Dec 29, 2008

The time has come to declare what I hope to achieve in 2009. My goals are modest, but important:

Debt Elimination: I will pay off every debt I currently owe. This includes my car loan, my credit cards, and anything else I have outstanding. The one exception is my student loan debt from law school and grad school. As ambitious as I might be, I somehow doubt I'll be able to scrape together over $100,000 by 2010.

Weight Loss: I need to lose about 100 pounds total, but I'll settle for 50 in the next year. That will go a long way toward getting me back into a healthy lifestyle once and for all.

Publishing: I will write and submit for publication at least one article on a law library topic. I haven't written a thing since I left my tenure track job in mid-2007. If I really want to be a library director some day, I need to start publishing articles again, regardless of whether my current job actually requires it.

Hollywood Tom: I will start a movie blog & review website with a handful of friends. I've wanted to do this for several years but always found excuses to postpone it. No more. If someone wants to call me Hollywood Tom, I need to live up to the nickname.

Reading: I will read 26 books in 2009. In 2008 I set a goal of 52 books in 52 weeks. I'll likely end the year having actually read 16. I need to improve on that total, but I also need a more realistic goal. So I'm cutting it in half for this year. Oh, and I'm getting a public library card. This book buying addicition of mine is getting expensive.

I think that'll do for now.


Dec 23, 2008

I've been a pretty faithful fan of Counting Crows since they released their first CD 15 years ago, and I've always noticed a lot of recurring people, places and cultural references in the lyrics of their songs. One of the most famous is the periodic appearance of a woman named Maria. Singer/songwriter Adam Duritz provides this explanation for why she shows up so frequently:

Maria is the only one who's not completely real. She's just an idea of someone I came up with when I was writing "Round Here." I mean, she's me. It's through the eyes of a girl, but it's someone very much like me struggling at the edge, not sure if she's going to fall off on one side or the other. It's a theme that's stuck through songs. So she keeps popping up.

A second recurring reference is imagery related to carnivals and the circus. This probably isn't surprising, as the idea of the circus is frequently used as a metaphor for fame and the excesses of life as a touring band. Nevertheless, I've always been struck by just how often Duritz uses such allusions. The most obvious usage was the title of their 1998 live CD Across a Wire: Live in New York, but there are plenty of other references in the band's song lyrics.

Because it's Christmas break and I have some extra time on my hands -- and because I'm a librarian with a compulsive need for organizing media -- I decided to catalogue all the circus and carnival references in the lyrics of Counting Crows' songs.

====================

August and Everything After (1993)
"Round Here" (Listen at Last.fm)
She walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land / just like shes walking on a wire in the circus.

"Raining in Baltimore" (Listen at Last.fm)
The circus is falling down on its knees. / The big top is crumbling down.

Recovering the Satellites (1996)
"Goodnight Elisabeth" (Listen at Last.fm)
We couldn't all be cowboys / So some of us are clowns. / Some of us are dancers on the midway. / We roam from town to town. / I hope that everybody can find a little flame. / Me, I say my prayers, then I just light myself on fire / And I walk out on the wire once again.

"Children in Bloom" (Listen at Last.fm)
Where's the funhouse this year? / The fairground's deserted and the skies don't seem as near.

This Desert Life (1999)
"Mrs. Potter's Lullaby" (Listen at Last.fm)
Well, I am an idiot walking a tightrope of fortune and fame. / I am an acrobat swinging trapezes through circles of flame.

"St. Robinson in His Cadillac Dream" (Listen at Last.fm)
Well I have dreamed of a black car that shimmers and drives / down the length of the evening to the carnival side / in a house where regret is a carousel ride.

Hard Candy (2002)
NONE!

Saturday Nights and Sunday Mornings (2008)
"Insignificant" (Watch at YouTube - warning: loud distorted audio)
Can you see me / through the glare of the lamp post? / I am walking a tightrope / into the moon.

"On a Tuesday in Amsterdam Long Ago" (Watch at YouTube)
She's a carnival driver / hung in the sky, / cutting through time like a memory / strung on a wire.

====================

Eight songs total. That's what I've found so far. Did I miss any?

Interestingly, in researching this post, I've discovered two other recurring references in Duritz's lyrics: angels and trains.


Dec 22, 2008

On Friday, Meebo.com, the web-based instant messaging service, announced it was adding support for new IM networks for the first time in over 3 years:

Over the course of the day, we’re rolling out support for not one, but TWO new networks: MySpace and Facebook. These are two of the biggest social networks in the world, and we’re sure many of you use them on a daily basis.

This means you don't actually have to be on the Facebook site in order to IM with people on your "friends" list. Adium, a multi-protocol IM client for Mac, added Facebook in its latest version, and I've been using it with few problems for several months. But there is the possibility of a hiccup here or there. According to TechCrunch:

Meebo basically reverse-engineered Facebook’s IM. So if Facebook decides to change its IM protocols, the Meebo integration could break until its engineers apply a band aid.

Since I started using Facebook IM in Adium, I suspect more than a few of my Facebook friends have wondered why I'm ALWAYS listed as an "Online Friend" in the site's IM interface. And while I can't provide definitive proof that I do, in fact, have a life, you can at least rest assured that I'm not actually spending all day every day on Facebook.


Dec 11, 2008

NBC announced this week that following his departure from the Tonight Show in 2009, Jay Leno will remain with the network to host a talk show every weeknight at 10:00 p.m.

This, of course, means that NBC will either cancel or move all of its current 10 p.m. series to make room for Leno. The claim is that Leno's show will be far cheaper to produce than the 5 hours of programming that currently fills those time slots. But will ad revenue be high enough to produce similar profits? After all, Leno's current viewer numbers in late night, while high for his time slot, are hardly what a network wants to see in prime time.

And what about NBC's late night talk shows? If Leno appears nightly with high profile celebrity guests similar to the Tonight Show, won't this inevitably hurt Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon's shows? Not only will Leno be competing with O'Brien and Fallon for guests, but if viewers get their talk show fix at 10 o'clock, will anyone stick around for "Tonight" and "Late Night?"

I do wonder if there's more to this deal than meets the eye. Could NBC execs be counting on Leno's show to fail? After all, the primary goal might simply be to prevent Leno from signing with ABC for a show that would compete directly with O'Brien at 11:30 p.m. By offering him a prime time slot, they managed to lock Leno in at the peacock network for awhile longer. Then, if Leno fails to draw big numbers, NBC can cancel his show whenever it wants. But in the meantime O'Brien can build his own version of the Tonight Show without competing directly with Leno. After a Leno cancellation, NBC can simply go back to a more traditional programming schedule.


Dec 11, 2008

In its annual report on careers, U.S. News & World Report today named "Librarian" one of its Best Careers for 2009:

Librarianship is an underrated career. Most librarians love helping patrons solve their problems and, in the process, learning new things. Librarians may also go on shopping sprees, deciding which books and online resources to buy. They may even get to put on performances, like children's puppet shows, and run other programs, like book discussion groups for elders. On top of it all, librarians' work environment is usually pleasant and the work hours reasonable, although you may have to work nights and/or weekends.

I can't recall putting on a puppet show at any of the law school libraries in which I've worked. Clearly I need to rectify this. Immediately.

[U.S. News & World Report] Best Careers 2009: Librarian


Dec 2, 2008

Book #14 for the year was Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride, the story of four African American soldiers in WWII Italy who become separated from the rest of their unit. While waiting for rescue, the men take up residence in a rural village that recently experienced a horrible tragedy.

McBride provides an engaging backstory for each of his major characters (and even one inanimate object). Many chapters would be satisfying as standalone short stories, but they all still meld together into a rich whole.

Highly recommended.

52B/52W Progress: 14 down, 38 to go.

Currently Reading: Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger


Oct 14, 2008

Tomorrow I embark on my second drive across the United States in the last 15 months, and in less than 3 hours I'll no longer be able to tell people I'm a librarian at Yale Law School. The last year has allowed me to grow professionally in ways unmatched by my first three years in the profession. I'm a better librarian and a better web developer. I've developed a strong network of professional contacts all over the country. Perhaps most importantly, I now have a stronger confidence in my own abilities and a better understanding of what library "service" should strive to be.

I also now know that these self improvements can occur anywhere, not just at a top ranked law school.

In addition to these professional growths, I hope I now possess a better ability to take control of the aspects of my life that are actually under my own control, and to recognize all of these things as part of a larger self, and not as a number of unrelated problems to solve. For a long time I've laughed at the phrase "Free your mind and your ass will follow." Instead, I believed I simply had to do the things that were difficult and eventually my attitude about them would change. Well, I'm now trying to embrace both points of view, because simply doing something that is difficult will never change my attitude if I resent having to do it in the first place. This holds true whether the difficult task is losing weight, responding to a faculty research request, or finally getting my personal financial situation under control.

And those things outside of my control? Pffffffft... Anger won't change them. That's a wasted emotion.

It's no coincidence that this "zen" awakening is happening less than a month before my 35th birthday. I'm too far into this life to keep accumulating negative experiences that I look for reasons to regret. No, those so-called negative experiences are my LIFE, and it's time I embraced them and began reaching out for new experiences to add to that scrapbook.


Sep 25, 2008

Browser-based chat champ Meebo recently introduced its new Community IM service. Designed for social networking communities, the taskbar-like interface across the bottom of the browser window will be instantly recognizable to Facebook users.

Buddy List on PopSugar:


IM conversation on Flixster:

This kind of service should be easily adaptable to a library environment. Instead of showing which "Buddies" are currently online, which on sites like Flixster refers to a user's Friends or Contacts within the network, a library's implementation could show which Librarians are currently online and available to provide assistance. Something like this:

A re-imagined YLS Library website w/Community IM reference (click to enlarge):

A virtual reference implementation such as this might not fit into Meebo's immediate plans, but using Ajax and XMPP, couldn't a web developer with a lot of free time implement this kind of thing without Meebo? It would certainly be superior to the current MeeboMe widgets used by so many libraries, as Facebook style IM reference would require less screen real estate, would appear on every page of a site, and chat history/sessions would persist as a user navigated to other pages on the site.

Check out this video for a demo of what Flickr is doing with Meebo Community IM:

Meebo Community IM on Flickr from Meebo on Vimeo.


Aug 23, 2008

Aug 20, 2008

I've noticed a lot of my friends on Twitter locking their updates in recent days. From what I gather, the rationale behind these changes are logical and predictable: a desire for more privacy. Privacy from spam followers. Privacy from search engines. Privacy from co-workers/supervisors. Et cetera. Et cetera.

I'm currently weighing this question myself, but I'm sticking with the open model, at least for now. Why? Well, for one my supervisor is already following me on Twitter, so even if I locked updates, he'd still see everything. I have no desire to lock him out anyhow, as he and I have used Twitter on numerous occasions to communicate about work issues. It's actually been *gasp!* PRODUCTIVE. Of course, because my supervisor is following me on Twitter, I already know not to say things I wouldn't want the higher ups to see. Maybe that feels limiting at times, but it probably prevents me from saying things that would be unprofessional no matter who my audience was. Though in all fairness, even knowing my boss is watching hasn't prevented me from pushing the boundaries of appropriateness from time to time (*cough" RedDot *cough*).

As for spam followers, won't I still receive requests from those same bots? Won't I still have to go decline those requests? (I don't know the answer to that question. Could someone with locked updates answer that for me?) If so, that reminds me a lot of my current periodic maintenance of blocking the bots who are already following me.

In general, I'm still on board the open updates wagon because it helps me connect with new people. When I receive an email notification that I have a new follower, I always go to their profile to see who they are and if I want to follow them. If their updates are locked, and I have no way of knowing who they are, I'm not going to follow them. And so I assume the same is true for my updates. If people see me tweeting about open source software or libraries or movies, that might be a reason for them to follow me. And I'd like to encourage that kind of interaction. At least for now.

The recent trend of locked updates reminds of what happened on MySpace a year or two ago. At first, we all had public profiles, and every last dirty detail was out there for the world to see. Slowly, as more and more people realized there might be consequences to this sort of openness, people started to lock their profiles, making them visible only to friends. And then eventually most of us moved to Facebook anyway, a system that hides most of our information from the outside world by default (not that FB isn't without its own unique privacy problems).

Perhaps Twitter will eventually evolve into a similarly closed network. But if that happens, I hope Twitter adopts a setting similar to what Facebook has. That is, when someone with locked updates begins following my updates, I should have a window of time in which I can view their updates, too. That way I can determine whether or not I want to reciprocate and follow them. Otherwise I often have no information to go on.


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