Friday, July 27, 2007

I *Heart* LibraryThing

Please let me expound, for a moment, about my love for LibraryThing. LibraryThing is the nerd tool to end all nerd tools, at least for the bibliophiles around the world. If you could see me, you would see little floaty hearts rising above my head every time I wrote LibraryThing.

LibraryThing allows you, for free for a few hundred books and for as many books as you can enter for a $25 lifetime subscription, to catalog your own library. Oh yes, ladies and gents – the broke folks among us who have tried to do it in Excel and failed? Who have dreamed of having Voyager modules of our very own, but not quite so complicated or expensive? Our time has come. Try it for free; you’ll find yourself slapping down the $25 fee happily, just to be able to enter ALL of your books, and to have this nifty thing for a lifetime. An online catalog of your own personal library – no moldy old card catalogs for us (though we may still dream of someday getting the gumption to buy one and slave over handwriting the cards).

Now, I will mention the caveat that the hard-core catalogers who want to do MARC cataloging for fun may find this simplistic. As a reference librarian who merely has coveted the idea of having a complete listing of my books, and a tagging system I could create and recognize, I think this is the bee’s knees. Not only does it allow you to enter your books via ISBN and grab them from Amazon or the Library of Congress (book covers and ALL, folks! Heck, if we’re REALLY dedicated, we can buy a barcode scanner and SCAN our babies into this thing), it also lets you know if you’ve double entered a book (useful, even though I do tend to have multiple copies of my favorites), and (drumroll, please) - it actually compares the rarity of your collection compared to everyone else in the system. This is like a penis-ruler for nerds and geeks – do NOT underestimate the cool factor of owning a book (or two, or three) that no one else on LibraryThing has. (I have more than one of those, and yes, I do believe it ups my cool factor. Heck, hardly 15% of my library is entered in here so far!) It measures you median/mean book obscurity – the lower the better, here, and I am at 25/167 compared to others who have books in my collection. (Of course, admitting that you own popular tomes such as the Harry Potter series damages you here, but you really must include ALL of your books. Othersise you’re just skewing yourself compared to other nerds, and that’s just dishonest. And I’m sure my obscurity will decrease and my library will become more humdrum once I add the bulk of the rest of my books to the list.

LibraryThing lets you know how many others own that particular tome, if there are any reviews written of it, and you can go browse other people’s libraries to see if they are interesting enough for you to hang out with.

You can give one book multiple tags (for instance, “Trashy Romance” and “19th century”), see your tag cloud, and even get into tagmashes, which David Weinberger explains very well here. See your author cloud, and yes – for the shopaholics among us who frequent used and half-price bookstores and would have loved a list to bring with us….you can export your library into Excel. No kidding. I’d never joke about something like that. AND – which I just found today since I haven’t LibraryThing-ed in awhile, they offer you code to add to your blog or webpage that will bring up books from your library on your page. (I have mine set to a random draw of 5, at the moment.) Utter coolness.

So, LibraryThing. This is a bandwagon you should jump on. (If nothing else, you can always bandy it about as your library so folks don’t have to guess what books you already own when they decide to go shopping for you. Consider it a good deed, helping others and the such. You can find my collection here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Finances for Girls

My cheeky, but oh-so-correct girlfriend A has hit the nail on the head (well, at least my nail) with her latest post Nice Girls Don't Talk About Money.

Now, Suze Orman I am not (as evidenced by my teetering piles of credit card bills and the fact that I didn't even look up what sort of interest rates I was paying until this morning), but I like to think of myself as a relatively civilized, evolved woman. I am smart. I am relatively good-enough looking that people don't look at me funny in Starbucks. (Well, they do, but it's the tattoos, not my face, that has them a bit out of sorts.) I have graduate degrees under my belt. I have a personal library of more volumes than most people own in entire lifetimes. All in all, I am a normal(ish) late-twenties woman. But I have to admit, that I often fall into the trap of wishing I had someone I could hand my check over to and trust to get my bills paid properly. As long as he gave me a book allowance, of course. A woman has to have her goodies.

So, go read PinkandChocolateBrown, best and wittiest blog on the block. Take A's advice to heart, get yourself on a proper budget, and let's stop waiting for the guy on the white horse to show up and save us. Besides, no men ride horses anymore, really. At least not to your doorstep. And you know what comes with a man on a horse? Great, big, steaming piles of...well, you get it.

I'll let you know how financial rehab goes for me if you'll let me know how it goes for you. (Here's to hoping we do a better job than Britney and Lindsey. Eesh.) Credit cards, be very afraid!

Greenfire: an uneviable flop

Because I am supposed to move halfway around the country next Thursday, I have been diligently putting off anything that resembles packing and or preparing to move my giant hoard of junk. Strategies have included cooking actual dinners instead of my handy salad-in-a-bag standby, wandering aimlessly about the house ignoring the packable items, eating far too much ice cream for my waistline's comfort, and reading. Ah, yes - this is one of the reasons I became a librarian in the first place. When there's something unpleasant to be done, you can usually find me shuttled away with a book. (At work, at least, it comforts me to be surrounded by them, even if I can't escape into the tomes.)

Anyway, having polished off Rowlings' Deathly Hallows in a voracious 5 hour stint, I have managed to drum up some other reading to keep me occupied. Let me review for you:

by Saranne Dawson.
Publisher: Love Spell, 1994.
ISBN-10: 0505519852.
ISBN-13: 978-0505519856

To be fair, I picked this one up at my local drugstore, where some suspicious-looking paperbacks were on sale, 2 for $5.98. (Never let it be said that I am not a bookslut.) What to say about this one...if you see it, please run. Do not pass go, do not send your three dollars, do not expect wild romance and hot spicy sex (though it appears it is promised on the cover). There's no depth to the characters, there's no explanation of how a woman can sort-of love one guy but-not-really enough to be miffed at a new lover for killing him, and there's very little palatable explanation of the magic and political compact that is supposedly the central plot for the book. Most unforgivable, perhaps, was that you couldn't bring yourself to care for a single one of the characters, who were too simply developed or simply fell flat. (I mean, I wanted to care, I really did. it's what I do - I get attached to fictional characters and weep when they die, or the book ends and our relationship comes to a standstill.)

Now, I'm a woman who likes her trashy romance novels, but this one wasn't trashy. Or romance. Nor did it deliver on tantalizing promises of magic. Or sex. Or even good battles. Chalk it up as a loss and stay away. Sorry, Saranne - better luck next time. But congratulations on getting published - I envy you your ISBN number!

Tonight if I get some packing done, I may reward myself with a John Saul paperback. I know, I know, I'm a sellout going for the big name when I should be reading newer authors. But hey, if it makes you feel any better, I start my MFA in the fall and will be reviewing all SORTS of non-popular non-fiction *grin*

Friday, July 20, 2007

Romeo & Juliet: Reloaded

My good friend (and former classmate at a teeny private liberal arts college - that should warm you for what's coming) and I were talking the other day about Romeo & Juliet.

Now, I have to say, I love the Bard. In an unadulterated, flamboyant, non-sexual, "I-wish-they'd-find-additional-secret-tomes-of-work-in-a-flat-somewhere" kind of way. I think it's a durned shame that some students never become enamored with him - love, sex, war, insanity - the man incorporated it all.

Anyway, back to our discussion of R&J. After listening to Deana Carter's song 'Romeo" and the intriguing tagline "I would not die for you," I wondered. Wouldn't die for him, eh?

Is it possible that many of the relationship ills we find ourselves beseiged with are traceable back to this lovely little play? (What relationship ills, you say? Watch the news. Or your neighbors. It's pretty obvious.) Yes, truly, where did we get it into our heads that true love means that you'd give up any and everything for that other person, that you'd die rather than be without them, scrapping everything you thought you had ever wanted in favor of a quick tumble, some running from friends and family, and a messy sword-to-the-heart?

Romeo never asked about Juliet's hopes and aspirations. Never asked her what she saw their future as, what her dreams were. It was more of a "PRETTY, ME WANT" sort of thing. To be fair, now, it's not like Juliet ever asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, either, but she didn't go stabbling at his family members with swords, did she?

Anyway, we wean our daughters (and our sons) on this story as the quintessential love affair - is it any wonder we've got romantic depressives who think that being stalked is affection? Children who think that the only alternative to a successful romance is utter and complete devastation? For a far better exploration of our discussion, see Allison's musings here. The cold I've got has me groggy and meandering. But it's something I don't remember any of my English teachers ever mentioning. Oh, we discussed the whyfores and the family issues, but never once did anyone bring up the myopic I-have-no-personality-but-oh-if-I-don't-have-you-there's-nothing-else-for-me-to-live-for-even-though-my-parents-are-loaded attitude throughout the play for those two kids.

Today they'd have succeeded, of course, and be living in Portland, happily together with matching track marks, still lacking any sort of plan. (A note: you know that their being together would have made that movie a success in teh box offices, right? America does love its happy endings.)

So girls, read the play thoroughly. Love it. But beware the Romeos out there. Luckily, at nearly 30, I am far too much the wise cougar for such suicidal tactics, and am immune to Romeo's charms - what was he, 15?

The Citation Gods are Watching...

So, I have been semi-lurking on a list of librarians that have been addressing bibliographic citation. (By semi-lurking, I mean reading everyone else's comments and limiting myself to only one.) Yes, even we librarians understand that for most (read: normal) folks, working on citations is just left of the sort of fun represented by, say, a pitbull attached to the left cheek of your Levis. We understand that. We strive to make you understand WHY you need to purchase the MLA and APA handbooks, and know about Turabian and various other nifty styles of citation. Not because we enjoy torturing you - that's hardly the case. (Have you ever noticed that the folks teaching this look almost worse off than the students?) It's because we - okay, I - feel that citation is necessary to not become academic whores.

That's right, I said it. I like bibliographic citation. It requires a bit of effort, yes, which apparently everyone has become allergic to. (Good thing we are now an information economy; I'd hate to see how this place would look if the US had to go back to farming. ("We have to get up HOW early??") But it keeps us honest. Particularly since, in academia, and especially undergraduate academia, there are very few truly novel and original ideas put onto paper. (That's what dissertations and journal articles are for.) In essence, if somebody else said something that made you write something, you should probably give them credit. It's the way it works. Otherwise, when you write that paper on the history of the Flabiticus, you don't get irate emails from the folks demanding to know where you got those dates from. If you inventing a new corn-fed car, would you claim you had done it without even glancing at how engines and cars worked, or the development of cornfed machinery? Of course not. At least, I hope not, or I'd doubt your car would work...

You wouldn't buy a painting and then claim it was your own work, would you? Are you the sort who would spout poetry from an unknown author just so you looked clever, and never let anyone know they weren't your words? Of course not. And if you are, you are not invited to my next dinner party. The Librarian is not amused.

And the librarian who is asked to hunt down where the original data came from in some author's claim will be the first to praise the author and consider him for book of the month...if he worked his citations properly. You can trace the whole history of research with properly done citations, and what with the various authors, countries of publication (note: the US and UK versions of Harry Potter are markedly different, and could result in some dramatically different quotes!), editions, etc., it is highly likely that in order to verify your research, someone will eventually go back to your citations, if only to beef up on subject matter they would like to know more about. See, you might've piqued someone's interest, and gotten them reading! Don't disappoint them. Go ahead, slog through and figure out where that next period goes. It's worth it. The Guardienne promises.

Back Up and Running

Yes, folks, I have been out and about for the better part of a year. I left my evening post in Kentucky for greener (literally, better-paying) pastures in New York and visited with the family a bit. It took me approximately three weeks to remember why I haven't lived in the Big Apple for the past ten years, so I began the job hunt.

Ah, the job-hunt. I actually enjoyed mine, believe it or not. No, really. I don't have a single horror story. It helped that I didn't have a personal deadline, and was simply hoping to get nearby to Kentucky, if at all possible. (What can I say, it grew on me.) After a number of phone interviews, and a few flights out to some wonderful places, I seem to have found a wonderful match at the University of Tennessee - Chattanooga, where I will begin my first (gasp! drumroll!) tenure-track faculty position on August 6th. I am terribly excited. The job is bagged, the apartment is paid for (well, the first month, at least), and all I have left to do is pack.

Having saved this near-forgotten blog from the mire of too much downtime and not nearly enough chatter, keep an eye out for book reviews, library issues and info, and various other smatterings of interest to information-hounds everywhere...