Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Want to be Miserable? No? Are you sure??

One day last week I forgot something I was supposed to do. It was an event where I was expected and for which I had accepted the invitation. In my defense I am perpetually attending similar events and I was in a post-migraine fog. But that did NOT stop me from feeling terrible about it. I sent my regrets and should have then moved on to the next item on my considerable list of things to do without giving it any more thought. That is what I would have advised a friend in the same situation to do. But was that what I did? Oh no, not me. I masticated, ruminated, and self-flagellated for the rest of the day. I have perfected this set of actions and now am really, really good at the process. That evening I was gloomily beating myself up a little more and performed some sort of pitiful search--have forgotten the terms I used. I came across this site:
Wow! I thought! I am doing every one of these things! Also I noticed the URL. Hmmmm maybe I was not being so smart. It made me laugh and I found myself feeling better on the spot. The experience provided a much needed kick in the pants and I bookmarked the site with some appropriate tags.

But wait! There's more! I started looking around the Dumb Little Man site. There are all kinds of tips to help you be less dumb about a plethora of things! There is a section on technology, with titles such as How To Effectively Manage Your Online Reputation and other topics that are worth considering in today's high pressure, information driven world and life. You can even buy a t-shirt that has a rain cloud and lightening on it to wear on days when you are feeling especially gloomy and dumb. I am resisting the temptation to order for now, in favor of taking a more positive outlook instead. Too often I remind myself of Joe Btfsplk. Remember him? He was the guy in Lil' Abner comics who always had a rain cloud above his head: Joe Btfsplk
I don't think I am alone in needing a reminder not to be like poor ol' Joe. Anyone else want to own up?

What a Great Day!

It may appear like I engineered my previous post as a set-up for this one, but I am not that much of a planner, especially when it comes to this space and my somewhat sporadic postings. But the other day I wrote about "story being the killer app," and then yesterday I was lucky enough to get to hear Laurie Halse Anderson and Jon Scieszka speak. The occasion was the newly named Jan Paris Book Fest. This is actually the 37th year for the conference to be offered by Sam Houston State University Department of Library Science, but this is the first year under the new name. Dr. Jan Paris was the founder of the conference and also the person who originated the Texas Bluebonnet Award. I think she would be proud to be remembered this way.

Another big change was that we held the conference in Corpus Christi rather than in Huntsville. This change was the vision of Dr. Holly Weimar and Dr. Tricia Kuon, who organized the event. The reason was to provide an opportunity for our South Texas and Rio Grande Valley students and alumni to attend. And come they did! Every seat in the ESC Region 2 Center was full. There were also workshops and poster sessions to round out the perfect day. In a time when funds are limited and travel is a luxury many cannot afford, it is very encouraging to see this event florish. I want to talk about both speakers in two more blog entries so I can do justice to their presentations. But here's to a great day, a great conference, and two unforgettable keynote addresses. And special thanks to Drs. Kuon and Weimar for your hard work!

Nancy Pearl was right in the thick of things, of course. Above she is at the dinner the night before, enjoying some dessert.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Something New?? Really?

Everything old is new again! The opening keynote speaker at this past week's Internet Librarian West conference talked about change...rapid change. Of course she did. Change is always the driving force at gatherings where technology is the topic. She gave statistics that illustrate the dizzying rate at which information is proliferating. It was a little daunting. She went on to warn that civilizations don't fall for usual reasons that we learned about in  school. Instead she cautioned that too much progress in a very short  time can cause all traditions of a society to be deemed less relevant, thus leading to downfall. The trick is to cull out the trivial, irrelevant, and just plain poop. Well, librarians are good at that. So maybe we can be the ones to save our civilization! We are trying...I can attest to that!

In the course of her speech, she made a couple of other statements that stuck with me. Did you know that the word sticky has a whole new range of meanings now? Several conference speakers referred to sticky facts or sticky information. There are even some apps using the word this way, starting with good old sticky notes. I guess time will tell whether the new connotation sticks around. Anyway two points she made stuck with me:
1. The power of one person should not be underestimated (this was yesterday's blog topic)
2. Second, and this is a direct quote: STORY is the new killer app.

STORY IS NOT NEW and hearing it is still important resonated with me. My Grandmother Fitzgerald raised seven kids and launched a passel of grandkids, all who loved her stories. She was a raconteur of the highest order. She could turn an everyday event into a comic extravaganza. She was good at true (though mightily embellished) stories and also strictly made-up ones. I now have her sewing rocker, the one that she used to tell us kids was a vehicle that enabled her in her dreams to travel all over the world. All it would take to get us settled down was for her to say, "I had another dream about my rocking chair last night."

Librarians, parents, teachers, songwriters and authors are the keepers of stories. We are the ones who make sure stories live on and new ones come along to enthrall listeners. The Internet just gives us new venues for them: ebooks, YouTube, VoiceThread, blogs, wikis, and all the other wonderful new tools. So long live stories! I don't think they are in trouble in our country. And that gives me hope in a scary world on this day after Halloween.

POST SCRIPT:  I have said this before but if you get a chance, do attend an Information Today conference. The ones I attend are Internet Librarian and Inteernet@School West. Both are top notch, and they come around twice a year--every fall in Monterey, CA and every spring in Washington DC. So you get a great destination as well as a fantastic conference. Oh and of course my buddy Nancy Pearl went along. I am sharing a picture of her enjoying the coast. She insists on wearing the SHSU spirit sticker that she got at a tailgate party just before the trip.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Collaboration is Great but a Committee of One Gets Things Done

I know I am swimming upstream with my title statement. Today we are supposed to be all about collaboration. We are besieged with exhortations...

Make connections!

That is why I pricked up my ears when the keynote speaker at Internet Librarian West last Monday started talking about the power of one person. The opening keynoter was Patricia Martin, CEO of Litlamp Communications. An example she used was a man named Sam DeLaGarza (!/samdelag). He was given the daunting task of revitalizing and repurposing the Ford Fiesta. Since he was not expected to succeed, they gave him a meager budget. He used most of the money on social networking. As he was communicating with members of the groups he thought would be his targets, young adults just starting out in the world, he made a stunning discovery: a significant number of this demographic did not want a car at all but rather were looking ways to get along without one. Armed with this information he knew he had to convince these leery consumers to buy the economical Fiesta. His success exceeded expectations and the popularity of the Fiesta was one thing that helped Ford fare better than other car companies through the economic downturn. Quite a lot for one person to do!

OK he did not do all this alone. But HE was the agent of change. HE got the ball rolling. Somebody has to be that person in many situations. The reason this resonates with me is because I think in some schools there may not be a lot of enthusiasm for new ideas. I know there are all those great schools, librarians, and other educators who are doing great things with technology and the Internet. But I cannot quit worrying about those schools we do NOT hear about because there is precious little to hear. During my session at the Internet@School conference, I asked this question: "How many of you are at schools that are really zooming along with technology?" I expected to see a lot of hands...after all this was a conference for nerds and geeks. Not one hand went up. So I said, "Well how about if you are at a school where SOME neat things are happening?" That elicited a few half-raised hands, and frankly I do think these folks were being modest because I know they are doing great things. Even so, wow! Some in the room were presenters yet they thought things at their schools were not exactly zooming.

This reinforced my suspicion that while there may be lots of computers out there in labs and classrooms, they may be underused and not used with much creativity. I frequently hear this from my MLS students, some of whom enter our program with minimal computer skills and not much exposure to Web 2.0 applications or even more basic computer uses with kids.

Discouraging? You bet! Still, the story of Mr. DeLaGarza gives me hope. There CAN be change, even when there is just one person with vision. That is a message I want to get out to those who struggle against the odds with efforts to bring 21st Century Skills to their libraries and schools!

Plow ahead with those ideas!
Speak out against those ridiculous filters!
Refute the fear mongering and press for common sense access and use of the Internet!
Get your kids fired up!
Get parents on board by showing things going on at other skills that their kids are missing!

Pretty soon you will not be alone any more. In fact, by raising the subject you may learn you were not really all alone in the first place. As the popular saying goes, be the change you are waiting for.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Meerkats Oh My!

This week I had an appointment at Houston Medical Center. I took along one of my favorite running buddies, our inimitable department secretary Rebecca Lewis. We departed early and treated ourselves to a trip to the Houston Zoo! Visiting the zoo is a favorite pastime of mine and if I lived closer I would have a membership. It is a place to forget troubles, deadlines, and frustrations and enjoy the moment. I have always been proud of the Houston Zoo and if you have not been lately, great things are going on. I was last there several months ago, but still saw some new improvements this time. Rebecca had not been in years, and was wowed by the growth and beauty. Another point of pride is that the zoo is right next to the medical center. I know it provides respite and diversion for patients of all ages.

One thing I was especially happy to see was the number of school groups there. With current budget cuts, I know that field trips are as endangered as some of the zoo's denizens. I should hasten to add that I LOVE virtual field trips. I have presented about their value at conferences and have some great links to share at my wiki:

This guy is standing watch, scanning the sky so his buddies can relax for a while. According to the zoo docent, if the guard scrambles down from his perch as if running for safety, all other meerkats disappear in a flash.

Zoos would be top of my list for places where kids need to be loaded onto buses and taken in groups. The kids I saw were not only enjoying the animals, but benefiting from guidance from their teachers and sharing their reactions with classmates. 

As Rebecca and I moved along, we kept pace with one particular group of young teens. I could not help but notice their enthusiasm and how closely they were looking at everything--not just the animals but also the surroundings in general. Next I tried to single out their teacher. She was not standing at the head of a line and barking out orders, but she was very much in control. Although she was young and some of the boys were a head taller, she was easy to pick out. She was the one moving kids along, pointing out details, and answering their questions. The next thing I noticed was that every kid had a camera. And some of them had high end Nikon and Pentax digital cams. Aha, I thought...this must be a photography class! (I am good at recognizing the obvious). 

Finally I caught the teacher between kid conversations and asked her about her class. These kids were from a new school in Spring ISD, Roberson Junior High, A Math, Science, and Fine Arts Academy. What a great place it must be! I am proud to say that a past student and present friend is librarian there. I know Charlotte Ballard is another bright light at that school. Anyway, this teacher explained that her photography students were indeed using school-owned cameras along with their own, and that Spring ISD has NOT given up on field trips. She went on to describe their curriculum with great enthusiasm and share that she had developed it all herself. 

I cannot say that I have ever seen a better behaved group of boys and girls (I have seen others who were AS GOOD, but none better.) I did not see one eye roll or bored expression. They were on a mission, or rather a couple of missions. Of course they were photographing the animals. In addition to that, they were looking for letters of the alphabet that they could find in natural surroundings. Their pictures will be shared on the school web site and I am looking forward to seeing them.  Every few steps someone would exclaim, "here's an "H' or "P'" and so on. Rebecca and I started looking for letters too--this activity is irresistible when everybody else is doing it. I mentioned the alphabet project that had been done years ago in New York City and my new friend replied "Oh yes! That's where I got the idea!" I have not been able to find the original site with the NYC letters, but here is another one that illustrates the idea: 
I know an alphabet photo collection is not a new idea, but if you have not tried it, I can attest to its success. I actually tried it myself with some kids back in the late 90's. It is not necessary to go on a trip to conduct this kind of search, in fact some teachers have done it 100% indoors around their schools.  Visiting with these kids and their teacher, along with getting to see all the wondrous creatures on a beautiful Texas fall day was truly a memorable experience. All zoo trips are memorable. Long may they prosper in our schools!

PS As an afterthought, I wonder if a virtual alphabet search using Creative Commons photos might be fun on a cold, rainy day...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Journey To The Top

This is not by me! It is by my dear friend and teaching assistant, Debbie Henson. She is a breast cancer survivor, a wonderful mom, a real nerd who loves to learn new technology stuff,  and a general delight to know. I wanted to share her accomplishment. The rest of this post is in her words:

This past weekend while visiting our daughter in Colorado Springs I wanted to do the Incline on Pikes Peak at Manitou. Ashley told me about it in a visit back in April and I said the next time I come I will attempt it. I started talking about it as soon as I book our flight. I had doubters…given my age of 57 and hip issues but I insisted that I was going to at least try.

View from bottom

I went to the shoe store and bought hiking shoes knowing full well that I would not wear them again after the weekend trip. I bought suitable clothing to wear up the mountain since it does get cooler.

Saturday morning we got up and got ready. I was feeling a little apprehensive as I got closer but I told myself that I had to try it, I wouldn’t have this opportunity again and just go for as long as I could.

View from the bottom.

Well, I DID DO IT. As I told Ashley, physically, this was as hard as childbirth and in many ways like it. While there is a point at which you can head down the mountain on a trail at the halfway mark, for the most part, once you start it’s best to keep going because the trip down is just as bad. I was exhausted; my feet, knees and hips hurt but it was GREAT. Other than childbirth…..THE BEST AROUND EXPERIENCE EVER!

What I learned about completing the Incline-

View from the top.

* No matter how old you are you still have to have aspirations, goals and dreams.
* Seize an opportunity when you can because you might not have the chance again.
* It’s ok to look forward and skyward, just don’t get overwhelmed with what is ahead of you.
* Make sure you have someone there along the way to encourage.
* Take it slow, rest and continue on. Time doesn’t have to be a factor. As Ashley said….think tortoise-slow but sure.
* It’s a humbling experience…it brought me to my knees at the difficult parts.
* Everyone passed me by, but while they did, they were encouraging and friendly.
* Others get to the top before you but that doesn’t mean you won’t get there as well.
* You will get discouraged with what is ahead of you but that is ok. Again, have someone who will rally you on in the difficult parts.
* Not only was it a physical feat it was a spiritual and emotional one as well.
* As my cousin says-Age is an attitude and I SO believe this!
* AND………the MOST important: ONE STEP AT A TIME and never give up!

To Debbie...YOU GO GIRL!!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Happy New Year--Ten-OH-Two!

I am kicking off the remainder of 2010 under a new name: 2010.20 or, Ten-oh-two. I am claiming Labor Day as my 2nd New Year celebration this year. To me, the beginning of the school year is more significant than the beginning of a calendar year anyway. More importantly, the old 2010 was not such a good year for me. It started with a troubling mammogram, followed by the loss of my dear old best dog Ringo. These events happened in the first days of January. They were followed by cancer diagnosis, surgery and radiation, which kept me occupied through June. Then in July my dad had a heart attack and we very nearly lost him. Along the way there was a badly sprained ankle, some particularly trying work challenges and a few other unwelcome distractions. Frankly the old 2010 was not much fun and I was getting tired feeling like Joe Btfspik, the Lil’ Abner character who used to go around with a rain cloud hovering above his head. (Here is his bio in case you don’t remember him):

So I decided to retool and reboot the year, or what is left of it, and cast poor old 2010 in a more favorable light. I am shortening it to the affectionate nickname of Ten-oh-two. Tenny actually started up for me in mid-August. Once summer graduation was over I vowed to lower my stress level and learn to work smarter and relax harder. I even made resolutions:
• Take some time every day to read for pleasure
• Check email just three times a day instead of letting messages rule my day. My new goal is to check and respond first thing in the morning, again around lunch, and last at day’s end. Letting popup messages interrupt my other work is a bad habit.
• Increase positive online interactions such as messages of support to students, positive comments via social media.
• Step up my exercise routine. My dog Son and I have been hitting the track in late evenings.
• Curtail evening TV in favor of reading, listening to Pandora, communicating in a RELAXING manner online. I find social networking a positive because it allows me to visit with people I seldom see but enjoy “seeing” in cyberspace.
I am going to ask around and see if anybody else has some ten-oh-two resolutions. If so, I will post them here. Happy New Year!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Inspiring Graduation Experience

I actually wrote this entry three weeks ago, right after Summer Graduation at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX. I was inspired then and remain so. This never got posted because I left town the next morning for a vacation in Oregon, about which I write in my previous entry. So I am posting in a bit late, but that has no bearing on the story or its message:

Thirty graduations. That is how many I have attended since beginning my time as a professor of library science at SHSU. The first one was a thrill. I got to don my beautiful green and gold robe for the 2nd time (first being my own graduation) and walk in as a faculty member. I expected that ceremony attendance would get old after a while but that has not happened. I still enjoy the event, even if it does curtail my revered Saturday afternoon nap time. This year, as I left our building and headed over to the area where everyone assembles for lining up, I encountered something wonderful. Pulled up next to the curb was a big, shiny, chartered bus with people disembarking. Everybody was dressed to the nines and cameras were pointing. These folks were taking pictures of themselves taking pictures of themselves. I walked up to one young lady who was documenting the events with a video camera. “This is a wonderful group you have here," I said, "are you honoring one graduate or a group of people?” “We are all here for one person,” she replied. “She is getting a degree in education!” The people milling about ranged in age from babies in arms to grandparent types. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Well, most of us are from Houston but we also have people from as far away as California.” She replied. After my exclamations of praise for the grad and this family, we parted ways with me feeling better about the world. These folks realized that a college graduation was important enough to bring out a whole family to commemorate the event.

I have no doubt that buses get charted when young athletes reach exalted levels such as state playoffs. Buses of SHSU Bearkat fans come up from Houston on game days. But this was different. All these people were gathering to celebrate the academic achievement of one of their own. What a powerful message to the boys and girls who were part of the group! What a thrill for the grandparents who may not have attained such a goal. What a send-off for the new grad! I believe that the world is a better place because of this family, and others like it, who realize and applaud the hard work and sacrifice of everyone who made this particular grad a success.

Speaking of success, our SHSU Department of Library Science graduated 34 new school librarians on Saturday. Many were from San Antonio, a point of pride for me because I had wished we could offer instruction in SA for several years before plans became reality. We were treated to an exceptional graduation speaker, Dr. James Gaertner, outgoing President of SHSU. This ceremony was his last as university president. Dr. Gaertner is an accomplished speaker, known for his light touch while delivering serious messages. Two of his quotations really stood out for me:
• “Adversity introduces you to yourself.” I can certainly vouch for the reality that adversity shapes a person, but this was a bit of a different slant. As a youngster growing up, I often wondered how I would perform in the face of pain, loss, fear, hard times, or other trying circumstances. I knew my growing-up years were remarkably free of such tests. Looking back from my present perspective I realize that I am like most people: One way or another you get through those things.
• The other thing he said that I noted had to do with momentous life events, both positive and negative: “How a person responds to good or bad things that happen in life shows how big a person you are.” Celebrities behaving badly show the world their small stature by behaving badly in the face of great success and wealth. But we do not have to look that far for examples. I know associates who have shown true colors when confronted with both good and bad news.

As a new academic year begins, and many students enter the final stretch to degree completion, I wish all the best to both students and to the dedicated faculties that work so hard to help them succeed.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Short Note about "Best Bank in the World"

I am sitting in air-conditioned comfort on Alberta Street, Portland OR, on a heat-advisory day. It is supposed to get up into the 90's!!! Given that lots of people are sans air-conditioning, that can actually be cause for concern. Anyway, this place is not only cool, but blasting out AC onto a little open courtyard area. The bank offers the following: free lectures about credit and other banking concerns (one just finished), free cookies, free soft drinks, several computers for free browsing (30 minute limit requested), and chirpy employees. One young guy just finished his time, wheeled his bike outside (yes he brought it inside with him), and pedaled off down the street. They also have a physical bulletin board where people can post notices, and also tout an online board for the same. Oh yeah and there is background music. They also have a project going called "build your block challenge," whereby people can submit proposals for neighborhood improvement projects and hope to gain up to $10,000. It seems a bit heartening to see a bank offering amenities when so many are just ripping you off and being surly while at it. On the other hand, all is not utopia, I surmise. Across the street there is a quaint victorian house sporting signs saying "Boycott Umpqua Bank...logging Old Growth since 1953," and other slogans. The building is the home of an outfit called "In Defense of Animals: Protecting the rights, welfare, and habits of animals."

I asked the young lady who was leading sessions about the signs. Her explanation was that the bank was founded in southern Oregon where logging is the prominent industry, and one director owns a logging company. She was quick to assert that this one person does not make the decisions for the bank. I asked about the organization with the protest posters, and she said they are a local PETA headquarters.

While I was keying in this, another session started. It is for beginning account holders, mostly early 20-somethings. First question, "When you put your money in the bank, where does it go?" She answered briefly and then led the group on a tour of the facility. They were surprisingly attentive, and more than happy to take the goodie bags handed out which contained checkbooks and other logo promotional items.

So what does this have with technology and/or librarianship? Well, the free computers for anyone to use is huge to me. I just sent off an article about the lack of free computer access for kids hit by the economic digital divide. While I was typing one teen left and another arrived on HIS bike and sat down at the computer next to me. What's not to like about free computer use, free cookies, and cool drinks plus AC on a hot day for a kid in this mixed neighborhood?

Finally what is my take on all this? Well, I have to say I see more to like than dislike. Sure the bank may have some issues with the logging industry, but it is local to Oregon and the money stays here. Banks are banks and I do have a certain level of suspicion about motives in view of our current economic woes and the role of big banks and businesses. However, they are trying to be accomodating and informative, not to mention offering the perks previously mentioned. What if EVERY bank offered 2-3 computers for free surfing, especially in neighborhoods where there are lots of people with limited/no access? If I lived in Oregon, I would probably bank here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Time Enough!

When I was a kid, suppertime was when we all shared the stories of the day. Usually Mom had the most interesting story. She taught first and second grade for many years, and usually she had some tale about what had happened at school that day. She loved to tell us the stories from her reading books too. One she referred to many times was a traditional Yiddish tale—the story about the poor man who goes to the wise elder and asks what to do about his crowded house. Mom called the story “Room Enough” and I think that was the title in the reader that she used. Anyway, in the story the man is told to ease his crowding problem by bringing MORE inhabitants into the house. Bring in the chickens! No improvement. The goats! Much worse! …and so on. Finally the man goes back one more time and the elder says…now…go home and take out all the animals! So he does and comes back to report that the problem has been solved. There is now ROOM ENOUGH in the house. My mother thought this story was hilarious for some reason, and whenever things got cluttered in the den, or the kitchen needed straightening, she would pronounce that WE needed ROOMENOUGH! My brother and I always knew we were in for some house cleaning chores then.

The reason I have been thinking about this for the past few months is that I have been yearning for TIME ENOUGH. Although I am far from a born leader, I agreed with some reluctance last year to take over as department chair for our MLS program. Then around Christmas I had a worrisome mammogram. I ended up with surgery this spring followed by radiation treatments. I lost Mom to breast cancer , and had promised my daughter that if I ever needed treatment I would seek the best care. Thus I had my original appointments and surgery down town in Houston at MD Anderson. I was lucky enough to be able to have my radiation at a satellite clinic just 30 miles from my house. But every single day for two months I made the drive down and back for my treatments, losing about 3 hours from start to finish. I kept telling myself that once I got through with all that, I would be like the crowded family in the folk tale, except with time instead of room. I would get my life back, complete with Time Enough.

I finished my treatments three days before leaving to take students on a travel study experience to NYC and DC, finishing up with the ALA conference. That was a great trip and I took care not to overdo, but during that time I did not have what one would call a leisurely schedule. No matter. I was going to get it back when I returned from the trip! Surely then I would have Time Enough!

Upon return I discovered that I was behind on all fronts, most particularly with the other class I was teaching, and grades were due in one short week. So I got past that. Then came the week I had been waiting for. Last. Week. I was going to have Time Enough starting last week! Monday was busy but then Mondays are always busy. On Tuesday I had a great day teaching a new class of students. But…during lunch I got a call that my dad had been taken to the ER. It seems he had a heart attack, something they call a silent heart attack that must have occurred some time in the previous 2-3 days. Not only that, he had congestive heart failure that really should have been diagnosed ages ago. So again my life went into overdrive. We got him delivered back home and settled with a hospital bed in his den. Life is going on and his amazing spirit still blazes brightly.

Meanwhile I have been attending to a myriad of duties related to the administrative part of my job, and also keeping up with my summer class. Amazingly I am, for the moment, caught up with grading. I have an article to write but I have the all-important idea and it is percolating. I am sitting here listening to Lucinda Williams Radio via Pandora and thinking about re-launching my blog. I think I have time enough to do that. Finally.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Apology to TLC Listserv

Dear Fellow Texas Librarians, I want to apologize for the unintelligible message sent today from my dog, Son. He does not understand about message boards, spam (which he thinks sounds yummy), cookies (which he KNOWS are yummy) or any other computer stuff. I have been enjoying the glorious weather and working on my back porch. Son has been sharing his (once my) lounge chair with me. Evidently when I went inside he at some point he tapped out a message, or at least a subject line that reads "Re: JAnjJhjqpbjbjhoq'&0-¥£¥-'haws." By the end of it I think he was getting the hang of the keyboard and actually typed out some rude laughter. I am attaching a picture of him, right at the scene of the cyber crime. You can see he is sorry about the whole thing...

PS If you look at the bottom right corner and on the floor, you can see evidence of his chewing on the cushion a little bit. He always apologizes for that too.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Are You a Tortoise, a Hare, or a Possum?

I have been thinking about Web 2.0 use in schools and Internet filtering, and also about hares, tortoises, and possums. In fact I am thinking about the topics daily due to an upcoming panel discussion at Texas Library Association (TLA) Conference in San Antonio, which is about filtering. I am, of all things, moderator. I plan to bring a noise maker and wildly wield authority over the session. In preparation for this I am conducting a survey on Filtering at Schools, and would appreciate participation at:

Meanwhile, back to critters. First of all I want to praise the hares. These folks are leaders, and I am constantly amazed at how far ahead of the rest of us they constantly range. The reason I love Twitter is because I follow some great librarians and technology folks who are constantly presenting and sharing about Web. 2.0 resources. If you want some great tweets, go to my site and pick up some of the same people. They are waay out in front of the rest of us and showing the way. Unlike the silly hare in the fable, these folks are not about to be caught napping. I am in awe of all the different things they do and have followed up on tweets that led to great ideas innumerable times. Hares are also writing, presenting, creating, experimenting, and exerting leadership in countless ways regarding the use of Web2.0 in schools.

Then there are the tortoises. Those are the rest of us who follow along, maybe a bit slowly and thoughtfully, but still very much in the race. These are the folks who recognize the value of new ideas and resources, but are not necessarily the early adopters. With so many new things to evaluate and try, these folks are more likely to follow along with ideas that they can see have demonstrated promise. They may be burdened with other duties and obligations both at school and at home, but are very much still in the race. Hooray for these folks! They can be counted upon to attend training sessions, collaborate with hares, and generally keep things moving along.

Then there is another group of people, I regret to say, who comprise a third anthropomorphic species. I am calling these folks the possums. Yes, these are the people that fall down and play dead. They are content to be uninformed, disinterested, and even antagonistic about technology in general and Web 2.0 in particular. Years ago there was a teacher at my school who said, "If you give me a computer, I will use it for a plant stand." Such folks are hard to reach, but at least some can be brought along. I enlisted my plant stand friend for an online project involving her students and she changed her tune! That was years ago, but I know that there are still educators that do not want to be responsible for supervising students using the Internet, who do not want to bother to try different things, and who may still be fearful and antagonistic regarding computer use.

I have asked for years how the possums can be de-possumed. Now I believe there is not an easy or single answer to that question. But one of the best instruments of change is one-on-one involvement. The deadly old staff developments where large groups are required to listen to enthusiastic hares whose language they may not even completely understand (tweets? wikis? Nings???) are not productive. I suspect tortoises may be better suited for the task. They are more likely to relate to possum-think and offer reassurance and timely as-needed support.

Finally I cannot resist mixing metaphors even more and reminding myself that "You can bring a horse to water but you cannot make him drink." There are some folks who are not going to change their ways. Frankly, while this is getting harder and harder, it is still true that some people can still be effective though possumish. All the same, I would strongly urge both hares and tortoises to extend paws toward erstwhile possums. Any ideas about how to do so will be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health Care Debate

I told myself I would not belabor this issue. I have posted my thoughts before, here and elsewhere. But watching C-SPAN and feeling the urgency of the upcoming vote on health care reform, I am caving in to my impulse to voice my conviction that this measure is long overdue. I am telling a story because I believe in stories. When my husband Ron was being treated for cancer at MD Anderson, he had a network of supporters who were there to help with counseling, pain management, physical therapy, and any other needs he might have. At one point we spoke with a financial counselor. Ron's fear was that his health insurance might run out and then that the expensive COBRA might run out after that. This is the fear of any cancer patient who does not have unlimited resources and is under the age of 65. At that time Ron had an apartment in Houston where he stayed during the week, and then he was with me on weekends. This lady told him to get rid of his Houston address immediately. Why? Because if they could say he lived in Houston, and if he ran out of insurance, he would have to be treated at Ben Taub. Our Montgomery County address meant there was not at that time a cancer clinic available so he could go to MD Anderson. Ben Taub is a great emergency hospital, but is the end of the line for folks who are out of insurance. Before we concluded our interview, the social worker told us a story about another man she was working with. This unlucky fellow was 64 years old. He would not be 65 for several months. He was in the position that Ron feared. His insurance and his money were running out. He actually only needed to hold on for three more months until he was 65 and would have Medicare. They had tried every possible plea and ploy to somehow get a concession so he could continue his treatment at MD Anderson, to which he was responding well. No dice. She said the bottom line was he would have to go to Ben Taub for three months, where the therapy was not available. He would probably die much sooner as a result of this interruption in his treatment. How many people have to find themselves in similar predicaments? How many is too many? I lived through the debate and passage of Medicare, when all the same dire predictions were made. They are no more true today than they were then. Ron died before his insurance ran out, but it still makes me mad that he had to worry about insurance as well as his cancer. Shameful.

And now I am back at MD Anderson. Yesterday I had my blood tested in the same lab where Ron used to get his done. That was a strange feeling. I have good insurance, and I also have a very good prognosis. I am not worried about the same things that Ron, with stage IV lung cancer had to face. But still...

Another Reason Why Librarians Make A Difference

Last week I spent a considerable amount of time in waiting rooms at MD Anderson Hospital waiting rooms at the Mays Clinic Breast Cancer Center. Anybody who has been through a big hospital like this knows to expect waiting, and I was well prepared with gizmos. I was witness to a very compelling little drama at one point. I kept noticing a young boy who looked about 10 and was wandering around, appearing a bit lost. I thought maybe he was with one of the volunteers because he never seemed to be talking to anyone who was seated in the area. Finally he concentrated his wanderings to the area where the volunteers had a plate of cookies and some heart shaped pillows, which they give away to patients. One of the volunteers smiled at him and said, "Would you like a cookie?" I could not hear what he said but it was clear that they then engaged in a conversation, and that he was worried about his mother, who was back in one of the rooms. The lady was offering him some tips on how he could help her by cheering her up, giving her support, helping out with chores, helping her with healthy diet, etc. Then another lady came up and started talking with him too. The librarian in me could not be restrained. I went up to the first lady and said, "I see your friend has questions." She said yes. When she asked him if he wanted a cookie he said "No, but I have a question...How can they make my mother's cancer go away?" I said, "You should tell him to talk to his school librarian. She can find him books on his level that help answer his questions and also help him deal with his mother's illness." She did ask him and he said that he did know and like his librarian and that he would do that. Then one of the ladies took him downstairs to the Learning Center for some written information. He had been researching on the Internet, but clearly wanted to TALK to someone who could give him the information he sought. He was 9 years old. I commented on his maturity and spunk for coming up and asking them questions. She laughed and said he told her, "I may be little but I have a BIG HEAD." She said, "Are you trying to tell me you are smart?" and he said YES. She told him that she was sure he could help his mom just by being himself and being there for her. If you are a librarian you know that children of all ages come in with questions about their loved ones' health issues, and about their own health as well. They need and deserve to have a caring adult who will not only hand over the right book but also be there as someone to listen and give support. This is one of the many things school librarians do very well.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Spring Break

Here I am in a lovely hotel with every amenity you could imagine...nice restaurant and bar, snack cafe, Starbucks, free chair massages, pool, exercise center, lovely gardens, and more. Some of the people staying here are very rich and powerful. There are some sumptuous suites upstairs, or so I have heard. Yet I am paying a bargain price. And I am here with mixed feelings. I would much rather be home in my crooked little house. So where am I? Well, I am in Houston. And while I have a nice view out my window there are drawbacks. What I see is Texas Children's Hospital. And St. Luke's, and MD Anderson, Alkeck Building. So maybe you know where I am...The Rotary International Hotel at MD Anderson Cancer Center. I will be having tests tomorrow and then will see my surgeon on Wednesday and, I hope, set a date for surgery. The sooner the better. I have had the best bad news a person could want, because I have very early detection and a good prognosis. I expect to be around for a long time.

Anyway, here's the technology tie-in. MD Anderson has a killer website! Oops maybe that's a bad choice of words. It is a really great site with all kinds of services. There are step by step instructions for everything, including walking directions INSIDE buildings to help you find your way. All kinds of FAQ's...I appreciate that stuff because it is really helpful and also because I know how hard it is to do all that. We try to tell students what they need to do in our program, and yet never seem to anticipate all the questions they have. And their online social network is great. You get all your appointments there, get your forms to fill out, check on prescriptions, and access support groups. The user-friendly factor gets a 10.

So overall I am going to do my best to enjoy my stay. Unless they add to my schedule I will be free tomorrow afternoon and have promised myself a treat. maybe a museum trip or the zoo. I do like this part of Houston. And truly, MD Anderson is a hopeful place. People come here from all over the world to get the very best care. I was in the elevator with a couple from France. I parked next to an Escalade with Michigan plates. I feel lucky that all I have to do is get in my little Honda Fit and tool down the road from Huntsville. But I will close with a bit of editorializing that I cannot resist. Suppose I didn't have health insurance. Suppose I was under 65 (well I AM under 65) and I ran out of insurance. Then, I could not come to MD Anderson. I would be sent to the charity hospital, Ben Taub. Ben Taub has a great ER, but it is not the place for cancer treatment. So even though I could SEE MD Anderson from Ben Taub, I could not be treated there. People who think we don't need health insurance reform have never had to face a situation like the one I just describe, but it happens every day. Here. Today. Think about that while our "representatives" embarrass themselves and us with their childish behavior in DC this week.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Goldfinches and Dragons!

The biggest reason for this blog entry is to demonstrate the Dragon speech recognition app that available on iPhone -- I am talking into my phone right now. Then I'm going to send the text that appears, and e-mail it to myself and then post at my blog! I'm very excited that I finally took time to try out this app, Dragon Dictation.

And by the way, what a great day I'm having! First of all two of my favorite people are withme this weekend--that would be Dr. Laura Sheneman and Dr. Joanna Fountain, and they're staying with me over the weekend because of a faculty meeting tomorrow. It's sort of like a nice house party! The other thing I wanted to say is that my goldfinches are thriving. I put extra seed and feeders just now, including the thistle sock that goldfinches really love. I'm watching the goldfinches crowding around my feeders right now. I have a regular congregation out there in front of my house! I hope everybody else is having a great day, and I think I have one coming to me!

OK...What you read just now is the edited version of the speech to text file that I emailed myself. The original version is posted below. You will see that a good deal of editing was needed. Still, I think I will be using the app, and will probably buy the more sophisticated version for my computer. It claims to be 99% accurate, regardless of one's accent or dialect. I really think it can help my productivity. If you want to read the unedited text, keep on reading below. Some of it is funny. The app evidently had trouble the word "goldfinches" and turned it in to girl friends at one point and then claimed the goldfinches were driving. There are some other funny phrases too--the best is about us all "suffering together" which seems a bit Freudian and hauntingly accurate. I would love to hear from other Dragon product users. Here goes the original text:

The biggest reason for this blog entry is to demonstrate this Dragon
speech recognition app that available on iPhone because I am talking
into my phone right now then I'm going to have that appears text and
I'm going to e-mail it to my seven posted at the blog posts what a
great day. I'm having first of all two of my favorite people are with
me this weekend that would day Dr. Laura Sheneman and Dr. Joanna
fountain and their staying with me over the weekend because of the
faculty meeting tomorrow and working all have suffered together so
it's sort of like a nice house party and the other thing I wanted to
say is that my goldfinches are driving I put out extra stage at the
associate and I have on my way great day. I'm having the girls, ages
are crowding around my theater and I just adapted so as well and we
have a regular congregation out there and from my house so I hope
everybody else is having a great day and I think I have one coming
first time for me and I have to say I'm very excited that I finally
took time to try out this app that more I wanted to just say what a
great day

Sunday, February 28, 2010

And About Time...

This morning I went from the depths of dismay and disappointment to the hyper high of exultation all in the space of about an hour and a half. OK I overstate. But when I read this morning that Wordle was down "indefinitely" due to a trademark dispute, and then went to the site and saw the message to that effect, I was sad and a little concerned. I had made it the centerpiece of an assignment for my Internet for Librarians class and then BLAM! It was gone. The original alert was posted to LM_NET or TLC (forget which), and this article was shared as a help in finding alternatives. You might want to mark it in case of anther Wordle disappearance:

Anyway, I had not had a chance for my stages of grief to move from disbelief to anger, much less all the way over to acceptance, when I received a tweet that Wordle was back! And it is! So I went from mourning to celebrating in a very fast turnaround. Such is the way of the wild and wooly Internet. And...welcome back Wordle. Reports of your death were greatly exaggerated. And I wonder if they were actually exaggerated by you, Oh Wordle, in your efforts to generate concern and better your case for your dispute. Ah whatever. I am just glad Wordle is back. Tag on, geeks and cloudies!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's About Time

Yesterday I my friend and hero, Dr. Teri Lesesne, posted a short video of herself talking about this year's Newbery winner, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. This struck me as a neat coincidence because I was just thinking about that book and the theme of time. The reason time was weighing heavily on my mind was because I just finished ANOTHER book about time yesterday, also set in NYC, and also appealing to kids about the same age, Antsy Does Time. What a great pair of books!

In case you have not read either or both, When You Reach Me is a wonderful story about friendship. It does take place in NYC though back in the late 1970's so a bit different from today's NYC. The major things going on are a story of a very special friendship, time travel, coming of age, and mystery. It is a little difficult to read this book without being reminded of Time Traveler's Wife because of the time tricks involved.

Antsy Does Time takes place in Brooklyn and NYC. The book has a serious side despite the humorous events and dialogue. Time is again a major theme, though without the supernatural elements of the previous book. Instead Antsy tries to cheer up his pal Gunnar, who confides that he has a terminal illness, by "giving" him time from his own life and enlisting others to do the same. Good-hearted Antsy is a very likable protagonist with his smart mouth coupled with a generous and altruistic nature. By the end of the book he has learned some hard lessons about friendship, honesty, death and the importance of family.

If I had to choose a favorite between these two, I could not do it! I will admit I read both these books with my ears. Neal Shusterman read Antsy himself, and When You Reach Me is well presented by Cynthia Holloway.

Oh and...I think the covers are somewhat similar too. They are both cartoony with elements of the plot featured in a composite. Teri thought the cover of When You Reach Me was off-putting and so did some of her students, but I liked it from the first. Give yourself a nice winter treat and enjoy both of these books!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

One Thing Leads to Another--Musings About Leadership

The link from my title leads to a You Tube video that touched me just now. Take a look if you haven't seen it. It is the one about Johnny the Bag Boy and how he transformed his store. It made me remember something from Super Bowl Sunday. I stayed tuned in for the following show where the CEO of Waste Management went incognito and took the most menial jobs related with his company. He was clearly a very nice guy with a good heart. But he discovered that there were many practices in his company that needed change. There was the draconian rule for a very short lunch hour with pay docked for taking just one extra minute. There were the time constraints on truck routes that did not even allow for restroom breaks, which were disproportionally hard on female drivers. There was the overworked and under-appreciated office manager about to lose her house because of her low pay. The manager went back and changed many policies. He said his life was completely changed.

All this is very interesting to me because suddenly I realized that at this time I am more of an administrator than anything else, though I do still have teaching duties. I never really wanted to be cast in this role but accepted my present position because I thought it was the right thing to do. I want learn to treat people in my department with respect, honor, and fairness. I think of the woman who drove the truck and found the joy she brought to her job was diminished by the unreasonable demands imposed upon her. Taking people's joy is a serious mistake. There have been a few times in my life when I have worked for administrators that diminished their staff's joy and productivity by humiliating people, setting impossible standards, showing favoritism, and otherwise demeaning the people in their charge. I hope I can learn to be a bit like Johnny's boss and the Waste Management CEO and "get it right."

Oh and, the name of the show is "Undercover Boss," and the next episode is about the CEO of Hooter's. I am not usually a fan of reality shows but I will probably try to catch this one. Plus you can watch the first episode here:

Friday, February 5, 2010

School Bullying Program Worth a Listen

Thanks to Barbara Fiehn for recommending this broadcast via LM_NET. It is about bullying, both face to face and cyberbullying. In particular the story of Phoebe Prince, a beautiful 16 year old high school student who moved to Massachusetts this fall from her childhood home in Ireland. While there were some efforts to deal with bullying at her new school, South Hadley High, but not enough. The bullying never stopped, and the perpetrators were unrepentant even after her death. Even now her Facebook page is being defaced and the culprits are making light of her death. The striking thing about Phoebe is that she was beautiful, smart, and very unlike the sort of young person you might expect to be bullied.

We all know this happens. I have uncomfortable memories of my own. First, I remember as a child standing by as a classmate was ridiculed about her size. She was overweight and the kids were calling her "elephant." She was also my next door neighbor. I did not join in, but I did nothing to stop the taunts. I still feel ashamed of this many years later. Also I remember being aware of bullying in the schools where I used to work. I certainly stepped in and put a stop to such behavior, and I worked especially hard to create a safe and safe zone in the junior high library where I worked. I allowed students who were particularly targeted to eat their lunches in a back room. School cafeterias can be terrible for victims of such harassment. But could I have done more? Absolutely yes. We all could do more, I suspect. This program is well worth the 16 minutes that it takes to listen

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Are You Called?

Regarding the most recent hoop-de-doo about what to call ourselves. I never stopped using the term "librarian." Rather, I think the definition of that term should be continually updated. I am happy that AASL gave credence to this! If you want to tack another word before or after, as in "school librarian," or "teacher librarian," go ahead with your labeling self! As for me, I am happy to just have a sign outside my door with that one word on it, a relic from my days in a school and a gift from a former student assistant.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hopping on Bandwagon: 101 in 1001

OK I am going to take a stab at this project. Click on the entry title to go to the original website. The challenge is to come up with 101 things that you would like to do in the next 1001 days. People are posting lists, revising them, and generally having fun with this. So I am gonna give it a whirl. BUT I do not plan to list all 101 today. I will START and then post in with updates till I get my list. For now, I am just going to list as many as come to mind in 10 minutes. I am setting my timer, and here goes:
1. Make a list of 101 things.
2. Lose ten pounds.
3. Jog at least 3X week.
4. Adopt a dog to be a playmate for lonely one dog, Son.
5. Get a letter to editor accepted by Austin TX paper.
6. Get at least one more letter printed at Houston Chronicle.
7. Average blog activity increase to 3X week.
8. Meet my childhood best friend for lunch.
9. Get a colonoscopy.
10. Update Shelfari and keep it current.
11. Create videos for all classes I am currently teaching.
12. Paint designs on my guest house.
13. Get new heating system house.
14. Never go more than 3 weeks without visiting Dad.
15. Recruit 250 new students for SHSU LS program by fall term 2010.
16. See that all faculty positions for LS department are filled.
17. Revisit Crater Lake and go out to the island in the middle.
18. Reconnect with old high school friends.

OK that's my 10 minutes worth of listing. CYA on down the road!

Friday, January 15, 2010


On Tuesday of this week I set out for Boston with a pretty lousy attitude. Here are things I was saying to myself:
I don't want to go!
It's too cold there!
I have too much to do here at home!
I want to stay warm and snug in my crooked little house!
I am already behind in getting my courses online, I have a column deadline coming up, I need to spend time with my Dad, and the phone in my office is ringing off the hook. And the emails! Students have questions at the beginning of the term and they need quick answers! I am already being pulled in too many directions!
What happened to the holidays anyway! Christmas should not be over yet! I want my holidays back!

Then when I got to Boston I felt much the same. It was really, really cold on Tuesday, by a Texan's standards. I think the high was 26 or so. And it snowed. I came before all my trusty cohorts and so was alone. Alone and grumpy. Not a pretty sight. However I was on a mission, that of finding and interviewing as many candidates as possible for the positions we have open at SHSU. We need new people now! I ventured down to the job placement room and set out to read vitas. We already had some interviews booked, but my vow was to find more. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and quality of the grads up for review in the near future. I found a number of people I would like to visit, and went back to my room with renewed vigor. The rest of the evening was spent visiting websites and sending out invitations. I found my grumpiness begin to fade. The next morning I was greeted with a nice batch of emails and phone messages from the folks I had contacted. I spent the early part of the day scheduling meetings. In the afternoon I met up with my colleague, the inimitable Dr. Teri Lesesne. All my grumpiness faded away. It is not easy to be grumpy around Teri! We compared notes, visited with one very promising young man who is clearly headed for a stellar career, and relaxed over supper. Thursday was a blur of interviews. We had people scheduled every hour in the morning, with an even tighter line-up in the afternoon.We we also pleased to be able to add two more faculty members to our interview panel in the afternoon, Dr. Tricia Kuon and Dr. Holly Weimar. At the end of the day we had talked with 12 job seekers. Not all of them are interested in our program, as some preferred public librarianship or other areas.. But to a person, their enthusiasm, idealism, and obvious talents were inspiring. After the interviews, we braved the cold and walked down to Copley Square for a little shopping, followed by a great supper back at the hotel. I was hanging with two of my favorite people, Dr. Holly Weimar and Dr. Tricia Kuon. My transition was complete. I had moved from grouchy to chipper. Finally this morning I talked with three more candidates. I feel that naming names is a bit of a violation of privacy, but I have definitely met some people who will be BIG NAMES in the field of librarianship in the future. It makes me feel great to see such able and eager new librarians entering our profession. So to those I interviewed, kudos! You will all do well!

As for me, I decided to stay in tonight and have a quiet supper and try to assimilate my week's experiences. I did get out this afternoon and walked over to Boston Common. Nancy Pearl got photo ops with the ducklings in the park, as well as some fun-in-the-snow shots, and I will post one pic here.I even did a little shopping on Charles St. and picked up a sweater jacket marked way down that will be a nice memento of my trip. One thing I know for sure is that I am very, very glad I came to Boston. I really knew all along that would be the case. I am happy to be returning home but feel much the better for meeting and spending time with all the great people, both candidates and colleagues. The lesson I re-learned is: Don't be such a stick in the mud! Venture out of your comfort zone, face up to the fact that you are not indispensable in your job and routene, and allow yourself to have learn new things and also fun now and then!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

VIP 'O the Day: Bernie Poole!

I have been meaning to honor and describe outstanding leaders in librarianship and technology in my blog, and decided to kick off with someone who is wonderfully generous and altruistic. Kudos to Bernie Poole! For years he has been GIVING AWAY the fruits of his hard labor to educators and other users of his website, EdIndex:
Other people seek remuneration for their work in creating and compiling books, tutorials, etc., but Mr. Poole cheerfully shares his resources online. If you are not familiar with his site, visit today! When you go, spend time exploring all the offerings. I thought of him today because he posted to EDTECH listserv to let folks know that he will soon be posting tutorials for Microsoft Office 2010 to his site. He already has great tutorials for Office 2007, Office XP, and earlier versions. To get to them easily, go to the site linked here. Look in the left hand frame on the page. Click on Online Books. Voila! There are thorough, easy-to-understand tutorials. Also provided at that page are downloadable copies of his book, Education for the Information Age. This book is great for self-guided study or for staff development. Additionally, I have used it students in our beginning technology class for MLS students. Did I mention it is FREE??? As good as the tutorials and book are, they are only a few of the great things to be found at Mr. Poole's website. He has other wonderful resources. Don't miss the dropdown menu on his page that leads to more information and links. Finally, he is also active as a columnist for Education World. I am not sure how long he has been active at this site, and have to admit that I had not found him there before today, at

But I am glad I did! There you will find a nice selection of his writings. Mr. Poole did retire from full-time teaching at Pitt last year, but it appears that he will continue to favor us with his writings, tutorials, and other resources. You will be doing yourself, your colleagues, and your students a big favor if you check in on Bernie Poole right away, tag him as a favorite of yours, and continue following him in the future.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Who Are YOu Anyway?

I got to thinking today about identity. How should I present myself online, and what advice should I offer to students? Several years ago, when I was just starting up with Web 2.0 environments such as wikis, blogs, and twitter, I went to a workshop and was told that you should not use pseudonyms for such environments if your purpose is to communicate professionally. Having your name out there in cyberspace, connected to your job, areas of expertise, and interests is a good thing, said the presenter. I guess there is a little irony here, but I do not remember who it was that said this. I do think it is good advice though! I really like my last name, which is my 3rd, and in some ways my favorite. I love my maiden name, Fitzgerald, but it is long and not subject to puns. My 2nd last name was Herring, and though I did have some fun with fishy puns, it is my least liked name. Then I became a Bell and suddenly the world of puns and allusions opened up for me. My door mat says "Ring My Bell." and my answering machine messages say "Hello, You just rang the Bells." Since my first two initials are M.A., for Mary Ann, I have been known as Ma Bell for years. I even think that calling myself mabell has helped people remember me and my blog/wiki etc. when we meet face to face.

The real reason I am thinking about identity today is not because of my own choices, though. It is because of identity-related peeves I want to share.
  • This morning I got a voice message that seemed to be from a business or service. The speaker very clearly stated her phone number, but her delivery of her name and the name of the company was unintelligible. I played through the message a couple of times. I would have disregarded it completely, but she mentioned Texas Library Association conference and since we have a booth there, I wanted to be sure I wasn't missing something important related to that. It turned out to be from an "alternative" housing booking agent and NOT something I was about to use. But because of the poor message, I would not have been inclined to do business with the company regardless of purpose. I resent when voice message are unclear and take excessive time to decipher.
  • Lousy phone message are certainly not limited to business/sales/promotions. Many more come from job applicants, colleagues, students and prospective students. Anyone who is calling about a professional matter should speak clearly and slowly and repeat contact information more than once. This seems so obvious that it should not have to be pointed out, but I suspect every person who works in an administrative or helping position can attest to how often people seem fail to present themselves well via phone.
  • Since I am venting, I am also going to go into the choice of email names for professional use. Many, many years ago, I got a hotmail address. I wanted it for personal use, and even then I wanted to use my own name. I tried entering "mbell," but was prompted to add more characters. So I got the bright idea to just stick some X's on the end for space fillers. Thus my name went out to the world as: mbellXXX DUH!!! By the next day I had a plethora of pornographic messages. Obviously I had not made a good professional choice, unless you count the world's oldest profession. Nowadays, I see students with cutesy names and cringe a little. ittybittybooboo may be fun for friends and families, but I really think that when you present yourself professionally, you should use a more professional moniker. I also think that when you describe yourself in terms of a non-professional role, you diminish your effectiveness. Thus does not confer much respect. Furthermore, I am going to stick out my neck and say that religious or patriotic labels make me cringe a little as well. does not resonate with me, nor does
  • Here's the thing. It is easy to acquire and use several email accounts. If you want to communicate with like minded people with an email name that broadcasts your beliefs, do so and hooray for the 1st Amendment. If you want a cute and humorous name for family and friends, go for it. I do that also with my bell-puns. Just have an account with an appropriate name for your grown-up business and professional communication.
    End of vent. I feel much better now. Oh and my most-used email is:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

St. Anthony Where Are You?

I wish I could be compensated for time spent looking for misplaced items. I could retire! Trailing behind me there is a long train of lost objects that goes back to my childhood. Included are multiple pairs of glasses, rings, bracelets, books (of course) and countless other items. I guess the problem is exacerbated by my age, but it is really hard to say because I have always been a loser (of stuff). Since I became a full time computer geek, the problem has become worse. I cannot think of a single gizmo that is not accompanied by at least one losable cord, cable, or peripheral. If there is a computer tech or librarian out there who does not have a drawer filled with cords, cables, cards, remotes, connectors, and other appurtenances, I would like to meet him/her. On second thought, no I wouldn't. Such a being would be far too smug for my taste. Right now I am looking for the power cord for my Kindle. I know it is white. That helps. I know it has a little squished down connector on the end that plugs into the reader. That doesn't help, because I STILL CAN'T FIND IT! Right now I am petitioning St. Anthony big time. If you are not already asking this saint for help, I can attest to his power. Several years ago a friend introduced him to me when she lost the diamond out of her wedding ring at a sidewalk restaurant in New York. She frantically searched and then said the following prayer:

St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around
Something's been lost
That needs to be found!

After repeating this, she reached into her pocket. There was the diamond! It had evidently snagged on the threads in our pocket and then nestled there awaiting discovery. I am not making this up. A day or two later, on the same trip, I lost a nerdy ear ring, a little gold abacus which had I bought at the Museum of Fine Arts. Trudging back to our dorm that night, I looked down right outside the front door and saw something bright winking up at me. Yep, it was the ear ring. It had been lying there for hours, evidently getting stepped on a few times because it was a little scratched and bent. I liked it even more that way!

Back in my full time school librarian days, I had a box filled with objects I was afraid to throw away. One of the things I promised I would do before leaving that job was going through that box, get rid of old items, and label the others. And I did it. I had to summon courage and throw away a lot of stuff including Apple IIc cards, remotes form long retired monitors, VCR's, etc. I am moved to wax nostalgic for a minute when thinking of those good old Apple IIc's. Remember when you could just pop the lid and monkey around in the innards? I LOVED that. It made me feel so....powerful. Ah well, in actuality I was pretty organized at school. I had an aide and student assistants to help me, and I was committed to getting things right in the library. Incidentally students are great at this! Every once in a while I liked to turn some of my tecchie assistants loose with the box of mystery items and challenge them to match them up with their parent appurtenances. Bribing with candy is a great motivator but really kids liked this job was a bit like hunting for Easter eggs.

As a prof, for a number of years I had a special day in our beginning tech class called "equipment day." Among other things, I talked about the problem of keeping up with connectors, etc. My motto for students was "Label your cables." The other admonishment code everything. If librarians follow these two maxims they will have greater success in keeping things together. Using velcro attachments for remotes also helps a little bit, but the labeling and bar coding are crucial.

Alas, I did not practice at home what I preached at work and in the classroom. That is why I am in my present fix. I know exactly what the Kindle cord looks like. Labeling it would be nice, but it would not fix my present dilemma of WHERE THE *&*&^%#%# IS IT ANYWAY? Contributing to the present problem is the fact that I boxed and moved everything out of my study last weekend in order to pull up carpet and get down to the hardwood floor. The result of that is more than worth the effort. And I am 99% sure I will find the cord when I get around to unpacking the boxes and restoring order to the room. The silver lining is twofold: First, needing the cord will inspire me to unpack and set up things again. Second, looking for lost things almost always yields one positive byproduct of such a search: I always find other stuff I have been looking for!

PS Anybody have additional tips for keeping up with stuff?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Do I Write Like a Guy???

I just tried out Gender Genie, for which the maker created an algorythm that analyzes a writing sample and tells whether the author is male or female. I used a blog entry first and then an opening to a recent article. Both times Genie said the stuff was WRITTEN BY A MALE!!! Both times!

I think the GUY who wrote the algorythm is sexist! Reason being words that are said to be "male" vs "female." Personal pronouns are judged to be "female," for example. Creepy! Bleh!

UPDATE: OK I wrote this several days ago. Then I did read a little more about it online and found it was actually more for fun than for real, and that the creator agreed it had no more accuracy than flipping a coin. But, he added, it was a fun approach for people to take to analyzing their writing. I am now officially forgiving him. Give it a try and see what you get. One blogger cautioned not to use this tool to help you pick out potential dates if you are picky about gender.

Oh and one more thing...this time about me. When I was told I "write like a guy," I had a teeny bit of a good feeling. As if that were a COMPLIMENT. The same thing happened to my daughter recently when a fellow musician told her she "played guitar like a man." She was playing slide at the time. She admitted feeling a little bit good about that, too. So there is sexism out there regarding the creative arts, and I am not immune myself.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Does Internet Communication Reduce Face to Face Contacts? Nah and Double Nah!

I have been thinking today about one cliche that absolutely does not hold true for me. Several years ago there was a lot of hoo hah about how the Internet isolates people. The premise was that people were online all the time rather than communicating ftf (face to face), that the art of conversation was dying, that cell phones and computers were turning people into cocooning hermits, yadda yadda. Not so for me! And I bet it isn't true for you either. My experience the last two days is a case in point. Yesterday my dear old dog, Ringo, got sick. Something he ate, I thought, and told myself he would get better like he had always done before. But no, not this time. As the afternoon wore on, he just got worse, My vet does not keep weekend hours but I talked with someone about the emergency clinic in the next town. By the time I got back to Ringo from that call, he was gone. Since losing my husband to cancer and since my daughter lives in Oregon, my household has been just me and the guys, furry guys, for a number of years. I still have my fearless cat Willie, who is intrepid despite only having 3 good legs, and my new guy, a 2 year old lab/cur mix named Son. Still when Ringo was gone I had no one to talk to. That is a lonely feeling. After getting him to the emergency clinic to be dispatched for cremation, I returned to a dark house. I did not really feel like talking to anyone other than my daughter, and turned down an offer for a late supper. After a while I posted to Facebook about my sad news and in no time I had over 20 messages, some from friends and students who knew my old pal, and some from people I have never even met ftf. While surfing the net during the day as I tried to gauge the severity of Ringo's symptoms, I found a number of support groups for people who have lost beloved pets. I don't think I will sign on with one of those, but have in the past benefited from groups supporting caregivers for cancer patients and also for one helping people struggle through the doctoral dissertation process. So if you ask me, the Internet HELPS rather than hinders communication. I feel very fortunate for all my friends, both virtual and real-time. So much for the silliness that online communication detracts from face-to-face. They are two different things entirely, and often one augments the other.