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You are out partying with your librarian friends. Suddenly you realize that your gathering requires a suitable soundtrack. A library-themed soundtrack. Indeed, without the proper music, the event will be a disaster!
It could happen. The worst case scenario is sobering: everyone ends up hopping around to the They Might be Giants’ album “Flood” until the police show up and ticket you with a noise violation.*
Using a combination of technology and powerful query-typing skills, I have SOLVED THIS PROBLEM. Introducing Dancing on the Reference Desk, a free playlist dedicated to libraries, librarians, and their interests.
Including such timeless classics as Ch-Check it Out by the Beastie Boys, and Lady Writer by Dire Straits make sure your next librarian rave is a success with this excellent compilation.
Note: I’m not associated with Spotify, but I do think they are pretty awesome. If you end up using this soundtrack let me know. I would love to attend some rocking librarian parties vicariously.
Credits: I dictated this entire blog post to my iPhone via Dragon Dictate while spooning nutrient-rich goop into the baby’s mouth. Special thanks to Jenny Klumpp who provided numerous excellent suggestions.
* This actually happened. I was in grad school hopping around with my fellow nerds, watching the Muppet Show and listening to TMBG. We chipped in to pay the ticket. This was in my experience hands-down the Dorkiest. Police Intervention. Ever.
Dear Film industry: Your metadata is not granular enough. The MPIAA ratings G, PG, PG-13, and R do not fulfill my needs.
I need information relevant to my particular disinterests. I need to know ahead of time if a movie contains elements that I consider unacceptable. I’m not talking about sex, drugs, or violence. I need to know if a movie contains cannibalism, synthesizers, or Jim Carrey.
Here is the film rating system we really need:
Rated A for An Animal is Harmed
As far as I’m concerned, decapitated human heads can roll across the screen but if a Golden Retriever gets a hurty paw you had better warn me up front.
Rated B for British Accent Faked by American
I’m looking at you, Andie MacDowell.
Rated C for Creepy Child Singing
You know things are going to get bad when a little girl starts pushing flowers around and singing quietly to herself.
Rated D for Dialog by Committee
“Oh aspiring teen heart-throb, I am attracted to your emergent yet non-threatening sexuality!”
Rated E for Escape in front of Fireball
You know that scene in every action movie ever where the actors run very fast from some sort of physics phenomenon which approaches at exactly running speed? Rated E.
Rated F for Fun Filled Frolic
If a review or worse the movie poster itself describes a “fun filled frolic for the whole family”, Flee.
Rated G for Grab My Hand
Oh no, that character is falling off a building! Grab my hand! DON’T LET GO!
Rated H for Hearts Pulled Out
A little warning before the monkey brains is all I ask.
Rated I for Italian Stallion
Does this film contain excessive amounts of Sylvester Stallone or Jim Carrey? Librarian Avengers have determined that it will be Rated I or J.
It also means that when I screw up my tax extension, I look very carefully at the software path that got me there.
It was April. I needed to file an extension. Like most Bay Area tech nerds, I hate mail. I consider it a personal affront if I have to print out a form, write an address, locate stamps, and put a letter in the whatsit…mailbox…thing. Naturally, my first step was to search irs.gov for “file extension online“.
Problem one: Too many results
The IRS site is too damned helpful. There were 948 results for my search. Many results were press release or blog type articles hinting at the existence of online extension filing, but containing no direct links. I wanted to find one or two good matches. Instead, I found a sea of irrelevance.
Problem two: Too many names
I hopped down a bunny trail for about ten minutes, searching for a feature alternately referred to as “E-file an extension”, “Free file”, “Freefile”, “Free Fillable Forms”, “Free File Fillable Forms”, “Free Federal Extension”, “Form 4868″, “Traditional Free File”, and “IRS e-file”.
Problem three: Inconsistent design
I eventually landed on a modern-looking site that seemed likely. I clicked “Get Started” and wandered through four increasingly less-well-designed pages which jumped from site to site, forcing me to read and parse options despite having already told the system what I wanted.
Problem three: Asshole account requirement
The eventual winner was a page called “Free File Fillable Forms” which required me to create an account and update my Flash plugin. I was already logged in to irs.gov, but that didn’t count. I created “a password that is different than my User ID, between 8 and 32 characters, and contains at least 1 number and 1 symbol”. All the eye-rolling gave me a headache.
Problem four: Misleading email
I received a spammy looking ALL CAPS email telling me my account had been created. I filled out the IRS extension form, which was the easiest part of the process. I submitted, and received another spammy ALL CAPS email saying “Your federal return was successfully transmitted”.
At this point, I fell on the bed and whined to my husband for several minutes about information architecture. Then I fell asleep, secure in the certainty that I had filed an automatic extension. Taxes wouldn’t be bothering us for a few more months, by which time we would certainly be getting more sleep.
I misfiled our tax extension. My husband, who is hilarious, wrote a letter to the IRS asking for clemency due to new-baby-induced Jello Brain. The IRS, who are apparently also hilarious, quoted him in their response.
I scanned the letter and he put it on Facebook. It went viral.
That afternoon during a lull in the daily baby-management, I hopped on Reddit to post the letter and discovered that someone had put it up hours earlier. Our funny IRS letter was now at the top of Reddit’s front page.
Over 1,800 people left comments and opinions. Everyone was pretty nice and we enjoyed the discussion. Some IRS employees even chimed in, talking about their jobs and lives.
This is the nature of the Internet. Something strikes a chord in our collective subconscious, and we share it with ourselves at the speed of thought.
I think we are all a little afraid of the IRS.
They seem to speak a slightly different language. They use phrases like: “A nonbusiness bad debt must be treated as a short-term capital loss” and look at us expectantly.
Every year they make us do math. They know our financial secrets, and they remind us that our money will be spent by people we probably didn’t elect, on things we might not like.
They could put us in jail. They took down Al Capone.
As a result, people yearn for a bit of humor from the IRS. I think any reminder that the government is made of people who are themselves parents and taxpayers is welcome news.
Recently I’ve been importing the ancient Librarian Avengers archives to live within WordPress. Because the site goes back to…hrm… 1997, there’s some data munging to do.
Right now I’m concerning myself with the period after Graduate School, when I moved to Ithaca, NY for an ostensibly-cool digital library fellowship. I couldn’t talk about how much I hated it at the time so the entries are mostly tangential to the work I was doing, but there’s still some fun stuff.
Importing ancient blog posts involves a bunch of tagging, titling, category-setting, and general modernization. I’ve been progressively making my way through the old posts, adding images, fixing spelling mistakes, and generally adding a bit of polish.
Part of the reason I’m taking on data scrubbing as my One Designated Personal Thing to Do this evening, is that today has been a study in helplessness. My daughter has a (small) fever. It’s the first time she’s been sick, and I’m trying to direct my need to control something (anything!) in a positive direction.
Also, cleaning data is pretty therapeutic after some of the body fluids I’ve encountered recently.
My job is in the video game industry, so I tend to think of life in these terms. For example, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I realized that pregnancy is essentially a really immersive resource-conservation RPG. I was always asking myself questions like: “Do I pick up this stuff on the floor, or do I save my Bending Over points for later?”
Recently several of my coworkers became parents, so in celebration of my fecund and nerdy cohort, here’s a description of my last week written entirely in video game terms:
Warrior (Battle baroque parental leave laws)
Wizard (Create nutritious meals for baby using own body)
Rogue (Sneak around to accomplish things while the baby sleeps)
Paladin (The power of the Coffee God will protect your party)
New player tutorial
Read Kidwrangling by Kaz Cooke, Superbaby by Jenn Berman, and The Cat in the Hat over and over and over and over
Find outfits for upcoming family photo. Avoid decade-indicating fashion or hairstyles.
Parental achievement unlocked!
Raffi song stuck in head for more than four days.
How long can you deflect drool from your work clothes? GO!
Child can now turn pages of a book. Good work!
Improve your long-term memory by adding minutes of sleep during train commute
Enter “Up up down down left right start” in the deductions section of your tax form
My daughter, Elizabeth West Firment, was born in early November. The last…ever since…has been a nonstop, nonsleep blur of boobs, love, fuss, and delirium. In the process, I have learned these five things:
Ceiling fans are TV for babies.
At week six, nursing goes from being a special woodchipper for your nipples to something fairly ok. Eventually, it will become rather pleasant, and you will be able to play World of Warcraft while feeding your child, like my friend Kelly’s wife does. I’m pretty sure she levels up faster by simultaneously breastfeeding and p0wning n00bz.
The sun did not shine, it was too wet to play, so we sat in the house all that cold cold wet day.
There is a 4am. It comes before 5am, which is that time you read about once that precedes 6am. You do not have the right to a full night’s sleep. You have given that right to your baby, who may use it as she sees fit.
Your baby’s smile generates a burst of hormones that if necessary will enable you to lift a car or cut out your own spleen.
Photos are up on flickr. Thanks for all the casseroles!
Shelf Discovery is a compilation of Ms. Skurnick’s excellent Fine Lines posts on Jezebel, in which she lovingly scrutinizes Young Adult books read by bookish girls of the X/y/whatever generation.
I’m always surprised to find such quality writing just floating around on the web for anyone to read, and I’m glad there is finally a dead tree version available as well.
If I suffered from Pageant-Mom syndrome and wanted to create an exact replica of myself from the raw material of some random pre-teen girl, I would begin my narcissistic experiment in literary manipulation by having her read all of the books celebrated in Shelf Discovery.
Which is all to say that I love this book and you should too. So, yay.
Last week I spoke at OSCON Ignite, the evening entertainment bit of the O’Reilly Open Source Conference and the Google Awards.
Talks took the traditional Ignite format of five minutes, 20 slides. Slides auto-advance after 15 seconds, ready or not.
Speakers were encouraged to address their personal brand of geekery. I chose to talk about the Librarian Avengers Film Rating System, which addresses some movie metadata I’d like to see. Things like “This film contains a Creepy child Singing” and “Warning! Sylvester Stallone!”
huck works on motorcycles, and I’m a kitchen clean freak. We used to go through a shameful amount of paper towels. Like, buy in bulk, hate-the-earth, bulldoze-Costa-Rica amounts.
Then my friend Skud gave me a great idea. I cut up a cheap jersey sheet I had kicking around (those things pill up in about 5 washes, FYI) and I sliced up a couple conference t-shirts. We now have a canvas bag full of washcloth-sized fabric squares hanging in the kitchen.
This provides an endless amount of cleaning rags for just about any job.
They are washable, bleachable, and nearly indestructible. You can run them through the wash and re-use them, or if they are gross, just toss them into the compost.
It’s a great way to re-use otherwise disposable fabrics, and they are cheaper and more sturdy than paper towels.
Data junkie? Obsessive compulsive? Come to the Freebase hack day on July 11, 2009 here in SF. There’s food, drinks, an excellent network, plenty of powercords, and a nice room full of geeks to chat with.
It’s a fun way to dive a bit deeper into making cooldatamashups, relationally documenting your brain contents, and getting your questions answered by actually standing in front of Metaweb developers and staring at them until they make go.
Most of what’s listed right now is in video production, graphics design, museum curation, and technology development. I’m pretty sure we will also be looking for event managers over the next few months. We just had some big university functions folded into our operations (distance learning and conferences), and I’m guessing there will be more hiring in those areas soon.
As I’ve probably mentioned, this is a fabulous place to work — the higher-ups have somehow managed to make a really supportive space for creative work and being a self-starter.
The museum/graphics department in particular has recently been doing a lot of fascinating work with our archives — for a recent show we unearthed a bunch of lantern slides and are still trying to figure out what to do with them :)
We’re also starting an heirloom seeds garden.
lovely fellow from The Austin Chronicle wrote to my fellow South by Southwest panelists asking for a definition of our enigmatically titled presentation. He wanted to know what a “Funologist” was, and rather than sadden him with the news that our moderator made it up, we all took a shot at defining it for him.
The full article is available here: How to Speak Geek - SXSW Interactive has landed. Can you talk the talk?
$40 USD - Handmade in Toronto and sold on etsy.com
Oh yes. Hot indeed. I believe some of us here can confirm that boys and girls DO make passes at folks who wear glasses. Especially if they are well-versed in database design, collections management, or bibliographic instruction.
There’s a great new dating site online…for zombies! Hurry and join zombieharmony.com!
I wonder if eHarmony will be as cool as Linden Lab was about parodies?
Linden sent the maker of a Second Life parody the opposite of a Cease and Desist letter. Since, like most sane people, they realized that parody = fair use, and fair use = the foundation of cultural exchange.
Now we’re BFF with the EFF, and there’s one less dumbass lawsuit in the world.
I love this line… “Moreover, Linden Lab objects to any implication that it would employ lawyers incapable of distinguishing such obvious parody.”
“I lived long enough to see the cure for death; to see the rise of the
Bitchun Society, to learn ten languages; to compose three symphonies;
to realize my boyhood dream of taking up residence in Disney World; to
see the death of the workplace and of work.” — Cory Doctorow, Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom.
There’s a nice list of Sci Fi opening sentences up at io9.com. I haven’t read many of them, and I think there’s a few I’ll pick up because of this page.
Current TV has a segment called “Target Women” that I absolutely love.
In this episode, Sarah Haskins, who is frikking hilarious, introduces us to the helpful and empowering phenomenon known as Wedding Television.
She gently mocks shows like Bridezilla, Rich bride Poor bride, Platinum brides, and other affronts to sanity.
As you know, marriage is only for skinny rich people. At one point, Sarah appears in bike shorts and a sports bra, comparing her normal body to the “horrible fat future” picture used to scare a woman into bridal fitness on a show called “Bulging Brides”.
This video made me feel so much better about my lazais faire approach to wedding planning. See ya in Detroit in December, friends.
My mother, the real librarian (not a digital muckety muck thingamajig like me), will be visiting me here in San Francisco next week. Since she will be hanging around with non-Midwesterners, I thought it would be good to provide her with an introduction to west coast language. I know, right?
I know, right?
Rumored origin: L.A.
Literal meaning: “Can you believe this thing we are talking about? It goes without saying, and yet we are saying it.”
Connotation: “We are all in agreement here. Also, I have never read Beowulf.”
Rumored origin: NoCal.
Literal meaning: Intensifier. “Their pie is hella good.”
Connotation: “I am twelve.”
Yeah yeah yeah
Rumored origin: Coffee-fueled Berkeley undergraduates
Literal meaning: “I agree so strongly that it can be quickly dismissed with a rapid exclamation.”
Connotation: “We are getting things DONE in this conversation.”
Rumored origin: The 1960s.
Literal meaning: “Good. Calm. Without trouble. Easy.”
Connotation:”I have had lots of therapy and/or drugs.”