(picking up this series again, really)

I haven’t owned a TV since 2006.

This is not, let me rush to assure you, because I think the TV is not useful. I just haven’t owned the physical object. In 2006 I moved in with housemates who had a perfectly nice TV when I was around to watch it (that was also the year I was working full time, starting grad school again, and working on several community projects, so my free time, it was not exactly vast.)

And then I moved into a tiny little 400 square foot apartment with no convenient place to put one, and then 18 months ago, moved across the country (when I got rid of anything I didn’t absolutely love enough to move that far.)

These days, however, I do watch a fair bit of visual media – TV series, movies, random other things. And I do it entirely on my computer, as I have since 2006. Mostly, I do this while I’m knitting, and very long series work wonderfully for this – two episodes of whatever are about as long as I want to spend knitting most evenings, and that’ll get me 8-10 rows further in my current blanket project.

(I just finished watching The West Wing, which I’d seen about the first half of around when it aired, but where the last two seasons were entirely new. It’s aged remarkably well as a show, given that it’s ten years old.)

Continue reading Watching

Links of interest : April 5, 2013

Trying to get this out before I head off to Computers in Libraries this weekend, as I suspect I’ll acquire further links.

Libraries and Librarians:

  • People keep asking me for advice about the profession. There’s a thoughtful (and thorough) article from Library Journal that addresses a lot of the things I try to talk about. 
  • In the course of my wandering on the ‘Net, I found this post from 2009 that’s a reminder that not everyone has hot and cold running Internet at home. (This is a reality for a bunch of people where I live.)
  • There’s a really interesting alternative for OPAC terminals – I don’t think it’s hugely relevant for my place of work (because we use ancient machines because they still work, and we’ve got them), but I find the idea fascinating.
  • There was an interesting NYT piece on the problems of online college classes (I continue to say “Idea decent, but can we talk more about how people use or don’t use the Internet before relying on this as the Next Big Thing, please?)
  • John Scalzi’s personal history of libraries.
  • The Northstar Digital Literacy modules test basic computer skills in a really well-done way. (Free, but site sponsoring has some additional options/benefits)
  • “Just stand there in your wrongness” has a great take on learning from mistakes (and being smart people who mess up sometimes) via lessons learned from the West Wing.
  • Doug Johnson revisited his “tech skills for incoming freshmen” (as in high school) recently, with an update for 2013. How many of these are you good with? 
  • Jenica Rogers has very smart things to say about the librarian tech skills gap. (And I really want to come back to this topic. When I’m done going to library technology conferences twice in a month.)
  • Nancy Sims talks about releasing images to the wild, and the weird things people ask her about permission to use them.
  • I have a bunch of saved links about the Edwin Mellen press issues (brief recent events version: they asked a blogger to take down posts that included criticism of the press. It gets more complicated after that) but rather than try and sort them out today, TechDirt has the best one-stop summary I’ve seen.

Google Reader: 

As you’ve probably heard by now, Google Reader is shuting down as of July 1. I currently very much like Reeder (which has said they intend to have a non Google Reader dependent version by July) but I’m still considering what I want to use for the professional blogs I read. Everyone and their cousin has an opinion about the options: if you’re looking for ideas, check out posts from LifeHacker, Doug Johnson, Steven Abram, CNET, Bryan Alexander, and the Gypsy Librarian.

Keeping track of all the bits:

  • My current favourite version of explaining citation and how you do it (and why you care)
  • I’m in the slow stages of poking at a project that will involve lots of reference and cited materials. I found this post on using Zotero and Scrivener (my long-form writing tool of choice) handy reading.
  • I’ve also been doing more with Evernote. This post on tips and tricks and this student guide to Evernote both had some new things for me. And this LifeHacker post had some good bits too.
  • I’ve been spending more time with Excel than I used to – here’s some interesting tips for manipulating date and time data.
  • Someone on one of my harp (as in instrument) lists has been doing video tutorials of ForScore, a digital sheet music app for the iPad. (Digital sheet music was the “Ok, that’s why I actually need an iPad” thing for me, though I have not been as diligent about getting music on the iPad as I’d like.)
  • One of the better descriptions of microbarriers in sharing information I’ve seen recently .

Information is good: 

  • I didn’t know that the PhD Comic had a YouTube channel, but they do, and there’s fascinating stuff in there. 
  • Is giving to get ahead good? Fascinating article, both for the research and for the presentation.
  • Want a map of every meteorite strike on Earth? Here you go!
  • Interactive historical maps, and historic maps of cities.
  • I’ve been meaning to link to the really awesome info about the discovery of Richard III since it happened, so here, have the departmental website and data. (I’ve been pro-Ricardian since reading Elizabeth Peters and her Murders of Richard III in high school.)

Very pretty things:

LibTech 2013

I have just finished a wonderful two days at LibTech 2013 – it’s always a pleasure to be in what is pretty much my Platonic ideal of a professional conference (500 people is a size where I feel like I can talk to people, and it’s great, I know enough people that I don’t feel totally lost) and the chance to catch up with various Minnesota folks is always fun.

It’s a superbly run conference, they did an awesome job this year with keynote speakers, about whom more when I can be coherent, and it’s always a conference that leaves me excited about my job and what I can do, without making me feel badly that I’m not always on the cutting edge.

This year, I got to present! Thank you to the committee for letting me do so, since my topic was a little off the beaten track: it was Accio Data: Collaborative Projects Using Free Tools, in which I talked about the ways that a project near and dear my heart uses a wide range of collaborative tools to manage a truly massive amount of data (often in ways those tools were not exactly designed for.) People seemed to like it, and I’ve seen at least one tweet complimenting my slides. (Thanks! I work hard to make my slides thematically appropriate and useful!)

You can see my slides, and download my handout (which is a slightly less narrative version of my presentation), and information about Alternity, the project I used as my example, over on its own page at . I’d love to talk more about the stuff in there.

Beyond that, I went to a bunch of really great presentations this year, and I want to do them more justice than I’m going to manage tonight, so I’m going to mull for a day or two and then write them up. I came away with tons of links and tools to explore.

I was at LibTech because I was going to be in Minnesota this week on vacation (it happens to line up with another thing I’d be here for), but it was not actually my official work-sponsored professional development for the year. I’m also going to Computers in Libraries, in Washington DC. If you are reading this, and you’re going, or you know someone who is who might be interested in chatting/lunch/whatever, drop me a note (you can reach me at jen at this domain)

Links of Interest : February 19, 2013

It’s been a while since my last one of these. Sorry!

Continue reading Links of Interest : February 19, 2013

Managing links + reading

Next installment in the “How I use my technology” series, let’s talk about managing links and reading.

Between my professional RSS feeds and my personal ones, I read a sort of scary (no, edit that, it’s not ‘sort of’) number of blogs, accounts, and other resources online. To be precise, that’s currently 98 feeds in my professional account, 153 in the personal account, and somewhere north of 250 accounts between Dreamwidth and LiveJournal (there’s overlap there, and I’m not going to bother to count exactly how much)

Now many of those don’t necessarily update all that regularly (at least half of the above update somewhere between once every couple of days and every couple of weeks, and very few update multiple times a day.) But that’s still a lot of stuff to sort through.

I read very fast, which is handy. And I skim even faster.

Anyway, as you might guess, there’s a lot of interesting stuff that comes my way, and I use a couple of different tools to manage it. It took me a good while to figure out, though, once I moved from using one computer most of the time to using at least 3 different devices regularly, and sometimes four (my work computer, my home computer, the iPad, and the iPhone. I mostly don’t read webpages/etc. from the phone, but every so often…)

Continue reading Managing links + reading

IM chat

I’m spending a lot more time on instant messenger chat than I used to. And I have to admit, I really enjoy it.

Continue reading IM chat


Picking this up again. (Hi. Life. Other projects. Yeah.)

So. I have a bunch of email addresses. And a bunch of email. To be precise, I currently have:

  • 2 emails I use for personal stuff
  • 3 emails on various professional stuff that is not my actual work email
  • a small handful of ‘utility’ email addresses that I use for site signins, etc.

In practice, all of these dump into a single Gmail account, because in practice, I may be accessing my email from four different devices or so, and Gmail is the best solution to that. However, I would like to have a backup, and I would, ideally, like to have my email better cleaned out from all the random stuff that I really do not need to archive.  I’m slowly working on that, courtesy some new tools from Gmail that make it easier to find unlabelled emails (or large files, or emails from more than X years or months ago…) However, since there’s 23,000 emails in my Gmail, give or take a few, this might take me a while.

Continue reading Email


Next round in “how I use my computer”, how I read things. Much of what I do on my computer is fundamentally text based (I watch movies, and I do play with graphic design, but at least 80% of my daily use is basically words.)

  • Things I read on my computer: Lots of web-based things. A couple of online web-based forums. A lot of blogs. Webcomics.
  • Things I mostly don’t read on my computer: ebooks (I generally read those on the iPhone, and sometimes on the iPad). Newspapers/magazines/etc.

Tools I use: 

Web browsers:

These days, I do most of my web stuff in Chrome, for stability, and because I’m using a number of other Google products, and there are places where the stability/response/etc. is a bit better in Chrome. (It is not uncommon for me to have 15ish GDocs tabs open at once, for example.)

Tabs I usually have open at home include:

  • Gmail (I’ll discuss email more in its own post)
  • My Dreamwidth circle page
  • My LiveJournal reading page
  • The reading page for the online project
  • And then usually a couple to a couple of dozen other tabs, depending on what I’m doing at the moment.

I do still use Firefox, but mostly for Netflix (which only supports Chrome on PC, not Mac). I do find there’s some benefit in having a separate browser for streaming video – if the browser hangs, or gets cranky if I reload the page after a long idle (pretty common for me: I go through seasons of TV shows, and often leave it paused overnight part way through an episode) it’s easier to quit without worrying about the rest of my tabs/open comments/etc.

I use a small handful of extensions to make my life easier.

  • minimalist which removes various elements from Gmail and Google Reader.
  • Do Not Track Me - a privacy extension. (I’ve been reasonably happy with it, but I should probably do another round of checking in to see what’s new in that area)
  • LJ new comments which makes it easy to browse new comments in threads at both LiveJournal and Dreamwidth. (There’s a good explanation over on the dw_nifty community.) Installing it is a little fiddly: I have the best luck in Chrome installing it in Tampermonkey.

Reading tools:

I’m going to talk more about how I manage things in my RSS feeds in its own post, but I’ll note here that I use Instapaper  as my first step to keeping links that I want later. My toolbar bookmarks inclue the “Read Later” bookmark for it, plus the “popup with tags” bookmark for Pinboard. For actually managing my RSS feeds, I use Google Reader.

Background tools and basics

I spent the last two days watching my computer be a 45 minute drive away according to FedEx, but it turned up this morning!

So, the first thing that I do with a new machine is set up all those small things that make life manageable. Plus all the individual little touches. Then setting up the basics of the dock, and the apps I use most frequently, and then the bookmarks for the browsers. (You can click through for larger versions, and I’ve got closeups of the dock and menu bar below.


The desktop when I started: galaxy wallpaper, default application items in dock




wallpaper of light filtering down into water, with icons in blue, black, and grays in the dock (description of icons follows)

new computer – after

dock - icons in blues and grays and blacks, described below

Continue reading Background tools and basics

My geeky life : the tasks

Professionally speaking: 

I am the Information Technology librarian at a small liberal-arts-college-model campus of the University of Maine system. Part of my job is “Make the technology in the library work”, but part of it is “Be aware of tech things, so we can do awesome stuff with them eventually.” This means that being familiar with a bunch of random things, various ways to do stuff, big topics of various kinds is to my benefit. (Even if I weren’t interested, which I am.) We use GoogleApps, Microsoft, and I’ve got the full Adobe Suite on my computer. Plus a wide range of other bits and pieces.

My home tech life involves a lot of the following: (I will come back and talk about all of these in detail later, promise.)

  • Email. Individual emails. Discussion list emails. The many and varied reminders and “someone left a comment on your post” and so on emails that fill our lives these days. I have 7 different email addresses that pour into a single Gmail account, because I regularly access my email from 3 different devices, and it’s not uncommon for there to be about 100 threads in email in a given day for me (many of which are skim + delete)
  • Reading stuff on the Web: I use Chrome for most things these days, along with Instapaper, Pinboard, and a few other things to help me manage it. I’m active on Dreamwidth, LiveJournal, and one web forum these days, with periodic pokes at other things. (I have a Facebook account, but spend very little time on there, and I keep wishing I could make Twitter work with my brain.)
  • The massive online collaborative project previously mentioned (we do most stuff via email, Gdocs, and chat, plus the actual posts that make it up, which are on Dreamwidth.)
  • IM chat (which I do through Gmail, though I’m contemplating a different client now I’ll have more screen space.) I usually have a couple open with various friends throughout the evening.
  • Writing: currently a bunch of non-public stuff, but I am about to dive into the long-term non-fiction project again, really. I use Scrivener, which I adore and will talk about at length later. Also SimpleNote
  • Watching streaming mediaNetflix, Hulu, etc. – generally while knitting. (Depending on my other plans for the evening, this is usually 1-3 hours most nights, with other online stuff, IMing, chatting, etc. interspersed. Because I like making progress on my knitting.) While on the topic, I use the iPad for patterns and the iPhone for row counting. (We’re just going to admit there’s going to be a “tech I use for knitting” post in here, right?)
  • Music: both my iTunes library (for permanent stuff) and Spotify (which I use primarily for playlists at work, trying things out that I might like, and for topic-specific playlists where I don’t want to invest tons of money in the subject yet. I listen to podcasts via the iPhone and headphones while doing household cleaning and related chores.

I am much more on the ‘using tech to do other things’ side of the line rather than ‘play with the tech for the tech’s sake’, but I have periodic splurges of doing bits of graphic design work, CSS and various web design work, playing with audio files, and very occasionally dipping my toe into learning to code.

Things I’m mulling over in particular:

  • a suitable non-Cloud backup of essential email (there’s a bunch of stuff that if I lost it, meh. There’s a bunch of stuff I’d actually love to archive just in case I ever need it, but get it out of my Gmail so my searches are more manageable. Finding a low-demand method of the above is tricky. Since any practical step on this first involves sorting through about 1o,000 email messages in archive, I keep putting it off. Since it only gets worse the more I do that, I should stop doing that.)
  • backing up things currently living on GDocs more seamlessly.
  • continuing to improve my workflow for ‘here is interesting link’ -> ‘let me put that somewhere I can find it’
  • a better workflow for reading sheet music on the iPad (and playing from it!)
  • some general usability tools
  • better recipe management
  • doing more with Evernote (in particular for ‘books I want to read’ type stuff.)
  • a better schedule for doing app updates, podcast/etc. updates, etc. on the iDevices. (The current one is “whenever I vaguely remember”, which can be annoying.


Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Information Technology Librarian at the University of Maine at Farmington, the small liberal arts college model campus in the University of Maine system.

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