Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Email meme: Common Sense

The following arrived via email this morning. It really struck a chord with me and I've been able to track down it's origins. For your reading pleasure, Death of Common Sense by Lori Borgman.

Death of Common Sense

Three yards of black fabric enshroud my computer terminal. I am mourning the passing of an old friend by the name of Common Sense.

His obituary reads as follows:

Common Sense, aka C.S., lived a long life, but died from heart failure at the brink of the millennium. No one really knows how old he was, his birth records were long ago entangled in miles and miles of bureaucratic red tape.

Known affectionately to close friends as Horse Sense and Sound Thinking, he selflessly devoted himself to a life of service in homes, schools, hospitals and offices, helping folks get jobs done without a lot of fanfare, whooping and hollering. Rules and regulations and petty, frivolous lawsuits held no power over C.S.

A most reliable sage, he was credited with cultivating the ability to know when to come in out of the rain, the discovery that the early bird gets the worm and how to take the bitter with the sweet. C.S. also developed sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn), reliable parenting strategies (the adult is in charge, not the kid) and prudent dietary plans (offset eggs and bacon with a little fiber and orange juice).

A veteran of the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, the Technological Revolution and the Smoking Crusades, C.S. survived sundry cultural and educational trends including disco, the men's movement, body piercing, whole language and new math.

C.S.'s health began declining in the late 1960s when he became infected with the If-It-Feels-Good, Do-It virus. In the following decades his waning strength proved no match for the ravages of overbearing federal and state rules and regulations and an oppressive tax code. C.S. was sapped of strength and the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband, criminals received better treatment than victims and judges stuck their noses in everything from Boy Scouts to professional baseball and golf.

His deterioration accelerated as schools implemented zero-tolerance policies. Reports of 6-year-old boys charged with sexual harassment for kissing classmates, a teen suspended for taking a swig of Scope mouthwash after lunch, girls suspended for possessing Midol and an honor student expelled for having a table knife in her school lunch were more than his heart could endure.

As the end neared, doctors say C.S. drifted in and out of logic but was kept informed of developments regarding regulations on low-flow toilets and mandatory air bags. Finally, upon hearing about a government plan to ban inhalers from 14 million asthmatics due to a trace of a pollutant that may be harmful to the environment, C.S. breathed his last.

Services will be at Whispering Pines Cemetery. C.S. was preceded in death by his wife, Discretion; one daughter, Responsibility; and one son, Reason. He is survived by two step-brothers, Half-Wit and Dim-Wit.

Memorial Contributions may be sent to the Institute for Rational Thought.

Farewell, Common Sense. May you rest in peace.

by: Lori Borgman - 7/23/05

Missed milestone

I guess the honeymoon period is officially over, I missed noting my two-year blog anniversary last Thursday, April 17th. Here's an archival blog glimpse.

My first post:
Monday, April 17, 2006 - Sunny Days in the Spring
A single paragraph posting about a sunny day.

My one year anniversary post:
Tuesday, April 17, 2007 - Listening
A retrospective about campus life & Virginia Tech.

My second year anniversary post:
Thursday, April 17, 2008 - Say hi to Lord Stanley
The Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup playoffs!

Things have changed since that first blithe off-the-cuff post. It took time to decide what to do with this blog once created. Now, I find I have settled comfortably into the Blog Direction categories (see sidebar) with a few broadly defined "other" postings.

This is post number 547 ... Blog on.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Live! It's Dancing with the Stars

Tonight on the Dancing with the Stars results show, (can I just say ... Def Leppard?) it was Shannon and Derek's turn to go home. Not a fan of that particular couple, I must admit I am not all that sorry to see them go. As it gets closer and closer to the final three I have begun using my cell phone and land line to vote. Next week I might just have to go online and vote electronically as well.

Surfing the the DWTS web site this evening I found a widget!!!!

The Dancing With The Stars widget allows you and your friends to stay up to date with...
  • Video: Play the latest video clips
  • Stars and Professionals: Keep a running tab of who's in the competition and who's out
  • Scores: Get the latest scores live from
  • Newswire: Check out the latest information about the show
  • Countdown Clock: Count down the seconds until the next new episode

* DTWS - Grab the widget

Right now I'm waiting for the bloody thing to successfully load on my computer. I keep getting an error code (sorry, can not connect to the page, try again later). Either my connection is wonky (gasp!) or the web page is not able to keep up with demand.

Fine, here's a link to the Dancing with the Stars: Live Blog!

Introspection, maybe it's me

Another web committee design meeting took place this afternoon. Another hour and fifteen minutes of round-table discussion. Another session in which decisions were not made and consensus not reached. Maybe it's time to suggest taking this process in another direction; remove me from the mix.

I just finished emailing myself notes, I am going to request a meeting with the director and propose a few changes that may remove some friction and change the tide of our discussions.

  1. There remains considerable lack of progress with the site/main page. At this point, we should have enough that I can start work on the actual page, a few bare bones to be placed in the template when it arrives at the end of May.
  2. I suggest removing me from the committee mix, leaving the director and reference team intact. There seems to be a problem (reference verses web design) and this temporary switch may make things progress.
  3. This suggestion will be followed by a proposed compromise; ground rules if I may be so bold.
Allow me, as webmaster, to make a few design decisions to simplify the page. Stick with our main plan utilizing a main page, secondary page, and tertiary pages when necessary. Continue to streamline the site by having fewer steps for the users ... less (confusion) = more (usability).

Have the reference staff and director designate vocabulary and display order for the remaining categories, excepting resource center information and proposed spotlight items. Determine the order and vocabulary for items in help, reference, and quick links.

Lastly, recommend the following; while pondering vocabulary and order, stop looking at other web pages. Concentrate on our resources. Continuing to bring new ideas to the table is mucking up the process (technical term, mucking). I guarantee, once we finish there will be at least a dozen things we think could have been done better. But we need to cease and desist, it is causing us to run around in circles.

I do not want this to be seen as me holding my breath to get my way. Quite the opposite. I am desperate for progress to be made. At the current pace, I'll be old and gray (not so gray thanks to L'oreal because I'm worth it) before the site is complete.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Discontented bratty behavior

One week left in the spring term, one weekend left in the spring term, and four days of finals left in the spring term; time left until my brain explodes can not be calculated in terms. Though in all fairness, the state of my brain really has no bearing on the students, their haphazard completion of work, or even their end of term neediness. That's why I'm there.

I have been reading a lot lately about librarian burn out. Professionals who have so many responsibilities due to budget cuts, disinterest, and perhaps even a bit of management ennui, that they are running from the library in droves. Not to that point yet, I can say I understand what is driving this discourse. My professional discontent, no surprise here, is web page based. Weeks of meetings have extended into months of discussion. All along the new library web page has made only negotiable progress. For the last two weeks we have been discussing what topics go under the heading "find" on the new page.

Yes, for the last two weeks.

Understandably, each suggestion is followed by discussion of its potential pertinence to the category. Understandably, vocabulary should be evaluated from both a user and librarian perspective. But two weeks of discussion to determine if we use article, journal, periodical, or magazine to describe the serials collection borders on ridiculous. Quite frankly students do not care how we arrive at the decision. As librarians we need to make a vocabulary decision, define it in simple terms, use it consistently throughout the web site and during instruction sessions, and build upon it moving towards information literacy standards. Informed users make better research decisions. It is not that hard; subscribe to the KISS theory, keep it simple stupid. That groundwork, in my personal opinion, is the basis for the aforementioned bratty behavior. I am not particularly proud of it, but it is what it is (obviously I am not very loquacious this evening).

Moving on ...

Penguins Hockey & MIKE LANGE

After bemoaning the local Cleveland NBC affiliate for showing the Indians and Yankees instead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I was thrilled to enjoy the third period of yesterday afternoon's game once baseball had finished. What were they thinking? It's playoff time! In Pittsburgh Post-Gazette online this morning I found the regular plethora of articles by the sports writers and a blog, Empty Netters. Within the blog were several things that caught my attention.

Well, duh. We all knew that; check out the web site & sign the petition.

From YouTube: Mike Lange Audio: Staal Playoff Goal 2, 2nd period verses Rangers

And there's more ....

Mike Lange Audio: Hall Playoff goal1, 3rd Period vs Rangers

Back to my regularly scheduled, though somewhat erratic of late, blogging.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Folder to binder

There are ten days until the last day of class. Cabin fever, also known as I can not wait until the term is over, has hit everyone with a vengeance. As one professor succinctly put it last week, we are all just sick of each other. To that point, the library instituted end of term extended hours yesterday and will remain open until 2:00 am Sunday through Thursdays. Students may use the library as a place; no circulation or reference services are available after midnight, but space and computers for studying and group work are. Ultimately, it's a refuge for peace and quiet away from the dorms.

My end of term angst surprisingly enough centers on the web committee (what? the library page is not done yet?) and its members inherent resistance to make a decision. Last week we spent an hour and a half discussing vocabulary for items to be placed in the "find" category. I still do not know what we will be finding. On the plus side, my new web page binder is pretty, organized, and chock full of notes and information. I have sections devoted to:
  • Committee meeting notes
  • Site map notes
  • Library Google account resources
  • Widget & page tool samples
  • Web statistic information
  • Dreamweaver CS3 & Contribute
  • Meebo account information
  • Chat marketing, integration & policy statements
  • Space for more information
(I also just had the oddest tasting cookie, I think it was ginger with chocolate and marshmallow. Possibly a smores cookie, but I digress.) The more information area looks to be filled with samples of other academic library chat icon buttons. I have been doing research on what people are using on their main pages to attract patrons to IM/chat and other forms of library reference and research help. There seems to be a couple of recurring themes, one using the icon showing a person reaching out of a computer monitor to help and the other featuring different IM client logos. Not sure that we want to advocate using a specific IM client instead of our Meebo chat, I am leaning more towards an appropriate clip art icon with our service name.

Now? I'm to meet with the boss and help him work with Contribute and web pages. I am not sure if he wants to make a word document into an html page or if he wants to insert a word document/handout into an existing page. I hope it is the latter and suspect it is the former.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Say hi to Lord Stanley

photo c. Pittsburgh (wallpaper)

It is spring, that means time to play for Lord Stanley's Cup. As a Penguin fan residing in Ohio, I find it frustrating the NHL has such an annoying lock on their televised games. Since I do not have a dish, I am left watching espn2 score crawls for scoring updates (very annoying last night since it was the Yankees vs Red Sox on Baseball tonight and I could not have cared less).

Last night the Pens swept the Senators, advancing to the second round of playoff action. This morning I have been reading all about it!
(Yes, I know the time stamp shows much later than lunch. I forgot to publish after eating.)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Dreamweaver trio

Fresh from technical services and cataloged with a location of "resource center office" are three new Dreamwevar CS3 books. These lovely and colorful tomes arrived in my office accompanied by high hopes; I will be able to use them as reference while working on the library web page.
What lures me at this point are bright and shiny possibilities; things that can be done if only the right tools and a bit of instruction are employed. I need to temper them with a few actualities or I'll fall flat, landing uncomfortably on my good intentions.

100 Essential Techniques is a very nice Dreamweaver overview with tips, tools, well-placed screenshots, and simple language. What intrigues me right now are Spry Menu Widget options, technique #79: Inserting a Spry Menu Bar Widget (p. 240), #80 Formatting Spry Menu Bar Widgets (p. 241), and #78 Inserting Tabbed Panels (p. 238). My first endeavor with tabbed panels caused me to move further into the resource books and search through the H*O*T Hands-on Training title. There is a bit more information on the process located within this text; the language remains relatively simple and the screenshots and white space well placed within each page. However, much of this particular book relies on it's accompanying exercise files and videos. All great options, but a bit involved. Chapter 20: Using Spry Tools, includes definitions of what Spry items are (p. 449) and a great notes section on Spry Widgets (p. 465), but at first glance deals more with forms.The Missing Manual has an entire chapter, Chapter 12 (p. 457) devoted to Spry. This book is a bit more text heavy and vocabulary for a more advanced Dreamweaver user, but employs well-placed screenshots (obviously important to me, I'm a very visual learner). The chapter is extensive, well explained, and delves into XML and data sets that are beyond my needs right now.

I will probably need to pick and choose from all three of these books to find what I need. Conversely I can rely solely on my basic skills and create something a bit less dynamic without much fuss. But that is like knowing my car can go 125 mph and never seeing what it can do.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"Stimulating design meetings"

Preparing for this week's web design sub-committee meeting I found myself describing the session to my GA as a "stimulating design meeting." Now I am digging furiously through two of my Jayne Ann Krentz titles, Light in Shadow and it's sequel Truth or Dare, looking for the actual quote. While the main characters, newlyweds Ethan and Zoe, are discussing interior design, it's oddly reflective of my feelings regarding this web page endeavor.

"We've got one of our stimulating little design meetings scheduled today, don't we?" (Truth or Dare, p. 117)

... and I find myself waiting with hope in my heart to hear ...

"Sooner or later, you gotta have a little faith in your decorator. I always say."

"Actually, I'm quite positive that is the very first time that you ever said it in your entire live, but that's okay, I'll take it." (Truth or Dare, p. 180-181).

Today we spent an hour discussing the three sample pages I designed after last weeks meeting. I honestly do not have a problem answering questions about the samples and explaining how I arrived at the size and scope of the page to be inserted to the template. It is, however, frustrating to find myself answering questions that were explained in depth on the discussion page archive posted. I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time reassuring the committee instead of moving things along. As my boss succinctly put it today, one baby step forward at a time.

Now for the whining portion of this post and continuing the baby step analogy; we have been taking one step forward and two steps back since last October. It's time to take a giant step and get something accomplished. Tomorrow I will peruse my three favorite new books, all how-to manuals for Dreamweaver CS3, and prepare another front page sample.

Patience, I hear, is a virtue.