Books for busy mums and other humans

Reading has been a challenge lately, due to new baby and the delirium that accompanies around-the-clock breastfeeding. On the other hand, it has taken me three months to be able to comfortably leave the house, so I’ve had quite a bit of downtime.

My favorite book that I’ve read lately is, appropriately, about raising happy infants. Superbaby, by Dr. Jenn Berman was a gift from my mom the librarian, and has been a great help. It is a compendium of research and useful information from a variety of sources. So rather than an exhaustive study of, say, the positive effects of using ASL as baby sign, it dedicates a nicely summarized chapter and moves along. For the attention deprived among us, it is a quick way to wade through a pile of information.

When I was pregnant, I read about 500 Terry Pratchett books. I was emotionally wrung-out, and they provided just the right balance of humor and comfortingly happy endings to keep me going. If you haven’t read any of the Discworld novels, I often recommend Small Gods, or Guards, Guards!, but you can start anywhere. If it were possible, I and almost everyone I know would like to give Terry Pratchett a hug for being such a nifty writer.

Connie Willis. I’ve been working my way through everything she has ever written, novels, short stories, novellas, introductions and interviews. I don’t usually obsess this much over reading an author’s full catalog, but Connie Willis shares many of the same qualities that make me enjoy Terry Pratchett, in addition to a fantastic grasp of European history and a charming tendency to always turn the Most Frustrating character into the means of Everything Working Out in the End.

If you haven’t read any Connie Willis, I suggest starting with the short story Firewatch, then her novel Doomsday Book. Next, skip over and read the classic Jerome K. Jerome story Three Men in a Boat: to Say Nothing of the Dog. Once you’ve done this, grab Willis’ To Say Nothing of The Dog, a wonderful homage to both Jerome and Dorothy Sayers.

Oops. Happy Daughter is waking up. That’s all for now. Website improvements will continue at their current plodding pace. Thanks for reading!

A nerdygirl review of the Game Developers Conference

Greetings from an ethnic librarian working in the games industry!

I’m posting this review of my experience last year at GDC (the Game Developers Conference) held every year here in San Francisco. It was originally part of a letter to my team here at Linden Lab, but I thought you librarians might be interested/amused, considering the gender ratio at most library conferences.

-Erica

Hi guys –
I went to the Game Developers Conference last year and found it to be of dubious value.

The best part of the conference for me was the Expo room, which proved to be a valuable source of alternative employment opportunities. I learned that if I want to move to Las Vegas and design slot machine interfaces, I can more than double my salary, which I’m keeping in mind for when I have a stroke and develop an unquenchable desire for polyester and/or chicken wings. I enjoyed scanning the various game interfaces set up to demo motion graphics products, and filed away a few ideas from the Pirates of the Caribbean MMORPG.


Photo by ruminatrix

For me, however, the most memorable moment was riding the escalator of the Moscone center and gazing across a sea of black-clad gamed developers among whom I was the only woman.

As a Person of Estrogen and part of a numeric majority in this world, I’m used to seeing many female developers, operations experts, and release managers at work.

This isn’t the 1970s. Nerdy women exist and thrive. San Francisco is a welcoming place.

GDC. Was. Not.

I get the feeling that all is not well with an operation that returns such a limited array.

The scene: riding the escalator, about five years too old but still worried about being mistaken for a boothbabe.

Behold my personal benchmark for outsider discomfort.

wurst

In summary: meh to the GDC.

Borrow someone’s pass and check out the Expo. Cruise the demo games. If you really care about a session, read the person’s book or website instead. And if you really care about making better games, spend the three days watching user observation videos.

Librarian Revolution

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Librarians see themselves as the guardians of the First Amendment… I wouldn’t mess with them. I really didn’t realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group.

— Michael Moore, after outraged librarians saved his book

To celebrate our profession’s revolutionary approach toward freedom of expression,
I have created a new product line* at the Librarian Avengers store, featuring the Revolutionary Librarian. She’s a deadpan librarian, wielding the Flaming Stamp of justice. You can get her on a coffee cup, shirt, or on some glossy cards to send to your nettlesome patrons. Yes, those are knitting needles in her hair.

*As usual, all proceeds go toward the Erica family “mortgage and random charities” fund

Ethnically Librarian

I am a librarian. I am not a librarian.

I have an information science degree. I’ve been working for fourteen years, my entire adult life. Most of my jobs have been in libraries.

I am a librarian. I am not a librarian.

emdot
photo by emdot

As a student at Michigan State University, I learned Library of Congress serials cataloging.

I walked through secluded aisles surrounded by rare books, incunabulum, alternative newspapers, and gay pornography.
I cataloged comic books in the world’s largest archive of comic art, radicalism, and popular culture.

In the course of my work, I learned that Spiderman serials change their volume as often as many Spiderman readers change their underwear. By graduation, I could walk into any comic shop in the country and pick a fight about whether X-Men film adaptations should be considered canon.

When I went to graduate school (Michigan ’03), my program had recently transitioned from “Library Science” to “Information Science.” In the process, they picked up a bunch of renegade computer science professors and expanded to include information architecture, information economics, archival theory, and a bunch of crazyass dot com bubble refugees like myself.

sh0dan
photo by sh0dan

We discovered that the term Digital Library can be used to describe an entire array of cool shit, including the Internet itself.

One of my professors, Sue Davidson, tells the story of how Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang called to ask about the subject guide to the web she had created for the Michigan Electronic Library. Sue answered: “that’s what librarians do, we organize information.”

Librarianship, defined as the act of organizing information, is a broad and inclusive field. Librarianship as a profession, is not. There are strict professional guidelines determining who is and is not technically a “Librarian,” but there is also a strong case to be made for the authenticity of self-identification.

There are librarians who work in libraries, and there are librarians who just Are.

It’s the difference between being a Jew by Religion, and being a Jew by Ethnicity. Both groups contribute to the cultural whole.

While a Librarian by Profession is inherently a Librarian by Ethnicity, the opposite may not be true. A trained librarian can sport a different job title, but her clarity and understanding will still contribute to her work.

by Syntopia
photo by Syntopia

I’m a librarian by ethnicity.

Right now, I work as a user experience designer on a software team. I wrestle with ship dates, dependencies, conflicting user requirements, and engineering constraints. I design interfaces and help identify how the software should behave.

But somewhere, deep in my soul, I am doing the work of the Library.

I’m a librarian by ethnicity, regardless of the job I take. I don’t make my living as an ALA going, patron-helping organizer of resources, but I’ll be damned if I don’t use Librarian skills to battle confusing groupings of information.

Librarians bring order to chaos, and so, with a little luck, do I.

Domestic Violence: Legal Resources

A friend is going through this. She needs legal advice and low-income resources.

Here’s the best of what I’ve found:

  • WomensLaw.org – Incredibly clear and useful site with an excellent FAQ, state-by-state help, info on shelters, courthouse locations, legal forms, advice.
  • Battered Women’s Justice Project – Contact list for state Domestic Violence coalitions – These groups can provide individual *advocates* who are familiar with state laws and resources.
  • American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic Violence pdf guide to attaining a lawyer

I’ve been finding a lot of links-to-lists-of-links. If you know of any *easy to use* resources that would help a mother with no money avoid a murderous creep, please comment, and thank you.

Read necklace, not ALA approved.

etsy.com is a site where arts n’ crafters sell their wares.

If you shop at etsy, chances are pretty high you you are supporting a stay-at-home-mom, a starving artist, or a woman who wouldn’t otherwise get compensation for her work.

With that said, brookadelphia on etsy offers some pretty cool read necklaces. Don’t tell the ALA.

The contents of my (outsourced) brain

My brain and my bookmarks are getting more tightly interwoven as the years go by. A few hours away from my desk and I start itching for the hive mind. Here’s a few of the tabs I’ve had open lately.

  • Wild Turkey Sounds
  • Dojo, a JavaScript toolkit that takes the hard work out of stupid Ajax tricks
  • The Current State of the Irish Language
  • Palaeography, the reading of old handwriting. I got to translate a contract of indentured servitude for work once. That was cool. (thanks metafilter)
  • Routine Recording Cards (thanks lifehacker)
  • Cat and Girl debunk animal myths

Librarian vs. influenza: day twelve

How did you spend your holiday vacation? For the last two weeks I’ve had the flu! I got better for awhile, then right before my future in-laws came for a visit, virus.pngI reverted to what has become my default state: slumped on the couch, cat snoring on my shoulder.

I met a new symptom yesterday (let’s call him “Ralph”) who requires me to consume only miso soup and saltines.

In other news, um, nothing. I’m becoming a connoisseur of Ze Frank’s The Show, which is hilarious and requires only that I summon the energy to press play once in awhile.

I messed around with View Erica Olsen's profile on LinkedInthis morning for a bit before passing out. My cat nurses in his sleep.

How are you? Please write comments and make me feel like I’m part of the world. Anything will do. What did you have for lunch? Heard any good jokes? Movies? Adventures? Accidents? News? Alien invasions? Alan invasions?

Does anyone have cable? Can you tell me what is on tv?

Help.

Librarian vs. influenza: day six

Amid the body pain, sore throat, fever, and seal coughs, I’ve managed to keep myself entertained. Here’s how to beat a week-long flu using only a laptop, broadband, and some good over-the-counter drugs.

Web

  • South Park character maker Version Two. Yes, I said version two. spark2.pngWith even more hairstyles, weird hats, and weapons. Waste your holiday break the new-fashioned way!
  • Download obscure mp3s from emusic.com, a DRM-free site that gives away 50 free downloads to get you hooked. Quite successfully, I might add. They have the entire Alternative Tentacles catalog, so you no longer have to fill out the little form in the back of your Dead Kennedys cassette tape.
  • Facebook – Stalky stalky!
  • Shoe sale at Amazon.com. Ann Klein boots are 65% off. I’m powerless against low-priced yet stylish footware.
  • E-tarot cards. It’s so much more meaningful when you shuffle them with your mouse.
  • My dad’s blog (caution: ham radio geekery)

Print

  • New Universal – The latest comic by transmetropolitan genius Warren Ellis. The premise? In a slightly alternate world where Paul was killed instead of John and China owns the moon, individuals begin to spontaneously develop superpowers. Often with unhappy results.
  • White Oleander – I grabbed this from the library book sale because it wasbmag.png well-reviewed, and I enjoyed it despite my friend Kara’s warnings. She has a point, the characters can be less than sympathetic. Still, I enjoyed the book’s authentic voice, and the author’s willingness to describe a young woman’s reaction to desperation and loneliness.
  • Bitch Magazine – I’ve got a subscription. You should too. Give this to smart female patrons who haven’t yet tapped into the vibrant young feminist culture out there.

Video

  • Invader ZimFind and watch this. Kill if you must.
  • The Tick – Mighty! I love Bi-Polar Bear.
  • Battlestar Galactica – There is good acting and directing here, if you don’t mind the occasional robot army and Deus ex machina. zim.pngHere’s a 44 minute recap to get caught up on the plot.
  • Thank you for Smoking – I haven’t watched this yet, but I’ve got the Netflix envelope sitting on the coffee table. I’ll letcha know.
  • Creature Comforts – Not sure if you know this or not but, the Wallace & Grommet folks have a show on the BBC called Creature Comforts. They interview people in Britain about random topics, and overlay their voices onto claymation animals. It’s rather wonderful.
  • Loose Change – an independently-produced video exploring many of the unanswered questions about the events of 9/11. An interesting topic, and less frothing than most. (warning: do not watch while taking cold medicine, as you will be especially vulnerable to sad footage and will probably need to stop the film several times to blow your nose and cry)

Realia

  • Cats – Preferably in a large pile, nesting around your head. Include one that doesn’t mind being used as a pillow.
  • benzydamine.png

  • French cold medicine. Seriously? This stuff is fun. I can see my house from here.