Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's All in the Family

My kids have blogs, too. My daughter's social justice blog is here, and my son's computer information blog is here.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thing 24: the OS Revolution

It was inspiring to learn about the idealistic movers and shakers behind the open source software movement in Revolution OS. Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Eric Raymond and others in this movement squarely oppose the proprietary software model, as embodied in Microsoft and its creator, Bill Gates. Free, or open source, software is subject to an intense peer review process, which enables programmers from all over the world to contribute and improve upon the code, and even to adapt it to their own needs, as HCL plans to do with Koha. Proprietary software features a "closed development" modus operandi. No peer review outside the proprietor's limited scrutiny takes place. Instead of pooling the intelligence and resources of the global programming community, the proprietor (most often Microsoft) issues lots of patches and hotfixes rather than improving upon the basic OS code, which remains in its impenetrable black box. Maybe this is why Microsoft VISTA is such a mess.

Is Open Source the wave of the future? It looks like we're heading in that direction, and computer users will certainly benefit from this trend.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thing 23 & 3/4: Anyone Can Paint Like Jackson Pollack

Scroll to the bottom of the page, and move your cursor along the white rectangle. Click the mouse to change colors.

Jackson Pollack was an American Abstract Expressionist Painter who lived from 1912-1956. If you go to, you can paint like Jackson Pollack across your entire monitor screen by simply moving your cursor and clicking the mouse.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Thing 23: Surfacing from My Blog Fog

23 Things has captivated me. It seems that we are in the midst of a transformation every bit as revolutionary as the invention of the Gutenberg printing press. The Web is a democratizing force. Anyone can publish a blog, or a book; people can organize politically, or socially, or professionally, with great ease and efficiency. Geographical boundaries are disappearing, as techie professionals in Bangalore work with their colleagues in Silicon Valley via the internet and video-conferencing.The new technologies that we've explored in 23 Things are all contributing to this incredible technological transformation.

The YouTube video The Machine is Us/ing Us, held me spellbound for four + minutes, and then prompted me to have a conversation with my 17-year son -- who has been working and playing with computers and programming for the past three years--about the Semantic Web.

He explained to me that in the "old" Web, HTML programming language linked form and content. The two were inseparable. The code told the computer where (form) to put what (content), but the meaning of the text was opaque to the computer.

In the Semantic Web, programmers are basically inventing an entire programming grammar that enables the machine to understand the content of a paragraph, just as a person would when reading text. Resource Description Format language, or RDF, makes this possible. By parsing the text, or breaking it up into individual components, and assigning a grammatical code to each component, RDF can infer the meaning of a sentence or a paragraph and then store that information in a structured database that is easily accessible by computer programs and search engines. People are teaching the machine to "think", and as this capability strengthens, the Web will evolve in complexity, utility and efficiency. This is amazing.

Anyway, I loved this learning experience, and hope to revisit many of the Things and explore them in greater detail. I would definitely sign up again for such a program, but would recommend that more time be allotted, maybe 4-6 months, so that there's no need to rush to make it to the finish line.

I don't have a single favorite exercise, although I did especially enjoy setting up my own RSS feeds on Bloglines, my own search engine on Rollyo, my own library on LibraryThing, and learning about wikis. I think all of these technologies will be helpful to me in my work as a librarian at HCL, and I plan to use them.

I'm now in a better position to assist our customers with technology queries since I've studied and played with these 23 Things. It has been really gratifying to develop enough of an understanding of HTML to be able to alter the appearance of elements on my blog by changing some of the specifications within the code. The only way to learn this is to do it, and 23 Things taught me how to figure this out for myself.

I am grateful that I've had this incredible learning opportunity, and thank HCL for its generosity in sponsoring 23 Things and giving us those MP3 players! Who ever knew work could be so much fun?

Thing 22: Downloadable Audiobooks

I recommend listening to the Overdrive Digital Media Guided Tour, which takes about 20 minutes, before tackling this Somewhat Involved Thing. I was surprised that Overdrive didn't offer any of the titles I typed into the search box, including the highly popular The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I had more success just browsing through the different subject categories. Finally, I decided upon The Kabul Beauty School. After checking it out, I downloaded Part I and was able to listen to it on my PC.

This exercise was helpful in gaining an understanding of what Overdrive has to offer, how it works, and its limitations. I'll be able to answer customers' questions from first-hand experience now. I just need to figure out the MP3 transfer part and I'm all set!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Thing 21: Tools for Locating Podcasts

I explored and, both directories of podcasts with huge databases, but in the end found exactly the podcasts that interested me by going the Google route. I subscribed to three podcasts through my Bloglines account: the Diane Rehm show, NPR Books, and NPR Book Tour. I considered subscribing to a podcatcher, such as Juice, Odeo, or FeedDemon, which would then automatically download all my podcast subscriptions to my PC, but I think I'll wait until I have more time to listen to podcasts. (Maybe I'll buy the cable that will connect my MP3 player to my car radio, so I can listen while driving.)

Anyway, while perusing the Merlin podcasting learning link, I came upon the Kankakee Public Library website (Kankakee is in Illinois), which features an excellent FAQ on podcasts as well as a large listing of podcasts from previous library programs in Kankakee, including author events, Teen Poetry Slams, and music programs (Arlo Guthrie visited the library in 2005.)

Howard County Library could harness this technology to broadcast its own podcasts of popular programs, such as Supper at Six, Meet the Author talks, and educational seminars on diverse topics in finance, health, personal growth, and more.

Thing 20: YouTube

The following YouTube video is from one of the best movies I've seen in years, "Paris, Je T'aime" (Paris, I Love You). Imagine a master's short stories-- think Chekhov, Alice movie form, and there you have it. The film consists of eighteen vignettes, each about five minutes long. This particular vignette is titled "14th arrondissement". At first, you think the director is making fun of this frumpy American tourist in Paris with her distinctly American accent....but as the sequence progresses, you begin to understand, with aching poignancy, how brave and beautiful she is. The scene culminates in a Parisian park as Carol experiences a transcendent understanding of what it means to be alive.