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Month: September 2006

To Furl or Not To Furl, That is the Question

When he wrote those worde, Shakespeare little knew the abuse his words would receive for generations to come. This is the second time this week I’ve abused them. The first was in the title of a library session for a Shakespeare class — “To Libe or Not To Libe, That is the Question: Skills and Strategies to Help You Libe.” (By the way, the students have a habit of shortening names at Carleton, so the library is the “Libe,” the arboretum is the “Arb,” etc.)

Anyway, I’ve come upon a dilemma. I don’t know whether to continue to use my Furl or whether to switch to Del.icio.us. Ironically, I haven’t been adding much to my furl lately for three reasons: the form that lets you describe and categorize pages is cumbersome, it often takes quite a long time to save pages, and there are days when I can’t access my archive. Combine these complaints with Del.icio.us’ easy entry form, complete with suggested tags and quick saving, and you see why I decided earlier this week that I’d start transferring everything in my furl over to del.icio.us.

No sooner had I made the decision, though, than two problems presented themselves. First, I was unable to make the export/import mechanism work, so I’d have to manually transfer my furl entries. “Oh, well,” I thought, “at least I’ve only saved 108 things in furl so far. How bad can it be?” It seemed like just the sort of job to do during an upcoming Sunday reference shift. But then came the second problem. I learned this morning that I can’t exceed 255 characters when describing the page in del.icio.us’ notes field. This is a problem because I often include information on the licensing or rights statements in my descriptions of digitized collections (example here). I’d hate to lose that information.

So, persuade me. Which tool is better? Why? Do any of you use both? If so, how do you decide what goes where?

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Toff the Campus Cat

This past week I met Toff for the first time. Toff is the campus cat and somewhat of a campus tradition. He lives with two of our professors, but the entire campus is his domain. It’s been said that “Toff has two seasons: students and no students.” (Quote taken from the quicktime video about Toff made by students in the Cinema & Media Studies department.) He loves wandering campus to keep an eye on goings on and pick up some pets from students. Students carry him with them to social engagements, and he’s even appeared on ballots for student government positions.

[Update: After reading Megan’s comment I checked to see if Toff is on Facebook, and he is! His profile appears to be open to all facebook members. At least, I’m able to see everything. But it might only be open to Carleton people.]

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Fridays

There are things I love about Friday mornings on a college campus. (Cue background music: “My Favorite Things“)

First off, I love it that they’re Fridays. It’s my signal that I’ve nearly survived another week. I get to take stock of what I’ve done and start making mental lists of all the things I should do next week. I get to go to the public library and check out a few good movies to watch over the weekend. And I look forward to spending long, uninterrupted periods of time petting my cat, reading, doing my research, or any of the fun but not high-priority tasks that I didn’t get a chance to do while at work during the week.

But I also love the campus on Fridays. Early Friday morning is the stillest time of the week on campus (and remember, this being a college campus “early” extends all the way until about 10:00). I walked through campus to get coffee this morning and the whole place seemed to be hovering on the edge of reality. It could have been an illustration in a fairy tale book. It’s been raining for the last day, just soft, steady rain, and a light fog has settled over the entire town. As I walked, the leaves dripped quietly in the hazy stillness.

When I got to the student center (where the coffee lives), the local florist was unloading his van full of flowers for the Friday Flowers. (Every Friday, students can buy flowers and stick them in each other’s mail boxes.) I don’t know when this tradition started, but I know it’s been going on for several years because my brother talked about them when he was in school here (he went here between 2000 and 2004).

This Friday was particularly wonderful because I got to go home for the afternoon in repayment for working last Saturday. I left at about 12:30, had a leisurely lunch, called my parents, and then took a three-and-a-half hour nap! Oh fraptious day!

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Unfortunately, I Seem To Have Misplaced My Brain

I somewhat miraculously made it through this entire day without the benefit of my brain. I’m not quite sure what happened to it, but there you have it. It was rather an unfortunate day to be without my brain because we were discussing database renewals this morning, I was trying to prep for a class this afternoon (with no apparent progress), and I participated in the first meeting of a reading group on campus sponsored by the Writing Across the Curriculum program.

That’s right. After inviting myself into this reading group, which will be meeting throughout the term to discuss books themed around “writing from sources,” I found myself sitting in a room full of teaching faculty, book in hand, and no capacity for rational thought. So sad.

But the faculty had a lively discussion about whether or not the book at hand (Rewriting by Joseph Harris) was useful or not. Personally, I appreciate Harris’ attitude toward writing. He places emphasis on being generous to other writers and coming to terms with their projects and approaches rather than on critiquing their work to shreds. The way he talks about entering the scholarly conversation has rekindled my interest in writing, and I’m not the only one to feel re-inspired by the book. Two separate professors in the room talked of suddenly feeling ready and able to go back to projects they’d shelved for years.

At the same time, the book is not perfect. I was never quite sure if it had actually been written for students or teachers (and the number of times Harris comes back to clarify this point lead me to believe that he wasn’t clear either). Several of the faculty members present were also annoyed by his lack of attention to the actual teaching of writing. Many complained that while the book helped them to think about teaching about intellectual thinking, it didn’t help them to think about “teaching writing.” I must confess that I was unclear about the distinction some were making between teaching about writing and teaching writing, but please remember that I was listening to all of this without the benefit of my brain.

One particularly interesting point in the conversation centered around citation, of all things. An art professor pointed out that in ceramics, students can “rewrite” past work by using a specific glaze, shape, or firing technique to comment on or invoke past moments in the history of ceramics. But unlike other disciplines, ceramics does not require students to “cite” these influences. So on the one hand, detailed and specific information about ceramics history isn’t required to be apparent, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not important. This professor says her heart bleeds every time a freshman “dunks” a pot into the celedon glaze without knowing or appreciating the history of the glaze, how it was meant to imitate jade, the position that jade had in the culture at the time, etc., etc., etc.

If my brain were present, I would observe something or other about how this relates to the importance of making use of prior knowledge when creating new works. I’d also comment on how it matters that people be able to understand when and why you make use of the past in this way. But alas, I can’t wrap my head around the phrasing at the moment. All I know is that I had a grand old time sitting there listening to these professors. (And it doubled as a perfect occasion to meet a few of my faculty, including two that I’ve only barely met before, in a social setting.)

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