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Archive for November, 2007

Re: California Dreamin’

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Here are a small sample of the pictures I took while I was in Oakland, CA this October for the Oral History Association conference. The one above came out the best I think. I took all of these photos with one of those disposable cameras, then had them developed, and had a photo disk made of the prints.

I was inspired by an article I read about a photographer who took some really cool shots using a cheesy cellphone camera. His point was that if you respected the limitations of your particular camera, you could still get some really good shots. Some of the pictures came out blurry–I need to be farther away than four feet apparently to get something approaching a close-up. The camera also did better outdoors than indoors. The indoor pictures appear much more grainy.

Oakland, in general, was very photogenic. There was a farmers’ market held just around the corner from the hotel and I had fun snapping pictures of the produce, most of which I had never seen for sale outside of a supermarket (persimmons, grapes, lemons, oranges with the leaves still attached, almonds, etc.).

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The fountain in front of the Barnes and Noble Bookstore at Jack London Square. The day I was there, the weather was unseasonably hot and humid. The pigeons seemed to enjoy cooling their feet in the water.

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A Renaissance-type statue that was on the smoking balcony of the conference hotel. No one was using the balcony because–gasp!–it was sixty degrees above zero. Too cold for Californians.

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My personal favorite: a sidewalk sign reminding you not to dump anything into the waterways. The top two words on the piece of the litter in the picture read “Bad Boy”. Just tellin’ it like it is.

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Yes, friends, my blog’s reading level has been rated at a junior high school level. Talk about harshing my groove. If you want to check your blog’s reading level (and you know you do), click here.

Speaking of harsh grooves, the treacly Christmas movie season is upon us with a vengeance. If, like me, you find yourself rooting for the Grinch around this time of year, you need a cinematic antidote. The following are my favorite dysfunctional Christmas movie recommendations:

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The Family Stone

The storyline of this film can be summed up in one sentence–the Christmas celebration of a liberal hippie family is disrupted when their son brings home his conservative fiance–but it doesn’t come close to conveying the emotional complexity of the film. Although billed as a romantic comedy, I think it’s better described as a touching family drama with romantic and comedic moments. Diane Keaton and Craig Nelson head up a great ensemble cast.

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The Lion in Winter (with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close)

Henry II is holding a Christmas Court where he plans to name his successor. His estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, wants to see her favorite son, Richard, take the throne. Henry favors his obnoxious younger son, John. Alternately playing both sides against each other is the middle son, Geoffrey. The stage is set for an emotional roller coaster ride. Stewart and Close both give intense performances as parents whose love-hate relationship and continous one-upmanship has destroyed their family. Wonderful costumes, great ensemble cast.

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Die Hard (the first one)

But for real fun, nothing says Christmas like blowing up a whole office building. Most people forget that this classic action thriller is set during the holidays. John McClane (Bruce Willis) has come to L.A. to reunite with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia). He meets up with her at offices of the Nakatomi Corporation where the office Christmas party is in full swing. As he is waiting in her office, terrorists lead by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) enter and take everyone hostage. John, barefoot and armed with only a handgun against their automatic rifles, must summons help, save the hostages, and stay alive as he is hunted from floor to floor by the terrorists. Unlike its own sequels and most other action movies, I found “Die Hard” to be tightly plotted, believable, human, and very funny. Most reviews of the movie focus on Alan Rickman’s sinister Hans, but there are solid performances from everybody. Bruce Willis does a good Everyman character as McClane and the late Alexander Godunov exudes a pantherish grace and palpable sense of danger as Karl.

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I continue to plod along with Learning 2.1. My impressions so far:

#29.) I enjoyed Scrapblog although I think of it more as a fun site than a useful one. Be advised that while the templates are simple to use and text, photos, and clip art load easily, audio and video clips take forever to boot up. I suspect that the larger file size is overloading Scrapblog’s server.

#31 and #32.) Plaxo and Omnidrive. Plaxo is described as an on-line calendaring site that allows you to keep track of feeds and events from multiple accounts. Most of the users, however, appear to be using it as sort of an on-line e-mail address book. Omnidrive, like Zoho which it has joined forces with, is another on-line storage site. While you could use on-line storage sites like this to back up your work, one of the big dangers, as my colleague, Brad, pointed out, is that your files will disappear if the site goes out of business.

#33.) On-line art. Talk about something that has the potential to entertain you for hours. I’ve blogged about Mr. Picassohead before which is fun. Stringspin, though, is totally addictive. You use your mouse to draw random line and then you click to “spin” it and the program produces a lovely piece of abstract art.  The advanced version lets you change the axis of the spin and draw with colored lines. Random lines work best.

Falling Sand is more like chaos theory in action. There are several streams of falling material (sand, water, snow, etc.). If you draw alternating lines across the screen with your mouse, they will interact with each other in different ways. The box at the bottom controls the properties of your line. If you choose “Plant”, for example, and draw a “plant” line, it will grow wherever it hits the blue “water” stream.  If you are delicate and sensitive soul like me, do not, whatever you do, click on the “Hell of Sand” stream. It produces a rain of pathetic stick figures that are either eaten by the rolling blob, buried under a hill of sand, or have other ghastly things happen to them. No deux ex machina seems to help. I’m still traumatized.

Slideshare doesn’t appear on the Learning 2.1 list of things to try out, but I thought it was worthy of a mention. It’s an on-line site where you can post, tag, and share your PowerPoint presentations or photo slideshows. Perfect for conferences and other times where people want to see your slides after the fact. You can also search and see the slideshows other people have posted.

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…only outlaws will be able to use copyrighted materials.

That, with a lot of simplification, is Larry Lessig’s arguement in this videotaped presentation from the 2007 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in California. Larry is the founder of Creative Commons, a copyright reform site, so he has a bias, but his talk was a lot more interesting than most other, nap-inducing presentations on this topic. I also think that he made some good points, among them how technology has put content creation back in the hands of individuals and how allowing corporations excessive control of the new media has eroded traditional fair use privileges.

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Day of the Dead Skull photo by Green Thumbs (Flickr). Skull lights up and sings “I Ain’t Got No Body”. Yeah, I know. Sick. 🙂

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Too late for this year, but just in time to give you ideas about next year’s Halloween is this book by Tom Nardone. To find out what really scares the bejezus out of the author, click here.

Of course, you’re also going to want this really cool, cross-stitched sweatshirt. She got the pattern from here.

Finally, what has to be the cutest LOL Cats picture of all time:

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Just let the “Awwww” come out. You know you want to. I won’t tell.

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Old Town Hall Clock in Prague. Taken by Simpologist (Flickr).

 

The fall time change has played havoc with the clocks at the University of Arnor.

Our clocks are set and run by a central timekeeping piece at Facilities Services that is supposed to keep all the clocks on campus showing the same time. Or, at least, that’s the theory. In practice, no two clocks ever show the same time and large jumps like the one engendered over the weekend by Daylight Savings Time sends them off into another dimension entirely. Possibly the Fourth Dimension, but we can’t be sure.

Today, we received the following notice on the library listserv:

The Facilities Services guys are experiencing problems with changing the clocks. They said we may experience several scenarios before they get back on actual time.

Prompted by this message, my colleague, Paul, listed some “scenarios” that we might experience. With his permission, I have reprinted his list below:

  • The preserved, jarred head of Leonard Nimoy answers your questions at the Media counter.
  • A souped-up DeLorean accelerates towards 88 miles per hour, then disappears in a flash of fire just before colliding with the Reference desk.
  • You find yourself repeatedly attending a press conference for Punxsutawney Phil.
  • A sunglasses-wearing cyborg asks you for directory information on a “Sarah Connor”. (If this is public information, you are required to give it to him).
  • The figure of a long-dead librarian appears before you in a space-suit, floating and partially transparent, but you are unable to warn her, before she returns to her own time, that reference services are doomed.
  • Daleks assume control of the library administration, exterminating non-exempt staff and stifling innovation.
  • You realize that you’re working on the same damned thing you were working on an hour ago.

If you encounter any of these scenarios, please report them immediately to Facilities Services.

It’s gonna be a looong week.

 

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Electronic stud finder, batteries included, does not work on men–$5.00

–Part of a list of things for sale on a flyer on the library’s bulletin board in the main foyer

Ah, it’s good to be back! Back to snow! Back to sunshine unimpeded by persistent smog! Back to rogue rodents in the library!

No sooner have I divested myself of my winter garb than my eye is caught by something grey lying on the floor by the mousetraps in the Archive. I approach cautiously and discover that it is in fact a large rubber rat that has been “done in” by one of the spring traps.

The saga continues ……

I’d blame it on the full moon, but who am I kidding?

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