Friday, September 26, 2008

Informational Needs in Poor Taste

This is probably just a weird facet of my personality, but I’m always surprised at the banal search term people use when they’re teaching someone to use any kind of a data base or search portal. 


For instance, in one of my classes, a charming guy was showing us how to use RefworksRefworks is a service that will take database information and save it for you, as well as creating bibliographies.  Very useful.  Clearly, he will be a great librarian.  He was approachable, happy to help, happy to stop and answer questions, very thorough, and gave good clear instructions. 


However, he was showing up how that service applies to a medical databases and he chose the search term “autism.”   “Autism?” In a medical database?  How dreary! Useful and important, no doubt, but not attention grabbing.   Why not “giant tumors” or “bezoar” or “pica” or “Ebola” or “rare parasites?”  Any one of those explodes the imagination!  Who isn’t interested in bezoars?  (Bezoars, if you aren’t familiar, are hard objects that are formed in the stomach, usually around some sort of fibrous material like hair.  The stomach works like an oyster making a pearl, adding layer upon layer of hard material.  They’re more common in ungulates like goats, but humans have gotten them too.  See?  You’re already interested!)


Similarly, when we were taught to use Lexus Nexus 58 incarnations ago in high school, I recall the librarian picked something along the line of “The American Revolution.”    Dull, dull, dull.  In a situation where you’re only showing how the system works, why not “Tiger attacks?”     This is common also in school when you have to pick a report topic.  The topic is “disease” or something and they teacher usually only suggests “cancer,”  “HIV,” or “measles.”  There’s hundreds of diseases!  Let’s try to get kids a little bit interested!  They probably haven’t even heard of Spanish flu, porpheria, polio, malaria, and a host of others.   Why not carelessly mention that there are still strains of bubonic plague in the world or that syphilis caused people’s noses to drop off?


I suppose there is some sort of interest in good taste.  I feel good taste is a poor trait in fields that pride themselves on spreading information.  You should be able to ask anything in a library without fear of appearing in bad taste.  If you want to know what they do with the bodies when cemeteries are moved, dang gum, you ought to be able to find out!   This is a trait that is all too common, I’m afraid, in venerable institutions.   For instance, the  Adler Planetarium in Chicago is very tasteful.  It has lovely models of the planets, many beautiful antique compasses, and several displays on gravity.  It is also exceedingly boring.   Unfortunately, many of the questions most of us have about space are in poor taste, so they really aren’t answered.  Here’s a short list of things I know people would like to know about space:


Is there a toilet on the space shuttle?

What would happen if you got trapped outside the space shuttle?  Would you implode or dehydrate or boil or what?

What do astronauts do with their garbage?

What do we think would happen if a person was sucked in a black hole?

Is it possible to get busy in zero gravity?  Has anyone tried?

Is Lika still floating around somewhere?

Can you grow food in space?

What’s up with those Hubble telescope photos with the smiley faces?


There are probably countless others, too, but not a one of them was answered last time I attended the museum.  However, I did have an extremely nice chicken salad. 

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Language Pet Peeves

These are language things I find annoying:


The phrase "Big Girl Panties"

What the hell does that mean?  When you switch from durable functional cotton underwear to skimpy polyester man-attracting wisps?  Does that somehow convey the act of mature behavior to some people?  It also has the nice added effect of making every conversation vulgar “When I saw my mother lay dying, I put on my big girl panties and strove to give her the care and compassion needed to make her last days comfortable.”  Eau de Trailer, eh?



Eww…  I can’t complain that this British shortening of the word “vegetable” is wrong, but I just hate it for no good reason.  It leads to really unattractive mouth contortions.   Begin by drawing your upper lip up and bracing your lower lip against your front teeth like a demented Billy Idol.  Then let the whole thing drop like your Masai lip plate has fallen to the floor.  Very attractive.



I’m embarrassed to say that there are people in the library science field that use this pronunciation.  Please stop!


“Where are you at?”

Maybe this is strictly a regional thing, but it always surprised me.  I say “Where are you?” but I also pronounce “aunt” as “ah-nt” instead of “ant.”  Perhaps this comes from having parents who came from Wisconsin and Minnesota because most of the people who say this come fromChicago or Detroit .   I can’t tell if there is a difference in meaning between “Where are you?” and “Where are you at?”   The “at” takes an even stronger role in “where at?”   It seems to take the place of “Where is it?” which is a complete sentence.   As a result, if someone ask me “where at?” I tend to look totally vacant for a few moments before answering. 


Using “literally” inappropriately.

I hear this in the news a lot.  “The storm literally turned her life into a nightmare?”   Oh it did, did it?  It turned a waking experience into the dream state manifestations of the subconscious?  Doesn’t that sounds like a relief?  

People also say “My eyes literally popped out of my head!”  Really? How’d you get them back in?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Math Questions for Literature Majors

Math Questions for Literary Majors

If The Natural is riding on a train traveling 60 mph and the obviously Freudian tunnel is 2000 feet away, how long before Memo declares “Oh, I am a twisted tree?”

If Beowulf can kill a being with the mark of Cain once every three days, how many hours does it take before he wins the honor of the Danes?

If a black ram can tup a white ewe no more than thirteen times in a day and no fewer than once a day, what are the maximum and minimum amount of times Desdemona must submit to the Moor in a fortnight?

If Miss Elizabeth Bennett’s prejudice falls at an average rate of 15% per day after seeing Pemberly, how many day must pass before Mr. Darcy ought dare to renew his offer of marriage?

If tilting at windmills is successful only three times in five, and there stand no less than forty giants; how many attacks sanctioned by God must Sancho witness?

Mary Lennox’s colonial compound consists of her beautiful self absorbed mother, sickly distant military father, her ayah, and twenty five additional native servants. If cholera infects the household at the rate of 1.2 persons per day and death occurs an average of three days after infection, how long before Mary is the sole survivor ready to start a new and challenging life in Yorkshire?

(please note, due to decreased time for enjoyable activities, I did not double check the spelling of these characters' names.  You have my humblest apologies!)

Whew! Sorry I've been away so long! This Grad School/Working/Social Life thing had been kind of rough on me lately. I need to get into some kind of rhythm. One, preferably, that gives me 28 hours a day.

Anyway, a surprisingly amount of my pals and relatives are studying for the GRE so they too can go to grad school! I am such a trend setter. Since the majority of them are poetic souls, their math skills have deteriorated since high school, and now have to relearn math.

 Fortunately, I didn't have to take them because I cannot remember what logs are or what you do with them or how to find them on a calculator.

In an effort to support these brave souls, I created these math questions. Hopefully, they'll help!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bat Signals

A while ago I said to Knut “You know, I think Dumbledore is gay.”

He thought I was crazy.

Of course, it turns out I was right! In this vein of extreme cleverness, I’m going to try my hand and predicting the next Chris Nolan Batman movie.

There will be Catwoman in the form of Rachel!


Lucius explains that the new batsuit will hold up against cats.

Rachel’s body was never shown.

Rachel’s funeral was not shown or referenced.

The explosion at the warehouse started somewhere in the background, so the size is unknown.

Joker previously generates a situation where it appears that there will be an explosion that does not happen (the gas grenade in the bank manager’s mouth)

Joker was aware that Rachel is extremely special to Batman (he says so during the Trump Tower fight)

Joker clearly has no problem altering other people’s mentalities or bodies for amusement (Harvey Dent, prisoner with bomb under his skin)


Rachel’s character was really fleshed out into a memorable character. A dramatic funeral would have fit the tone.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is far too cool to kill off and she has frequently played characters with strange quirks (Secretary)

The room where Maggie is held appears to be a basement. It appeared that the building that was blown up had lots of windows and the explosion appeared to come mostly from the first floor.

Rachel’s final letter said that she loved Harvey Dent, Harvey Dent turns vengeful after her (presumed) death. It would be a nice parallel if she then avenged him, attacking Batman (Dent’s killer).

My other hope which is based ENTIRELY in my imagination is:

Alan Cumming as… THE PENGUIN!

Alan is a native South African. While he gained fame an a brutal drug lord, he found his real place running guns, mines, and drugs into the Ivory Coast and Congo in exchange for blood diamonds. His beaky appearance, black and white clothing, and above all his love of “ice” gave rise to the nickname “Penguin.”

Now Penguin, is lured to Gotham City where jewelers from around the country meet to bid on diamonds during a week long conference. And Penguin is has decided he’s going to be the only seller…

Friday, September 5, 2008

Luchador to Order

I thought this was pretty cool.  A very nice person bought one of my Luchador mask necklaces and asked if I could do a purple one.

I came across quite nice one, white with purple edging, belonging to Mil Mascara during the 1960s (he wore quite a variety of masks) and made the necklace as a a custom item.  

I think it turned out pretty well J

Thursday, September 4, 2008


If some of you have noticed that my blog posts have decreased in volume, it is because I have started grad school. I am, at present, an embryo librarian!

Needless to say, I intend to become one of those hideous glare-at-you-for-giggling, gray haired, seemingly immobile, dewey-decimal-obsessed, reference-desk-haunting harpies as soon as possible.

Seriously, I seem to spend the majority of the day helping people find stuff anyway, so why not get a masters in it?

Interestingly, when I announced my intention to go into library science, most people asked me when I would be getting my sexy librarian get up. Well, I’ve got the long hair, cleavage, doesn’t need glasses part covered; but I could certainly use some help in the horned rimmed glasses and bun department.

Alas, they were not given to me the first day of class.

At the moment, I’ve been imagining having a collage of great fictional librarians, preferably the sexy adventurous kind.

Note on the photo: Target is actually selling this “sexy librarian” costume. I won’t be buying it, of course, because this is the sort of thing we wear to classes, although my book skirt is a tad longer and I don’t wear glasses.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dog Heroes!!

We were celebrating Cynthia’s birthday on Saturday with a spirited round of drinking and board games. Cynthia and Steffi hosted and around 1:30 we were spent from Apples to Apples (featuring a truly awesome argument why “Screeching” was the only possible choice for “Natural” by Megan) so Gabe, Megan, Matt, Ginny, Robin, Knut and I headed out the door in a big herd.

Outside, about a half a block from the apartment, we saw a man sitting on the curb and a black labrador wandering on the street. We just assumed the guy owned the dog, but he asked us if we knew her and explained she was blind. He was outside half a hour previous and saw her and now he was nervous.

The dog didn’t look too old and she was plump and silky despite a few bare patches, but there was clearly something wrong with her. She did not have a collar. She was wandering aimlessly in a little circle in the middle of the street, shying at shadows and manhole covers. The guy, Kirk, explained that he has called animal control, but they wouldn’t be in until seven the next morning. What could we do with her in the mean time?

She was a sweet dog. She gratefully accepted our petting and sat politely on the pavement when asked. While we petted her, Gabe got out her phone and rang Cynthia. Cynthia gamely agreed to let the dog stay in her backyard until animal control could pick her up. Now we just had to get a sweet blind dog to walk up the street, into an alley, and into a strange backyard.

Matt walked with her, holding a hand on each side of her body to guide her. The rest of us walked on all sides to help steer her and encouraged her with whistles and frequent exclamations of “Good Girl!” We got her into the tiny backyard and went home—where we promptly worried about her all night. We were afraid someone had taken off her collar and dumped her in a nice neighborhood.

Then on Sunday, I received these emails:

From Cynthia:

so in case any of you are curious as to what happened to our canine
friend -- as luck would have it, she's actually back with her owner!

apparently she belongs to one of my neighbors, who heard her barking in
the middle of the night. he had been looking for her and was worried
(apparently she just went blind two days ago), and thought the barking
sounded familiar so he followed the sound to my backyard, hopped the
fence, and took her home (probably just a couple of hours after we put
her there). luckily i had left a note to the other tenants in my
building which included my name and phone number, so he was able to call
me this morning to let me know what happened. i'm glad i was still
asleep when he called -- i would have been really perplexed if i'd woken
up and found that she wasn't there. anyway, he sounded like a nice guy
and said he really appreciated us having kept watch over her.

sadly, due to a mixture of grogginess and surprise, it didn't occur to
me to ask him the dog's name until after i'd hung up the phone. but
it's nice to know there's a happy ending to the story. thanks for
spearheading the rescue mission! i'm really glad everything worked out
the way it did.

And then this one from Kirk:

Hi all.

Thank you SO much for your compassionate assistance with the dog last night. In a bizarre twist, it turns out I know the dog and her owner, though the dog was unrecognizable to me last night. Last I'd seen her, she was in perfect health, ten pounds lighter, fully sighted, and totally sprightly ... so I couldn't imagine that we were dealing with the same dog last night.

Her name is Shadow, and she's only six years old, but due to illness she's gone blind and aged a great deal in the last month and a half. I visited her owner today, and she's back in their care. Her owner is incredibly attentive to her, so she'll get great care, but without the small team we had last night, I'm pretty sure things would have gone a great deal worse. [Her owner] was overjoyed that we had all taken time out to bring Shadow in, and out of harm's way.

Cynthia, thanks so much for putting Shadow up for the night. Apparently she heard her owner's car and barked, and they heard her and took it from there.

So here’s my appreciation to the Dog Heroes: Cynthia, Matt, Gabe, Robin, Megan, Ginny, and Kirk!