Skip to content

Month: January 2009

25 Random Things You Probably Didn’t Want to Know About Me

I’ve been tagged about a bajillion times in Facebook to write up this list of 25 things, but I can’t write in Facebook. It’s kind of like I can’t write papers long-hand or even into Google Docs. I have to write them into Word. That’s just The Way Papers Are Written. And I think that little tidbit counts as Thing 1.


Thing 2. I wrote “Thing 2” through “Thing 25” all the way down the screen before starting to think of these things. Then I filled them in in random order. This is the 4th thing I wrote. “Thing 5” was the first. I don’t know what this says about my sense of organization.

Thing 3. I will read Jane Austen or Frank Herbert, Jonathan Safran Foer or Robert Ludlumâ„¢. I will not read Nicholas Sparks.

Thing 4. Just recently, I realized that the people that know me best in all the world include my mother, my friend from grad school, and a couple of librarians that I met online and almost always only see online. For a minute this struck me as odd, but then I got over it. I just wish all these people who know me so well would come live in my town.

Thing 5. I’m rarely bothered by mess or clutter in other people’s homes. In my own home it bothers me to no end (though this does not mean that my house is always clean and tidy, unfortunately).

Thing 6. I can’t spell. This causes me no end of angst and embarrassment, especially since I like to write. Spell check changed my life, and when it’s not around I use Google as spell check. Dear Google, tracking my searches must be incredibly amusing. “She’s searching for ‘hilarious’ AGAIN??? Hasn’t she found anything hilarious yet?”

Thing 7. I think 10 weeks it too short for a college term, but I don’t think I could survive 15-weeks of this kind of intensity.

Thing 8. When you speak to me, I can look you in the eye without trouble. When I speak to you, I’ll probably look elsewhere unless I concentrate.

Thing 9. My cat is more extroverted than I am, but I interact with more people than my cat does. I’m learning from him, though.

Thing 10. I’m a little bit extraordinarily empathetic. If you’re sad, I’m sad. Literally. If you describe a time when you were hurt, I hurt. Not badly, but I do feel it. Mostly, I like this kind of connection with the people around me.

Thing 11. I’ve always done my own taxes, but I have a multi-sheet spreadsheet that has all the calculations built into it. All I have to do is update key places to keep up with changes in rates and laws.

Thing 12. I remember my parents’ 30th birthdays quite clearly. I remember thinking they were old.

Thing 13. I often wonder where other people like me hang out in my town.

Thing 14. Socks are my favorite things to knit. I wish I were in endless need of new socks. However, since socks get walked on, I’m glad I don’t have to use my own hand-spun yarn like I would have in the days of yore. Hand-spun yarn is by far the best feeling yarn to knit with, though.

Thing 15. I love to dust but hate to vacuum. Vacuuming is so loud.

Thing 16. For twenty years, I’d put myself to sleep imaging what life would be like when I had children… the good, the bad, the details. I’ve stopped doing that.

Thing 17. My mother makes amazing bread from home-ground flour. I know it’s time to visit home when my freezer no longer has loaves from her in it, and I almost never make or buy any other bread.

Thing 18. I’m not vegetarian, but I rarely cook with meat unless I’m cooking for guests.

Thing 19. Eggs are my Kryptonite. I can’t even be around when they’re being cooked or I’ll have an allergic reaction that makes me basically dyslexic and moody for four days.

Thing 20. I love to cook, but only if I’m cooking for other people as well as myself. Please invite yourself over so that I’ll have food to eat.

Thing 21. I can just barely count the number of places I’ve lived on my fingers. Sometime I’ll need a mnemonic device to remember all the city names.

Thing 22. I only attended one day of “real” school before college. Due dates that included hours and minutes were quite the shock when I got to college.

Thing 23. My first doll when I was young was named Baby Peach because I loved canned peaches so much.

Thing 24. When I was growing up, watching my dad go through the process of getting his degrees, I promised myself I’d never go to graduate school. Then I went to graduate school more than once. Next time, I think I’ll promise myself I’ll never win a million dollars.

Thing 25. I refreshed FriendFeed at least 3 times for every Thing I wrote here. But I could quit any time.


Unavoidable Words that Wound

For the last year, my campus has been having in-depth conversations about situations that make members of our community feel excluded or harassed, with the goal of making ours a more healthy and diverse community. Through it all, I’ve been struck by the amount of inadvertent hurt that well-meaning people can inflict on others through inattention, unfamiliarity, ignorance, misguided efforts to help, and even embarrassment.

I remember with shame, for example, that the default search term that I used to get a feel for new databases used to be “frogs.” Almost no database would come back with zero hits on that term, so I’d get to see what fields were available for searching and how the interface worked without trying to come up with a discipline-specific term. And I liked the mental image of cute little green frogs gallivanting through all of these stogy research tools. Unfortunately, I’m also the liaison to the French department. Ever since one French professor pointed out the connection, I’ve started using the current season as my default search term instead.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor example. But as I hear stories of students who have been crushed by similarly inadvertent insults, I wonder how best to approach those times when typing incredibly offensive terms is unavoidable. One prime example is historical newspaper searching. What do you do when you’re searching for newspaper articles in a full-text archive, and in order to find articles about racial or ethnic groups you have to type the names of those groups as they would have been reported at that point in history? There’s no normative indexing in most of these historical newspaper archives to ease the way. And if I, with my relatively benign heritage and general lack of heritage-induced baggage, cringe just a little bit when I search for World War II coverage of “Japs,” I can’t imagine what the experience must be like for many of my students.

It’s one small piece of a much larger issue, I know, but my current mini-goal is to figure out how to stand in front of a class, as I did just last week, and acknowledge that historical newspaper searching is hard for this reason, and explain why it must be so, and do it all in a way that doesn’t inadvertently wound one of the students whose trust I’m hoping to gain.

Comments closed

What is an Unconference Anyway?

Yesterday an enlightening thing happened in the comments on a blog post by Steve Lawson (a post which is positively ancient in blog years, by the way). Up until yesterday, I’d rather naively thought that even though the terms “unconference” and “library camp” are still in their toddlerhood, people generally had a common understanding of what those terms mean. In my head, this common definition went something like this: An informal, free or low cost, loosely structured gathering at which people share knowledge with each other. I would hear “unconference” and have an image of people gathering at the beginning of the day to figure out what they wanted to learn that day and which of them could lead sessions on those agreed-on topics.

Now I see that people may not, in fact, have a common understanding of the term “unconference.” The comments on Steve’s post point to at least three different interpretations: Unconferences are loosely structured conferences, Unconferences are grassroots gatherings, and Unconferences are a genre rather than a format. Here’s what I mean…

  • Unconferences as loosely structured conferences
    If you think of a conference, you know that there are all kinds of logistics that go into pulling one of those things off, most of which depend to a large degree on how many people you want to attend. Everything from spaces to staffing to the number of speakers to the relative rock-start status of your speakers to the rigidity of the schedule has to be geared toward attracting and handling your target audience. If you plan for 100 people and only 40 show up, that’s a huge waste of capital. Bring this mindset to an unconference and you end up with less worry about rock-star speakers (though a few recent unconferences have had Big Names give keynote addresses), but most of the same issues remain your primary concern. The major thing that changes, then, is that the unconference organizers spend little to no time planning out sessions topics, leaving that up to the attendees.
  • Unconferences as grassroots gatherings
    Other people, while still having to deal with logistics, consciously force those logistics into the background of the event. They still need space and people, obviously, but if they plan for 100 and 40 show up, those 40 might not even notice that you had enough room for more than twice their number. Those 40 would gather, decide what they want to learn and which of them can facilitate that learning, and then learn it, usually for free (with the space and other necessities paid for by donors or sponsors).
  • Unconferences as a genre rather than a format
    Still others (myself included) think of unconferences as a genre of gathering which may or may not include a keynote address, may or may not charge a small fee, and may or may not have an over-arching theme. This genre places the emphasis on attendee-driven content, but other than that, it no more dictates the size or cost or logistical complexity than does the parent term “conference.” As Steve says, an unconference “can be whatever the attendees decide it is” (citation).

Luckily, the solution to all the muddled assumptions is transparency. So if I see an unconference coming up, and I see that it will charge me a small fee and what that fee will go towards, I can make my own decisions about the value of that unconference in my life. If I see that it will be of the loosely-structured-conference variety, and I’m ok with that, that’s great. If I see that it’ll be a completely unstructured day of serendipitous learning with other librarians, and I’m ok with that, that’s great too. After all, not all conferences are like ALA Annual, so why must all unconferences be as diametrically opposed to Annual as possible?


I interrupt my long silence to bring you earth shattering news…

… kind of… Well, at least interesting news. Interesting to me at least.

It’s been incredibly cold here the last couple of days. I’ve never before experienced nearly -50F windchills before. But now it’s warmed up enough that I have finally seen what I’ve always wanted to see: the magical temperature at which Fahrenheit and Celsius agree. So I took a screenshot, and here it is. Ta da!!!

In related news, I was a little late getting up to my office today because I just had to stop in the staff room, boil some water, and see what it would do when I threw it into the air out on the loading dock. I’m such an 8-year-old.