest of my personal challenges...well, I'll keep those to myself. :)

internet librarian: notess on "harvesting blogs"

Points out that we're still in a "hunting and gathering" mode; there's no comprehensive, accurate search.

Strategies:

  • Do "collection development" to find key weblogs in your area
  • Search weblog/rss search engines for both broad and specific content areas
  • Wander occasionally; follow "what I read" links, comments, trackbacks

Oh my goodness...he's showing an RIT student's post on LexisNexis. Pretty entertaining. "I never realized that RIT's library bought access to LexisNexis and any RIT student can log in and do searches for free." I'm delighted that the student is blogging, and that he found and appreciated the library content--but disappointed that our students don't all know about these resources. This speaks to a need for better, more targeted marketing by our library (and I know they're not the only ones).

He mentions and demos a lot of blog search tools, some of which were new to me. I also didn't realize that Micah Alpern's "trusted blog search" tool could search blogrolling.com blogrolls now.

Final points, which I may use to start my presentation:

  • Be aware of blog movement
  • Not always necessary
  • More useful in some fields than others
  • Blogs constantly changing
  • One of the "hot" technologies

(What happens if we roll back the clock ten years, and substitute "web" for "blog"? Or much further back, and substitute "book" for "blog"?)

internet librarian: levine/cohen on rss

One bonus for me of attending this conference was getting a chance to meet Jenny Levine, the Shifted Librarian! (She's on the same network that I'm using ("Deep Blue Wireless", $8.95/day), so if she had a Mac we could use Rendezvous to share information and collaborate. But she's not. There's an amazingly small number of laptops here, and I've only seen one other Powerbook. Huge change from tech industry conferences.)

She and Steve Cohen are talking about RSS;it's a basic introduction to RSS, for people who aren't familiar with it at all, so I probably won't blog much about it.

Most of the presentations I've seen today, this one included, start with a list of characteristics, rather than showing the functionality first. A list of aggregators at the beginning is less helpful than a list of aggregators at the end. Start with the "why should I care"--then dig into the what and how.

This is the first time I've ever actually seen the Radio aggregator; explains a lot about why so many Radio users tend towards the "link and comment" approach, and often incorporate large verbatim components from the sites they're commenting on.

Didn't know that Yahoo! Groups provides RSS feeds. Need to look into that.

Jenny's showing some useful sites that generate Javascripts with RSS feed content for your web site, complete with style info. Feedroll is one. Seems like a good interface.

Internet Librarian: Greg Notess on "Google Gambol"

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Came in late, so missed the first 15 minutes; the room is packed, probably a combination of the topic and the fact that Greg Notess (who runs Search Engine Showdown) is an energetic, entertaining presenter.

Some useful nuggets, for those who care about search engine tips and tricks:

Internet Librarian: 30 Search Tips in 40 Minutes

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Mary Ellen Bates on tips for searching effectively. These are her tips, not mine. My comments, when I have them, are parenthetical.

I almost hate to share these, because these are the kind of tips that let people like me come across as an "angel of information mercy" to the people who ask me for help in finding things!

BTW, Mary Ellen is a great presenter. Funny, interesting, clear. She's got a free "tip of the month" email update, which you can also read on her web site.

my aggregator compromise

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I finally realized that there is a way that I can use the power of aggregators without giving up my (perhaps irrational) attachment to the visual space of weblogs.

I'm going to use an aggreagator (Bloglines, to be specific) to read the online magazines that I haven't been remembering to check regularly. Boxes and Arrows, A List Apart, Salon.com, Wired News, and BoingBoing.

Because Bloglines is a browser-based aggregator, I won't have to remember to launch a new application. I just have to add the link to my start page (which right now features my blogrolls) so that I remember to check it regularly.

Internet Librarian: morville on "ambient findability"

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Yes! A Boingo/DeepBlueWireless hotspot in the conference center. Hate to pay another $9/day for access (since I'm already paying in my hotel), but it's worth it to me to be able to blog the conference.

Peter Morville is kicking off the "searching" track with a talk on "ambient findability."

Interesting graphic showing "cells" of characteristics. Usable, Useful, Dedsirable, Valuable, Accessible, Creditble, and Findable. He wrote an article called The Age of Findability ("just Google it," he says). Shows a great quote from a response to his article: "[This is] a case of librarians trying to muscle intot he usability field with their own spin...findability is just a subset of user-centered design."

controversial professorial weblog

The Chronicle of Higher Education today has an article entitled "A Weblog Starts a Fire," about the weblog of Indiana University Professor Eric Rasmusen.

Since the Chronicle is subscription-only, here are the lead paragraphs, which summarize the gist of the story:

The trouble began when Professor Eric B. Rasmusen wrote that hiring a homosexual man as a schoolteacher was akin to putting the fox in the chicken coop.

"Male homosexuals, at least, like boys and are generally promiscuous," he wrote on his Weblog, which is resides on the Indiana University at Bloomington's Web site. "They should not be given the opportunity to satisfy their desires."

Students and staff members complained about his comments, asking that they be removed from the Web site. Some even suggested that he should be fired. Mr. Rasmusen, a professor of business economics in Indiana's Kelley School of Business, agreed to remove his blog from the university's server while officials reviewed the complaints. But it returned a day later, after university lawyers concluded that it did not violate any policy.

Apparently this issue has already been discussed over on The Volokh Conspiracy (where it had its initial beginnings, it seems), and Crooked Timber, though it somehow slipped under my radar at the time.

(Please do not start a flame war in my comments about this, at least not without first reading through the analyses and comments at the two sites mentioned above.)

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Just found Daniel Drezner's post on this topic. Also worth reading.

wishing on a star(fish)

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Starfish in Monterey BayI woke at 5am today, trying to prevent my body from becoming accustomed to pacific time. It would be easy to become accustomed to pacific beauty, however. I had planned to walk down to the wharf and watch the sun rise, but there are thick, dark rain clouds surrounding the bay, so instead I'm using the time to write out the thoughts in my head.

When I travel to beautiful places like Camden and Monterey, I find myself questioning my life choices pretty closely. Why, exactly, is it that I choose not to live in a beautiful coastal town, when I love them so much?

There are good reasons, of course, family being largest amongst those. Living in Rochester means my parents have easy access to their only grandchildren. It means a cost of living that allows us to live on one salary, which in turn means my husband can be a full-time stay-at-home dad. It means public schools that we like and trust, and a neighborhoods where we feel at home. It means permanent job security for me, and coworkers whose company I enjoy.

Those are some powerful advantages.

But....

I still find myself looking out at the waters of Monterey Bay, trying to figure out how we could relocate to a coastal town, somewhere, and still retain the quality of life that we have now.

In Sadie Plant's "cyberfeminist rant" Zeroes and Ones, I found this passage about Anna Freud that helped to inspire my talks for tomorrow:

Her lectures were composed in the same way. First, she lectured in her imagination, enjoying the thunderous applause, and then she made an outline of what she had said, adjusting it if she needed to for greater simplicity and coherence. Later, with her outline in hand, she would give the lecture extempore. [...]
This is hysteresis, the lagging of effects behind their causes. Reverse engineering: the way hackers hack and pirates conspire to lure the future to their side. Starting at the end, then engaging in a process which simultaneously assembles and dismantles the route back to the start, the end, the future, the past: who's counting now?

This concept of starting with a clear image of desired results isn't new, of course. It's part of nearly every "New Age" book I've ever read, part of many psychotherapeutic approaches, part of the worst motivational talks I've ever heard. But despite all that, I think there's something to it. So perhaps what I need to do is simply imagine the end point, and focus my energies on working backwards from there.

blogging schizophrenia

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On the one hand, there's value in having single-topic weblogs that can provide links and commentary on a specific issue. On the other hand, it's really hard to try to split my thoughts into topical areas and post them to different weblogs.

So the quiet here isn't just the insane travel schedule of the past few weeks, it's also the cognitive challenge of figuring out how to be a contributor to Many-to-Many and misbehaving.net while still maintaining my own site.

I suspect that this will get easier over time. I may end up "cross-posting" items between the two sites, or I may simply get a better sense of what goes where.

At any rate, I'm here in Monterey, where it looks like it's going to be a beautiful day. I stayed up late last night so that I could shift time zones more effectively, and woke up a little before 6am PST. I missed the sunrise, alas, so I'll probably get up a little earlier tomorrow.

My talks aren't until Tuesday, so today will be spent grading student projects and then exploring Monterey a bit. Tomorrow and Tuesday I'll attend conference activities, and Tuesday night I'll fly back home. I've got a four hour layover in SFO...any experienced travellers know of open WiFi networks there, or particularly pleasant places to sit and work for a while?

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