Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day 116: So far so good

Pretty well all of us in McGill's MLIS program seem to share a kind of quirky personality trait: extreme unfounded anxiety. The vast majority of us blow every assignment out of proportion and panic about finishing it, panic about whether we've done it right, obsess, obsess, obsess.
Lesson 116: It's a good idea to have a quick and easy way set up to check your course standing.
I have an app called iStudiez Pro that will not only remind me of when my assignments are due and keep track of whether they're group or solo; it also keeps track of the weight of each assignment and allows me to input my grade for each one and see an up to date assessment of what my grade likely is in that class.

This is a Very Good Thing around the end of semester. With all the final projects due, it would be easy enough to panic and succumb to anxiety, so having something easily available that tells you "no matter what you do right now, you couldn't fail this course if you tried" is invaluable.

Based on the mark I got on my take-home portion of the metadata exam, I think I can hit at least an A- by getting 50% or better on the final paper.

Based on all the As I've gotten in web systems design, I just need to finish the group assignment and I'm golden.

That means that the only wildcards are Archives and History of Books and Printing. I've done fine on everything so far in Archives, but I still have two major assignments (term paper and take-home exam) to do. History of Books and Printing is a great course, but is only evaluated on one project, and I don't present mine till the last class of the term.

But all this to say, it's best to give my logical mind as much ammo against my panicky headless chicken mind as possible. So when part of my brain goes "OH GOD SO MUCH TO DO I'M GOING TO FAIL AT EVERYTHING AND BE A FAILURE" my logical mind can lay on the smack down and tell it to shut it's trap; there's nothing to worry about.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Day 115: Off the beaten path

Granted, I haven't been at McGill long, but still, being just about done my degree it feels strange to find something new out of the blue.

But that's just what I've done.

Lesson 115: On the first floor of McLennan Library, is a little room, filled with librarians. Just sitting at their computers. Waiting.

They're waiting for you to visit them and ask a question, and they'll help you find whatever information you're looking for.

Granted, you can do that walking up to pretty well any reference desk, or librarian, which is something a lot of people don't realize to begin with. But they've actually got this whole little room set up just for librarian consultation.

It's so quaint! So useful! So fantastic!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 114: Flu Shots are a Bad Idea for Me

Lesson 114: The first time you get a flu shot, your body reacts more severely to it than any time afterwards.
Some people react to vaccines as though they've gotten sick with the disease being vaccinated against.

I am one of those people.

Apparently with the flu shot, it can be really bad the first time you ever get it, but will be better any other time you do. I certainly hope that's the case, because this business is only supposed to last 1-2 days.

I'm on day 3 since my shot, and I'm actually having mild hallucinations. Words are dancing on their pages. It's kind of sickening to watch.

I am unimpressed.

Those viruses were dead, body! You don't need to kill them deader!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 113: The Artist Formerly Known As

Day 113 of my updates, and the 13th day of the month; all at the same time! Feels like some sort of celebration is in order!

Actually, celebration may be in order, just not quite yet. Because...

Today is the day I finally get around to fixing up this blog! You may have noticed that I haven't updated in quite some time. But this doesn't mean I haven't been writing. Oh no! I've been keeping notes, jotting down outlines... the posts have been here. Languishing unpublished. Waiting for me to have the time to give them a last look and hit publish. But between the absolute ridiculousness of my internet situation, assignments and midterms, schlepping back and forth to Ontario so often, and of course work, I haven't had the chance.

So what I'm going to do is get all the missed posts up, and provide a summary here linking to the most interesting posts.

When is a book not a book?
So that's why Canada's so ugly...
Websites are like Bicycles
Paper is not Vegetarian Friendly
ACCESS 2012 was a hell of a time!
Vanity Presses and Blogging
Bewick, Wood Cuts, and Money

As for today?

Lesson 113: Hokusai, and in fact Japanese woodblock printers in general, were the original Artist(s) Formerly Known As.

Japanese woodblock prints, like the famous image "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Hokusai, were sort of like posters for that age.

You could hang a picture of your favourite kabuki actor on your wall, or a picture of a beautiful woman.

But the artists of the prints changed their names like socks. They'd take on syllables of their mentor's name to show mastery of their style, inherit their mentor's name when he retired, take on a new name if they came out of retirement.

Hokusai went through an absolutely prolific number of names. When he eventually retired, he passed on his name to an apprentice. However, when a relative squandered their money, he needed to return to working life, but couldn't take his name back from the apprentice, so he changed it yet again.

I don't think I could be a scholar of Japanese printing... keeping track of the constant name changes would make me dizzy!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 112: This is the day that never ends... it just goes on and on my friends...

Yet another low-lesson day. But let me put it this way: Metadata is a trap. Don't fall for it! Don't do it!

Lesson 112: Encode an EAD finding aid in XML is not a test. It is not an exam. It is a race.

I did that paper.... which we wound up getting 24hrs earlier than initially promised (thank goodness), but with two books listed to reference for writing the discussion (for 60 people to use in a 48hr period??? WHAT?) that weren't even actually on reserve because they were out (due on Friday at midnight, meaning the request for them to be put on reserve was only submitted Monday, or even Tuesday). Luckily, she was informed (likely by about 40 people emailing in a panic) and put up pdfs of articles for us to use instead (thank goodness).

Can you hear that gong a-ringing?

Then into the in-class portion of the exam, the .dtd file we needed to use wasn't even actually retrievable from the MyCourses system. And once that was solved, it was less a test of skill, and more a test of how quickly you could type, copy and paste.

Listen to Admiral Ackbar. It's a trap, I tell you, a trap!

Teach yourself metadata using w3schools, and reading over Learn to use Altova XML spy by encoding metadata for documents you find around the web.

You'll get all the learning with a fraction of the headache.

You're welcome!

... Now that my brain's turned to goop, I'm going home. Peace out.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 111: Money money money money! MONEY!

In class today, one of the presentations was about an engraver named Bewick. Before Bewick, detailed illustrations in books were done with engraved metal plates, while only childrens' books were illustrated using wood blocks. This was because the grain of wood blocks meant that illustrations could only reach a certain amount of detail before you would just splinter the grain and ruin the image.

However, Bewick had the great idea of turning the block on its end and carving in the end of the grains rather than along and across the grains on the side of the block. This meant he was able to make gorgeously detailed wood block prints. He was actually able to make such detailed engravings in wood that they were able to use them to print money.

He also created the book "A History of British Birds", entirely illustrated with his gorgeous engravings, and really providing an everyman's guide to ornithology.

Lesson 111: Wood block printing was preferred to metal plate engraving for printing money.

This was because when a wood block was made of a super hard wood, like cherry wood, you could make millions of prints before the block couldn't print clearly anymore. Metal plates lost the ability to print clearly much much quicker.

The reason they used metal plates instead of wood blocks was because the extra detail you could get was very good at discouraging counterfeiting.

However, with Bewick's new method, you could get the detail needed to stop counterfeiters with the durability to print in more economical batches of money.

Everybody wins!

He also did the most adorable engravings of bats... Bats for Bats 2012!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Days without numbers: Seriously!? November already??

Our metadata exam from hell is next week. But I am feeling way too miserable to be in class. Studying from home, and catching up on the Assassins Creed franchise will have to do as alternatives.

Jon has told me I have to finish playing Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed: Revelations before I'm allowed to play Assassin's Creed III, which I bought the other day.

Guess I've got my work cut out for me...

Since I'm not in class, this day has no number.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 110: The Origin of Blogging?

I had wanted to make my own Hallowe'en costume this year. I was going to go for Batgirl, or a Weeping Angel. But ultimately, lack of resources and man hours nipped that plan in the bud. So I ordered a slammin' Batgirl costume online. But still no Hallowe'en costume. No sign of it.

I think this is going to wind up being another inpromtu costume Hallowe'en.

But the show must go on!

Speaking of, today's lesson is one of those realizations I came to rather than a lesson I was actually explicitly taught.

Lesson 110: Vanity Presses can be viewed as a pre-cursor to modern blogging.

In the 1700s, wealthy aristocrats with too much time and money found a new hobby in this interesting new toy: The Printing Press.

They didn't necessarily have anything they wanted to print, no writing of their own, or particular author they wanted to be a patron to. They just knew that this printing thing was catching on, and they wanted to print something. So they made so-called Vanity Presses and printed beautiful books just to print something.

One of the most well known was called "Strawberry Hill Press". You may remember last year, I mentioned one Horace Walpole who's credited with bringing the term serendipity into use as we know it. He also opened one of these Vanity Presses out of his estate, Strawberry Hill. He had all sorts of grand designs about the castle, the press and his collections, etc.

But isn't that basically what we do with blogs? Lots of people don't know what they want to blog about, but they want to blog. We don't know what we want to say, but we want to say it. We have a new technology, and we want to use it, we want our voices to be heard.

I would totally run a Vanity Press out of my basement... Anyone know where I can buy myself a printing press?

Wait a minute, I live in an apartment... anyone know where I can get myself a basement?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Day 109: Metadata will be the death of me

They said at Access last weekend that "A URL is your contract with the world". By putting something up online, you're agreeing that it will always be at that URL, and if it moves, you'll leave breadcrumbs to lead the user back to the material.

Similarly, I've always understood that a syllabus is a professor's contract with their students. "This is the class, this is how it will be taught and this is how you will be evaluated". It can only be changed in exceptional circumstances and for very good reason.

Lesson 109: Good form or no, some people will break contracts no matter what.

We've been informed of yet another change to our course (or is it a change? no one seems sure).

We now have a take-home essay portion to our mid-term, due immediately before our in-class portion. And we'll have about 24 hrs to do it. Work? Class? Irrelevant. 24 hours. Make it work.

So basically, the majority of us are being told that we are required to pull an all-nighter to write the take-home portion before going into class to do the in-class portion.

Everyone seems pretty resigned to their fate at this point... *sigh*

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 108: Conference Learning

I was too excited about the ACCESS conference to post at all on Thursday. And today? Wow, my brain is buzzing!

So many interesting ideas! If you'd like to look over the interesting topics we covered, you can check out the tweets, photos and liveblogs here.

I wound up looking over a #AccessYUL tweet chart one of my fellow attendees put together, I realize I probably owe my followers an apology. With 96 tweets, I was the most prolific tweeter at ACCESS. So if you were interested, I'm sorry for dominating the discussion. If you weren't interested, I'm sorry for flooding your feed with stuff you found boring.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't!

As for what I came away from the conference with? Well, I have a bit of a wishlist now:

  • 3D printer with chocolate instead of plastic
  • a visit to NCSU's Hunt library
  • the means to put together a BiblioBox to give my massive eBook collection new life
Too overwhelmed for lessons though. No lessons today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 107: A Primer on Printing and Paper

Alright, so this won't truly be comprehensive enough to be considered a primer, but I just couldn't resist the alliteration!

I've briefly mentioned paper and book-binding before, but now I'm going to talk about paper and printing

Lesson 108: Paper can be made from any vegetative natural fibre.

When I was talking about scrolls and codexes, I mentioned that they used to make "paper" called vellum, which was treated calf skin. That's what they used for the longest time in book-making.

Paper as we know it was invented in the 2nd century in China, where they used it mostly for packaging. They also started using it for many of the purposes we use paper today; they made toilet paper, paper money, and even printed books. Arab traders learned the process in the 8th century and brought it home. They built paper-mills, made thicker pages and used the paper to make much lighter codices with silk covers able to do away with the heavy covers and clasps that had been needed to keep the vellum books from becoming wedges.

In the 11th century, the process finally made it to Europe.

In the beginning, the Chinese used hemp, and bark from the paper mulberry. In Europe, they used hemp and linen rags. Eventually cotton caught on too. It wasn't until the 19th century that they started using wood pulp like we do today. But where the rag paper was stable and lasted a long time, wood pulp paper is by default acidic and degrades quite badly.

But really, paper can be made of any cellulose, any natural vegetative fibre. You could make paper from the vegetable peelings you threw out while making dinner, or the grass trimmings from mowing the lawn. Heck! There's one company that makes notebooks out of paper using elephant poop as the source of vegetative fibre. The possibilities are endless!

Another fun fact: the paper they made for printing (I can't speak for modern processes) was *not* vegetarian friendly. Paper that had just been made, so called "fresh leaf", would actually wind up absorbing too much ink to print correctly. Kind of like trying to write with a sharpie on toilet paper; the ink bleeds out and becomes a formless jumble.

Instead, they'd treat the fresh leaf with gelatin so the ink would rest on the surface instead of leaking out all over the place.

So that's one more thing for the vegetarians: no Jell-O, Oreos or printed books.

That's harsh, man!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 106: Fallacious Fallacies

They did a study.

It's kind of a catchphrase of mine at this point, but hear me out.

There was a study done, and what they did was they asked people to draw bicycles.

They asked all sorts of people; daily bike commuters, avid cyclists, couch potatoes who only ever see bicycles on their TV screen... but all these people had one thing in common.

Barely any of them were able to draw, or even point out, an accurate sketch of a bicycle. Whether they biked every day, or hadn't been on one since their training wheels were taken off, they couldn't independently identify what an actual bike looked like.

They'd accept drawings of bikes as accurate even though the cross bar was positioned such that you wouldn't be able to steer the bike, and all sorts of other structural issues... Whether asked to draw one from scratch, given a partially completed drawing to finish, or shown a selection of completed drawings, failure was the norm across groups regardless of how interaction they had with bicycles.

Lesson 107: Just because you know something really well doesn't mean you can recreate it.

Much like thinking you can draw a proper bike just because you ride them regularly, people have the same thinking about websites. I'm guilty of it myself. We've used enough websites! We know what works and what doesn't! It's easy! I can do it!

But no. No you can't. No I can't. Not without the right training. Bike designers have to learn all sorts of things to know what does and doesn't work, and to learn what can be improved where and in which ways. Web designers need the same.

Just because you use the internet, doesn't mean you can shape it at will.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 105: Canadian Architecture is Brutal

Oddly enough, studying books and printing can easily turn into studying architecture, by way of studying typography.

It makes sense enough when you really think about it, but it is kind of roundabout.

You see, a dominant architecture demonstrates the trendy aesthetic of an era/region/culture. The same kind of design principles that influence the architecture also influence what fonts look like and which ones are popular.

Gutenberg was German, Gothic architecture was huge, and he was trying to recreate the look of Gothic manuscript. So his font was Gothic.

But when the Italians took the title of Capital of Printing away from Germany, they hated the Gothic font as much as they hated the Gothic architecture. I mean, how many well known Gothic cathedrals, etc, are there in Italy? So they developed pretty, dainty little Roman fonts, and used sweeping italics.

And so architectural preferences have marched hand in hand with typographic preferences.

Lesson 106: Canada really latched onto Concrete Brutalism.
Scott Library at York University
And honestly, I don't understand why. That shit's hideous! But the main library here at McGill, the library at York U, buildings across the country are these huge, imposing, blocky monstrosities with exposed, raw concrete everywhere. No thank you!

I suppose it probably has something to do with under-emphasized windows being friendlier to insulating for our Canadian winters, but still. Yuck.

Luckily, Bauhaus, also called the new International style, started catching on. It's still very minimalist, with no ornamentation, but at least it breaks up the concrete a little with steel and glass.

Place Ville-Marie
Just look at Place Ville-Marie in Montreal. Sure it isn't the prettiest building, but at least it isn't a complete eyesore!

Photos from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 104: For the people!

I tend to spend most of my Thursday with a glazed look in my eye and a little rivulet of drool escaping from the corner of my mouth. But I'm trying to keep it together well enough to provide you with decent lessons.

Today's lesson is from the Wonderful World of Webdesign.

Lesson 105: Don't build a website just to implement cool new tech. Build a website that people want, using the cool new tech.

While some tech developments find their markets, just building a website to show off the latest and greatest without thinking about how your users use your website is a good way to waste a lot of money for nothing.

I mean, for instance, if you're managing the website for the Anywhereville Senior Centre you don't necessarily want to jump right on the bandwagon with every tech thing that comes along. Is your average user even on Twitter, or Pinterest, or whatever new tech trend that's cropped up?

If they aren't, why do you need to be?

It's a good guideline at least.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Day 103: When is a book not a book?

Books have not always looked like books.

But we knew that, right?

We knew that in Egypt, their stories were written down on walls and in scrolls of papyrus with pictograms. Ancient civilizations wrote on clay and stone tablets, or in wax on wooden tablets. Eventually they wrote on some form of "paper", though maybe not the pulpy kind we use today. They wrote on vellum, which was paper but made of calf skin. They wrote on paper made of rags.

Books have looked like pillars. Books have looked like walls. Books have looked like tapestries. Books have looked like scrolls.

And finally, books started looking like books. That's the codex form of books. But that form didn't really start showing up until the 2nd century and didn't really catch on until the 5th century.

But how did we go from spooling whole books on scrolls and having to scroll through the whole thing to find what we're looking for to these bound piles of paper that we can open to any point? What other forms could books have taken?

Lesson 104: In Burma, they created "Palm Books".

Turns out they did them in other places too, but today in class we got to see some Burmese Palm Books.

Basically they'd take palm leaves and cut the writing into them, then dry them and rub ink on them to dye the cuts. Each leaf would be numbered and they'd be bound between wooden boards. The string binding it all together was left long enough that it would wrap around the book holding it closed. To read it, you'd untie it and the pages open by fanning out.

They're really beautiful.

There are just so many interesting little anecdotes and entrancing particulates of information in the history of books and bookbinding....

Books used to need straps and clasps to hold them closed because vellum would swell when it got humid and deform the book into a wedge; unless a clasp was keeping it boxy and rectangular.

Paper as we now know it was developed in China and used by Arabs in the 8th century and didn't catch on in Europe until later.

Independent of all of this, Meso-Americans made codex style books where they whitewashed the pages before writing on them.

This class just speaks so much to my nature as an encyclopedia of useless knowledge!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 102: Regrets Abound?

Hardly even a question now... I'm going to hate Thursdays more than any other day of the week. I have class from 11 in the morning till nearly 9 at night. It's going to be one heck of a day...

Part way through the summer I was offered the opportunity to take Metadata and Access. A course I was very disappointed to have missed out on due to some course sign-up shenanigans. But ever since I dropped Public Libraries in order to take up that offer, I've been wondering if maybe I'm just going to regret taking it. Metadata's a necessity for me, and the four-day weekend thing is going to be nice. But the headache-inducing Thursday alone may not be worth it. We'll see how this semester pans out.

My lesson today wasn't really library school related, despite having three classes. No, today's lesson was about building your own computer. See, a friend of mine back home helped me put together this brand new desktop for myself, and it's part of the reason my posting this week has fallen by the wayside.

I had originally wanted a hackintosh, that is to say, a self-made machine running Mac OSX. It's called a hackintosh because Mac OSX will not run on non-apple hardware, so to do it you need to hack the OS a bit. But ultimately, my friend and some of my online research convinced me that it's too finicky for me to try and have as my primary machine. So instead I've gone with a Windows/Linux dualboot system. It's just been so fun tinkering with it and making things work and smoothing out all the wrinkles that I hadn't put aside the time to write my posts for the week. Shame on me. But I've learned a lot about the workings of my computer, the ins and outs of the software and hardware... just as I had hoped I would.

But the biggest lesson of all has been about Maximizing versus Satisficing. It's something we talked about in class a bit last year, so not completely unrelated to library school. The basic idea is that when ever you're doing something or making a choice, you can be a maximizer or satisficer. Maximizers try to achieve some absolute objective ideal of "The Best" that doesn't really exist and isn't achievable. While Satisficers try to achieve their own subjective ideal of "Best for Them".

So bringing this thought to the computer I've built, today I was trying to finally make my decision about which distribution of Linux I should install. Now for those uninitiated into the bizarre world of online discussion, the best way to start a fight in a group Linux-minded people is to ask which distribution is "The Best". "Ubuntu!" goes the cry. "No, Debian!" shouts another. "No, OpenSUSE!" says another still. And the argument goes in circles as they debate about what file structure is most efficient or which one is too mainstream.

As someone who is very much a maximizer trying desperately to curb those inclinations, I have spent more time than I care to admit poking about and reading online trying to decide which distribution I should use. When finally, I realized...

Lesson 103: It doesn't actually matter which is "Best"; which one do I want

Which one is going to be easiest for me to use? Which will be the least hassle for me and what I want to do on the machine? Which am I going to have and find the most support in? These are the questions that are going to get me the best experience in the long run.

It reminds me of one of my nights at a pub while I was back in Ontario. I ordered a Rickard's White and one of the guys I was with was just absolutely appalled and started giving me a hard time because it's "such a bad beer". I just couldn't understand why my choice in beer was causing him such obvious offence. I wasn't forcing him to drink it. By ordering it I wasn't stamping it with the Veronica Seal of Approval and declaring it "The Best Beer to Have Ever Been Brewed By Mortal Hands". It's just that of the options given, it was what I most felt like drinking.

On the whole, I think I've been much too governed by that kind of thinking; that my every choice has to be the objective best and absolutely defensible one. Why shouldn't I just be happy and satisfied choosing what I want for myself? Maybe it'll turn out that there was a better, more perfect choice I could have made, but that shouldn't make me any less happy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 101: Back to School!

So here we are... everyone else's "last first class" is my "first class" of the year. Creates kind of an odd disconnect, but there you have it.

Today was History of Books and Printing, and while I'm really not a fan of the standing-around-tables-for-two-hours format for a class, I can already tell I'm going to learn a lot from this class! A lot of really interesting and arcane factoids; my favourite flavour! Lets start this school year off with a bang, shall we? Multi-lesson first day post!

But where do we start with the numbering? It's such an arbitrary numbering system to begin with; do I continue and make this lesson 101? Or do I serialize and make it 2.1? Maybe just start straight from 1 all over again? Bah humbug, I hate decisions.

Lesson 101: Italics presuppose eyeglasses.

Kind of an odd, almost throw away line from my professor. Italics were developed by the Venetian printer Aldus Manutius, who was kind of a big deal. While we now use them to bring attention to important segments in a text, they were first used to fit more printed words onto a single page so you could have smaller, more compact volumes. However, since the type is so small, it assumes that anyone with less than stellar eyesight is having it corrected by lenses.

Lesson 102: Books printed as someone raised in a Western context expects them to look are printed in the Venetian style, that is: each page containing one column of full justified text, often filling the page to margins which are slightly larger at the bottom and outside edges

There's a long thread in the history of printing that leads back through a few idealistic revivals and notable presses, and when taken right back, it's those printers in Venice who printed books more or less as we now expect them to look.

I was trying to find a good picture to illustrate what I mean, and I found someone has written a great post about Aldus Manutius and his printing, and rather inexplicably taken a few pictures with one of his books in a bathtub. You can see that here.

Old books are just so cool!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pre-post Madness

My busy busy summer is coming to a close now, and I'm back in Montreal after spending the last two weeks in Ontario seeing all my wonderful friends and family before I buckle down and get back to class.

This won't be a lesson post, but I figured I'd take the opportunity to explain a little about my summer, and what my posting schedule is likely to look like this year.

You may have noticed this blog, despite my aspirations to keep summer lessons going, has been all quiet over the summer months. While I learned a lot at my practicum, I really had no time to breathe, let alone post. I was working full-time and doing the practicum in the evenings, so my weeks were almost entirely working and sleeping.

I did get to volunteer for a week at a Venturer Scout event at the beginning of July and take the aforementioned two weeks in Ontario though, so it wasn't all mind killing insanity!

I really should have started posting last week, since that's when classes started, but I have a terrible revelation... I skipped my first week of classes. I can see you now, all shock and awe and horror. I know, isn't it awful? But my sister, the mastermind (?) behind Out of My Ordinary was leaving for Botswana this past Saturday, and I wanted to be sure to see her off. She'll be there for the next 8 or so months watching elephants out her bedroom window I'm sure.

Also, this year I've been blessed with an amazing schedule... I work Tuesdays and Wednesdays 9-1, and only have class Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (well into the evening in the case of Thursday). Which means I get four day weekends! Woo hoo! It also means that in general, I'll be updating this blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and maybe the occasional Wednesday if something particularly interesting happens at work.

Hope you all had an enjoyable summer; lets get on with this school year!

.... My last ever? *gulp*

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Lessons: The Cardinal Sins of Internet Browsers

I'm feeling especially grouchy today. Maybe it's because a fire alarm was going off in the hospital I work in and it gave me a headache. But regardless, it's inspired me to be rather snarky. I apologize in advance...

Watching people use computers, and watching people teaching me things on computers has brought to the forefront of my mind some things which should really never be done when it comes to browsers. I'm going to start the compilation of a list here, and I may add to it as I see fit.
1: Thou shalt not open, and especially not go out of your way to open, Netscape or Internet Explorer when Chrome or Firefox are offered to you.
It just gives me the chills that I've even seen this happen... perfectly good browsers waiting on the desktop to be used, but you're going to go into the program menu just to open IE? I shudder to think.
2: Thou shalt not enter the address "" in the address bar of Chrome in order to go google something. It's GOOGLE Chrome. 
Really? Congratulations, you just divided by zero.
3: Thou shalt not type "http://" before a web address. Even typing out "www." may be taking it too far, but for that you can be forgiven.
Your browser knows these things. Unless you're worried about secure browsing and you're afraid you won't automatically be redirected the "https://" (the s stands for secure!) it's just nails on a chalkboard unnecessary.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Lessons: A Project in Connection

I'm considering starting a project.

I'm going to make myself a little kit. It will have envelopes, paper, pens, stamps... and every week, I'll write a letter to someone. Maybe it will be a friend, if I can get enough of them to send me their up-to-date contact info. Maybe it will be family. Maybe it will be a politician, or a celebrity, or someone I know of who's incarcerated. Maybe it will be someone I remember from long ago.

But I'll write a letter a week.

Connect with people in a personal, if archaic, way.

I hate when people knock on technology and decry our use of it as being too wired, too impersonal... Humans are social creatures, and much of our use of technology is simply extending that even further. I even read a great article which refers to the proprioception that arises from the use of social media.

But that being said, sometimes being a sprinkler gets tiring.

All that whirling, making sure every blade of grass gets watered. Sometimes you have to get out the spray bottle and give specific plants a little TLC. A lot of our relationships are like grass; make sure they get enough water and you don't really run a risk of them shriveling up and dying away. They may not thrive into towering trees or flowering shrubs; but it's grass, that's not what it's for. Not every relationship in your life can, or should, be monumental. Heck, the human brain is only cognitively capable of maintaining 150 true friendships.

But some plants you baby and pamper. You tend them carefully. Not because they're more important than the grass; but because they're the ones you want to see thrive.

I guess I just want to make a point of doing that in my life.

My family never was very good with plants.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer Lessons: Why Buying an iPad Was The Best Decision for Me

I know I've let it fall by the wayside so far, but I'm really hoping that I'll be able to post at least once or twice a week over the summer… I do have a ridiculously overwhelming schedule, but I'm finding that writing, period, is becoming a big priority for me. I find that even if I'm not writing about something emotional, it's still emotionally impactful for me. I suppose it's just the fact that writing organizes my thoughts in a way nothing else does. But that's tangential to the topic of today's post.

Before I get to that though, for those who are interested, my overwhelming schedule is as follows: work from 9am-3pm Monday to Thursday, 9am-4pm on Friday. Practicum from 4-7pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Plus trivia at 8 on Mondays and potentially a weekly movie night at my place on Fridays.

The Fiancé's in the process of moving up here, and I think he's going to be a little disappointed with how much time we're actually going to have together… But anyways, on to the main show!

As per the title of this post, my iPad was definitely one of the best purchasing decisions I have made. It has allowed me to take all my class notes, study efficiently with all the class lectures in one easy to read place, schedule my time more effectively since it turns out I'm much more likely to use a digital agenda than a paper one, research concepts, record lectures... all without dropping the huge chunk of change needed to replace my old dying laptop with a new, useable one. And yes, even have some fun; though I haven't yet found a way to play World of Warcraft on it!

And yet despite its usefulness, I feel like I'm constantly confronted about it. When I had a laptop, that was fine; students need laptops. But an iPad? What do you need that for? What luxury! What extravagance! How dare you!

My name is Veronica and I am a poor, starving student deeply in debt and I have an iPad.

For my undergrad as a film production student, and as a graduation present from my parents, I got a big MacBook Pro in part because I really wanted a Mac, but mostly because my entire department was Mac, I was going to need to use Final Cut Pro. And yes, using Mac did suck me in. Apple took care of any and all problems I had with the hardware, and the software was accessible enough that I could do everything I wanted and configure it to my own specifications without sinking a lot of time into it.

But after my extended warrantee ran out, and at 4 years old, my beautiful Mac was showing its age. With plastic bits falling to pieces, it was more of a desktop than a laptop… if I wanted to keep using it, I had to stop moving it. At all. But I still had two years of University level education on the horizon at that point, as I was starting my Masters in the fall. I know from previous experience that hand-taking notes does not work for me. Typing my notes, having the ability to record lectures and the ability to look up concepts I didn't fully understand right off the bat (or that I found interesting and wanted to know about in more depth) were all vitally important to me and my learning process. And yet, I didn't have the money to replace my old computer.

So I toyed with the idea of getting myself a little netbook for my purposes. That would mean a return to Windows, which I wasn't looking forward to; but it was looking like that was what I would have to do.

But then my dad pointed out that I could get one of the least featured iPads for the same price as the netbooks I was considering, so why didn't I just do that?

And that's what I did.

And that was a fantastic decision.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Day 100: Officially Half A Librarian!

Happy Friday the 13th! And happy Day 100 and End of Year 1 as well! I'm half way there!

As a grand summary lesson for my 100th numbered day in Library School, let me share the most overarching lesson I've taken away from this year.

Lesson 100: You can do anything. Anything at all. You just have to ignore all doubts about whether you can, and just go go go.

This week has been quite the interesting experience, and very much proving the lesson, so let me spell it out.

Our final research proposal was due Tuesday. Luckily someone in my group was in Montreal and willing to hand it in because I was still in Ontario, just preparing to head back to Montreal. I was taking the midnight bus that night, so I did some shopping in Toronto (five-fingers shoes and fancy Sephora hair-ties) and met up with my friend Elissa for dinner (lobster grilled cheese and a raspberry mojito) before catching the bus.

After a fitful sleep full of interruptions, I was finally back in Montreal, and went home to catch some ZZZs before waking up (at 11) to go to work and complete the last of my final assignments.

On Thursday, our project management final and our collection development final were both due, four hours apart.

I did not sleep Wednesday night. A bottle of NOS kept me company while I stayed up to finish my collection development paper. Although at one point the bottle of NOS convinced me that rather than continue the futile quest to get WebCT to cooperate and allow me to download the PowerPoints I needed, what I really needed to do was read some fan fiction instead.

Despite the distractions borne of no sleep and too much caffeine, I finished the collection development paper and handed it in just under the wire thanks to Aimee being awesome and printing it off for me while I ran to SIS. Then we put the finishing touches on our project management paper, handed it in, and got some celebratory lunch as a group.

Then I had my first training shift in my new job at the Neuro-Patient Resource Centre... on ~6hrs sleep in the past 48-72hrs. Needless to say that afterwards I went straight home and got a proper night's sleep.

Today, I had another training shift at the Neuro followed immediately by a regular shift at the Life Sci. My new boss told me that she was very impressed with how high-functioning I was yesterday on less than no sleep. I still got it! ^.^

And to mark the official end of the semester, we had a party with wine and tasty food, mingling, and superlatives! There were many categories to be won; best dressed, info-retrieval wizard, most likely to be the first to become library director, most stereotypical, most likely to become a prof...

In a three-way tie, I won Most Stereotypical Librarian.

... Maybe I shouldn't buy those cateye frames I've been eyeing... It might cause a singularity of librarianship...

Librarian blackhole; Nothing can escape its gravity. Cats, knitting and baking supplies are pulled in with no chance of release. Knowledge is devoured and it is not known whether it escapes again in some form, but scientists presume that it must, due to the principle of the conservation of mass...

Full results of the vote as compiled by Alex Amar on the Library School facebook group are copypastad for your viewing pleasure here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Day 99: Last day of class?

Today's supposed to be my last day of class, but a ticket home on the 4th was less than half the price of a ticket home on the 5th, so instead of being in class I'm actually in Ontario.

However, a few of my classmates and I have taken to live-tweeting our classes allowing us to share insights, chat in a less disruptive manner, and a newly discovered benefit: allowing the absent to still follow along with class!

So despite not being in management today, I still learned about management; I attended my fiancé's "OB" (Organizational Behaviour) class, and got the insight from my own class through Twitter.

Lesson 99: Just because you're absent, doesn't necessarily mean you're missing out on class.

Of course, perhaps someone can help me puzzle out one insight I couldn't quite unravel through twitter...

One of our professors told the class about a co-worker in a library who had taken nude photos of themself, printed them and hid them within books in the circulating collection. My question is one of motivation, I can't understand what reason anyone might have for doing that to themselves. If they were doing it to someone else I could guess that the motive would be as a prank, or vengeance of some sort. But doing it to yourself, what kind of outcome would you even be hoping for?

... How unfathomable are the depths of human nature...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day 98: Never, ever do that again

In a completely unexpected and unforeseeable turn of events, it turns out that leaving your house at 10 am, fully ready for the bus ride home but not actually catching that bus until 9:30 pm is a world of misery. Particularly when you compound it with 3 hours of sleep and schlepping around not only my own travel bags, but also a ridiculously heavy good deed.

Who knew?

The good deed? I'm transporting Zikomo bags back home for my sister. Being in International Development, she sells these bags on the behalf of a women's cooperative in Malawi. If you want to read more about my sister and what she's up to in "InDev" as they call it, she's started a blog too! She's going to be doing a work placement in Botswana next year so the blog is mainly to document that.

I haven't really learned anything so far today, except to be thankful for the caps on bottles of rubbing alcohol... In my sleep deprived state, I reached for my can of Amp Energy Drink and my hand came back with my bottle of rubbing alcohol instead. No, bad hand, that is not for drinking and will certainly not keep me awake through class!

Speaking of class, it was really bizarre today. Constantly contradictory and confusing, and at times disturbing. Here's an example of one of the lessons my professor wanted me to learn today...

(Faux) Lesson 98: Stalking is cute and romantic, but it is not ethical.

I was severely unimpressed. Stalking is not cute, it is not romantic. It is creepy, disturbing, unethical and immoral to boot. Don't do it!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Day 97: Mostly Serendipitous

Serendipity is a huge topic in librarianship. Heck, it's a huge issue in information and knowledge organization, period.

In fact, serendipity is one of the things most organizational systems are designed around. Dewey and Library of Congress, the two ways of organizing a library that you are most likely to be familiar with, both aim to "facilitate serendipity" by grouping similar volumes together. It's why you can go to "The Cookbook Section" or "The Canadian History Section"of the library and why we don't just organize all the books, fiction and non-fiction, by author's name or title. We want you to go to a section looking for a specific book and realize "hey, here's that book I was looking for, but this one right next to it is actually going to be better for what I need!"

We can get into all the arguments we want to about whether or not it's really serendipitous if it's been arranged that way, engineered serendipity if you will, but the fact is that it is useful, helpful and just plain fantastic whether or not it's "true" serendipity.

But I'd always just taken the word for granted. It's probably this or that Greek root meaning "divine guidance" or some such, peppered with a little Latin, left to stew in 3 or 4 different romance languages, before finally being looted by English. Or so I thought...

Lesson 97: The term "Serendipity" was inspired by a (mostly) Persian tale called "The Three Princes of Serendip" in which the titular three princes come upon information through happenstance and coincidence and are able to infer all manner of things.

The tale had been printed, reprinted, retold, reformed, combined with other tales, modified through the years adding elements from different tales from other locales or inspiring similar tales in other locales, but eventually made it to a book Horace Walpole read as a boy. It was this "silly fairy tale" that inspired him to coin the term "serendipity" in 1754.

If you're interested in reading a summary of the story, learning more about these Princes of Serendip and how the word serendipity came to be, I found this article in two parts that explains it all quite in depth.

Happy reading!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day 96: It's All Coming Up Rainbows!

Somedays, you just learn more than others. Today was one of those days. So to avoid getting too far ahead of myself, Today's post will be formatted rather differently. Two lessons, with related factoids. So without further ado, the first lesson of the day (in chronological order).

We had a guest lecturer in class today. She used to work in Texas and she had some fantastic anecdotes to share.

Lesson 95: Bats are bad news for libraries.*

Factoid 1: There are 32 different types of bats in Texas, only one is endangered but three are at risk.

Factoid 2: To get bats out of libraries, you have to wait till they leave for the night, shine a huge spotlight in and then seal up the ways they used to get in. However, this only works for most bats, some will stay behind. So good luck with that!

The second lesson came from finally making it to that vintage boutique and trying on that potential wedding dress.

Lesson 96: Standard clothing size was established in the 40s and 50s. But due to vanity sizing, we are no longer truly using "standard sizing" but the more ambiguous "catalog sizing" which has smaller numbers for the same sizes. This means that your size on the tag of vintage clothing will be a much higher number than what you think your size is.

Factoid 1: My waist is no longer 27". It is now 25". This means that I can actually fit into a vintage dress that's approximately a modern size 2! Though the (very obviously original) tag calls it a size 10.

Factoid 2: Owning a Wedding Dress is a surreal experience, particularly when the wedding itself feels so far off.

That's right, I bought my dress! My friend Aimee came with me to the vintage boutique up on Rachel and upon trying the dress on it fit like it was made just for me! It looked perfect and we even managed to find the perfect shoes! I can't wait to wear it!

The boutique, Boutique Léora, is unfortunately closing in June but Nicole Pelletier, the owner, is an absolute marvel. If you have the opportunity, you should definitely go in and visit. She mentioned that she's hoping to reopen in a new location, and I really hope she'll be able to!

I'm on cloud 9 today!

*my notes actually read "bats will fuck yo shit up" but this just seems a more relevant way of phrasing it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 95: Scab

We had another strike vote, and have approved unlimited strike action that we'll apparently have a vote weekly(?) to renew...

But yeah, yeah, I did it, I'm a terrible person. I've crossed the picket line. Much as I may disagree with the tuition hike, I can't afford to pay for classes and not attend them either. Class was so under-attended today, I think it actually improved the discussion...

Lesson 94: Some aspects of this program feel incredibly redundant, but the best way to deal with it is to sit back and enjoy the company of your classmates.

Or dress like Batgirl.

That made my day infinitely better; spending it dressed as my favourite female librarian.

But I digress... There are really only so many times you can talk about the information seeking models of Belkin, Dervin, Kuhlthau, Taylor, et al. and library anxiety before it just all starts to blur together. Your peers are your best option to avoiding losing it entirely.

Hooray for friends!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 94: Of Wedding Dresses and Possibilities

I worked yesterday's full day shift at the library and it was not nearly as quiet as it should have been. We had quite the patron encounter. But after the shift, Kristie and I went to get La Banquise poutine for dinner before dropping her off at the bus station. It was such a great cherry on the icing of a regular cupcake of a weekend! I may have spent a great deal more of the weekend working on my various projects that were due today than I had wanted, but it was still fantastic to hang out with Kristie so much!

To make matters even better, we walked past a vintage boutique with the most absolutely perfect dress in the window! I'm going to go try it on, but I emailed the owner of the store and she says it's a size 2, and it doesn't appear to be made of the most forgiving fabric.

I somehow doubt I'll be able to squeeze my debatably size 6 frame into a solid 2...

Lesson 93:  Don't try to do everything.

I've been pretty good at keeping on top of everything this year. Honestly, much to my own surprise. But after our collection development paper was postponed by a week, all of a sudden, my leisurely visit with Kristie wasn't quite as unencumbered as it had been when we planned it.

Despite that, my groups and I managed to get the assorted projects that were due today done and to celebrate, I really wanted to go to trivia as I normally do on Mondays and unwind.

However, after class and going to see Rick Mercer on campus, I decided I'd have a nap before trivia. Trivia's at 8 and it wasn't even 4 yet, so I had lots of time.

And yet, I slept right through till 11pm. So here we are. I have another practicum placement interview in the morning, but I'm awake. At 11pm.

Really, I should have stayed awake till 8 and just gone to bed instead of trying to do trivia in addition to my awesome weekend of chilling with one of my best friends and a ridiculous amount of projects. But now I've messed up my sleep schedule. I just hope I can make it right...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 93: The Strike

Today was the day.

The big Strike... and boy was it big! I had work, so I couldn't go to the rally, but it was terrifyingly huge.

I could hear it from my apartment, which is blocks away from the square it was starting in. And on my way to work, I could see them travelling up Peel as I got closer to it, then as I came up to Drummond and looked south(ish) I could see an equally huge crowd down there, which didn't seem right. When I got up to Sherbrooke and looked down it, the scene was positively shocking... people from building to building from Peel as far as I could see.

Very impressive!

I've heard people saying that as many as 200,000 students were in attendance, though I have yet to see any sort of "official" number... most of the news outlets are simply writing that "thousands" of students were there.

Lesson 92: You know you have a self-depreciation problem (inferiority complex, impostor syndrome, call it what you will) when instead of "Omg! Yay! I did so well!", your first reaction to being hired/accepted to a position is "oh god... Just how terrible were the other applicants?"


I am quite unimpressed with myself for just how many times I've had that reaction. But I suppose it's just fuel for the fire. Yeahhhh.....

On the other hand, I'm really really super excited because my friend from Scouting back home is coming to visit me this weekend! I've been trying to get as much work done on Collection Development before she gets here, but I've got so many things to do (practicum placement interviews, work, training for work) that I'm not nearly as far along as I'd hoped. Besides, you can only do so many APA citations before you feel like your brain is about to start bleeding...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 92: Political intrigues abound!

That fake spring I mentioned earlier is now a full on fake summer... It's so hot outside! Absolutely fantastic, but it's bound to end by the weekend... At least according to the weather report. Not looking forward to that... but anyways.

As you may or may not be aware, Quebec students have been in quite the tizzy lately. The provincial government wants to raise tuition by 1,600 odd dollars over the next 5 years, which is a pretty substantial increase when Quebec student tuition is only just over 2,000$. As a result, the schools have held strike votes, and nearly everybody has decided that going on strike is the thing to do, though I'm a little lost on how you can strike when you're the one who's paying. While I admittedly didn't participate in the school's democratic process, I was under the impression that it was a reasonably fair vote that was more or less representative of overall student opinion on the matter.

However, the student representation in the vote process may not have been exactly representative.

Apparently, while the meeting had achieved quorum that was largely because the pro-strike students had really mobilized and came out in force to the meeting whereas most ambivalent and anti-strike students actually had no idea a strike vote was happening.

Lesson 91: Quorum is when an assembly has enough members of the group it is meant to be representing in attendance that the decisions made are considered binding, and to be the overall opinion of the group.

I don't really know much about student or university politics in general, so this entire business has been rather enlightening.

I guess it's another occasion where I'm seeing how I shouldn't take things for granted. Whereas normally, I'd be right and a PGSS meeting would probably wind up being roughly representative of overall student opinion, a meeting where an item on the agenda is extremely important to a particular group of people is bound to wind up quite a bit more polarized than usual.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 91: Post-St Patrick's Day Fallout

I am living on very much the wrong street for St Patrick's Day. After the parade yesterday, which left my right shoulder matching our school crest (white and RED; ouch!), my street didn't clear out until well into the evening. Absolutely marvellous weather though, and for now, only getting better (till the weekend anyways).

Lesson 90: The portions at McKibbons are absolutely extravagant. At Trivia tonight, I ordered the fisherman's chowder for the first time ever, but luckily had the foresight to ask what the size difference between "cup" and "bowl" was. The waitress told me that the cup was a regular sized bowl of soup, and the bowl was gigantic. The cup of soup that was brought to me was probably the equivalent of a full can of Campbell's Chunky soup!

Glad I didn't order that bowl!

On a more serious note, turns out my professor didn't appreciate my midterm example of reliability vs validity as much as I'd hoped, though I don't really understand why. But I still came out with a perfectly respectable mark.

Also, things seem to be just falling into my lap as far as next year is concerned. I may have lucked into a fantastic little apartment my friend won't be taking (the reason she won't be taking it? She just got engaged! Congrats, Laura! He's a lucky guy!). The apartment's not quite in the location I wanted, but next to a metro, so I can't complain. Might be nicer to stay out of the McGill bubble anyways; cheaper too.

I couldn't figure out a way to phrase this as a lesson beyond simply saying "course selection is haaaaard", but I'm also doing my course selection for next year. There are so many interesting courses that I'd like to take, and not enough time to do them in!

It looks like my biggest choice still to be made is Descriptive Bibliography (aka How to run a Rare Books collection) versus Cataloguing and Classification (Organization of Information, part two). My considerations are as follows:
  • Descriptive Bibliography has the potential to be rather redundant given that I'm hoping to take History of Books and Printing, and Archival Principles and Practice as well.
  • As much as I enjoy cataloguing, I don't know if I want to take another course about it that isn't going to focus on RDA, which as you may remember is meant to replace the current cataloguing rules right after my graduation (if they remain on track, big if).
Another course I'm not fully sold on is Database Design. Its focus is on Microsoft Access, and the course description states that it will also cover SQL which is what particularly interests me. However, I have been told that in practice, its coverage of SQL specifically is practically non-existent. And if I skip Database Design, I could take Language and Information instead, which is essentially about working in bilingual/multilingual systems which I imagine would be particularly handy if I want to stay in Montreal after graduation (which I would like to).

And of course, Knowledge Management comes hugely recommended, but I don't know that it's actually a course I'd like to take or that I would find particularly useful. Plus, I don't know what I'd be willing to give up in order to take it.

Other courses I'm hoping to take that I haven't yet mentioned:
  • Metadata and Access
  • Web System Design
  • Library and Archival History
  • Public Libraries
Choices, choices...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day 90: Painfully Poorly Written Case-Studies

If you ever find yourself in a position where you are writing case studies for students to use, please for the love of whatever you hold dear, DO NOT give a ridiculous word-for-word account of every conversation of stilted dialogue that your two imaginary characters have ever had....

...And then top it off with ham-fisted attempts at purple prose. That prose is now purple only because you bludgeoned it into submission.

Highlights (paraphrased):
"She watched the janitor below and envied his uncomplicated life."
"[rambling paragraph of unrealistic internal monologue filled with overly specific references to obscure management techniques and theories] she meditated as she watched the sun dip below the horizon."

-_- Are you kidding me right now?

However, even the most hated things can hold a lesson! At one point in her over-theoretical ruminations, this particular character wonders if the employee giving her trouble has psychiatric issues, and wonders if she should recommend him to a psychiatrist, or if maybe bibliotherapy would help.

"Bibliotherapy? That sounds cool, is that actually a thing?" I mused thoughtfully. I could kind of guess at what it suggested, but I wanted to be sure. "To Wikipedia!" my internal monologue cried out as I grasped my iPad...

See what I did there? ...I think that case study melted my brain...

Lesson 89: The Ancient Greeks inscribed signs above their libraries, "stating them to be healing places for the soul"[1].

How poetic! I think I'd like to make a sign like that for my future, and inevitable, home library. Maybe I'll learn to cross-stitch just to make a sampler that says that...

Bibliotherapy: definitely what I thought it was, and definitely cool. And definitely added to my topics to read about list.

In other news, yesterday's post has been delayed because I'm waiting till I can add a couple pictures, as I largely discuss my Toronto adventure. So it'll be worth the wait; a lovely illustrated post.

[1]Sullivan, A. K., & Strang, H. R. (2003). Bibliotherapy in the classroom. Childhood Education, 79(2), 74-80. Retrieved from

Monday, March 12, 2012

Day 88: And breathe that sigh of relief...

After a lovely trip to the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa with the ACA and CLA student chapters, I stayed on in Ottawa for a lovely weekend with my friend Sarah. She had to work a lot, but that just meant that I had an excuse to go eat at the pub she works at! Excellent place. If you're ever in Ottawa and want an excellent breakfast (or meal, period) you really should stop by The Lieutenant's Pump on Elgin.

And yes, you can quote me on that. I stake my vast and valuable reputation as a blogger on it. [/sarcastic self-aggrandizing] Seriously though, they're fantastic.

I mean, a burger with brie, mushrooms and bacon on it? Count me in!

Anyways, I digress.

Point is, I was back at school today. Though tomorrow I'm running off for a whirlwind trip to Toronto, during which I will ideally meet George R.R. Martin and get a book signed (for those who don't know, he is writing the series A Song of Ice and Fire, which has become the TV show Game of Thrones). But still...

Lesson 87: Professors are more aware of students' workloads then they are generally given credit for.

Or at least, I'll give my professor the benefit of the doubt and assume that's why she's given us the best gift she could have: a one week extension for all students on our collection development paper.

This week was going to be absolutely insane with the number of SIS events happening, my day in Toronto, completing a post-presentation write-up by Wednesday, the quiz in management, preparing my group presentation for next Monday, writing my evaluation of a research article for next Monday, spending and documenting 8000$ of imaginary money for our collection development paper due Monday as well, work, and the number of events I've been invited to for this weekend what with St Patrick's Day being so huge here in Montreal.

But now, I don't have to have completed the spending of the imaginary cash for another week.

And I feel like I can breathe again...

So lets see... if I can just get this write-up done now,
study for that quiz and finish readings tomorrow
evaluate a research article Thursday,
then I can maybe go to Gerts Friday,
do more collection development Sat+Sun
hand stuff in + present Mon and work on research proposal
train for the new job Wednesday, complete Collection Development
play soccer, work an 8hr shift, hang with Kristie
complete two essays and a research paper

Enjoy Easter? Go to Music Moot?
Seriously though, are you actually reading this?
It gets tiny like this so you can't actually read it.
This is an aesthetic representation of me losing my mind
Slowly becoming more and more helpless
As library school eats my brain like some zombie
Seriously, stop reading...

....Help me....

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Day 87: Winter is coming?

It happens every year, but I really do love it.

It's fake springtime!

I know that Montreal is in this weird convergence of three different climatic zones (northeastern forest, great lakes and St Lawrence lowlands and something else if memory serves), so I wasn't sure if they'd have this effect I've become so used to in Guelph and Toronto, but here it is! So here's a lesson for people not from similar climatic regions (generally speaking, humid continental, if my understanding is correct).

Lesson 86: Every year, for a week or two in March, the weather will become unseasonably warm and comfy. Sometimes even as warm as summer. There's usually some rain too, but everything just screams spring for this brief period.

But don't be fooled!

Soon, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled winter!

Enjoy this while you can... I wish I could be outside basking rather than withering away inside.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Day 86: Best Dressed

Today's lesson is an old one that cannot be overstated.

Lesson 84: Presentations will take so much longer than you think they will.

We had a group presentation today, and despite our best efforts, the mere presentation part went so long we only had 10 minutes for discussion.

I really hope it doesn't affect our grade too much, I mean other than our unfortunately meager discussion, our presentation presented some good, solid analysis of social media and its use in library settings. And ultimately we only ran a minute over the 40 minute time limit.

If you're interested in the content of our presentation, I can share it. But ultimately...

Lesson 85: The Toronto Public Library is an excellent example of cohesive online presence, productive social media use and clean online branding.

They've really done a very good job of maximizing the usefulness of these tools and ensuring that they are responsible for the library's online identity, and not hoards of trolls misappropriating their identity.

Snaps for the TPL!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day 85: The Heart-Wrenching Destruction of Books

This morning was the midterm for Research Principles and Analysis. As it was "Open-Everything" (like "Open-Book" but all course material was allowed) it wasn't too daunting, though that does tend to herald more convoluted and difficult questions.

I had bought myself some Tim Hortons on the way to write the test, and as a result I had a nice "medium" half coffee/half hot chocolate to drink through the midterm. As it's Lent, Tim Hortons has their "Roll Up The Rim To Win" contest on, so the cup I was drinking from could offer me many things from free food and drink, to a new car.

Always paranoid about having neglected some simple thing and as a result failing the entire endeavor, I told myself that if I had failed utterly on the midterm, I should at least win the camping equipment from my Roll Up the Rim. You know, to make up for it.

I won a donut.

I take this as a good sign for my level of success. I already know that I answered one multiple choice question wrong, but so far, that seems to be my only big mistake.

And any midterm in which you can write an entire response about Pastafarianism, Pirates and Global Warming is a good one in my books.

As for today's lesson...

Lesson 83: In 2004, the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Germany was destroyed by a devastating fire (caused by faulty wiring) shortly before the entire collection had been scheduled to be moved. This fire destroyed around 12,500 volumes which are completely irreplaceable.

It's nice to think that in an age of mass-digitization this kind of massive information loss can't happen. But cases like this make it all to real. The photos of the library before and after the fire were particularly heart-breaking; the entire place was completely gutted and lost the entire top floor.

The destruction of the original Library of Alexandria made me cry when I first learned about it, and upsets me just to think about.

I don't deal well with the destruction of knowledge and information...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Day 84: The snow is back and you gonna be in trouble...

It's snowing again! And it's been snowing all day! My legs hurt a lot because it's harder to walk up the hill at any speed with a few inches of snow underfoot, but it's just so darned pretty!

Lesson 81: I am the only one in my program who still likes snow.

Seriously though, I have some belated news to share! And will do so in lesson form:

Lesson 82: You're a lousy judge of your own success.

Remember that job interview that I felt like I failed at the French on? Turns out, I did fine! Fine enough that they've hired me!

So this summer, and next school year, I'll be working at the Patient Resource Centre at the Neurological Hospital.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 83: Life is like a videogame...

... And I'm grinding my way through levels on boars in the woods...

We were discussing social networking in class today and its applications in librarianship. And it basically came down to investment.

Lesson 80: Librarians should play around with and understand all these new trends, but shouldn't necessarily "get into" every new thing that comes along.

That means everyone should at least have an account and play around a bit to get a feel for it and really understand it. This is so we know if something's useful to us and can then make use of it and so that we can help our users when they come asking questions.

On the other hand, sinking a lot of time, energy and interest into every single new thing that comes along is a recipe for burn out and disaster when some of these things you've invested so much into don't pan out (ie/Second Life).

In semi-related news, I got myself a Pinterest account today... so you can come follow me! I'll even provide invites for anyone who wants them...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 82: I'm back baby!

And again, mixed feelings... I want to hang out with my Scouting friends all the time, so I'm loathe to return to Montreal; but I want to hang out with my Quidditch and Library friends, so I'm happy to be back.

Quit playin' games with my heart!

Lesson 79: Having everything due before a break is infinitely superior to having them due after the break.

I mean really, Prof gets time to mark over the break (or an excuse to put off marking) and students get to exhale a huge sigh of relief and relax. And then, getting back into the swing of things is more gentle and less like running headfirst into a wall with all the speed and force of a freight train.

It's just a nicer feeling.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 81: Existential phooey

Sometimes I have an odd form of existential crisis when I realize there are so many things I'd like to do but a combination of mutual exclusivity and lack of time in a single lifetime make it so they can't all be possible.

Other times, I'll have a libraristential crisis when I realize there is so much knowledge I want to gain (ie/all of it) and there's no way I possibly can.

Today, these things didn't seem to be all bad...

Lesson 78: You can't do everything all the time. And sometimes, that's a good thing.

I had a grand plan for today where I'd go to class, my job interview, hand in my assignments, eat and get to the bus in time, without using any transportation except my free-to-use feet.

Only some of these things actually happened. I managed the job interview, one assignment and a quick stop at Timmies before ultimately getting to my bus early... but only thanks to one friendly cabbie, and one rather nasty surly cabbie.

The job interview went perfectly, if you ignore my dry-mouthed failure at the spoken French portion, and my group-mates wound up handing in our assignment so I didn't need to go do it myself or make it to class.

And now I can breathe again. It's time to go home for break! And see Jon! And go to SnowMoot! And dance! And play clothesline! And do a polar bear dip!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 80: What's that they say about some have leadership thrust upon them?

Oh wait, no... that's greatness.

Some are born great, some become great and some have greatness thrust upon them.

Lesson 76: Word substitution is a good way to come up with lessons.

Lesson 77: Some are born leaders, some become leaders and some have leadership thrust upon them.

I really felt like that last option today in class. Our professor has a few groups presenting each day and wants each one to have a class activity or discussion (I get the impression that she'd prefer activity). Today, one group's activity was a debate.

I love the rules of good debate, I like concocting debate, but I cannot stand being the one who actually has to speak.

Yet, by virtue of everyone else being more willing to stay silent longer than me, I wound up being the one trying to direct our group's discussion in order to concoct our argument. And I was very nearly roped into being one of the debaters too, but luckily that was one trap I managed to sidestep.

Sometimes just sitting closest to the front and being the least silent are all the traits you need to be a leader.

Maybe I should work that into my paper on leadership that I have to hand in tomorrow... Along with that article on the managerial mistakes made by the Galactic Empire....

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 79: Another brick in the wall

All things are cyclical. Here we are again. Another midterm point, another week of doom.

Five projects due this week, one of which I have to turn in a day early because I'm leaving Thursday afternoon to get the maximum amount of time at home. But we'll see how that goes, I don't know about all this.

Lesson 75: Bohemian Rhapsody is full of good life learning.

Anyway the wind blows, nothing really matters.

Things tend to feel too life or death all the time. I used to tell myself when I'd start worrying about something that the only outcome worth getting worried about was death, so I rarely had any cause to worry. But then my mind started coming up with the most elaborate and ridiculous ways that every situation was obviously a life or death situation, and so my particular coping mechanism didn't work any more.

Now, well, it doesn't really matter, does it? If something goes wrong, it'll be upsetting for a bit, but I'll find a way to move past it and it'll all just be another insignificant memory. Things will work out.

So why panic about having a lot of assignments due? I'll either get them done on time or I won't. Either way, things will work out eventually, and ultimately it won't really matter if I handed assignment X in a few days late or didn't format the title page of assignment Y precisely correct down to the individual spaces.

The human brain's a wonderful thing, and it can make a smooth past out of the roughest.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 78: What do celery, passion fruit and latex all have in common?

I know those things don't seem to go together, but I'm serious. Celery, passion fruit and latex are all connected! And they aren't alone...

Lesson 74: Bananas, passion fruits, kiwis, melons, chestnuts, avocados, celery, tomato and latex all have cross-reacting proteins, meaning (as I understand it) that if you're allergic to one, you could have a reaction to any of the others.

One of my previous lessons established my apparently severe chestnut allergy, I have an avocado allergy I managed to pass to my mother in-utero and I have an irrational hatred of kiwis, melons and tomatoes, so what does this mean for me? I really hope I'm not going to wind up eventually unable to eat bananas and celery... I love bananas and celery!

Well... separately.

Not together.

That would be a very odd combination.... Crunchy, mushy banana flavoured waterstuff.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 77: Clarifying Quebecois Lingo

Today's going to be a little different than usual. Rather than a lesson I've learned today, it's more of a lesson in progress. I haven't been able to check the accuracy of the information I was given, so maybe you can help me out, and we can crowdsource this lesson.

You see, going into Information Services and Users today, I was a little late. The guest presenters, reference librarians from Concordia, had already started their presentation and were talking about reference avenues. You may have seen "Chat with a Librarian" services offered by many University libraries, so they were sharing a few other options. Email, text message, video chat, instant messaging, things like that.

One of my classmates asked: "What's the difference between text messaging and instant messaging?"

My reflexive reaction was to be perplexed as to how she didn't know something so obvious, but I had missed part of their explanation so I thought maybe they had said something in their presentation that had really muddled the issue and caused confusion. So I asked a friend, and she bestowed upon me today's potential lesson.

Lesson 73?: In Quebecois french, the same word is used for text messaging (via phone) and instant messaging (via computer).

When I was in France, we referred to text messages as "SMS" or "texto". We didn't do much IMing, but when we did it was just "MSN" because that was the client we were using at the time. So my knowledge of French suggests different words are used. But my knowledge of Quebecois vernacular is decidedly subpar, so I don't know, is the same word used for both?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day Whoa: Hospitals and Interprovincial Healthcare

Sorry I haven't been on top of updating, I've had a rather complicated past week.

After taking a soccer ball and later an oblivious and unintentional fist to the nose within a week, the resulting headache got abruptly and exponentially more intense without reason or warning on Wednesday afternoon. That is generally not a good thing.

So I went to see a doctor here in Montreal (and worried him quite a bit), who sent me to the ER here in Montreal, where an even more concerned triage nurse allowed me to take my 9pm bus on Thursday night in order to get home to Ontario as long as I promised to go to the ER again when I got there.

Upon arriving in Toronto at 3am, a very close friend of mine, Hoben, picked me up from the bus station, drove me to Guelph and even stayed with me in the waiting room of the Guelph ER for a bit. The doctor there saw me after a much longer wait than in Montreal, and despite the headache being so bad that tears had started to flow, proclaimed that there was probably nothing wrong with me, otherwise I'd be dead already.

Regardless, he gave me an IV of drugs that were "gang-busters for headaches" as he said but that "wouldn't make you loopy", so that I could make a decision about whether or not I should get the CT scan he was willing to give me, but really didn't want to. Turns out those IV drugs shouldn't have been given to someone in my situation at all; lets just say that a drug with known interactions with breathing and intracranial pressure don't pan out well for asthmatics with headtrauma... But it still helped a lot!

Jon showed up during the IV drip and came home with me when I was ultimately released with hardly a glance after the drip was done.

Luckily, my friend Dev lived nearby and was willing to give us a ride home when I asked, because she's absolutely amazing and such a sweetheart.

I got home, and after well over 24hrs without sleep, Jon and I were finally able to get some rest.

When my family came home, I was able to scare each and every single one of them because no one was expecting me. I even managed to sneak up on my grandpa when Kristie, Hoben and I stopped by the LCBO on our way out of town.

The weekend in Barrie that followed was (nearly) as amazing as I hoped it would be! The mild-concussion and hospital drugs put a few unfortunate kinks in my weekend, but ultimately, I got to see a lot of marvellous friends I've had trouble seeing for the past few years because of my own personal problems despite still living so close, and spent a weekend chilling with them.

I'm even finally more or less caught up with where I wanted to be homework-wise before the whole concussion/ER/medication combo knocked me for a loop.

So we now return to your regularly scheduled programming thanks to the combined efforts of medical personel across 2 provinces and 3 institutions, Hoben, Dev, Kristie, Bree, Matt, Tommy, Hayley, Hindle and, of course, Jon.

Come back tomorrow for a brand new lesson!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 76: Experimental Ethics, Babies and Russia

We had a guest lecture about Experimental Ethics in our Research Principles course. Which led to discussions about unethical experiments and their results, including the Stanford Prison Experiment and one I'd never heard of before...

Lesson 72: "The Russian Baby Experiment". Terrible, if true... But possibly just a widespread misinterpretation cobbled together from multiple sources...

"The Russian Baby Experiment" was described as an experiment in which orphan infants were taken into a lab environment and raised without human contact. They were physically very well cared for, but without communication or touch, and all the babies died.

But in trying to find details about it to share in this blog post, I couldn't find any such experiment... I found René Spitz, who came upon the same basic conclusions through observing infants in foundling homes. And I found information about parental deprivation (originally stated as maternal deprivation by Bowlby, who drew from Spitz). I even found a snopes message board thread trying to do the same thing I was.

But no reference to the actual, terribly unethical, experiment. So I can only hope that it didn't ever happen, and that it just grew out of statements as to why you'd never be able to do such an experiment.

May just be an extrapolation of towel monkeys.

Let me know if you know otherwise!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Day 75: Time, Waste and Money

Lesson 71: Sometimes you'll just feel like you didn't learn anything.

And that's ok. Maybe I haven't explored deep enough, or sought hard enough. Maybe I'm just too tired for the necessary thought processes today.

But you don't always feel like you came away having learned anything. When that happens a whole day, it can feel like a shame, but it happens.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 74: And It Continues To Pour...

I'm feeling a little facetious today....

I was more impressed with the lesson being taught than any lesson I personally learned.

Lesson 70: People are people.

We were discussing the needs of different groups with regards to library services and materials. Homeless people, teens, new immigrants, etc. And each person presented their bit about what each group needed, and ultimately they realized that all these people need the same things.

People are people. They all need the same basic information and materials, some may prefer them with specific focuses, or in different formats, but for all the distinctions and categories we try to fit them in, they all have the same basic information needs.

The slides aren't up, so I can't share my particular favourite break down of people's information needs (specifically the study was about teens, but it was functionally identical to the same ones shown for all the other groups) but I'll put it up when I find it!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 73: When It Rains It Pours!

Our weekly trivia outing gained a lot of popularity this week! I really hope that people keep coming out. I mean, we'll probably need to split into two teams, but it was nice having everyone out, and we all have Tuesdays off, so it's a nice night to do this kind of stuff!

Also, I got a package in the mail I've been anticipating since the 9th, so now I can get started on my super secret personal development project! I might announce it more widely in a year or so....

I even arranged a group for one of the last projects I didn't have one for yet, and my brother's chorus got a rating of "Superior" at a competition in Tuscon over the weekend! So much good stuff for such a short time!

Lesson 69: Bacon is a legitimate substitute for any meat.

Ok, so really I only learned that it causes no problems as a ham substitute, but given how well bacon goes in virtually any meal, I think it's a safe generalisation!

I finally bought myself more flour, so I was making my mom's biscuit recipe with cheese and ham, but I have no ham and a whole pack of bacon to go through so.... Cheese and bacon biscuits! Sooooo tasty!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 72: The Hard, Long Slog

Yesterday, it went down to -20°C (that's -4°F for any Americans in the crowd). Lucky for me that was a one off. Unluckily for everyone, that meant that what was just slushy snowy stuff to slog through two days ago is now a hardened, icy sheet, polished by the boots and bums of those who have been walking, and falling, on these paths, sidewalks, and stairs.

Climbing the hill was more like playing Snakes & Ladders today...

Lesson 68: It isn't that the winter is harsher, colder, snowier or.... Winterier than you're used to. It's how much you're actually outside that counts.

You see, I've been spending the past 4 winters in Toronto (and to some extent Guelph). In Toronto, I lived a stone's throw from campus. It took me about 5 minutes to walk to class, which meant 2 minutes to get to campus. Once I was on campus, it was all cutting through buildings and walking through the tunnels that connected each building to every other. Though the actual underground tunnels had been closed for ages because of vagrants and assaults (or so I was told), there were numerous above-ground tunnels, and buildings that were just plain connected to one another.

I wore the same sweaters as I did in summer, my run-down winter coat, and just ran to campus and stayed in the enclosed areas if it was too cold for what I was wearing.

When I was in Guelph, I'd be going straight from building to car so much that what I was wearing mattered even less.

Now, I'm living in Montreal. I haven't noticed that the weather's any different in severity than the past few winters I've seen. The pattern's different, but it's not any worse or any better. But now, I spend 15-20 minutes a day climbing to class. And another 15-20 minutes climbing back down to my place. Out in the elements. And I can't make it go appreciably faster at all, short of caving and flagging down a taxi.

So I'm cold.

I bought a new coat back in November, which has probably made it better than it would have been, but my summer sweaters just aren't going to cut it any more.

If my classes were at the bottom of the hill, I could potentially use the paths through the underground city (though they don't really extend far enough North or West to be very useful) and I wouldn't really be having a problem.

But my classes are at the top of the hill, and that's a whole other ball game.

Plus, I actually go out now on evenings and weekends because I have a life or something, which I didn't in Toronto. So there's that too.

I do so love the winter though! Particularly the nice big snow falls... It's so pretty! :3

In mod/admin news, I've been writing from the app BlogPress on my iPad, which is a marvelous app, but I was having quite a lot of trouble actually posting from it. That has since been resolved, it was a facebook connection issue blocking my syncing, but all my drafts should now be published. If there's an unaccounted for hole which you've noticed please let me know.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 71: The Great Distinction

A large chunk of my class and day were taken up by planning a presentation about the use of social media by libraries. A very interesting topic to be sure, but that will have to wait. You see, it took us far too long into our discussion to realise our fundamental flaw. We hadn't defined what we were considering and how.

Is YouTube the same as twitter? Is Second Life the same as them? Facebook? These can't all be the same beast! It doesn't make sense! Heck! Why are we even discussing Second Life? I mean, honestly....

Lesson 67: Social Media Sites are distinct from Social Networking Sites. Though they may overlap, and can all potentially be referred to with the blanket term "The Social Media", ultimately Social Networking Sites connect and share between profiles while Social Media Sites create content and connect profiles.

It's the focus. Social Media Sites focus on creating content, like Twitter, YouTube, DeviantArt do, whereas Social Networking Sites focus on connecting profiles, while their users may create and share within that framework.

What a headache...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 70: What a Feeling!

Why yes, I do use a lot of song lyrics as titles! But this one was just because I had an amazing weekend. As much as I loved being home, it's good to be back!

My first class today could largely be boiled down to "correlation is not causation". We saw how you can prove that bread is one of the greatest problems in the world, though frankly I'm rather disappointed that she didn't make any mention of how the decline of pirates has fuelled climate change.

We also looked at different scientific research methods etc, and while I'd covered all of this in various other spots throughout my education. Something popped out at me and gave me a new way of looking at research. As this wasn't really a lesson, it will be hard to phrase as one, but I'll give her a whirl.

Lesson 66: How something is studied is largely influenced by the nature of the thing itself.

Ok, now some clarity. The majority of scientific progress is done through Positivist research. To immensely simplify some complex ideas, Positivism is the basis of the theory, hypothesis, test, observe, conclude science most people know. Basically, the basic laws and theories that govern the natural world mean that you can predict an outcome and test it, and it will be repeatable no matter who does it.

An alternative to Positivism is the Interpretative Approach. It is mostly used when talking about psychology, sociology and the like. That is to say things that aren't directly and obviously beholden to, or more accurately governed by chemistry, physics and their rules and interactions.

Here's where it gets muddy. Human consciousness is referred to as an emergent property. On their own, no one part of the body contains human consciousness, but taken all together suddenly it's there! It's like with chocolate. No single molecule amongst the hundreds in each bite of chocolate can be said to "taste like chocolate", but with all of them together, there you have it.

So, when you're trying to determine the physical laws and interactions that govern a reaction, you use the Positivist Approach. But when you're trying to study an emergent property like human consciousness and it's resulting cultures and societies, the emergent approach, the Interpretative Approach, only makes sense.

If I ever make any at all...